Milestones

OIP

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday.

I’m 65.

This is a milestone year which is defined as “an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development.”

That got me thinking about other such times in my life, like 18. That was a big one, signaling, as it did, fleeing the nest, heading off to college, where I would be on my own. At least, I thought that was the case. Considering my parents footed that financial bill, my belief in my own independence was perhaps mistaken. Still, it was a newfound freedom.

Twenty-one was memorable, if only that I could imbibe without a fake ID.

At 24, I refereed my first game: a youth ice hockey contest, where tiny players leaned on sawed-off sticks, jerseys dipping below their knees, helmets tilting rakishly. That game led to a 40-year officiating career, where I called amateur football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games, all initially in an attempt to prepare for a life in sports reporting.

Typewriter

Look closely, children. This is an artifact from another time. It’s called a typewriter.

At 28, I finally got that coveted first sportscasting job, a profession that thrust me into the wacky world of the newsroom, where – and you’ll know I’m old here – reporters smoked incessantly and banged away on heavy, black typewriters, the clackity-clack of keys keeping a manic beat as we chased the news.

I married at 33.

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After working for five TV stations, my sportscasting career came to an end.

At 41, my sportscasting career ended, a casualty of my age. You see, in sports, 18-to-34- year-old males are the target audience. The thinking went – and pretty much still does – that after that age one is not pretty enough to sit in front of a camera. I mourned my lost career as a death and will admit here that it took a while for me to regroup and move on.

When I was 44, I applied for a sports-writing job with a small local newspaper, and though the editor was dubious about my abilities, he gave me a chance. It was during that seven-dollar-an-hour, minimum-wage job that I discovered I was pretty good at writing. I know because my editor kept saying “You’re on the front page again!”

I was 45 when I entered a classroom, a newly-minted teacher in a Title I high school in Phoenix, where I was tasked with teaching journalism, communications skills, and reading to children living in poverty, students who dealt with all the problems that status serves up. I thought the job would be easy. I was humbled in a week.

That same year, I divorced.

Four years later, I self-published my first book, the beginning of my life as an author. Since then I’ve written four more novels, an adventure that, so far, includes an agent and five different publishers.

Me diving 2 smaller

I’ve been diving regularly for 15 years.

When I was 50, I celebrated with a trip to Australia where I hunted for minerals with Aussie miners, slept under a night sky in the outback, and jumped into the sea above the Great Barrier Reef. Since then, scuba diving has taken me around the globe, an ongoing adventure of such beauty I can hardly find the words to describe it. Swimming with sea beasts large and small has become my passion.

Me and the boys at the book signing

Thanks to the foster care system, I became a mother at 55. And though my boys are now all in their twenties they still call me Mom.

At 55, a phone call made me a mom. A former student landed in foster care, a frightening journey that ended with me. Today, I have three sons, all of whom spent time in the system, and despite being in their twenties they still call me Mom. I hope they always will.

That same year, I finally picked up that guitar I’d been toting around for 35 years, so music – which had been one of my greatest loves – was back in my life, hopefully never to abandon me again.

Last Game Touchdown

I’ll admit, I cried after refereeing my last football game.

Now, ten years later, everything is changing again. I called my last football game in November. I hung up my white hat and whistle, because a lifetime of injuries now prevent me from successfully dodging players rushing my way. And, at the end of this school year, I will leave my classroom for the final time. Twenty years of teaching over.

Looking back, I realize I have been so very fortunate. I wouldn’t change a thing, though I wish I had better teeth and that I had taken those piano lessons more seriously.

I am excited about the future and what comes next. My sweetie pie and I have plans that include a nightly light show over the Caribbean and a peaceful St. Croix hillside with fruit trees and a garden, as well as a few cats and dogs. I know I will write more books – simply because I love to – and I will swim with sea creatures whenever I can. I will hunt for rocks, learn to play my new piano, spend time with the boys, and be prepared for any adventures that come my way.

Today is my birthday.

I’m 65.

 

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A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Kindle Pre-orders available at:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085ZX1WCZ?tag=creati0a5-20

Paperback Pre-orders will be available soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Derailed by that tricky S

High School Year Book Pic

The caption in my Livingston High School yearbook shows I wanted to be a sportscaster a long time ago.

I decided I wanted to be a sports reporter in high school. (The proof is written above my yearbook picture.) So, I attended college to get a degree in communications, though I was a bit discouraged when my professors echoed the same sentiments as everyone else. “You’re a girl! You can’t be a sportscaster,” was the usual phrase.

But I pressed on, convinced the mid-1970s were modern times and I would surely get a job with a microphone talking about sports.

My last semester at Miami of Ohio was one of imminent change. I would be graduating in the spring. I had worked hard for that cap and gown, and had managed to thwart my older brother’s claim that I wouldn’t make it through my freshman year, because I wasn’t smart enough to attend college.

One day, about a month before graduation, I was summoned to the office of the communications department without explanation. I was instructed to sit in a room where I was met by a graduate student.

After we’d exchanged pleasantries, she folded her hands on the table. “I see here you never took the speech test.”

I didn’t know where she was going.

“You can’t graduate without taking the test.”

