History and Highlights from the Military Writer’s Conference 2017

Recently, the Military Writer’s Society had their annual Book Conference and Awards Banquet in San Antonio, Texas. What is it about a conference that brings you back motivated, energized and ready to write?  Networking!IMG_2475

The MWSA is chocker-block full of fantastic talent.  A group made up of active and retired military, military buffs, historians, writers, poets, and educators. The group spans several generations.  The youngest author?  A lovely, young, military dependent all of age 12, Grace Remey! There were representatives from World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq.  Navy, Army, and Air Force.  What a collection of talent in one room.

The program’s theme was World War I this time, but there were presentations not only relating to history, but panel discussions and “how-to”s.  I was lucky enough to serve on a panel discussing Social Media and its impact on book marketing and networking.  Members included MWSA Awards Director, John Cathcart; award winning author Jack Woodville London; historian Dana Tibbetts and was moderated by MWSA board member Valerie Ormond.  Valerie, a retired naval officer is one of AgeView Press’s Valerie Ormond Belle of Steel.IMG_2483

Set at a historic and supposedly haunted hotel, The Menger, the locale was a perfect backdrop for a conference group that loves history.  The Menger sits directly across from the Alamo.  Many famous authors have written at The Menger such as Robert Frost and Oscar Wilde.  One couldn’t help but be inspired, not only by the architecture but the hotel’s grandeur and reputation.

The three day event provided a service program to veterans at San Antonio Medical Center.  “Telling your Story” focused on writing as therapy for PTSD.  Just gives you chills doesn’t it?  While there, a load of books from writers of the MWSA were donated.   One of the most popular talks was given on anthologies, which are collections of stories, either by one author, one subject or multiple authors.  Examples and standards of how to run a writer’s group were also a part of that presentation by Navy pilot Jim Tritten and Pat Walkow from the Corrales Writing Group of New Mexico. IMG_2486

On Saturday, the premier event was the 2017 MWSA Book Awards.  There were approximately 79 books submitted for scrutinization and review.  Many didn’t make the cut. A select few made the lists as finalists.  Awards of gold, silver or bronze medals were awarded based on strict criterion.  One of my books, Eternally at War was awarded the bronze medal in the category of memoir.  Admist this room of excellence, I was humbled. IMG_2502

If you have an interest in the military and writing, this is definitely a group you should check out.  Warm, welcoming, and advisory – they uphold a superior standard of literature.

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Touching the Face of God – meet pilot and aviation writer Ray Haas

Ray Haas at the John Gillespie Memorial

Touching greatness in aviation!

As a lover of aviation, one of my favorite poems is High Flight, by WWII pilot John Gillespie Magee, Jr.  How amazing that his beautiful words are spoken at almost every winging ceremony across the world?  That they are featured in Arlington National Cemetery.  The poem truly resonates with those who know the joy of flight.  I am very excited to share an interivew with Ray Haas, who is turning John’s story not only into a book, but a movie as well.  Can’t wait!

Ray Haas has written plenty in his life. However, it has all been in personal journals, small essays, and software. “Touching the Face of God” is his first official public offering, but certainly not the last. Aviation is certainly Ray’s passion, followed closely by speculative fiction. He is actively working on projects in both genres.

Ray currently lives in eastern North Carolina, having moved there from Portland, Oregon due to requirements of his day-job. He hopes to someday make it so that his writing eventually becomes his day-job!

Starting his professional career by washing windows, Ray enlisted in the Navy and became first an Electronics Technician, and then a Data Processing Technician. On a Navy research & development project, Ray worked on the first non-tactical shipboard-based computer. Getting his first email account in 1976, Ray started a career that lasts to the present day.

Also in 1976 Ray started taking flying lessons, first learning how to fly a sailplane. After earning his Private Pilot’s License (Gliders – aero-two), Ray went on to obtain his Single-Engine Land (SEL) and Instrument (IFR) ratings. Ray was the proud owner of a Piper Warrior for several years.

What sparked off the idea of your book?

I have always been interested in aircraft and flying. Growing up in the late 50s and 60s, I was entranced with the space program, and really wanted to become an astronaut. That dream was dashed when I found out that my extreme near-sightedness would prevent me from becoming a military pilot, which at that time was the only ticket to flying into space.

