Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Author: Amanda (Page 1 of 76)

Light Magic — Snippet #1

(The opening of the novel, as well as some of the main character’s backstory, has changed. Myrtle, being the evil muse that she is, might demand further changes before publication. But here is the opening scene. This is from the rough draft. Hope you enjoy!)

***

If anything happens to me, go home to Mossy Creek. I mean it, Meggie. Go there and find Serena Duchamp. She’ll know what to do. Promise me, Meggie. Please. Do this for me and for you.

I first read those words two weeks ago when my mother’s attorney handed me a file of paperwork. Mr. Chandler’s expression was appropriately serious. There might have been a hint of compassion in his rheumy blue eyes but I hadn’t noticed. All I’d wanted was to get out of there. I’d had more than my share of people offering their hollow condolences and well-wishes over the last few days. They no more fooled me than they had my mother.

Damn them. If they cared so much, why hadn’t they been there for her when she’d needed them?

Why hadn’t I?

The latter was easier to answer than the former. I hadn’t been there because she didn’t tell me she was sick. I would have gone AWOL if necessary to get to her in time. Not that it would have been necessary. I hadn’t been active duty in almost seven years. I wasn’t even a member of the Reserves any longer. Much as I’d hated giving it up, it had been the Reserves or my job and I needed my job. It allowed me to not only keep a roof over my head but to help supplement Mom’s expenses as well. I should have realized something was wrong when she quit protesting the money I sent at the beginning of each month. I thought she’d quit because she knew I would keep sending it, whether she wanted me to or not. It was my way of repaying her for all the sacrifices she’d made for me when I was younger.

Damn it, I should have listened to the doubts and asked her straight out what was going on. Now it was too late. She was gone, leaving me with more questions than I had answers, not the least of which was why she wanted me to go “back” to some hole-in-the-wall town in Texas named Mossy Creek. The only problem was I didn’t remember ever being in Mossy Creek. So how could I go back to it?

If that wasn’t enough, who was this Serena Duchamp and what was she supposed to help me?

Instead of Mom telling me she was sick, I’d been blindsided by a call from her minister. I’d listened in disbelief as he told me Mom “was no longer with us.” Yep, that’s exactly how he put it and it took me several moments to realize what he meant. I’m sure he thought I must have been in denial when I asked why he was calling to tell me she’d changed churches. It never occurred to me that she might actually be dead. My mother had always been bigger than life, even if she stood just under five-feet tall. She had been a force of nature. She had to be to survive in Maxon’s Mill, Kansas. Despite having lived there since I was a toddler, Mom had been an outsider. Oh, those living there had no problems coming to her when they needed something, but they never accepted her – or me.

Now they could all rot in Hell as far as I was concerned. To prove it, once old man Chandler filed the probate papers, I packed up my mother’s things, sold what furniture I didn’t want and put everything else into storage in Wichita. I didn’t trust the locals enough to leave it there. Her house was on the market, the attorney taking care of the legalities. And I had no reason to ever return to the town that had never made us feel welcome.

Instead, I was on my way to a town I’d never heard of until opening Mom’s last letter to me, one she’d known wouldn’t be delivered until after her death. But what did it mean?

And why had she never mentioned Mossy Creek or this Serena Duchamp before if they were so important?

Free Speech, the NFL and More

I hadn’t planned on writing this post. After all, you can’t turn on the news this morning without seeing what happened at the beginning of the NFL games yesterday. The story isn’t over, either, because there is another game tonight. But comments by Pittsburg Steelers coach Mike Tomlin force my hand. His attitude, combined with the events — or non-events — at UC Berkley over the weekend, are indicative of a problem in this country that the media refuses to cover. Very simply put, free speech is approved only so long as you are doing or saying what the “cool kids” approve of. In this case, the cool kids are the media, Antifa and the like.

We saw a perfect example of someone doing what he felt was right yesterday. Steelers player Alejandro Villanueva came out of the tunnel and stood, hand over his heart, during the playing of the National Anthem. He was the lone Steeler to take to the field. Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, had the courage to stand in respect and in support of the flag he served and the country he loves. None of his other teammates can say the same.

