GO AHEAD AND MAKE MISTAKES: MOST LIKELY YOU’LL LEARN SOMETHING

Do not dispair when you make a mistake. Learn from it.

I’ve made lots of mistakes. Far too many to list. And I’m guessing you have too.

Clearly, mistakes are common. I discerned this from all the ways we have to refer to them: blunders, gaffes, slip-ups, lapses, miscalculations, faux pas, missteps, to name a few.  But no matter what we call them, these errors in judgement tend to cause upset, anxiety, and shame.

I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed making mistakes, and people generally do all they can to avoid booboos, especially in public. While it’s one thing to scratch the wrong number on your Tax Return and get that letter from the Internal Revenue Service, the consolation is your screwup is just between you and them. Okay, maybe that’s a bad example, because no one wants to be in that particular pickle, but I think most people would admit that it’s those public flubs that keep us up at night.

I screwed-up a memorable call back when I umpired baseball, but I never made that mistake again.

I’ll give you an example. Many years ago when I was a baby baseball umpire, there was a runner on third base who decided to steal home. The pitch ricocheted from the bat to the catcher’s glove and he squared to tag the runner out at the plate. What did I do? I called it a foul ball, which killed the play. (A foul tip, which would have kept the ball live and in play, was the correct call.) Understandably, the coaches were furious, as were the fans. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but according to the rule book there was no way to fix it. Still, do you think in my 25 years of officiating baseball, I ever made that mistake again? No, I did not!

So here’s the thing, unless you’re a surgeon or an airline pilot, mistakes are nothing but teachable moments. They force us to learn and grow. Keeping with the sports theme, players learn little from a big, lopsided win. It’s from losing, or dropping a pass, or whiffing on at that low outside pitch with the bases loaded that help players up their game.

The other side of the oops issue is how we react to our screwups. Most of us have witnessed someone who’s gone off the rails after making a mistake. You know the type. The people who immediately blame others for their blunders. The old childhood adage, “He made me do it!” comes to mind. And while standing up and admitting our errors is never easy, I’ve learned that after the initial discomfort taking the blame can be cathartic.

It’s simple, really. Just apologize and do better in the future.

So the next time you find eyes on you accusingly when you’ve flubbed something up, consider a simple and direct response: “I’m sorry. I’ll do better next time,” for example. Or smile and try to find some humor in the situation. Making your meaculpa has the added effect of taking the pressure off of others, allowing everyone to regroup and move forward.

The biggest problem caused by fear of mistakes is that it can keep us from trying new things. But consider where we’d be if Thomas Edison—the Daddy of the Lightbulb—had ceased his experiments when he repeatedly erred in figuring out the proper material for his filament. He claimed to have tried 2,000 different substances before he got it right. Over the course of his inventing career, Edison said he never failed. He just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.

The point is don’t worry about making mistakes. As Albert Einstein said, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” So now let’s all standup straight and get out there and do things. And, when you err, don’t try to hide your bungle. Smile and take ownership. Then go forth and do better.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY WOULD BE SMART TO TAKE AIM AT MATURE VIEWERS

The movie and film industries are ignoring mature audiences and missing out on a big payday.

One of the weirder things about getting older is that after 50 we are no longer a target audience in regard to the arts. Those that produce movies and TV shows have shunted us aside, looking instead to Millennials and Generation Zers to consume their offerings. All despite the fact that Baby Boomers possess 70% of the disposable income in the country.

While there are generally a few grown-up films every year from the movie industry, they often get little buzz and even less promotion. It’s the same with TV series that boast “mature” actors and themes.

The truth is, Hollywood has historically cared little for older viewers both in what they choose to produce and in how they represent that demographic on the screen. Often, older characters are portrayed as cranky white-hairs who seem regretful and bitter that life has passed them by. They are, of course, caricatures, clearly not representative of real people who’ve passed the half-century mark whose lives are filled with rich experiences and accumulated knowledge.

Hollywood needs to give older viewers characters and storylines they can relate to.

“We are living healthier and longer,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins in the article ‘Ageism is Hollywood’s Worst Villain.’ It’s a huge opportunity for the entertainment industry, particularly in movies and television, to get more focused on the likes and dislikes of people 50 and over…And 25 percent of people who are moviegoers are people over the age of 50. They are actually putting butts in the seats in the movie theaters.”