Another interest I had early on is in WWII, particularly the early part. Linked with my interest in aircraft and flying, the models I build tended to be of those used in WWII; both fighters and bombers. Of particular interest was the Battle of Britain, which occurred during the summer of 1940.

I had also wanted to be a writer of books and screenplays. I had always thought that there should be a “reboot” of the classic 1969 movie, “The Battle of Britain.” I started doing research about that period of time, and came across the poem, “High Flight.” I had heard the poem recited during the TV sign-off films during the 60s and 70s, and had read it several times while becoming a glider pilot in the 70s. While doing my research, I thought I would track down the exact wording of the poem as well as the story of its author, since there seemed to be a considerable amount of discrepancy in both.

Even with the somewhat limited Internet search capabilities of the time, I was able to start finding out many details about John Gillespie Magee, Jr. and his famous poem. The further I dug, the more fascinating a story it became. And though there had been a couple of books and articles published about Magee, I thought that these barely covered the surface story.

And so, the Battle of Britain story was moved to the back burner, and the Magee/High Flight story became paramount. I started research in earnest in 1990, and it took 24 years to finally feel that I could release the results of a tremendous amount of work! I will eventually get back to the Battle of Britain project, since I believe that that particular battle was the single most important battle of WWII.

Which character, if any, most resembles your personality?

Frankly, I identify (not surprisingly, I suppose) with John Magee. We’re both pretty smart, both pilots, both very stubborn, and both of us were in the military. I have always been somewhat of a rebel, and know what it’s like to be a “peacock among pigeons” (a phrase used to describe Magee). I can learn things quite quickly, as did Magee. I’m not nearly as smart as he was, and don’t have his gift of expression, but I do feel a certain kinship with him. I would’ve like to have known him.

Which character was the hardest to write and why?

I guess I had a bit of difficulty writing about Magee’s relationship with Elinor Lyon. Elinor was the Headmaster’s daughter that John fell in love with. But it was a case of unrequited love. I was actually able to communicate with Elinor and learned the true story from her directly. So it was hard to say that, on the one hand, John laboured long and hard to return to England and Elinor, but on the other hand, Elinor was not too receptive of his advances. Although… I truly think that given more time, Magee might have been able to win her over.

How do you plan/research your books?Touching the Face of God

There was never any real plan; the book really grew organically. At first I was going to write a screenplay, and then an A&E style documentary. I finally accumulated so much data that I thought that it would be a shame not to make it into a book, with the added advantage that the book could be used as a “bible” for the eventual making of a feature film and/or documentary. Only in the last year or so did I truly began to put everything else aside and concentrate of getting the book done.

Research also evolved over the years. I started with an article published in the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) magazine, which lead me to Hermann Hagedorn’s 1942 Magee biography (“Sunward I’ve Climbed”), which lead me to an entire range of research leads. I have worked with computers since 1976, so using the Internet & email was a natural thing for me. In the beginning the great search tool was AltaVista, eventually supplanted by Google. I found that more content was added to the Internet every day… so research became a daily practice (what is here today might not have been here yesterday, still true to this day). Simply put, the book would not have been possible without the Internet & email.

Another tool I used extensively was GoogleMaps. I was able to see detailed maps of areas, and also use StreetView to take a look at some of these places.

The final element that brought everything together was the discovery (through the Internet!) of the John Gillespie Magee Family Papers collection at the Yale Divinity Library. It was truly the “mother lode.” I spent five days scanning over 1,800 documents there, and goodness knows how long I spent in organizing all that data. I think it really “made” the book, as I was able to include photographs, quote letters, and so many other things that would have not been possible before. True source data.

 What are you working on at the moment?

I self-published the book, so I had to take off my author’s hat and put on the marketing hat. There’s so much to learn about this stuff!

I am also working on getting the book made into a feature film. It is such a great story that I strongly feel that it will attract some interest. And that is another area I need to learn about: how to get the work in front of those who make decisions about such things.

The Battle of Britain project has come off the back burner; not completely, but enough for the moment. I’ve got two books I would like to adapt for film, plus a couple of original screenplays.

Do you write for any websites?

Just my own:

Do you prefer to read paperbacks or ebooks? Why?

