My love affair with … spiders

Spider 1

This little guy lives by the dog’s water bowl, which doesn’t bother me or the dog a bit

I faced the webs on my porch. You see, it’s fall in the desert, time to clean our yards and outside living areas. To those who’ve grown up understanding the concept of spring cleaning, note that we perform that chore in the fall. It makes sense, since we spend the summers couped up with our air conditioning – hiding from blast-furnace temperatures – and the winters basking blissfully outdoors.

I gently moved the broom across the ceiling and into the corners, careful not to harm any of the arachnids who’ve made camp by my door. I admonish the tiny ones to run, since I don’t want to injure them.

And, now, you might think me strange, because I could never hurt a spider. Why this is the case, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps it was growing up with Charlotte’s Web. Or maybe it was watching my parents deposit spiders who had found their way inside outside, instead of crushing them into little blobs of spidery goo.

I never thought this behavior odd, until faced with folks who felt differently. There was the tough US Marine who hailed from Trinidad who was my housemate for a while. I had explained about Matilida, the black widow who resided in a low corner of the kicthen who only came out at night.

“Just don’t walk barefoot by the sink after dark,” I explained.

Then, one day I heard him howling in the kitchen. “You need to come in here! Now!”

I complied and was delighted by goosmer silk threads floating in the air, each speckled with dozens of tiny golden babies holding on like wee surfers. I grabbed some newspapers and corralled the infants and released them outside.

The big brave Marine recolied.

Then there was the evening stroll in the Costa Rican rain forest. My sweetie pie and I joined a small group searching for night creatures with a woman entomologist.

“Oh! Look at what we have here!” She reached into the leaf litter and produced a large long-legged spider. Eyes wide, she grinned like a grandma with a newborn babe. “These are the ones they use in horror movies. Who would like to hold it?”

No one moved. She frowned, disappointed in our little group, so I stepped up and held out my hand. Her eyes sparkled, one of those perhaps-she’s-not-quite-sane looks that made me reconsider our decision to follow her into the jungle in the dark. She placed the beast in my palm.

“So cute. Just like a kitten,” she cooed.

OK, I admit I had a sudden urge to flee, an impulse that had nothing to do with the spider. In fact, the little guy was rather sweet. I silently said goodbye as he scampered off into the undergrowth.

Then there was the football spider.

Late in the first half of a high school game, Phil, my line judge, ran toward me, blowing his whistle, and waving his arms overhead, killing the clock.

“Tarantula!” He stared wide-eyed and pointed downfield.

My first thought was that the home team had a spider mascot, but that idea was quickly dispelled when I saw a fuzzy creature moving in a strangely robotic motion near the 20-yard-line.

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It was a tarantula’s appearance at a football game that would cement my love affair with spiders.

The barrel-chested coach, who’d been on me the whole game, grinned and crossed thick arms. “What are you going to do about it?” he yelled.

As we crouched over the beast, I envisioning some hapless kid with a fist-size spider wriggling from his facemask. I bit my lip and glanced at the players who eyed me from midfield.

Phil and I stared at one another. He raised both palms up.

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

“What are you going to do?” he mimicked the coach.

I took a deep breath and watched the hairy beast inch forward, moving all eight legs in a silent ballet.  Did I hear the coach laughing?

I shot my arm into the tarantula’s path. And, without pause, the spider crawled onto the back of my hand and up my wrist, fuzzy feet tickling my skin.

Phil stood and backed away.

“Please don’t bite me,” I silently pleaded over and over, as visions of old horror movies played in my head. While the tarantula traveled up my arm, I walked slowly toward the end of the field. When I reached the outer edge of the track, I bent over and gently dropped the creature near a patch of rocky desert. The tarantula landed upright and marched on.

I swallowed several times, then turned and ran back up field past the coach. I herded the players to the line of scrimmage and took my position behind the quarterback. I blew my whistle, putting the ball into play.

But no one moved.