Of course, Jenkins made the statement prior to the pandemic lockdown that has hit the film industry hard. Perhaps, the powers that be in movie land might now consider choosing stories that would appeal to seniors, since we have the money to patronize theaters.

It’s a smart idea, but I’m not holding my breath.

Note that TV is no better in the ageism department. Every night, when my sweetie pie and I thumb through the streaming offerings, we get more and more despondent. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime and HBO Max and Sling and often nothing piques our interest.

No need for ridiculously pretty people to apply for acting jobs on BritBox.

Recently however, we found BritBox, which offers series and films made, as you might expect, in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada, and there’s a lot to like about their productions.

First, unlike our Hollywood fare, actors in these programs look like regular people. No super models or ridiculously hot dudes need apply. I love that. Female actors face the camera unabashedly showing wrinkles and messy hair, wearing very little make-up. It’s so damned refreshing! It makes our actors look rather cartoonish, by comparison.

I also like the fact that the characters on BritBox are often flawed. They make bad choices. Like us, they’re just trying to get through every day without screwing something up. They don’t drive eighty-thousand-dollar cars. They’re children are not ridiculously cute or precocious. They don’t live in homes that their budgets can clearly not afford.

BritBox programs and films are thoughtful, beautifully shot, and clever.

Since we tend to watch British mystery series and films, I will praise them specifically here. The shows are often shot at incredible locations that make you feel like you’re there, whether it be a beautiful flowered landscape, a five-hundred-year-old castle, or a foreboding, dark seaside village. Their plots are twisted and complicated and make you think. There are sometimes a half-a-dozen possible suspects, making it tough to solve the crime before the detectives do.

By comparison, American-made films and TV shows often lack thoughtful plot lines. I know, I’m a writer, so I’m biased. But how many times have you seen films with enormous budgets that lack even a remotely coherent storyline? If you’re spending a couple hundred million to produce a film, couldn’t you toss a few extra grand at the folks writing the scripts so the story makes sense? I think we older viewers would appreciate the effort.

So, come on. Give us some satisfying characters and plots we can relate to and watch us open our wallets. Remember, there are 77 million Baby Boomers.

Do the math.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

Why we’re running out of sports officials at an alarming rate and what we can do to fix it

The National Association of Sports Officials is running a new public service announcement campaign to recruit arbiters.

Recently, I received a plea from the National Association of Sports Officials, a mass mailout to those of us who have, over the years, picked up whistle, or a chest protector, or a set of penalty cards: officials, umpires, referees, judges. You know who we are. We have uniforms that identify us as the people who make sure games and matches are orderly, fair, and safe for the participants and fans.

These jobs have never been easy. In fact, I just read a story about gladiator battles in ancient Rome, and it seems archeologists have found evidence that those furious brawls were indeed kept in check by referees in white togas, arbiters who, no doubt, didn’t always please the fans and felt the collective wrath of coliseum crowds.

Let me mention here that I was a sports official for four decades. While I mostly served on amateur baseball and football fields, over the years I worked basketball, soccer, and ice hockey games, as well. I’ve been called names and screamed at, nose-to-nose on occasion. I’ve been threatened. I’ve been heartily booed by fans, and periodically required a police escort to my car. I’ve always understood that this is all part of the job.

Four decades of officiating amateur sports taught me it’s not all rainbows and unicorns out there, but the violence against officials is getting progressively worse.

However, the derision aimed at officials in the last few decades has accelerated at a frightening pace. In a 2019 NASO study, 53% of youth sports officials admitted to feeling unsafe or being threatened while working a game. When these moments happen, officials are expected to refrain from harsh, antagonistic, or violent responses. We cannot strike back if we’ve been hit. We cannot swear or speak in an aggressive way. At all times we are expected to be the “adults in the room,” even when there is the threat of bodily harm.

But the anger and violence has gotten so out of hand that states have been considering legislation to protect umpires and referees. Kansas House Bill 2520 failed in its effort to increase the penalty for assault and battery against sports officials in 2020, but a similar bill in Ohio did increase the penalties for such crimes last year.

You are probably wondering why you should care. I’ll let Ohio State Representative Joe Miller, a sports official of 20 years, explain.

