Nocturnal Lives

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

Category: Musings (Page 2 of 44)

Life’s back to normal

Or at least as normal as my life ever gets. Monday, This week has, so far, turned into a bad farce. Between the normal “life” stuff that tends to interfere with the writing, there’s been a leak that was related to both the new HVAC and the sewer system. That, in turn, wound up soaking a good bit of carpet in the hallway and my room. You know it’s bad when I agree to have a plumber come at 10 at night. Anyway, that is fixed, fans are running and the carpet is slowly drying. This weekend, I’ll see about replacing the pad but that may wait.

It would be easy to wallow in the fact my schedule has been shot to hell this past week. I’m behind on so much, not just writing and other things. Hell’s bells, I had been wallowing — until late last night. That’s when reality slapped me in the face and I realized that as frustrating as things had been, they aren’t really bad, not in the whole scheme of things.

Let me back up a bit. Around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in the den, laptop booted up, trying to get into the mindspace to write. That’s when an emergency vehicle went hauling ass down the street, sirens blaring. By the time I got to the door, two cop cars, lights flashing but no sirens, were racing past. They disappeared around the curve at the bottom of the street and I went back inside.

My initial thought, because the cop cars were rolling hot but silent was that there might have been a break-in. Possibly even a domestic disturbance or assault of some sort. Our neighborhood is really very safe but, once in a blue moon, something happens. That’s especially true during the summer when tempers run as hot as the temps outside.

Unfortunately, the truth of what happened was far worse than what I’d imagined. A three-year-old is dead, a drowning victim. He was found in the backyard pool. Details are, naturally, scarce right now but the cops are saying no foul play is suspected. This appears to be one of those horrible tragedies and my heart breaks for the family.

And it puts everything into perspective. Yes, I’m late on a number of projects. But all that does is make me have to work harder to get caught up. So, enough with the excuses and the self-pity and everything else. It could be so much worse and it’s not. This is something I can keep from getting worse.

In the meantime, my heart and my prayers go out to the family of this little boy. Their lives will never be the same.

Oh hell, it’s a Monday

I really hope today isn’t an indication of how the week is going. The dog wanted up at 0430. Then I couldn’t get back to sleep. Of course, part of that is because the carpet went SQUISH as I walked barefoot down the hallway. Now, any pet owner knows the feeling, literal and figurative, when that happens. You don’t know whether you want to turn on the lights to see what you stepped in or continue on in ignorance.

Well, I already had a pretty good idea. No, it had nothing to do with the animals and everything to do with the new HVAC. Twice before, pre-new installation — we’ve had this before when the overflow pipe clogged. Still, I had to check. Yep, the carpet is soaked through in a couple of places in front of the intakes and in my bedroom. Oh joy.

At least the AC guys can be out sometime today.

Oh, but that’s not the end of the morning’s problems. A look out the front window shows a leak in my sprinkler system. So, in a short time, I’ll be out there digging up my front yard, trying to figure out what happened overnight. With my luck, it won’t be anything simple like a crack in the line. Noooo, it will be the fargging valve — which means a call to a repairman for that because that valve box is lost. More than 25 years of soil shifting, overgrowth, etc., has buried it and I can’t find it. I know because I’ve looked for it before (even using the plat the installers gave us, the plat I know to be wrong because the heads aren’t where the plat shows them.)

So I’m pushing coffee until I’m awake enough to deal with at least one emergency and afraid to look around too closely for fear I might see something else requiring immediate attention.

Oh, and a new story idea hit me over the weekend that will probably start taking shape while I’m working on the sprinklers. My muse uses times like that to take over my consciousness and get the creative juices flowing. The fact it’s something I hadn’t planned only makes it more interesting to Myrtle the Evil Muse. Add in the fact that my writing for the rest of this year and the beginning of next is already planned out and she will just take it as a challenge to see if she can get me sidetracked.

Sigh.

Please, don’t let the rest of the week continue as it has started.

Those poor kids

There are days I find myself praying this has all been a bad dream. Between the changes in schools where it is more important to make sure our children feel good about themselves than it is to make sure they learn the curriculum to political derangement syndrome (because it exists on both sides of the aisle), I find myself wondering what happened. What happened to the Can Do! spirit of the “Greatest Generation”? What happened to personal integrity and responsibility? What happened to common sense?

Very rarely has an article made me ask those questions as much as this one — and the one that came before it. I am linking to an archived version of the article because, to be honest, I don’t want to give this poor excuse for a mother one more click than necessary. Yes, I said it. She is a poor excuse for a mother. As the mother of a son, I feel for her two sons and what she is not only teaching them but doing to them.

Here is a woman who begins by calling her sons “strong and compassionate”. Then she goes on to describe how much they aren’t and how badly they have disappointed her. Oh, she tries to cloak it with maternal concern but it is there. This is a woman who wanted daughters and didn’t get them. The fact her sons have penises make them bad from the moment of birth. It is up to them to prove to her they aren’t like every other man.

Poor kids.

I have two sons. They are strong and compassionate—the kind of boys other parents are glad to meet when their daughters bring them home for dinner. They are good boys, in the ways good boys are, but they are not safe boys. I’m starting to believe there’s no such thing.

Wow, way to support your kids, Mom. Praise them and then pull the carpet out from under them. They are good but not “safe”. Not that she believes there is such a thing as a safe boy. But wait, maybe she explains why. Surely she explains what a “safe” boy is.

The next paragraph gives us some insight into the mother’s mindset. She is raising her boys in a “rape culture”. Those are her words. Then she goes on to talk about her previous article and how, after it went viral, her boys were suddenly confronted by her words. Their teachers and friends read the article and — gasp — talked about it where her kids could hear.