These days I prefer ebooks on my Kindle. I tend to read a bunch of books simultaneously, and it’s nice to have them all in my Kindle. But I still love paper books… there’s something about them that is in my blood. Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon remains one of my favourite places… just going through the stacks and leafing through books remains a wonderful experience.

Favorite book as a child and as an adult?

Well… I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books. Hard to pick out a favourite… Let’s see… as a child, I think “Dune” by Frank Herbert (which I read mostly under the covers by flashlight, no wonder I was extremely near-sighted!).

As an adult? Yikes… I’m tempted to break it down into fiction/non-fiction… but I’ll just say “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert Heinlein.

 Whom do you admire and why?

  • James Cameron, for being a genius, an innovator and being always true to himself. My dream is to work with Cameron and turn my favourite adult book (shown above) into a movie… filmed, of course, on location (the Moon).
  • Anthony Robbins, for his audacity, compassion, and gift of being able to communicate what he has learned to the rest of us.
  • Robert Heinlein, one of my spiritual fathers, for taking me to worlds in my imagination, but also giving me some extremely good advice for day-to-day living.
  • Richard Bach, another of my spiritual guides. There are few people I have felt quite as connected to as Richard.

 Name three people, dead or alive, you would invite to dinner. Why?

  • John Gillespie Magee, Jr. I think that John Magee had to have been a very interesting person to know. He was extraordinarily intelligent, well-travelled, and had a curiosity about the world that he lived in.
  • Robert Heinlein, for reasons detailed above.
  • I’d say Richard Bach, but I’ve actually had dinner with Richard, so that doesn’t count…
  • Tom Hanks. Another very intelligent and talented individual. He and I have quite a bit in common.

Now, enjoy a couple of excerpts from this amazing book! 

In the first excerpt, John is trying to decide whether or not he should attend Yale, or travel to Canada and join the Royal Canadian Air Force. John has been granted a generous scholarship to Yale, based on his record high scores in the Classics admission examination. And although he had, for all practical purposes, already made up his mind, it was felt that John should meet with Yale President Charles Seymour, if only to explain why John would not be attending Yale that year.

The indented & italicized sections are from a letter that President Seymour wrote to John’s father after the meeting.
John did indeed meet with President Seymour. In a letter written to John’s father, Seymour explains what happened during the meeting:

He [John Jr.] came in this morning and again this afternoon after lunch. He told me that he had practically reached the decision last night in his own mind, but that he did not want to make it final until he had talked to me. He was extremely courteous in expressing the hope that I did not feel that he was belittling the opportunity offered by Yale in admitting him. He said that the decision would have to be his own but that he would be grateful if I could throw any new light on his problem which might lead him to alter the decision he had reached.

Charles Seymour himself had been educated in England and might have had a good grasp of what John was struggling with.

In all honesty I had to tell him that this was a personal problem which he would have to decide himself, that in general I thought that young men in his position, or in positions similar to his, would do greater service if they accepted the educational opportunity offered, but that if his inclination against college at this time was so strong that he count not concentrate happily upon his work here, I on my side could not urge him to undertake it. He said that after balancing all the factors, he was quite clear that he would not be happy this year in New Haven and that the only peace of mind he could find would be by seeking his commission in Canada…

John seems to have decided to hedge his bet, and try to leave the door to Yale open:

He went on to say that he had also decided that it would be better for him to ultimately come to Yale rather than to go to Oxford, and he asked what arrangements could be made for admission in a later year. I advised him that if he had definitely made up his mind he should inform the Chairman of the Board of Admissions that he wished to defer matriculation and that later, when the opportunity offered, he should apply again for admission. In the circumstances such admission would be certain to be granted.

President Seymour then presented his final analysis of the conversation, as well as an apology to John Sr. for not making a more concerted effort to persuade John Jr. to attend Yale:

I was so taken with him and his approach to his problem that I am deeply disappointed in a personal sense that apparently he is not to be with us, but there can be no question of the depth of his feeling. I think that it is entirely likely that he would be unhappy here under present conditions…

I can understand your own feelings with regard to the immediate future of your boy. I hope that you will not feel that I let you down in not bringing the strongest sort of pressure to bear upon him, but in all conscience I believe that this is the kind of problem which can only be settled by the man himself.

Amidst all this conflicted opinion and in the pressure of seeing his adopted homeland viciously attacked, John made up his mind suddenly and finally: he had to return to England.