“This legislation is vitally important to protect sports officials in Ohio and to ensure that we are able to recruit and retain the next generation of umpires and referees,” Miller said. “That is why it is imperative for us to maintain a safe and welcoming environment for everyone involved. Ohio needs to do more to protect our officials, and avoid this looming crisis before referee shortages become a major obstacle in the future.” 

Sadly, the “future” is here. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 80% of high school officials are now quitting before their third year, mostly because of the ongoing abuse, which has now spread off the field to the Internet, where parents and social media trolls continue the attacks.

So I ask you, what will you do when you get the kids or grandkids all amped up for their game, dress them in their uniforms, take them to the field, and no officials appear? I have often felt that is the only moment anyone cares about those of us in stripes, because there is no game without us. Headlines all over the country are now pointing out that contests are being cancelled because there aren’t enough officials to go around.

Local sports officiating associations need to reach out to women, then train and support them on the field.

What can we do? Fans, parents, and coaches need to lighten up, especially when we’re dealing with high school and youth sports? Please remember that the vast majority of children will never be college, Olympic, or professional athletes. They play sports to learn life skills and to be happy, successful adults. Your bad behavior in the stands is not helping and it could lead to a lack of competitive opportunities if there’s no one around to yell, “Play Ball!”

I must also place blame on the officiating associations themselves: the local groups that recruit, train, and assign sports officials, because you too are partly to blame for the shortage of officials. You don’t do a very good job of enticing half the population to pick up a whistle. I’m talking, of course, about recruiting women. I’ve called games in six states over 40 years, and I never felt accepted by many of my peers and was quite aware there were men who refused to work with me. As one of my supervisors pointed out, “You might get somewhere if you officiated girls sports.” That I happened to love football and baseball was not important. As a woman officiating boys sports I was a freak and, four decades later, that perception hasn’t changed. The sports world is missing out on millions of recruits with the good-old-boy attitude that still prevails in officiating.

We can do better, people. Fans, parents, coaches, players, and local associations can all work together to make the turf more hospitable for officials. And let’s do this quickly or someday you might be wistfully telling your children about the games we used to play.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

Cheerleaders…Ugh!

Can’t girls find something better to do?

Recently, former NFL cheerleaders for what is today the Washington Football Club filed a complaint about what they called secretly-shot nude pictures. (The photos came to light during the investigation into now disgraced former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden.) The women are angry because the pictures, which were taken during a swimsuit shoot, were distributed to league personnel via e-mail.

I immediately wondered what a photographer was doing in a changing room. After all, how else would these naked pictures have been captured? No one has explained, so I will leave it alone.

This just doesn’t look like a sport to me.

My next thought was how, in 2021, do we still have cheerleaders. And I don’t just mean at the professional sports level. I’m talking about college, high school, and youth-sports cheerleaders.

I can now see you pro-cheer types leaping from your chairs, but please stop hyper-ventilating and give me a moment to explain.

I have a couple of complaints. One is how sexualized cheerleaders have become. I suppose if you’re an adult and you want to shake your barely-covered body in front of a crowd of screaming fans you have that right. But when I consider girls performing this way, I’m disturbed. Even worse is watching the sideline mommies grinning at their little darlings during Pop Warner football games as seven-year-olds shake their non-existent boobs and bend over, bouncing up and down, putting their baby bottoms on full display. I have watched these women and believe they are the female equivalent of the rabid, youth–football dad. You know, the one who got cut from his freshman team and is now living vicariously through Junior. Same with the women. They probably never made the cheer squad and are counting on their daughters to do it for them. Yes, I sound harsh. But that’s the way I feel.

Cheerleeding is predicated on being sexy. Is that the message we want to give girls?

Who am I to complain, you ask? I spent four decades officiating youth and high school football games, another 15 as a sports reporter at both the local and national levels, and 20 years as a high school teacher. I’ve seen cheerleaders perform all along the way, and I always had the same thought. “Geez, ladies, can’t you find something better to do?”

See how pretty cheerleaders are? Real athletes get messy.

Because I don’t want to come off completely one-sided, I popped on my reporter’s cap and did a little investigating to see if my beliefs are unfounded. I read one article that said cheerleading is good for girls because cheer builds self-esteem and performance skills and is good exercise. Okay, but all sports provide these benefits. Still, while I do realize that high school associations across the country have identified cheer as a competitive sport, I just don’t buy it.

