Monday, May 31, 2010

A Touching Story

With Memorial Day here I wanted to share this touching story with you. It brought tears to my eyes.


He writes: My lead flight attendant came to me and said, "We have an H.R. on this flight." (H.R. stands for human remains.) "Are they military?" I asked.

'Yes', she said.

'Is there an escort?' I asked.

'Yes, I already assigned him a seat'.

'Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck. You can board him early," I said..

A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.

'My soldier is on his way back to Virginia ,'he said. He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.

I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. He left the flight deck to find his seat.

We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure. About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin. 'I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying, is on board', she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia .

The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane. I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do.. 'I'm on it', I said. I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio. There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher. I was in direct contact with the dispatcher. I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update. I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:

'Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft. The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks.'

I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job. I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, 'You have no idea how much this will mean to them.'

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing. After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

'There is a team in place to meet the aircraft',we were told. It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I asked the copilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. He did that and the ramp controller said, 'Take your time.'

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said, 'Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. His Name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. PrivateXXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army SergeantXXXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you.'

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words of 'God Bless You', I'm sorry, thank you, be proud, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane. They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these United States of AMERICA.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Kindness

I got the most wonderful surprise a few days ago. A writer I only slightly know was kind enough to send a cheery card. I was so surprised to see it in my mailbox! As I said, we have only the barest acquaintance, but she was so sweet that she sent me a card. It's one of those "have a nice day" cards, with a little bird on the cover and a short verse inside. I stood in the post office parking lot with tears in my eyes. How wonderful to receive an unexpected gift like that!

Sometimes the small gestures in life make such an impact. I'm going to pass the kindness on. I've got a good friend who's going through a rough patch now. I'm going to send her a little card today, and hope she feels as well hugged as I did!

Hope your day is filled with warmth and unexpected kindesses! Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Saxon Tapestry - June 2010

I am off to your side of the pond on Tuesday. I will have just over three blissful weeks with my family in very sunny Florida. I hope to catch up with Kathy while I am there - if only for a coffee and a chat, or if we are really lucky perhaps lunch at the Tampa Mall, or perhaps some other haunt of Kathy's choice.

My lovely daughter in law, Alyce, informs me that we are also going to Long Boat Key at Sarasota, I love it there. Very southern and those luscious beaches and those cute shops. I am sure a visit to the elegant St Armand's Circle will be on the agenda too.

I hope I have lots of time to chat with Dan, if he is not travelling too much, and hang out with Maddie and Hayden and Spencer, my three great grandkids.

All that and a book out too - life is quite busy at the moment. I will find the time to stop in here and say hello, and might even get a chance to do a little book promotion. It should be hectic, but as always when I am Stateside, I always have the happiest of times.

Hope to catch up with friends there too - say hi to Charlotte and Mimi and Julie - life can be good, it has been good to me, even in my sadness I have so many joyous times to look back on. My life is infinitely better than Alfled's turns out to be - she has to adopt the guise of her dead twin brother just to survive the onslaught of the Norman Conquest. Phew, thank goodness I don't have those kinds of worries. All I have to worry about is what to take to is going to be hot, hot, hot...and if we are eating out cold, cold, cold...LOL, see what I mean? Decisions, decisions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I'm Bragging Today!

Oh my gosh! I am so thrilled and honored by this that I just had to share it with you guys. I just received an email by Seriously Reviewed and look what they gave IT'S ALL IN THE JEANS.

I was also surprised when I visited their website to find a review of The Cowboy Way that I didn't even know about.

YOWZA! If there is one thing that I have discovered as a reader, when I fall in love with a book by a certain author I tend to search out more of their stuff. When the other stuff turns out not to be as good it is a bit of a let down, BUT when you find an author who delivers a great, hot, captivating read, time after time........Well all I can say is....WE HAVE A WINNER! and let me just say that in my opinion, Ms Richards is a winner :)

You can check both out here.

Arson, murder, an escaped convict and a scorned ex-lover complicate the steamy romance of a rancher's daughter and his partner.

Artist Lacey Owens comes home to her father’s ranch for a long over due visit, and a little R and R. She's not prepared for becoming the means for revenge against him by an old enemy he helped send to prison. Getting involved with her father’s ranch foreman and partner Chase Saunders isn’t in her plans either. But as unexplained incidences occur and Lacey’s life becomes threatened, fate throws her and Chase together when he makes it his mission to protect her. Her independent nature rebels against his arrogant high handed methods and tempers ignite, but it soon becomes apparent that their animosity is only a ruse for the intense longing stirring in their blood.

