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Showing posts from 2014

THE DEVIL'S GRAVEYARD by TL Parker

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Just finished THE DEVIL'S GRAVEYARD by Indie Author TL Parker, it's one of those amazing tales that seamlessly crosses genre lines, keeping readers enthralled until the very end. I really like what another reader, P.S. Winn, wrote in her Goodreads review, "This epic novel feels like it was 400 years in the making." 
What a perfect summation! For those who love history, science fiction, and romance, this truly is the book for you. TL Parker's writing is superb, her characters engaging, and from beginning to end you have no idea what's going to happen next. 

For more info, check out this book trailer I found on her website, THE DEVIL'S GRAVEYARD .
A glowing 5 out of 5 stars

...and, as always, thanks for reading!


You Don't Like Me Cause I'm White? Really?

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I had planned for my next post about my life in the Air Force to be about my first "job," which was during basic training, but it occurred to me this morning that I needed to address one other vital ingredient to this saga, beforehand...
When I left home on July 14th, 1981, to enter the military, I left a very small rural area called Embreeville, Pennsylvania. I had been bused to the same school district miles away my entire young life. I believe in our high school graduating class we had two black kids that I can recall, one of which I had been friends with since preschool (which was a brief introductory class that students back then attended before first grade.) 
I had been raised in a Christian home and until my father married my stepmother when I was twelve, racial hatred had been an unknown. Until then it had never occurred to me to think of people as white or black or brown or olive or anything else, kids were kids and grownups were grownups and that was as far as it …

NETHERWORLD by K.N. Lee

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Recently finished K.N. Lee's NETHERWORLD, the first book in her Chronicles of Koa series.
The story is about a Korean half-vampire named Koa who works for an angel named Halston. Together, their job is to keep the human population safe from Netherworld vampires. 
The only catch is two-fold, Koa's mother is trapped inside a cat's body and the only one who can release her is an imprisoned Netherworld vampire prince. A prince Halston and Koa must go to Netherworld to rescue and bring back to the human world. 
The opening for the book is an instant hook, the characters entertaining and engaging. Though the writing isn't as smooth as I'd prefer, from start to finish I couldn't stop reading.
NETHERWORLD by K.N. Lee, the first book in her Chronicles of Koa series, a glowing 4 out of 5 stars! 






My First Official Day in Organized Chaos

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...otherwise known as Air Force BMT (Basic Military Training.) We woke up early, 5 am,  to  the sounds of Reveille, which is surprisingly loud that early in the morning, and then were immediately yelled at. Between that damn, persistent bugle and the even more persistent TIs (Training Instructors) I think I went into shock.

Now, bear in mind, that I had spent most of my teenage years being yelled at. My father and stepmother had the whole yelling-and-making-me-feel-like-dirt-thing down pat. But to have uniformed strangers do it was an entirely different feeling of low, especially at 5 o'clock in the morning.

As I'm writing this, I'm doing my best to remember that first day, which is clear in bits and pieces, but the sequence of events is a lot more fuzzy. As the echo of that bugle continued to radiate inside my ears, my first thoughts were a mixture of, "Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?" and "Get up! Get up! Get up!"

We were immediately ordere…

Same old, same old...Plot

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Here's another blog entry that I relocated from my previous blog:

This morning while reading Jeanne Cavelos' essay, "Innovation in Horror," in the HWA Handbook, ON WRITING HORROR, I was once more moved to record my thoughts in this blog.
I recently read in ON WRITING by Stephen King, that he prefers not to plot. Thanks to his wise words I gave up the tedious and stifling task of attempting to plot my current work and just started doing what I love, writing through the unencumbered guidance of my characters.
While reading Jeanne Cavelos essay, I felt inclined to share another insight, "be innovative as opposed to imitative."
So here I am writing a novel that is my own without being imitative, this is true, yet I feel compelled to take this inspiration up a notch. Why should this story follow the same old humdrum plot lines of evil escapes, guilt-consumed man enters picture, evil runs amok, man encounters and overcomes evil, evil vanquished with potential retu…

When Writing.... A Good Rule of Thumb

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When writing a story, you are your own best immediate gauge of how good it is. Does it excite you, hold your interest and keep you on edge? Are you emotionally vested, even to the point of potential embarrassment?