Then Phil’s whistle sounded and he signaled time-out. He doubled over and I thought he might be ill, but then I saw he was laughing.

“What?” I stared as he ran toward me.

Phil leaned in, then looked around to make sure no players were nearby. “The coach said, “‘She has a pair hangin’ and they ain’t tits.’”

I eyed at the coach. He nodded toward me, deferential, all remnants of his previously condescending attitude having disappeared with the spider.

For the rest of the game, no matter the situation – whether a flag went for or against his team, whether he agreed or disagreed with a ruling – the coach only addressed me with two words.

“Yes, ma’am,” was all he said.

Perhaps now you can understand my love affair with spiders.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Date Night Dinners: Beef Stroganoff

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I am not the cook in the house. Though I did spend twelve years married to a chef, I am not passionate about culinary adventures, unless there’s chocolate involved. I’ll admit here, none too humbly, that I’m a damn good baker. But since the Date Night Dinners cookbook had no dessert section, and I had agreed to review one of the recipes, I drafted my sweetie pie to play test kitchen master chef.

Ryan read the recipe in the produce aisle of the grocery story. “It says we need parsley, but maybe cilantro would be better.”

I rolled my eyes. “You have to follow the directions.”

Then we walked over to the meat counter. Terry, our butcher friend, came over and gave me a hug. “Beef Stroganoff is my favorite,” he said. Which precipitated a personal-shopper tour where he and Ryan haggled over the best tomato paste, egg versus egg yoke-less noodles, and preferences regarding beef stock and beef broth.

I wandered into the baking aisle.

Once we made it home, I sat in my usual kitchen chair, sipping our favorite rum. “Liquid sunshine,” I said, swirling the ice.

I watched Ryan drop pieces of sirloin into a hot skillet. A delicious odor permeated the room.

“Hey! Where’s the recipe? You’re supposed to follow the recipe.”

Ry stared at me over the rainbow-colored readers he’d perched in front of his glasses.

Ry in glasses cooking 1

Ry’s the cook in our house, so he got to test the Beef Stroganoff recipe. But he needed my over-the-counter specs to see what he was doing.

I smiled. “You know, these are Meals to Make Together for a Romantic Evening. It says so right on the cover.” I reached for the rum again.

“I’m having romance right now,” he said. “I’m cooking the trimmings down for the dogs. I love the dogs.”

After tossing some tidbits to our furry friends, Ry reached for a teaspoon to measure one of the ingredients.

“No! You have to use the real measuring spoons.”

“They’re the same,” he said.

“No, they’re not,” I countered.

And then, for some inexplicable reason, Ryan launched into his Saturday Night Live impression of Julia Childs and drew a big sharp knife across his wrist. I think that was my sweetie pie’s way of telling me to butt out.

And so, I reached for the rum, and sat back to observe.

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The Stroganoff was rich and creamy, still next time we’ll add a bit of spice.

Turns out the recipe was easy to follow and took only about an hour to prepare from start to finish. I’m guessing Ryan would say it would have been quicker had I found something else to do, but where’s the romance in that? The beef was perfectly cooked, the sauce creamy, and the noodles just the right consistency. I had not eaten Beef Stroganoff previously, but it’s easy to see how in a cold climate it would be a perfect comfort food. The only complaint we had was not the fault of the recipe, but rather one of geography. We have lived in the Sonoran Desert for over 25 years. Here in our part to the world few meals are missing peppers of some kind. So, the next time we make Beef Stroganoff, I’m guessing it will be a spicier version. Maybe then, it won’t be only the dogs getting some romance.

Just sayin’.

