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Posts Tagged ‘A Light in the Desert’

Friday Features’

Guest tells about

Rescuing animals

by

Anne Montgomery

“Ms. Montgomery, there’s a cat outside.”

Two of my students stared at me.

“Go and get it,” I said, immediately rethinking that idea after they’d left the room. I hoped the cat wasn’t mean or scared and left the kids with bloody gashes. I tried to stop them, but they were gone.

A short time later they returned, sans cat. “We couldn’t catch it,” they said in unison.

“OK.” I was relieved, but just momentarily.

“It’s so hot out there and the cat is panting.”

I looked at the sweet girl who tried to rescue the animal. “Is it hurt?”

“I don’t know.”

Crap! I’ve had more kitties than I can count over the years. Strays and cats who’d wound up in shelters. But I didn’t want another one. I still had three furry felines – down from seven – most of whom died after long, pleasant lives. And a big cattle dog, as well.

The problem is, I’m getting older, and whenever I’m faced with a new pet I start doing the math. If said animal lives 15 years, how old will I be? What if I die? Who will take care of them. While I know my sweetie pie is as devoted to our four-legged friends as I am, what if we both died?

“So, you think the cat might be injured?” I said again.

She shrugged.

“Let’s go.” I led my students outside and found a sleek, black, kitty with big gold eyes. The creature meowed and ran right to me. I picked him up and prepared to be speared with curved, pointy claws, but he just laid his head on my shoulder, clearly no feral beast.

As it was lunchtime, I put the young cat in my office and, as I ate, he jumped into my chair, curled into a ball and slept at my side. “Well, aren’t you a sweet boy.” I patted his head and he purred loudly. I squinted as he closed his eyes. “But I don’t want another cat.” He ignored me.

Later, the girl who found him appeared and said she wanted to take the cat home. “My mom said it would be OK.”

I looked at the kitty and he stared back at me. “Great!” I said, not feeling great at all. “Let’s find a box.”

After we placed the cat in the container, I waved and watched her walk away. I admit, I was a bit sad. Still, I’d done the right thing.

“We found a cat at school today.”

My sweetie pie peered at me over his glasses, then glanced around the room.

“You’ll be proud of me. I found him a nice home.”

He raised both eyebrows, and didn’t have to say, How unlike you to not bring it home.

Later, I thought about the cat and decided to call the girl’s home to make sure he was settling in. Her father answered the phone.

“I don’t want a cat!” he said, an edge to his voice. “I don’t like cats. I don’t want it in my house. If she keeps it, we’ll put it in a cage in the backyard.”

I sat up. It was close to 110 degrees in the Arizona desert that day. “A cage?” I jotted down the address. “I’ll be right there.”

An hour later, I released the kitty in my living room, and he quickly made friends with Westin, my deaf Bombay cat. And then I noticed the similarity. They were almost identical. They nuzzled one another and again I realized this cat was no stray. He belonged to someone. He blinked at me and meowed. “No, my friend. I can’t get attached to you.”

A few days later, the vet waved a hand-held machine over the cat’s shiny fur. My heart beat quickly. A chip would be good,” I told myself. I’ll take him back to his owners, who are surely missing him.

“No chip.” The vet said.

I exhaled, then stared at my new kitty, who the vet informed me was just a baby at ten months old. I started to do the math, then stopped. I realized it didn’t matter that I’d be pushing eighty when he reached 15. As much as I tried to deny it, this cat was mine.

He head butted my hand and stared at me with those huge gold eyes.

We call him Morgan.

 
Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

 

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Learning about romance

by

Anne Montgomery

Once, after reading one of my manuscripts, my agent said, “I really like the historical part of the story. Why don’t you write it as a stand-alone romance?”

I winced. A romance novel? Me?

I have a pretty good idea about where this book is going, don’t you?

I’ll admit here that I’ve been a bit of a snob in regard to that particular genre, which I was surprised to discover is the number one book-selling category on the planet. Not sure why I’ve often scoffed at romance novels. Perhaps it’s the covers: the swooning women with their heaving breasts, the muscular men, all sixpacks and flowing hair. Those books just never sang to me and I never understood why other people wanted to read them.

