Setting the Record Straight

Keep Calm Write OnI’m taking a moment away from writing, in spite of a looming deadline, to go over a few things because first, I am a dirty rotten procrastinator who puts off work, but mostly because some reader misperceptions have come to light and I really would like to address them.

It seems the point of some scenes were misinterpreted. Here are the two specific instances I’m referring to…

In Valentine Cowboys there is a scene in a calving shed.  The two young ranch hands have to help a young cow deliver her first calf because this is a high risk birth. The cowboys take care of their work while the heroine watches, and in the end, they have sex with the heroine right there in the calving shed.

There are many reasons I wrote this scene. They are…

1) To show how these two young ranch hands had to, for the first time in their lives, handle a difficult birth on their own because their boss had been pulled away. The two young cowboys are hard workers, but they can be jokers at times, and to have them be completely responsible for the life or death of not only the cow but also the calf, on a working ranch where the loss of either is a considerable financial loss not to mention the devastation of the loss of life, is a big deal for them. It’s a right of passage. It’s a growth experience.

2) I needed the heroine to see them as more than just two guys who shovel manure for a living. For the first time she realizes the expanse of their job. That it’s more than what she assumed. They have responsibilities. More than that, they are good at what they do, and handle a difficult delivery perfectly. Their capability, and being in charge of the situation, adds to her already existing attraction to the two men.

3) I’d done a shitload of research on calving and I was going to use it somewhere, dammit!

So that is why I wrote the scene. It developed the characters and their relationship. It was never meant to entice sexually.  I never thought, expected or assumed the reader would find the birthing scene sexual. It was never meant to be. Yes, sex happens in that calving shed but it’s because the three characters are already attracted to each other, and they take advantage of being alone in the middle of the night in the shed. Compared to their first time together in the front seat of a truck in a parking lot outside a bar, having the whole shed to themselves seems like a luxury. The heroine is a guest in her grandmother’s home. The two cowboys live in the bunkhouse with their boss. So opportunity and privacy is a challenge.

Another reader misperception I was told about but didn’t see first hand is from the opening scene in TREY.

In this scene the hero’s squad is on a training mission. It’s called OPFOR and they play the part of the Opposing Force, or the bad guys, to help train another unit for what sneaky tactics to expect from the insurgents when the US unit deploys to Afghanistan. So they must set up traps and ambushes and hide improvised explosive devices, all to catch the other unit unaware in hopes that it will teach them a valuable lesson and prevent them from making the same mistake again overseas. So Trey and his unit are playing at war games, kind of like a paintball game, or laser tag on steroids (the game, not the men).  His unit is the best of the best, and they know they can use their expertise to beat the pants off the other team. Yes, winning is fun, but the lessons they are teaching will save lives.

What I did was not let the reader know for the first couple of pages that this is a training. It reads like a real battle and until we discover his identity, we don’t know who Trey really is or what he’s doing there.

The comment I was told about said something to the effect of how horrible it was that Trey was rejoicing over killing people.  Most likely the reader didn’t read farther than the first page to discover this was all an exercise. If they did, they still missed that Trey rejoicing that he managed to “blow up” his opposition is because this is just a game. He is a competitive Alpha male running on adrenaline. Much like a quarterback during the big game, he likes to win. But more important, Trey knows that the other unit will never repeat the same mistake again because of the beating they took, and that will save their lives in real combat. I would never ever write a character who takes another life lightly. More importantly, my character wasn’t actually killing people.

That’s it. I’ve made my explanations. Now I can go back to writing and you may all carry on with your day. Thanks for listening!

Cat

Tools of My Trade 2012 Edition: Day 1 Sleep Machine

It’s been a full year since July 2011 when I did a weeklong series of the favorite tools of my trade. Things that make my life easier. Some for work. Some that do double duty for work and for play (because you know what they say about all work and no play). It’s time to revisit the topic. A year later, what am I still using? What new things have I discovered? And have I changed my mind about some of my last year favorites? Stay tuned all week and find out.

Today’s featured tool is new to me and good for anyone, doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or not. You can use it daytime or nighttime. You can be 8 days old or 80 years old and use this tool.

What is it?

Sleep Machine Lite by SleepSoft LLC (www.sleepsoftllc.com) is a white noise app that I’ve fallen in love with.

