Kitty Conundrum

This is my cat.

Westin

His name is Westin.

This is my chair.

CHiar 2

Well, it was my chair.

Westin's Chair 2

Now it’s Westin’s.

My kitty has purloined my favorite seat and turned it into a stuffing-shredded mess.  I find no appealing esthetic in the now-exposed wood or raked fabric. The fact that he picked a piece of furniture smack in the middle of the living room is especially galling. That he pretty much ignores the rest of the furniture is peculiar.

Then again, Westin has always been an odd beast. The story goes that he was found abandoned in a hotel room with 29 other cats. He was practically bald from illness and allergies, and though the folks at the Humane Society originally thought it might be kinder to euthanize him, they did not. After months at the shelter — and long after all the other cats had found homes — Westin’s picture appeared in the local paper. His adoption fee had dropped to 20 bucks, a sign that a needle was in his near future.

Despite a vivid description of the costs we faced, we took Westin home. After my foster son’s pronouncement that Westin was just like him — because no one had wanted him either — really, was there any other option?

That Westin is one expensive cat is a given. Three days after he came to live with us, he ruptured an eardrum and was unable to walk or eat for ten days. Every morning I expected to encounter a dead kitty sprawled on the carpet. But Westin is one tough feline.

Over the last several years, Westin has traveled to the vet so many times I’ve asked for a personal parking spot with his name on it. I always decline the offer of an itemized bill, because why would I want to know? I just hand over my American Express card and look away.

Westin is not a pretty cat. Black with gold eyes and a soft white belly. There’s a slight tilt to his head, a residual of his damaged ear. But, oh, the charm. He oozes charisma, planting himself squarely in the nearest lap and offering head bumps wherever he goes. Maybe that’s why, despite his health problems, the doctors at the shelter didn’t put Westin down.

“Nice chair,” my sweetie pie commented one recent evening as we shared a beer.

I rubbed the raw armrest. “Maybe I should get a new one.”

“Why? Then he’ll just destroy a new chair.”

Right. But, I struggle with lack of order. I can’t read the newspaper or eat dinner if there’s a crooked picture on the wall. I have to straighten it so life can go back to normal.

Note that our current predicament is not completely Westin’s fault. While the other kitties can go outside, he cannot. Westin is deaf, so inside he must remain.

I picked at the stray bits of fabric and stared around my living room, a place filled with things I’ve lovingly gathered on my adventures. The ragged chair amidst all the objects I’ve placed with such care bugs me.

But Ryan is right.

So, whenever you come to visit, be warned and don’t judge me when you see those stray bits of stuffing popping out of Westin’s chair.

You’ll just have to get used to it.

And so will I.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

Life can be so confusing

The older I get the more things confuse me.

While en route to the farmer’s market one lovely Saturday morning, I spied a giant crane perched atop a new apartment building in downtown Phoenix. The towering machine resembled a monstrous metal bird.

“How’d they get that up there?” I asked my sweetie pie.

“What?”

“That crane.”

“In pieces,” he answered in a voice that said, Isn’t that obvious?”

In pieces. I couldn’t help but recall the weekend he put the pre-fab shed together in the backyard. He stood there proudly opening and closing the sliding doors, while I stared at the shocking number of left-over metal bits and pieces that remained on the ground.

I looked up again at the crane. “What if some of the screws are missing?” I felt an irrational desire to flee. “What if they didn’t put the parts back together correctly.”

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A crane, up high on a building like this one, had me wondering how the workers managed to get the thing up there and hoping they were very careful during the process.

Then, I got my car insurance bill. “Hey! How come I’m paying so much more? Did your bill go up too?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I’ll call Vickie and ask,” he said.

Ryan returned from his chat with our insurance lady. “You’re old.”

“Pardon me?” I raised both eyebrows.

“Vicky said your rates went up because you’re an older woman.”

“But I haven’t had a ticket in almost thirty years,” I sputtered. “And, in my life, I’ve had one fender bender.”

Ryan shrugged. “That’s what she said. You’re in an age group that causes more accidents.”

I looked into the issue and found that as people age their vision, cognitive abilities, and reflexes tend to dull. I also learned that old people increasingly die in car crashes because they’re “frail”. Frail! No one has ever accused me of being frail.