So, in an effort to learn, I contacted some of my lovely romance-writing friends. I put on my old reporter’s cap and grilled them like a detective looking for clues, my goal to understand why anyone would want to read a romance novel.

Boy, did I learn a lot!

 

“Romance gives us a glimpse into another world,” said author Tina Ruiz. “Sometimes it’s a world that we don’t have around us. Romance novels are like fairy tales to grown up women, where the men are nice, cater to our every whim, and shelter us from everything that might make us sad or hurt.”

“It’s possible the diversity of romance novels is a magnet for diverse individuals,” said romance author Nancy Kay. “From contemporary, to historical, to mystery and thrillers there are any number of themes to attract a number of tastes.”

 

Okay. But why are these stories tops in sales department?

“In my humble opinion it’s because we live in a shattered world that is full of bad stuff and romance is the ultimate good stuff,” said author Catherine Castle. “True love, loyalty, people who care about each other’s happiness.”

“Simple answer – escape,” said author Sloane Taylor. “Escape from the husband/wife who takes you for granted. Escape from the kids demanding all your time with not even a thanks. Escape from the boss who is a major ass. Escape from the bills that keep mounting. And especially in today’s world – escape from the pandemic and it’s personal repercussions.”

 

“The mainly happy endings in a frequently bitchy world,” Australian author Vonnie Hughes explained.

Hughes went on to say that romance novels don’t cost as much as other genres and they tend to be shorter, so don’t require a big investment of time.

I have certainly read books that contained romance, though that part of the story was mostly secondary to the plot, so I was curious as to what exactly defines a romance novel. Of course, my first thought in our post Fifty Shades of Grey world was sex. But Ruiz pointed out that actual sex is not always the big draw.

“It is the illusion of sex that grabs our hearts,” she said. “In a lot of movies, the man and woman don’t even kiss until the very last scene. That moment gets built up from the moment they meet until the end of the book or movie. It’s the part we are all waiting for, so when it happens, it is absolutely wonderful.”

Still sex is often part of the format.

“Reading a book where sex is prominent is pretty awesome,” Ruiz said. “Because it gets portrayed in a different way than we have it in real life. Some men…are not perfectly, let’s say, kempt, when they walk into the bedroom. The men in the books and/or movies are like a Prince Charming. Every hair is in place, his teeth shine, his eyes twinkle, and his breath is probably minty fresh.”

Another rather obvious requirement in a romance novel is that romance needs to be the most important part of the story.

 

“The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work,” Kay said. “There can be subplots as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.”

And, there’s something else I learned. Romance novels apparently should not end on a depressing note. There must be an “emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending,” Kay said. “In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

 

That sounds nice, doesn’t it? I can now see the appeal of romance novels. Perhaps it’s time I gave one a try.

How about you?

 Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. It’s not romance but I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

 

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

A woman before her time, Anne Montgomery who shares how she was out of her league!

Sometimes we do things that, as Forrest Gump would say, “Just don’t make no sense.”

And I am guilty of such an act, mostly because I ignored the numbers and severely overestimated my abilities.

I have written about the fact that I performed in a community theater production of the musical Company in the past. Though it was initially terrifying, in the end I made friends and had fun. So, it seemed rational that I give it another try. Mamma Mia was coming up and I wanted to give it a shot.

I started singing along to the Mamma Mia CD in my car in February. I thought I was ready. Even the cast descriptions didn’t deter me. Though, admittedly, the fact that the “elder” female characters were listed as “late 30s-early 50s” should have tickled my spidey senses.

This time around, auditions were very different. Four times the number of actors showed up. And there was improv involved. Still, I thought I had a shot at making the cast, until I arrived at the dance callbacks.

My first clue should have been the young lady spread-eagled flat on the floor, stretching in preparation. In fact, the stage was littered with bodies of those limbering up. I was a tad bemused, as I had seen the movie and didn’t notice too much complicated-looking dancing, at least not from the named characters. Had I considered that the stage version might be vastly different from the one with Meryl Streep and her pals, I might have been forewarned.

Those hoping for a spot in the cast filled the stage facing a thin, twenty-something with a high, tawny pony tail and black leggings. She announced that we would be learning a series of dance steps.

“OK! Face the back,” she said, reminiscent of a drill instructor. ” Now, hips left, then right, and spin to the front. And … right arm up high. Good. Now side step. And back. Other side. Full turn to the left and drop to your knees.”

