I just found out that my book, Spiders, was released at Amazon yesterday, and I didn't even know it. Right now, it's just on Kindle, but the print book will be available soon. It is being released as a Prime book, so you can check it out through the lending library for free. I don't know if that will change in the future. I haven't really cared about the book's release, but now that it's out, I'm finally excited about it. Thank goodness. Maybe I'm coming out of my funk. I wish my dad could have seen this. He never got a chance to read Spiders. At least he saw the cover before he died, and he loved it. I was really happy about that.
You can read the opening chapters and some reviews at Amazon. Just click here. Thanks!
Note: This blog was discontinued on 5/15/15. I have decided to make 7 of the 100 blogposts available for those who still visit this blog.
The first challenge is underway in the Platform Building Campaign, and it's a doozy! I loved this particular challenge. It's to write a short story in 200 words. It needs to begin with 'The door swung open". There is the option of making it even more challenging by ending with "The door swung shut." Here's my entry. It's exactly 200 words (and that really was a challenge):
The door swung open. He was barely visible through the smoke, but I recognized a Corelli when I saw one. Gino? Yeah. Gino. He was the worst. He was looking for someone.
I could guess who.
My partner, John, was in the hospital, not expected to survive the round from Vince Corelli’s D’Eagle. Vince lay in the morgue, and I’d put him there. Now Gino wanted justice, but a cop bar was a stupid place to extract it.
His gaze found me and he smiled; it wasn’t a ‘glad to see you’ sort of smile. He weaved around off-duty cops. They were too drunk to know a storm brewed. I pushed away from the bar.
I wasn’t that drunk.
His hand came up and I stared down the barrel of a .45.
Damn. I was drunker than I thought.
I grasped the barrel, deflected it, and struck him over his jugular—not hard enough to kill, but it buckled his knees. The other officers swarmed. Gino was handcuffed before I picked up my barstool. I sat and Mickey brought another beer.
I thought I'd drag out a post I did a while back when I was a guest at another blog. It has never been posted on my site before, but some of my original followers may recognize it from that guest appearance. I hope you enjoy the information.
You're running late, and in your panic you take the wrong exit
off the highway. Now you're lost. The road is narrow, and there are no
easy places to turn around. You're trapped on a strange road and going
the wrong direction -- traveling at night into unfamiliar territory. The
minutes are stacking up, and there is still no exit in sight. You
glance repeatedly at your wristwatch and fumble for your phone, but it's
not where you normally keep it. You check your pockets. It's not there
either! Now you're really frantic. Did you leave it on the kitchen
counter in your mad rush to be out the door?
road narrows even more and drops abruptly. Now you're driving over
loose gravel, surrounded by abandoned cornfields, and storm clouds are
moving in. This is not someplace you want to break down, and it's
definitely not someplace you want to get stuck either. The first fat
splashes of rain hit your windshield and lightning streaks the sky. A
sudden thunderous crash nearly sends your head through the roof as you
jump, and the storm lets loose with a torrential downpour. You round a
sharp bend and two green eyes peer at you from the side of the road. You
brake abruptly, fearing the worst, but there is no cat in sight.
There never was a cat. You just stumbled upon a pickup location.
reflection of cat's eyes is commonplace at night. I'm sure your
headlights have illuminated them at some point in your life. Two glowing
eyes in the dark. But sometimes, they're not quite what they appear to
be. Cat's Eyes are a device used in spycraft. They make for a great
'pick up' or 'drop off' signal.
Let's say an operative
wants to be picked up at an undisclosed location for security purposes,
but she is deep in the country, and there are no local pubs or
restaurants available. She has told her desk operator that she will be
somewhere between spot code orange 7 and blue 13, but that stretch of
road is long and lonely. This is where the Cat's Eyes come in. The
operator takes a simple sheet of plywood, paints it black, and uses
glass beads backed with silver foil for the Cat's Eyes. She plants it
next to the road, hides out of sight, and waits for her pickup. Her
pickup will know what those two glowing eyes mean, but anyone else will
merely pass them by without a second glance.
you're traveling along a deserted highway at night, and you see two
glowing eyes on the side of the road, don't assume it's a cat.