How did I find it? I was watching two authors I know chat on Twitter about how much work they get done while traveling. I chimed in and said I wish I could but I can’t seem to write when away from home. I also find I can’t sleep when away, which makes me tired during the day, one more reason I have trouble writing. One author came back to me and said she uses a noise app at home while she writes, and when away, she puts it on and it puts her in the frame of mind to write. Very Pavlovian but it makes sense that her mind associates the noise with the work. She also thought the iPad app might help me sleep better. I think she mentioned Naturespace as the one she uses. Being an overachiever, I downloaded not 1 but 4 white noise/nature sounds apps on my iPad (all free) and began to test them. I found the Sleep Machine Lite free version (iPod App loaded onto the iPad) to be my favorite.

The free app is so absolutely kick ass, I see no need to pay for the enhanced full version. The customization is the key. You can select three sounds to play simultaneously and increase or decrease the volume of each, or mute one, or two. You can name and save your customized preferences to return to in future or select one of the preprogrammed combinations. I find myself alternating between the preprogrammed Summer Porch (Crickets, Wind Chime, Fan) and Beach House (Beach Small Waves, Wind Chimes, Wind).

I have the iPhone version of the app on both my iPad and my iPod Touch. (My Touch is so old, it seems to have slightly more limited functionality, but is still a great tool.) When I’m using my iPad for something else, but want the white noise, I keep my iPod plugged into my iHome speakers next to my bed and turn the app on there.

I’ve been using the white noise fairly regularly in my room where I write. It will be interesting to see when I go away on vacation this month, if the same noise will help me focus and work. Honestly, one hour each morning before the rest of the house wakes up is all I need to make my daily word count and give me that sense of accomplishment I need to be able to go and play guilt free the rest of the day and night with my friends. I can take some iced coffee and the laptop and hide outside on the deck for awhile with my iPad app and the sounds of a summer porch or beach house. We’ll see if it works. I’ll let you know. In the meantime, check out the app. It’s very soothing and spa like. Like a vacation in a box!

Cat

News and Novels–reality in romance

Sometimes my life, and my job, is really cool. Like this morning when I was anxiously waiting for the coffee to drip, one slow painful drop at a time, while the small television in my kitchen was tuned into the ABC morning news.

Even in my caffeine deprived state, certain words from the newscaster captured my attention. Pirates/Navy Seals/Rescue. I knew without hearing more that in this day and age if there were pirates involved we were talking about Somalia. And if there was a rescue involving helicopters in that region of the world, that helo would be going to Djibouti. How was I so certain of this before I’d even heard, or read, the entire story? Because through my book research, through the contacts I’ve made in the active military world, I’ve had what is nearly, but not quite, an insider’s view of the Joint Task Force’s Camp Lemonier on the Horn of Africa in Djibouti, just miles from the Somalian border.

I know there are special forces and there is always a squadron of US Marines maintaining heavy helicopters (CH-53s) there.

Crossing the Line by Cat JohnsonI know what the hangers look like, the Cantina where the troops relax with a beer after a hard day, and the racks where they crash for a few hours of sleep at night. I’ve seen what the NCO’s offices look like, as well as the chow hall. I could picture it all as I listened to the news report and that, to me at least, is really cool.

I took all that information years ago to write CROSSING THE LINE, which is my military romance novel set on Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Sometimes life and fiction cross paths…more often than you’d think.

What makes a man–and a cowboy–strong?

What makes a man strong?

That’s the question posed to the final 4 heroes battling for the title of Summer’s Hottest Hero at All Romance eBooks this week in Round #4 of the competition.

What’s the answer to this question?

You’ll have to go to ARe and log in to your ARe account to read the 4 heroes’ answers. Once you are logged in, you’ll see the 4 heroes in the 2 match-ups. Click on Wes Griffin’s name and read what he thinks makes a man–and a cowboy in particular–strong in his eyes.

Don’t forget to vote for your two favorites. Voters can vote in each bracket in every round so if you haven’t voted yet in Round #4 which began today, Friday, July 22nd and ends July 27th at 11:59 PM CT, you are eligible to vote and to win $25 in eBook Bucks (your vote is your entry).

It’s going to be a tight competition again this round so go support your favorite hero–and if he happens to be my hot roping rodeo cowboy Wes, even better! The two winners of this round will advance to the 5th and final round next week where one will be crowned the Hottest Hero of the Summer!

A message to my friend…

NOV. 13th UPDATE: DONNA WON 1st PLACE!