If not, you need to either make significant changes or start over. If you don't feel emotionally tied to your own story, your readers won't either.

Here is one of my favorite quotes, one I keep on the wall of my office...and what I try to live by when writing my stories...



Off my Shelf - Brian Keene's CASTAWAYS

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Some books immediately grab you and won't let go until you've read the last page. Brian Keene's CASTAWAYS is one such book.
I started reading it yesterday morning while waiting for my husband during his dentist appointment and, I kid you not, I finished the book in one day. (Not a norm for me.) According to Brian Keene's own words, he is a fan of the reality-TV show Survivor and it shows in the writing of this book.
On a personal note, I can't tell you how many times I've wondered while watching Survivor, "What if the location is actually haunted or worse?" Apparently, Mr. Keene had the same thought.
Brian Keene is an amazing writer, his descriptions taunt, his characters real and the pacing of his story so perfect there's no time for breaks. This book literally went with me everywhere yesterday and apparently I raved about it so much that my husband (not a horror enthusiast) started reading it last night.
CASTAWAYS by Brian Keene, definitely a mu…

Getting to Know Your Characters

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Another tidbit from a couple years ago that has changed my writing life forever....

In between the required reading in ON WRITING HORROR, I've been studying the various essays by the gifted writers enclosed within its pages. The latest nugget of wisdom came from Tina Jens titled "Such Horrible People." Ms. Jens describes characterization in such a creative and entertaining way that not only have I soaked up her insightful words, but I do believe they have changed the way I write forever.
Within her essay, Tina Jens describes getting to know your characters as well as you would your high school buddies. Their ins, their outs, their quirks, fears, flaws and successes. What makes them tick? Getting to know your characters so well they are sitting there beside you writing your story for you. Your job as a writer is merely a stenographer, they are in control. After all it's their story, right?
Yes, I've read lots of articles on developing characters but never in such …

THE UNINVITED by Sophie Jordan

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Imagine your goals, your dreams are just within your grasp and then a scientist you've never met discovers a gene that is common among the most depraved murderers in our nation's prisons and that anyone with this gene has a tendency toward extreme violence. Then, to ensure the safety of all citizens, the government requires everyone to test for this gene...and guess what, you have that gene.

Then the government decides that you and everyone else with that gene must be monitored and controlled. So you are placed on a government watch list and because you're distraught you tell someone, a friend, a coworker, a classmate, someone, about what has happened and soon everyone else knows because the fear of that gene and what the carriers of that gene could do is so great that your friend believes everyone needs to know that you are one of them.
Soon your classmates, your coworkers, even your friends and family are looking at you differently, distancing themselves from you. Your …

OUTCAST by Cheryl Matthynssens

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I recently finished OUTCAST by Cheryl Matthynssens. The heartwarming tale of a half-breed boy, Alador, who is caught between two very different kingdoms. One kingdom reveres dragons and seeks to protect them while the other will do anything to acquire the magical properties of their blood.
From the author's webpage, dragonsgeas.com :
The First of the Series, Outcast introduces the Great Isle set in the world of Vesta.  Two kingdoms interdependent upon one another with vastly different philosophies about dragons and magic vie for survival.  
A young half-breed finds a set of dragon bones and a enormous bloodstone that will change his life forever.  Meet young Alador, the village outcast and follow him to discover what happens when one receives a geas from a dragon. Nothing will ever be the same!

4 out of 5 stars, but only because of its slow start. Otherwise this is definitely a 5-star book!

Neil Gaiman's THE GRAVEYARD BOOK

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Some books make you cry, some books make you laugh and some may even scare you... But if you're lucky, you'll find a book that does all three. Neil Gaiman's dark, children's book THE GRAVEYARD BOOK does all three. 
I started reading it a while back and decided it wasn't my "cup of tea." Tried again and so very glad I did. This is definitely one I will read again and again.


Caffeine-Induced Epiphanies

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As caffeine-induced epiphanies  Spew forth from this fuzzied core, I am grateful for that one-less-drink  I did not partake the night before.