The problem, of course, is girls standing on the sidelines. It’s not like we’re still pre-Title IX, the 1972 statute that required all educational institutions that received federal funds to provide equal access to sports and activities for girls. In olden times, perhaps cheerleading was all that was available, but that’s no longer the case. And in 2021 should young ladies be doing nothing but rooting for boys to win? (Yes, I understand cheerleaders sometimes appear at girls sports, but that is not the norm.)

Athletes look the part, no makeup required.

Now, let’s look again at those who cheer at professional games. They are, not surprisingly, beautiful women, because who among us would want to squeeze into those tiny, revealing costumes if we didn’t look nice? And that’s the part that worries me. Are little girls drawn to cheerleading because they get to look pretty when they’re out there shaking what they’ve got? All bows and makeup and sparkles? I find the idea sad and as far from sports as one can get.

In my world an athlete plays her heart out, sweats, gets dirty and scraped up, then walks off the field messy-headed and happy, knowing she did her best. The girls who remain on the sideline reapplying lipgloss and checking those false eyelashes will never understand. So come on, ladies. Take a chance. It’s time to step over the line.

And to the women who are still shaking their bodies at pro events, time is cruel in regard to our looks. I hope you’re all currently working on plan B.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

Daytime TV: It’s all so awkward!

Covid and a misstep landed me in the hospital with a broken ankle.

I have been home recovering from Covid and a broken ankle that required surgery for over a month now. I’m not used to shuffling from bed to chair and back again as the main events of my day, but I’m unable to walk and so that’s simply the way it is now and will be for a few more months.

That said, there are aspects of my current existence that have taken me by surprise. The biggest being Daytime TV. I have rarely glimpsed this slice of life, aside from streaming newscasts and weekend football games. But that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s the endless array of “talk shows” that blare at me in strange and awkward ways.

Many of these programs have big panels of participants, which are almost exclusively women. (Why is that?) Sometimes six hosts share their thoughts, occasionally all at the same time. As a former news anchor, I find all that talking over one another jarring, but that’s not what bothers me the most. It’s the topics they discuss that have me reaching for the remote.

Shows like The View are a perfect example of daytime programing.

“If your boyfriend has cheated on you consistently over the years, should you stay with your man?”

Now, in my mind, this should be a very short segment: No!

“Serial plastic surgery. Can you have too much?”

Yes! When your skin is as tight as a Barbie doll’s and you constantly look surprised, maybe you should break up with your surgeon.

Some shows focus breathlessly on what “famous” folks are doing in their personal lives. Who was seen stepping out on their spouse. Who wore a designer outfit worth mocking. Who got a horrible haircut and had the “courage” to go out in public. I should mention here that I rarely know who these celebrities are. That either means I’m old and out of touch or the people under discussion are of the D-list variety. As I read the paper and watch various news shows daily, I’m going with the latter.

I do find some of these guests unintentionally hilarious. Actors or musicians few have ever heard of droning on about the “importance of my craft” and how “It’s so difficult be famous.” Oh, the paparazzi! The horror!

Are those real people spilling their guts out to Dr. Phil and a TV audience?

And let’s not forget shows like Dr. Phil who never met a familial car-wreck he didn’t drool over like a hungry hyena. How do they get these miserable people in front of a TV camera and a live audience? What type of person wants to plop themselves into a seat on stage where they will mostly be ridiculed for being dopes? I am truly baffled here. Sometimes, I think they must be actors. Actually, that’s far easier to believe than the alternative: that they are real people with big problems who think sharing them on national TV will solve their issues. Really?

I was also surprised to see that soap operas are still in favor. I tried to picture who might actually tune into these vapid tales of overdressed, bored-looking, mostly upper-crust people, none of whom are happy with their partners, jobs, homes, or families. Mommies, maybe, who are folding yet another basket of laundry and wondering where the romance in their lives skedaddled to. That many of the characters seem good-looking and financially well-off is a stumper. Are their lives really all that dreary?

TV legend Walter Cronkite would rotate in his grave if he knew what is being passed off today as news.

