Chernobyl: The horror!

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The horror of the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl is depicted in graffiti on a wall at the ruptured power plant.

My high school students love horror movies. They are, of course, the target audience for the genre, films that require little in the way of acting skills, or fancy special effects, or well-written scripts, since the same plot tends to get ripped off time after time. Think the Halloween series – the eleventh version of which came out last fall – which repeatedly tells the same tale of deranged serial killer Michael Meyers doing his masked shtick, while dopey kids insist on going into dark places alone.

Hey! Call 911! Run away!

I have learned that teenage males are the main lovers of horror films mostly because the protagonists in these movies also tend to be young men. Which brings me to my point. I just watched the most frightening program I have ever seen, complete with unbearable tension, jump-in-your-seat fear, and the compulsion to hide behind your hands, because what’s on the screen is too awful to bear.

I’m talking about the HBO mini-series Chernobyl, the true story of the 1986 rupture of a Soviet nuclear power plant that spewed a radioactive release that was ten times larger than the fallout produced by the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. The accident – a combination of hubris and incompetence – caused 350,000 people to be evacuated from their homes. Today, the town of Pripyat, Ukraine stands abandoned, and the 19-mile radius around the reactor and the city – called the Exclusion Zone – could remain uninhabitable by humans for an estimated 100 thousand years.

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The 19-mile radius around the remains of Chernobyl’s nuclear reactor may remain uninhabitable by humans for 100 thousand years.

Shockingly, it could have been so much worse. Sixty-million people might have died as a result of air-born radiation and contaminated ground water, had thousands of mostly young men not converged on the burning reactor, many giving their lives to contain the release. There are horrifying scenes of firefighters trying to put out the poisonous blaze, miners digging under the burning reactor in an effort to seal it off, and baby-faced boys given 90-seconds on the building’s rooftop to find radioactive lumps of graphite and dump them over the side.

Then there was the cover up. The Soviet hierarchy was so determined not to lose face in the international community that it lied repeatedly and refused to ask for help, leaving an estimated ten thousand of their own people to die miserable deaths. (Note that the actual death toll is hard to determine, as many who toiled at Chernobyl did not die until later, the victims of radiation-caused cancers.)

What will I tell my students? I will recommend they watch Chernobyl, should they want true horror. I will advise them to pay close attention to the hospital scenes where young men writhe as they die from the ghastly effects of radiation poisoning. And I will remind them that they live in a world of weaponized nuclear power, and that, sadly, there could be real-life sequels in the future.

Let’s see how scared they are then.

When compared to Chernobyl, Michael Myers might seem more like Mary Poppins.

 

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 life of an author

 

Hard working author

As you can see, the life of an author is really quite glamorous.

There’s a lot that goes into writing a book. The folks at NFReads.com – Interesting Articles. Inspiring Stories – gave me a chance to talk about dealing with creative block, how I come up with story ideas, and what I hope readers will take away from my books, among other things.

My thanks to NFReads for letting me share my thoughts.

Interview With Author Anne Montgomery

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.

“You left me for an airline pilot!”

I woke with a start, saddened by the dream that had my sweetie pie abandoning me, leaving me alone in a mostly empty bar with no money or credit cards and no way to get home. I quickly felt silly, as he would never do such a thing.

A short time later and rather strangely, he magically appeared in my room. Now this might not seem shocking to some, considering we have been dating for a quarter of a century or so. But it is, because … we don’t live together. (Stop hyperventilating.)

We reside on the same street, separated by eight houses. Which has worked out splendidly over the years.

How so, you ask? Well … we don’t see each other much during the week, which means we rather look forward to our time together, almost like giddy teens. And we are just close enough that in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, he can rush over to my place – it takes about 30 seconds – get inside and lock the messy creatures out, while we enjoy the contents of our prepper kit: a few cases of wine, chocolate, dried fruits, various cheeses, peanut butter, and Triscuits. (Admit it. You’ve never seen mold on a Triscuit. Hence the perfect durable whole-wheat repast for waiting out the End Times.)

“What are you doing here so early?” I asked.

“You still love me, don’t you?” He didn’t give me a chance to answer. “I had an awful dream.”

