“The book is well paced with intricately woven sub plots.”

My thanks to Pamela Scott at the Book Lovers Boudoir for taking the time to read and review my mystery/suspense novel A Light in the Desert.

https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpress.com/2019/04/25/a-light-in-the-desert-by-amontgomery8/

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 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.

Health headlines are killing me

Taking care of my health is one of my main priorities. While I can’t vouch for my habits back in my 20s when I worked in the bar business and often saw that sliver of dawn sneaking up over the horizon, a bit fuzzy headed from too much partying and lack of sleep, I can say that over the last several decades, I’ve eaten right, worked out consistently, taken my meds, gone to the dentist pretty regularly, and did not overindulge … much.

The problem is, while it was once rather simple to follow healthy-living guidelines, today I am completely confused about what is good for me and what is not.

For example, I have always been rather proud that I never succumbed to the soda craze. My sweetie pie, by comparison, daily consumed about 64 ounces of sugary drinks and pummeled his poor pancreas into a sad little pulp. Though he has abandoned the liquid dark side, I can’t help but say “I told you so,” every once in a while, while imbibing my ever-so-healthy cup of tea.

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Is my tea lethal?

But wait! This headline recently froze me in mid sip. “Hot tea may raise esophageal cancer risk.” The first paragraph delivered the bad news. “New research appearing in the International Journal of Cancer, finds an association between drinking tea at very high temperatures and the risk of developing esophageal cancer.”

I settled my china cup on its delicate matching saucer. (Yes, I drink from a china cup. I am not a barbarian.) Further investigation showed that anything over 150 degrees could be problematic, so I rushed to the kitchen for a cooking thermometer. I worried over that thermometer like a woman waiting on a pregnancy test. When the little red line reached the danger zone, I almost wept.

“My tea is killing me,” I said to my sweetie pie. “Esophageal cancer.”

He stared over the tops of his glasses.

I had also been rather delighted with my other beverage of choice. And when I learned that wine was good for my heart, well I couldn’t have been happier. Then, an article in The Lancet dashed my dreams. A new study proclaimed that, “alcohol consumption uniformly increases blood pressure and stroke risk, and there is no protective effect of low levels of alcohol consumption. The calculated “safest” amount was zero drinks per day.”

Nooooo!

I calmed myself and was grateful that my doctor had managed to bend me to his will in regard to high blood pressure meds. For two years, I had refused to take the pills. After all, as previously mentioned, I did all the right things: I ate my fruits and vegetables, exercised, got my rest, and drank that glass of wine each day for my heart. Oh…wait.

Anyway, he finally got my attention after I complained that the pills were too expensive.

“So’s a wheelchair,” he countered.

“Got it,” I said, grabbing the prescription.

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Then, after years of ingesting said meds, I got a letter in the mail explaining the following: “The FDA has announced a voluntary recall of several drugs that contain the heart drug valsartan because a possible carcinogen was found in the recalled products.”

So, high blood pressure meds might give me cancer. So might hot tea. And the safest amount of wine is … none.

I know what you’re thinking. Something’s gonna kill me.

I think I need a drink.

Maybe I’ll have a soda.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The call that made me a mom

Mother’s Day was never a holiday that meant much to me. My biological family is not close and I never had any children. Then, when I was 55, I received a phone call that changed my life. And though I have told this story before, with Mother’s Day approaching, I thought I’d tell it again, because I am so very proud of my boys: Brandon, Ziggy, and Troy.

Growing up in a middle-class suburb of New Jersey, the only thing I’d heard about parentless children came from the Broadway musical Oliver, where overly cute ragamuffins danced and sang about wanting more food. And while there were certainly sad points in the Dickensian tale, little Oliver did end up happily ever after with his long-lost grandpa.

On any given day there are approximately 443,000 children in foster care in the United States. More than 23,000 of them age out annually with no happy ending in sight; kids who are much more likely than their peers to drop out of high school, be unemployed, or end up homeless.