======================

Yes, romance writers can live a strange life, often trying to keep the professional and the personal separate, and often failing at doing so. Sometimes you just have to give in and combine the two, so here it goes, a personal message to my friend, delivered in a very public forum because, honestly, I think these words are pertinent to us all…

Dear Donna,

Tonight you go into the finals of the competition that has dominated your life for the past 8–or is it 9–weeks now and I know right before you take the stage you like a little pep talk. I am delivering mine now, away from the noise and crowds and chaos.

Remember way back to September 23rd when we all came out to support you for your ‘one and only’ night in competition because you thought it would be fun, but you never expected to make it in, and then look at now. It’s November 12th now and all these weeks later you are 1 of only 3 remaining.

Being one of those 3 finalists, having made it through this far, means you are already a winner. The only question now is where you will place amidst the 3 winners.

In the end what matters is not if you are 1st or 2nd or 3rd. In the end, what matters most is that you made it through this far on the merits of your talent, showmanship and maybe most importantly, sportsmanship. You are finishing this competition with the respect of your fellow competitors, the judges, the crew, the audience, and even the waitstaff.

Simply to compete each week without giving up, and to compete fairly and graciously, means you are already a winner. So when you take that stage tonight to sing your final 2 songs of this long run, remember that it truly is an honor to simply be there and all the rest, the title of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, is only the icing on the cake.

Love you!

C

CIRO’S IDOL

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7,634 Non-Porn Reasons to Be Proud

I put up with a lot of shit because of what I do for a living. Things like my friends introducing me as a porn writer, to the point that one guy actually believed I write porno movie scripts. I had to show him a book to prove they were actual real books with actual stories. At a book signing a woman looked at the cover of one of my books and said, “I like story in my books.” Um, excuse me? Do I know you?

But hey, you know what, I’m a working writer and have been since the day I graduated college with my BA in English. That means I write for money. I write what sells. I write for the market, whatever that market is. If I get the opportunity and find there is more income to be made writing porn scripts, I’ll write porn scripts. Recently threesomes sell like hotcakes. I began writing threesomes and started to receive royalty checks that could actually pay my mortgage. Of course that doesn’t matter to the people who write or read ‘serious’ literature.

Whatever.

My point here is that though I’m not opposed to writing porn, I don’t write porn or even erotica for that matter. In fact, I’ve received a few reader and editor comments that my stuff is ‘not erotic enough’ or ‘not hot enough for their taste’, proving you really can’t please everyone.

I often find myself riding a very pointy and uncomfortable fence between those two groups of people. Every person I meet I make a conscious decision whether or not to tell them what I do for a living. Say, “I’m a writer” and invariably the next question is “What do you write?”. Then you have to size up what kind of person you’re talking to and try to predict their reaction. The former poet laureate of the US was actually quite intrigued by me, while some other poet/haiku writers think I’m the devil on earth, so you really never know.

This, however, is something I am very proud of, and sadly, I don’t even think most people in my real life or my cyber world know about it. The American Red Cross Go Red for Women Corporate Teams. Go to that link and take a look at the top donating corporation. As of today, the top dollar contributor is ARe.

Sound familiar? That’s because ARe is All Romance eBooks, LLC. They are listed here on my site as one of the places where you can purchase my books. What you may not know is when not ‘penning porn’ I am the Manager of Media and Public Relations for ARe. Yup, I have a title and business cards and everything. In fact, I even have a summer intern all of my own.

One of my responsibilities for ARe over the past year was spearheading the 28 Days of Heart Campaign. Though an eBook retailer, this time last year we opened the doors to published authors and began taking submissions of novellas that we would sell to benefit the American Heart Association in an effort to combat the number one killer of women–heart disease.

To date ARe has forwarded $7,634.39 to the AHA from the sales of those 28 eBooks, and proceeds will continue to be turned over for the length of the contracts. We’ve donated more than Pepsi Co. Upstate and believe me, that is something to be excited about. I live near Pepsi’s headquarters. It’s like a city in itself, and little ol’ ARe is beating them in the tally.

I helped do that! Not only is one of my books part of the charity series, but I was also in charge of the project and the team of talented individuals that made it happen. I think I was even touted as being the Editor in Charge. Another title that doesn’t have the word ‘porn’ in it. Imagine that! The best part is, because of the success of last year, we’re about to do it all again and I am thrilled.

So, what can I take away from this personally? For one, I need to somehow stop caring about what people think. Porno or prissy, I write what I write and I have to stop apologizing for it and concentrate on the achievements I am truly proud of.