Not that they had the choice. Coach Tomlin made the call they wouldn’t take the field until after the Anthem was played. Here’s what Tomlin (who, along with several of his coaches, did take to the field and stand for the Anthem) had to say:

We’re chasing something special here in 2017 and we’re not going to play politics. We’re football players. We’re football coaches. We’re not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from the circumstance.

People shouldn’t have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn’t have to be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn’t be separated from his teammate who chooses not to. So we’re not participating today. That’s our decision. We’re going to be 100 percent. We came here to play a football game. That’s our intent.

Now, at first blush, this seems reasonable. However, look a little closer. He says they aren’t going to play politics but that’s exactly what they did. It was a political statement made in response to President Trump’s comments about firing those players who don’t stand for the playing of the Anthem. There’s no way they would have responded in the same way had it been anyone else to say what Trump did. they might have given the reporters a soundbite but that would have been all. No, this was exactly what Tomlin claimed it wasn’t. It was a political statement. But there’s more.

He goes on to say people shouldn’t have to choose. But isn’t that exactly what he, and the rest of the coaching staff, did for the players? They chose to make a statement by staying inside the tunnel, a choice that was not unanimous. In fact, I have yet to find out how many of the players actually voted to remain off the field. Was this a case where the few made the decision for the many? Even if it was a majority, that took the decision away from those who, like Villanueva, wanted to pay respect to the flag and the anthem.

But there is another quote, even more telling, that came from Tomlin later.

When asked by a reporter about hero Alejandro Villanueva coming out of the locker room to stand for the national anthem, instead of staying inside like the rest of his teammates, coach Tomlin said, “Like I said, I was looking for 100 percent participation, we were gonna be respectful of our football team.”

That doesn’t sound like he’s willing to let his players make a decision, to make a choice. Will any of us be surprised to find he disciplined Villanueva for not standing down? If so, he will have simply proven the double-standard that is so evident right now when it comes to the topic of free speech. And no, I’m not talking about “freedom of speech” as guaranteed in the Constitution. I’m talking about the ability to say what we want, as long as it doesn’t violate the law, without fear of reasonable reprisal.

Yes, an employee has to consider how what he says or does reflects on his employer. If he does something that reflects negatively on his employer or that could negatively impact the brand, it is reasonable that he will face reprisal from the employer. However, the key is “negatively impact”. Standing for the National Anthem will not reach that threshold. Now, it is debatable if kneeling for it will. Considering the decline in rating for NFL games, it can be argued that it does. However, that is for the bean counters to decide.

What is so troubling about what happened Sunday is that there were those who wanted to show their respect for the flag, for the anthem and for this country and were not allowed to do so by their coaches. How dare they! If you say in one breath that the NFL isn’t going to play politics and then, with the very next, do something like that, you are worse than those you condemn.

Like it or not, those players who choose to take a knee can do so. I don’t have to like it but I won’t attempt to stop it. I will simply make my feelings known in ways that can impact their bottom line. I won’t buy their jerseys. I won’t go to games they play in. However, when management inserts itself into the equation and claim politics isn’t involved, I will call bullshit. I will turn off the TV when their team is on. I won’t buy from the businesses advertising with them. Since I have no doubt Roger Goodell, head of the NFL, will do anything about the situation, I have no qualms about tuning out. I will also recommend the Pentagon and other governmental agencies withdraw any financial support, through ads etc., from the NFL as well. After all, why should the NFL benefit financially when it won’t take a stance to allow all its players to have a voice in this issue?

If Tomlin wants an all or nothing proposition, I’m more than happy to give it to him.

Cover Reveal

Here it is. I’m so excited!

And, as noted yesterday, the release date for the expanded, special edition is October 17th.

Release Date Set

With the final touches being put on the new cover for the expanded version of Vengeance from Ashes, the release date has been set. I’m excited about it and, in a lot of ways, terrified. I loved the book as it originally appeared but I think this new version is a stronger book. It will be released as an e-book and, very shortly after that (on that day if all goes according to plan), in paper. I’m hoping to have an audio version available shortly as well.

In case you missed it yesterday when I posted the revised first chapter of the book, the expanded edition adds approximately 20,000 words to the story. There are some new chapters as well as several new scenes.