Eieee!

Then, I got a letter telling me that the high blood pressure medication I’ve been taking for years might … gosh … cause cancer. “But don’t stop taking it!” the message emphatically stated.

Wait! You want me to keep taking a drug that could give me cancer?

Recently, I went to a high school football game. I arrived early, since I was serving as the referee. I’d contacted the school ahead of time, as I always do, identifying myself and my crew mates and the time they could expect us to arrive. I was escorted to the officials dressing room where I faced a sign that was prominently displayed on the door. No Females Permitted in the Locker Room after 4:00 PM. No Exceptions.

No Females in Locker room

I paused. It was 5 o’clock.

The older I get the more things confuse me.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

Now I understand

I have never cared much about cars. Never understood why people spend so much to get the newest, fastest, sleekest version with the most gadgets. The last vehicle I bought came after my mechanic pointed at my ancient Geo Prism and ordered me to drive it one last time.

“Take it to a dealership and turn it in,” he advised. “Get a new car!”

The day I abandoned my Prism in a dealer’s parking lot, I found a vehicle that spoke to me. It was a black Ford Ranger pickup. Slightly used – I think I read 14 thousand miles on the speedometer. Black paint sparkled in the Arizona sun. I drove it around the block.

“That’s the one,” I said to my sweetie pie, who’d accompanied me on my car hunt. Following what felt like half a day of paperwork, I drove my new truck home.

Later, I stood proudly by my recent purchase. My mother squinted at the pickup’s bed where I’d installed a bright silver toolbox to hold my rock collecting gear, camping equipment, and emergency rations on the off chance I might find myself stuck in the wilderness for any length of time.

She stared at me. “Aren’t you afraid of what people will think of you?”

“I am a black pickup kind of girl, Mom.”

She shook her head.

“Really.”

My truck is now going on 19. Together we’ve had countless adventures into the mountains and deserts, some wondrous, some difficult, and a few rather dangerous, in retrospect. Still, we always made it home. Eventually.

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I love my old truck. We share lots of memories: good, bad, and ugly.

Then, my parents, in their nineties, mercifully decided to give up their car. I had been begging them for years to stop driving. Anyone who’s butted up against that major-life decision understands the complexities inherent in taking the keys away from mom and dad.

“We’ll sell the car,” my mother finally announced.

That vehicle, a blue 2010 Ford Fusion, now sits in my driveway. Though my mom continues to tell anyone who will listen that I took the car, Ryan and I wrote them a check for a little over seven grand.

A funny thing happened when I started driving the Fusion. I liked the built-in bells and whistles. Note that the vehicle is not high end, but compared to my truck, the little car is like owning a rocket ship. We call her Zippy. Now, when I drive my pickup, it feels only slightly more mobile than a covered wagon.

Then I got a letter in the mail: AIRBAG RECALL! I stared at the red triangle depicting a driver facing a steering wheel that had burst into flames. I read the section that said, “Until parts are available … your dealer is authorized to provide you with a rental vehicle.”

Today, a 2018 Ford Fusion Platinum sits in my driveway. The car boasts a power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory, dual integrated bright exhaust, premium leather-wrapped and stitched instrument panel and console rails, and myriad other extras I couldn’t possibly explain. The overall effect is … well …Wow!

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Perhaps Ford will forget about my cute little rental. I’m growing quite fond of her.

I’ve had the rental for several months. It seems Ford is having a great deal of trouble getting the parts to fix the airbag that might explode and shred me with shrapnel.  Apparently, 37 million vehicles have been identified as needing the fix, and more are expected to be added to the list. Takata, the maker of the defective airbags, announced it might take five years to install all the replacements.

I wonder sometimes, especially when those comfy leather seats are hugging me in their soft embrace, when I will have to return my pretty sedan. Neither Ford nor the rental company seem to care that the $40,000 vehicle is occupying space in my driveway day after day.

I have never cared much about cars. Never understood why people spend so much to get the newest, fastest, sleekest version with the most gadgets. Until now.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A horrifying tale right from the monster’s mouth

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The Secret Journals of Adolf Hitler: Volume 1 – The Anointed goes where no other novel I’ve read has gone before: inside the head of the most notorious monster in the history of the human race, a man who either directly or indirecty led to the deaths of an estimated 50 and 80 million people.