This immediately got my attention. “Fine. I’ll take it right now.”

All these years later, I have no memory of test itself, but I know I went in with complete confidence. After all, I’d been in multiple theater productions, performed in singing groups, and had taken voice lessons. I’d served as a sportscaster on my high school’s in-house radio station and was co-anchoring Miami’s college sports TV show.  I wasn’t the least bit concerned.

I should have been.

After the test, the grad student reappeared. She sat and blinked several times. “I’m afraid you have a speech impediment.”

“A what?” I grinned. Surely she was mistaken.

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It’s true. When I say the letter S, it often comes out with a bit of a hiss.

“A speech impediment. You hiss when you say a word that that begins or ends with the letter S.” She stared at me like I’d committed some sort of crime.

Now I understood. “My front tooth got knocked out when I fell off a bike when I was  little. I learned to speak without it.” I shrugged.

She paused dramatically. “Well, you’ll need speech therapy. You can’t graduate from the communications department with a speech impediment,” she said as if I was a child.

I calculated the time I had available. Finals were approaching. “When would I do that?”

“It’s up to you. But you can’t graduate until you get it sorted out.”

“Wait! That can’t be right! Why didn’t someone tell me earlier?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, but those are the rules.”

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I trained myself not to mangle S words on the air, but now I’m not so careful.

My brain exploded. I understood that speech therapy was not a one-time thing. It was a process. How would I explain to my parents that I wouldn’t be graduating?

Here’s the strange part of the story. I have no idea how I got out of it. I know I complained, that I never went to speech therapy, and I graduated on time.

And, yes, I still hiss.

“You did it again,” my sweetie pie periodically points out.

I don’t have to ask. I know what he means. “I didn’t do it when I was on the air,” I say, defending myself. “I can fix it, if I think about it.”

‘That’sss good newssss,” he said.

“Yesss, it issss.”

 

I am delighted to announce that The Next Chapter publishing team will be releasing my new novel, Wild Horses on the Salt, on June 14, 2020.

51TMG11M-rL

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Kindle Pre-orders available at:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085ZX1WCZ?tag=creati0a5-20

Paperback Pre-orders will be available soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Horses on the Salt to be released in June

I am delighted to announce that the Next Chapter publishing team will be releasing my new novel, Wild Horses on the Salt, on June 14, 2020.

51TMG11M-rL

A woman flees an abusive husband

and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Kindle Pre-orders available at:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B085ZX1WCZ?tag=creati0a5-20

Paperback Pre-orders will be available soon.

Volunteers working to keep you safe

The corona virus COVID-19 is circulating the globe, freaking folks out everywhere the illness goes.

Is our hysteria warranted?

At this point, not really. I mean even a math-deficient person like me can understand the numbers. Right now about 6,500 people world wide have succumbed to the bug – the vast majority in China – including 63 in the US. By comparison, there have been 20,000 confirmed regular influenza deaths in our country during the 2019-2020 flu season.

Still, it’s not as if we should ignore COVID-19. So, what do we do? Treat COVID-19 like you would the regular flu: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, stay home and rest if you’re sick.

That said, it might make you feel better to know that there are plans in place should COVID-19, or any other health disaster, hit with any force. I know this because I am part of just such a plan.

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Volunteers work to set up a pod where people in a mass emergency medical situation would be directed to get medication.

I have been a volunteer with the Maricopa County Department of the Public Health for several years. In that capacity, I am a first responder in the event of a medical emergency. The idea is that fast action is needed should there be a health danger to the public. In our training we’ve discussed the release of radiation from a nuclear power plant, the rampant spread of communicable diseases, events that contaminate drinking water sources, and – the worst possible scenario – the terroristic weaponization of substances like anthrax or the smallpox virus.

It is the last scenario that we practice for. Should anthrax be released in public, it’s estimated that 99% of those who come in contact will die without medication. Volunteers are tasked with setting up pods for the mass distribution of meds and information. People would be directed to local high schools and community centers where volunteers would assess individual medical needs. Processes are in place to screen those who speak other languages or who suffer from medical conditions that might be adversely affected by the medication provided.

Right now, the federal government has massive stockpiles of the antibiotics doxycycline and ciprofloxacin, enough to heal every man, woman and child in the country, should they be exposed to anthrax. The hope is that, in the event of an outbreak, first responders could assemble and deliver medication to anyone who needs it within 48 hours.

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Volunteers are trained to keep track of supplies, distribute medication, and deal with a populace  under duress.

What I’ve learned from the training and drills is that the procedure will be messy. People will panic. Some will think the call to get medicine will be some kind of conspiracy. In fact, I asked about that in a training session.

“What happens if people don’t believe there’s a real problem, or if they don’t trust the government to hand out medicine?” I asked the instructor.

“They’ll die,” was the cryptic answer.

That people will panic is a given. Our drills include police and sheriff departments, paramedics, and red cross volunteers.

“What if someone arrives, points a weapon at you, and asks for all the medication?” an instructor asked.

There was silence in the class.

“Give them whatever they want. Do not put yourselves in danger. There is plenty of medication. We will have more delivered.”

Heads nodded around the room.