The Fear Factor

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A revisit to an old blog post from years passed...

As written in last week's post, my fictional viewpoint has changed to more of a focus on horror and dark fantasy. Bless you, Stephen King, for enlightening me with DUMA KEY.


I must confess, there have been other factors that have guided me this way. I have always been afraid. Afraid of things that go bump in the night, shadows on walls and even car grilles from the 1950s and 60s. The ones that come at you in the night with their glowing eyes and evil grins. 

Of course there was numerous other things that scared me, especially after watching a scary movie. There's the one particular movie I remember for my childhood which involved a violent transformation of society by a Satan-like creature. 
I don't remember the name, but do remember one particular scene where people with "disabilities" (eye glasses, wheelchair bound, etc) were being attacked by other more "perfect" people and fire (brimstone?) was ever…

The Muse, the Knife and the Football

I love to write When the words glide smoothly Like butter off a hot knife,
I love to write When ideas burst from my psyche Like a river during a spring thaw,
I love to write When my muse dictates so Clearly my fingers can’t keep up,
I love to write During the quiet hours when I alone am awake With no one to interrupt my thoughts
But not today...
Today the stories dance around my head, Mentally, I can see the characters, sense Their narratives and even hear their dialogue,
But somehow, from point A to point B Something is lost, 
No, writing today, is like using
A dull knife to cuta football.

A Writer's Life - Vulnerability

Our secrets, the ones we hold deep within us, afraid to reveal, those are our biggest stumbling blocks. There is a part of us that so deeply wants to be free of that intense mass of pain and regret. If only a safe, merciful avenue of empathetic exposure were found, our vulnerability would be allowed. To lie naked and exposed before others, friends and strangers, that is the hardest act of bravery one could ever do.
I applaud those who are that brave. Not afraid to allow their writing to reveal their deepest, most earth-shattering revelations. But what about the rest of us? We need that release just as much. We need the knots to become unwound. We need the wound to be open to fresh air. In doing so, we too, can heal.
To these poor souls, I say one word, fiction. If our secrets are too profound. If our memories are too hurtful to ourselves or others, why not write in such a manner that allows us to reveal the pain but not expose our reality?
That is the path other writers have followed…

Fleeting Bliss

The rain upon the desert falls Drenching it's sweet moisture Upon the cacti, tall arms lifted up Embracing the not-so-gentle drops As in the distance lightning stabs the Dark sky while thunder, like a rude House guest, disrupts this fleeting bliss.

Off My Shelf - THE TURQUOISE MASK by Phyllis Whitney

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Like most writers, I am an avid collector of books and like most bibliophiles, I collect faster than I can actually read. Going to a library or book store, especially a second hand one, is like going to a candy store for me. Oh look at that great cover! I must read it! Or, oh look, one of my favorite authors, I MUST buy that!

And this is how I managed to acquire Phyllis A. Whitney's THE TURQUOISE MASK. Ms. Whitney's books were favorites of mine back in my teens. So seeing her books in one of my local hunts proved irresistible and as I unleash my new determination to actually read all of the books on my towering bookshelves, I started with hers.

THE TURQUOISE MASK takes place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a location that proved particularly fascinating to me. I currently live in the neighboring state of Arizona and have long wanted to visit artsy Santa Fe. So, with Ms. Whitney's helps, it was fun and fascinating to learn of its cobbled streets, adobe architecture and Spanish his…

They Marched Through My Dream

They marched in a line, through the Darkness of my dream, their bodies Engorged as I remembered them, eyes Wide, frightened, reflecting our betrayal,
To this day I remember her, her loss I felt so strongly as a child, hearing her Loud, horrified cries as that man With his three stubbed fingers, Forced her onto the bed of his truck,
"No," I had yelled, cried out, she was My world, my Molly...and she was there At the head of the line, Molly so big, So beautiful,
They were all there, Molly, her daughter Beauty, and Baby, my Becky's mother and some I hardly remember, ones we hadn't named, In a long line, Waiting,
My father, he was gone, but his words, His history, his indifference remained, A farm is no place for the soft of heart, Our food begats our food, the first mistake Is naming them, the second is loving them, And the third is sending them to slaughter,
I left the farm right after high school and Never looked back, the memories, the Reminders, they still ha…

It's all about attitude - ROLL ON!