My head popped up. Drop to my knees? Did she mean the ones that have functioned for the last 15 years thanks to the miracle of modern science, infusions injected with big-ass needles that always make me wince? Those knees?

Not wanting to stand out, I dropped to the floor. I almost bellowed like a moose giving birth, but managed to stop myself.

“Now roll over on your butt and jump up.”

In my case, said roll did not occur. I just stared at the choreographer.

“Now … leap!” She took to the air.

Leap? The thing about leaping is there always tend to be landings involved.

The choreographer encouraged us to leap in this fashion. Don’t you agree it hurts just to look at this picture?

“Those of you who want to can bend your leg while leaping. Like this.” She launched herself skyward again. “Point your toes,” she said, alighting gracefully. “Second line, move up to the front.”

Hoping no one would notice, I melted into the back, which would be my primary strategy throughout the ordeal.

After an hour, we took a break. To my horror, five minutes later we were at it again.

“Let’s do another one,” she said. “This one will be easy. Even I can do it.” She smiled prettily.

What I wanted most was to go all Tonya Harding on her kneecaps. “See what you feel like when you’re over 60,” I muttered under my breath, as I mounted the stage.

Another hour passed. I longed for my chiropractor.

I know what your thinking. Why didn’t I just go sit down? Pride, I suppose. Or maybe just plain stubbornness. A few other older women had taken seats. I say “older” here with a caveat. If I had to guess, with the exception of my friend Scott, there was probably no one over 50 auditioning. Clearly, I was pretty much alone as a mid-sexagenarian.

Mercifully, the dancing finally ended. But my humiliation was not over.

Scott appeared. “Hey! You need to go in the back.”

I heard women’s voices singing Dancing Queen from backstage. “Why?”

“The mothers are auditioning,” he explained, using the term applied to the older adult women trying out for a part.

Not knowing how I could have missed the others being called away, I leapt – OK, in my mind, I leapt – onto the stage and bolted through a curtain and down a ramp toward the piano, where about eight women were lined up single file.

“I am so sorry I’m late!” I shouted.

All heads turned toward me. A woman looked up, paper and pencil in hand. “Your name?”

“Anne.”

She scrutinized the document.

The director rose from his seat.

“You’re not on the list,” he said. “You were called back only for a dancing part.”

I suddenly realized that if getting a part hinged on my dancing skills, I would need other plans for the summer. “I am … so sorry!”

I fled.

I found Scott in the seats and chastised him. It wasn’t his fault, though. He simply assumed I should be back there with the others, which in retrospect was sweet.

The director soon dismissed those of us who wouldn’t be invited to participate in any further auditions. Totally dejected, I sneaked out the back door.

When I got home, my sweetie pie stared at me. “I’m sorry,” he said without asking what happened.

I wondered if he’d had a premonition, since he already had a glass of wine poured and waiting for me.

“Maybe they did you a favor,” he said a short time later, as I sat in my jammies feeling sorry for myself, rubbing my aching knees.

I sipped my wine and pouted. “Maybe.”

Later that night, wrapped in two cold packs and a heating pad, I licked my wounds and considered whether I would ever try out for another play.

I’m thinking about it. I’ll let you know.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

 

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

an interesting e-mail to Anne Montgomery who shares the contents with us today. Take it away Anne.

Sometimes, life throws you a rose. Or, in my case, a brownie.

Let me explain.

Recently I received an e-mail.

Hello, Anne!

I was looking at our records and noticed that you have been a Fairytale Brownies customer since 1995. Thank you for loving our brownies!

Our co-founders, Eileen Spitalny and David Kravetz, will be giving special VIP tours of the Fairytale Brownies bakery before our annual Open House next Tuesday and we would love for you to be a part of it. Are you available for a 2:30 p.m. tour? We would love for you and a guest to join them. Please let me know if you can make it. Spaces for the tour are reserved.

Thanks!

How cool is that!

Of course, I jumped right on the opportunity to see the fairies bake the brownies I’ve been sending friends for years. I’ve spread those chocolaty delights worldwide. So, I called my youngest son – who has dabbled with the idea of becoming a pastry chef – and made the date.

