Thursday, July 30, 2015


Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Some of you may have noticed the hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter trending on Twitter earlier this week.  (Even though with Twitter being limited to 140 characters - and that hashtag alone taking up 27 - it's nearly impossible to fit one entry into a single Tweet, let alone ten...but I digress.)  So's I thoughts to myself, "Self, you can do this.  But in a better forum.  Blog it, Cochise!"

And so blogging it, Cochise, I am.  I hereby present to you the official* Across the Board list of Ten Things Not To Say To A Writer:

10.)  Where do you get your ideas from?

Suggested response:  Aliens and/or God.

9.)  If you published a book, why are you still working a day job?

Suggested response:  As appealing as pauperhood and starvation sounds, I phoned the local debtor's prison yesterday and they just don't have space for me right now.

8.)  You're going to give me a free book, right?

Suggested response: Yes, after you provide me with your professional services for free.  Say, a dental cleaning, right now.

7.)  You should write one of those FIFTY SHADES OF GREY/DA VINCI CODE/HARRY POTTER/other recently popular books.  There's money in that.

Suggested response:  I said author, not hooker.

6.)  Do you know Stephen King?

Suggested response:  Hell yeah!  Just last night we discussed Wittgenstein over a game of backgammon.  All right, we ate mustard packets in the back of his car.

5.)  I've got a million dollar idea for you!

Suggested response:  Don't share that shit, then!  Just remember me after you've made your million!

4.)  I can't pay you, but it'll be great for exposure.

Suggested response:  How about you expose yourself to this great, big, fat pile of turds I just shat out?

3.)  Jeez, I don't think I've read a book since high school!

Suggested response:  Get behind me, Pazuzu!  Quick, somebody get me an old priest and a young priest!

2.)  Boy, the shenanigans me and my co-workers get up to would make for a great book, let me tell you!

Suggested response:  There's nothing about that idea I don't find appealing.  CC me on all your interactions from now on.  Legally, I can't make any guarantees, but just between you and me, I 100% guarantee HOUSE OF A THOUSAND ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE will be on the NYT Bestsellers List a year from now.

1.)  ...

Suggested response:  Quiet desperation. 

Seriously, we had a little fun today, but please reach out to your favorite writers on social media, and in reviews, and at cons, and, heck, any old way you can find them.  Even if you ask some of these questions, they'll probably be gracious and polite and answer you anyway.  Everybody loves a nice conversation with a fan.

How about you, authors, and or author-talker-toers?  Anything you hate hearing?  Let us know in the comments!

*in no way is this list official, nor does it in any way represent the views or opinions of anyone associated with this blog, to include the author of this piece

Monday, July 27, 2015

5 tips for getting to know your characters

Characters are essential to every good book, and the stories that really stay with you are the ones with
A post by Mary Fan
complex and well-developed casts. The more a reader cares about a character, the more eager they'll be to find out what happens to him/her. But creating characters that spring off the page and take on lives of their own isn't easy, especially when you have a lot of them (and you don't want to neglect the minor ones). Well, as the famous line goes, you can't really know someone until you crawl into their skin and walk around in it (paraphrasing here). That goes for fictional characters too.

Here are five tips to help you get to know your characters.
1. Ask them about their childhoods 

Nothing comes from nothing, and one good way to get to know your character is to figure out what made her the way she is. A person's childhood is instrumental in shaping one's personality, and whether it's a huge event (like the death of a parent) or a little nudge (such as a teacher's words of wisdom), all these factor act as hammers and chisels that carve a human being out of a previously shapeless block of life.

So for each of your characters, try scribbling a few words about their early lives as an exercise. Don't worry about getting too in-depth or detailed (unless you want to!). Just jot down a few notes, like "Devin Colt was one of those kids who was plenty smart but never did his homework, and even fancy private school teachers couldn't turn that around." You might learn something new about them!  

2. Picture what their homes look like

A person's home, whether it's a house, apartment, or pirate ship, is a reflection of who they are. An ambitious, high-achieving Ivy League graduate might have a neat, well-designed apartment even if they're still in the "penniless assistant" part of their careers, whereas a free-to-be-you-and-me artist might have clutter in every corner, despite having been born to hedge fund managers and having plenty of money for a housekeeper.

