Knowing your character’s motivation

I spent the day writing a chapter for my next Wolver novel that won’t fit in until much later in the book. If you’ve checked my Wolver WIP page, you know that Bull’s job is to ‘eliminate’ wolvers whose behavior threatens the secrecy of the pack’s existence. There are two ways he can do this. He can consign them to a permanent feral state, or he can kill them. So yeah, my main man here is a killer. Now, I usually reserve murder for the bad guys, so how do I make you, the reader, love my guy, knowing what he does for a living? What kind of man takes a job like that? No matter how much it pays, most of us (I hope) couldn’t do it. And most of us (I hope again), couldn’t be with a guy who did.

This chapter started as a scene about how fate brought Bull and Tommie together and ended up a chapter where the reader gets to see a part of Bull’s early life. It’s the first hint of why he became the man he is. When I get to that part of the story, this chapter may or may not fit and may end up ‘on the cutting room floor’ as they say in the movies. It doesn’t matter. I’m glad I wrote it. Now I, like my readers, will understand Bull’s motivation; the why of what he does and how he acts.

Actors use this method all the time. It isn’t enough to read the lines. They need to know a character’s backstory even if it’s never mentioned in the script. That backstory helps them understand the role they’re playing which in turn, helps them make the character real.

Now I know Bull’s motivation, I’ll go back and rewrite some of what I’ve written and it will be in the back of my mind for everything I write from here on in. I know where Bull’s coming from and by the end of the book, you will, too.

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Foolish Mistakes

Wolver’s Gold is getting a new cover!

Why? Because I made a costly mistake. Because readers judge a book by its cover. Because MCover300x450while sales are okay, it’s not selling as it should. Because the old cover says, quite clearly, it’s a Historical/Western  and it’s not, not really.

It’s a modern tale about NOT clinging to the past. It’s a Paranormal Romance between a modern (shifter) man and a (shifter) woman who’s tired of living in the past. It’s about finding a way for a Wolver pack to hide among humans and still maintain a sense of who they are. And, as silly as it may seem to some, it’s a cautionary tale about regretting the loss of ‘the good old days’ that weren’t, in some ways, all that good. It’s about choosing what’s worth saving and what is not.

The cover you see here and will continue to see as the cover of Wolver’s Gold is the cover that should have gone out originally. Georgi, my cover artist, tried to warn me, but me being the hard headed jackass I am (yes, dear friends and family, I know what I am), I didn’t listen.

I was too caught up in the story. Gold Gulch  was so real in my mind, I wanted to share it.  And because I pay the book bills, Georgi did what I wanted. She’s the expert and I turned away from expert advice. She’s the one who’s researched cover design. She’s the one who understands branding. I always advise new authors to listen to the experts and I broke my own rule. How do I know I was wrong? Read the reviews that begin with “I don’t normally read westerns…”

This isn’t easy. For me, one of the hardest things to do in life is admit I’m wrong.  I know I’m not alone in this (I’ve actually looked up the research). I have no problem admitting I’m inept at certain things (computers), or don’t know something (though I usually look it up), or I’m completely ignorant (higher math remains a mystery I have no wish to solve). But I’m doing it here.

I was wrong. I’m now rolling on the floor, clutching my throat because I’m choking on the words, but it’s out there and I’m sure at some point, I’ll feel better for it.

And thanks to those who read it in spite of its Historical/Western cover!

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Garden Marauders

As many of you know, I live in a rural area where wildlife abounds. It’s quiet and seemingly peaceful. To some, this setting would seem idyllic, and it is, up to a point and that point involves the natural order of things. Animals must eat.

The deer stop regularly at my pond to drink. I have enjoyed watching an early spring herd browsing not twenty feet from my bedroom window. The fawns are adorable and it’s amusing to watch them play – until you realize their mothers are munching on the new shoots of your hostas.

We have a Mallard duck couple who arrive every year to spend a few days paddling in our pond. I’ve never seen them fly. They waddle in from the woods and when they leave, they waddle off down my driveway heading for the larger pond one road over where they will nest beneath the willow and raise this season’s ducklings. Every time they leave, my goldfish numbers are depleted by half. I consider myself lucky since the Great Blue Heron cleans them out completely.