For you authors, we’ll be announcing the call for subs for the next 28 Days of Heart series to be released in February 2011. (I came up with the series title too! My Associates Degree in Marketing comes in handy). Details will follow but I hope you’ll consider becoming part of this incredibly fulfilling endeavor. And–I’m about to get really catty here so forgive me–for that one organization who refused to publicize our call for submissions last year on their erotic romance writers blog/site, I have one thing to say–$7,634.39 and counting!

Cat

What Erotic Romance Writers Read

Fair warning, the answer is going disappoint you. I’m sure you look at what I write (that being erotic romance novels) and you think I’m reading the hottest books around, when I’m not out there in real life trying out all the crazy things in my books. Yeah, I know what you all think and you’re wrong.

Of the last 4 books I read, 2 of them (and 1 more on order right now) were non-fiction (and none of them were the Kama Sutra either). The sad truth is becoming a writer has changed what kind of reader I am. When I do devote time to reading, it is usually for research in one way or another. Yes, 2 of those past 4 books read were fiction romance but I read one because I tour with the author for book signings and I felt like I should be familiar with her work, and I read the other because it was from a publisher that I considered subbing to and it’s important to read books in a publisher’s catalog to make sure they are a good fit for you, so I count the motivation to read both of those as research as well.

Don’t cry for me though, as I sit toiling away, reading non-fiction books for research because no matter what the motivation for picking up those books, I truly enjoyed reading every one. At least parts of each book have stuck with me on a deeper level. What were these books? While I do not want to be a reviewer in any shape or form, I will pass on the titles and the parts that impressed me enough to stick with me.

UNDER THE SABERS ~The Unwritten Code of Army Wives by Tanya Biank

Quite honestly, I bought this because it’s the book the Lifetime TV series “Army Wives” is based upon. It was pure research (with a heavy dose of envy thrown in). I had one of those “if SHE can turn her book into a TV series, so can I, dammit!” moments. I had wrongly assumed Tanya Biank was a first time author who got lucky while I, an English major with dozens of published books to my credit, toiled away in obscurity.

Boy, was I wrong. It turns out Biank is a reporter based in Fayetteville, NC who has not only covered the military beat for the local paper there for years, but has also been embedded with deployed troops all over the world. The second surprise was the subject of the book and her motivation for writing it.

During the summer of 2002, 4 Fort Bragg Army wives were murdered by their husbands during a 6 week period. In this post 9-11 era when troops surged into the middle east and the entire country mourned, it seemed to Biank that this story needed to be told, and told by more than just a short article in the local paper for each of these women killed.

I will copy here the passage from the book that has stuck with me most. Remember this is Biank writing her own opinion so don’t email me. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, just that it made me think.

Everyone I met who knew Bill Wright extolled his virtues: great father, husband, and NCO. Even the cops had compassion for him. It was harder, in this town at least, for me to find people who had compassion for the wife he had just murdered.

To many at Bragg it was Bill Wright who was the victim, the politically incorrect point of view that was never part of any media coverage, including my own. At the time I never asked the one unthinkable question: Did she deserve what happened to her? The question seemed absurd. Since I didn’t ask it, I couldn’t learn what I know now. More than a few soldiers who either knew the Wrights or had heard about the case later told me, “She got what she deserved.” Or “She had it comin’.” These quick-trigger outbursts (they were never said casually) always caught me off guard. To understand the root of such venom, I thad to take a step back and realize that these men identified more with Bill Wright the patriot, Bill Wright the war vet and family man, than they did with his supposedly cheating wife. An unfaithful Army wife might as well be a terrorist, soldiers hate them that much. Soldiers tend to consider infidelity as a personal slight on their own manhood. When a woman cheats on a buddy, she is desecrating not only her husband but also the flag and all those in uniform. Of course none of this applies when soldiers cheat on their wives.

Rumors of Jennifer Wright’s alleged affairs had been flowing through her husband’s unit for a long time before her death. And in the Army rumors are as good as reality; here perceptions are reality. Sadly Jennifer Wright has never been able to defend her reputation. In the end the ‘great’ father had orphaned his three boys. ~from Under the Sabers page 2-3

Those few paragraphs have stuck with me since the day I read them and dog-eared the page. I added the underscore to the most impactful sentences in my opinion.