Jane says her favorite
make-up is eyeliner
Even if it's never a setting in your book, it's helpful to picture what your character's dwelling looks like (for instance, "Riley Winkelpleck spends his life on the computer and barely notices the rest of his apartment exists, so he's got sparse furnishings and candy wrappers all over the floor."). It'll give you further insight into who they are.

3. List a few of their favorite things

What kind of music does your character listen to? What's her favorite book/movie/holodrama/virtu-game? What's her favorite color? What kind of outfits does she favor? Does she like animals, and if so, what kind? These are all pieces of your character's unique personality, and it taking a moment to answer these questions from her perspective is a great way to walk around in her skin. You don't have to mention them all in your final novel (in fact, you probably shouldn't), but once you have the answers, little pieces here and there will trickle in and give your character added dimension. 

4. Imagine the in-between moments

Every book has time jumps. Most go unnoticed because they're little in-between moments that you wouldn't want to read about anyway (for instance, your character's trip to the grocery store... unless she runs into an axe murderer there or something, no one cares about that). And sometimes, as a writer, you'll need to skip over parts that are boring in order to keep up your pacing, even if they're significant enough to get mentioned later (for instance, no one wants to read the snooze-fest of details about how Agent Adesina made her way back to the secret base after the space battle - all that matters is that she made it).

But imagining what happens during those in-between moments, which can also be considered preemptively deleted scenes, can tell you something new about your character (Adesina was upset about losing a team member in the battle and was forced to re-think her methods). Though these are things that would bog down your pacing if you included them in your book, they're good for you as a writer to know about.

5. Psycho-analyze them

You don't need an official psychology degree to psycho-analyze your characters. The University of Wikipedia will do just fine for getting-to-know-your-character purposes. Pretend you're a pop shrink and ask your characters how they feel, then try to get to the root of why they feel this way. Or try figuring out their personality types based on things like the Myers-Brigg chart (here's the test).

Speaking of which, I may have gotten a little carried away with mine...

Which character from the Jane Colt trilogy are you? Click here for character descriptions :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It Pays to Promote

First, let me start off by saying I am not throwing myself a pity party. I'm not. But this post might sound pitiful nonetheless.

I put my novella, The Lady in Blue, on a Kindle Countdown Deal (KCD) for this week. I dropped the price from $2.99 to $0.99. I needed a bump in sales. The last sale I had before July 20th was TEN DAYS PRIOR. Anyway, I decided I wasn't going to pay for promotions as 99-cent runs don't usually get a decent return on investment. I was going to book as many free promotions as I could. Since the book went on sale on Monday, I've had 13 sales with only two or three promotion sites running the book. I wasn't able to secure promo spots on too many places. No sales today, yet. Clearly, I'm not ecstatic over this, but it's to be expected.

From what I've read from various indie author communities, you're better off paying to promote a free book. And visibility from promotions on free books boosts sales on your other titles. It's really a numbers game. If 1,000 people download your book, maybe 300 people actually read it. Of those 300, maybe 10 review it, but perhaps 150 buy your next book in the series. This is all arbitrary as I have no data to back this up. Unfortunately, I only have one more title out, but a free run on The Lady in Blue should drive readers to my other book, Grunge Gods and Graveyards -- in theory anyway.

So, I'm going to start creating a budget for my next free promotion and plan accordingly -- in advance. I'll let you know how it goes.

What is your experience with paid promotions? Best for free books or 99-cent books?

Monday, July 20, 2015

A game world for my fictional characters? Yes, please!

A couple weeks ago my daughter asked me if she could get the game Sims FreePlay. While I usually unwind at the end of the night by spending some time on one of the Candy Crush Saga games, I’m not what you’d call a gamer. I had never played any of the Sims games, but from the advertisements I’ve seen it seemed a bit too mature for my almost nine-year-old. She thought differently so she had me look it up in the App Store (on her Kindle --UPDATE: see reply in second comment below for more information), and the information told me it was rated “for all ages”. Still—I wasn’t convinced and I told her I had to think about it.

Later that same week my daughter and husband left for their annual Daddy/Daughter trip to King’s Island. I figured that was the perfect opportunity for me to download the game and check it out without my daughter knowing that I had it on my phone. Because once she knew it was on my phone, then I’d get nothing but a constant, “Can I play? Can I play?”