First of all, she claims she didn’t think her article would garner any real attention. Bullshit. To begin with, she wrote it for The Washington Post. Unless she lives under a rock, she knew she would have potentially thousands of people reading it. But she never thought it would go viral. Bullshit again. The very wording of the article was such that it would inflame in one way or another. I doubt very much she hadn’t hoped for it to go viral and more.

It was one thing to agree to be written about in relative obscurity, and quite another thing to have my words intrude on their daily lives.

Well, duh. Not that she seems to care since — another big DUH! — she is once again writing about her sons in an attempt to justify her position. Poor kids. Mama’s more worried about showing her Woman Card in public than in making sure they are all right.

In the next paragraph, she talks about how her younger son is angry at her. Of course, the son has never said he is. She goes on to say he doesn’t understand why she lumped him together with his older brother in the essay. Of course, he hasn’t said that either I assume. But she knows he is angry and misogynistic. Why? Because he has been visiting conservative websites. “places where he can surround himself with righteous indignation against feminists, and tell himself it’s ungrateful women like me who are the problem.”

Guess what, lady, you are the problem. Not because you’re a feminist. Sorry, Feminist. But because you don’t give a flying fuck about your sons’ emotional welfare. Because you won’t sit down and think before you hit the enter button. You obviously don’t give a damn what your crusade to paint your sons — children you are supposed to love and protect — as evil simply because of their sex. I can only imagine the sort of ridicule you have opened them up to at school and elsewhere. I wouldn’t blame your kids one bit for being “angry” with you.

Hell, lady, I’d be furious and plotting my escape from your grasp as soon as I legally could. I’d even be taking notes and recording everything I could in case there was enough to build a case to bring in CPS to take me away from your sick grasp.

Is it my job as his mother to ensure he feels safe emotionally, no matter what violence he spews?

Once again, she throws out a statement like this — remember her earlier statement about there being no “safe” boys? — without any evidence of what this “violence” might be.

When I hear his voice become defensive, I back off but question whether I’m doing him any favors by allowing his perception of himself to go unchallenged. When I confront him with his own sexism, I question whether I’m pushing too hard and leaving him without an emotional safe space in his home.

Why am I picturing her taking on a passive-aggressive stance where she does anything but back off? If there are any micro-aggressions going on in that home (hell, who am I kidding? Aggressions of any sort), I have a feeling they fall directly at her feet. Dear God, if a child can’t have a safe emotional space in his own home, what hope does he have?

As I said before, I feel for these boys.

As a single mother, I sometimes wonder whether the real problem is that my sons have no role models for the type of men I hope they become.

Thank God. The poor kids have enough to put up with Mommy Dearest.

But when I look around at the men I know, I’m not sure a male partner would fill that hole.

No, because you want to make your sons into daughters and most men, real men, wouldn’t put up with that. They would, however, teach your sons how to be gentlemen who respect women and honor them. But that wouldn’t fit your agenda one bit, would it?

It goes on. Dating is a “necessary evil” because she is starved for adult conversation. I guess she hasn’t figured out that’s what friends are for. You can find friends by joining a church or volunteering, by socializing with people in your neighborhood. But no, you “date” for conversation. Wuh?

Then she comes back to what is blurbed at the top of the article. If feminist men aren’t safe, then what man is? And why? We don’t really know. All she says is this, “But, feminist or not, the men are no different from the men anywhere else….”

What. The. Fuck?

Here is a woman who hates men. She lumps them all together and condemns them simply because they are male. She gives no examples, soft or hard. Then she doesn’t understand why her sons have an issue with what she says. Dear sweet merciful heaven, those kids are so fucked. I can only hope they get out from under her roof as soon as possible.

Keep reading though, just in case your blood pressure hasn’t risen enough. She manages to hit one more hot button for all the right thinking folks out there. She notes that a white person can’t grow up without becoming racist — yep, you read that right. In fact, she said it is “impossible” for a white person to grow up without adopting racist ideas.

But it even gets better. She says her sons and “most” progressive men she knows won’t rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. By implication, she means that all non-progressive men and even some progressive men she know WILL rape such a woman. What a sad, sick opinion of people she has.

Here is perhaps the worst thing she says when it comes to her sons: I love my sons, and I love some individual men. It pains me to say that I don’t feel emotionally safe with them, and perhaps never have with a man. . . .

She doesn’t feel “emotionally safe” with her sons?

These are kids. Kids in school She doesn’t claim either of them are abusing her physically or doing anything other than being male. My heart breaks for these boys.

If I had anything to say to them it would be this:

Don’t listen to your mother. You have worth as a person and that worth, or lack of it, isn’t based on your sex. It is based on who you are. Never let anyone denigrate you because of your biological plumbing. And, please, don’t judge all women by what your mother has done to you. Grow up to be loving, caring gentlemen who are proud of yourselves and who respect women. Be your own persons, not the cardboard caricatures your mother is trying to force you to become.

As for the mother, I’d like her to spend a few minutes in the shoes she’s made for her sons. See what life is like for them. Not that it would help. In ten years, she will be wondering why at least one of her sons left home and never talks to her. And no, she will never admit she might have had a hand in it. The cause will be because of the appendage hanging between his legs.

All I can do is think about my son and how proud I am of him. He is a responsible, respectful young man. I think I’ll finish this post and then let him know just that.

Poor Babies

Yes, the snark is running wild this afternoon. I’ve spent most of the day working and took a break a few minutes ago. As I usually do, I scanned the headlines on various sites and came across one off of Yahoo that simply had me shaking my head. Let’s see what you think.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with HGTV and some of their offerings, one of thier most well-known shows is Fixer Upper. Chip and Joanna Gaines help their clients find homes in the Waco, TX area and then renovate them according to the clients’ tastes and how much money is to be spent. Pretty basic stuff for networks like this.

Now, the Gaineses have helped make Waco know for more than just Baylor University. They have opened their own store, bakery and who knows what else. The show has been great promotion for the city and has brought in not only business but has helped increase tourism. Believe it or not, people go to Waco just to visit the Gaines’ store.