 Date Night Dinners

Sloane Taylor

BEEF STROGANOFF

ГОВЯДИНА БЕФСТРОГАНОВ

4 oz. (125g) sour cream, reduced fat works well

2 tbsp. (30ml) tomato paste 1 tsp. (5ml)

Worcestershire sauce ¼ cup (30g) flour

Freshly ground pepper to taste 1 lb. (500g) good steak like porterhouse, T-bone, or sirloin

1 tbsp. (15ml) olive oil

½ cup (60g) onion, thinly sliced

1 cup (250ml) beef stock, maybe a bit more to achieve the consistency you prefer

1 cup (100g) mushrooms, sliced but not too thin

Fresh parsley, chopped

¼ pkg. egg noodles

Combine sour cream, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. Set aside while you prepare the remainder of the recipe. Trim off fat and cut steak into narrow strips. Combine flour and pepper in a paper or plastic bag. Add steak pieces, a few at a time, and gently shake to coat the meat. Set pieces on a plate as you coat them. Melt butter and oil in a large frying pan. Add onions and sauté for 3 – 5 minutes. You want the onions soft but not browned. Add beef, turn up heat to medium-high. Sauté meat until browned, turn often so it doesn’t burn, 5 – 7 minutes. Slowly pour in stock, scraping pan to combine browned bits into the mixture. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in mushrooms, cover, and cook until meat is tender, 3 – 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in sour cream mixture by heaping spoonfuls. If the sauce looks too thick, slowly add a bit more beef stock until you achieve the consistency you prefer. Cook uncovered 1 – 3 minutes or until hot. Do NOT let pan come to a boil.

 Egg Noodles Follow the package directions to cook. If the noodles are done before the Stroganoff, drain them in a colander and set the pot or lid on top of the noodles to keep them warm. REMEMBER: all noodles/pasta can easily be re-warmed by pouring hot water over them before serving. To serve, scoop egg noodles into soup/salad bowls. Spoon hearty portions of Stroganoff over the noodles and then scatter on parsley. Leftovers are excellent. Refrigerate noodles and meat in separate containers. To reheat the Stroganoff pour it into a saucepan, add a little beef stock to thin it, and warm through. The noodles are easy as well to reheat. Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Add the noodles for a few seconds then drain.

 

 

The high we get from crime fiction

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 My upcoming novel, A Light in the Desert, revolves around the deadly cold-case sabotage of an Amtrak train in the Arizona desert in 1995, a crime that, 23-years later, still baffles both local and federal authorities.

Books about crime are ubiquitous. And it’s hard to watch TV without being assaulted by countless shows depicting criminals and their misdeeds. Movies, as well, dwell in the darkness of the criminal mind.

So, why do we delight in these stories?

“The public is drawn to true crime because it triggers the most basic and powerful emotion in all of us—fear,” Dr. Scott Bonn, a professor of criminology, wrote in “Why We Are Drawn to True Crime Shows,” an article published in Time Magazine. “As a source of popular culture entertainment, it allow(s) us to experience fear and horror in a controlled environment where the threat is exciting but not real.”

Most of us will never be personally touched by violent crime. That’s good, of course. But we do enjoy the vicarious thrill of observing fictional folks submersed in brutal situations.

“People also receive a jolt of adrenaline as a reward for witnessing terrible deeds,” Bonn said. “Adrenaline is a hormone that produces a powerful, stimulating and even addictive effect on the human brain. The euphoric effect of true crime on human emotions is similar to that of roller coasters or natural disasters.”

I admit that, as an author, it’s exciting to write about powerful situations where my characters are facing danger, especially when it’s from the comfort and safety of my office chair. I’m not sure exactly what that says about me. Perhaps Dr. Bonn’s adrenaline rush applies here, as well.

I suppose the good news is I’m not alone in my love of crime fiction. In 2017, the crime/mystery genre produced $728 million in book sales. (I can hear my romance author friends twittering. Yes, I know that romance novels generated $1.44 billion last year, something I’m trying to wrap my head around and definitely a story for another time.)

So, while there are scads of readers out there seeking passion between the pages, there are also many millions of us looking for that adenaline high.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Kitty Conundrum

This is my cat.

Westin

His name is Westin.

This is my chair.

CHiar 2

Well, it was my chair.

Westin's Chair 2

Now it’s Westin’s.