Tory Richards

Last but not least, my first Quickie with Ellora's Cave comes out today!

Talk Dirty to Me blurb-

Lilly has been in love with her brother’s best friend Blake for years. She lost her virginity to the oil driller on her eighteenth birthday, only to wake the next morning to find him gone. After he pulled that stunt twice more, she swore never to see or talk to him again. But now he’s back for her brother’s wedding, and he’s as irresistible as she remembers.

Blake thinks Lilly’s even sexier than ever. Unable to resist one another, they don’t make it out of the airport parking lot before taking up where they left off. As the two rediscover their passion for each other, nothing and nowhere is off-limits!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recipes and Writing

I love to cook and bake, so often my characters do, too. Currently I'm rolling around a story in my head featuring a gal who's a bit more daring in her cooking skills than I am. Oh, she's not into making anythng wild, just more natural and home-grown than I'm comfortable with. Truthfully, her organic tastes intrigue me but I've run up against a wall that she's not helping me scale.

The issue? Granola.

It sounds silly, I know, but in the story she's often whipping up big batches of granola. Since I'd never made the stuff before, I decided to "test" several recipes so my writing might have at least a bit of proficiency to it where the whole granola-baking thing was concerned.

So far I've tried four different granola recipes, with lackluster results. Not good for my heroine, or my story--to say nothing of my kitchen confidence!

I'll keep at it, even though the birds are looking like they might complain any day now. They've been getting to so-so granola and while they were thrilled with the first batch they seem to be planning a riot now...

Any tips on granola? I keep thinking there must be something I'm missing!

Hope you have a lovely weekend. Me? I'll be chopping nuts and mixing oats...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Facts and Fiction

I went to see the movie Robin Hood on Monday - I loved it, every second - mind you I confess that this lady has a thing for grumpy Mr Crow, a guy who does not suffer fools gladly!

What amuses me is when people say, but it's not historically accurate HELLO, Robin Hood is a legend, not a real person. Actually some of the things in the film are very accurate, medieval life is very well drawn. King John was a very mecurial figure and when he was younger, he was far better than Richard the Lionheart, who bled the country dry for this Crusades and did not even speak English. John did like to think of himself as English and did speak English. He certainly was not a pussycat, but then again in those days, what King was?

Russell, magnificent in the role, anyway does really give value for money, as does the film. I wanted to not to end, can't give it a greater compliment than that. It certainly is a thousand times better than Prince of Thieves. No surprise there then?

However, it had me thinking does it matter if an historical film is not entirely accurate? Elizabeth was a wonderful film but it too must have taken liberties. Films need to entertain as do novels. Yes, certainly if you are writing about "real" people you must do your research well, but fictional characters? So long as they have the attitudes of their age, then you can be more, shall I say, creative?

In Dangerous Enchantment, I have taken a real character and used him as the theme of the story. No one really knew what happened to Prince Richard, did Richard the Third have him killed? Did Henry the Seventh? We can't know for sure...but suppose he lived, what would he do? Yes I took liberties but Dangerous Enchantment is a work of fiction. However, one thing I am particular about is getting the lifestyle and the settings right...which brings me back to Robin Hood. Settings? Excellent, all that mud and muck? Oh yes. Rushes on the floor? Spot on...rats...ugh, unfortunately yes!

Go see, you might like it! (Bet you do!).

Oh...nice realistic love story too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Summer Reading

I know it's not summer yet but it's hot here in Florida so I'm already working on my summer reading list. Currently I'm reading Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety. I had read it twenty years go and forgotten how good it was. Cheap (The High cost of Discoutnt Culture) by Ellen Shell is also on my bedside table. Fascinating but it sure takes some of the fun out of outlet shopping.

For light reading I selected Susan Wiggs' Summer by the Sea. Besides being a great relaxing read, it's full of delicious Italian recipes. What's on your list?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lilacs and Romance

It's lilac time again here in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. Driving down any country road with the car's windows down is a heavenly experience. Our yard has several ancient lilac trees in it, as well as a bunch of newer trees, so our home is sweet with the scent of their flowers.

This is one of my favorite times of the year! Sure, I love the purple and white flowers (which I have in vases in almost every room!) and the scent they impart, but mostly I like the way they make me feel. I can't explain it, but lilacs just feel romantic to me. They remind me of stolen kisses, long hand-held walks and moonlight... ah, well, let's just say they remind me.