So, on to the article. I’ll let you read all the details but the basic facts are this. A couple appeared on the show and bought one of the houses the Gaineses showed them. Purchase price for the house was $35,000 and they spent approximately $215,000 on the renovation. Now, I don’t know about you, but that right there would be my first clue that the house might not be located in the best part of town.

Anyway, moving forward.

According to the homeowners, they feel like they were used, even lied to, by the Gaineses and by Waco. You see, they claim to have been harassed by others in their neighborhood and even by business owners because their house raised property taxes in the area. Now a drunk driver has plowed into their house and it is all Chip and Joanna’s fault.

Not only no but hell no. For one thing, no one twisted their arms and forced them to sign the purchase contract. My guess is they saw the potential problems of the area but they were outweighed by the low cost of buying the house and by the fact they would have their 30 seconds of fame on national TV. Now that the shine has worn off some, they are having buyer’s remorse.

That is no one’s fault but their own.

My son bought his first house a year ago. He did his homework. He took time to not only tour the house but to drive through the neighborhood several times and at different times of the day. He wanted to see what the neighborhood was like. He had a title search done and he checked the crime reports for the area. He checked how often houses in the area sold and he researched the HOA. In other words, he educated himself before signing on the dotted line.

Something these folks either didn’t do or they didn’t take seriously what they claim has been happening since before they moved in.

Hell’s bells, I would have had concerns before moving in just based on what I’ve seen of the show. Yes, a lot of the houses Chip and Joanna show are in better neighborhoods but there are those that just cry that they have been neglected and aren’t in the best of locations. If you can see that on TV, surely these folks could have seen it in real life.

Anyway, as I noted in an earlier blog post, it seems like I’ve been blogging a lot about consequences. This is another such post. In this one, the people are reaping the consequences of their decision to take part in a TV show and buy very cheaply so they could renovate and have the “house of their dreams”. In doing so, they apparently ignored all the warning signals. To come back now and blame Waco and Chip and Joanna — and probably HGTV — is foolish and disingenuous.

This is a prime example of “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

It’s Monday. Nose, meet grindstone

First off, the pre-order for Nocturnal Rebellion should go live late tonight or early in the morning (fingers crossed). It is later than I wanted or anticipated but, as is so often the case, real life interfered. I learned long ago when that happens, it is best to wait it out instead of trying to push through. Mistakes happen when I’m too distracted by real life and I don’t want to hurt a book by not giving it my all.

Unfortunately, this means I am behind on several other things as well. Today and tomorrow, hopefully, I can get caught up on some of them. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, the updates for Vengeance from Ashes for the expanded edition are rolling along. (The link is to the original edition.) It is odd going back to a book I wrote several years ago and knowing this is my chance to make it into the book I initially visualized. I’m not knocking the original. I love it and I had a blast writing it. But I only had a vague idea where the series was going at that point. Now that idea has solidified — as it should since I’m three books and several short stories into it — and things I hesitated to put into the original can now be woven back in. I can’t wait for you to see the final result.

Now I need to figure out what I’m going to work on next. Yes, I know. I am supposed to have a schedule and I do, of a sorts. But the muse is being unnaturally quiet right now and that is kind of scary. It usually means she is about to hit me with something I most definitely hadn’t planned on. So, in order to head her off at the proverbial pass, I’m looking at what I have planned, what I have already roughed out and will decide in the next day or two what it will be.

Of course, Myrtle the Evil Muse says she has the right to object — of course, she does. She’s evil. Sigh.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from the expanded version of Vengeance from Ashes. It is still in rough (as in I haven’t done spell check, etc) format. For those of you who have read the original, you will see a few alterations from the original, nothing that changes the story in any way.

***

“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.

What she didn’t know was why. Why had she been betrayed? Worse, why had those who’d served loyally at her side been targeted?

The soft swoosh of the heavily armored door sliding open broke the silence of the small cell a few moments later. With her back to it, she couldn’t see who entered, not that she wanted to. One of the first lessons she had learned after arriving at the Tarsus military penal colony was not to look. That had been a very painful lesson, one that landed her in the prison’s infirmary for several days. It was also a mistake she’d never repeated.

That had been one of many lessons she’d been forced to endure since arriving there. With the commandant’s tacit – hell, as far as she knew it was his overt – approval, the guards could be as sadistic as they wanted. Correction for even the most insignificant infraction might take the form of a rifle butt to the ribs or kidney, and that was if she was lucky. If not, the beating that followed would leave her hurting so badly she could barely move. Even then, the guards wouldn’t send her to the infirmary. After all, it was so much more fun to watch her suffer, reminding her that she alone was responsible for what had happened.

Fortunately, she’d heard the horror stories before arriving at the penal colony. Even though she hadn’t been ready to believe them, they had helped prepare her for what she’d face. Even so, it had been a shock the first time one of the guards beat her down for asking what would have been a simple question on the outside. That had been enough to convince her that the best course of action was to remain silent unless it was imperative that she speak. That wasn’t to say there hadn’t been times when circumstances forced her to break that rule and she bore the scars to prove it. All she wanted now was to live through the remainder of her prison term. Survival was the first goal. Vengeance would come later. Not for her, but for those brave and loyal souls who had followed her despite her protests and who had paid the ultimate price as a result.

She swallowed hard, forcing her mind away from past horrors, as boots clomped across the small cell in her direction. A rough hand grabbed her right arm, twisting it painfully behind her back. She flinched as a security cuff was locked tightly around that wrist. Her breath hissed out as the process was repeated with her left arm. Moments later, similar restraints were fastened about her ankles. Then a gloved hand closed around her left arm and jerked her to her feet.

