Monday, May 26, 2014

Welcome Home by Terry Tipton


The story really starts in 1971, when I was 18. At that time, United States male citizens were required to register for the draft within five days of their 18th birthday. The reality of my life still had not hit me. I was a senior in high school and life was comfortable.
The next year (my 19th) I received a “random sequence number”. This placed your order of call for induction. The process was fair. There were two large baskets, each with 365 ping pong balls. The first basket of balls contained every calendar day of the year. The second basket of balls was individually numbered 1-365. A ball would be drawn out of basket one (the date) and then a ball out of basket two (your number). The first date drawn was November 5 and the matching number was 245. That meant all those males, in this registration, born on November 5 would be the 245 group to be drafted. My birthdate (January 3) was matched with the sequence number of 42. Reality started to set in—but not much.
I was attending Towson State College then, my freshman year. I had a tee shirt that had T.S.C. on the chest. I gloatingly joked that it stood for “Tough Shit Charlie”. Several weeks after that lottery drawing, I received a letter from the Selective Service System requiring me to report to Fort Halberd, MD for a draft physical. There was no chance of getting a deferral for the draft. The South East Asia conflict was going strong and sentiment was strong on both sides of the fence regarding support.
I passed the physical without any issues and then received my new draft card with the classification of “1-A”. I remember sitting on the back porch that night and asking myself: “Is this real?”
Resigned to the fact I was to be drafted, I went to the local selective service board to see what options I had. I came home as an enlisted in The United States Marine Corps. Mom was upset and crying and Dad said nothing.

