Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Military Writers Society of America

Hi everyone,

MWSA is an organization dedicated to supporting writers who are active military, veterans, military and veteran families, historians, journalists, poets, children's authors -- anyone interested in writing about the broader topics that impact our world. We like the smaller more personal topics as well. Founded by Vietnam Veteran Bill McDonald, MWSA aspires to do what other writing groups can't or don't -- support writers in all phases of their careers -- from wannabe to novice to working to established. We believe that the more an author puts into the organization, the more valuable the membership is to him/her. For that reason, we will be introducing a variety of activities designed to inspire, encourage, promote and recognize works that advance the career of the individual and enhance the reputation of MWSA and all of its members.

We now offer:
  • Monthy Newsletter that includes announcements, opportunities, member contributions, and news.
  • Free bookstore for members to show/sell their books.
  • MWSA reviews that can be used to promote books.
  • MWSA awards program
  • MWSA People's Choice Award program
  • MWSA Bucks
  • MWSA 50/50 Raffle Fundraiser -- Drawing -- -- Sept. 12, 2009 -- 9am EST
  • MWSA Book Awards Announcement -- -- Sept. 12, 2009 -- 9am EST
  • MWSA Conference and Award Banquet -- Westin Imagine Orlando, Orlando FL Oct 9-11th, 2009
  • MWSA OPEN MIC Oct 9, 2009 -- 6 - 8pm -- Westin Imagine Orlando -- broadcast live streaming video
  • MWSA Bucks Auction -- Oct 11th, 2009 -- 11am ---- Westin Imagine Orlando -- broadcast live streaming video
  • And much much more.

I'm looking forward to an exciting event in Orlando, FL. If you are interested in MWSA, contact me at


Friday, March 21, 2008


When Pat Avery and I first met the nine men featured our new book, Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors, we knew right away that they were special human beings. Oh sure, knowing their history made them interesting subjects. Being POWs in Korea almost 60 years ago is bad enough -- but these guys had survived the unthinkable -- a massacre. They'd watched their buddies fall to the ground, screaming for their mommas. They were shot, bayoneted, bludgeoned -- and left for dead with the bodies of their friends.I wondered how the experience had effected them. I wondered how they dealt with their memories.

I knew I'd respect them long before I met them. I already felt sorry for their ordeal. What I didn't expect was to care about them so much.

By the time that Pat and I finished Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors, we knew more about sorrow, anger, hatred, hunger, and torture than we wanted. The aftermath was equally hard to bear. We heard about the times they'd screwed up -- the drinking, the fighting, the women, the difficulty they had in holding down jobs. Their wives told us about their tempers, their troubled sleep, their jumpiness.

Writing their stories was disturbing too. I spent many a night sobbing over the manuscript for the boys these men had been. However, there can be no up if there is no down. Hearing about the ugliness was the price that Pat and I paid to know these incredible people. We learned about grit and determination and spirit and hope. We saw that even after falling again and again -- these guys continued to get up and try. We learned how those qualities kept Ed and Bob and Jim and Walt and Valdor and Bill and Allen and Sherman and George alive in Korea -- and how the same courage kept them reaching for happiness since their return.

This is a picture of me and Sherman Jones. He was the most seriously injured of the survivors during the massacre. He was shot in the face, side, and leg. One foot was partially amputated. Sherman endured many surgeries on his face to give him some quality of life. He's very bright, but obviously there was some degree of brain damage and he gets over excited in exciting situations. He has no emotional brakes. When he's happy, he's happy..when he's mad, he's MAD..when he loves you, he loves completely. We call him the hugger and plan events with 15 minutes of welcoming hugs beforehand and 15 minutes of goodbye hugs at the end. We worry about him, love him and are grateful that he's still with us. He's a blessing...

They all are.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Brain Infection

My little sister is...well, there's really no other word for it...a character. Perhaps it's because my mother meant to name her that fine old Irish appellation, "Maeve," but Mama's synapses misfired that day and she accidentally called her middle daughter "Maeva."

A precocious child, Maeva established herself with authority by rolling off a bed at the ripe old age of six weeks. That early mishap was a precurser of things to come. She has a long string of ...well, shall we say, misadventures ... to her credit. There's the time that she got thrown off of her bicycle up onto the Y shaped prongs on top of a chain length fence -- resulting in an ugly gash to her chin. There was also the time that she was helping our dad unload a sewing machine from a truck. It fell out of the crate and hit her in the head. At the hospital, the attending physician asked her how she got hurt and she said, "I got hit in the head with a sewing machine." The man tied a knot in the suture and took a deep breath before saying, "Just jumped right up there and hit you, did it?"