My kitty has purloined my favorite seat and turned it into a stuffing-shredded mess.  I find no appealing esthetic in the now-exposed wood or raked fabric. The fact that he picked a piece of furniture smack in the middle of the living room is especially galling. That he pretty much ignores the rest of the furniture is peculiar.

Then again, Westin has always been an odd beast. The story goes that he was found abandoned in a hotel room with 29 other cats. He was practically bald from illness and allergies, and though the folks at the Humane Society originally thought it might be kinder to euthanize him, they did not. After months at the shelter — and long after all the other cats had found homes — Westin’s picture appeared in the local paper. His adoption fee had dropped to 20 bucks, a sign that a needle was in his near future.

Despite a vivid description of the costs we faced, we took Westin home. After my foster son’s pronouncement that Westin was just like him — because no one had wanted him either — really, was there any other option?

That Westin is one expensive cat is a given. Three days after he came to live with us, he ruptured an eardrum and was unable to walk or eat for ten days. Every morning I expected to encounter a dead kitty sprawled on the carpet. But Westin is one tough feline.

Over the last several years, Westin has traveled to the vet so many times I’ve asked for a personal parking spot with his name on it. I always decline the offer of an itemized bill, because why would I want to know? I just hand over my American Express card and look away.

Westin is not a pretty cat. Black with gold eyes and a soft white belly. There’s a slight tilt to his head, a residual of his damaged ear. But, oh, the charm. He oozes charisma, planting himself squarely in the nearest lap and offering head bumps wherever he goes. Maybe that’s why, despite his health problems, the doctors at the shelter didn’t put Westin down.

“Nice chair,” my sweetie pie commented one recent evening as we shared a beer.

I rubbed the raw armrest. “Maybe I should get a new one.”

“Why? Then he’ll just destroy a new chair.”

Right. But, I struggle with lack of order. I can’t read the newspaper or eat dinner if there’s a crooked picture on the wall. I have to straighten it so life can go back to normal.

Note that our current predicament is not completely Westin’s fault. While the other kitties can go outside, he cannot. Westin is deaf, so inside he must remain.

I picked at the stray bits of fabric and stared around my living room, a place filled with things I’ve lovingly gathered on my adventures. The ragged chair amidst all the objects I’ve placed with such care bugs me.

But Ryan is right.

So, whenever you come to visit, be warned and don’t judge me when you see those stray bits of stuffing popping out of Westin’s chair.

You’ll just have to get used to it.

And so will I.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 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.

Life can be so confusing

The older I get the more things confuse me.

While en route to the farmer’s market one lovely Saturday morning, I spied a giant crane perched atop a new apartment building in downtown Phoenix. The towering machine resembled a monstrous metal bird.

“How’d they get that up there?” I asked my sweetie pie.

“What?”

“That crane.”

“In pieces,” he answered in a voice that said, Isn’t that obvious?”

In pieces. I couldn’t help but recall the weekend he put the pre-fab shed together in the backyard. He stood there proudly opening and closing the sliding doors, while I stared at the shocking number of left-over metal bits and pieces that remained on the ground.

I looked up again at the crane. “What if some of the screws are missing?” I felt an irrational desire to flee. “What if they didn’t put the parts back together correctly.”

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A crane, up high on a building like this one, had me wondering how the workers managed to get the thing up there and hoping they were very careful during the process.

Then, I got my car insurance bill. “Hey! How come I’m paying so much more? Did your bill go up too?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I’ll call Vickie and ask,” he said.

Ryan returned from his chat with our insurance lady. “You’re old.”

“Pardon me?” I raised both eyebrows.

“Vicky said your rates went up because you’re an older woman.”

“But I haven’t had a ticket in almost thirty years,” I sputtered. “And, in my life, I’ve had one fender bender.”

Ryan shrugged. “That’s what she said. You’re in an age group that causes more accidents.”

I looked into the issue and found that as people age their vision, cognitive abilities, and reflexes tend to dull. I also learned that old people increasingly die in car crashes because they’re “frail”. Frail! No one has ever accused me of being frail.

