Your other left, private, and military habits


Black and white historic photo of little girl saluting the flag
Little girl salutes the flag. Photo from Clipart.com

Some things I learned in the military have really stuck with me.  Others dropped off easily, and some resurface occasionally just to mess things up.

The one that has stuck with me is using my left hand though I’m right-handed. Right and left turns up a lot in the military.  During training of marching, we would have to hold up our left hand so when the drill sergeant called for us to turn left, everyone actually turned left.

Sometimes someone would get it scrambled (me), and the drill sergeant would yell, “Your other left, private!”

Then there’s the salute.  It’s done with the right hand.  That means if you’re out walking about with a bag in your hand, it has to be in your left hand.  Your right hand needs to be available if there’s officer so you can salute.

So in civilian life, I use both hands interchangeably.  I’ll take garbage in my left hand outside.  Sometimes I shift it to the right, but I find that my left is a little stronger.

Anyway, one day I was loading paper into the copier with my left hand and felt this little twinge.  Didn’t think anything of it until later that evening…suddenly it REALLY hurt.

Every. time. I. moved.

Off to the doctor who told me I had golfer’s elbow (should be copier’s elbow, since no golfing was involved).  I was making an effort not to move the arm too much because it was so painful.   But I couldn’t not to.

Doctor asked me if I was left-handed.

I didn’t realize how much the military had changed this until then.:)

Uniforms for space travel


Woman soldier playing a guitar for a cat
Kitty likes being serenaded!

One of the things that’s always struck me about science fiction films is how unrealistic the uniforms sometimes are.  Star Trek’s was pretty cool for its time–color was a new thing on TV so everything had to be shiny and colorful.  They were iconic, if not always practical.

Then there was Buck Rogers in the 25th Century with Gil Gerard.  I watched it not too long ago, and it surprisingly still holds up.  Or at least the first season does.  The characters wore white, one piece bodysuits.  How do you even go to the bathroom?

Now there’s interest in the real thing–the military’s space force uniforms.

Soldiers have a love-hate relationship with their uniforms.  They have to wear them at least 5 days a week, more if deployed.  Then the senior leader of the service wants to make his mark, and uniforms are easy changes.

Of course, that was how the Air Force ended up with uniforms that made them look like airline pilots–hugely unpopular.  It was also how the Army ended up with the beret.  I got the tail end of that one.  The hats were expensive and had to be dry cleaned.  For a uniform where you might be working out in the rain all day?  Really?

I think the military ought to have one like the battle dress uniform we wore.  It’s practical across the board.  We had buttons for everything, so no expensive zipper repairs.  Big cargo pockets for holding gloves, or paperback novels (sneaky person that I was).

And …

Technology to make the camouflage changes colors and patterns.  It’s really the next step on a uniform to have some kind of tech like that.  Be pretty cool, too.  Wander around the post and stand next to things and watch the uniform change patterns.

Could that be done by embedding chips in the cloth itself?  Maybe threads that are very tiny chips?  But then what would happen to it if it was washed?  And, of course, the military wants everything pressed to a sharp crease.

Can you imagine a squad going to a planet and Private John Smith’s camo on one part of his uniform is stuttering and misfiring because he ironed it.  Oh dear.

What do you think the Space Force uniform should look like?

Between Black and White


A woman walking in the distance, forest surrounding her.
Coming home from war for the soldier is a strange experience.  The world no longer matches up.

Returning home from Desert Storm, Mary doesn’t recognize the place she grew up.  Or her father. But it’s her that’s changed, too much. Can she find herself in the past, or is who she was gone forever?

A military flash fiction story available from your favorite booksellers.

Lonely Planet: GALCOM Universe 2


Space cruiser against the backdrop of a planet, the sun in the background

A spaceship appears out of nowhere…then disappears.  Like it never existed.

Hope Delgado, GALCOM’s only ghost expert, confronts the impossible.  Can a spaceship be a ghost?

Cryptic clues lead to the planet below.  And a deadly secret in space threatens the lives of everyone on the S.C. Kangjun.

Hope must solve the mystery before time runs out.

A page-turning story in the GALCOM Universe series.

A short novel available from your favorite booksellers.

Layers: A Desert Storm Veteran and 911


Washington Monument at sunset
I wrote this a year after the jet crashed into the Pentagon. I’m still amazed I could write about it then, because I don’t think I could do it now.

On September 11, 2001, the world changed forever when four planes crashed, including one that struck the Pentagon in Washington, DC.  Linda Maye Adams describes the events of the day in Washington DC from a Desert Storm veteran’s perspective.  This story moves chronologically through what happened and how it impacted the people who lived in that area, capturing the emotion of an unforgettable day.

Available from your favorite booksellers.

Soldier, Storyteller: A Woman Soldier Goes to War


Soldier, Storyteller: A Woman Soldier Goes to War
When I came back from Desert Storm, everyone asked me “What was it like?” It took 25 years to figure out how to answer it.