Then there was the time that the light fixture fell off the ceiling and hit her in the head and the time that she pulled the fire alarm outside my dorm room at the University of Arkansas. The thing of it is -- it's always some strange quirk of fate, nothing that one could predict or avoid -- like the time she accidentally exposed herself to Missouri -- but I digress.

Maeva has a way with language -- like the time when we went to the drive-in movie and we were jostling for position in the back seat. She whined, "Da-ad, Joycie is sitting on both sides and spread out all over the middle." I think it's just that she gets caught up in the spirit of the moment, suddenly realizes that she's in over her head, and then tries to talk her way out. Chatting with Maeva is akin to conversing with Mr. Spock. It's fun but you have the feeling that you are dealing with someone from another planet.

Despite her penchant for disaster and her unfotunate command of the English language, Maeva grew up beautiful and shiny. There's really no one else like her in the world -- and I'm blessed to have her for a sister. Oh, I learned to stay out of her way -- just in case a stray lightning bolt should miss her and hit me or she should suddenly feel the need to explain why horseradish isn't made out of horses.

The thing that's hard for me to grasp at this point in my life is that Maeva is now a grandmother. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but there you have it. Her son Billy married a pretty young woman named Amanda and they had three children -- Kent, Gracie and Amos. Ever so often, Maeva sends me stories about her relationship with this adorable trio. Between their innocent chatter and Maeva's singular view of the world -- well, you can imagine. When I get her emails, I first go the bathroom. Then I go to the kitchen and pour myself a large glass of mint green tea. Then I check to make sure there are plenty of tissues in the Kleenex box before I finally sit down to read their latest adventures. I suggest that you do the same before you finish this blog.

This is the email that Maeva (known as Mimi to her grandchildren) sent me last week:

"I watched the kids last Friday after work and I took them home around 7:15 so that they could get in bed at 8:00. On the way, Kent and Grace were having this bizarre conversation.

Kent: Mimi, my dad won't let Gracie have a boyfriend until she is 20.
Gracie: I know. I really want to kiss a boy.
Kent: Yuck. I guess you will just have to be pregnant.
Gracie: I guess I will just have to be pregant. Kent, what does pregnant mean?
Kent: It means you don't have a boyfriend.
Mimi: Wait just a minute, that isn't what pregnant means.
Kent: What does it mean?
Mimi: It means that there is a baby growing in your tummy.
Kent: Gracie, you better not do that, Dad won't like it.
Gracie: Okay.
Kent: Mimi, I need to talk to you about something. I saw a guy on TV who lost his job and his girlfriend loved somebody else so he shot a bunch of people and killed himself. Why did he do that?
Mimi: (Mind was desperately searching for an answer) Oh, that guy had a brain infection.
Kent: Oh!
Gracie: OHHHHH!
Kent: Mimi, how do you get a brain infection?
Mimi: (Oh crap!) Well, it happens when you are really sad and ...
Kent: I have been really sad when my dog ran away and I cried and cried until I threw up....
Mimi: Oh, you didn't have a brain infection!
Kent: How do you know when someone has a brain infection?
Mimi: (why did I ever say brain infection) Well, they scream, cry, bang their heads against the wall and they don't recognize any of their family.
Kent: You mean like my dad wouldn't know who I was if he had a brain infection?
Mimi: Yes, but your dad does not have a brain infection.
Gracie: Mimi, does someone with a brain infection kidnap kids?
Mimi: Yep. (I am in so much trouble.)
Kent: I bet that if you had Jesus in your heart then you wouldn't get a brain infection.
Mimi: That is right.
Kent: I have Jesus in my heart. I love him more than my mom and dad.
Gracie: I love him more.
Mimi: That's right, if you have Jesus in your heart you never have to worry about whether you have a brain infection or not.
Kent: That is right.
Gracie: I think that those people with brain infections say, Grrrrrrr, I hate the world.
Amos: Grrrrr I hate the world.
Mimi: (Oh crap!)

Next day:
Amanda calls. She says that she took to the kids to Old Navy and on the way she went through the rules. No running, No screaming. No hiding from Momma. Kent interrupted her. Mom, you don't ever have to worry about me hiding from you again in a store. I am afraid of those people with the brain infections. Gracie pipes in, "me too." Amos, "I scared of the brain infection man". Amanda asks me if I have anything I want to explain.

Man, those kids will rat you out every time."

I told you to go the bathroom first, didn't I?

Saturday, January 26, 2008


I have a great niece that I've never met named Gracie. Her grandmother, my sister Maeva, often sends me pictures and stories about Gracie and her brothers. The photos make me smile and Gracie's many adventures make me laugh.

Gracie can’t read or write so she draws pictures. Last week, Gracie visited her grandmother at the office. As Maeva described it, "Gracie asked me if I know how to make cookies. I said kinda. She asked if I wanted her to write down the recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Attached is what she gave me. The large circle is dough, the 4 small circles are eggs and the 3 others are chocolate kisses."

