Posts Tagged 'Search and Rescue'


There is an old saying among authors: The beginning of your book sells that book. The ending of a book sells your next book. A plethora of information can be found on the web re: writing a great beginning. Advice on how to write that great ending is a bit more scarce.

I sail through the beginning of my books. I march through the middles. But endings often leaved me stumped. I ponder. I procrastinate. I try a scene out in my mind…and then I change it…and then I change it again…and then again…

Endings are hard. Endings are messy. No matter how clever the resolution, so much is left unsaid. Promises are left unfulfilled, dreams left to wither. Friendships are strung like fraying rope bridges over a chasm.

Yeah, endings are hard. But they are necessary.

This morning I ponder a real-life ending in my own life. Not to the whole book, of course–I plan to be here living and loving and learning for many years to come–but to a chapter called “Search One Rescue Team.”

More than nine years of service will likely come to an end today.

Yeah, endings are hard. Endings are messy.

Like any good writer, I’ve played the scene out a thousand times in my head. Should the character take the strong, direct approach? Play it with a softer, more wistful tone? Perhaps shag back to the carefree fool or hit the truth hard with a maniac rampage and see how long it takes people to start walking out of the room?

In the end, it won’t matter. People will do what people will do, including me.  What matters is that in my years of service to Search One Rescue Team I’ve had hundreds of experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. And I have only one regret. That’s not a bad ratio.

Today won’t be about endings, it will be about taking one small step to right that regret.

Whatever the outcome, I’m at peace. Because as a writer I’ve hit on that one jewel that will make it all okay. I’ve stumbled on the Best. Exit. Line. Ever.

Sorry, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see what it is. After all, the rest of the scene hasn’t been written yet!

Tip ‘O the Day – Closing the Gap

It’s Tuesday — that means another tip of the day for writers!

As an author, I  don’t want my reader standing off at a mental distance watching the action. I want her in the head of the viewpoint character. But how do you close that gap? How do you make the reader experience what the character is experiencing, feel what the character is feeling?

One way is to make sure as a writer you aren’t filtering the character’s physical sensations. By filtering, I mean using phrases like “She felt a cool breeze on her damp forehead.” Throw out that “She felt” and put the reader in the character’s head by using a more active statement like “A cool breeze chilled her damp forehead.”

Here are some more examples of filtering physical sensations, and some corny ways to remove the filter. Yeah, you’ll want to spend a little (lot) more time on your unfiltered versions than I spent on this blog.

She felt him take her hand in his. ==> He took her hand in his.
She heard a train whistle in the distance. ==> A train whistle wailed in the distance.
He smelled smoke. ==> Smoke tingled his nostrils.
She saw a robin on the windowsill.  ==> A robin perched on the windowsill.

Filtering physical sensations with words like smelled, tasted, heard and saw makes the reader feel if she’s standing across the street watching the action, or being told about it, instead of experiencing it. Close the gap between character and reader by getting rid of those filters!

That’s the tip of the day.

As a PS, I’d like to say how proud I am of all my USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) colleagues in Haiti and the rescues you are making, even at risk to your own lives. I wish I was there with you. Stay safe and hopefully I’ll see you on the next one, whenever and wherever it may occur.

A Plethora of Updates and Writer’s Attention Deficit Disorder


A grab bag of quick updates today while a take a short break from my work-in-progress:

1) Congrats to author Brenda Novak, who raised over $270,000 for diabetes research with her online auction. I was very pleased to contribute five books to the goody-bag and see them bring a good price for the cause! I’m already scheming something bigger and better to donate next year. Thanks to everyone who bid.

2) I’m back from my search dog training to Denver. It was a great weekend. It started out a little crazy when I boarded the airplane with my search partner, a black labrador retriever named “Boogie”. Boogie is a seasoned flier, and generally well behaved, but shortly after I sat down, while the last few passengers were settling in, he started barking quite loudly. I was mortified at his bad behavior so I bent over to sush  him (he was lying down with his head under my seat) and saw that he was nose to nose with a cat in a carrier the man behind me had shoved under the same seat! Boogie barked again, the cat screeched, and a rather panicked-looking flight attendant quickly moved me to another seat. Which just happened to be in first class. Oh happy day!

The training field in Denver is wonderful. They have literally acres and acres of rubble piles of all sizes and shapes. Boogie and I had great fun searching for buried “victims” (other handlers hidden in the debris) and I had fun hiding for the other dogs. I know, it’s kind of weird to enjoy being entombed in cramped, lumpy wholes with a few tons of concrete on top of you, but it really is fun!

I had my video cam and had planned to make some vids to put up of Boogie at work–he’s a pretty phenomenal dog–but I didn’t have the camera charged up the first day, and by the second day he had suffered abrasions on the pads of his front feet from running so hard across the rubble. I worked him in booties a little in the morning, but then he started burning up his back feet, too, so I had to quit. He’s doing fine now, by the way. The abrasions were minor and not uncommon in disaster dogs, especially early in the summer when it’s getting hot and their feet haven’t toughened up yet.