Biank goes on to inform the reader that of the 4 wives murdered by their husbands, 3 of those 4 husbands killed themselves afterwards. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, those same 3 men were Special Forces. She explains that back in 2002 they investigated everything they could think of to explain this phenomenon. Was it the malaria injections these men had been given before deploying? Had the Army turned them into trained killers who no longer valued human life?  What didn’t fit was the thousands of other men who received the same injections and the same training who choose NOT to kill their wives (affairs or not).

What Biank concludes is this–the Army doesn’t cause marital problems, but when those problems exist they are easily magnified by the stress of long separations, money problems, frequent moves and the perceived stigma which prevents military families in emotional turmoil from seeking help for fear it would negatively affect their careers. Not that I feel at all qualified to render an opinion, I agree with her conclusion.

SOME GIRLS – My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren

I saw this author on The View promoting this book. I immediately thought 2 things: 1) I am about to rewrite a story that is set in a modern-day harem and this would be good for research and 2) here is another person who got a publishing contract not because she can write, but because she happened to have a good story which in light of the recent Oprah book club memoir debacles may or may not be true. Amid the depressing thoughts that I would perhaps have to join a harem to get a NY publishing contract, I ordered the book immediately.

Again, I was proved wrong. This woman was no sham, she can really write. It is later revealed in the text why. To keep her sanity while in this harem she would write. First a journal, later short stories, then later her memoir.

This book is very thought-provoking, the main question being how in the world does a girl who grew up in New Jersey end up in a Prince’s harem in this day and age? The answer soon follows in this passage. Besides the money, jewels, nightly parties, free-flowing champagne and gourmet food, designer clothes, lush accommodations and free international travel, there was this…

Sometimes I fell prey to fantasies of becoming a princess. It seemed so strange that it had entered my orbit of possibilities. What Disney-brained American girl hadn’t lain in bed and known deep in her heart that she was worthy of being woken from an evil spell by the kiss of a prince? That she would open her eyes and, due to no effort of her own, find that she had been saved? Who wouldn’t consider attempting to grab that gold ring, that diamond crown? ~ from Some Girls page 189

The more I thought about it, the more I read, the more I realized that this modern harem was not such a phenomenon after all. I had visions of Hugh Hefner’s mansion teeming with ‘girlfriends’ and ‘Playmates’ at nightly parties. Of ABC’s The Bachelor where 25 women will claw each other’s eyes out for the chance to be with a man who yesterday was a complete stranger to them.

How did Lauren, an NYU student/drop-out, end up there? A struggling actress from an abusive family she went from stripping, to being an ‘escort’, to the harem within about a year when she was 18 and struggling to pay to live in NYC while waiting for her big acting break.

My impression, besides the realization that the Playboy mansion and The Bachelor were both very harem-like, was that being in a harem was far less exciting than I had imagined. The girls wore their normal clothing, not see-thru I Dream of Jeannie outfits. No one made them perform the “Dance of the Seven Veils”. Instead they disco danced. Even though this was the early 90s and disco was long dead, apparently the Sultan of Brunai’s prince brother still liked it and he always got what he wanted. There was no training for the girls on how to be a sexual expert. In fact, there was hardly any sex at all. Understandably. There was 1 prince with 3 wives, and 40+ girls. Hard to get to them all for any mortal man, even a prince. Some girls had sex with him once then were sent home after their 2 week stint. Others became a favorite and stayed for a year, not because they were particularly good at sex, but because they added to the ‘drama’ which entertained the prince, much like the crazy girls on The Bachelor always seem to hang around for a long time because they are good entertainment.

For the Disney-fied little girl in all of us… Yes, the prince did eventually propose to a harem girl since he was allowed legally to take 4 wives, and his first wife had already provided suitable heirs. The joke was on him. The harem girl of his dreams took the money and jewels and disappeared, never to be heard from again. She wasn’t an American, apparently Disney doesn’t reach Thailand and being Princess #4 didn’t appeal to her.

So there you go. My recent reads. I am currently waiting for my next big exciting non-fiction to arrive. I’m torn between thinking I will be bored to death by the 300 page WAR written by war correspondent and author of The Perfect Storm Sabastian Junger, and knowing that after the lasting effects of the past 2 books I read, I will likely again be surprised and enthralled by the story.

Never judge a book by its genre. You never know.