... especially if you see a shadowy figure waiting in the dark.
And don't try to dig up that sheet of plywood. It's extremely dangerous.
If you'd like to spend more time in the company of spies, I hope you will read my book Sleeping with Skeletons. You can find out more information on that at my website.
Molly Ringle and I recently discussed the ethics of autobiographies, and I thought I'd blog about that. I think as people we want to "be known." I'm not sure anyone really wants to go through life and not be known intimately by at least one person. Some of us might guard our privacy as fiercely as a Doberman guarding a junkyard, but there are still people we open the locked gates for. We want to let people in. We want to be known. Even if we don't ever offer a complete tour.
There is a large market for biographies and autobiographies. Over the past year we've seen President George Bush's biography, and we've seen Snooki's. I don't think you can get any different as people or life stories. The only thing they had in common was a place on The New York Times Best Sellers list.
One issue with writing a biography or an autobiography is that we always drag other people into the mess. And I say mess because life is messy. If we're completely honest, we're going to hurt people. That's where the ethics come in. I wrote bits and pieces of my biography, but I have since destroyed it. It was impossible to write it without hurting other people -- people I love. Being known is less important to me than protecting them.
If you had publishers beating down your doors asking for your life story, would you give it to them? Would it be 100% honest, or would you withhold things that made you look bad or hurt others?
With that said, I admit that I still want to be known. I shared a story with Molly from my past. It will never make it into an autobiography, but it is going to make it into this blog. Just because, as I said, I want to be known. At least to a degree. And life is short.
A few months after I arrived in Europe, I was drawn into an incident that made international news. On March 23 of 1985, Major Arthur D. Nicholson became the last American casualty of the Cold War. He was shot by a Soviet soldier and was the only Military Liaison officer to die in the line of duty. This quickly escalated into an international incident, and Major Nicholson was promoted posthumously. The image at the top of this blog post is a photo of Major Nicholson's casket being placed on a U.S. aircraft at Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany. (A few years later, assassinated CIA Station Chief, William Buckley, who had been kidnapped by the Iranian backed Islamic Jihad, tortured and executed, came home through this same airport. He's known as the spy who never came out of the cold.)
As a result of the incident with Major Nicholson, I was assigned to a patrol at the Soviet Military Liaison Mission (SMLM). We had two cars. One was a stationary car and the other was a chase car. Our stationary car remained at the mission on a more-or-less permanent stake out, monitoring and logging all of the activity taking place at the mission. The comings and goings at the mission, and any observed activity, was documented. That was the job of our stationary car.
The chase car's job was to follow the Soviet officers whenever they left the mission and report on everything they did. It was pretty pointless really. They knew we followed them, and we were limited in what we could do. So whenever they didn't want us to follow, they would just "go beyond our boundaries" so to speak. The chase would break off at that point and we would return to SMLM.
So, back to my earlier question. If you had publishing houses knocking down your door begging for your autobiography, would you give it to them? And how important is it for you to be known?
do we choose the subjects we do when we write? Some of us have
political, social, or religious agendas. Some of us just want to
educate, entertain, express ourselves, or cope. But I believe all
writers have a reason for writing what they do.
When I first began putting stories on paper, I was a child, so I wrote
children's stories. My subjects have changed over the years. I tend to
write from experience, and my life usually shows up in my stories. I'm
not writing my life, but my life definitely affects everything I write.
Over the last several years, I have written stories that primarily
center around justice, and I tie that to incidents that I experienced in
law enforcement. Justice is rarely served, and sometimes, the only way
to achieve it is to write it into a story. It is so often lacking in
real life. One of the times I encountered this was when I was
stationed in Frankfurt, Germany with the Army's 284th Military Police
It was foggy that night, impossible to see beyond the beams of our
patrol car. I began the shift with a lie of omission -- and a new
partner in a bad mood. Confessing to being the source of Beheng's anger
wasn't an option at that moment, and I decided to save the necessary
moment of truth for later, preferably as much later as possible.