So, when is the release date?

October 17th. Mark your calendars.

What’s going to happen is I will take the original version down from after October 10th. For those of you who have already bought it, it will still be in your library (or so Amazon has assured me. But you might want to make a backup copy. You should anyway on all your books.) On the 17th, the expanded version will go on sale. The description, as well as the new cover, will make it clear that this is a special expanded edition and that it includes new material.

Around that same time, the original version of the book will be released in the other stores. I’m not yet ready to give up on KU but I do want to see if I can get any play in the other stores. In the past, when I’ve released books across the board, I didn’t make enough sales from the other bookstore sites to make up for the lack of KU downloads. This is a new way of seeing if that still holds true.

I’ll be posting the updated cover once I get it. In the meantime, please mark your calendars for the 17th and spread the word.

Until later!

Look what I found!

I’m doing my happy dance right now. One of my favorite authors has a new book out. Insurgents, by Margaret Ball, is the first book in the Harmony series. Here’s the blurb:

Can one man make both love and war – at the same time?

Harmony, one of the first settlements from Earth’s Age of Expansion, has a totalitarian government which uses the bleak continent of Esilia as a dumping ground for political dissidents. Now they’re surprised that the dissidents want to secede.

Gabrel is totally devoted to his colony’s battle for freedom. Isovel, daughter of the enemy’s invading general, knows exactly why Harmony should continue to rule the exiles. When she is taken hostage by his guerrilla group, he has to draw a line between his personal inclinations and his duty to the insurgency, while Isovel has to remember her duty to escape. There can be no future for two people on opposing sides of this war – so Gabrel will just have to win the war. And the peace.

I know what I’m going to be doing this weekend — reading Insurgents!

Snippet: Vengeance from Ashes (expanded edition)

Good morning, everyone. I thought I’d give you a taste of the expanded edition of Vengeance from Ashes this morning. This is the first chapter. Those of you who have read the original version will see that nothing had changed, not in the grand scheme of things. However, there has been an expansion of the chapter to the tune of approximately 500 words.  As with all snippets, this is the pre-publication file. There may be a few spelling or punctuation errors that will be caught in final edits. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter One

“Prisoner Four One Niner Baker One-A, prepare for transfer,” a disembodied voice said from the overhead speaker.

Lips pulled back, teeth bared in an animalistic sneer, the prisoner sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bunk. As she stood, she turned away from the cell door. Her hands automatically went behind her head, fingers lacing. Almost without thought, she sank to her knees, legs spread, ankles crossed. Then, realizing what she had done, she cursed silently, hating herself and those responsible for bringing her to this state.

Two years. Two very long years in Hell had taught her how to act. Her body responded automatically to the commands barked at her. Only when she allowed her mind to surface, to let herself fully experience what was going on around her, did she hesitate. But not this time. There was no reason to disobey, no threat yet to meet.

Those years may have taught her all too painfully how to act, but they hadn’t broken her. Not yet at any rate. Even so, they had come close. Two years cut off from those she cared for, from almost all human contact. Stripped of even the most basic of human rights and dignity, she knew she was little more than an animal to break and tame to those in charge. She knew it just as she knew she could do nothing about it.

Just as she knew she’d been betrayed by the government she’d served and had been ready to die for.

Read More

On Amazon, Clinton and Reviews

I’ve made no secret of how I feel about Hillary Clinton’s latest book being published on 9/12. I’m not a fan of Clinton to begin with. But for her to have a book come out on the anniversary of the Benghazi attack went beyond the pale. I don’t care if it was her decision or her publisher’s. It was too much. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about Amazon’s removal of 1-star reviews of Clinton’s book, What Happened.

I don’t know a single author who hasn’t at least considered asking Amazon to remove a review at some point or another. It is no secret that indie authors feel helpless when it comes to having reviews that attack our work and which we feel are from people who haven’t read the book. Nor is it any secret that many of those complaining about Amazon removing reviews from Clinton’s book have been vocal in demanding Amazon remove 1-star reviews that attack books by authors they support.