Cat

A Call for Troop Support

This next week is going to be busy with not one but two new eBook releases for me. I don’t want today’s post to get lost amid the marketing hubbub of promoting my books, but I also don’t want to delay this very important post either, so here it goes…

Those who have been around here for awhile have heard me talking about my military muses. The stars aligned during October of 2006. By some twist of fate, I joined BooksForSoldiers.com and happened to stumble upon and respond to a request for care packages from a certain soldier deployed in Ramadi, Iraq at the time. It is so long ago, and so many care packages ago, I’m not even sure what the request was for. I believe Sean was building a library in the MWR and requested books. Being a newly published author at the time, I had books, and I sent them. The thank you email he sent me back started a friendship that has lasted nearly 4 years now. It also spurred a collaboration. Sean’s tales of war have inspired 3 of my military romances, and his fact checking keeps me on track during my writing in that genre.

It is with mixed feelings that I inform you he is about to deploy once more. As he jokes, he will have more info for me and I’ll likely get another book or two out of it. But I also realize that where he is going is the current hotbed of discontent and danger, just as Ramadi was when he was there years ago. So it goes where he serves. First in, last out and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Anyway, this time instead of just his usual 11 man team beneath him, Sean now has 45 men he is responsible for. So this deployment, the third since I’ve known him, the sixth I believe in his ten-plus years in, I am not going to just be content with sending him packages on my own. I have a background in marketing, both from my college studies, and my career in the real world, besides the marketing required to be an author. Why not use it for Sean’s benefit?

No matter what your opinion is of this war or the men in Washington DC, those soldiers serving in Afghanistan, freezing in the winter, broiling in the summer, risking life and limb to not only enemy attack but the wildlife and elements they are forced to endure, deserve all of our support. And even if you don’t choose to support Sean’s platoon, my hope is that you will receive the information you need here to help you more effectively support a soldier of your choice also serving overseas. Below is a copy of the email Sean sent out today to his friends. It is exactly as I received it from him with one exception, I removed his mailing address. We both agreed for security purposes that the mailing address shouldn’t be spread all over cyberspace. However, anyone who would like to send a card, letter or package to Sean’s unit, please shoot me an email at catjohnson @ hotmail .com and I will reply with his mailing address. I will not capture your email address or use it for promo. I will not share your email address with anyone. We simply feel safer not informing the bad guys exactly where there will soon be a personnel change and troop movements in that region, or supply a crazy radical person an address to be used to harass or harm our troops. Call me paranoid. Anyway, here is the letter from Sean.

Remember, for the cost of a postcard stamp you could make a deployed soldier’s day.

Cat

Dear Family and Friends,

I am writing you today as our deployment draws even closer. While I can not say exactly when we will be departing, I will say with certainty that I need to begin generating support for my soldiers for our time downrange if I am to be successful for my men.

Whether it is a letter of support, a book to relax with, a dvd to watch during movie night, a snack to liven up the usual drab course, or a hygeine item to help keep us clean. All of this matters to a soldier and makes a difference in their morale.

Having been deployed more times than I care to count, I can tell you from experience that not receiving mail can really be a downer. I can also say that being a point of contact for my platoon, the astounding affect that mail can have on a person.

If you have family or friends who wish to help or are part of any organization; be it a local church or school, store or business, sports team, etc that may wish to be a part of supporting soldiers, it would be much appreciated. I have found much success in these types of support groups.

I am including a generic list of items which I have found are needed/wanted. Once there I will find out more specific needs or wants from the soldiers. The list is not an all inclusive one.

My platoon is all male and approximately 45 in number. I’ll serve as the Point of Contact for my soldiers and will ensure the care packages/letters are distributed. Packages addressed to “Any Soldier” is generally frowned upon in an age where someone can use the mail system to harm others. For those who want something to go specifically to me, just label that item or include in your correspondence that the item or package is solely intended for me. Other than that, all will be used for the good of the platoon.

Also, please do not mail anything prior to 22 February. This date is just a generalization for mailing. I don’t know how long mail will take to arrive this time, but I am not wanting it to arrive too early and flood the unit we will be replacing. If it gets there early, no worries, they have a place to secure any mail intended for us.

—–The List——

CORRESPONDENCE-letters, postcards, greeting cards, pictures (of you or things in states)

Phone cards- generally needed. not sure what type of phones we will have, so for now if you do send, do so in small limits. At the larger camps these can be used, but in smaller outposts where we will be, it depends on the phones they set up. It might be that I could generate an account for all to use and the regular type phone cards aren’t needed. I will let you know once there.

———————————————————————————————————————

ENTERTAINMENT- These are an important function in a combat zone. It is a way to unwind and escape the day to day realities of combat and the stresses involved.