It started off all innocent enough. While I figured she might get frustrated with the time it took to complete tasks, I thought she would enjoy making her own people, building houses, planting food, etc. I was cruising along in my Sims world, completing my tasks, and all seemed OK for my daughter.

Until it was time to WooHoo.

After two Sims are romantic enough times (hugging, chatting, kissing), their relationship elevates to the next level. Once that happens, you're given a task to have the two Sims WooHoo. Yep, WooHooing is exactly what you’re thinking it is. The two Sims did this amazing hover spin which made their clothes disappear (except their underwear), and then they went in for an embrace and a large pixilated circle covered them up. (Note: my Sims now WooHoo in the bed, under the blanket, with little dancing hearts all around them... unless other Sims are already in the bed then they just WooHoo wherever they are. I know this because I was curious enough to find out!)

Two of my Sims WooHooing in the kitchen...

Ummm... I’m not ready to answer the questions my almost nine-year-old would ask about WooHooing, so it’s a big fat NO on her playing the game. My time is coming (soon I expect), but I don’t exactly want to have the conversation based on Sims gameplay action. (Don't worry though, I think I can make up for it by finally giving her Minecraft.)

However, I’m having a blast in my new Sims world because it’s become my literary world!

When I had to create my first Sim, a gender and name was suggested. Ironically, it was a female with a last name of Mitchell. Well, the protagonist in Kingston’s Project is Sarah Mitchell. And that’s how it started. My Sims world now has Sarah, Elijah Kingston, Marcus Kingston, Miles Morgan, Tina Morgan, and Brandon (Van) Vanderlink from Kingston’s Promise.

It has been a blast trying to make the personalities of my fictional characters come alive and have them interact with each other. For example, one of my recent tasks was to send one of my Sims to a neighboring Sims town and have them WooHoo with a Sim there. Well, Van being the player that he is was perfect for the task! Now he’s busy trying to set someone’s oven on fire. Yep, sounds like Van alright! Although Sarah has a secret past with a grill she won’t discuss, so maybe I should have sent her instead...

I love to get notifications that tell me things like, “Elijah Kingston has finished cooking!” It’s a great way to keep these characters that I love close to me at all times.

Elijah Kingston distracting a mummy in the park. Quite the change of pace from his CEO life in Kingston's Project!

I recently unlocked a mysterious island. I might have to move in some characters from a different book to live there... I think Angel would love an ocean view home!

Well, it looks like Sarah and Tina are done with their fashion designs (I’m trying to earn some long hair this week), so I’m off to the next task!

Which literary characters would you move into your Sims town? Would you try to keep to their original story plot (who they marry, what they do, how they look, etc.) or put your own spin on it? Would you be in it, maybe WooHooing with your favorite book boy/girlfriend? (wink, wink)


Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Ugly Cry

Last night I was up until after 1AM finishing a weld cap order that had to be ready when the Baron left for work about four hours later. While sewing, I was watching my newest Netflix addiction, The Fosters, and I reached a point where my eyes started to tingle and moisten, my throat clenched, and my nostrils flared. I knew what was coming, as I've been through this before...

...the ugly cry. 

I'm a reader, and as a reader, I live many lives. Once a month or so, I end up snuggled up to a book that makes me fall in love, only to rip my heart out and stomp on it. 


I still sniffle like an idiot when I see this... 

Or remember this? 

Here's another one I cried through, only I listened to the audiobook, which meant I was able to keep going when I'd otherwise have to stop because the words were too blurry to see.

And you know what? I do the exact same thing the next month. It's torture, I know. 

In fact, I'm currently looking for one of these ugly cry books, which is why I chose this particular topic right now. 

Do you have a recommendation for me? What books have you ugly cried through? And, a very important question, what brand of tissue do you prefer? 

--Bri L.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Back Jacket Hack Job -- SWIMMING TO TOKYO

Alrighty. I'm new, as you know, and this is my first contribution to a recurring segment here on ATB: Back Jacket Hack-Job!  For each entry in this series one of our contributors puts on the hat of a total industry hack attempting to write the back cover of a book.  Writing terribly is almost as hard as writing brilliantly, so this is a fun challenge.  There are three basic formats:

A)  A real book.
Example:  "HARRY POTTER lives in a rundown house on Privet Lane with his adoptive family the Dursleys.  The house is probably a colonial, I'm not really sure.  Around 1500 sq feet.  Of course this is all in England so I guess it would be whatever the equivalent of that is in meters.  500 sq meters, I guess."