Here’s my view. If Amazon removed reviews that did not address the contents of the book but were simply attacks on Clinton, fine. I have no problem with that. My issue will come if they don’t apply the same standard when other authors want reviews removed for the same reason. As an author, I can’t support reviews that don’t discuss the contents of the book. As a reader, to be honest, I don’t want to read those reviews either. If you don’t like Clinton — or Trump or anyone else — then take to social media or your blogs to post your opinions of them as people. Don’t clutter up review pages with those attacks unless you have read the book and the attacks are germane to the book’s contents.

I will also admit to being disappointed in some people who are up in arms about Amazon’s response to those reviews when, not that long ago, they were calling for the same action to be taken with regard to reviews of books by conservative authors. That sort of double-standard does not sit well with me. Now, if Amazon is applying a double-standard as well, then it needs to be held accountable.

And this brings up my next point. Amazon is a company, a very large one. When you have a problem with it, understand that the first level of customer support you get probably won’t be able to help you. It doesn’t matter if you are complaining about formatting going wonky on a book you just uploaded or with the removal of reviews. If, as an author, you think you are being unfairly attacked in reviews based on your political opinions and not on the content of your book, don’t just stop at that first phone call or email or chat. Go up the chain of command. It isn’t difficult at all to figure out how to send an email to Jeff Bezos. And trust me, sending an email to his office gets you a response just about as quickly as sending a complaint to the FCC will get you one from AT&T — pretty damned quickly.

Is it an instant response and is it always the response you want? No, but it is better than taking to social media to whine because you didn’t get your way.

Anyway, back to Clinton and the reviews disappearing. I want to see Amazon apply the same standard to all books and I hope they will moving forward. But, for those of you who are upset because reviews by people who 1) hadn’t read the book and 2) were attacking Clinton and not the contents of the book, ask yourselves this: would you want those reviews to stay up if it were your book? Or would you want Amazon to take them down?

Amazon, for your part, you need to be fair in the application of this rule. If you remove such reviews for Clinton’s book, you need to do the same for Milo’s or for Trump’s or for any other book where reviews do not address the contents of the book. If not, then you deserve any criticism about your double-standard.

Now, I need to get to work. Otherwise, I will be tempted to get hold of a copy of the book just so I can review it. Hmmm, maybe I should. I haven’t done a good snark review in a long time and from the excerpts I’ve seen, this book is rife for it.

A Snippet and a Share

Just a quick post this morning. On the writing front, I finally have the opening of Light Magic figured out and the book is progressing nicely (fingers crossed). I should see the updated cover for the expanded edition of Vengeance from Ashes later today. I’ll share as soon as it’s in. This is also my day blogging at Victory Girls. Today’s post is about the latest Rasmussen poll, what it shows about how American voters now view Hillary Clinton and my thoughts about her latest book being released on the 5th anniversary of the attack on our Benghazi compound.

Light Magic has taken some twists and turns since I started visualizing it. The book I thought it would be will actually be the next on in the series. This one will introduce a new main character as well as bringing back some of the favorites from the other titles in the series. Here’s a very brief — and rough draft version — snippet.

Mossy Creek, Texas.

Nothing but a small dot on the map. Or, as I like to think of it, a pimple on the butt of an otherwise great state. So why was I returning to a place I last saw a lifetime ago? Because I gave my word and, while I might be a screw up where most everything else is concerned, I try to keep promises I make to people I care about. But this might prove to be too much, especially for someone like me.

One thing’s for sure. Neither Mossy Creek nor I will be ever be the same.

Now I’m off to write some more. Until later!

 

Guns, Violence and Journalistic Integrity

Sunday night there were a number of watch parties going on in the DFW area. It was the first game of the regular season for the Dallas Cowboys. Zeke Elliott was playing, after weeks of uncertainty. Dak Prescott was starting his second season at quarterback and everyone waited anxiously to see if he could continue the magic of his rookie year. Added to that was the fact the ‘Boys were playing their arch rivals, the New York Giants. Unfortunately, one of those parties exploded in a hail of bullets that left, as of this morning, 9 dead. Cue the media to start yet another round of calls for gun control and cue the local media to forget all about journalistic integrity and identify the shooter even though his name has not yet been released by the authorities.