I arrived at Parris Island two weeks later as a brash, cocky 19 year old kid on the outside but scared shitless on the inside. It was 4:30 AM when the bus pulled up and the Drill Instructor came on the bus and in a “not so happy demeanor” to us to get off “his” bus. I shut up, got on the yellow footprints painted on the sidewalk and grew up in maturity within the space of 10 minutes.
Basic Training was difficult but manageable. Six weeks later, I came home and Mom was all crying and Dad said little. I was proud to show off my new uniform. I was something. I was a Marine.
I received my orders (Viet-Nam of course). I remember saying little on the long flight to anyone. Getting off the plane, the first thing my sense picked up was the smell of explosives in the air. That was the norm. I then turned to my left and saw racks of black plastic on a cart. “Get a good look at it gentlemen. Those body bags are how most of you will be going home”. Okay—this is real—welcome to Southeast Asia.
Things were quiet the first few days. We mostly got settled. Then—our first patrol. I remember walking through mud and forest area. Then, out of nowhere, artillery fire rang out and something chipped off the tree next to me. It was pieces of bark from the tree fortunately but it scared me. All of us on patrol reacted as trained by falling to the ground, returning fire in the “spray and pray” method. Fighting last only a few minutes and I remember walking through on patrol doing “body count”. We came across several dead VC and then it hit me. “Did I kill this person?” I asked myself. I did not want to know. I stared—very hard at his face and I can still see it clearly to this day (38 years later). We walked a little further and came across a young solider that had his arm torn off. It was lying about two feet away. It was obvious that this arm belonged to that soldier. Still, it was listed as “two kills”. Another dose of reality hit. American news every evening reported “number of kills and number of wounded”. The counts were very much skewed. It made the people back home think we were winning this crappy war.
Every few days it would be the same routine, day in and day out. There would be patrolling, searching and destroying, and just walking. I stopped looking at a calendar. Days all meshed in the same. We did have breaks at time where we would get some R&R and spend time in Saigon where another type of war was going on. Downtime Saigon was alive with night clubs, girls looking to take advantage of anyone with money, and thieves. One learned quickly to just drink, say little to anyone you did not know and just observe.
Then it would be back to reality. I remember one patrol where we were pinned down by heavy artillery fire. Alan, my buddy, was next to me. We were talking back and forth trying to get “lower than the dirt would allow us” in order to be safe. Alan was talking about going home soon and driving his car he had just purchased. I laughed and then realized Alan was not talking anymore. I looked at him and he was staring back at me. There was also blood running down the side of his face. He said nothing but still had that same goofy smile. His eyes though, did a lot of screaming. I pulled him close to me and saw his wound. I knew he would not make it. I held Alan, almost like a mother holding her son. The Corporal saw me and said nothing out loud but spoke volumes with a simple nod of the head. Alan left this world as I held him. I wanted to cry but for some reason couldn’t. What was wrong with me that I could not cry? I did not realize then but I had become hardened and grown up.
I remember several days later going to Saigon again for an R&R. I did not want to lose my money and just wanted to be alone. I walked and came across kids playing some game with a deflated basketball. I watched and listened. I heard the most beautiful music in the world: children laughing. Children—simple kids—were the real victims in this stupid war. They were innocent but had to endure what we adults (on both sides) were inflicting upon them. Listening to the kids that day was the best medicine anyone could have gotten.
Christmas came and being alone at that time of the year hit me. It hit all of us in our platoon. We had a tree and it looked like a real “Charlie Brown” tree. It had mare bare branches than it did needles. But it was ours. We decorated it with scraps of metal and then things got quiet when one soldier started to sing Silent Night. There were a lot of tears shed that day.
So life continued, day in and day out. It was the same thing each time. One day, I was told to report to command and handed some papers. I was going home. Home—what a sweet sound. I had twenty minutes to grab my gear and head home for the States. I had made it. I was still alive. I was lucky.
I flew home and was, as per SOP, in full dress uniform. I had survived. I had several lay-overs to get back to my family. I was proud of my service. I was not a rah-rah flag waver but I was someone that had done something important in his life. I walked through the airport in Chicago, my last stop before arriving back home. Crowds were everywhere. It was just before Thanksgiving. A large, dirty, unshaven, smelly individual (I want to call him something else) came up to me. He had a voice that was so loud that people turned to see what the disruption was. He looked straight into my eyes and put his face about five inches from mine, called me a baby killer, and spat in my face. God, I wanted to swing. I wanted to pulverize. I wanted revenge. But I could not move. I stood there, in this busy airport terminal, and people stared in silence at this idiot’s actions and how I would respond.
There I was; the returning war veteran, A United States Marine. What did the brave Marine do? I stood and cried. To be accused of taking another’s life is degrading. Did I do that overseas? Did I kill someone? I had just done my job, what I was trained to do. That’s all. The tears continued to roll. They were not sobs, just rivers down my face. I turned and walked into the Men’s Room. I changed into civilian clothes for the remaining journey home. This was totally against SOP but I did not care.
I continued my flight home and had mixed emotions. I wanted to see my family but I did not want questions. Mom hugged me and cried. Dad just shook my hand and said welcome home. Nothing more? I wanted a hug from my father. I wanted to hear him say “I love you to me”. Didn’t get it.
There was a big family dinner that night and afterwards I sat out on the porch listening to a Baltimore Colts football game. The stars were bright that night. It was cold and I didn’t care. I was enjoying the chill after many months of hot, humid and shitty weather.
The next few days went by without much fanfare and I started to job search. There was not much out there. Once people heard I was a Viet-Nam veteran, they distanced themselves from me. It was almost as if they were avoiding the war by avoiding me. I felt like an outcast. I wanted to feel home.
I learned quickly that it was better to not bring up my military service if at all possible. It was more socially acceptable. People could not understand. I still don’t think they do.
Life continued for me and I finally started to face some of my inner demons regarding my service. My later life was confusing. I married, had a daughter and then divorced. However, there was a twist. I was a single dad who had custody of his kid. Not too many people were in my situation and I was going to be the best I decided. My daughter and I were a great team. I was proud of the young woman she became growing up. It was best displayed when in the late 1980’s; I was dating a woman that I had been seeing for some time. We took a day trip over to see The Wall. I had not been there yet. I had avoided it.
We arrived on a crisp spring morning. I walked along the path, seeing the slabbed timeline get larger with names. I had written down Alan’s name and looked into a book that was there for people to research. I found his name and I could see his face very clearly in my mind back then. I walked to the specific slab and started to count down the lines to his name. I saw it right away when I got to his name—this granite wall is so highly polished that acts almost like a mirror. I felt an electric shock go through me and I stepped back saying nothing. Again, tears started to roll down my face. This woman I had been dating started to ask what was wrong. My daughter, displaying wisdom that a 14 year old does normally not have, pulled her arm back sharply and said “Leave him alone”. Two men came and stood next to me, at attention and in total silence. They had veteran’s hats on. I composed myself and turned to say hello. Before I could open my mouth, each shook my hand and said only “Welcome Home” and walked away. I felt like a burden was off my shoulders. Someone knew and someone understood. Those two men said very little but in actuality, they spoke volumes. I silently thank them to this day.
Life goes on and I am able to discuss some things but it is still hard. I still cannot attend fireworks. The explosive shell leaves an essence in the air than reminds me of Saigon. The school where I teach recently had a Memorial Day presentation they had written and I was asked to say a few words. My students knew I had been in the Marine Corps but they had not heard any of my experiences. I stood and could not say much. I told them only of my love for this country and the flag. I showed them a video clip of the late comedian Red Skelton’s pledge to the flag (find it on You Tube if you have not seen it). One student read a story he had written about Flanders Field and the Poppies. The school band played TAPS and tears flowed. Afterwards, we had a small social gathering and some students asked: “Mr. T., we saw you crying at the end of the presentation. Were you sad?? I looked very clearly at their innocent faces (remembering the faces of the kids in Viet-Nam) and I responded to their question with “No, anything but” and turned away quickly. I knew I had made an impression as these kids asked their home room teacher how someone could cry (looking sad) but be happy at the same time. The teacher (who knew of my service experiences) told me she scrapped her lesson plan that day and they all had an open discussion. She said the kids participated openly. She also commented that they were very quiet (unusual for middle schoolers) as they left the room. She also told me they seemed to leave the room walking a little taller. I smiled. The future will be okay.