Guard Captain Gavin Haritos spun her to face him, grinning sadistically. His fist caught her with a vicious backhand. With a sharp cry of pain, she staggered back. The short chain connecting her ankles tripped her. Only the man’s quick grab at the front of her jumpsuit kept her from falling. He pulled her forward and, with the ease of much practice, draped a heavy hood over her head before she could react.

Haritos’ cruel grip on her arm kept her on her feet as he hauled her out of her cell and down the long corridor. Blood pounded in her ears, almost deafening her. Fear and hatred raced through her, sparking every fiber of her survival instincts. She knew this was going to be bad, very bad. It always was when the guard captain came for her. But she could do nothing to stop him, at least not yet.

“This is your lucky day, bitch.” Haritos shoved her into one of the three lifts at the end of the corridor and she heard him slam his fist against the control panel. A moment later, the lift gave a slight lurch and she felt the car start downward. “You’re being transferred, Shaw. But don’t get your hopes up that it means the rules no longer apply because they do. If you’re smart, you’ll remember those poor bastards sentenced here with you. Everything you say and do from now on impacts them.”

A soft moan escaped her lips before she could stop it and fear raced like an open current through her. No matter how many times she’d been in this position before, she couldn’t help it. A transfer could mean almost anything, none of it good. Not as long as the survivors of her unit were still on Tarsus.

Bile rose in her throat as the lift came to a sudden halt. But it wasn’t that which caused her breath to catch. The guard captain’s low chuckle sent a shiver of fear down her spine. Once before he had stopped the lift short of their destination. He’d told her then it was time to deliver a warning.

Warning!

He had beaten her so badly that day she had prayed for death. Was he about to repeat that performance? If so, why? She had done nothing to break the rules. She hadn’t been out of her cell in weeks, her only contact had been with the guards who checked on her three times a day.

Without warning, Haritos’ fist connected with her stomach. Pain doubled her over. Tears filled her eyes beneath the hood and she fought the urge to vomit. The neck of her jumpsuit tightened uncomfortably at her throat as the guard captain’s hand fisted in the material. Using it to hold her in place, he continued his assault. Her head snapped back and she tasted blood. She lost track of the number of times he struck or where each blow landed. All she could do was stand there, held in place by the hand at her collar, and pray the beating ended soon.

Suddenly, Haritos released her and she fell to the floor of the lift. Before she could struggle to her knees, his heavy boot caught her in the ribs. Once, twice, he struck, each time forcing her to cry out in pain. Her ribs ached and it hurt to breathe. Her face, especially her nose, throbbed with each beat of her pulse. From the stuffiness of her nose, she knew Haritos had broken it – again. Her right eye felt puffy, swollen. It had been a long time since she had been beaten this badly and why?

Why now?

“Listen carefully, bitch,” Haritos growled as he once more hauled her to her feet. “This is only a temporary respite for you. Sooner or later, you will be sent back. Remember your people are still here and we can do whatever we want with them. So keep your mouth shut. We’ll know if you do or say anything about your time here.”

To her surprise, Haritos said nothing more. That was unusual. Whenever he’d come for her before, he’d taken perverse pleasure in detailing what horrors awaited her. The fact he’d gone silent worried her. And what did he mean by this being a respite and she would be back?

Dear God, what was happening?

Haritos remained silent as he forced her off the lift. Doors opened and then closed behind them. She didn’t know how to react when, for the first time in months, she felt the sun beating down on her. They were outside. But why? Where were they going?

It didn’t take long to find out. Haritos led her up a ramp. The hood obscured her sight, but she could hear the muffled sounds of a crew working to prepare a shuttle, maybe even a courier ship, for launch. Haritos pulled her to a halt and told her to stand still. Then he released his hold on her arm and she sensed that he had moved a short distance away. There were soft voices. Straining to hear, she only caught a few words. Transfer. . . prisoner. . . dangerous. . . tried to escape. . . take no chances. . . don’t listen to anything she says. . . .

Dear God, was she actually being transferred out of the Tarsus penal colony?

Hope flared only to die as quickly as it had been born. She remembered Haritos’ warning. Her people, those few who had survived the ambush only to be betrayed by those who should have stood for them, were being left behind. That meant she had to do as the guard captain said. Otherwise, her people were as good as dead.

No!

Before she could do anything – not that there was much she could do, bound and hooded as she was – Haritos was once more at her side. She stumbled forward as he grabbed her and led her further up the ramp. He hissed one last warning not to do anything foolish. Then he turned her over to someone else. Flanked on both sides by unseen guards, she was led into another lift. A few minutes later, her restraints were removed and then her hood and she found herself standing in the center of a small cell. She didn’t need to hear the announcement for all hands to prepare for departure to know she was on a ship. But a ship to where?

And what about those who’d been sent to the penal colony with her? Why weren’t they being transferred with her?

Now, almost a week later, she stood in yet another cell, this one planetside, and worry warred with anger. She’d overheard enough from the guards on the transport to know her fears were true – the others had been left behind on the penal colony.

That’s when an anger so great it overrode the fear of the unknown had flowed through her. For the first time in two years, she’d been separated from the survivors of her unit, those poor, brave souls who had fallowed her into hell and back only to find themselves brought up on charges right along with her. It didn’t matter that the commandant of the penal colony hadn’t let her see her people. She’d managed to get word of them from time to time and that had been enough to let her know they were all right – or at least as all right as anyone could be after being sentenced to the Tarsus penal colony.

It still amazed her how the prison grapevine managed to keep tabs on everyone and pass along information. It might be inconsistent, but it was there and it had been all that kept her sane. She’d never thought herself a social animal, but two years of rarely seeing anyone but her jailers had been almost more than she could handle. Thank God for the grapevine and the bits of information it brought her.

During transport from the penal colony, no one had told her anything. Held in the transport ship’s brig, she had no opportunity to learn anything about their destination or why she had been taken from Tarsus. A guard brought her food and drink at regular intervals but he never said a word that wasn’t necessary. He certainly hadn’t volunteered any information. Still, she’d managed to work out that she was alone in the brig by the way his steps never stopped before he appeared at her cell door and because no one had responded when she’d tapped out messages using the code learned on Tarsus.