John had decided to give up a generous scholarship to Yale, give up the relative safety of his family and of the United States, and to go into harm’s way.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr., age 18, was going to war.

Get your copy of “Touching the Face of God” today!

 

 

 

Confirmed by Colbert: Amazon does rip off authors!

This blog post is an update to a story on my blog written over two years ago regarding the inaccuracy of Amazon’s reporting of sales to authors.  It seems that even authors published through traditional publishing, not just us Indie folks, have been affected.  Just ask Emmy award winning TV journalist Stephen Colbert!  Watch the video –>  Stephen Colbert Amazon vs Hachette

stephen colbert takes on Amazon

So let’s get this right, Amazon!

I have a list over over 150 authors who have contacted me regarding this subject. Story, after story, after story of Amazon and CreateSpace inaccurately reporting sales. I personally have experienced it with all three of my books loaded onto CreateSpace through our small press, AgeView. I have, as many of you do, copies of receipts from friends who have bought the books; screen shots of their verified purchases, yet the sales never showed up. And let’s not even begin to talk about Amazon’s “expanded distribution.”

What a joke!!! My award winning Flying Solo trilogy is in over twenty countries, but do you think I have ever seen a fraction of the sales through “expanded distribution” reporting? Hell no!  Don’t get me started!  Most recently, I have heard about Amazon’s fake book companies that “resell” your used book!

That is why many Indie writers, including the authors recently signed with AgeView, have decided to circumvent the dragon. We use Amazon only for what we have to. Afterall, over 50% of all book sales are through Amazon, so one really doesn’t have much choice. But any other stuff, like expanded distribution, goes through Lightning Source (which is part of Ingram) for print and BookBaby for ebooks. Forget the KDP rip off. Another Amazon scam.

So, thank you! Thank you! God bless you Stephen Colbert for posting your experiences and multiple disgruntlements with Amazon on TV to a very captive audience. Continue to shout about it from the roof tops. And when you are ready, contact us ! Our small coalition of Indie writers will band together for a class action lawsuit to take on the giant. Or at least tarnish them a little with mass media!

stephen colbert shoots Amazon the bird

Take that Amazon!  (photo courtesy of Comedy Central)

Please reblog this story everywhere. Facebook it. Google plus it!  And “link” it in! Maybe, just maybe the Associated Press or Oprah will pick up it. Add your email and comments to our list if this atrocity has happened to you. Because if you are an author, you know it has!

A cheeky UK hockey player tells dragon tales! Meet Paul Cude

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Turning cheeky for kids!

Turning cheeky for kids!

I look after my two girls, and when they’re at school I’m a teaching assistant. I love playing hockey, and help coach kids, mine included. Other interests include reading, building computers, squash, cycling, great days out with my wonderful wife and kids, as well of course as WRITING! I’m currently editing my second book in the series. This one is called  ‘Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation’.

 What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I suppose my sense of humour. I always try and look on the bright side of anything, and I’d much rather be laughing than crying. It’s always lovely to see my kids laugh, and be rather cheeky at times…….although I’d never really tell them that. My sense of humour is interspersed throughout my book…….look out for the giant grinning spider.

 What made you want to be a writer?

Oddly it just happened. Sounds a bit crazy really, but one night, when my eldest daughter was just a baby (she’s not far off 11 now) I had the single most realistic dream I’ve ever had. I didn’t remember it until the following day, but when I did, I swear it was just like watching a movie in my head…..so graphic, so intense, so…..mesmerising. Anyhow, I told my wife, who was gobsmacked to say the least. And so was what she said to me, “You have to write it, you just have to.” At the time I just laughed off her idea, bearing in mind that at the time I could only type with two fingers. But over a period of I suppose months, I kept getting more dreams, flashbacks into the story…….sometimes little details, sometimes insights into the characters, sometimes twists and turns to do with the plot. In the end I suppose looking back it was inevitable that I would write it. First I taught myself to type properly…..3 months, and then, well………..I began. At first I needed complete silence to be able to write, something there wasn’t a lot of bearing in mind I was taking care of one young child, with another on the way. But over time I’ve learned to filter it all out and can now write with the kids playing around me if I need to, but I still think I do work more efficiently in total silence. It has taken a long time, and I was surprised how hard and crucial the editing  process was. But in the end it was most definitely worth it.

