JOE – A Casualty of War

Today’s guest suffered a bout with Covid and couldn’t make it. So, I decided to share one of my flash fiction stories.

The award-winning poem Sand Creek will be posted on Thursday, August 4, 2022.

Coming Home will be posted on Thursday, August 18, 2022.

JOE

Fifty years ago, Agent Orange covered the young lieutenant from head to foot. Not yet known as a killer, his platoon cursed the mess left by the defoliant. Later, Peter laughed at their ghost-like photo images. Now in his seventies, he mused, I’m just another casualty of the Vietnam War. The doctors gave him six weeks.

I have one last shot at Joe. The best time, late afternoon.

Pete needed an experience he could savor. Only a mile to Joe’s, the old man took his time wandering through the forest of changing colors. He first came here on a spring day before he left for Vietnam. The trees had been shielded by leaves in brilliant shades of green—young and strong, much as he had been. The approaching winter turned the landscape into a strange rainbow of orange, yellow, red, and brown. Pete saw his cold and bleak future reflected in nature’s cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

Only I won’t be reborn.

He arrived early, perfect timing for an afternoon nap. Joe would be doing the same. A rock shelf provided enough warmth for Pete to enjoy a brief respite from the pain that came with the cancer.

Pete assembled his gear when he awoke.

Joe had been his elusive quarry for many years. Today might be the day.

Standing in the shallow current, Pete made his first cast. The fly dropped with a loud plop. This won’t do. Joe will never come up for something so clumsy.

Pete’s fourth cast drifted as if on a cloud. His hand-tied mayfly floated to the water’s surface. Joe struck—stronger than Pete ever imagined—much stronger.

Be careful. Work slowly. Joe can break the three-pound test. He has before.

With a skill honed over decades, Pete worked his quarry back and forth, ever closer. Until he slid his net under a still combative Joe, the fish everything Pete could have hoped for in a native Brown Trout—a real trophy—at least eight pounds.

With the compassion of a true sportsman, Pete removed the small barbless hook. He held Joe up to the sky, an offering to the gods. He knelt, and with tenderness bordering on love, Pete gently returned Joe to the swiftly moving water.

This is the best day of my life!

In a few months, it will have been fifty years since the end of the Vietnam War. American Warriors who survived the armed conflict are still dying from the effects of Agent Orange.

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    A poignant story that lets me see Pete’s determination although he is cancer-ridden from the effects of Agent Orange with no hope for survival.

    Looking forward to seeing the next story stories.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thursday 8/4/22 – Sand Creek

      Thursday 8/18/22 – Coming Home

      Reply
  2. Linda Todd

    George. I remember the day you drafted this story in Julaina’s class. Reading it today tugged at my heart as much as it did the day it was born. Thanks for sharing it on your blog.

    Reply
  3. Kathryn Wilder

    Thank you for this, George. It’s good to remember even the hard things sometimes. Love to you!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Kat, thank you. Guess what! I miss you and am sending a giant hug.

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Excellent story, George. It’s amazing on how you captured so much in so few words. You captured the imagery perfectly. Good job. Thanks for sharing this one.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Mike. Coming from you those are awesome comments.

      Reply

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TERRI BENSON – Old Cars & Pickup Artists

Terri Benson has published three novels and nearly a hundred articles and short stories. In addition to The Pickup Artist, her credits include November 2021—The Angel and The Demon, Book #1 of Lead Me Into Temptation, a historical romance; 2012—An Unsinkable Love, a historical romance set on the Titanic and in the New England Garment Manufacturing District. She works at a Business Incubator, and her hobbies include camping, jeeping, and dirt biking. More info at https://www.terribensonwriter.com/

The Pickup Artist, A Bad Carma Mystery, was released on April 1, 2022, from Literary Wanderlust. A female classic car restorer discovers her newest project comes complete with a serial killer who now has her in his headlights, and, by the way, she’s also the local LEOs #1 suspect.

I’m currently working on more Bad Carma Mysteries and Lead Me Into Temptation books.

Do you write in more than one genre:  Yes, I write both mysteries and historical romance, but no matter what I’m writing, there is bound to be romance, mystery, and a little bit of history.