I tell you this, so you know I’m not entirely heartless. I do my best to get along with the wildlife with which I share my existence. I like my squirrels, which mercilessly raid my bird feeders, but leave my gardens alone. I have close to a hundred varieties of narcissus because the deer won’t eat them. Almost everything else (except the hostas) is deer resistant – not deer proof mind you, because few things are. I will buy new goldfish at the bait shop where they are cheaper by the pound.

I hate raccoons and silently give thanks every time I see a casualty on the road, but will even tolerate them, as long as they cause minimal damage. I fence my pear tree and pick early each year to minimize my loss. And before you issue that sympathetic tsk-tsk, let me assure you, they aren’t the sweet little masked bandits people think they are. They are omnivorous which means they not only decimate your corn and other veggies, they’ll eat your eggs, your chicks, and any newborn kittens they come across. They will rip your dog to shreds. Get one in your attic and it can cost you a small fortune before you get them out. I have been forced to eliminate one or two over the years, and I do it quickly and humanely (because I’m an excellent shot).

There aren’t enough natural predators to make a difference in the numbers of my garden marauders. The skinny gray fox I’ve seen down by the creek will hardly make a dent in the rodent population and the few coyotes seem to favor hunting trash over game. The human hunters don’t come close to keeping the deer in check.

In the past, my faithful pets have helped me keep the wildlife under control, at least in the confines of the fenced part of the yard and the garage. Not so my current furry babies. Terry is one lazy-assed cat who only rouses himself from sleep long enough to do his business and wait impatiently for his supper. The mice, who take up residence in the garage each winter, laugh behind his back.

Buck, my big bad hound, has an excellent nose and can easily sniff out a rabbit’s nest in any flower bed, where he will faithfully stand guard until the babies are big enough to enjoy the fruits of my labor. He’ll then happily sit amongst them while they nibble my green beans to the ground. I swear he’s the one that showed them the hole in the fence. He loves the company of deer and tiptoes through the yard so as not to disturb the flock of wild turkeys destroying my berry crop. And neither animal appears to care when a snake falls on my head as I open the shed. Yes! Snakes have invaded my shed and okay, they’re garter snakes and fairly small, but it fell on my head! And it happened more than once. I now open the door and leap back while Buck wags his tail, waiting for me to make that hilarious screeching sound again.

I am fighting a losing battle. I know it and for the most part, I’m resigned, except for one small critter who will remain my enemy until I die or they do. Chipmunks!

I’ve always been a fan of Chip and Dale, both the cartoon characters and those gorgeously sexy men, but the real thing is quite different. They’re destructive little buggers and they eat my lily bulbs! I love lilies. They’re one of my favorite garden flowers. They’re a gift that keeps on giving, because unlike their tulip cousins, they don’t wear out. The bulbs will multiply, giving you more and more flowers each year that bloom when most summer perennials are done for the season. The colors are so vibrant, they shine like beacons of light against the greenery. That is, if you don’t have chipmunks.

There are only three or four of them. It shouldn’t be that hard. I will set traps, both humane and plain old mouse and rat traps. I will try every remedy I can find. The little bastards are just too small and quick to shoot. You’d think the hawk that hunts in my backyard, or the Great Horned Owls that live in the woods across the street would help me out, but no, catching the little buggers probably takes too much effort. I have one lily left and I am determined to save it from those menacing munchers. I’m a researcher. I have my trusty laptop. I will prevail. Or so I thought.

I found what should have been the omen of my future success lying in the driveway today, proof that they can be killed. The UPS truck must have got him. I thought I should cheer, but my heart wasn’t in it. He was a pretty little thing and his coat looked so glossy and soft. Seeing him lying there in the gravel, my lilies suddenly didn’t matter so much. The little fellow was just like all the other animals in my yard, getting by the best way he could in a changing world, doing what God intended him to. I tried to steel my heart against any sympathy I might feel for the little devil, but it was no use. I buried him next to my one remaining lily. In the natural order of things, his tiny body will now fertilize the plant he loved so much and maybe act as a deterrent to his brethren. Or else I’ll buy more lilies to feed the next generation.

My traps will stay on the shelf in the shed with the snakes to await my next war. This one’s over before it even began.