B)  The contributor's own book.
Example:  "GRUNGE, GODS, AND GRAVEYARDS is a book.  My book.  I wrote it.  You like NA?  Too bad.  This is YA, bitches!  You can't tell right now but I'm making the devil sign with my fist."

C)  A made-up book.
Example:  "GOLLY GUMDROPS DIBBLE-DUM DREAMHOUSE is the tale of an anthropomorphic gumdrop named Steve Martin.  Not the famous Steve Martin.  But!  He has a secret.  A TERRIFYING secret.  Because when a walking, talking confection has a sweet tooth, a holocaust of cannibalism will ensue, devouring the entire Grum-Dibble-Dum Dreamhouse."

So. That's what I'm doing. For better or for worse. If you think you might be interested in writing a guest BJHJ (and you are! I can see it from here.), send your submission to Stephen  along with a headshot, bio, and social media links.

I've picked one of my own books, SWIMMING TO TOKYO, because writers can be sensitive little souls and that person writing dino porn might be having a crap day and I don't want to inadvertently make it worse. Plus, I don't know the dino porn book well enough to BJHJ it ((I don't!!) ), but, boy, do I know mine.

SWIMMING TO TOKYO is mostly a book with unpronounceable words and names. The main character is named Zosia, which is apparently the Polish equivalent of Sophie. The so-called love interest is called Finn. Much better.

Finn and Sophie wander around Tokyo eating weird food and getting lost. This is a very believable part of the story because streets in Tokyo mostly don't have names. Also, pizza has mayonnaise on it as a matter of course. These two things are unrelated, but equally disturbing.

There are a lot of words/phrases in this story which are in Polish or Japanese. Some translated, some not. All proof that language is confusing those two years of high school Spanish you took do not, in fact, prepare you for anything. 

At its core, SWIMMING TO TOKYO is a love story. There is kissing and a few R-rated bits. If you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Related: there is also a scene where Sophie cooks dinner. This is PG-13.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

And now for my first trick - Predicting this summers’ bestsellers!

Summer is hands down my favorite season. I love the sun, the warmth, and being outside with a cold drink and a great book. Summer is the season of cookouts, beach days, and road trips. It’s also the season of the “beach read”. But what exactly is a “beach read”?

This + Rum = Happy Tara! Yay!

My personal definition of a beach read is a book that is easy to read, doesn’t take a lot of concentration, and is something that, despite many interruptions, can be devoured in one or two sittings. Beach reads are those books that you can take on airplanes (and leave for the next passenger), get sand between the pages, and spill your margarita on and not have the world end. It’s one that you’ll happily lend to your friends when they ask for a book to take on their vacation. I like to think of them as peacocking-books; you read them at beaches and public pools in the hopes that maybe the good looking lifeguard or the sunbathing hottie next to you will ask you about it.

You’ll probably see a movie or tv adaptation of these books in a year or so, thanks to their popularity and general relatable-ness. Probably not award winners but most likely have some pop culture relevance. Maybe an A-List actor in the starring role. Beach reads are lovely because they can be guilty pleasure books that you aren’t “embarrassed” to get “caught” reading. (Note: Never be embarrassed about something you like to read. Haters gonna hate.) “Oh, this? I just picked it up at the airport bookstore on my layover since I had already read everything else there.” Great ice-breaker books.

But really the definition of a beach read is totally subjective and open to interpretation. It doesn’t have to necessarily be of any one genre either. It can be romance, mystery, sci-fi, even a memoir. Each genre has its own beach read.

Past beach reads include Beautiful Ruins, The Paris Wife, Fifty Shades of Grey, Gone Girl, Orphan Train, The Longest Ride, Me Before You, Inferno, Orange Is the New Black, The Boys in the Boat, The Tipping Point, The Help, Water For Elephants, and One Day… just to name a few.

Now I’m no fortune teller or foreseer of the future but I have been selling books for the last 10 years and I like to think that I can spot trends when it comes to reading material. So with nothing but my gut instinct and a bunch of two sentence descriptions here’s a list of books that I think will be this years popular beach reads and ones that I will most likely be recommending to my friends and customers.