Tell us about your writing process: I’m a bit odd in that I come up with a title first. Then I figure out what scenario I can see working with that, then I write. Since both my series are fairly defined by the series titles, I know what kind of book I’ll be writing from the start.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Absolutely. I’ve belonged to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for more than a decade, and I fully credit the great friendships I’ve made there with dozens of amazing writers, agents, editors, and publishers—including the two who published my last two books (The Pickup Artist and The Angel and The Demon)—to those friendships. I had access to hundreds of workshops from RMFW and Pikes Peak Writers that helped me hone my craft, getting me to the point agents and editors would look at my work. I also found the publisher for An Unsinkable Love pre-RMFW via a contact in a critique group I belonged to. I can’t recommend “finding your tribe” enough for new and not so new writers. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime.

How long did it take you to write your first book? My “first” book took 20 years, but I’ve never submitted it to anyone – eventually, I probably will. My first “published” book took four months to write, and since it was for an open call for books about the Titanic, it had a due date to submit. I remember meeting my best friend, who is my most critical beta reader, and her passing the manuscript from her car to mine in the dark at about 8:00 at night the day it was due to be submitted. If a cop had seen us, they’d have suspected a drug deal! I made edits and submitted it with less than 10 minutes to spare. It was published about a year later, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking.

How do you come up with character names? I drive through a cemetery every day to get to work and eat lunch there almost every day (it’s very pretty and quiet, with frequent visits by deer). I often wander around and write down names to use. And for Renni in the Bad Carma Mysteries, when I needed to have her full name be mentioned, I ended up with Renault Landaulette Delacroix because her father was a car-obsessed Frenchman.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Mine run wild and crazy! I’ve discovered some amazing things about my characters over the years, but only when they let me. And sometimes that plays havoc with the story! Do yours behave or run wild?

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into your story? I always have subplots because my characters demand it. I also think it makes the story more real and in-depth if things are going on between characters that impact and enhance the main plot. It might be a romance with sub-characters or a situation with a car that causes problems to make Renni’s life more difficult, but also helps show her faults and foibles and/or that of other characters.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? My Ed Benson character is patterned off my brother-in-law, with his blessing. But he did go from being a middle-aged white guy to a billionaire inventor who is the spitting image of Morgan Freeman (again, with Ed’s blessing) because that’s what the character wanted.

What kind of research do you do? I do a ton of research. With Bad Carma, I need to have a selection of cars to restore and know what kinds of equipment I’d find and how they’d be used in a restoration shop. For my books, because they all have some historical plotlines, I do a lot of historical research to find out what was happening when the car was being made or the era the romance is set in. I like to know interesting facts that I can use (sparingly!) in the story to give my readers a little tidbit they won’t have known. My favorite tidbit in An Unsinkable Love was that the Titanic had floor tiles that were more expensive than marble – a new product called Linoleum!

Where do you place your settings – real or fictional locations? I generally have settings in the west, around the Four Corners area, because I know those places from spending my life living there or camping and traveling around there. But Unsinkable was set on the Titanic and in the New England garment manufacturing district, so I don’t feel obligated to use any particular place except what works for the story.

 

Why did you choose to have a female classic car restorer as your protagonist in the Bad Carma Mysteries? I’ve always loved old cars, especially those pre-1950, and think that perhaps if I had my life to do over, I might have been Renni! Then I could work on the cars instead of just going to as many car shows and auctions as I can and check out the intricate details on the older cars. My research has uncovered hundreds of potential vehicles to use in my stories, and I find more all the time. The Divco delivery van pictured is what Renni drives to shows and is based on one owned by a guy here in town who let me climb around it and lent me a book on the Divco history. Renni hitches it to a custom-made “Jim Dandy” teardrop trailer. I found the plans for the trailer online and was intrigued because it has an ahead-of-its-time swing away hitch, allowing the kitchen area to be at the front of the trailer rather than the rear like most do. The 1950’s era Mercedes Gullwing pictured is just an amazingly beautiful car and will be featured in a future Bad Carma.

 

Do you have any advice for new writers? Learn everything you can about craft. Join writer groups. Find a critique group. Don’t try to do this alone. It’s more fun, you will be a better writer faster, and you’ll make friends that understand the angst of writing.

Where can our readers learn more about you and where to buy your books?

 My website: https://www.terribensonwriter.com/

My books are available at:

 Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Terri-Benson/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3ATerri+Benson

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pickup-artist-terri-benson/1140930664?ean=9781956615029

As well as most book distributors.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Michael A, Black

    Terri, you certainly have a unique method for coming up with names. I tend to avoid cemeteries as much as I can. Bad mojo for me. I love going to those old car shows, too. I’ll keep an eye out for your books.