Upon entering the massive kitchen in Phoenix, a fabulous aroma makes visitors swoon.

It might be all that butter and those big bricks of chocolate shipped in from Belgium.

It might be giant racks of brownies, with lovely names like Toffee Crunch, Chocolate Chip Blondie, Espresso Nib, Mint Chocolate, and Raspberry Swirl.

Whatever it is, my son and I agreed it was magical.

As we toured the facility, I was on the lookout for the brownie fairies, but they were often shy and elusive. We caught this one hiding behind a massive pile of sugar.

Others were tasked with sorting scads of swirly, cream cheese brownies.

Then there was the freezer. A good 50 yards of frozen treats, packed high to the rafters on both sides. Though I’m a desert dweller and quite averse to the cold, I contemplated remaining in that fridge, setting up a tent and one of those high-altitude sleeping bags, a warm cap over my head, a matching scarf perhaps, and some mittens. In the advent of a zombie apocalypse it might be the perfect place to stay.

Unless, of course, zombies like brownies.

Gosh. Maybe I’ll have to share.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

That square screen you carry

by

Anne Montgomery

Hold onto your hats!

I do not now – nor have I ever – owned a cellphone.

Now don’t jump to conclusions and assume I must be an old technophobe. I’m well versed in both MACS and PCs. I can layout a newspaper in InDesign and use Photoshop. I am on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and have multiple e-mail accounts, a website, and a blog.

So why no cellphone? First, I’m a teacher who spends a great deal of time and energy trying to keep my students focused on lessons. Surveys show that teens 15 to 18 spend almost nine hours each day utilizing on-line media. Children eight to 12-years-old are logging about six hours daily. These kids are more anxious than their predecessors, with higher rates of suicide and depression.

Now let’s consider what these children might be missing with so much time focused on a screen. Other than the issues involved in falling behind in the classroom, many are not participating in sports and clubs, so social interaction is limited. I know people will argue that they are interacting with others on-line, but as a teacher of communication skills, I know in-person contact is much more important.

Anyone who doesn’t believe that children are addicted to their phones – as are many adults – are kidding themselves.

So, how do we get people to disengage? Dr. Michael Ungar wrote in Psychology Today, “(I)t would appear that at least part of the solution to our children’s cell phone addiction is to offer them equally stimulating and socially engaging opportunities to do things that produce the same brain rewards as … staring at a small blue screen.”

Ungar went on to say that the solution is “providing young people with lots and lots (and lots) of opportunities to stay engaged with each other, to participate in arts and sports activities, and to have safe spaces after school to hang out.”

Of course, we must get kids to buy into putting down their phones and, in my experience, that is almost impossible.

The other problem with phones is the damaging effect they have on relationships. Time reporter Mandy Oaklander wrote in her article How Your Smart Phone is Ruining Your Relationship, “Real-life interactions are dulled when a person feels the urge to check their phone, and the distraction a phone affords one partner doesn’t make the other person feel good.”

Oaklander says phones are interfering with our relationships, leaving us anxious.

“It didn’t matter much how much a person used their device, but how much a person needed their device did. People who were more dependent on their smartphones reported being less certain about their partnerships. People who felt that their partners were overly dependent on their devices said they were less satisfied in their relationship.”

I think my aversion to cellphones is that I’m afraid of becoming like the people I see daily: heads down, consumed by the screen, unaware of what’s going on around them. Who hasn’t witnessed people at restaurants busily texting, ignoring one another? Or the mother, face in her phone, instead of talking with her children? Or, geez, those who feel the need to communicate from a bathroom stall?

I can’t help but wonder what is so urgent.

“Ms. Montgomery, how can you not have a cellphone?” my students often admonish.

“I’m not that important,” I say.

“What if there’s an emergency?”

“Call 911.”

“What if a family member is sick?”

“I’m not a doctor.”

My biggest concern is that it’s getting more difficult to live without a cellphone. It’s almost as if there’s a secret conspiracy to require everyone to get on board. A few weeks ago, I discovered I can no longer go to NFL games. All tickets work only through your phone. No more paper copies will be accepted. The league is determined to get 100% of fans to use their smartphones at the gate.

I sense this line of thinking will creep into use at movies and concerts and grocery stores and restaurants, so, eventually, I will be on the outside of society looking in.