Eieee!

Then, I got a letter telling me that the high blood pressure medication I’ve been taking for years might … gosh … cause cancer. “But don’t stop taking it!” the message emphatically stated.

Wait! You want me to keep taking a drug that could give me cancer?

Recently, I went to a high school football game. I arrived early, since I was serving as the referee. I’d contacted the school ahead of time, as I always do, identifying myself and my crew mates and the time they could expect us to arrive. I was escorted to the officials dressing room where I faced a sign that was prominently displayed on the door. No Females Permitted in the Locker Room after 4:00 PM. No Exceptions.

No Females in Locker room

I paused. It was 5 o’clock.

The older I get the more things confuse me.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 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.

Now I understand

I have never cared much about cars. Never understood why people spend so much to get the newest, fastest, sleekest version with the most gadgets. The last vehicle I bought came after my mechanic pointed at my ancient Geo Prism and ordered me to drive it one last time.

“Take it to a dealership and turn it in,” he advised. “Get a new car!”

The day I abandoned my Prism in a dealer’s parking lot, I found a vehicle that spoke to me. It was a black Ford Ranger pickup. Slightly used – I think I read 14 thousand miles on the speedometer. Black paint sparkled in the Arizona sun. I drove it around the block.

“That’s the one,” I said to my sweetie pie, who’d accompanied me on my car hunt. Following what felt like half a day of paperwork, I drove my new truck home.

Later, I stood proudly by my recent purchase. My mother squinted at the pickup’s bed where I’d installed a bright silver toolbox to hold my rock collecting gear, camping equipment, and emergency rations on the off chance I might find myself stuck in the wilderness for any length of time.

She stared at me. “Aren’t you afraid of what people will think of you?”

“I am a black pickup kind of girl, Mom.”

She shook her head.

“Really.”

My truck is now going on 19. Together we’ve had countless adventures into the mountains and deserts, some wondrous, some difficult, and a few rather dangerous, in retrospect. Still, we always made it home. Eventually.

IMG_1081

I love my old truck. We share lots of memories: good, bad, and ugly.

Then, my parents, in their nineties, mercifully decided to give up their car. I had been begging them for years to stop driving. Anyone who’s butted up against that major-life decision understands the complexities inherent in taking the keys away from mom and dad.

“We’ll sell the car,” my mother finally announced.

That vehicle, a blue 2010 Ford Fusion, now sits in my driveway. Though my mom continues to tell anyone who will listen that I took the car, Ryan and I wrote them a check for a little over seven grand.

A funny thing happened when I started driving the Fusion. I liked the built-in bells and whistles. Note that the vehicle is not high end, but compared to my truck, the little car is like owning a rocket ship. We call her Zippy. Now, when I drive my pickup, it feels only slightly more mobile than a covered wagon.

Then I got a letter in the mail: AIRBAG RECALL! I stared at the red triangle depicting a driver facing a steering wheel that had burst into flames. I read the section that said, “Until parts are available … your dealer is authorized to provide you with a rental vehicle.”

Today, a 2018 Ford Fusion Platinum sits in my driveway. The car boasts a power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory, dual integrated bright exhaust, premium leather-wrapped and stitched instrument panel and console rails, and myriad other extras I couldn’t possibly explain. The overall effect is … well …Wow!

IMG_1087

Perhaps Ford will forget about my cute little rental. I’m growing quite fond of her.

I’ve had the rental for several months. It seems Ford is having a great deal of trouble getting the parts to fix the airbag that might explode and shred me with shrapnel.  Apparently, 37 million vehicles have been identified as needing the fix, and more are expected to be added to the list. Takata, the maker of the defective airbags, announced it might take five years to install all the replacements.

I wonder sometimes, especially when those comfy leather seats are hugging me in their soft embrace, when I will have to return my pretty sedan. Neither Ford nor the rental company seem to care that the $40,000 vehicle is occupying space in my driveway day after day.