The inner-city school where I teach is in the heart of Phoenix and has perhaps hundreds of foster children at any given time. Most of our students live in poverty, so our Title I designation provides many of them with free meals for breakfast and lunch. When summer break rolls around, I find myself anxious. I worry about what might happen to them without the structure the school day provides and the meals many of them depend on to survive. On the last day of classes, I always put my phone number on the board. I tell my students that, if they find themselves in a difficult situation with nowhere else to turn, they should contact me and I will do what I can to help.

Early one summer I got a call from a student who’d been in my class just one semester: a diminutive, dark-haired child with crooked teeth. We spoke a number of times, chatting about nothing in particular. I sensed there was something specific he wanted me to do. But when I asked if I could help him in some way he always said no. Before hanging up, he often reminded me that he would be in my class again in the fall.

When the school year got underway, his name was on my roster, but he did not appear for class. I called his number. The phone had been disconnected.

Several weeks went by.

Finally, he called. He was in a new high school, near the group foster care facility in which he now lived, the result of a harrowing family story, the particulars of which are not important here.

“I’m hungry,” he said.

“Hungry? Surely they feed you.”

“The refrigerator and cupboards are locked. And the school won’t let me eat there.” His voice was small. “They said the paperwork would take two weeks.”

“Two weeks!” I was horrified.

Later, I complained bitterly to a woman I work with. “How can they do this?” I said stomping around the hallway like an angry mother bear. “How can they let a child go hungry?”

“Then do something about it,” she said.

“Do what?”

“Call the foster care people and tell them you’d like him to live with you.”

I stopped, frozen in place. “Me?”

I never had any children, though I’d tried over the years. Sometimes, I felt badly about my inability to conceive, especially when faced with baby showers and kids’ birthday parties. However, I was no longer tormented by the fact that I wasn’t a mom and had long ago given up on the idea.

Still, I made the call to the foster care folks. Then, I spoke with the boy on the phone and asked if he’d like to come live with me. After a brief pause, he said yes. I also called a judge I know to expedite the process. Since I was a teacher, my fingerprints and background check were already on file with the state.

Two weeks later the child was placed in my home. Then came foster mom school: ten Saturdays of parenting classes, followed by braces and homework and house rules and laundry – teenage-boy socks were a shocking revelation – and conversations about curfews and girlfriends and part-time jobs and life after high school.

Three years flew by at a manic pace, making me marvel at the incredible stamina parents must maintain while rearing their children. Strangely, at almost the exact moment boy-child number one headed off, boy-child number two appeared. Once he’d been safely launched, a third boy arrived.

My only problem with my parenting turn was how to explain it. “Do you have any children?” well-meaning strangers sometimes ask.

I used to answer by saying, “Yes, well, sort of.” After which I’d mumble my way through the details.

Then, I remembered that day when I sat silently with a small, frightened boy-child, as we drove together to school. Wanting to fill the empty space between us, I said, “You know, you can’t keep calling me Ms. Montgomery. The kids in the neighborhood call me Annie.”

He didn’t speak for a long time. Then, staring out the windshield at the road before us, he said, “You know, I’ve never had a mom. Can I call you Mom?”

mom-and-the-boys

Even though they’re now in their twenties, all three of my boys still call me Mom. And today, when anyone asks if I have any children, I simply say, “Yes, I have three sons.”

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 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 Light in the Desert: “From the beginning, this book sucked me in.”

Mamma Mia! I was so out of my league!

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“Sometimes we do things that just don’t make no sense.” Forrest Gump

Sometimes we do things that, as Forrest Gump would say, “Just don’t make no sense.”

And I am guilty of such an act, mostly because I ignored the numbers and severely overestimated my abilities.

I have written about the fact that I performed in a community theater production of the musical Company last year. Though it was initially terrifying, in the end I made friends and had fun. So, it seemed rational that I give it another try this year. Mamma Mia is this summer’s show at the Starlight Community Theater in Phoenix.

I started singing along to the Mamma Mia CD in my car in February,  So … I thought I was ready. Even the cast descriptions didn’t deter me. Though, admittedly, the fact that the “elder” female characters were listed as “late 30s-early 50s” should have tickled my spidey senses.

This time around, auditions were very different. Four times the number of actors showed up. And there was improv involved. Still, I thought I had a shot at making the cast, until I arrived at the dance callbacks.

