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.

 

Who turned out the lights?

Health Club

Soon my health club will be demolished, reportedly to make way for condos. I’ll miss the old place and the friends I made there.

I’ve been going to the same health club for about 20 years. Recently, it closed its doors, the victim of outrageous land prices here in Phoenix. I heard the corner sold for $30 million. Its future a stack of condominiums.

Why am I writing about this? I started thinking about the time I spent in that building and the people I’ve known there.

There’s Bob, the Vietnam vet who always has a kind word. Charlie, the retired attorney and bird fancier. Tony who owns a rug-cleaning business and finds humor in everything. Abraham, a former Israeli paratrooper turned restaurateur turned retiree. And Big Bruce, who once played for the Australian National Rugby team and worked worldwide in the hotel industry before retiring.

I can’t count the hours we spent talking in the spa and swimming pool. Even fighting at times. Eventually, we decided politics were off limits in the water, still our bickering was mostly good natured.

Then there was my friend Frank. An old Texas curmudgeon and former high school football and basketball coach. Frank convinced me to become a teacher, when my reporting career fizzled out.  A recovering alcoholic who was quite proud of his yearly sobriety chip, he could be a cantankerous old coot. And yet, one year he just locked the door to his condo and moved to a homeless shelter to run the place. We got to calling him Father Frank, though he told me many funny tales that didn’t paint him in such a saintly light. He died last fall, though I sometimes think I still see him walking through the front door.

There were others I didn’t know well. The guy who was living out of his car and who intentionally bore a resemblance to the original TV Superman, with his black pompadour, cinched belt, and skin-tight top stretched over a muscular build.  I swam next to a woman who may have been on the spectrum. We talked about life struggles and sometimes giggled at the men who strode around in Speedos. Some hot, some decidedly not.

As I took my last laps in the pool – one of the few in the area that is actually 25-meters long – I contemplated how many miles I’d traveled over those dark-blue lane lines. A quick calculation revealed I might have trekked as far as Pittsburgh.

My club was not the fanciest, nor the cleanest. We all complained when the steam room sputtered, the pool filter died, and the spa needed refilling when all we wanted was a good hot soak and a chat.

Despite its shortcomings, it was home.

When I was leaving that last day, I thought of the man I’d heard about recently. Like me, he was a regular. He was upstairs on the treadmill, chatting with another patron of the place.  After his workout ended, he walked over to a bench, sat, and nodded his head to rest. He looked so peaceful, no one realized he’d died.

I don’t know that I believe in spirits or not. But I wonder if he’s still there.

And I wonder who turned out the lights.

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 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.