The most surprising part of all though, is that sometimes…the words just flow out of you, almost as if it were supposed to be that way. On occasions, I’ve sat down to write for half an hour or an hour, and in the blink of an eye, over two hours have passed, and I’ve written three or four times the amount I was aiming for. It’s a little bit spooky, in a good way, but wonderful and rewarding at the same time. I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

 How did you come up with the title?

The whole story came to me in a dream one night, and in the dream, I could see the main character in his dragon form, with this very clear marking of a bent whistle, etched on his scales……hence his name…..Peter Bentwhistle. Whenever I think of him, that’s the first thing that pops into my head. As for the ‘threat from the past’, that’s more about the opening part of the book, that in my mind loops around and connects to the very ending, while still leaving a few unanswered questions for the readers to think about. All will be revealed, some bits in the not too distant future.

 What do you do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing I like to either spend time with my wife and children, or play hockey. A day at the beach down in Swanage or Hengistbury Head followed by a meal out on the way back sounds perfect. If not that, a family bike ride somewhere or a walk in the New Forest. I do love a game of hockey with my friends at Salisbury hockey club, but as I get older it’s much harder to do on a regular basis. I help coach my kids and other children every Sunday morning though, and still try to get to men’s training weekly. Playing squash weekly with an old friend, helps me get through the week. (He’s mentioned in the book.)

What was your favorite part of the book to write? Why?

My favorite part to write was easily the second to last chapter……….’Fawking Hell!!!!!’ As you may have gathered from the chapter title, it has something to do with bonfire night. This whole chapter had been in my head for years before I started writing it, and given that it’s around twenty-two thousand words long, I absolutely whizzed through it. It was a pleasure to write, and the words just zipped out of my head and on to the screen. I could genuinely see every little detail of what happens. Twists and turns abound in that chapter, and it includes a graphic fight scene, which ends in a most unexpected way. It’s easily my favorite part of the book, and just thinking about it sends goose bumps down both of my arms.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Well, I’ve only just finished writing my follow up book….’Bentwhistle The Dragon in A Chilling Revelation’, and before any editing it’s just over 215, 000 words long, considerably longer than the previous one. It picks up pretty much from where the first book left off. Only in this one, things get much……..chillier. Quite literally. There’s another tale from the nursery ring (where dragons grow up), related to something that happens much further on in the book. Old and new characters alike feature in what I think is an adventure even more action packed throughout. We come across the mysterious nagas, for good or bad, and we learn a little bit more about the background and living conditions of the king, as well as discovering that he’s far from past his sell by date. There’s much more dragon and human team sport. Tank, one of Peter’s friends, even gets to play a whole detailed game of rugby, in a much similar vein to Peter’s hockey match in the first book. Plus more death defying laminium ball matches, this time in the league, rather than the global cup, with the Indigo Warriors perhaps biting off a little bit more than they can chew. Some of the action here is truly EXPLOSIVE! (A clue, methinks…) The characters, new and old alike, reveal a little bit more about themselves, with something for everyone. The new places visited include Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Egypt, USA, and of course the underground world of the dragon domain. My warped sense of humour still features in places of course. Watch out especially for two of the King’s Guards in the early part of the book, that are particularly good value on that front. Other than that, there’s not much more I can tell you without giving away some of the plot, which of course I’m reluctant to do.

How and where can my readers purchase your books?Bentwhistle

Currently my book can be found for free at Smashwords, in all formats, or can be purchased in either paperback or kindle version from Amazon

The Goodreads page for my book can be found here

Keep up with Paul Cude on facebook here

Or on twitter @paul_cude

Or his website to support the book www.bentwhistlethedragon.co.uk.  In addition, blog www.thesoberhockeyplayer.co.uk which provides further insight into his creations and author interviews.

 

 

Belle of Steel #10 Captain Valerie Ormond, USN (Ret.)