    Reply

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KAYE GEORGE – Cozy, Traditional Mystery, and PREHISTORIC

Kaye George, an award-winning novelist and short-story writer, writes cozy and traditional mysteries and a prehistory series, which are both traditionally and self-published: two cozy series, Fat Cat and Vintage Sweets; two traditionals featuring Cressa Carraway and Imogene Duckworthy; and the People of the Wind prehistory Neanderthal mysteries,  Over 50 short stories have also appeared, mostly in anthologies and magazines. She reviews for Suspense Magazine and writes a column for Mysterical-E. She lives in Knoxville, TN.

Do you write in more than one genre? Kind of, but not really? Most of my writing is mystery, but I work in different sub-genres. I’ve had contracts for two 3-book cozy series and have a couple of other series that are more traditional. And my prehistory series, which doesn’t really fit anywhere, but I call it historical if I have to slot it somewhere. I have done a few horror short stories, but not many.

What are you currently working on? I finished up a psychological suspense novel, which is a huge departure for me. I read a lot in the genre and have wanted to write one for some time. So, I did it! It’s taken me a long time because I lay it down, do another project, and then return to it. I hope to be querying soon. It would be ideal if I could snag a new agent with this since I’m between agents.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? I have to give a lot of credit to the Guppies chapter of Sisters in Crime. The critique groups, manuscript swaps, and especially the subsidized online classes have given me so much! I gave back for a few years, serving as treasurer, then president. I’m back to just being a member now—very restful.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Not long for the very first one, but that one will never see the light of day. I started on one that got me published after working on a specific one for about ten years. It took about a year to write CHOKE, my first published book, because, by that time, I had learned how to write a mystery. The ten-year book did get published, but the publisher failed, and it’s now languishing until I can find a new home for it. That one was called EINE KLEINE MURDER, but I’d like to change that title if it has a rebirth somewhere.

How long to get it published? The one I worked on for ten years got published a couple of years after the one I wrote in frustration at not getting published in 2011. That one was my first one, CHOKE. However, I jumped at a publisher when I should have been a little more selective. I ended up taking it back and self-publishing it a year later, in 2012. EINE KLEINE came out inf 2013.

What kind of research do you do? For regular books, I research the geography and weather of the area, sunset and sunrise times, too, at least. A whole lot more on occasion for a specific project. I often base a fictitious town on a real one, but I’ll use the real things about the real town. Of course, I research all my murder methods, police procedures, and body trauma. For police and forensics, the Citizens’ Police Academy I took in Austin was a valuable experience.

But for my Neanderthal series, tons and tons and tons of research. I try to keep up with new theories and discoveries, and there have been many of those over the past few years. Fans of that series have been wonderful about keeping an eye out and informing me of new developments, too. It takes me a full year to write one of those. I can write a book in other sub-genres in 9 or 10 months. I’m not a fast writer!

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? The long-awaited third Neanderthal mystery, DEATH IN THE NEW LAND, is finally out on July 10th. I’m very excited to have finally finished this!

How do our readers contact you?

PUBLIC FACEBOOK GROUPS:

 

5 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Wow, Kaye, what a unique idea for a series. It’s got to be a first. Good luck and keep an eye out for those Crow Magnons.

    Reply
    • Kaye George

      I do think this is the only pre-history mystery series. There is other pre-history fiction, but not mysteries. THANK YOU! I’ll be careful!

      Reply
  2. Vicki Batman

    very nice, Kaye and George. vb

    Reply
    • Kaye George

      Thanks, Vicki!

      Reply
  3. Kaye George

    Thanks for the interview today, George! Those are some good questions!

    Reply

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MARTHA CRITES – Protagonist Brings Mental Health To Readers

Martha Crites worked as a mental health counselor for many years. When she decided to write novels, she gave her protagonist another position in the same field. Martha’s two traditional mysteries, Grave Disturbance and Danger to Others, feature Grace Vaccaro, a psychiatric evaluator who determines when a person must be hospitalized against their will.

Danger to Others – October in the Pacific Northwest foothills brings more than a change of season. Psychiatric evaluator Grace Vaccaro is on edge. A field evaluation gone wrong leads to a shooting, Grace’s mother has died, and ghosts from her family past are everywhere. When a young woman says she killed her therapist, Grace suspects it’s delusion and sets out to prove her innocent. Then Laurel escapes from a locked unit, and suspicions abound.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My writing is very personal; both setting and plot start from real places. Because privacy is so important in mental health, patients’ stories only give general inspiration. But Harborview Medical Center, Seattle’s old county hospital built in the 1920s, is a rich location. The place is full of odors, basement corridors, and patched together buildings added every few decades. I set scenes everywhere, from the emergency room to psychiatric units, to the morgue. I’m also in love with the Pacific Northwest. Many months a year, the dark and dripping rain strike the perfect mood for mystery. When I first began writing, I had just moved from a rural area to the city. I missed the country and its connection to the natural world, so I set the story in the very house where I used to live. Each day, I could go there in my mind and pull out details that deepened the story. For my third novel, I’m using May as the setting. There will still be plenty of storms but a large dose of hope and rebirth.