The idea was shocking on two counts. I myself had just had a bad dream. And he almost never remembers dreaming.

“And?” I turned back to the mirror to finish applying my mascara. (I wouldn’t want to head to school without makeup. One mustn’t terrify the children.)

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“You left me for an airline pilot.”

I grinned. “Was he hot?”

“I don’t know.” He squinted.  “But you told me not to worry because we could still hangout and be friends.”

We’ll, of course we could.”

He shook his head.

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“Alright, no airline pilot.” I sighed and turned back to the mirror, thinking how odd it was that we both had you-left-me dreams at virtually the same moment. “Why do you think we had those nightmares?”

The big guy shrugged.

“You know … I wouldn’t leave you for an airline pilot.”

“OK.”

“But, honey … was he hot?”

 

 

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 is “full of tension and drama. A very good read.”

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My thanks to author and blogger Stuart Aken for taking the time to read and review my novel A Light in the Desert.

A Light in the Desert, by Anne Montgomery: #BookReview.

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.

Why we must grieve

grief

My dad died a week ago following a brief illness. It should not have come as a surprise, as he was one week shy of his 96th birthday. Still, it was a shock.

While I have lost loved ones before, this time feels different. And, of course, it should. After all, he was my father. Still, I am struggling with the grief.

As a former reporter, I have always managed to solve problems by researching them. Choosing reputable sources and concluding the best and most expedient avenue to rectifying a situation have never failed me, until now.

The reason? Grief is so damn hard to pin down. When I popped “grief” into my search engine, I was greeted by almost 29 million hits. Grief is simply defined as “deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.”

What I learned was that grief affects every part of us. We can suffer physical symptoms like loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and aches and pains. And emotional symptoms including anxiety, fear, problems with concentration, flashbacks, irritability, and depression.

But grief is not a one-size-fits-all malady. According to the Hospice Foundation of America, “Grieving is a highly individual experience; there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and how significant the loss was to you.”

I have always considered myself a strong person. I’ve been called tough many times, no doubt due to my four decades as an amateur sports official. The “never let them see you cry” credo has always guided my way. But it is apparently a myth that it’s important to “be strong” in the face of loss. Again, the Hospice Foundation of America: “Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to ‘protect’ your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.”

Watching my dad in hospice over five days – despite the loving care he received and the relative brevity of his illness – was harrowing. I had it in my head that once he died I would start to heal. But I have learned that grief is not linear, nor is it predictable.

“There is no specific time frame for grieving. How long it takes differs from person to person. Instead of a series of stages, we might also think of the grieving process as a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning, the lows may be deeper and longer. The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss.”

So, grief is complicated. But it is also necessary.

“Grieving honors the loved one and the relationship between them and our self,” said Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus, a nationally recognized clinical psychologist.  “Just as loving was a process of attaching to another person, grieving is a way of detaching and subsequently letting go such that we can move on, not forgetting, but remembering the joy.”

So, like all others who grieve, I must ride this roller coaster. But I promise I will remember the joy.

 

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.

 

One last dance for my dad

Last Saturday, my dad took his ballroom dance lesson. On Sunday, we chatted on the phone.  Monday night, he and my mom ate ice cream and watched the Memorial Day celebration from Washington D.C., and when the band played the Navy Hymn, he stood and saluted, as one might expect from a World War II Navy veteran. Then, my dad  went to bed.

The next morning, he was brain dead, the result of an aneurysm. He died one week shy of his 96th birthday.

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Paul Butler 1923-2019

My dad, who grew up in Irwin, Pennsylvania in a family of coal miners, graduated from Penn State University and received a masters degree from Seton Hall, thanks to the G.I. Bill. He was a proud veteran who loved history and shared his war stories with me. He was fly fisherman who taught me to cast into a garbage can lid in the driveway. He taught me to love wild places and the creatures that live in them. He was a recovering alcoholic who treasured those 35-plus sobriety chips. He was a grandfather and a great grandfather. We shared a love of sports and we ice danced together. Then, when he hung up his skates at 80, he turned to ballroom.

Here’s to you, Dad. One last dance. I love you.