The 284th was one of those assignments that everyone wanted, and we were
the lucky ones to get it. We handled military-related law enforcement
for Frankfurt and all of the surrounding cities. It was like being a
cop in New York City -- only we covered more territory. I listened
quietly as Beheng ranted about his pre-shift detail, which had been the
laundry room of our barracks.
We all had pre-shift details. We worked twelve-hour shifts, but before
and after each shift, we had Army-related duties. Our twelve-hour shifts
usually worked out to be about eighteen. After that, we did our
personal chores: laundry, ironing, cleaning, and whatever else we needed
to do to get ready for our next shift. It left us with no time, and we
were usually functioning on two to three hours of sleep a night. There
were times when we worked up to three months without days off. We were
all on the verge of snapping. That night, Beheng had snapped.
And it was my fault.
He just didn't know it yet.
I had been running late and needed to get the trash out of my room. I
shared the room with Janelle Bebo. Janelle was gone, and I couldn't ask
her for help, so I took our trash and put it into the trash can in the
laundry room. I was too tired to think about the consequences for
whoever was responsible for the laundry room. I was just thinking about
getting the trash out of my room and still making it to guard mount on
As I settled into the patrol car with Beheng, he began his rant. Bebo
had left her trash in the laundry room. There had been a pizza box with
her name on it in the trash, and he was going to let her have it the
next time he saw her. Literally. He had saved the trash and was going to
bury her in it. Since I was her roommate, he was taking it out on me. I
debated telling him the truth right then, but I ended up deciding to
save the confession for later. After all, we were both armed, and I
didn't want to get shot.
Like I said, Beheng had snapped.
It wasn't a very busy midnight shift, so we met up with other MPs
throughout the course of the night. Each time we did, the 'trash'
subject was brought up by Beheng. He would rage on about what he was
going to do to Bebo next time he saw her, and I just stood by in guilty
silence, waiting for the best time to tell him. I decided that would be
at the end of the shift after we'd turned in our weapons to the arms'
Since we weren't busy, we were able to do all of our security checks.
There had been several terrorist bombings on military bases in the area,
so we did frequent checks of those compounds to watch for suspicious
activity. But we also patrolled civilian apartment complexes that housed
large numbers of military personnel. We were patrolling a German
apartment complex around two A.M.. Beheng was driving, and he cautiously
maneuvered the different streets in the complex. It was so foggy we
couldn't even see the sidewalks or the grass, much less the buildings.
After we finished, we called in our check, and Beheng pulled out of the complex back onto the street.
We had no sooner called it in than dispatch called us back. A soldier,
who was walking his dog, had discovered a dead body lying in the grass
beside one of the buildings of the apartment complex. We had just driven
by it but hadn't even seen it because of the fog. We turned around,
drove a few hundred feet, and parked -- quickly finding the man, his
dog, and the deceased.
At first, I thought I was looking at a dead child -- a boy of about
twelve. Here was someone's baby. I walked as close as I could without
disturbing anything and bent down, checking the child's neck for a
pulse. There was no pulse, and the skin was still warm and supple. The
death had recently occurred. The child's head was completely caved in on
the right side. It looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to it.
There was no blood on the scene, so it was obvious that the death had
occurred someplace else, and this was a secondary crime scene. The boy
had been laid flat, and his body was neatly arranged. His hands were in
his pockets. He wore clean white socks. The ground was soaked from
earlier rains, but those socks were pristine. They had not even touched a
floor -- much less the wet grass.
I stood and moved back, hoping I hadn't contaminated the crime scene. We
secured the area and started talking to apartment residents. We soon
discovered that the 12-year-old boy was actually an adult woman. She was
so small and boyish looking that her appearance had been deceptive. We
also discovered that she was a German national, so we called in the
While we waited for them, we spoke with her neighbors. She was a lesbian
and a prostitute. She worked in the red-light district in Frankfurt.