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"I will not succumb," she said, "I will not give up, nor be defeated, I am still young and whole and I have no choice, it is do or die For me," and with that she unlocked The wheels of her wheelchair
And rolled on.
Photo thanks to Women's Weekly

I woke up this morning, pretty much in a panic about money, bills, survival...and where my writing life isn't as yet... And then I pushed myself out of bed, "I can do this," I said to myself. "I can do this." ROLL ON!

Poetry - An Ode to a Legend, A Life Well Lived

Another legend has gone away Too soon, too fast for us to notice His pain before that moment When he chose his life to end Leaving us to mourn with endless Sorrow his radiance,  His brilliance,
And now he is gone, but not Forgotten, for his gifts to us Remain and his talent will Forever more be remembered,
For that is all we could ever wish, The creative among us,  That our words, our thoughts,  Our minds consumed with Music or verse or endless chatter, We compose and recite and write or Act, with the hope of leaving  A lasting impression, 
But to die before our natural time Causes those left behind to wonder With sadness and confusion What might have been done  To help a man so loved,  So esteemed,  So extraordinary,  From leaving us far too soon,
And so I sit here with my shadows and thoughts remembering a man Who once brought me laughter  And sunshine and smiles and made  This often too-dark world a happier place And I think, Yes, that is his lasting  Impression, his legacy,  
Fo…

That Infamous Hook

Another oldie but goodie revisited...

As a writer, I am forever reading and not just for pleasure. Lately, thanks to my critique partner who happens to be an editor, I've been reminded of the infamous hook and the need for a novel to have one during the first 100 words. So I spent most of yesterday reworking the first page of my current work-in-progress, all in an attempt to add a really good "hook."

Then this morning during one of my breaks - yes, writing magazines make great "break" reading - I was again learning all about hooks and how in the current market, a good hook is even more essential.

"So what is a hook?" Besides being the quintessential villain in the movie of the same name, apparently a good hook is everything in making your story a success. In today's market, with it's over abundance of books all vying for the public's attention, a hook is that very sentence or catch phrase that makes your reader ask, "What happens next…

PARROTS PROVE DEADLY by Clea Simon

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Another great mystery from Clea Simon. This third book in Clea's Pru Marlowe Pet Noir series is her best one yet! 

When I first started reading this novel, I already had a pile of books on my nightstand to read. So I thought I'd take a quick peak at page one and get an idea of what I had to look forward to. 

Big mistake! From page one I was hooked. Pru Marlowe is one of those girls you feel like you've known since high school, a beer-drinking, bad girl with a smart mouth and a lot of chutzpah. But in this story she's met her match in Randolph the equally smart-mouth parrot.

Check out Clea's description of PARROTS PROVE DEADLY on her website, Cleasimon.com :

"Parrots will repeat anything – they don’t talk sense. Or do they? When Pru Marlowe is called in to retrain a foul-mouthed African gray after its owner’s death, the bad-girl animal psychic can’t help hearing the bird’s words as a replay of a murder scene. But the doctor on call scoffs at the idea, and the heir…

THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty

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A book review I wrote a couple years ago.... 




If you are a fan of horror fiction or just a lover of good books from the dark side (aren't they the same thing? :-)) I strongly recommend reading THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty. In my opinion, like all good books, this one far exceeds the movie.

In the book, you get to know Chris MacNeil, the adoring single mother/actress. My heart went out to Chris as she helplessly watched her loving, intelligent daughter become a sullen, angry monster spending all her time in the confines of the basement lashing out verbally when provoked. (Sounds like your typical teenager?)

Chris knew there was something seriously wrong with her daughter, but the medical community provided more questions than answers.

You also meet Regan (Rags), Chris' pre-pubescent twelve year old, full of love and innocence whose curiosity gets the better of her. Then, there is Father Damien Karras. A troubled Catholic Priest crippled by self-doubt and overwhelmed wit…

Coming to Terms With My Own Fear

I wrote this entry a couple years ago and I'm very happy to say that so far I've survived the more scary aspects of my own writing....