I know what you’re thinking. “Geez! Get a friggin’ phone and join the 21st century.”

I know my time is coming. Still, I wish I wasn’t being forced to join the crowd.

What’s peculiar is that when I tell people I don’t own a cellphone, there is always a beat of silence as they examine me for obvious flaws. Then, oddly, many say wistfully, “I wish I didn’t have one either.”

Think about that.

Now, turn off your phones. Breathe. Watch a sunset. Walk your dog. Have a real conversation. There’s a world out there you can smell and touch and people with whom you can make eye contact.

Try it. You might be surprised.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

Creepy, crawlies

by

Anne Montgomery

This little guy lives by my dog’s water bowl. 
We’re all good with that.

I faced the webs on my porch. You see, when it’s fall in the desert, it’s time to clean our yards and outside living areas. To those who’ve grown up understanding the concept of spring cleaning, note that we perform that chore in the fall. It makes sense, since we spend the summers cooped up with our air conditioning – hiding from blast-furnace temperatures – and the winters basking blissfully outdoors.

I gently moved the broom across the ceiling and into the corners, careful not to harm any of the arachnids who’ve made camp by my door. I admonish the tiny ones to run, since I don’t want to injure them.

And, now, you might think me strange, because I could never hurt a spider. Why this is the case, I’m not quite sure. Perhaps it was growing up with Charlotte’s Web. Or maybe it was watching my parents deposit spiders who had found their way inside outside, instead of crushing them into little blobs of spidery goo.

I never thought this behavior odd, until faced with folks who felt differently. There was the tough US Marine who hailed from Trinidad who was my housemate for a while. I had explained about Mathilda, the black widow who resided in a low corner of the kitchen who only came out at night.

“Just don’t walk barefoot by the sink after dark,” I explained.

Then, one day I heard him howling in the kitchen. “You need to come in here! Now!”

I complied and was delighted by gossamer silk threads floating in the air, each speckled with dozens of tiny golden babies holding on like wee surfers. I grabbed some newspapers and corralled the infants and released them outside.

The big brave Marine recoiled.

Then there was the evening stroll in the Costa Rican rain forest. My sweetie pie and I joined a small group searching for night creatures with a woman entomologist.

“Oh! Look at what we have here!” She reached into the leaf litter and produced a large long-legged spider. Eyes wide, she grinned like a grandma with a newborn babe. “These are the ones they use in horror movies. Who would like to hold it?”

No one moved. She frowned, disappointed in our little group, so I stepped up and held out my hand. Her eyes sparkled, one of those perhaps-she’s-not-quite-sane looks that made me reconsider our decision to follow her into the jungle in the dark. She placed the beast in my palm.

“So cute. Just like a kitten,” she cooed.

OK, I admit I had a sudden urge to flee, an impulse that had nothing to do with the spider. In fact, the little guy was rather sweet. I silently said goodbye as he scampered off into the undergrowth.

Then there was the football spider and that rascal cemented my love affair with spiders.

Late in the first half of a high school game, Phil, my line judge, ran toward me, blowing his whistle, and waving his arms overhead, killing the clock.

“Tarantula!” He stared wide-eyed and pointed downfield.

My first thought was that the home team had a spider mascot, but that idea was quickly dispelled when I saw a fuzzy creature moving in a strangely robotic motion near the 20-yard-line.

The barrel-chested coach, who’d been on me the whole game, grinned and crossed thick arms. “What are you going to do about it?” he yelled.

As we crouched over the beast, I envisioned some hapless kid with a fist-size spider wriggling from his facemask. I bit my lip and glanced at the players who eyed me from midfield.

Phil and I stared at one another. He raised both palms up.

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

“What are you going to do?” he mimicked the coach.

I took a deep breath and watched the hairy beast inch forward, moving all eight legs in a silent ballet. Did I hear the coach laughing?

I shot my arm into the tarantula’s path. And, without pause, the spider crawled onto the back of my hand and up my wrist, fuzzy feet tickling my skin.

Phil stood and backed away.

“Please don’t bite me,” I silently pleaded over and over, as visions of old horror movies played in my head. While the tarantula traveled up my arm, I walked slowly toward the end of the field. When I reached the outer edge of the track, I bent over and gently dropped the creature near a patch of rocky desert. The tarantula landed upright and marched on.