I have never cared much about cars. Never understood why people spend so much to get the newest, fastest, sleekest version with the most gadgets. Until now.

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 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 horrifying tale right from the monster’s mouth

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The Secret Journals of Adolf Hitler: Volume 1 – The Anointed goes where no other novel I’ve read has gone before: inside the head of the most notorious monster in the history of the human race, a man who either directly or indirecty led to the deaths of an estimated 50 and 80 million people.

A.G. Morgan introduces us to the four-year-old Hitler the day he is rescued from drowning, after he fell though the ice of a frozen river. It was impossible not wonder what terrors might have been avoided had Hitler the child perished that day.

That the boy is troubled is obvious. He paints his father as a sadistic brute and his mother as a saint. He is self-centered, devoid of empathy, and, as he grows older, his delusions of grandeur and the belief that he is anointed to save Germany become overwhelming.

Those around the young Hitler simply laugh off his grandiose claims and bizzarre behavior. Today, such a child would be sent to therapy in order to sort out their deranged and sometimes violent actions. What’s clear is that Hitler, a puny boy who felt bullied and betrayed by most everyone he came in contact with, would carry rage and insecurity throughout the course of his life.

I have studied a great deal about Hitler’s rise and fall and, as a teacher, have had the opportunity to share my findings with my students. I am also a former reporter. I mention these facts because I am extremely impressed with Morgan’s extensive research on the dictator and his times.

It must have been difficult for Morgan to insert herself inside the mind of such a repugnant individual. Hitler’s thoughts on race issues are noxious, and are rendered even more obscene when he shares them publically, giving voice to his dream of racial purity and his belief in the superiority of the Aryan people.

In a different time and place, Hitler might have died a homeless beggar, muttering to himself in the streets. In fact, for several years after his dream of becoming a famous painter dissolved when he was not accepted into art school, Hitler was starving and destitute. But he lived in post-World War I Germany, beaten to a pulp by the unyielding Treaty of Versailles, which left the country in tatters.  Germany was the perfect breeding ground for Hitler. A nation of desperate people, distrusting of the establishment they blamed for losing the war, and eager for scapegoats they could condemn for their own failures.

The Secret Journals of Adolf Hitler: Volume 1 – The Anointed paints a chilling portrait of the molding of a megalomaniac. The book ends with Hitler in prison, following the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. Book two in the series is The Struggle. I plan on reading that one, as well.

 

Here’s a look at my novel A Light in the Desert which is set for release on

November 6, 2018.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 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.

How I began writing about children

 For the first half of my adult life I didn’t know any children.

I was only around kids when I officiated amateur sports, but as soon as those games ended, I went home. What children did off the fields where I blew whistles and called balls and strikes was completely out of my purview.

When you consider that I also never had any biological children – though I tried – and came from a small family devoid of any regular kid contact, you can see why I never gave much thought to children. I don’t know if I blocked young people out of my mind once I realized I would never produce any of my own, but I might have.

And yet, today, as an author, the plight of children often takes center stage in my novels.

Almost two decades ago, I walked into my first classroom as a teacher. A mid-life career change following my years as a sports reporter propelled me into a Title I high school in Phoenix, where the vast majority of students live in poverty and are often afflicted with the privations inherent in a world where there is not enough food, where drugs and alcohol run rampant, and where children are sometimes left adrift without caring adults to guide them.

I did not notice right away that children kept appearing in my books. It could have happened after the child who told me she was repeatedly raped by a relative and her family blamed her. It might have been after a 15-year-old student called me from a group foster-care facility and told me he was hungry. Or it might have been the day I chastised a student for being repeatedly late to class, only to discover he was homeless.

Whatever the catalyst, young people and their ability to adapt and thrive in severe situations have become part of the stories I tell. My upcoming release, A Light in the Desert, recounts the life of a lonely pregnant teenager, one with a facial deformity that has made her the subject of ridicule and prevented her from attending school. And yet, Kelly shows grace and grit when faced with challenges, and possesses an understanding of human nature that sometimes surpasses the adults around her.