I started reading THE EXORCIST by William Peter Blatty yesterday. I'm only about ten pages in and already facing that mortal fear that sometimes binds me. What is it about this book that impacts me, the reader, so paralytically?

So far I've enjoyed my research into the world of horror. I've read some of the most frightening novels I never imagined, 'SALEM'S LOT and PET SEMETARY by Stephen King to name two. Yes, they frightened me at the time and my day-mares and nightmares were duly impacted, but never have I had such an overwhelming sense of dread as I do with this novel. Maybe it's the whole persona of THE EXORCIST, the novel made into a movie that scared millions. Is it the hype that  freaks me out?

After reading about the knocking on Regan's ceiling yesterday, I went for a walk. I had to clear my head and gather …

Poetry - Comfort Food

She crept along the corridor Taking care to keep footsteps quiet
Her breathing soft
Her ears keen, listening for voices,
They said they were going out for the afternoon
But not to her
She was invisible to them
A nonexistent entity
Her sole purpose to do their bidding
And disappear,
No one was home, except for her
All was silent but the kitchen clock
She was alone, finally,
She loved these times
By herself, no one watching
She could sneak into the empty rooms
Restricted to her,
Cupboards open, she was hungry
For love and affection but a stolen cookie or two
Would have to do,
To ease the pain and fill the hole
A car door slams, bare feet scurry
Up the stairs to her room, hoping
Her presence in the forbidden canister 
Would go unnoticed.

THE LINE by J.D. Horn

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Have you ever read a story so real that you fall in-love with the city where the story takes place? Only three writers have been able to do that to me, Howard Fast with his San Francisco-based Immigrant series, Anne Rice with New Orleans and now J.D. Horn with Savannah.

In his debut novel, THE LINE, the city of Savannah becomes just as much a character as any other. Savannah is soft and warm like a mother and just as clingy in her desire to never "give up her dead."

This novel, this story, is also about the Taylors, Savannah's dominant family of witches. It's about their conflicts, loyalties and manipulations, and then it's about THE LINE, the powerful ley line that runs through Savannah. The Taylors have been maintaining that line for as long as anyone can remember.

When the Taylor Matriarch is murdered, another powerful witch must take her place. THE LINE wants Mercy Taylor, but she's not a witch. Born with none of her family's witch magic, all Mercy h…

Mad House by Clea Simon

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This is an old review, but as I go through this transition of moving from my blog to another, I am also moving my reviews to this site.

My review of Mad House by Clea Simon:

Being a bibliophile from an early age, I read incessantly!  Well, I finished a book last night that I just have to share, Mad House by Clea Simon. This book is the author's personal account of living with two older, mentally-ill siblings suffering from schizophrenia.
Clea's writing is insightful and intimately personal as she tells of her experiences  and impressions as a child, a teenager and finally as an adult coming to terms with their impact on her life. Clea also shares the practical advice she has learned over the years, giving hope to others trying to make sense of their own realities.
If you have mentally ill family members or just want to have a more personal account of living with the mentally ill, I recommend this book. On a personal note, Clea's words helped me find the peace and understan…

Vulnerability - Revisited

As I slowly incorporate my old blog with my new, below is a post I wrote in 2009, but my thoughts are still fresh as I stay the course I started in 2007...

Our secrets, the ones we hold deep within us, afraid to reveal, those are our biggest stumbling blocks. There is a part of us that so deeply wants to be free of that intense mass of pain and regret. If only a safe, merciful avenue of empathetic exposure were found, our vulnerability would be allowed. To lie naked and exposed before others, friends and strangers, that is the hardest act of bravery one could ever do.

I applaud those who are that brave. Not afraid to allow their writing to reveal their deepest, most life-shattering revelations. But what about the rest of us? We need that release just as much. We need the knots to become unwound. We need the wound to be open to fresh air. In doing so, we, too, can heal.

To these poor souls, I say one word, fiction. If our secrets are too profound. If our memories are too hurtful to our…

In Memory of a Fallen Hero

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I originally published this a while back, but some things are worth repeating....