I swallowed several times, then turned and ran back up field past the coach. I herded the players to the line of scrimmage and took my position behind the quarterback. I blew my whistle, putting the ball into play.

But no one moved.

Then Phil’s whistle sounded and he signaled time-out. He doubled over and I thought he might be ill, but then I saw he was laughing.

“What?” I stared as he ran toward me.

Phil leaned in, then looked around to make sure no players were nearby. The coach said, “She has a pair hangin’ and they ain’t tits.”

I eyed the coach. He nodded toward me, deferential, all remnants of his previously condescending attitude having disappeared with the spider.

For the rest of the game, no matter the situation – whether a flag went for or against his team, whether he agreed or disagreed with a ruling – the coach only addressed me with two words.

“Yes, ma’am,” was all he said.

Perhaps now you can understand my love affair with spiders.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest talks about

her pets from the past

by

Anne Montgomery

I have, over the course of my life, been the caretaker of myriad cats and dogs and birds and fish. I know I’ve been a good pet mom to my animal friends, tending to their needs and holding the four-legged ones tight when, old and infirm, we made that last trek to the vet.

While I have done well by my animal friends, who almost universally came from streets and shelters, I do have a dark past involving some beasts, the memories of which continue to haunt me.

When I was maybe five, I found a tiny, featherless bird, who, despite what appeared to be a broken neck, chirped piteously. I held the fledgling up to my mother, who blinked dispassionately behind black cat-eye glasses.

“Maybe he’s thirsty,” I said.

“I’ll get some water.”

“No, he’s a baby. He needs milk.”

“Birds don’t drink milk.”

“Milk!” I insisted.

So my mother gave the baby bird milk … and it died.

When I was older, I discovered a crow fluttering in the grass in my back yard. I placed the bird on the patio table and decided he might be hungry. I considered what might be tasty to a crow and determined that corn was the answer. Finding none in the refrigerator, I checked the freezer and was delighted to see a package of Green Giant Frozen Nibblets. I rushed to the patio and sure enough, my crow gobbled up that icy treat. A few minutes later, he toppled over … dead.

Then there were the fishes. Shortly after my mother allowed me to plant a rock garden behind the house, my dad and I formed a tiny concrete pond, not much more than a foot wide. I joyfully filled that small depression with water, but quickly sensed something was missing. So, I grabbed an empty Skippy Peanut Butter jar, called my collie dog Betsy, and headed to the brook to do some fishing. Later, I dumped those tiny fish into my pond, quite sure they would be happy with their new living arrangements. The next morning, eager to visit my fishy friends, I rushed to my pond to discover it … empty! I did some pondering on the mystery and determined that the fish had disappeared with the water though some minuscule crack and were now traversing an underwater stream that would lead them back to the brook.

Really.

In a similar fashion, I gathered unfortunate salamanders from under rocks in the woods and plopped them into the terrarium, which I made myself. I gathered soft, green moss, which I was sure the lizards would appreciate, and uprooted other woodland flora to decorate their home. I artfully placed bits of wood and rocks in the tank, along with a jar lid filled with water, so they might get a drink or go for a swim, should they feel the urge. What I never once considered was food. I think I believed my salamanders – some black, some red sporting a dark stripe – would discover reptile sustenance in the dirt somewhere. In any case, the fact that someone, I’m guessing my older brother, “accidentally” dislodged the glass tank top, proved to be a boon for those beasts, because they escaped, heading, no doubt, for the lizard version of McDonalds, never to be seen again.

I did enjoy my lizard friends, still, in retrospect, they were lucky they managed to escape.

The good news is that, once I got a bit older, I learned how to better care for the creatures that counted on me for their survival. We kids were required to feed and provide water for our dog and cat every night before dinner. One evening, when we had collectively forgotten to nourish our furry friends, my father admonished us.

“They can’t feed themselves!” he said, clearly disappointed by our neglect. “It’s your job to take care of them. They count on you.”

I stared at my dog, a look she returned with unabashed adoration, and felt ashamed. From that day forward, my pets have eaten before me. And I have made it my goal to treat all animal friends with kindness and compassion, with perhaps one well-intentioned exception.