Gracie's birthday was last week. She looked forward to the big day and kept everyone amused with her comments. Right before the big event, she stepped on a toy and went splat on the floor hitting her forehead on the doorjamb as she fell. The first thing she said was that it was going to ruin her 5 year old pictures.

Then, the night before when her mommy put her to bed, Gracie hollered, "Wait! You need to get a picture of me because this is the last time you will see me 4." Her amused mother thought that made sense and photographed the little darling holding up 4 fingers.

The next morning, Gracie woke shouting for her mom to hurry and take her picture because she was now 5. Then, she ran down the hall calling for her mother to bring a pencil so she could be measured and see how much she had grown overnight. Luckily, it had been 6 months and she had grown 3 ½ inches. She seemed very proud of this achievement and told her mother that now she could reach her toothbrush without the stool because she grew 3 ½ inches during night.

That's not all of Gracie's birthday saga, though. At her party that evening, Maeva said something to her rambunctious granddaughter about growing 3 1/2 inches overnight -- and Gracie started laughing. Seems that when her dad got home, he measured her again because it seemed like such a lot of growth in 6 months. Turns out, the mark was only 2 inches over her head. She started giggling and told her dad that she tricked her momma by standing on her tiptoes while being measured.

Don't ya jes love 5 year old humor?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Quarter's Worth of Fun

My son Nate recently married a beautiful young woman named Nora. Aside from being warm and loving, she makes me laugh – a lot.

Here’s an example of why.

I was just checking into the Holiday Inn Express in Elizabeth, NC when Nora text messaged me on my phone. “Did you find my coat?”

Me: “What coat?”

Nora: “My coat that Nate left in NC.”

Me: “Where did he leave it?”

Nora: “Dunno. Airport?”

I sat down on the bed and had a good laugh before I picked up my phone to text back.

Me: “Tell you what. I'll look for coat in NC if you find my quarter that I dropped in LA in 1965.”

Nora: “What's it look like?”

Me: “Round. Silver. Has pic of GW. circa 1964.”

Nora: “I'm going to Hollywood tonight. I'll look.”

Me: “Cool. I'll look for coat. What’s it look like?”

Nora: “Black.”

Me: “Sounds nice. When I find coat I might like it and want to keep it.”

Nora: “I might want a gumball.”

“What are you doing?” Johnny mumbled in his sleep.

“Texting with Nora.”

“Do it quieter.”

“Right.” I laid my phone down on the nightstand, turned out the lights and rolled over.

The next morning, I checked my messages before brushing my teeth. There was a picture message from Nora. I slipped into my clothes while I waited for it to load.

“Is this it?” She texted.

I squinted at a reddish photo of a star on the star walk. Something shiny and round lay in the center of it. It was unclear if it was a quarter or a beer bottle lid. I scrolled down.

“Guess not,” she added. “I’ll keep looking.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Johnny asked as he pulled on his socks.

I showed him the exchange of messages.

“I guess we need to look for coats while we are here,” he said.

Hours later, I sent Nora a picture of a boat in someone's drive way. “Is this it?”

Nora: “COAT not boat.”

Still later, I send her picture of a goat. Johnny and I snickered together before going to dinner with friends.

Weeks later, I received a text message from Nora with a picture of a quarter of undetermined vintage. “FOUND IT!”

Me. “Cool. I can’t wait to see it again. It’s been lost a long time.”

Recently, Nora sent me a package. Inside was a bright shiny new quarter circa 1964, silver with picture of GW.

I knew Nora was at work, but I couldn’t wait. I texted her. “Got my favorite quarter in mail.”

Nora: “Good. Was about to bust from secretkeeping.”

Me: “Where did you get it?”

Nora: “Bought from magnet man.”

Me: “Magnet man?”

Nora: “Man walking around town with magnets stuck to his head.”

Me: “Ah.” The next time I’m in Los Angeles I’ll request a personal meeting with magnet man. There’s bound to be a shriek there, if you know what I mean.

Nora: “He said to hold it by edges.”

Me: “Magnet man?”

Nora. “Yeah, he special ordered it.”

I bought a silver bezel to hold my shiny 1964 silver quarter that I dropped in LA in 1965 -- that showed up at my door in 2007 courtesy of my darling daughter-in-law Nora. I wear it on a silver chain around my neck. What a great keepsake.

I'm still looking for Nora’s coat that Nate left in North Carolina. My friend Larry Wikoff is keeping an eye out in case it shows up in Raleigh. My other friend Lloyd King offered to look for it in Lafayette, Louisiana too. I’ve got Pennsylvania covered, but if anyone happens to see a stray black coat please contact me. It gets cold in Los Angeles, you know.
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