Let’s start with the latter first. Only one of the victims has been identified so far. She was the owner of the house. Her mother has claimed to the media that the shooter was her estranged husband. That is the only information we have so far and yet the media has been running with it. A local columnist has used this alleged identification as the basis for an op-ed piece calling for more gun control because we can’t let guns get into the hands of folks who might have anger issues.

There was a time when the media wouldn’t identify a victim — or a suspect — until that identification was verified by the authorities. It certainly wouldn’t identify someone killed, whether in an accident or as the result of a crime. It was part taking the time to make sure the facts of the incident were confirmed and part because it was the decent thing to do. They gave time to the authorities to notify the family of the person killed. But I guess that’s no longer a consideration in this day and age of reporters not reporting the news but wanting to shape it and make it. To hell with the emotional toll such actions might take on family members who had nothing to do with what happened.

Well, to hell with these so-called journalists.

Moving on. I start getting concerned when people want to limit the right to own, much less carry, a gun because of the possibility someone might have anger issues. How is this possibility supposed to be judged? More importantly, who is supposed to make this assessment? To limit a right based on something that might happen at some point in the future based on some set of circumstances that might never occur is not only foolish, it’s unreasonable.

But let’s be honest, this is simply another way the anti-gun faction wants to limit gun ownership. At least this particular columnist finally turned her post into the need to address impulse control and anger issues. But all too many will take what happened in Plano to argue that anyone going through a divorce shouldn’t be allowed access to guns or to argue that everyone wanting to buy a gun go through psychological evaluations.

Not only no but hell no.

The media needs to take a step back — maybe several, especially if a tall cliff is involved — and remember what it is there to do. Unless it is an editorial, they are there to report the news. They should pride themselves on presenting the facts in a fair and unbiased way. Reporters should report and not be part of the news. They should help us shape opinions based on facts and not on their own personal biases.

Newspapers and network news wonders why they are losing followers. It’s simple. We are tired of being shown slanted views of events. We are tired of being considered too stupid to know what is happening. With so many new ways to find out what’s happening in the world, the media should be adapting instead of digging its heels in. Of course, considering it is the twin to traditional publishing, their approach doesn’t surprise me. All I can say is that they will continue to lose viewers and readers until they once again put facts above opinion, integrity above attempting to manipulate the issues.

Grow up, news media, or go home.

Remembering 9/11

(This post first appeared on Mad Genius Club on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. What I said then still applies to today. As we reflect on what happened that day, on its causes and its effects and on what still needs to be done, we should also reflect and take a moment to thank those men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping our country safe, to their family and loved ones who watch them leave and wonder if they will return and we should also remember those who have given their lives for our country. And now, to that original post.)

Tribute in Lights, 9/11 2013

Ten years ago today, they say the world changed. I’m not sure the whole world changed, but my piece of it did. For the first time in my life, I understood how my parents’ generation felt when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Gone was the sense of safety of living in the United States, secured by oceans on two sides and allies on the other two sides. We’d been attacked, not by a military force but by fanatics who didn’t care about the innocents they killed in an effort to make their statement.

I know some of you are wondering what this has to do with writing. After all, Mad Genius Club is a blog about writing and the publishing industry. There is no simple answer. But there are answers and I’ll try to explain.

There’s a thread that’s been going on in one of the email groups I belong to where someone asked if our writing is influenced by world events. You can imagine there were folks coming in on both sides – some saying yes and others saying no. For me, I have to admit that I really hadn’t given it much thought. I knew the events of 9/11 affected me, but I hadn’t really taken time to think about if they had influenced my writing.

I still didn’t think much about it until the list of free titles available from Amazon crossed my desk the other day. I didn’t know whether to be thrilled or appalled to see all of them that dealt with that horrible day. I truly believe we need to remember what happened that day and do all we can to make sure it never happens again – here or anywhere else. One way to do that is to write about it.

But what appalled me were the number of books that had clearly been written just to cash in on the ten year anniversary of that horrible day. We’re not talking books that have been out for months or years and are just now being made free as promotions. No, we’re talking books that have never been available before. Books I couldn’t bring myself to download.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for authors using events, real and imagined, in their books. But to use a tragedy like 9/11 or the Holocaust just to sell books is more than I can stomach. Releasing those books so close to the anniversary of that horrible day without thought or concern about what it would do to those who survived or those who lost loved ones makes my blood boil. There are some lines I simply can’t step over.