As you might expect, I constantly flip through the stations, hoping something palatable will appear unexpectedly. To stop my brain from turning to mush, I check the news, but the local shows routinely let me down. I used to teach my students that the definition of a news story was something of interest to the general public and an event that was relatively rare. Alternately, fluff pieces—kitties rescued from a drain pipe, babies dressed up in sports-themed clothing, dog-costume contests—were once reserved for the very end of the broadcast, a time-filler to make it to the break. But today, these stories appear at regular intervals throughout the “news”. Why? Are they afraid real news will frighten viewers off? Have station consultants determined that the average viewer is not smart enough to understand real news?

Or perhaps members of the viewing public are simply not interested in knowing what’s really happening in the world. And maybe that’s the answer as to why Daytime TV flourishes. It’s an escape from everything even remotely real. A diversion from why life didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped. Cotton candy for the brain: sickly sweet and sticky, stifling our ability to think clearly.

So, I’m turning off the TV now. There must be something better to do.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

Stop blaming Facebook for what’s wrong with your kids

Maybe, this time, we should leave Facebook alone.

Facebook is in trouble, once again. This time the social media giant is being blamed for hurting the self-esteem of young girls by allowing them to see posts including beautiful people—you know, those glamorous and perfectly proportioned folks who are so very different from most of us.

Here’s the thing. While I understand that popular social media sites are programmed to make us click until our fingers fall off, can we really blame Mark Zuckerberg and his buddies for making teenage girls feel inadequate? In my humble opinion, no, we cannot.

Perhaps the greatest depression-inducing product ever created was the Barbie doll.

First let’s hop into the Wayback Machine. In 1959, the Mattel Toy Company unleashed a doll that was, well, perfect. Her dress size, even before such a thing actually appeared on a label, was 0. Her measurements stacked up—and you may take that term literally—to 35-22-32. Classic top-heavy hourglass with an oh-so-tiny waist and long, perfect legs with feet made only for high heels, because flats would never do for a girl like her.

When I was first handed that bubble-headed blonde Barbie, I was a heavy-set elementary school kid, built like an over-stuffed sausage.  As a fifth-grader, my dress size exceeded 14, so I was shoved through the doors of Lane Bryant’s, the first department store to cater to plus-size women and girls. My mother was appalled by my physique and told anyone who would listen that I wasn’t fat because of her. She fed me salad with no dressing and baked fish and policed my every move in the kitchen. No, my round shape was NOT HER FAULT!

My mother gave me a Barbie to show me what I was supposed to look like. As an overweight kid, the message was loud and clear.

I do believe my mom gave me that Barbie to give me an example of what I should look like.  I remember peeling the clothes off that piece of plastic perfection and studying that breast-waist-hip ratio from every possible angle. After glancing at my naked self in the mirror, it took me an instant to realize that Barbie and I just weren’t going to be friends. I tossed her aside, called my dog, and went to play in the woods.

Barbie, no doubt, had millions of young girls scrutinizing her curves and making unhappy comparisons to their own bodies. So, where was the hue and cry for our self-esteem? How come no one asked if I was depressed comparing myself to a hunk of top-heavy plastic?  The doll, which  generated gross sales of 1.35 billion dollars in 2020 alone, is today said to be the best-selling toy of all time. Imagine then the number of adolescent girls affected by all those curves over the last seventy-odd years.

I know what you’re thinking. “Geez, Anne, what does this have to do with Facebook and Instagram and all those other social media sites that are upsetting our children?”

Parents, it’s your responsibilty to monitor what your kids do.

Well, I’m saying we should place the blame where it’s due. And that is squarely on the shoulders of parents. It’s Mom and Dad who should make some rules. No cellphone or tablet that has the capacity to go online until kids are 16. Check the social media sites your children are frequenting and shut them down if they’re offensive or disturbing. Keep an eye out for bullying behaviors, overuse of filters, and creeps who are probably not what they’re pretending to be. Then, set an example. Talk to your kids without having your hand on your phone and one eye on the screen. Let them see that electronics are not the center of the universe. And above all talk to your kids about everything so you can nip dangerous behaviors in the bud.

As a former teacher of twenty years, I hope you understand that adults in the classroom are doing their best to deal with personal issues kids face, but we are not their parents. You are. So stop blaming Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Be the adult in the room. Lay down some rules and stick to them.