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Within twenty-four hours, he controlled the entire country. Five days later, the United States was deploying soldiers and had named the military operation Desert Shield. This would be the largest deployment of women at the time. Over 40,000 women went to war. It was so new that people questioned whether women should be there, and what would happen to the families they left behind.

Linda Maye Adams was one of those soldiers. Soldier, Storyteller is a rare inside look at war from a woman’s perspective.

Her memoir answers the question: “What was it like?”

Available from all your favorite booksellers.

Filling the bucket of learning


This video popped across my feed yesterday, courtesy of Me-TV. Disco was at its height when I was growing up, and I remember hearing this song over the radio.  I like the visuals in this one better than the Night Fever one in the link.

I can’t sing.  At all.  I was so bad at rhythm that the Army tried to kick me out twice for my marching.  When we were marching off to war with the press watching, the acting first shirt put me at the end of the formation so I wouldn’t embarrass him.

So when I watch a video like the one above, it amazes me that one of these singers could replicate this song now.

Even as a writer, I wouldn’t be able to replicate something I wrote a year ago.  I could redraft the story, but it would come out different.  I would hope it would come out as something better.

Because I’m always learning something new.

I’ve been reading a book called The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy.  It’s part of the Personal MBA, which is reading a list of books to have the basics of business.  I’ve read Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! and I didn’t care much for the book.   Partially because it seems like his goal is to jam as much into the day as possible (a problem with a lot of time management books).  But also, I think, because he focused heavily on emotions to make the sale.

I’m an INTP on the Myers-Brigg scale.  Means I like logical and analytical.  Emotional appeals can work, but I’ll be a skeptic first.  If someone is trying to sell a workshop, I’ll scroll past all the “shouting” to find out the price first.

This book though…it had something in it that caught my attention.  It said that learning was like a bucket of water. You have to constantly fill up the bucket because it doesn’t stay full, or continue learning.

Little girl on beach filling up bucket with sand.

Which reminded me of a writer that I used to love.  She first came out with awesome book in the 1990s.   It was a series. The main character was different than any I’d seen before, and it was a woman character.  In an action role!  She had a team of interesting characters surrounding her.  I just took a workshop on Teams in Fiction, and it identified one of the reasons I really liked this series.

So ever time I went into B. Dalton’s, I checked the shelves for this writer to see if there was a new one out.  When I found one, I snatched it up, took it home and read it in a day, then reread it.  I would happily still be reading this writer today.

If something hadn’t changed.

The writer became a best seller and stopped filling her bucket.

It happened by about book five.  I just knew at the time that the books weren’t quite as good.  I still bought the books for a while, thinking they would get better.  But the other team members I liked disappeared. They were replaced with a collection of characters who filled space but weren’t a team.

So I stopped buying the books, since I could use the money for books I was enjoying and wanted to keep.  I still read the books, but I checked them out from the library.  I was always disappointed and finally decided they weren’t worth my time to read.

But I occasionally picked up one, hoping for that old magic.  In the last one, it looks like the writer must be having a decline of sales because she circled back around to the roots that started the series and tried to replicate it.

And failed.

She’s been writing for 20+ years and should have been able to turn out a much better book than that first one I read.  But her bucket was empty.  She’d stopped learning long ago, and no longer has those tools.

But learning means not just grabbing the next book and reading it, but finding resources that actually push the skills.  The bucket should always be overflowing.

I’m in the process of learning about subplots, and as from above, selling.  What are you learning today?

I’m in a new Story Bundle called Short Flights (of the Imagination). My story is from my GALCOM Universe series, called Watcher Ghost. But I wanted to share the image of all the stories in the bundle so you can pre-order it and get lots of great speculative fiction stories (like we really don’t have all that much to read :).

Short Flights (of the Imagination)

Thoughts on the Army’s new fitness standards


Princess welding a sword.

The Army’s announced that they’re going to be revising the physical training standards so it’ll be one standard for both men and women.  The current standard–probably the same one I had when I was in–had the same elements, but were adjusted for the women.

Or, basically, the original physical training test was developed with the strengths of men in mind.  Most women don’t have the upper body strength to do 42 push-ups.  The Army treated the women like men and just adjusted the standards by gender.

The men hated it.  They always thought the women were getting over.  No one seems to grasp that women have different body types, or that they were treating women as if they were men.

For example, make a fist and hold it up next to the fist of a person of the opposite gender.  Women’s fists are at an angle; men’s are straight.  It makes a difference in how women hold a sword–and they are taught to sword fight like a man (this came from a science fiction con I went to).

I remember going on Battalion runs, which I despised, because the sergeants would gather up all the stragglers at the end and try to embarrass us.  The stragglers were always women.  No one did the math and grasped that the average woman was a whole lot shorter than the average guy.