The Martian by Andy Weir (Sci Fi)
The Vacationers by Emma Straub (Fiction)
Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell (Fiction)
The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (Fiction)
The Rocks by Peter Nichols (Fiction)
Local Girls by Caroline Zancan (Fiction)
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica (Mystery/Thriller)
Hugo and Rose by Bridget Foley (Fiction)
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan (Fiction)
Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten (YA Fiction)
The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich (Mystery/Thriller)
Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow (Humor)
The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand (Fiction)
Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell (Fiction)
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume (Fiction)
...and of course…
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee (Fiction)

What do you consider to be a beach read? What book(s) are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Monday, July 6, 2015

This Bud's For You

A Post By Jonathan

So as I was trying to figure out what to blog about today I had an epiphany that if I wanted my post to speak to as many people as possible, I should make it as random as possible. Cast a wide net, you know? So, without further ado, I present some major randomness for your reading pleasure...

#1 Okay, first thing's first, let's talk about the word Ado. It's pronounced nothing like it's spelled. Should be Ahh-Dough, but is more like Uhh-Dooo. Leave it to the French. 

#2 Let's talk about the French for a second. Anybody ever been to Paris? Why do they call them Frogs anyway? I did some digging and found like a gazillion different explanations. One said it's because Paris used to be surrounded swamps, another because when the English first saw the French flag with the Fleurs de Lis on it they thought it was a frog, and yet another said it's because the French eat a lot of frog legs. Any French people out there who can help a brother out? 

#3 Let's talk about the Fleurs de Lis. On second thought, let's not and say we did...


#4 Not French related at all, but random all the same, I totally binged on this show on Netflix recently that you Fantasy genre lovers simply have to check out. It's a reality show called The Quest (stick with me here...), that takes 12 ordinary people and plops them into a real-life fantasy world called Everealm (the show is both scripted and unscripted) where they compete to become the One True Hero and vanquish the land of evil. The contestants learn swordplay, archery, etc. and are obviously surprised by every twist and turn the show's writers throw at them. 

Every time I watched it I couldn't help feeling like this was closest anyone has come, since maybe Sebastian in The NeverEnding Story, of living out a true storybook life. The contestants stay in a castle, fight a dragon and an evil villain and everything!!! Okay, totally geeking out here. Might be taking over the mantle of resident nerd pretty soon... Seriously though, I can't believe the show wasn't a bigger deal. It has not been renewed for a second season yet, but if it is, you better believe I'll be submitting a an audition video, armor, spandex and all!

#5 I chose Trebuchet font for this post in honor of The Quest and my earlier French-y-ness. 

#6 Remember when we used to call french fries freedom fries? And french kisses freedom kisses? And french toast freedom toast? That was awesome!

#7 Let's talk spandex for a second... It really is underutilized don't ya think?

#8 Hey did you hear there's a Wizarding School in the US?! The location is unknown, but I'm guessing it's not in Indiana. Trust me, I've looked... I figure it's in Salem, Massachusetts or Roswell, New Mexico or some place cool like that. Who's up for an Across the Board road trip to try and be the first ones to find it? What would it look like anyway? Would there be houses named after Bald Eagles, Buffalo or perhaps a Turducken or two? Would Elvira be the Headmaster? Would Jack Hanna be the Game Keeper? Would there be wands that shoot bullets instead of spells? Time will only tell.

#9 Speaking of good Middle Grade books, I'm currently reading Gregor the Overlander Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. It's been a bit overshadowed by her other series --you may have heard of the Hunger Games-- but really good all the same. She is a master at only putting the good parts into her books. I've never once been bored while reading one of her novels. I strive to do the same. 

#10 I hope you haven't been bored reading this post. 

#11 If you weren't bored type "Fleurs de Lis" into the comments section so that I know. 

#12 If you were bored you probably didn't make it this far, but if you did please type "I'm a Frog" in the comments section so that I know. 

#13 Finally, to tie my title into my post somehow, I leave you with this video and these lyrics:

This Bud's for you!
There's no one else who does it,
Quite the way you do...
So here's to you!
You know it isn't only what you say,
It's what you do!
For all you do...
This Bud's for you!
For all you do...
For all you do...
This Bud's for you!
For all you do,
You know the king of beers is coming through!
For all you do...
This Bud's for you!