The giant goldfish belonged to my two young nieces.

“What’ll we do?” My sister-in-law said, wrinkling her nose at the chubby, orange creature that swam in wobbly circles.

“We will…um…I don’t know.”

She stared at me. “The girls can’t see him like this.”

I considered the alternatives. Finally, I spread my hands wide. “Put it in a plastic bag and freeze it?”

I won’t say any more about that, except that it seemed kinder and less messy than the hammer option or any of the other routes we contemplated. Surely, you can see that my intention was one of benevolence.

I hope.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Wednesday Special Spotlight

Shines On

Anne Montgomery who answers a question often asked by readers.

When Friends Become Characters by Anne Montgomery

Authors are often asked how they create characters. In my case, as my friends and family now realize, they are sometimes inspired by people I know.

My long-time sweetie pie seemed shocked when he read his words coming out of a character’s mouth.

“Hey! I said that!”

“Yes, you did.” I admitted. “Thank you.”
As a former reporter, I tend to think everyone’s words are fair game. If you’re going to fling them out into the universe, don’t be upset if I catch them and keep them for my own.

At other times, I’ve incorporated friends’ stories into my characters. In my book, A Light in the Desert, I borrowed numerous times from the life of my dear late friend Don Clarkson. I have written before about how Don and I met umpiring amateur baseball, a time during which I struggled with debt, a crumbling marriage, and joblessness following what would be the end of my TV-reporting career. That I spent a great deal of time feeling sorry for myself is an understatement.

Don, on the other hand, complained very little. This was astonishing in retrospect, considering the suffering he endured. Don was a decorated Green Beret, a sergeant who served alongside South Vietnam’s ARVN soldiers in the 9th Infantry during the war. His time in country was brutal and, like many servicemen and women, Don relived those experiences until he died at the age of 61 from a combination of Post Traumatic Stress and the myriad devastating effects of Agent Orange poisoning.

Don and I umpired baseball together for five years. During that time, he shared his stories with me. He was gravely wounded and left to die, but was saved by a South Vietnamese soldier who returned to the aftermath of a jungle fight to look for him. He was sometimes crushed by guilt, because of war-time life-and-death decisions and because – unlike many of the men he knew – he had managed to survive and come home. Tears would well in his eyes as he spoke about the soldiers – his brothers – that were lost.

And still, when we would sit in our folding chairs in a school parking lot, waiting for the second half of a double-header to begin, he sometimes spoke about the beauty of Vietnam and his love and admiration for the people who lived there.

One of the main characters in A Light in the Desert, is, like Don, a Vietnam veteran with memories that torment him. But Jason Ramm is also a sniper turned post-war governmental assassin, which Don was not. What they share is a deep desire for peace and forgiveness, which neither of them believe they deserve.

I wrote A Light in the Desert for Don. His wife Marie read the story to him before he died. I believe he understood Jason Ramm and recognized him as a brother. I also know that Don seemed appreciative that I shared some of his story and that I dedicated the book to him.

I miss my friend and the talks we used to have. Though he struggled mightily, Don always looked for the best in people and for beauty in the world.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

While the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Friday Features’

Guest

Anne Montgomery

talks about

Eyebrow Envy

Film siren Elizabeth Taylor had the art of the eyebrow down pat.

When I was a teen, I had rather thick eyebrows. While beauties like Elizabeth Taylor rocked alluring broad brows, the trend was starting to fade by the 70’s, so I would suffer some brow cruelty, initially afflicted upon me by a well-coiffed woman wielding a pair of weaponized tweezers.

When I was 17, I was awarded a scholarship to the John Robert Powers Modeling School, an unwanted prize my mother hoped would make me more feminine. Note that she truly wanted a girly-girl, one who would take delight in being swathed in dresses and heels. Clearly, since I favored jeans and sweatshirts and tended to clomp around like a Clydesdale on those rare occasions I was forced into pumps, I wasn’t fulfilling that dream.

The only thing I remember about my stint at modeling school was that I hated it. All these years later, I have virtually no recollection of what I did while attending those classes, the memories a black hole save for one miserable moment.

A poised, splendidly-attired woman strode to the front of the room, gliding on pointed heels, chin up, eyes wide. “Today’s lesson will be on the importance of properly maintaining one’s eyebrows,” she said prettily.