DVD movies or tv seasons- used or new, regular or bluray

XBOX 360/ PS3 /PS2/XBOX (new or used)

Books (all genres minus romance) Bibles are welcome, but usually provided by chaplains.

Magazines-“Maxim” type, guns, sports, outdoor, etc.

Activity books/puzzles (Sudoku, word search, etc…)

Handheld electronic games

Board games (chess, monopoly, risk, etc)

Cards/Dominos/Dice

Card games (Skip bo, Phase 10, etc)

Comic Books- yes, still a valued entertainment source among many

——————————————————————————————-

HYGEINE ITEMS-

Shampoo/conditioner (two in one works best)

Razors- regular disposables work, but the mach 3 or fusion type are preferred

Shaving Cream

Aftershave gels or lotions

Baby Wipes

Toothpaste

Toothbrush

Dental floss

Mouthwash

Deodorant- mostly used is gillette gel type antiperspirant/deodorant.

Q-tips/Cotton balls

Soap (irish spring is widely used)

Bodywash

washcloths

Foot powders/Tinactin spray

Nail clippers/tweezers

Hair clippers w/attachments(ask first before sending as one or two would be enough)

Skin lotion

Chapstick

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MEDICINE- anything in general (nondrowsy types if possible)

Tylenol/Advil/Motrin

Immodium AD

pepto bismol

Moleskin

Icy hot

Bandaids- all assortments

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GENERAL ITEMS

Olive drab green calf length boot socks- socks made for hiking/water resistant is a plus but not necessary. Thorlos is a preferred brand, but a bit pricey.

White socks crew length

Boot insoles- general sizing 7 ½ to 13, most are around 9

multivitamins

Supplements- mainly protein sources, the weightlifting powders like whey protein. These supplements are dual purpose. Weightlifting is a favorite thing for deployed soldiers. If there is no gym equipment, we make it out of whatever is handy. Soldiers who don’t weight lift still utilize these supplements to help keep their bodies in good health.

Calendars- please no puppies, favorites are ones like Maxim and swimsuit ones

Air fresheners /candles

CDR’s or DVDR’s-for making pic discs

Canned air or Endust wipes

AA and AAA batteries

Greeting Cards- for holidays/events (ie birthday/anniversary), general subjects (Really Miss You, Love You, etc)

Bug Spray (Avon Bug Guard is a good one)

Multi-outlet cords with surge protector

Dental picks- the metal type, good for either dental hygiene or in depth cleaning of weapons

Plastic flatware

Microwaveable bowls

Cigarettes/cigars/chewing tobacco

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FOOD

Tuna/Salmon- preference is the bagged.

Microwaveable meals ( ie Easy Mac, Taco Bell, Chef Boyardee, ramen)

Microwaveable popcorn

canned meats/Ham salad/vienna sausages/ sardines

Summer Sausages & mustard

Condiments-ketchup, mayo, mustard, etc. (packets and bottles)

Trail mixes/granola bars/chocolate bars-make for great on patrol energy boosters

Fruit cups

Drink mixes (kool-aid/country time/ice tea, etc)

Coffee

Sugar

Coffee creamer

Beef jerky

Sunflower seeds

pistachios

Peanuts-good, but tend to be overkilled in amount

Peanut butter

Jelly/jam

Chips-any kind

Chip dip

Salsa (many like it hot)

Crackers

Cookies

Candy (any sorts)

poptarts

breakfast bars

instant oatmeal packs

pickles (the large prepacked ones)

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DO NOT SEND / DO NOT SEND / DO NOT SEND

Alcohol/narcotics

Homemade goods –please don’t send unless we know you very well. For the safety of the soldier all food must be non-homemade goods

Flea Collars-we can’t use them as they aren’t made for humans, wild how rumors spread…..we don’t have fleas, we may get sampled by a lot strange spiders and bugs, but no need for these

Ammo or pyrotechnics- Uncle Sam keeps us stocked.

Hamsters, goldfish, or other pets. -There is more wildlife where we will be than we can handle as is; dogs, cats, jackals, rats, snakes, scorpions, spiders, and more. No need for pets.

Feminine products- there are women in other areas who would need these more.

Okay, I am going to get this sent out. I know that many have been waiting anxiously for me to deploy again. Some seem to like my writings, The Ramblings, others have a want to support the soldiers and I. Whatever your motivation, I send my appreciation now. My gut and more importantly, current knowledge of what’s going on downrange right now tells me that we are going to need all the “love” we can get.