The bottom line is there are plans in place in case of a mass medical emergency. And while I can’t guarantee everything will go smoothly, volunteers are working on it. Perhaps you’d like to join them.  If so, contact your local county health department.

 

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Anne Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The terrifying truth about publishing

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Huddle up now. This is a frightening tale.

Gather around the fire, and I will tell you a harrowing tale.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who aspired to be an author.

 Cue scary music: Dum, da dum, dum…

 One day, all bright eyed with ideas of fame and fortune and a New York Times best seller, she said, “I’m quitting my job to become an author!”

And so she did.

 The young woman started writing. When her manuscript was finished, she whooped with joy, visualizing those network interviews on TV morning shows and the all-expenses paid book-signing tour, where throngs of adoring readers shower her with accolades on that breakout novel. A Pulitzer was surely in her future.

Cue Wiley Coyote sliding to a dust-spewing stop.

Here’s the thing, folks, and I can’t say this too adamantly: Do not quit your day job to be an author!

The publishing world today is a black hole that, more often than not, sucks books and authors into a void. With the advent of Amazon and the Internet the entire publishing world tilted on its axis, leaving the industry in catch-up mode, a race that may never end.

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The vast majority of authors will never see their books on shelves in bookstores or libraries.

To the aspiring authors out there, here’s the truth. The vast majority of us will never make any money on our books. The agents and publishers who take us in will never recoup the time and effort and publishing costs they’ve expended. Which, in turn, leads to the continual demise of independent publishers. So, when you sign that contract with a publisher, understand that, on any given day, the company might fold.

How do I know? I’ve had several publishers close their doors, leaving my books without a home. Sometimes, other publishers come along and may re-issue your orphaned books, but that is not common. The publishing business eats its young.

So, what’s an aspiring author to do? First, if you believe in your work, fight for it. That means living with the withering rejections you will receive by the thousands. I’m talking here about agents, editors, publishers, book reviewers, and media outlets who will shake their collective heads and say your manuscript is simply not worthy of publication, promotion, or praise.

And, think about this: Most of the time, they’re right.

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Author Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize in literature in 2017 with The Underground Railroad, his sixth book.

It’s important to understand that writing one book is not enough to hone your craft. I have a couple of manuscripts in a drawer that will never see the light of day. The reason? They’re not very good. And, when you hear of best-selling authors who “came out of nowhere,” realize they didn’t. Take Colson Whitehead, who won the the National Book Award in fiction, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Underground Railroad in 2017. It was his sixth book.

If you’re the author who says, “I’m afraid to send my manuscript out, because they might not like it,” please burn all your pages now. You simply don’t have the stomach to dip your toe into the publishing waters.

I sent out queries to 100 agents for my second book and was soundly rejected by all. I decided I should give up writing. Later, I gave it one more try. The 101st agent signed me to a contract. But did that solve my problems? No, though it’s my agent who gets to field the rejections, now. She is, however, kind enough to send them along to me for light reading. And here’s the funny thing about rejections. Sometimes, the folks doing the rejecting say nice things about your writing, and you’re so happy someone praised you, the rejection feels almost like acceptance. But, of course, it’s not.

If you think being rejected by an agent, editor, or publishing house is demoralizing, try getting a no from online book-review bloggers. Should you have the delightful opportunity to be seeking reviews for that young-adult-fiction work of genius, bear in mind you will have to play nice with 17-year-old, unicorn-loving, “my favorite color is purple” kids who somehow have 30,000 social media followers. Begging them to review your book can be, um … depressing.

So, what are aspiring authors to do? Write. A lot. Read. A lot. Study industry trends. A lot! Be brave. Smile in the face of rejection and give it another go. And, if no one likes your book, shelve it and write another.

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If your social media footprint is lacking, publishers will take a pass on your manuscript.

Should you get a contract, remember it’s your job to promote your book, no matter the size of the publisher. That means, if you loathe public speaking and social media, step aside. Your book might be the best thing ever written, but publishing companies are going to check out your Internet footprint before offering you a contract. If you’re not robustly tackling social media – which includes having a website and a blog – your book will be passed over for an author who does.

For those who like a nice, tidy life – like me – understand that publishing is messy. Right now, I have two books out with one publisher. In the last month, I signed contracts with two different publishers for two other books, and I have another novel my agent is shopping around. I have no idea when these books will be released, but I must be ready to work with editors and artists and do the promotional work when my time comes. My worry is this will happen all at once, and I’ll be juggling three books simultaneously.

Here’s the thing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be an author. I’m suggesting you write because you love to. Should the publishing world offer you an opportunity, great! Then, be courageous. Be flexible. Sport an emotional coat of Teflon. And, most importantly, don’t quit your day job.

the-scent-of-rain-cover-200x300-copy

Anne Montgomery’s novel, The Scent of Rain, tells the story of two Arizona teenagers whose fates become intertwined. Rose flees into the mountains to escape from her abusive polygamous community where her only future is marriage to a man older than her father. Adan, whose only wish is to be reunited with his mother, is on the run from the cruelties of the foster care system. Are there any adults they can trust? Can they even trust each other?  The Scent of Rain is available at https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780996390149 and wherever books are sold.