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To Err is Human

I’ve been spending my evenings going over my older novels, making corrections on typos that either I have found or readers have (kindly) pointed out. The mistakes are fairly common and therefore embarrassing, particularly since I consider myself to be a literate person. I know the difference between there, their and they’re.(See? That’s a mistake right there since between refers to two. Among should be used for three or more!) And yet my fumbling fingers aren’t nearly as literate as my brain. I’m happy to say that as I’ve progressed, my books hold fewer mistakes. This is not necessarily an improvement of my writing or my typing skills. It is a result of several things I’ve learned in the Independent Author’s School of Hard Knocks. Some of you out there are testing your own skills as storytellers, so let me offer you a few things I’ve learned.

  1. A GOOD EDITOR IS A TREASURE  Unfortunately, they can be expensive and many new authors, myself included, hesitate to spend family funds (or simply don’t have the funds) Save your pennies and get one as soon as you can afford one. You won’t be sorry.
  2. BETTER YOUR FRIENDS THAN STRANGERS  Good Beta readers are essential. In the beginning, my Beta’s were good friends I trusted more for their support than their criticism, though I later learned they were capable of both. It’s a scary thing opening yourself up to the world and like many before me, I chose people who loved me and because they loved me, they were hesitant about hurting my feelings. I wanted a cheering squad, but what I needed was criticism. My beta readers now understand that it is kinder to be cruel with their highlighters and comments. They are invaluable and each reader will find a different set of mistakes. Do I always follow their advice? On spelling and grammar? Absolutely. On content? Not necessarily, but I always give their comments careful consideration and I always want to hear what they honestly think.
  3. BFFs CAN’T ALWAYS BE TRUSTED  Sorry G, but it’s true. I discuss my writing with my BFF on an almost daily basis. I bounce ideas off of her and when I’m stuck on a plot point, talking to her helps me work out the kinks and puts me back on the right path. She knows my characters as well as I do. We talk about them as if they’re real people and because of this, she knows background information that the reader will never see. She’s read scenes that never made it into the book. This extra information can color what she reads in the final product. This means that she’s not always the right person to ask questions like, ‘Will the reader see Lorelei as I see her in this scene?’ since she knew and understood Lorelei long before that scene was written. For ‘Did I get my point across?’ questions, Beta readers who know nothing of the plot or character may have more reliable opinions.
  4. ALWAYS USE A HARD COPY  For some reason, things look differently in hard copy than on a computer screen. I’ve said, ‘Wow! How the hell did I miss that one?’ more times than I can count when I read the hard copy.
  5. READ ALOUD  Do it slowly. Your ears will pick up a lot of things your eyes don’t.
  6. YOU CAN’T WIN THEM ALL  No matter how hard you try, mistakes will still occur. (I say this having just added the –ton to John Washing(ton)’s name. How the hell did we all miss that?) I’ve been finding errors in works by million dollar authors produced by multimillion dollar publishing houses with top notch editors. Personally, I blame it on modern technology. Those old time typesetters – I know a few – would catch more than a few typos when they set the type for a printed book. Where do you think the saying ‘Mind your ps and qs’ comes from?
  7. DO THE BEST YOU CAN AND KEEP LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES.

Hope this helps.

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The Wolvers – Where am I going?

The Wolvers began with an article I read about a mythical creature from the Shetland Islands. I won’t go into that here because I’ve already told you about it on The Wolvers page here on my site. This is more about the evolution of the series and where it’s headed.

So first off, let me say that I’m not fond of series that repeat the same story over and over. Oh, I read them, but if I read them back to back, I get bored. You know the kind I mean, change the names and the color of her hair, tweak the plot, jump into bed (a lot) and voila! New novel. The good ones make a lot of money and they should, but if I get bored reading them back to back, I’m sure as hell going to get bored writing them back to back. Please understand, I’m not knocking those authors. (As I said, I read them) I’m talking about me here.

My goal in The Alpha’s Mate was to write a lighthearted tale based on a ‘what if’ premise. What if an educated and reasonable woman (yes, and a bit nerdy) found herself living in a seemingly idyllic country town that turned out to be beyond imagining. How would she react? I wanted her to begin to love these people before she realized what they really were. I placed her in situations where that growing love was paramount to the revelation that she was living among wolves. Why? Because among humans, it’s very difficult to hang on to bias and prejudice when you personally know and love the person who is the subject of it. Elizabeth is a cautious woman. Wouldn’t she also question the instant attraction she feels and be skeptical once she learns of its cause?