What would it be like to be aboard a floating city of men? Essentially , a men’s only club, where the sign reads “No Girls Allowed.”  Retired Navy Captain Valerie Ormond knows. She was among the first female naval intelligence officers aboard a combat ship for the United States Navy. One of very few women aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

All aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln

All aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln

An aircraft carrier’s crew consists of the ship’s company, those permanently assigned to the ship, and  the air wing personnel, who come on when the air wing is deployed. Normally, the air wing comes aboard for training, work ups, and deployments. The total ship’s company is normally around 3200.  The air wing totals about 2400. Therefore, the total personnel on board a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is usually over 5500 people. In addition, there are others that are not part of the ship’s company.  These peeps consist of NCIS agents, contractors, teachers, the Admiral’s staff, and the like. Some interesting factoids on the USS Abraham Lincoln and photos can be found here.

The number of women assigned to the USS Abraham Lincoln’s ship’s company, air wing, and Admiral’s staff was 363 out of 5500.  She was one woman amidst a sea of men.

Valerie was assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron FIVE (VQ-5) as part of Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN (CVW-11) from November 1994 – July 1996. Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron FIVE flew the ES-3A Shadow, an aircraft carrier-based electronic reconnaissance aircraft. Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN  was assigned to the USS Abraham Lincoln in 1994 and 1995. Missions included a Western Pacific and Arabian Gulf deployment participating in Operation Southern Watch, the enforcement of the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, and Operation Vigilant Sentinel, in response to Iraqi threats against Jordan and Kuwait. VQ-5 is now decommissioned, but for some great data on VQ-5 and naval aviation click here .

As an intelligence officer, Valerie found that being on the squadron’s first six-month deployment on board a carrier with real world missions to be very fulfilling. There were some who said that as a woman, she had no place there.

But Valerie would hear nothing of it. To her, it mattered not whether she was male or female. She was there to use her mind over matters of war. With a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Mass Communication from Towson University in Maryland, as well as a Master of Science in Strategic Intelligence from the Defense Intelligence College in Washington, D.C., she was a match for any man’s mind. She loved school and learning, and it showed. Valerie later attended the U.S. Army War College and was awarded her second Master’s degree in Strategic Studies. She believes that all of that schooling reinforced what her parents taught her early on: education teaches one how to think.

Valerie’s training has ranged from basic military survival skills to executive military leadership. But she doesn’t believe that any education or training is as important as experience. She feels she’s learned from every experience and as such, has tried to apply that learning to future steps in life.

Captain Valerie Ormond, USN (Ret.) at work as an author.

Captain Valerie Ormond, USN (Ret.) at work as an author.

As a retired, decorated, naval officer, Valerie never dreamed she would be where she is now; especially as an author. She didn’t plan either path from childhood, but fortunately followed where life led her. One of Valerie’s favorite quotes is from Alfred Lord Tennyson, “I am a part of all those I have met.”  She describes being lucky to have met extraordinary people and sharing the lessons learned from them with others.

The top two mentors who have inspired Valerie are retired Vice Admiral Jake Jacoby, U.S. Navy, and her dad.  But her mother comes in a very close third!  Admiral Jacoby believed in her, supported her, and never told her she couldn’t do something because she was a woman.  He advised her to take jobs which at the time she didn’t understand would be the best for her and her future in the navy.   Valerie now understands that being a mentor doesn’t mean always telling the person who seeks your guidance what THEY want to hear.   Sometimes a mentor must bear bad news and say, “No, I understand that’s what you’d like to do, but this is what you need to do.” She appreciates that Admiral Jacoby took her under his wing and never steered her wrong.

Although Valerie hadn’t planned on a naval career from childhood, her father indoctrinated her in the Navy from day one. Her father served as an active duty officer, a reservist, a naval civilian, and a navy contractor. Quite simply – he loved the navy.   A ship’s clock rang in their house 24/7. Her dad explained the meaning of the bells and their relation to watch shifts aboard ships. Her brother and she grew up with and learned expressions like “Rank Has Its Privileges,” “Change Step Move Out,” and   “Reveille, Reveille” in grade school. Her father taught her about navy traditions, leadership, and the pride and value of service. Interestingly, he was also a very gifted writer, which he never pursued beyond a hobby.

With such a strong, naval minded father, what about her mother? Valerie describes her as “brilliant, sassy, creative, supportive, and still working at the age of 78. Need I say more?”  Valerie thinks SHE is the real “Belle of Steel” here.