She had just noticed the slightest change in the rhythm of the ship’s engines, indicating it had assumed orbit somewhere, when another guard arrived with a change of clothes for her. She’d looked at the plain black jumpsuit with suspicious eyes. Nothing about it marked her as a prisoner. It could have been something worn by almost any worker on the docks or in a warehouse. That should have reassured her but for one thing. There was nothing about the guard’s manner to indicate she was about to be freed. In that moment, she’d come the closest to breaking her rule of “never ask a question you don’t know the answer to” than she had been since her first few days on Tarsus.

Half an hour later, she’d been seated on a shuttle. The guards had secured her hands behind her back before locking her safety harness in place but they hadn’t hooded her. They obviously weren’t worried about her recognizing where she was. Of course, the only way she could do that was if she could actually see something of the lay of the land. So she’d craned her neck in an effort to see into the shuttle’s cockpit. One corner of her mouth lifted ever so slightly at the sight of the high rises ahead of them. Her heart beat a bit faster and her breath caught as she recognized the skyline of Fuercon’s capital city. New Kilrain. She was home. But why?

Now, after being processed into the same military brig where she’d been held during her trial, she still didn’t know why she’d been brought back home. It couldn’t be good. They may have taken away her prison issued jumpsuit, but she’d still been brought there shackled and had been processed into the brig as quickly as humanly possible. It had almost been as if FleetCom was afraid word of her return might leak out. But why?

Damn it, what was going on?

Of course, there’d been no explanation. Nor had she asked for one. It would be a long time before she forgot that lesson. Too much talking, too much curiosity was a bad thing that almost always resulted in painful punishment. She might not be on Tarsus any longer but that didn’t mean things would be any different here. After all, who policed the jailers? No one, at least not on Tarsus and she wasn’t willing to risk it now that she was home. That was especially true after the way she and the others had been betrayed by those they’d been loyal to

Freed of her restraints and alone, she looked around. One cell was pretty much like any other. Across from the door was a narrow bunk. Hygiene facilities were at the foot of the bunk. It was almost exactly like her cell back on Tarsus. There was nothing she could use to escape and nothing she could use to kill herself, not that she planned on taking that route out. At least not anymore. No, there were others who needed to die before she did.

“Prisoner is secured,” the guard who had brought her to the cell radioed as he stepped back.

Ashlyn Shaw, former Marine captain, didn’t move. Instead, she stood in the center of the small cell, her brown eyes focused on some point beyond the guard, her hands behind her back even though the restraints had been removed. As the security field across the cell door activated, she gave no sign of realizing it even though the faint, high pitched hum was something she’d learned to listen for over the last two years. That sound, like a distant bunch of angry bees, meant she’d fry her nervous system long before pushing through the field. Freedom might look close, but she’d be dead – or worse – before she actually found it.

At least the guard didn’t close the physical door. For the first time in what had to be months, she could look beyond the confines of her cell. It might not be the same cell she’d occupied since her conviction. Hell, this wasn’t even the same planet. That didn’t matter. All that did was the fact that the open cell door gave her at least some semblance of not being completely cut off from all other life on the planet.

As the guard disappeared from sight, Ashlyn remained where she was, motionless except for the rise and fall of her chest and the slow blinking of her eyes. She listened, counting his footsteps as they slowly faded away. When she’d been escorted to the cell, she had focused on what was directly in front of her. She had not wanted to give the guards on duty the satisfaction of seeing her look around in curiosity. Now, with only silence filling the air, she allowed herself to relax a just a little.

Once convinced the guard was gone, she moved to the door, careful not to get too close to the security field. Looking to her left, she couldn’t tell how far away he might be. All she knew for certain was that her cell was located at the end of the corridor, the door situated so she couldn’t see much beyond the far edge of the cell. So there might be any number of other prisoners close by but, for all intents and purposes, she was alone – again.

That was fine. Alone meant fewer chances for anyone to figure out what she planned. But it also meant she had to keep up appearances. She couldn’t let them guess what she had in mind. So she lay on her bunk, her back to the doorway. She wouldn’t let those she knew were watching over security monitors see her curiosity or her concern.

This was as close to home as she was likely to get in a very long while. If the opportunity to escape presented itself, she’d take it and be damned with waiting on the military courts to finally get it right. Once free, she’d deal with everyone who had betrayed her and then she’d find a way to free those who had been sent to the penal colony with her. After that, she really didn’t give a damn about what happened.

***

I hope you enjoyed the snippet. Until later!

 

You did what?

I’ve written a lot this year about consequences. It seems there are a number of folks out there who simply don’t consider the consequences of their actions. It doesn’t matter if those consequences are direct to the person involved or indirect and aimed at someone else. Sometimes that lack of concern about consequences comes from carelessness, from simply not thinking through what they are about to do. Other times, too many times, it is because the person involved simply doesn’t care. They are entitled, you see, at least in their own mind.

What has me thinking about it again today is this story. It’s a simple enough story and one that should have been one of those feel good stories the news all too rarely covers. Simple really. A teen is making money by working at a food kiosk at the local mall. While on duty, a police officer comes up and orders a cookie. The teen recognizes the officer, who works at the mall, and wants to do something nice for him. So he buys the officer the cookie. It’s his way of telling the officer that he appreciates all the man, and those like him, do.

Pretty cool, especially when you consider the fact the young man paid full price for the cookie instead of using his employee discount.

Fast forward to the next customers. They’d been behind the officer in line and saw what the young man did. Instead of thanking him or commenting about what a nice gesture it had been, they did the opposite. They wanted a free cookie too. When they didn’t get it, they did not go gently into the night. They caused a commotion and, if I remember correctly, at one point it looked as if one of them might actually try to get into a physical confrontation with the teen.