In The Alpha’s Choice, Kat’s a different kettle of fish. She’s a dreamer whose dreams have come to nothing. Her easy acceptance is more of a What-the-hell? Go-for-it type. It’s a direct result of being screwed over in her other life.  She always believed in reality based fairy tales. What’s she got to lose taking a chance on the real thing? Both Lizzie and Kat become part of a good wolver pack with a caring Alpha and the future looks bright.

But that ‘What if” stuck in my mind and in The Alpha’s Daughter, I started to look at the other side of this genetically pre-programmed society. What if you, like Jazz, didn’t want what your future held? What ties these books together, beyond the three brothers, is a representation of what a pack should be I want to live in these packs and I hope you do, too.

But ‘what if’ a pack isn’t what it should be? Such packs were hinted at in the first three novels. This next set of three will take a closer look at the other side of pack life and what logical (to me anyway) steps would have to be taken to ensure the security of the species. In Wolver’s Gold, I presented a pack where the genetic predisposition to follow the leader becomes corrupted. In the next, Wolver’s Rescue, we’ll find another wolver whose job is to take care of individuals who pose a threat. Hmm? Any guesses?  What if it was your job?What if the threat is a woman who drives you crazy, but earns your respect? What if your wolf fights against the plan? Pack comes first. Or does it?

 

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Lazy Day

Terry&MarigoldsEver have a day where you just can’t seem to get going? Today’s my day. I have a list of things to do – I’m a huge list maker – but it’s 11:30 and all I’ve done is a load of wash. No, that’s not true. I’ve been puttering. It rained last night and the yard looks so fresh in the sun. Planting marigolds sounds so much better than cleaning toilets, don’t you think? Of course, if this kitchen floor doesn’t get washed soon, I’ll be able to plant marigolds on it, too!

Even Terry the Cat wants to be outside. The sun is warm and so is the patio.  His usual routine is to move from the bed where he spent the night, to the kitchen chair where he’ll spend the day, stopping by the food bowl to keep his energy up. Hey, it’s a long walk!

I usually don’t have to plant marigolds. I let them stay all winter and the seeds the finches miss sprout in the spring. This winter was a hard one and either the finches were super hungry or my seeds froze. Only two sprouted. I’ve added zinnias and cosmos seeds so we’ll see what comes up. Once the flowers were planted, there was quack grass to be pulled and then I noticed my fernicus vinus had sprouted. Yes, fernicus vinus is my scientific name for the ferny vines that sprout every year. I planted seeds long ago and all I can remember is they’re a member of the morning glory family.

Pulled more weeds. Checked the vegetable garden -it’s still there. Counted goldfish – they’re still there. Checked the work I did this weekend – hasn’t changed. Now I’m sitting here writing a post about nothing at all. Guilt is driving me to clean those bathrooms. Maybe I’ll clean one. There’s a rose out back that still needs pruning and I forgot to check the fledglings in the robin’s nest and see how Mrs. Sparrow’s eggs are coming along in the dried up climbing rose.

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Opposites Attract

wrestlingphoto (8)The Dear Spouse and I are living proof that opposites attract. He was the quiet and steady voice of reason, the one who weighed all the options before making a decision and I was the loud, wild child. Party? Where? That sounds like a great idea! Let’s do it. Now! I wound him up. He toned me down. My father still sees him as the son he never had. My mother thought he was an answer to her prayers.

What none of us knew was that the Dear Spouse had a deep, dark secret, one that might have meant the end of our relationship had I known it at the time. Fortunately, by the time I recognized this character flaw, I was already too far gone in love and there was nothing I could do but hang my head and shake it sadly.

You see, the Dear Spouse loves professional wrestling. He’s addicted to it and thanks to satellite TV, watches it three or four nights a week. He knows all the players in what amounts to testosterone filled soap operas. If you tell him this stuff isn’t real, he only smiles.

I, as you have guessed, am not a fan, but because our daughter, Heather, bought him tickets to a live event, I did my wifely duty and agreed to go. I hang my head and shake it sadly as I confess – I had a great time!!