Your child’s well-being depends on it.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

Obituaries: Why don’t we tell the truth?

My 96-year old mother has been reading multiple papers daily for decades. She reads everything and never fails to always peruse the obituaries, a habit I had never acquired, until recently.

So, let me say that I find obits strange. First, no one is ever bad once they’re dead. I like truth and I think it’s fair to point out that someone was a horse’s ass in life. I mean, why not? Who are we protecting? The person, after all, is dead. They’re not sitting at the breakfast table scanning the obituaries to see what others think of them. So, wouldn’t telling the truth about Uncle Bob—he was a miserable, cheating alcoholic who beat his wife and terrorized his family—be therapeutic? But we never do that. History tells us that the idea that one shouldn’t denigrate the dead goes back almost 2000 years, but curiously there is no explanation as to why.

I do find it interesting how many ways people say someone died: He moved on, went to heaven on the wings of angels, was called home, left this earthly plane, passed peacefully, though that one always has me asking how they knew the deceased settled easily into death. Maybe he was raging against the dying of the light, after all.  

I realize that family members of the deceased are often tasked with writing obituaries. According to Legacy.com, “Writing an obituary can feel daunting. You may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of writing about a loved one who has died. Or you may worry that you’ll forget important facts or that the obituary won’t fully capture your loved one’s life. This is one reason why many families begin preparing the obituary in advance.” 

I like that idea, and so, apparently, does my mother. She has penned her own obit and I’m sure wants no revisions from the family. (As those who know Mary Anne can attest, she’s not one to be trifled with.) That said, my recent brush with Covid had me considering what my own obit might say. As a former journalist—one from olden times when reporters would never consider picking sides—I offer the truth.

Obituary

Anne Butler Montgomery

Anne had a fabulously interesting life where things didn’t always go as planned. Sometimes she succeeded. Sometimes she failed, periodically in spectacular fashion. She was driven and stubborn and opinionated. (The latter of which she blamed on her mother.) She tried to do the right thing when facing important decisions, though sometimes the right thing remained elusive. She could be awfully sarcastic and was surprised when she became a teacher to learn that sarcasm was not appropriate where children were concerned. No, she wasn’t always nice, but in later years she worked hard to improve her sweetness factor. She loved music, wild places, rocks, officiating sports, and animals of all kinds. She relished food, wine, good company, books, and movies. Anne wishes that you hoist an adult libation in her honor whenever you choose. And she would appreciate it if her friends and loved ones would sprinkle her ashes wherever they see fit. If that’s in the kitty litter, so be it.

So, let’s start a trend. Let’s tell the truth about ourselves and ask others to do the same. With that in mind, what would you say about you?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

Do I have to update that bio? You make the call

Today, we are often asked to write a little something about ourselves, a bio for our various social media accounts or a job opportunity or that dating site. Constructing a short statement that encapsulates who we are is sometimes difficult. What do we put in? What do we leave out? What information can we relay that shows the world who we are, what we care about, and what we’re capable of doing.

Am I still I reporter? I certainly feel like one.

I’ve had many different bios over the years because I’ve had lots of different jobs. I served in a restaurant for five years. Then I became a reporter, working at five TV stations, three newspapers, and three magazines in my role as a sports reporter and feature writer. I spent 20 years teaching journalism and communications in a Title I high school classroom. For four decades I officiated amateur sports, an avocation that had me calling plays in football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. And, I’ve been an author for 28 years, a time during which I’ve had five novels published.

I mention all this because now I sense I should rewrite my resume once again. But I find I’m stumped. The problem is I’ve retired from reporting and teaching and officiating. Does that mean these parts of my life no longer apply? When I see the short blurb under my Facebook picture I wonder if I’m being disingenuous. “Novelist, teacher, referee, foster mom, lover of scuba diving, rock collecting, and playing my guitar.”

I hung up my white hat and whistle in 2019, but I still feel like a ref.

Hummm? Clearly some of that is no longer technically true. I locked my classroom for the final time last year. While my white football referee hat and whistle hang in my office, I’m no longer throwing flags. (At 66, I struggle to get out of the way and don’t feel the need to get run over by stampeding players ever again.) My foster mom license has lapsed since my boys—former students who had nowhere to go—are now in their 20s, and though they still call me Mom, according to the state of Arizona my days as a mother have technically passed.