Because they wanted a free cookie too.

Because they were special. Or entitled. Or just selfish pricks.

It doesn’t end there. The young man was called onto the carpet by his employer and suspended. Fortunately, his mother wasn’t about to take it lying down. She posted what happened to social media and pressure was put on the employer, Great American Cookies at Katy Mills Mall. Great American Cookies has backed off the suspension, saying finally that the young man did nothing wrong. Corporate has issued a statement in support of police officers.

But what would have happened had the young man’s mother not taken to social media? It was easier to suspend the young man than it was to fully review the situation and come to an informed decision. Sounds familiar, especially this weekend.

In another case, this one involving a public personality, consequences should come to bear. Early last week, police issued a statement laying the fault for a fatal crash directly at Venus Williams’ feet. No charges, fortunately, had been filed yet but the public statement was out there and being carried by every major news organization and sports channel.

Then, several days later, the police are having to backtrack and basically retract their initial statement. They had seen another video of the crash, one from a different angle. This video apparently shows Ms. Williams was not at fault in the crash. In fact, the video shows she had the green light.

But, in the rush to lay blame in a somewhat high profile case, the police also rushed in the collection and processing of evidence. Whether it was for political reasons or something else, they accused a woman who now, looking at the evidence, was not in the wrong. Will there be consequences? There should, and not just civil consequences coming from whatever action Ms. Williams might take against the police department.

There should also be employment consequences for those involved in making the hasty judgment and releasing it as a proven fact to the media. There are times when the police should simply say, “we are still investigating and will update you once we are through.” This was one of those cases.

It is not an easy decision, especially when the locals and the media are demanding fast action. They forget that real life isn’t like cop shows on TV. DNA results aren’t returned in mere minutes. Every cop shop does not have a fully equipped forensic lab and more. Evidence isn’t always processed in the local police station but is instead sent off somewhere else where that evidence joins the long line of items to be tested and reported on.

It is a situation the local cops in the town where I live face right now. Two weeks or so ago, a young teen girl disappeared. Several days later, she was found dead in a landfill a few miles away. Our cops have been doing exactly what they should. They have been investigating the case, asking for help from other agencies when needed and keeping their mouths shut in public. The police chief has been hammered because an Amber Alert wasn’t issued when the girl went missing. Never mind the fact that her case didn’t meet the legal criterion for such action to be taken. The criticism continued.

Others have complained because the cause of death has not yet been released. The truth is, as confirmed by the police in a short statement yesterday (maybe the day before), the ME hasn’t yet concluded what the COD was. They are waiting for tests to come back and that may take another month or more. Until then, or until more evidence is uncovered, the police will not be making any further statements. They do this out of respect for the family and because there is no sense to fuel media speculation.

Will there be consequences for this action? Possibly because, while the police chief is hired by the city manager, both he and the city manager basically hold their jobs at the behest of the city council. If the politicians decide the only way they can stay in office is to sacrifice someone, they might do so. Fortunately, our city council isn’t that mercenary. They really do have the best of the town at heart. So the only consequences I foresee right now are a demand that we find a quicker way to process evidence and find out why people died.

Three different situations, three different sets of potential or real consequences. In the first, a very real example of someone’s sense of entitlement negatively — and needlessly — impacting another person’s livelihood. In the second, an example of where the “need” to reassure the public that the police are working quickly to determine responsibility not only backfired but could be said to have negatively impacted a celebrity’s earning ability. I don’t think there was any malice involved, just a lack of foresight and a backbone. In the third, we have an example of a police force accepting the consequence of having public questions and some doubt leveled at them instead of potentially damaging any case that might arise out of the investigation. Looking at all three, I would much rather take the last example than the previous two.

When are we, as a people and as individuals, stop bulling ahead and take long enough to consider the consequences of our actions?

What scared you?

This morning, I saw a meme on Facebook that asked what movie scared you the most as a kid. For me, that’s an easy question. In fact,  can tell you not only the movie that scared me as a kid but also a TV show. Why they made such an impact on me is both varied and yet, at the core, the same. It is something I try to get in my writing.

The movie is simple. It’s Day of the Triffids. Based on the book by John Wyndham, that movie scared me to death. It wasn’t that the special effects were that special. They weren’t. After all, the Triffids looked like walking cacti or Joshua trees. They could be outrun, burned, killed. No, what was so terrifying was why the Triffids were so dangerous. People had done what they’ve done since the beginning of time. When a meteor shower appeared overhead, they went outside to watch. A normal and understandable action. But one with a potentially fatal consequence because those who watched were blinded. That left them vulnerable to the Triffids.

I’m not lying when I tell you the possibility of being blinded by watching a meteor shower kept me from even wanting to watch one for years. It made that big of an impression on me. Why? Because it was something those in the movie had no control over and there had been no warning that it might happen. How do you defend yourself against something like that? You can’t. So, in my child’s mind, the only thing to do was to make sure I never put myself in that position. Even now, when I know what I saw in the movie was fiction, there’s that tiny voice in the back of my head telling me not to look. Bad things happen when you look.

In some ways, that is like those people who have never taken a shower in a motel after watching Psycho. They know intellectually that Norman Bates isn’t watching through a hole in the wall. Nor is he turning into his mother. Still, that scene, probably the most recognizable in American cinema, haunts them and keeps them from pulling the shower curtain. It is a masterpiece of visuals and music and is rooted in our minds now. How many of us can hear that music and not see that scene and have a shiver of fear run down our spines? After all, it is a simple, every day act and yet it will have fatal consequences.