It is indeed a small world. The event began with Titus O’Neil. My best friend’s daughter married Titus’ brother this summer and while I didn’t meet the man himself (he was working in Europe), I did meet his mother, a lovely woman. So right away, the event became special. The night ended with a grudge match between John Cena and Randy Orton, and frankly ladies, I don’t care who’s the bad guy or who’s the good. With bodies like that, who cares?

During the course of the evening, and in spite of it being choreographed and contrived, I became fascinated and not just with the glorious physiques. The men (and women) bearing those magnificent bodies are remarkable athletes and gymnasts and many of their leaps and holds and body slams should come with the warning; Do not try this at home!

Will I be tuning in tonight and cheering alongside the Dear Spouse? I think not. Watching TV wrestling is not the same as watching it live. Am I looking forward to another date night of hot dogs, cotton candy and beer at the US Bank Arena, cheering for wrestlers alongside the Dear Spouse? You betcha!

After all these years,  it seems the edges of our yin and yang have blurred. I can happily live with that.

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Cheapskate’s Anonymous

Hi, my name’s Jackie and I’m a cheapskate. There. I admit it, although I prefer the term ‘thrifty’.

My parents came of age during the Great Depression where thrift was a necessity. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without was our family motto and I continued that lesson into adulthood. I have trouble spending money – not on the important things. I didn’t hesitate to buy a new furnace, but when the Dear Spouse insisted we replace our stone patio with a poured one, that looks like stone BTW, I went ballistic. His reasoning was sound. We want to stay in this house until we die. Do we really want to spend our retirement years weeding between the stones, stones our aging feet will trip and stumble over?

I gave in and I love that patio, but what about all that stone I hauled and set with my very own hands? You see? Too cheap to pay someone to do it. It seemed wasteful. We now have two stone patios out by the pond (dug by my sons because a backhoe costs money!) and another under the swing, oh, and a path through the woods and path to the pool. Hey! It was a lot of stone, okay?

I drive a twelve year old van because it still runs and the seat is molded perfectly to my butt and hell, it’s got no where near the 300K miles the last one had. I use rags instead of paper towels, not for the environment, but because they’re free. My main cleaning products are bleach, vinegar and ammonia. I’ve never called a plumber and I’ve repaired washers, dryers and an endless list of small appliances. I hate to pay anyone to do what I can do myself.

My point is this. I’m tired, but I can’t break the cheapskate habit. We recently replaced the ratty carpet with laminate floors in the bedrooms upstairs and yes, I wanted to save the installation expense. How hard could it be? But the Dear Spouse started talking divorce and knowing my love of bargains, he found one for installation at Home Depot. So now I’m painting the bedrooms and hall and refinishing all the woodwork and doors. Why? Because I can and it’s a waste of good money to pay someone to do what you can do yourself.

But… I’m exhausted and cranky and it’s not like we can’t afford to pay someone to paint… Still…

Is there a Cheapskate’s Anonymous out there? I need help!

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How I Write

I was looking through the posts to this site and realized I’d made some comments about future release dates that didn’t quite pan out. It wasn’t intentional, I assure you. When I said Guardian’s Faith would be out in June, I really thought it would be. I thought I could impose a schedule on myself and my mind and I would adhere to it; a Guardian’s book, a Wolvers, a Hidden Mountain. Write, write, write and repeat.

What’s that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Yeah, well, it’s even more so for writers like me. I freely admit that earlier in my writing career, I would have given my right arm to be picked up by a well known publishing house. Now, I’m not so sure. Indie publishing has given me the freedom to write what I need to write as opposed to writing what I’m supposed to. Guardian’s Faith is a case in point.

I thought her story would be easy. While writing Guardian’s Hope, I thought I knew Faith well enough to foresee her future with Broadbent – Think Jane Austen’s long suffering Colonel Brandon and Marianne. (I rooted for the poor Colonel throughout repeated readings of the book and when Alan Rickman played him in the movie, well, didn’t he just do me in!!!) It was a fine idea and in real life, they might have made a happy couple, but this is fiction, folks, and by the end of Guardian’s Joy, I knew there was no story there to be told. (Unless you’re willing to pay me $2.99 to read the words “Faith and Broadbent formalized their union and  lived happily ever after.”)

I wracked my brain. I really did. I knew there was more to Faith than being the pretty and spoiled sister of Hope, but I couldn’t discover her secrets. I’d promised my readers her story and yet there was no story to be found. (Unless you were willing to pay $2.99 for the words “Faith and Broadbent aren’t getting together.”)