Boogie got to have his feet soaked and got a nice cool bath thanks to some wonderful people at Home Depot Garden Department who let us use their hose and their parking lot Sunday afternoon.

Monday morning on the way home we were assigned a seat on the plane in the very back row. I checked with the gate attendant, hoping their might be something a little farther up in the plane, since the vibration way in the back can be pretty tough on a dog who has to lie ont he floor the whole time, and lucky me, got upgraded to first class again! Woo-hoo! Their are advantages to flying in uniform…

Pics: Boogie waiting at the gate in Denver, then his buddy Scrappy, who was on the same flight, comes out of the jet bridge

3) On the writing front, things aren’t going as quickly as they should be. I have been bouncing around between four projects. Two paranormal  book proposals for Silhouette, a paranormal novella proposal for Silhouette, and the fourth Gargoyle book for Berkeley. Unfortunately, by going back and forth between the four, I haven’t managed to actually finish any of them. I plan to fix that this week by having all the proposals (two books and novella) ready for my agent by next Monday. Then I can focus on the Berkley book and should be able to complete it in a few weeks.

4) Looking for a fan-tabulous paranormal author? Check out Catherine Spangler and her Sentinel series. The newest edition, TOUCHED BY LIGHT, is in stores today!

That’s all for now,


It’s official. I’m a Wide ASS

It only took three days of classroom training to get it. The official certificate from the U.S. Government declaring that I’m a Wide-A.S.S., that is. How many people can accomplish that in just three days? Not many, since this is only the sixth time the class has ever been delivered, and was the final “dry-run” before it is made available to emergency personnel across the country. Wide A.S.S. = Wide-Area Search Specialist. That’s the search that spans tens, hundreds, thousands, even occasionally tens of thousands of square miles such as during the aftermath of a large tornado, hurricane or earthquake. It was quite an interesting class. Though we hope to never use the skills we gained, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, as well as the Greensburg, KS tornado have taught us how important it is to be prepared. One of the ways to improve your personal survivability? Have a plan–for your family, with your close neighbors and for your community. Get involved  in volunteer opportunities like CERT (Civilian Emergency Response Team) or the Red Cross. In the meantime, maybe we can all work on a new acronym for wide area search specialist.

Now it’s back from practicality to pure fantasy. Hoping to finish the new proposal today and then work on the short story I’ve started. Since we’re having an ice storm, there shouldn’t be many distractions today and tomorrow to pull me out of the house. I just hope the power stays on! Backup plan is my camper if it should go out since the camper is heated by an LP gas furnace. Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Life’s little ironies

I’ve mentioned here before that I am involved in search and rescue work. Specifically, I am a search and rescue canine handler on a local, state and national response level. Being a writer also, there is nothing I would like better than to take these SAR experiences, so rich with drama and real-life emotion, and spin the tales here for all to ponder and laugh and cry over with me. I think it would be therapuetic. It is one of life’s little ironies that this thing I would like most to write about is one of the few things that I can’t write about. In some cases, my reticence is out of respect for the privacy of the victims I interact with. Other times, the policies of the governmental agencies I support prohibit discussion. And sometimes the searches are part of an ongoing criminal investigation and must be kept confidential for legal reasons.

Today’s search was one of the latter. I wish I could talk to all of you about it detail. Instead I’ll just say I was harshly reminded today of two truths in life:

1) There are a lot of sick bastards out there, and
2) There but for the grace of God go I, my family or my friends.

‘Nuff said. Hug your loved ones tonight.

No writing today. It’s kind of tough to jump into a fantasy world after a reality check like this morning.

When I can, I’ll sort through my pictures of Hurricanes Dolly, Gustav and Ike which I responded to in 2008 and see if any would be okay to post.

Unbelievable 80 degrees!

Wow, I can’t remember the last time it hit 80 degrees in January in this area – but I’m not complaining! We had a great turnout for search dog training this morning. Since it’s supposed to turn cold and nasty again tomorrow, everyone wanted to give the dogs one big chance to work off some of that energy. Argh, but I forgot my camera! I had planned on taking some pics. I did have my phone with me, but I doubt the two whole pics I snapped are going to be high-quality enough to post here. I’ll give it a shot, though.



See, I knew that would happen. They’re too small to see anything. Yet on the email sent from my phone they’re nice and clear and large-sized. Oh well, for someone who’s spent 23 years in the technology business, I’m woefully inept when it comes to photos.

I’ll do better next time…when I have my real camera…honest.

One more day to prep the new story. I’ve got one more plot point to work out. And a big chunk of my hero’s personality. I don’t want to talk to much about it until it’s set in my mind more firmly. But let me just say…unicorns!

More Monday when I finally start writing.

Available Now!

western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

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Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

Coming Soon from Vickie Taylor

Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

Reader’s Guide to E-publishing

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