The TV show that scared me was from either Alfred Hitchcock or a similar style program. I don’t remember the title but the plot was simple. A married woman is having an affair. She and her lover kill her husband who, if I remember correctly, is a concert pianist. They dispose of the body and are prepared to live their lives happily ever after. Except dead hubby’s hands come back to exact revenge. The scene that is so clear in my mind is the wife driving off, doing her best to get away and finally relaxing, sure she is safe. What she doesn’t know but we, as the viewers do, is that the hand is in the car with her. The closing shots show it climbing up the back of the driver’s seat and grabbing her by the throat. You know she’s dead a moment before she realizes it. The terror on her expression before the car goes off the road tells it all.

Again, another every day activity that ended in death.

That show stayed in my mind because it wasn’t your normal zombie or other supernatural monster going after someone. Love and betrayal fed the emotions. Of course the fact my parents had told me to go to bed and didn’t know I was watching the show over the back of the sofa probably added to the impression. I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. Would I get caught and have something happen to me?

So what about you? What movies — or books — scared you when you were young and why?

***

Also, a reminder that I’ve got three books on sale right now:

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives, Book 1)

by Amanda S. Green

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Wedding Bell Blues

by Ellie Ferguson

Weddings always bring out the worst in people. Or at least that’s the way it seems to Jessica Jones as her younger sister’s wedding day approaches. It’s bad enough Jessie has to wear a bridesmaid dress that looks like it was designed by a color blind Harlequin. Then there’s the best man who is all hands and no manners. Now add in a murder and Jessie’s former lover — former because she caught him doing the horizontal tango on their kitchen table with her also-former best friend. It really is almost more than a girl should be expected to handle. . . .

Hunted 

by Ellie Ferguson

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

When Meg Finley’s parents died, the authorities classified it as a double suicide. Alone, hurting and suddenly the object of the clan’s alpha’s desire, her life was a nightmare. He didn’t care that she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. So she’d run and she’d been running ever since. But now, years later, her luck’s run out. The alpha’s trackers have found her and they’re under orders to bring her back, no matter what. Without warning, Meg finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with the trackers in a downtown Dallas parking garage. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death. What she didn’t expect was that help would come from the local clan leader. But would he turn out to be her savior or something else, something much more dangerous?

Another United Miss and an Update

A quick post this morning. The next few weeks are going to be busy, busy, busy. I think I’ve figured out what the problem is with the conversion of Nocturnal Rebellion. I’m going to do a trial run this morning — after my second cup of coffee. If everything works, I’ll follow by uploading it to Amazon and putting it up for pre-sale. Once I have, and once it goes live, I’ll let you know.

Not only am I doing that but I am working on the “special editions” of the Honor and Duty series. More specifically, I’m working on Vengeance from Ashes right now. While the expanded editions won’t change the overall story arc, they will provide more of Ashlyn’s backstory as well as adding some scenes I cut from the originals. I’m really excited to get VfA to my beta readers by the first of the week to see what they think.

Once that is done, I’m going to take a couple of weeks (well, probably a month) to write something a bit lighter. That means a revisit to the Eerie Side of the Tracks universe. I have several things already drafted that just need to be fleshed out. More on that later.

In the meantime, real life continues to happen. It wouldn’t be a normal week without hearing yet another story about United Airlines. How long is it going to be before the feds finally step in and start fining them enough that they either sell or get their act together?

This time, a mother and her three-year-old son were flying from Hawaii to, iirc, Boston. One one of the connecting legs of their trip, mother and son went through check-in, their tickets were scanned and they were seated, waiting for take-off. Along comes a flight attendant who asked if the child belonged to the mother and she, naturally, said yes. A few moments later, another passenger came up and said that the seat the child was in was his. Yep, you guessed it. He was a standby passenger who paid a whopping $75 or so for his ticket as opposed to the close to $1,000 the mother paid for her son’s ticket. He gets to stay on the flight and she has to hold the young child in her lap for a three hour (approximately) flight.

In an interview with the mother, she explained she was afraid to cause a scene, referring to what happened when the doctor was dragged off another United flight last year. Plus, she had her son with her and didn’t want to risk anything happening to him. I can’t blame her for that. United, in return, offered her compensation as a “gesture of goodwill” days after this happened and they have said they will make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

The official explanation is that the child’s ticket wasn’t scanned right, so it didn’t look like he had boarded. That let them offer his seat to a standby passenger. Now, I have a problem with this. For one, they had eyes on the child as evidenced by the flight attendant coming by and asking the mother if the child was hers. For another, even if they made a mistake, it would have cost them a lot less in the long run — both financially and in good will — to have told the standby passenger they’d made a mistake than to have the woman hold her son in a manner the FAA says is unsafe for a lengthy flight. Oh, and it is against United’s own policy to have a child more than two-years-old sitting in a parent’s lap for a flight.

This is yet another indication of problems within the United culture. They look at the immediate dollars they can put in their pockets over the long term damage such actions might have. It is clear they are failing in their training regimen as well. The flight attendant should have either questioned how old the child was and then why he didn’t have a ticket or they should have informed the pilot and ticketing agent they had a violation of their own policy if the child was forced to ride in the parent’s lap.

But no. It was more important to get that whopping $75 from the standby passenger. How much is that decision going to cost them?

United, for your continued survival, you need to wake up and start acting like a responsible business.

On this 4th of July

As I sit here this morning, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an American. It is a topic that has often been discussed in my family. You see, we personify what America is — a melting pot. My great-grandmother (maybe it was great-great?), a full-blooded Cherokee, was born on the Trail of Tears. She later married and Irishman and raised her family in Oklahoma. On my mother’s side of the family, some of our ancestors came over from England long before the Revolutionary War. Others immigrated from Ireland and Scotland before the Civil War. Still others came over after that, from parts of Europe like Germany and the Netherlands. In every instance, other than the Cherokee, they came to this land by choice because they wanted the freedom this country offered. Freedom of religion, speech, assembly, etc. They wanted the freedom to make a life for themselves and their families.