That said, I will fight for these authors’ right to publish such books, whether I like them or not. That freedom of speech is one of the things that makes this country what it is. Within certain very limited provisions, we can write what we want, when we want. The fact that so many of us have different views on what and how we write is in the best interest of the reader.

On 9/11, I slept in later than I usually do. As I stumbled into the kitchen for my first cup of coffee, I turned on the TV. There are three things I do every morning: drink coffee, read the paper and watch the morning news. So there I was, coffee cup in hand, staring in disbelief as the second jet crashed into the Twin Towers. It had to be a nightmare. There could be no other explanation. Numb, praying for those people who were obviously trapped in the towers, I sat and watched, just like so many others that morning.

The images from that day are indelibly etched into my memory. So are the emotions. The shock, the fear, the anger. But so is the feeling of solidarity, of needing to do something as I stood in line at the local blood bank waiting hour after hour to donate blood in case it was needed. Hundreds of people turned out that day, too many for the small center to handle. No one wanted to go home. This was something they could do. Something they had to do.

Those who were turned away made appointments to come back the next day. Then they left, only to return later with water and food for those of us still in line. A couple came back with radios and TVs so we could watch the latest. No one asked them to. Everyone thanked them. We were all pulling together and it was happening across the country.

The emotions I felt that day were so strong. So were the reactions of the people I saw. The only day that had come close to it was the day when the American embassy in Tehran had been taken over, beginning more than a year of nightly reports about what was happening, reports that became ABC’s Nightline. Back then, I was attending Texas Tech. A number of my classmates were former Air Force officers. As we sat in the break area of the law school after the news broke, each of them were doing what was necessary to make contact with their former C.O.’s, doing what they felt was necessary – offering to return to the service of their country.

As I write this post, I realize there is one thing about 9/11 that has influenced my writing. After feeling so deeply, after seeing others do the same, I became more aware of how my characters should feel and react. I hope I am able to write characters who are no longer cardboard cut-outs. Emotions are what make us human and are what drive us, for good or bad.

I’m not a subscriber to the idea that you have to suffer for your art. Hell, I do my best to avoid suffering – at least in the way it is used in that sentence. But to be a good writer, you have to not only know what the emotions are, you have to know what they feel like – whether you have experienced them yourself or know someone has. More than that, you have to be able to express those emotions in your writing in such a way your characters don’t appear to be cartoonish or cardboardish.

I remember the feeling of helplessness as I stood in line at the blood bank, wondering if my son was all right. He was at school that day. When the district announced parents could come get their kids, I called my ex-husband to see if he was going to pick our son up. (It was his week to have the kid) I wanted to go so badly, just to be able to see for myself that my son was all right. I wanted to be the one to explain to him what had happened and to reassure him that I would do everything in my power to make sure nothing happened to him. I might not have been able to pick him up – my ex did that – but I did get to talk to him afterwards, to explain what happened and what might be happening over the next few days and weeks.

I can channel those emotions into my characters. It’s easier to write about the mother whose child is in danger. I understand the fear and anger and the need to protect. I can write about the everyman who feels helpless as he watches some disaster – be it natural or manmade – unfold before him. It is up to me now to hone my craft so I can write it in a believable way.

But for all of that, 9/11 reminded me of something I hadn’t really forgotten but had, like so many others, taken for granted. It reminded me of how much I love this country. I honor and thank those who willing put their lives on the line every day to protect it, be they police officers, firefighters, EMTs, soldiers, whatever. I thank their families for supporting them. Most of all, I thank God for the fact that I live here, in a country where I can write what I want and not have to look over my shoulder in fear that the thought police will be there to arrest me.

That son I worried so much about ten years ago is now a young man. One year ago today he signed his contract with the Air Force. It was his choice and one I am very proud of. It’s also one that can’t help but scare me some as well. And that is yet another emotion I can channel, if I dare.

In closing, and on a very non-writer note, I offer up a prayer for all of those who lost their lives a decade ago and I pray we never again see another 9/11, here or anywhere else.

 

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