Monday, May 19, 2014


Daughter3DThe Daughter of the Sea and the Sky by David Litwack has launched! This fabulous title is available now on all online retailers and in your local book stores. You aren't going to want to miss this new literary journey exploring the clash between reason and faith, and the power of hope and love.

The Book

After centuries of religiously motivated war, the world has been split in two. Now the Blessed Lands are ruled by pure faith, while in the Republic, reason is the guiding light—two different realms, kept apart and at peace by a treaty and an ocean. Summary: A mysterious nine-year-old from the Blessed Lands sails into the lives of a couple in the Republic, claiming to be the Daughter of the Sea and the Sky. Is she a troubled child longing to return home, or a powerful prophet sent to unravel the fabric of the Republic? The answer will change the lives of all she meets… and perhaps their world as well. Author: David Litwack Genre: Fantasy/Speculative Literary Fiction Publisher: Evolved Publishing
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Guest Post - Why I write?

I’ve done a number of interviews before, both in my prior life as a technologist and in my current role as an author. Some questions are professional. What do you think of a certain technology trend? What’s your work schedule? Some questions are casual and fun: What do you do to relax? What foods do you snack on while writing? What’s your favorite color?

But this question made me think. I have many reasons for my life. Most have to do with my family and with the people I’ve touched and who have touched me. And I’ve been around long enough and done enough different things to not answer such a complex question with a simple answer. So I modified the question to be: What’s the reason for your life as a writer?

I was tempted to answer that it was just what I always wanted to do, but that’s a cop-out. The real question is why I feel that way.

I’m in the midst of writing the first draft of my fourth novel, the sequel to There Comes a Prophet. It’s the continuing saga of Orah and Nathaniel and their quest for truth in a future dystopian world. I recently finished the first hundred pages (yay!), but I’ve also chosen the quote at the start of the book. It’s from the TV Sci-fi series, Babylon 5, spoken by Delenn to the ship commander:

“Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain, perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside—that burn inside the stars themselves. We are star stuff. We are the Universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.”
So what’s the reason for my writer’s life?
The older I get, the more I realize how little I know. I’ve accumulated far more questions than answers. I believe writers like me write because we’re star stuff, the universe trying to figure itself out.David Litwack, author of There Comes a Prophet, Along the Watchtower, and The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky 

The Giveaway

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The Tour

Follow along at I recently did an interview where a book blogger asked the following question:
“What’s the reason for your life? Have you figured out your reason for being here yet?”