These same people fought for this country. I’ve traced them to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812. Hanging on the wall across from me are my great-great grandfather’s discharge from the Union Army as well as the history of the battles he served in. Those papers belonged to one Nathaniel Foster Wilkinson from New Jersey. He was my mother’s paternal great-grandfather. On her paternal side, Absolam Schall also served in the Grand Army of the Republic and, ironically in some ways, fought in many of the same battles as Nathaniel, even though he was with one of the Pennsylvania regiments. He was also wounded in the same battle — Second Bull Run — in the same leg (right).

Someone from our family has served in each major conflict this country has been involved with. They did it because they believed in what this country stands for. Their families stood behind them for the same reason. My son now serves in the military. When I asked him why he signed his contract — and he did so while still in college and on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — his answer was simple. He believes in the ideals of this country and thinks them important enough to stand ready to defend them.

We’ve come a long way since the colonists dumped the tea into Boston Harbor but there is still a long way to go. We can do it, as long as we never forget the reason this country was founded and the building blocks of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as a whole. God bless this country and her people.

Another case of open mouth, insert foot

This morning, I saw a meme that made me smile. It basically said “I don’t think about what I’m going to say before I open my mouth because I want to be as surprised as everyone else.” Unfortunately, it seems there are far too many people who actually adhere to this mantra. Then, when their words come back to bite them in the butt, they don’t understand what went wrong.

The first instance of this that caught my eye over the weekend happened when I saw a clip from Tucker Carlson’s show. In it, Lisa Durden, a professor from Essex County College in Newark, went off on white privilege and more with regard to keeping whites off campus for the BLM commemoration of Memorial Day. (I think I got that right. You can check the clip linked above) Carlson called her on it, noting that what she advocated was just as bad as a whites-only gathering.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Durden had every right to express her opinion. But, as I’ve discussed before, we have to be aware of the very real fact that our words have consequences. In this particular case, she might not have mentioned her association with the college but she was on a nationally televised news program. It was reasonable to expect that either her students or fellow faculty members or college supporters would see the interview. The fact the college placed her on leave two days after the segment aired was proof of the negative impact her words had on her situation. Three days after that, she was let go.

In this case, the college has to weigh the good of the institution, as well as its students and faculty, against Durden’s right to voice her opinion. This isn’t anything new. Employers have always taken a dim view of anything an employee might do or say that could bring negative publicity to the employer. That is particularly true in the education sector. Today’s headlines are a perfect example. Not only do we have stories about Durden but there is another professor in trouble as well. On the local level, a kindergarten teacher has been fired for keeping her second job — that of porn actress. So, yeah, if you are working for someone else, you have to always consider if your behavior or your words are such that your employer could be negatively impacted.

The second professor to find herself without a job comes from the University of Delaware. Again, this professor, one Kathy Dettwyler, had every right to say what she did. She just wasn’t very wise to do so and especially not on social media. According to DelawareOnline, Dettwyler posted on her personal Facebook page that Otto Warmbier “deserved” to die for stealing a propaganda poster in North Korea. She went on to talk about white privilege, his parents’ failure to raise him right and more.

Now, I’ll admit, when I first heard about Warmbier’s trouble in North Korea, my first reaction was, “why in hell would anyone, especially an American, want to go there?” My second was that Warmbier was a dumb fuck for trying to take the poster. Then I remembered he was really nothing more than a kid and some of the less than smart — okay, downright stupid — things I did at that age.

But right or wrong, he didn’t deserve to die for what would, in most places on Earth, be a misdemeanor. It doesn’t matter what his skin color or nationality is. His death is a tragedy and something that never should have happened.

The University of Delaware, where Dettwyler was an adjunct professor of anthropology, has issued a statement saying she won’t be returning to the school as an employee. Prior to announcing that her contract would not be renewed, the university issued the following statement:

“The comments of Katherine Dettwyler do not reflect the values or position of the University of Delaware. We condemn any and all messages that endorse hatred and convey insensitivity toward a tragic event such as the one that Otto Warmbier and his family suffered.”

The fact she had made similar comments about Warmbier’s death in the comment section of an article in the National Review probably didn’t help her case any either.

Again, another instance of opening mouth and inserting foot all the way to the pink slip.

I’m all for freedom to say what you want but you have to remember that what you say reflects on more than just yourself. Those words you just spewed onto Twitter or Facebook, in an interview be it print or audio, also splash back on your family and friends, your business and your customers. If your words are inflammatory or contrary to common decency, the impact will be negative.

We’re not talking about whistle-blowers here. We’re talking about two women who got up on their soapboxes and spoke without thinking. Now I wonder how long it will be before they start attacking the institutions that released them. I also wonder what they had been teaching their students and this, my friends, is what bothers me the most. We have an entire generation where all too many feel they are entitled to do or say whatever they want and damn the consequences because the consequences don’t apply to them.

Then reality hits and they find they aren’t prepared for how much suckage that can be. That’s a lesson these two professors have learned the hard way. Hopefully, others will look at what happened and take it as a lesson in common sense. Unfortunately, I fear there will be those who will look at what happened and take it as a rallying cry to attack the universities involved for trying to “silence” the professors’ voices.

If the universities reverse their decisions, they very well may find themselves in the same circumstances as the University of Missouri after faculty member Melissa Clark called for “muscle” to help remove cameramen/journalists from a protest. Missou is suffering a decline in enrollment that has led to budget cuts, closing of dorms and more. Again, a perfect example of actions — in this case, more than just Clark’s but hers were the culmination — having consequences.

So, while the meme mentioned at the beginning of the blog is humorous and while it is all too tempting at times to say exactly what we feel and damn the consequences, stop for a moment and think. Ask yourself if you are ready to face those consequences, be they the lecture you’ll get at home or the loss of your job. If you can’t say yes and mean it, then keep your mouth firmly closed and move on. Or at least pause long enough to phrase your comments in such a way you speak with facts and reason instead of emotion only.

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