See you next time!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

That Time I Survived a Tornado

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
We here at Across the Board are a community, perhaps even more so than the average reader knows.  Many's the night I've spent walking Brenda's twin schnauzers or holding back Tara's hair while she "worshipped the porcelain god."

So, when Jonathan recently mentioned to me that his greatest fear is tornadoes, I was immediately seized by a fit of, I mean, solidarity...and immediately knew what I had to write about for my next post:


The army has multiple major posts in Germany, where German linguistic skills are in particular demand to help American guests maintain a strong relationship with our local national hosts.  My degree being in the German language, the army entered my personal and career data into their normal decision-making processes and naturally concluded that my skillset could be put to best use in Oklahoma.  (My assumption is that if my degree was in Korean, I probably would have been stationed in Germany.)
One of the "perqs" of living in Oklahoma is the constant tornadoes.  Apparently the deal with tornadoes is that they can only really happen where the ground is flat.  As soon as a tornado hits a hill or a mound, poof, it goes up like a fart in the wind.  Oklahoma and Kansas basically comprise a giant flat-iron frying pan geographically, which allows near-constant pats of tornado "butter" to go sizzling by.
Native America: Where Simply Not Being Sucked Into a Sky Funnel is a Worth Singing About
Now in the very Southwest corner of Oklahoma, basically in and around the town of Lawton and the army post of Ft. Sill, we were supposed to be good.

"Look out at those mountains," our commanders would say, gazing out majestically, possibly misty-eyed at a few deflated lumps in the ground.

"You mean those hills?" I would probably not, in all actuality, reply.

There are, indeed, a few hills such as "Mount" Scott around Lawton, which are supposed to offer some protection from tornadoes.  And they do offer some protection, but ultimately Lawton is still a part of Oklahoma, and must take precautions.  For example, we had a tornado siren which normally goes off once a week.  Monday mornings if my memory serves me right.

A good friend of mine had just come back from his first deployment to Iraq.  He didn't have anywhere to stay so he was staying with us for a few days.  The great irony of this was that as he was coming home, I was just on my way out the door, which utterly sucks because it would have been nice to serve together in the same place for a bit.  Sunday I was scheduled to deploy and on Saturday we were all hanging out in my townhouse.

That's when the siren went off.

We turned on the news and all the local news stations were breaking in to inform us that a tornado was making its way to town.  The sky outside darkened as if on cue from Ed Harris in a weird beret.

One of the first things we had learned in Oklahoma was how to deal with tornadoes.  Ideally, you would get into your basement or crawlspace.  We had neither.  The next best thing to do is to get indoors, away from your windows, and if possible stand in a doorway.  (Doorways, for some reason, are the most structurally sound part of your house.)

My wife and I began to panic when the news announced that the tornado (I always imagine him twirling a cane, whistling a jaunty tune) was traveling down Northwest 75th Street.  We lived on NW 72nd street.  The tornado was quite literally passing within a few blocks of us.

My wife and I both hurried for the powder room, which was the best of our few "indoor, away from the window" options.  My redeployed friend, however, had not quite yet gotten over his "death wish," that weird consequence of seeing combat where you simply don't care whether you live or die.  He wouldn't come hide out with us, as much as we begged him to, and just continued to sit on the couch, watching TV, insisting that if it was his time, it was his time.

Well, he wasn't moving.  And we weren't exposing ourselves to the cyclone of terror.  So, huddling up with our cat Felix, we hid, trembling, in the powder room, and waiting for something to change.  We heard the TV turn off.  I'm not sure if the house quite rumbled.  That may have been an exaggeration of my mind.  But definitely something was going on outside.

We waited and waited.  I'm not sure what for.  Maybe for the house to collapse around us and to wait until the door opened up on a patch of rubble which had once been our first home together.  Maybe we were waiting for a dove to deliver a strand of laurel.  I'm not sure.  But eventually we opened the door again and everything was as it had been.  Even the raven-black sky had returned to a somewhat more normal, albeit ominous, yellow color.

And my friend had torn the couch apart and was now standing in a doorjam, shielding himself with a cushion.  Well, I guess the good news is something had scared him enough to get him over his death wish.  The bad news was the next day I deployed to Iraq.  And often since then my wife, my old army buddy, and I have laughed over the fact that the very closest I ever came to being killed as an army officer was the day before I deployed to a war zone. 

It's a funny old thing, life.
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