My first clue should have been the young lady spread-eagled flat on the floor, stretching in preparation. In fact, the stage was littered with bodies of those limbering up. I was a tad bemused, as I had seen the movie and didn’t notice too much complicated-looking dancing, at least not from the named characters. Had I considered that the stage version might be vastly different from the one with Meryl Streep and her pals, I might have been forewarned.

Those hoping for a spot in the cast filled the stage facing a thin, twenty-something with a high, tawny pony tail and black leggings. She announced that we would be learning a series of dance steps.

“OK! Face the back,” she said, reminiscent of a drill instructor. ” Now, hips left, then right, and spin to the front. And … right arm up high. Good. Now side step. And back. Other side. Full turn to the left and drop to your knees.”

My head popped up. Drop to my knees? Did she mean the ones that have functioned for the last 15 years thanks to the miracle of modern science, infusions injected with big-ass needles that always make me wince? Those knees?

Not wanting to stand out, I dropped to the floor. I almost bellowed like a moose giving birth, but managed to stop myself.

“Now roll over on your butt and jump up.”

In my case, said roll did not occur. I just stared at the choreographer.

“Now … leap!” She took to the air.

Leap? The thing about leaping is there always tend to be landings involved.

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The choreographer encouraged us to leap in this fashion. Don’t you agree it hurts just to look at this picture?

“Those of you who want to can bend your leg while leaping. Like this.” She launched herself skyward again. “Point your toes,”  she said, alighting gracefully. “Second line, move up to the front.”

Hoping no one would notice, I melted into the back, which would be my primary strategy throughout the ordeal.

After an hour, we took a break. To my horror, five minutes later we were at it again.

“Let’s do another one,” she said. “This one will be easy. Even I can do it.” She smiled prettily.

What I wanted most was to go all Tonya Harding on her kneecaps. “See what you feel like when you’re over 60,” I muttered under my breath, as I mounted the stage.

Another hour passed. I longed for my chiropractor.

I know what your thinking. Why didn’t I just go sit down? Pride, I suppose. Or maybe just plain stubborness. A few other older women had taken seats. I say “older” here with a caveat. If I had to guess, with the exception of my friend Scott, there was probably no one over 50 auditioning. Clearly, I was pretty much alone as a mid-sexagenarian.

Mercifully, the dancing finally ended. But my humiliation was not over.

Scott appeared. “Hey! You need to go in the back.”

I heard women’s voices singing Dancing Queen from backstage. “Why?”

“The mothers are auditioning,” he explained, using the term applied to the older adult women trying out for a part.

Not knowing how I could have missed the others being called away, I leapt – OK, in my mind, I leapt  – onto the stage and bolted through a curtain and down a ramp toward the piano, where about eight women were lined up single file.

“I am so sorry I’m late!” I shouted.

All heads turned toward me. A woman looked up, paper and pencil in hand. “Your name?”

“Anne”

She scrutinized the document.

The director rose from his seat. “You’re not on the list,”  he said. “You were called back only for a dancing part.”

I suddenly realized that if getting a part hinged on my dancing skills, I would need other plans for the summer. “I am … so sorry!”

I fled.

I found Scott in the seats and chastised him. It wasn’t his fault, though. He simply assumed I should be back there with the others, which in retrospect was sweet.

The director soon dismissed those of us who wouldn’t be invited to participate in any further auditions. Totally dejected, I sneaked out the back door.

When I got home, my sweetie pie stared at me. “I’m sorry,” he said without asking what happened.

I wondered if he’d had a premonition, since he already had a glass of wine poured and waiting for me.

“Maybe they did you a favor,” he said a short time later, as I sat in my jammies feeling sorry for myself, rubbing my aching knees.

I sipped my wine and pouted. “Maybe.”

Later that night, wrapped in two cold packs and a heating pad, I licked my wounds and considered whether I would ever try out for another play.

I’m thinking about it. I’ll let you know.

That said … don’t forget to go see the show. Performances start in July.

I bet it will be grand.

Mamma Mia Banner

https://www.starlightcommunitytheater.com/tickets

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 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.