There are no issues with my being a novelist. My fifth book, The Castle, was released by TouchPoint Press on September 13, 2021. And I have another currently in the pipeline. And, of course, I will always love rock collecting and scuba diving and playing my guitar.

I suppose the question is am I still a reporter? An official? A teacher? In my heart I will always be these things. These jobs shaped who I am. My experiences in those careers color my choices every day.

So, I’m taking a poll. Must we remove jobs we had in the past just because we are now retired? Or can we hold onto those things that have made us who we are?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Chelsea Pieper, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Get your copy here

One week into Covid, the gift that keeps on giving

So glad I got my shots, even if I did get Covid-19.

Got my shots.

Got Covid anyway.

Still, I’m grateful to be muddling through without the fear of my lungs filling up and drowning me. Since my diagnosis, I’ve learned that the shots were created to place a warm, soothing womb around our lungs with a bunch of bad-ass Covid-killing assassin cells guarding the periphery. (Okay, maybe that’s not what’s really occurring, but you get the picture.)

That said, the headaches suck. If someone said, “Hey! Put a nail through your eye. That’ll fix it!” I’d honestly consider seeking out a hammer.

I have always pictured my lovely immune-system protecting white blood cells as Marvin the Martian.

Then there are the dreams. Strange barrages of images and words. In one case, I was trying to solve a problem and hundreds of solutions appeared and attacked me. Some of these ideas were clearly wrong, so I batted them away, but then more came zipping at me. It was like that new commercial with Serena Williams where she’s dressed up as Wonder Woman and whacks tennis balls to stop the monsters, but not as athletic. Or sexy. I wondered if my brain was fighting off Covid bugs and if my own immune-system defenders were winning the battle. (For some reason, I have always pictured my little guys as Marvin the Martian in his Roman helmet and basketball shoes. No idea why.)

Covid also gives one a dry cough that constantly wakes you up when ALL YOU WANT TO DO IS SLEEP! Hence, you will understand why I reached for that codeine-laced cough medicine. Which I took. Then, I passed out. I awoke on the bathroom tile, splayed out like one of those TV villains who plunges ten stories and splats on the sidewalk, limbs going in all the wrong directions. Yep! I fell on my own ankle and broke it in two places, which means the next time I watch a football game and some lineman gets his ankle rolled by some other 300-pound behemoth, I will have to leave the room. Then I’ll send flowers.

Fractured my ankle in two places after I passed out. Ugh!

While I would like not to whine, at the moment it’s hard. I must constantly remind myself that I get to be ill in a nice bed in a nice room in a nice house where I’m tended by people who love me. And, medical professionals were there for me when I cracked my ankle in two. Note that next to my hospital room door the sign said BIOHAZARD, and my name was listed below, along with the rest of the hallway’s Covid patients. I’ve been called a lot of things, but biohazard is definitely new to the list.

Do bear in mind that I’m writing this while on pain meds, so if nothing makes sense, please forgive me. And, if you haven’t gotten the jab yet, I highly recommend it.

Now, I will crawl back in bed and see if I can sleep through the next five days.

PS

I know I’m supposed to be launching my new novel The Castle right now, but I promise I’ll get back to it when I’m not overly medicated, because who knows what I might say when my brain is addled.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-1.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

Release Date: September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Also available on NetGalley

Contact: Jennifer Bond, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison

Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Register & Order Online: TouchPointPress.com/Bookstore
Orders: info@touchpointpress.com
Also from Ingram and major retailers

Get your copy here

The Castle: A book about rape and healing

We must bring sexual violence out of the shadows.

Why write a novel about rape? For me, the reason was personal. I was a victim of sexual assault when I was a student in college. According to statistics gathered by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, over 23% of female college students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. All women between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely to be targeted by sexual predators. While it’s true that males are also sexual assault victims, the numbers clearly indicate that the vast majority – 90% – of adult rape victims are female.

I taught high school journalism for 20 years, so my students and I often examined important and often difficult to discuss issues on a daily basis. Nothing was out-of-bounds. My students were encouraged to ask me anything. My promise was that I would always tell them the truth. Periodically, I was asked whether there was anything in my life I regret. And the answer was always the same.