Concerning obstacles in her path to success in a male dominated world, Valerie remembers early in her navy career being teased by salty fleet sailors. They felt since she hadn’t served at sea, that somehow she was a less worthy member of the team. It made no difference to them that there were so few positions at sea for women officers at the time. And they were not being filled by English major Ensigns.  A memory struck her regarding the sign outside of a boy’s fort. “No Girls Allowed.”  As a young girl, she would have walked in and challenged the threat, but Valerie knew the United States Navy was far from a kid’s fort. Protocol and decorum were at play. She had to navigate the game.

Although she felt it was unfair to have something held against her, it was something over which she had no control. She volunteered for and served in assignments designated “sea duty equivalent” per the bureaucracy, but that didn’t seem to matter to naysayers. The impetus which compelled her to do her part occurred when the exclusion on women serving on combat ships and in aviation squadrons was lifted in 1993. She decided she could and would overcome the obstacle. Finally, she had the Navy’s permission to enter the fort.

When the first jobs opened up for female intelligence officers on combat ships, there were few positions for the many seeking them. Valerie was lined up for four separate jobs before she finally received orders as one of the first women aboard a combatant aircraft carrier as an intelligence officer in its air wing. Persistence, flexibility, and a willingness to do things never done before paid off in the end.

Valerie believes her most rewarding experiences in the military occurred when she could do something for someone else. In her current career as an author and national speaker, sharing her leadership experiences with others through media is the most rewarding experience. It struck her that she still had much to offer. Valerie believes that sometimes, “We don’t know what we know about ourselves until we share with others.”

As a naval officer, Valerie attributes one of her personal strengths to be the revelation that she can’t do everything herself. It was earth-shattering to realize that it’s okay to admit that. Valerie knows that tenant probably comes from having support from so many for so long. To this day, she is thankful to have the most amazing support a person could ask for from her husband, also a retired naval officer. She never takes that for granted. Valerie describes herself as someone not afraid of change. In fact, she’s become pretty good at not only accepting, but embracing, change. And finally, Valerie still believes that everything happens for a reason. Her mantra? Rather than dwell on the negative, try to move on to the positive.

Believing in Horses

Believing in Horses

Five years from now Valerie would like to still be helping other people – such as young women aspiring to leadership positions .  She trusts that helping someone else by sharing something she’s learned will achieve goals far beyond her own.   Her award winning book, Believing in Horses just won the Gold in young adult fiction for the Military Writer’s Society of America.    It is a story  of a young girl whose father is serving in Afghanistan.    It’s a coming of age story regarding overcoming the fear of losing her father in battle through horsemanship.   The powerful fiction is a beacon for children of deployed parents.    Again, Valerie giving hope.   For this reason, AgeView Press is proud to select retired Captain Valerie Ormond, U.S. Navy (Ret.) as Belle of Steel #10.

Follow Valerie Ormond and her career inspiring others.

Encore: as an author are you a peacock, a mockingbird, or a hawk?

peacock spreading tail

All show and no substance?

As an author, think about this question.   Are you a peacock, a mockingbird, or a hawk?  You might be asking yourself what birds could possibly have to do with being a writer?   But let’s take a closer look at all three.  See if you can identify with some of these characteristics, because their are more similarities than you might imagine.   Bet you will be surprised.

Peacocks are pretty, to be sure.   Colorful, flamboyant, and decorative.   But even though they are showy, if you look closely at the feathers of their brilliantly, vibrant tail; there is not much substance there.    Peacocks fan out their tales to be noticed.   At first, it is impressive.  Then you realize that underneath all that show,  is nothing but air.    Is your writing all showy?   Are you writing darkness and gloom because of the popularity and success of Twilight or Amanda Hocking?   Are you running raggard to attend every literary event?  Facebooking and twittering all over social media without anything real to say?  Or are you writing what you are good at writing?  Great stories with substance.   Tales that have a beginning, middle, and end.   Characters that have depth.  Locations and plots that have been researched and carefully plotted out.    Good covers are great, but it is the quality of the pages inside that count and will make people come back for more.

Mockingbirds, on the other hand, never stop squawking.  They twitter, and tweet a variety of chirpy tunes.   Short, loud, bursts in every possible call song.  Never sticking to one, just repeating what ever else they have heard around them.   If you listen to them, it becomes apparent  they are trying to attract attention from every angle.    From anyone who will listen.  First this tune, and then that.   Frustrated and fragmented that no one is paying them heed.    So, they change tunes, mimicking some other melody.  Some new authors know they want to write, but can’t find their own voice.   They chirp from this to that, trying to find their niche.   Slow down.   Find your true voice.   Then, sing it to the rooftops joyfully as your own brand.   Your unique author platform.    And stick to it.