Meanwhile, Jazz reared her blue streaked head and started demanding to be heard. Almost instantly, Doc Goodman was there, Jazz’s complete opposite. I knew these people, knew their histories and their secrets and knew that in spite of their bantering and bickering, they were meant to be together. I made some notes and set them aside, but every time I sat down to write about Faith, those two were there instead.

I made excuses. It’s difficult for me to pull away from one type of character (Wolvers) and focus on another (Guardians) with a different setting and point of view, etc., etc. The truth is, Jazz’s story was forming while Faith’s would not. She was as mute as her character. So I went with the story that I couldn’t get out of my mind.

Don’t think I sat down and wrote 100,000 words about Jazz and Griz from beginning to end, amen. I wish I could write like that. I can’t. Telling a story for me is an arduous journey, writing and re-writing and working out plot points that come as a surprise even to me. It takes months. It’s the characters who create my stories and not the other way around.

Which brings me back to Faith and Lucien who both finally got around to speaking out once I stopped imposing my will on who they are and what they’re like. Their story is now unfolding and I’m excited to sit down at my computer each day to see what will happen next. I’m liking these new characters. A lot.

I’ve always known my stories were character driven, but Faith and Lucien have taught me something more. I’m not really a writer of stories. I’m merely a chronicler of the events. They tell the story. My job is to make you feel and see what they feel and see in each other and the world around them. Amen.

 

 

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Small Miracles

My best friend received a small miracle today. In a newly tilled garden, her daughter found a wedding ring – the one my friend lost 36 years ago when they built their house. What made it extra special, was that today was her oldest son’s birthday – a son she lost to a tragic and senseless accident. It was a long time ago, but on this special day, I’m sure it feels like only yesterday. I’d like to think that ring made her remember him crawling through the tall grass as a toddler and laughing with his face to the sun – happy times. I hope so. His smile is what so many of us remember. Some of you might call it a happy coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe it was meant to happen at a time when my friend needed it. I believe in miracles.

Though I’ve never seen one of the biggies, you know, like mountains moved or water turned to wine, I’ve seen the small ones on a regular basis. My degree declares me to be a biologist and I’m a big believer in science, but the miracles of science aren’t miraculous at all unless you count the miracle of dedication shown by the scientists who work tirelessly to discover the miracles that are there waiting for them.

The real biological miracles are those I see in my garden. Seeds – some so tiny I can hold a hundred on the tip of my finger – sprout, their genetic design so intricate as to develop into thousands of different plants. Tiny  fledglings are leaving the nest, having survived storms and squirrels and raccoons, not to mention the neighborhood cats. Their survival alone is a miracle.

Yeah, yeah, I know about the big bang theory, but please don’t tell me it wasn’t God’s finger that lit the match. I held a new baby yesterday and the miraculous beauty of a newborn child always make me cry. That one egg and one sperm can combine and grow into such a perfect creature with the myriad of functions its body can perform, well, you can’t tell me that isn’t a miracle.

This is Memorial Day weekend and that’s another miracle I’ve been privileged to witness; a thriving country  that was melded together by the most diverse group of people the world has ever seen. Our diversity has become our strength. In our history together, we’ve argued over sex, race and religion and fought political battles on a regular basis, but we are Americans, first and foremost and in spite of our differences or maybe because of them, we are the most generous and freedom loving nation on earth. That is a miracle I’m so proud of and grateful for.

Since our country’s inception, millions of men and women, regardless of their personal beliefs or political affiliations, have fought for the freedoms we all enjoy. They set aside their personal differences to stand shoulder to shoulder to defend our rights to have them!

Some thought when the draft was discontinued, it would be the downfall of our military might, but today, our military is as strong as ever. Miracle of miracles, it is staffed by legions of volunteers who believe in our way of life. Like those who preceded them, they are willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedoms.

This Memorial Day, let’s remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and the irreparable tears their losses left in the fabric of the lives of those who knew and loved them. Take a moment to think of the boys and girls that they once were and thank them for what they grew up to become. They’re heroes, one and all. They’ll hear your thanks and it will make them smile to know they are remembered with honor and love. That’s something else I believe.

 

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