What I think is going to happen is the Army is going to set the standard to what the guys can do.  Then two things will happen:

  1. The women will get injured trying to keep up with the guys.  I got shin splits trying to march with a 6’4″ guy setting the pace. He had ten inches on me.
  2. The women will fail physical training tests and be kicked out, and the military will lose its diversity.

And I’m not talking diversity of gender…but diversity of experience.  If the only tools you have are a hammer, then everything will look like it can be fixed with a hammer.  The military already has a problem with getting rid of their technical skill.  My brother was an Oracle programmer, and they reclassified his job, merging it with a computer operator.  Then they told him he needed to change his job and get retrained.  He thought that was crazy and got out.  I’ve seen more recent stories on the Army doing this to people will skills they really do need.

The solution?

Woman running

This is just me, but the focus should be on fitness.  It sounds like it is, but it actually is focused on failure or success, and how many points you get.  It’s like being graded in school for how fast you run.

One possible option is a run timed based on your height and age.  That’d take care of the problem of a 5’4″ woman trying to run to a time set for an average man.  But it would also be fairer for the shorter guys.  And it might save on the injuries that send people to sick call, and eventually to the VA.

Also maybe rethink the other two exercises (push-ups and sit-ups).  The women have a lot of trouble with push-ups, and the men tend to have a lot of problems with sit-ups.  Maybe instead of standardized testing for this, a required extra credit exercise that a soldier could pick from a list.  It wouldn’t be scored in the same way, but maybe on how many you did, rather than how many you do based on your age.  More you do, more points.

No one will probably do anything like this though.  I imagine the Army will test the pilot, find out they’re losing all the women, and switch it back.  We’ll see.

Support veterans charities and get lots of books by buying the Remembering Warriors Bundle.  Click to Tweet.

Montage image of all the covers from Remembering Warriors

Men and Women Military Living Together? Shocking!


The Marines Corps has some growing pains with regards to women living with the men in the field.  Any one of the military services are notorious for being slow to change, and this particular change is pretty glacial.

“You’re going to have sex, you’re going to have love, you’re going to have relationships, and it’s going to overly complicate the command structure,” Marine veteran, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, told the Marine Corps Times.

Army was doing what the Marine Corps is fighting at least twenty-five years ago.  When I deployed with my unit to Desert Storm, our platoon stayed together in one tent.  Two women, the rest men (don’t recall how many, but it was not more than eight).  It did not destroy the morale of our platoon, and we did have sex.  It did not complicate anything.  We just put up cloth walls for privacy, which everyone did, because there wasn’t a whole lot of privacy to start with.

Eventually, as we got more women assigned the unit from the inactive reserves, then we split off into two women only tents.  The other woman and I were disappointed; it was much better being with our platoon.

Yes, we did have some issues with soldiers having sex and one who got pregnant–but it wasn’t because they were living in the same tent.  It was because we were there under very stressful circumstances and also because we were there for a long time.  It’s one part of the war experience that military tends to pretty much pretend like it doesn’t exist, then blame the women for being there, as if only one person was responsible not the stressful situation.

The Mad Rush of the Holidays


I ended up dropping off the face of the earth for my novel project for about a week.  With the holiday ramping up, work got really crazy because everyone was trying to get everything done before they went off on leave.  Of course, the culture now seems to be everyone waiting until the last minute, then screaming, “Help!  It’s an emergency!” By then it is, but it’s pretty bad to have to prioritize the emergencies to which is more urgent.

So when I got home, brain wasn’t functioning much (remember Buffy: “Tree pretty.  Fire bad.”). Yeah, it took me a few days to recover, and I’m going to take advantage of the four day holiday.

Word count total: 3600

Total words: 14300

Thanksgiving

My family has some origins in Thanksgiving, including one that I found out this week.  My great-great…grandfather John Adams (no relation to the president) was on the second ship that arrived at the Plymouth site.  It was funny reading a book that described the men there as “lusty young men.”

One does not think of their grandfather as a “lusty young” man!

He married my grandmother there, then died during an illness that swept through the colony.

The thing I found out this week is that Mayflower was owned by the Vassall family, who is also related to us.  William Vassall came over to the colony on one of the later ships, though he later had a spat over religion and left for Barbados.  His daughter married John’s son, James.

And, while I think the news sat on this story for timing, archaeologists think they discovered the site where the Pilgrims lived.

Military Stuff

The Army is the only service without a museum.  But they’re building one in Virginia.  The ELC (they don’t define it, at least not that I could find) looks interesting: It’ll be virtual training exercises so anyone can get the soldier’s experience.  That’ll be pretty fun.  When I was at Fort Lewis, one of the coolest training exercises was a computer simulation of calling down artillery fire.  We map it out and see the results on the screen.  Since that was a good 25 years ago, these are sure to be much better than that.