I was twenty-one and stationed at a small Air Force hospital in the city of Bitburg, then part of West Germany. As a medical administrative specialist, part of my job description was to provide on-call, after-hour support to the Emergency Room.

It was late one night, about 11:30, when my beeper went off. It was cold and wet as I left my warm, comfortable apartment to walk the quarter mile to the rambling, one-story hospital with its endless black and white tiled floor.
Even in my half-sleep state, I was aware that the emergency room was not in it's usual chaos. There were two reasons my department was called in at night, the emergency transfer of a patient or if a patient dies. It occurred to me at that moment, no one was being transferred. The sergeant behind the desk smiled at me as I walked into the room, he probably saw death all the time. I didn't, especially not after being asleep for an ho…

My New Adventure Begins...

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Better known as, what the heck was I thinking??


As I lay there on my bed, that first night, in an open room full of other women, I'm not exactly sure what I was thinking. But one thing's for certain, I was more concerned about survival than deep, introspective thought. 
As the sound of sniffles reached my ears and I realized someone a few beds over was crying, my first thought was that she was going to be eaten alive. I don't know how I knew, but somehow I did, that crying was not an option, not here, not in this foreign place. 
Every instinct inside me was set on one thing and one thing alone, making it through the next six weeks. I knew that if I could do that, I could face anything the Air Force had to throw at me. I just had to get through basic training and believe me, that was harder than you think.
From the moment we arrived, the Military Training Instructors (MTIs) or TIs as we called them, were using that loud, authoritative voice. You know the one, it's the …

Review - Autumn in the Abyss by John Claude Smith

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John Claude Smith never ceases to amaze, delight and shock me as he pushes the limits of both his ingenuity and his ability to see the world through unique eyes. Autumn in the Abyss, John Claude Smith's newest collection of dark stories, is a perfect example. I found each of the five stories compelling and entertaining though in ways truly as unique as the stories themselves. 
The first story, Autumn in the Abyss, about a recluse obsessed with a reportedly dead poet by the name of Henry Coronado, aroused my love of mystery while, at the same time, I wasn't sure whether to be revolted or feel sorry for the character's seemingly forced lifestyle. I think if anything I was intrigued by each new passage, wondering where the story was going and, as usual, I was not disappointment by the outcome. 

The second story, Broken Teacup, as despicably immoral as the main character and his amoral buddy were, I was compelled to keep reading simply because I wanted to see what happened nex…

And Into the Fire...

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Braniff Airways (now defunct) flew us from Philadelphia to San Antonio, Texas. It was an interesting flight. I somehow managed to sit between two guys. Mind you, I had lived the majority of my life in the same house, a farm house, on an extended family farm surrounded by relatives. I had gone to the same school district my entire life, grew up with the same kids and been stuck in the same social hole, never able to quite figure out how this enigma called small-town society worked.

Then, all of a sudden, I was on a plane, surrounded by strangers and placed between two attractive guys who both wanted to talk to me. Quite frankly, it was weird. And so describes most of my military life, weird. To be honest, I don't think I ever quite understood any of it. I used to joke that when I passed my E-5 Staff Sergeant exam, any answer I didn't know, I picked the least logical answer. Yes, I passed the test, but it was just another example of how I never "fit."

But I digress, th…

From the Frying Pan - Philadelphia

As I emerge from the sleep of early morning, taking eager sips from my coffee cup, the one with an antiquated Mickey Mouse waving on the front, seriously, that mouse is far too happy in the mornings, my mind wonders back to the post of yesterday. Now, please keep in mind, my memories of my adventures in the US Air Force are not necessarily happy ones, so fair warning, these tales at times will be dark.

My first recollection was of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Philadelphia. Now I'd only been to Philly a few times in my life, all as a small child either going to Germantown to see relatives or on a school field trip. Never on my own and never as an "adult," and the other thing to consider is growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I had never experienced racial discrimination, at least not to my knowledge. Well, the first people my own age that I encountered in this massive, government building took an instant dislike to me and since I was friendly and had good hyg…