Hawk sizing up a mockingbird
Sizing up meaningful tweets and twitters.

Now, consider the hawk.   Eyes on the prize.    Quiet and still as he calculates just the right moment to seize and capture.    The hawk sizes up the situation, calculates the risks, and strikes to take action.    At first glance, he may appear to just blend in, but on careful inspection, you will notice this intricate, exsquisite patterns woven within his feathers.   All aligned and symmetrical in attractive patterns.   Breast full of sustance with dynamic, sharp looking wings.  Proud, confident, and sure of who he is,  no need for overt showy-ness.   The hawk takes his time, hons his skills, and strikes with near 100 percent accuracy when ready.    Isn’t this the writer we all want to be?    Savvy about the business, sharp in our craft,  eyes on the prize, confident and patient, but fearlessly ready to strike when the moment is just right.     On some days, you may feel as an author that you vasilate between all three.    But try to stay focused.   Educate and train yourself on the literary world.    When you are ready,  be a hawk!

This post was originally published in July 2012, but was so popular, it was brought back.   Favorite post of the year by stats. 

Author Brinda Carey talks survival tips. Free yourself from domestic abuse!

Author Brinda Carey

Survivor and Author, Brinda Carey

Guest blog:   Flying Solo was one of my favorite reads of 2012. In this book by Jeanette Vaughan, the protagonist, Nora, came up with an ingenious and thrilling plan which worked for her.   She found a way to escape from a powerful husband and domestic abuse.  I found it fascinating that this was based on a true story. Most women could never pull off that kind of escape, yet it must be done. At the point of separation, the situation can become the most volatile as the abuser feels a loss of control and fights harder to gain it back.

So what steps should a person take to be prepared?  First of all, let me stress that in the case of an emergency, don’t delay leaving if you haven’t completed this checklist! The safety of you and any children you have is the first priority.

That said, start working on this checklist now.

  1. Determine which friends or neighbors you could tell      about the abuse. Ask them to call the police if they hear angry or violent      noises. If you have children, teach them how to dial 911. Make up a code word that you can use when you need help.
  2. Talk to a friend or family member you can trust and      tell them about your fears and that you are planning a safe escape. Even      if you don’t know if and when you will leave, it is imperative to continue preparing for the day you decide you must leave.
  3. Have important phone numbers nearby for you and your children.  Numbers to have are the police, hotlines, friends, family, and the local women’s  shelter.
  4. Think about the various escape routes in your home just as you would for a fire drill.
  5. If there are any weapons in the house, find a way to get rid of them. At the very least, know where they are and attempt to      lead your abuser away from these areas during an altercation.
  6. Open a bank account or find a safe place to stash money. Perhaps one of your safe people will keep your emergency bag at      their home. Have coins or a prepaid cell or card to use. A charged cell phone will allow you to call 911 even if you do not currently have a      service plan.
  7. Make spare keys to your car, house, and any others you might need, and keep them with your emergency bag.
  8. Request replacement credit cards and bank cards. It is also a good idea to include your driver’s license. You may decide to have      them sent to a friend or family member’s home for placing in your bag.
  9. Make copies of all important papers such as:
    1. birth certificates
    2. social security cards
    3. school and medical records
    4. Car registration
    5. Welfare identification
    6.  Passports, green cards, work permits
    7.  Lease/rental agreement
    8.  Mortgage payment book, unpaid bills
    9.  Insurance papers
    10.  PPO, divorce papers, custody orders
  10. Other items to have in your bag: medicines, personal hygiene items, and extra clothes.
Don't Cry Daddy's Here book on Amazon

A must read for anyone dealing with abuse!

 I hope you found this guest blog, by Author Brinda Carey helpful.   She is a survivor of abuse and sexual exploit from Arkansas.  Brinda had the strength to not only overcome the abuse, but write about it to help others.   Her books and motivational materials can be found on Amazon here.   Her blog is at www.brindacarey.com  She travels the country speaking out to women, reaching out to help them find ways to be strong and survive.   AgeView Press is proud to announce that Belle of Steel number six is Brinda Carey.