She and her girlfriend shared the apartment, and apparently they were
involved in a lovers' triangle. There had been a loud argument in the
apartment shortly before she was found murdered. We had a general idea
of what had happened, and when the polizei arrived, we attempted to tell
them what we had discovered. They brushed us off and told us it was
obviously a suicide.
The woman, according to them, had jumped.
I'd been with the 284th for over a year, and I had worked with many
German police officers during that time. These were the first German
police officers who had not impressed me.
The woman's body was removed without any investigation, and Beheng and I
were left with our mouths hanging open. We could barely believe what
had just taken place. Apparently, the murder of a lesbian prostitute was
not high on the priority list of these particular police officers.
Beheng had forgotten about the trash.
We were both devastated by what had just happened. The story soon spread
like the flu. Everyone on duty with the 284th that night was sickened
by the lack of justice for this murdered woman. Though Beheng and I had
primarily been just acquaintances when our shift began, we were now
bonded by this experience. We ended up our shift completely somber.
After we returned to the police station, I told Beheng the truth about
the trash. He barely commented on it. A few minutes later, he asked if I
could do him a favor. Would I go out to the patrol car and get his
briefcase? He needed some paperwork in it. I went out, but when I came
back in, he told me he didn't have the right paperwork after all and
asked if I'd check my briefcase. Perhaps I had the right paperwork. At
this point, all of the MPs who had been on duty that night had returned,
and many of the MPs who were coming on duty were present.
I went to my briefcase, opened it
... and it was filled with trash.
I almost fell down laughing. Dozens of people were there when I opened
that briefcase -- the MPs coming on duty, and the MPs going off, the
desk sergeants, and the patrol supervisors -- and every one of them was
And we really needed that laugh.
I dreamed about her several times after that -- the woman discarded like
trash. In my dreams she always had my sister's face. It haunted
me for months. Very few people cared. Those who should have sought
justice, didn't. Heartless killers walked free.
My writing changed because of things I witnessed in the military.
I always make sure justice is served in my stories.
It's so often lacking in reality. Doralynn Kennedy
The photo I use in this post was taken in Rome in early 1986, about one year after the event I relate in this post. I was working with PSD at the time this photo was taken.
Today is Veteran's Day, November 11, 2009. So thank you to all vets and all active duty military personnel and their families.
The old man who lives next door keeps strange hours and does not welcome visitors. The neighbor's boy was allowed in one time, but only because it was storming outside and the child was locked out of his house. No one else was at home to help the boy that day.
But other than one small child, no one else has ever set foot inside the old man's home.
Rumors swirl around him like falling leaves in the autumn. One tale bearer claims the hermit is all alone in the world. His family was killed in some tragic accident. Other gossipers weave gruesome tales of a serial killer who escaped from prison or was never brought to justice in the first place. Wild tales are concocted at dinner parties and spread around the table like jams and jellies.
Just the month before, the elderly gentleman bought a poodle at the mall and brought it home with him. Now he spends more time outside, walking his dog into the woods that border one side of his property.
Shortly after the dog moved in, and the old man began taking frequent walks, a strange car began prowling the streets at night.
The boy who spent an afternoon at the old man's house watches from his third-floor bedroom with fascination. The car comes late at night, headlights off, and parks in the dark. A bulky shape emerges, enters the woods and disappears from sight. Eventually, the mysterious visitor reemerges -- carrying a small package -- settles back into his car and slowly drives away into the night.
The boy keeps his observations to himself. He likes the old man with the houseful of computers, TV screens, and radio equipment. And he can keep a secret.
You have probably guessed by now that the old man is a spy, and the boy has witnessed something he was never meant to see.