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Alzheimer’s Disease is at the center of Christoph Fischer's BRILLIANT new book ~ TIME TO LET GO ~

“The Real Biddy Korhonen”
I grew up with only a few friends and with two older siblings who were miles ahead of me in their lives. My mother was a busy woman and so I spent a lot of time at my aunt’s house. She had always wanted to have four children but lost one child at birth. Her other three children were much older and didn’t need her much anymore, so my visits to her house filled a gap for her, in the same way as her attention to me filled a need in me. A match made in heaven.
Philomena, or Minna, as we called her, remained a source of happiness and encouragement throughout my life. I was always welcome and treated like a precious gift. She smoked, but she outlived both of her sisters (taken in their 40s  by cancer).
In her late 70s  Minna was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Well, I thought, at least she lives, belittling her misfortune without much awareness.
The next time I saw her, her trademark happiness however seemed far away. She was crying bitterly because she had lost her hearing aid, a very expensive one, too. Suddenly her life seemed to revolve around retrieving things. She was spared the physical pain of her sisters, but she suffered severe mental torture.
She fortunately reached a happier stage as medication and care helped reduce the misery in her life, but the attention she needed was a huge toll to the family. Despite her memory loss, she seemed to vaguely recognise me; me, the ‘child’ that lived abroad and who rarely came to visit. She had not lost her warmth and happiness, or maybe she had just regained it after the bad patch I mentioned earlier.
Very recently I saw her again, almost unrecognisable: withdrawn, very unresponsive and almost reduced to basic functioning. Surprisingly, she could still read and when I came to see her for a second time her eyes shone as if she did recognise me. I spoke an emotional goodbye to her and her hand was shaky and excited as she listened to my speech. She even responded by talking, using words that didn’t fit exactly but which expressed an emotion similar to what one would expect from a loving aunt in such a situation.
With her loving kindness in mind I created Biddy, the mother in “Time to let Go”, a selfless, giving woman, who even in her illness manages to show her innate kindness.  I know it would be wrong to praise her for a gift that many other patients do not have, through no fault of their own. Losing one’s memory and control of one’s life is a terrible thing that you can only understand when it happens to you.
“Time to Let Go” is partly meant as a tribute to my brave aunt and to the wonderful people who help making her life dignified and as happy as is possible.
Alzheimer’s Disease
My book is inspired by personal experiences with sufferers from the disease. Nowadays, almost everyone knows someone who has relatives with Alzheimer’s Disease and gradually stories and anecdotes about these patients have entered the social dinner party circuit and become common knowledge.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a dreadful disease that cannot be easily understood in its gravity and the complex, frustrating and far reaching consequences for the victims and their families. There are different stages of the disease as it progresses and patients can move through them at different paces and in varying intensity. My book does not attempt to be a complete representation or a manual of how to deal with the disease. The illness affects every patient differently and there are many stories to tell and many aspects to cover. I hope that I can bring some of those issues to the surface and help to make the gravity of the disease more prominent. I did, however, decide to stay firmly in fiction and family drama territory, and not to write a dramatized documentary on the subject.
I have witnessed several different approaches to handling the disease by both individuals and entire families, and I have learned that the people involved in every case needs to work out what is best for them.  In my book, a family work out their particular approach, which is right for them. They have different ideas about it and need to battle it out. These clashes fascinated me and I felt they were worth exploring.
Issues of caring at home, mobile care assistance or institutionalising patients are personal and, depending on where in the world you are, every family has very different options or limitations. The ending in my book must be seen in that context: as an individual ‘best’ solution that uniquely fits the Korhonen family.

As point of first reference and for a more comprehensive and scientific overview of information and help available I recommend: in the UK, and
in the US.
There are support groups, helplines and many other sources available in most countries. These will be able to advise specifically for each  individual situation.