Anyhow, is there any flower that speaks loudly of romance to you? Any scent that immediately brings your heart fluttering?

Wherever you are, I wish you lilacs!

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Celebrating the Day

We have lovely weather - if only it wasn't so cold. Yesterday while out in the countryside I saw all the trees blooming, everything was fresh and green, the little lambs skipping and playing, it was a rural scene that must have been there hundreds of years ago. Passing by an "Elizabethan" built school goes along to confirm that.

Spring - new beginnings, fresh starts - that's what I always think. It makes me feel good to see everything blossoming. My mind has blossomed too. Timidly on Tuesday, I went to look at a novel I had started last year. Circumstances had made me leave it there and the idea of looking at it, all love and joy and conflict, made me feel physically sick. "Get over it girl," I told myself on Tuesday. In I went, there it was, I started to read...not too bad, needs some tweaking here and there but when I
reached the end of what was there, my fingers went to the keys...yes, I started to write. Not much that first day but there it was, new beginnings. Today my head is full of ideas. Is this my Spring? I do hope so.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

Tomorrow (May 12)is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. When I was diagnosed with 'fibro' thirteen years ago, I had never heard of it but recent TV pharmaceutical ads have made the syndrome more reognizable. Unfortunately none of these new drugs offer a cure.

Fibro feels like the day before you come down with the flu -- everything aches -- your neck, back, legs and shoulders. It's called wide-spread achiness and is caused by a malfunction of the central nervous system. Lots of things help -- heating pads, medications, massage, guided imagery tapes and the support of family, doctors and friends.

Initially I thought if I just ignore this illness it will go away. That strategy didn't work. In fact it brought me to a crashing halt and left me almost bedridden. So now I work with it. I use all the tools I can to relieve the fibro symptoms and rest when I need to. It's frustrating to not be able to accomplish as much as I used to. But on the plus side I know I've grown more understanding, less judgmental and met some wonderful people along the way.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Good News!

Found out this weekend that my daughter is expecting her second baby! I'm doing the grandma dance right now. And I'll probably have this stupid grin on my face for the next 7 months. She's due in December, the same month of my birthday.

My son-in-law wants a boy this time, he says there's too many ovaries in the household. But I have news for him, girls run in our family. Either way, we'll take a healthy baby...any sex.

May is turning out to be a great month for us.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Voting Day

Today over here in the UK, we are voting for a new Government.We call it the "general election" as opposed to the local elections, which happen more frequently.

So many people don't bother to vote. It really is sad, especially when you think of the people who fought and some who died, so we have the right to vote. I've never been apathetic about voting, even as a younger person. That stems from my Grandfather, Richard Owen, who was a big influence in my life. Grandfather went through the First World War, as he would say "up to his neck in muck and bullets" for the most of that war. I can remember his medals kept in his drawer in an old brown envelope. He wanted to forget.

My Grandfather and Grandmother more or less brought me up, as both my parents worked, and I lived part of the time at their house. Grandfather had many stories to tell and I used to listen in awe and received a wonderful education in the process.

Always A political, we were often the only house with a Vote for.... poster in the window. So I am off to vote this morning, and then I will take numbers for the party I support. I won't tell you which one but if anyone has read my very early books about life in Manchester, you would be able to guess!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sorry Larkers, I've been very busy the last two weeks and it's occurred to me that I've neglected this blog. I've snuck away from visiting relatives today to post. You know how it is when you have relatives in town. I even took time off from work to spend time with them.

Yesterday we had a cook out. Steak and chicken kabobs on the grill, corn on the cob, and I made a dump cake. We also had rice, chips and dip. Too much food but then left overs are always good to take to work for lunch.

Tomorrow we're making a trip to St. Augustine. We'll have to go in two vehicles because there's 8 of us. I hope it's not going to be too hot because we've already experienced some hot summer weather. I think the older I get the less I can take the heat. Doesn't help when you have hot flashes.

On top of visiting relatives my daughter and son-in-law are in the process of purchasing their first home, so I've been involved in that. Closing is slated for May 20th and it will be nice when it's all over and we can relax again. Buying a house can be stressful. And there seems to be so much drama involved with regard to all the documents you have to provide.

I enjoy spending time with my family. Wednesday we're just gonna hang out at my niece's house.

My next release is coming out this month. May 24th Talk Dirty to Me will be released at Ellora's Cave. It's my first short romance. We'll see how it does. It was certainly easier to write!