I recall being bored, longing to be outside somewhere, as she held up those silver tweezers. Then, she pointed one manicured hand my way and waved me to the front of the room. She smiled, an expression that, in hindsight, bore a sadistic hint. After ushering me to a chair, she disparaged my brows, explaining that such wanton neglect was unacceptable.

I froze as she brought the tweezers close to my right eye, and winced as she plucked. Throughout her lesson, she continued to yank at my offending brow as if to place emphasis on her syrupy words.

Looking back, I can’t reckon why I allowed her to persist. I also can’t figure why she picked me. It’s not like I had something Fridaesque sprawled across my forehead or a set of brows like Mr. Spock.

While it was perfectly acceptable for an alien from Vulcan to sport such expressive brows, for a 17-year-old girl in the ’70s, not so much.

When she finished, she motioned to my sore, red brow, assured the students that the tinge would soon fade, then placed the tweezers in my hand and instructed me to pluck the other brow myself. While I was relieved the assault had stopped, the thought of using the tool on myself made me queasy. Because memories mercifully fade, I don’t recall how I ultimately handled those mismatched brows.

Years later, while working at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, my beleaguered brows took another hit. Since the newscast was in progress, I was the only one in the newsroom when the phone rang. The woman caller wanted to know if I would get a message to that woman sportscaster. Without revealing my identity, I assured her I would.

“Tell her that I hate her eyebrows,” she said.

What propelled a viewer to take the time to make such a call, I cannot say. What I recall was hustling to the make-up mirror and staring at my eyebrows for a very long time.

I have learned that, as we age, our eyebrows naturally thin. Strangely, I am a bit wistful at what I’ve lost, especially considering that the tide has again turned. I read that fashion folks say we are currently in the decade of the eyebrow. YouTube has half-a-million tutorials on how to perfect your brows, and there are brow tattooing and transplants and tinting and threading, for those who suffer eyebrow envy.

I wonder if such procedures are painful, and then think of the woman with the tweezers and the brow beating she inflicted. I don’t think I’ve forgiven her, yet. Can you blame me?

Here’s a little from my suspense novel based on a true incident. I hope it intrigues you.

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.

When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil as local and state police, FBI investigators, and a horde of reporters arrive on the scene. As the search for the saboteurs heats up and the authorities question members of the cult, they uncover more questions than answers.

And then the girl vanishes.

As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY LINKS

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.

Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Friday Features

Looks at new book from

Anne Montgomery

Treehouse Publishing Group is proud to announce that acclaimed journalist Anne Montgomery’s latest psychological mystery/suspense novel based around one of the most enduring cold case crimes in Arizona history. Montgomery did in-depth research into the deadly 1995 cold-case derailment of an Amtrak train in the wilds of the Arizona desert before she penned this amazing story.

Set in Hyder, Arizona, Montgomery’s novel details the crumbling world of Jason Ramm, a broken former Special Forces sniper, whose crimes assault his conscience and an isolated child, Kelly, the lonely pregnant teen who in the guise of love, falls victim to abuse. Is Ramm her savior or something more insidious? Montgomery suffuses the tale with heartbreaking melancholy, both from the point of view of a rejected child who understands little of the outside world and the assassin who’s descending into the grips of an odd mental illness, the Jerusalem Syndrome, that threatens to replace who he is with something else.

Montgomery, a foster mom to three sons, works in Arizona as a football referee and high school teacher at a Title I school where many of her students live in poverty, some are abused, and others are relegated to foster care. On why she wrote the book, Montgomery says, “I have seen the suffering of neglected and abused children first-hand. Often, their voices go unheard. I believe child abuse needs to be a topic we address with ardent regularity, loudly and often, so that someday, perhaps, this cruelty can be relegated to the past.”

This novel is one you must read!

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon.
When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil as local and state police, FBI investigators, and a horde of reporters arrive on the scene. As the search for the saboteurs heats up and the authorities question members of the cult, they uncover more questions than answers.
And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

BUY NOW from MIDPOINT BOOKS in Paperback or E-book.

Anne Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.

When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.
Learn more about Anne Montgomery on her website and Wikipedia. Stay connected on Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

Read Full Post »

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