I can also recommend “Because We Care” by Fran Lewis. This fantastic book has a comprehensive appendix with more or less everything you need to know about the disease: Its stages, personal advice on caring, information, tools and help available in the US.
For consistency, I exclusively used material relating to a medium advanced stage of the disease. To protect the privacy and dignity of the patients that inspired the story I have altered all of the events and used both first and second hand experiences and anecdotes. Nothing in this book has actually happened in that way. Apart from some outer parallels between my characters and patients I witnessed, any similarities with real people, alive or dead, are coincidental and unintended.
The airline plot is not based on any real incident but is inspired by my own imagination. I used to work for an airline and so naturally, much of Hanna’s life is based on my own experience of 15 years flying. I lived with the awareness that every time a call bell goes off on a plane this could be a matter of life and death. What happens to Hanna in the book has never happened to me or anyone close to me. My flying life was not that extraordinary. Fortunately.
But every year airline crew are retrained in emergency procedures and aviation medicine, and at least during those intense yearly re-training sessions your mind cannot help considering the possibilities of such events.
The modern trend of the ‘suing- and compensation-culture’ and the extent of it in some cases worries me a little, which is why some of that concern found its way into the book.
The lifestyle of cabin crew and pilots is often falsely glorified as a glamorous string of free holidays and leisure. A recent crew strike in the UK has brought the profession into disrepute in the media, as fat cats and lazy bones. My book aims to shed a bit of light on the realities of flying. I enjoyed the life and would not want to miss the experience but it is a tough life that demands huge personal sacrifices and flexibility, sleep deprivation on a massive scale and exposure to aggressive and abusive behaviour by a consumerist clientele. In the global trend of cost cutting, salaries are going down and what used to be a career is at risk of becoming a minimum wage job handed to people who have no experience and who have no incentive to give it their all.
My book is a tribute to my former colleagues in the airline industry, who, in my opinion, are unsung heroes and a bunch of wonderful, hard-working and very caring people.

What makes Alzheimer’s so terrible? What is it that makes a memory so important to one’s life that people compare its horrors to pain-inflicting diseases like cancer? You are alive and physically well, you eat and function as a human, but as an Alzheimer’s Disease patient you are bound to be suffering, frustrated, depressed and unhappy.
Of course it is ridiculous to compare the two diseases, but while a cancer patient has still their awareness and choices, the Alzheimer’s Disease sufferer is losing the core of their being, everything they ever were.
How can you define yourself if you cannot remember? You have had children, but you won’t recognise them. You won awards, had a successful career, made people happy, but you don’t know any of it. Who are you and what are you doing on the planet? Who are the people around you? As the disease progresses, these things become more intense and you can live in a mental prison of fear and disorientation. Your brain won’t do as you want it to. The fear of losing ‘it’ altogether, for some is impossible to bear. You are about to lose everything that was ever precious to you.
That thought is frightening to all of us. It can happen to all of us. The worst stage seems to be when patients still notice that something is wrong. We all know how annoying it is when we just put something down and don’t remember where. Imagine that happening to you all the time, every day, and you get an idea of how it might feel.  The carers see their loved ones slowly drift away into a stranger.
Biddy’s husband Walter in my novel becomes obsessed with preserving memories – his own and others. He begins to write a family chronicle as a constructive outlet for his fears. He is an important character with his musings about preserving knowledge, memories and facts and he allowed me to bring in thoughts about the disease on a different and more reflective level.
I hope that I have managed to write about more than just the clinical side of the disease. I stuck to the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease in the story because it gave me the best opportunities to work these thoughts into the story. It allows me to look back at Biddy’s past but with still a lot of hope.

Thursday, May 1, 2014



The Bone Church 


In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels. But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.  

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.
Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays.  She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.
If you want to sample THE BONE CHURCH, please visit the following links to Victoria blog, Cold, where she posted the first chapter in two parts: The Bone Church Cometh 
And if you’re interested in an ebook copy or paperback, please visit Amazon here: 
Please join Victoria on Facebook
Twitter @vicdougherty & her weekly blog as well for lots of Cold War fun.