What kind of research do you do? Danger to Others explores the difference between the old state hospitals and modern treatment of mental illness—both with their own strengths and weaknesses. Research led me to this story. Writing is never easy for me, but often enough, when I need a plot turn, I find the solution in the news within days. With Danger to Others, I was making progress on the main plot and thought, “I really need a subplot.” By the weekend, the newspaper ran an article about Washington’s Northern State Hospital, a mental institution that closed in 1973.

This was a subplot with my name written all over it. As I was about to save the article for inspiration, I realized just how meaningful the topic was—my father’s mother had died in a state hospital before I was born. Families didn’t talk about mental illness back then. All I’d been told was that she’d had a brain tumor. In my work life, from time to time, when I saw a patient with a brain tumor showing confusion or personality change, I thought, maybe that’s what happened to my grandmother, but my father would never speak of it. So my subplot sent me into research mode.

First, I read every book and watched every movie dealing with historic treatment of mental illness—far more than would ever be incorporated into my writing. I was also fortunate to have the diaries of an aunt that revealed a few mentions of her treatment. Next, I visited Northern State Hospital, where a trail winds through the old dairy farm that supplied food and gave patients meaningful work. The mysterious, collapsing buildings set in the shadow of the North Cascades Mountains inspired several scenes.

At the same time, I sent for my grandmother’s death certificate and learned that there had been no brain tumor. Sadly, she died of a heart attack just 19 days after admission to the hospital. Her death was likely the result of the Insulin Shock Therapy she received. Though it reportedly helped with symptoms, the treatment was so physically hard on patients that its use was discontinued by the 1960s. You can see a portrayal of it in the film, A Beautiful Mind, with Russell Crowe as mathematician John Nash.

My grandmother’s diagnosis was late-onset psychosis, meaning she’d led a normal life. Then and now, families struggle to understand what happens when a loved one experiences mental health problems—especially in a world where mental illness is stigmatized. This springboard for my subplot was fictionalized in Danger to Others. In fiction, my sleuth found people with answers to her questions. Answers don’t exist in my life but resolving my protagonist’s questions satisfied me too. My writing journey led me to learn about my grandmother and how her history, without my knowing, might have led to my career in mental health.

Danger to Others is particularly close to my heart because as I began writing, I realized that what many people know about mental illness and its treatment is based on faulty information. Thus began my mission to humanize people we might find scary or funny in daily life. I aim to decrease the stigma of mental illness by writing fully developed characters who also experience mental illness, all while telling a good story.

My books are available on Amazon and other online sources, or please support your favorite bookstore by requesting it.

Please visit me:

  • On my website where you can contact me or sign up for my newsletter.
  • On Facebook
  • On Instagram @marthacrites.author
  • Or Twitter @critesmartha

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like it’s a great place for a mystery, Martha. I got anxious just reading your description. Good luck with your writing and keep on helping those in need.

    Reply

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DOUG VINCENT – Debuts Child Book

Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and now settled in San Jose, California, with his wife Jennifer and daughter Jasmine, Doug Vincent is a high-tech security professional, small business owner, and now a children’s book author! Doug and his family are active in the community and work hard to influence positive change. Writing these books is another way to accomplish that objective.

Why did I write the book? I wrote this book to help parents start the discussion about important qualities needed to be successful in life. Confidence in your thoughts, words, and appearance is essential, and I wanted to write something to help.

     

What are you currently working on? I am currently working on the second book, Happiness Is Key To A Stronger Me, which I hope will be ready by Fall 2022.

How long to get it published? I self-published Confidence Is Key To A Stronger Me, and it took one year. (October 2020 to October 2021.) I hoped it would have been faster but learned that there was more to the process than anticipated.

Visit Doug at https://www.booksbydougv.com

Confidence Is Key To A Stronger Me can be found on Amazon. Amazon.com: doug vincent confidence is key to a stronger me

Hardcover can be found on Barnes and Noble online.

 

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Love the title, Doug. It’s great that you’re instilling confidence in young children. Good luck with your next book.

    Reply

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