A.G. Morgan introduces us to the four-year-old Hitler the day he is rescued from drowning, after he fell though the ice of a frozen river. It was impossible not wonder what terrors might have been avoided had Hitler the child perished that day.

That the boy is troubled is obvious. He paints his father as a sadistic brute and his mother as a saint. He is self-centered, devoid of empathy, and, as he grows older, his delusions of grandeur and the belief that he is anointed to save Germany become overwhelming.

Those around the young Hitler simply laugh off his grandiose claims and bizzarre behavior. Today, such a child would be sent to therapy in order to sort out their deranged and sometimes violent actions. What’s clear is that Hitler, a puny boy who felt bullied and betrayed by most everyone he came in contact with, would carry rage and insecurity throughout the course of his life.

I have studied a great deal about Hitler’s rise and fall and, as a teacher, have had the opportunity to share my findings with my students. I am also a former reporter. I mention these facts because I am extremely impressed with Morgan’s extensive research on the dictator and his times.

It must have been difficult for Morgan to insert herself inside the mind of such a repugnant individual. Hitler’s thoughts on race issues are noxious, and are rendered even more obscene when he shares them publically, giving voice to his dream of racial purity and his belief in the superiority of the Aryan people.

In a different time and place, Hitler might have died a homeless beggar, muttering to himself in the streets. In fact, for several years after his dream of becoming a famous painter dissolved when he was not accepted into art school, Hitler was starving and destitute. But he lived in post-World War I Germany, beaten to a pulp by the unyielding Treaty of Versailles, which left the country in tatters.  Germany was the perfect breeding ground for Hitler. A nation of desperate people, distrusting of the establishment they blamed for losing the war, and eager for scapegoats they could condemn for their own failures.

The Secret Journals of Adolf Hitler: Volume 1 – The Anointed paints a chilling portrait of the molding of a megalomaniac. The book ends with Hitler in prison, following the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Book two in the series is The Struggle. I plan on reading that one, as well.

 

Here’s a look at my novel A Light in the Desert which is set for release on

November 6, 2018.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

How I began writing about children

 For the first half of my adult life I didn’t know any children.

I was only around kids when I officiated amateur sports, but as soon as those games ended, I went home. What children did off the fields where I blew whistles and called balls and strikes was completely out of my purview.

When you consider that I also never had any biological children – though I tried – and came from a small family devoid of any regular kid contact, you can see why I never gave much thought to children. I don’t know if I blocked young people out of my mind once I realized I would never produce any of my own, but I might have.

And yet, today, as an author, the plight of children often takes center stage in my novels.

Almost two decades ago, I walked into my first classroom as a teacher. A mid-life career change following my years as a sports reporter propelled me into a Title I high school in Phoenix, where the vast majority of students live in poverty and are often afflicted with the privations inherent in a world where there is not enough food, where drugs and alcohol run rampant, and where children are sometimes left adrift without caring adults to guide them.

I did not notice right away that children kept appearing in my books. It could have happened after the child who told me she was repeatedly raped by a relative and her family blamed her. It might have been after a 15-year-old student called me from a group foster-care facility and told me he was hungry. Or it might have been the day I chastised a student for being repeatedly late to class, only to discover he was homeless.

Whatever the catalyst, young people and their ability to adapt and thrive in severe situations have become part of the stories I tell. My upcoming release, A Light in the Desert, recounts the life of a lonely pregnant teenager, one with a facial deformity that has made her the subject of ridicule and prevented her from attending school. And yet, Kelly shows grace and grit when faced with challenges, and possesses an understanding of human nature that sometimes surpasses the adults around her.

Today, I spend my work-days surrounded by my students. And, by a quirky twist, I am a mom, as well. Though my boys – former students who came my way via the foster care system – are now in their twenties, they remain my children. (I don’t think they’ll mind if I call them that.)

So, I’m guessing, young people and the issues they face will continue to appear in my writing.

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Yes, my boys are all grown up, but Ziggy, Troy, and Brandon are still my children.

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.