If you have any questions please email me. I will do my best to respond as soon as possible. Things here have been very busy so free time is very limited.

Your Friend and Soldier,

Sean

My Kingdom for a fuel nozzle…

January 2, 2010

Day 2 without heat and I’m inspired to blog.

So far 2010 is proving to be ‘character-building’, shall we say? After waking yesterday to a 50 degree house and outdoors in the twenties, the husband spent New Years Day battling the furnace at the end of which he emerged filthy and carrying a tiny brass fitting that he declared the culprit for our lack of heat. Being New Years Day, and the fact all the trades in NY, including plumbing supply houses, are union, no one was open so in a last ditch effort, said part is now soaking in my nailpolish remover, in hopes to rid it of a possible clog.

Keep in mind we woke to the sound of snowplows this morning so no, it hasn’t gotten warmer here in the northern ‘burbs of NY State. So what did we do for heat?  This is the part where all you people who are building or renovating a home, or just interested in various home heating methods, should take note.

Thankfully, when we installed a new tile floor in the kitchen a few years back, we put electric heat beneath the floor. Easiest thing ever. Buy the wired pads at a home supply store, lay it over the subfloor, beneath the mortar and tile, run a wire to a thermostat on the wall and viola! Floors that make your toosties happy on a cold morning. However, our house was built in 1734. What walls are insulated are not insulated well. The windows and doors we have yet to replace are drafty. The kitchen area, a later addition, is built over a slab. You get the picture. So with the floor set at 70 degrees last night, the kitchen was 58 this morning. Not bad since the living room was 50.

Which brings us to the wood burning stove insert in the living room fireplace. Yes, that was running too when we went to sleep last night, but since it is an old 1970’s Franklin, it isn’t as efficient as the newer airtight models. That went out pretty early in the night.

But the bedroom is the real success story of the great heat outage of 2010. A single electrical, oil-filled heater set on medium kept our bedroom 65 degrees. (My southern friend is grumbling that is too cold right now, but, being a Yankee through and through, I like a cold room to sleep. I usually sleep in a room that is 58-60 so 65 was like a spa.) But what about the electrical bill, you say? That is what I said myself, but after a lecture from the husband about the efficiency of the oil-filled heater and a comparison of electrical rates compared to the price of home heating oil, I don’t feel too guilty about running it all night. We are in an emergency situation, after all.

Anyone who has experienced burst pipes during a northern winter are shouting, your pipes will freeze, idiot! I was ready to forgo my warm bedroom and donate the electric heater to the basement to keep the pipes from freezing, but there was no need. Our forefathers really knew what they were doing back in the day. My house may be old and crooked and not very well insulated, but it is built well and logically. The direction the windows and porch face means that I am in shade for the hot summer, so even though we sleep on the second floor, we don’t need an air conditioner. The house is always a good ten degrees cooler than the outdoors in summer. The deciduous trees and angle of the sun in winter means the house gets full solar warmth in winter months. And the pipes, well the basement was dug into the ground and the foundation is made from giant boulders. Some of the beams are whole tree trunks, pretty cool. But anyway, the basement is warmer than the upstairs so we’re not worried about the heating pipes. And the hot water heater is separate and still running, thank God for that, so we are good and I could take a shower when I get brave enough to face the cold bathroom.

Today, Saturday, we are going to first hope the nailpolish remover did the trick, then begin searching for a replacement part if not. Meanwhile, the snow is falling unabated. Truly beautiful, even though we’ll have to drive in it. I’ve got 4-wheel drive and a truck so old a few bumps and bruises won’t hurt it any. Adds character. And I literally learned how to drive in this weather (I’m flashing back to one winter trip to driver’s education, the car full, where the girl at the wheel sent us into a spin on the ice and we all yelled, “no brakes!” from the back seat. Ah, good memories.)

So there you go, my 2010 so far. I may have to break the temporary ban on Quiches and bake one so the kitchen heats up a bit more. On another note, my career… I got an IM yesterday evening, the Linden Bay Romance website was officially no more, as expected, as promised. I swore I wouldn’t go look, I did anyway. I cried like a baby to see all my old books off sale. Then I texted one of my consultants with the news. He called within seconds and sweetheart that he is, he let me cry and told me how sorry he was, then he made me laugh, even while I was crying, and that was it. Self-pity over. Back to work.

Happy New Year to all. I’m heading back to the bedroom where it’s warm.

Cat