Today, I spend my work-days surrounded by my students. And, by a quirky twist, I am a mom, as well. Though my boys – former students who came my way via the foster care system – are now in their twenties, they remain my children. (I don’t think they’ll mind if I call them that.)

So, I’m guessing, young people and the issues they face will continue to appear in my writing.

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Yes, my boys are all grown up, but Ziggy, Troy, and Brandon are still my children.

 

 

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

298 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

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.

 

 

 

Wednesday Special Spotlight A DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT

Take care of your eyes, my friends. Too much sun takes its toll. My thanks to C.D. Hersh for sharing my story.

C.D. Hersh

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

The sunglass wearing Anne Montgomery who is sharing her new vision and part of her latest novel. Be sure to get your copy today!

Twenty years into my officiating career, my superiors finally relented and allowed me and my peers to wear sunglasses in the field, but, by then, my eyes were already damaged.

“You’re blood pressure is a little high,” the nurse said.

I smiled. “Could it be that you’re about to stick sharp objects in my eyeball while I’m awake?”

My flippant answer belied the fact that I was certainly nervous, since the surgeon would soon be probing the inner recesses of my eye which a scalpel, a tiny ultrasound wand, and an itty-bitty vacuum cleaner. That I had waited patiently for my insurance company to cover the surgery for years did not make me feel any better as they wheeled me into…

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Friends become characters

Authors are often asked how they create characters. In my case, as my friends and family now realize, they are sometimes inspired by people I know.

My long-time sweetie pie seemed shocked when he read his words coming out of a character’s mouth.

“Hey! I said that!”

“Yes, you did.” I admitted. “Thank you.”

As a former reporter, I tend to think everyone’s words are fair game. If you’re going to fling them out into the universe, don’t be upset if I catch them and keep them for my own.

At other times, I’ve incorporated friends’ stories into my characters. In my upcoming book, A Light in the Desert, which is scheduled for release on November 6, 2018, I borrowed numerous times from the life of my dear late friend Don Clarkson. I have written before about how Don and I met umpiring amateur baseball, a time during which I struggled with debt, a crumbling marriage, and joblessness following what would be the end of my TV-reporting career. That I spent a great deal of time feeling sorry for myself is an understatement.

Don, on the other hand, complained very little. This was astonishing in retrospect, considering the suffering he endured. Don was a decorated Green Beret, a sergeant who served alongside South Vietnam’s ARVN soldiers in the 9th Infantry during the war. His time in country was brutal and, like many servicemen and women, Don relived those experiences until he died at the age of 61 from a combination of Post Traumatic Stress and the myriad devastating effects of Agent Orange poisoning.

Don and I umpired baseball together for five years. During that time, he shared his stories with me. He was gravely wounded and left to die, but was saved by a South Vietnamese soldier who returned to the aftermath of a jungle fight to look for him. He was sometimes crushed by guilt, because of war-time life-and-death decisions and because – unlike many of the men he knew – he had managed to survive and come home. Tears would well in his eyes as he spoke about the soldiers – his brothers – that were lost.

Me and Don Baseball

Don Clarkson and I met on a baseball field and would spend five years as umpiring partners.

And still, when we would sit in our folding chairs in a school parking lot, waiting for the second half of a double-header to begin, he sometimes spoke about the beauty of Vietnam and his love and admiration for the people who lived there.

One of the main characters in A Light in the Desert, is, like Don, a Vietnam veteran with memories that torment him. But Jason Ramm is also a sniper turned post-war governmental assassin, which Don was not. What they share is a deep desire for peace and forgiveness, which neither of them believe they deserve.

I wrote A Light in the Desert for Don. His wife Marie read the story to him before he died. I believe he understood Jason Ramm and recognized him as a brother. I also know that Don seemed appreciative that I shared some of his story and that I dedicated the book to him.

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I miss my friend and the talks we used to have. Though he struggled mightily, Don always looked for the best in people and for beauty in the world.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

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.