Around 1970, as the conflict in Vietnam escalated, United States military intelligence (and no, that is not an oxymoron) developed a homing device camouflaged as dog or monkey droppings. It was actually a homing device officially known as a T-1151 radio transmitter, and unofficially it was known as a Doo radio transmitter.
This inconspicuous little spy gadget could send or receive radio messages, usually by Morse code. It was positioned throughout the jungles of Vietnam, relentlessly transmitting a radio signal that led aircraft to enemy ground sites for strikes or reconnaissance missions.
Because the device looked like -- well -- poop, it was usually left undisturbed. Therefore it could be planted well in advance of any mission.
It is still in use today, as our elderly neighbor could verify. If he were talking.
If you'd like to spend more time in the company of spies, let me recommend my novel, Sleeping With Skeletons. You can find out more information on that at my website. You might also like some of the additional posts that I've written below. Thanks!
In my first published novel, Sleeping With Skeletons, Margaret Garrison is recovering from the world of espionage. Women have long played an important role in the clandestine activities of groups of all sizes, from small factions to large super powers.
In the Bible, "Rahab the Harlot", hid twelve Jewish spies and has been forever memorialized in the best-selling book of all time.
Virginia Hall was a clerk with the Department of State. She was turned down for a position in foreign service, partly due to her gender, but also because she had a wooden leg and walked with a limp. But neither her sex nor her disability could hold back this indomitable lady. She traveled to Europe and joined the French underground, where she became a field officer. She became fluent in German and French and had knowledge of morse code and could work a wireless radio. Because of these skills, she became a valuable asset to the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor of the CIA.
During the D-Day invasion, Virginia Hall worked with the French underground to cut electrical lines to telegraph offices, disrupting German communications. She also worked as a milkmaid, delivering milk to German soldiers. That was a cover used to collect intelligence. During this time, she became known as the "limping lady of the OSS." Later, after the war, she became one of the CIA's first female operations officers. She received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest U.S. military award for bravery.
In my novel, one of my main character's aliases is in honor of this incredible woman.
Josephine Baker, an American expatriate, was a well-known entertainer and actress. She was a popular singer who became a French citizen in 1937. She was known as the "Bronze Venus" and the "Black Pearl", as well as the "Créole Goddess" and "La Baker". Josephine Baker was the first African-American woman to star in a major motion picture, and she made significant contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. She was even offered the leadership of the Civil Rights Movement by Coretta Scott King following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Josephine Baker was also a spy.
She served in the French Resistance during World War II and was the first American-born woman to receive the French military honor, the Croix de Guerre. During the war, Josephine Baker smuggled secret information written in invisible ink on her sheet music. In spite of her fame, she was able to complete her missions unnoticed. Passport checkers were so stage struck, they gave her free access to all of Europe, never suspecting that she was, in fact, a spy.
Perhaps one of the most unlikely spies of all time was the famous chef, Julia Child.
Long before she became a household name and a flamboyant TV personality, she worked for the OSS. She started her service in the OSS Headquarters shortly after the United States entered World War II. One of her most famous assignments was to solve a problem that faced the U.S. naval forces during World War II. Sharks were bumping into explosives placed underwater, setting them off before they could sink German U-boats as intended. Julia Child, along with several male associates, invented a shark repellent that was used to coat the explosives. They literally cooked up an ingenious recipe that stopped a deadly problem, saving an unknown number of lives.
She served in Ceylon and in China, where she was the head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat. She was awarded the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service for her leadership in that post.
During America's Revolutionary War, General George Washington was aided by information provided by the mysterious "355," a female member of the Culper spy ring. The number "355" was code for "lady". This unknown woman helped expose Benedict Arnold as a traitor. To this day, no one knows who she was. Like so many brave women who have served, and continue to serve as spies, she simply did what had to be done and then faded into obscurity, taking her secrets with her to the grave.
If you would like to spend more time in the company of spies, I hope you will consider my romantic-suspense novel, Sleeping With Skeletons. For more information on that, please visit my website at: http://www.doralynn.net/