I look back on that night in 1975 when I went on a dinner date with a sweet-faced farm boy I’d met in the dining hall. He was on crutches, convalescing from a football injury. If memory serves, he was about six-foot-three and probably around 250 pounds, still I never for a moment had a bad feeling, nor the least concern when, after dinner, he invited me up to his dorm room. The stare from his roommate still registers. Another member of the football team who would go on to play in the NFL simply picked up his typewriter, walked out, and closed the door. My date, in what seemed like an instant, stripped my clothes from my body. I fought, which made him smile. “You know I can do anything I want to you,” he said. “And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

I trusted my date to do the right thing. Sadly, he did not.

This was the moment in my life I would come to understand that I couldn’t fight my way out of a situation. I’d always considered myself strong and athletic, so I resisted. But as he pinned me to the bed, I realized he enjoyed the battle. The more I struggled the more aroused he became. Strangely, I recalled something my father said before sending me off to college. He’d given me just one piece of advice. He looked me in the eye and said, “Nothing is worth your life.” When I didn’t respond, my dad repeated the message. “Nothing is worth your life.”

I stopped fighting my attacker, believing my father’s words. To my astonishment, the man backed off. He yelled, “What’s the matter with you?” It was then I understood he wanted me to fight, to scream. I laid on the bed motionless. Nothing was worth my life. He got off me and threw my clothes on the bed. I dressed and ran, expecting him to reach out and grab me every moment until I reached my own room.

The next morning a small girl approached me in my dorm hallway. “Can I ask you a personal question?” she said. She wanted to know if I’d gone out with the man. I said I had. “Did he strip you?” she asked. I nodded. “He stripped me, too.” Our conversation ended there, when she just walked away.

Later that day, a dear friend who played on the football team marched angrily toward me at lunch and pulled me aside. “Why did you go out with him?” he asked. “Everyone knows about him!” Clearly, he was wrong. I didn’t know there was a rapist living in the quad. Neither did the girl who approached me. But apparently others were aware. How many of them were victims? And if his behavior was common knowledge, why was he still living on a college campus?

So, what do I regret? According to the National Research Council, 80% of sexual assaults go unreported to law enforcement. Like the vast majority of victims, I said nothing. I sometimes wonder how many women he has attacked over the years? Could I have prevented some of these assaults, had I found the courage to speak up? My logical mind tells me nothing would have been done, had I gone to the police. I’d been on a date. I’d had a few drinks. I willingly went to his room, so what did I expect?

Sadly, forty years later, this attitude still prevails and we now face an epidemic, a plague with life-long effects. The following statistics come directly from RAINN:

If you need help, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

• 33% of women who are raped contemplate suicide. 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide.

• People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public.

• Sexual violence also affects victims’ relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers.

• Victims are at risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Teachers, like law enforcement officers, medical professionals, and social workers, are mandated reporters of child abuse. In that capacity, I have encountered students who’ve been sexually assaulted and raped, all by relatives and/or family friends, many repeatedly. Primarily female, these victims have been universally blamed for the attacks against them, families seemingly more concerned about protecting men and boys.

I have written The Castle in the hope that we can bring the horrors of sexual assault and rape out into the open. We must encourage victims to come forward, so we can stop these predators. But how can we get people to speak up, if we don’t change the way we think about sexual assault? The blame-the-victim attitude must stop. Telling young people that no means no, has not worked. Maybe, we need to teach them what “yes” looks like. And for those adults who believe that teachers should avoid the discussion of uncomfortable subjects, let me say that ignorance is not the answer. Children can and do find anything they want on the Internet, and they often believe everything they log onto. As adults, it’s our responsibility to give them context and guidance, so the world they grow up to inhabit can be better than the one they live in today.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-castle_front-cover-copy-3.jpg

Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.

THE CASTLE

Anne Montgomery

Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense

TouchPoint Press

September 13, 2021

Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.

One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.

Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.

One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.

In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.

REVIEW COPIES OF THE CASTLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Now available on NetGalley

Contact: Jennifer Bond, Publicity Manager, Media Liaison, TouchPoint Press
Review/interview requests: media@touchpointpress.com

Register & Order Online: TouchPointPress.com/Bookstore
Orders: info@touchpointpress.com
Also from Ingram and major retailers

Get your copy here