I love the military. Grew up all around them in my family. My grandfather served in WWI and WWII, due to lying about his age to get a job with the railroad. He was born in the country where they didn’t hand out birth certificates in the 1890’s, his actual date of birth was a long argued point for years. My father joined the Navy and served in WWII. My uncle-in-law was air force, and so were his two sons.
I grew up visiting Eglin AFB in Florida during the summers, to hang with my aunt and uncle and my cousins and remember going to the PX and the on base movie theater. They lived in on-base housing, but it was a nice townhouse. I was always amazed when my aunt would drive through the gates and the soldiers would salute her. I didn’t realize at the time my uncle was one of the highest ranked non-commissioned officers on base. He trained fighter pilots during Vietnam. They lived in Okinawa for several years and we threw a huge seafood boil when they came back to the states.
All of these military men in my life were men I looked up to – my heroes. And like many of those men who served in WWI and WWII, they never really talked about it. But my paw-paw was big in the VFW, and I grew up knowing all about the organization. They have a soft space in my heart, and it’s one of the charities that I support.
So it’s no wonder I love to write about military men, either as Lynn Lorenz or as Theodora Lane.
One of my first military books was It Takes a Hero, about a soldier wounded in Iraq. He loses half his leg and has to deal with it once he’s stateside. Here’s a brief exerpt…
I placed another unanswered call to George. I worried he hadn’t gotten the news about me, that he was still in Mosul wondering where the hell I was, or if I’d bugged out and left him there to sweat out the hot nights alone.
Then, I worried he was lying injured in some field hospital. Or dead.
Or horribly wounded, just down the hall from me.
Drugs make you have terrible dreams, you know.
I dreamed it was George, not Quint, that I’d pulled from the street. That I’d turn him over and he was dead. Glazed blue eyes staring up at me.
That he and I kept missing each other as we pushed our wheelchairs down the corridor. I’d just glimpse his close-cropped blond hair as he turned a corner. Pushing hard, I’d reach the corner, only the hall would be empty.
Every night, I woke up in a cold sweat.
But I never dreamed about my leg. Funny, huh?
And every night after waking up drenched, I cursed God. I’d never been what you call churchgoing, but I did believe. Out here in the desert, with the bullets flying, you find God real damn fast.
I’d found Him on my first mission patrolling the streets.
I lost Him lying in that bed.
* * * * *
Five days before I was going to be sent stateside, George walked into my room.
I’d been staring at the place where my foot should have been when I heard his cough.
He lingered in the doorway, as if amputation were contagious. For a moment, I thought he would bolt, then he stepped in. God, he looked so good. Alive and healthy, his all-American good looks made even more handsome by his uniform, but I’d always been a sucker for a man in uniform.
“Got here as soon as I could.” He fidgeted with his hat, his eyes locked on the part of me that was missing.
“I’ve been calling you.” Shit. Where had I picked up that pathetic whine?
He shrugged. Swallowed. Still didn’t look me in the face.
“Tony, I’m so sorry,” he whispered.
I wanted to ask him about what. That he hadn’t bothered to call me after I’d left a message every day for two weeks? That I’d lost my leg? That he was leaving me?
“I’m so sorry,” he repeated.
“You said that.” I held my voice steady.
Seems that was all he had to say.
At last, his eyes met mine and I saw his terror. His fear. His repulsion.
Oh yeah, it was over.
Hell, he’d never said he loved me. I’d never said it to him, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d hoped he felt something for me. Felt I was more than a fuck buddy, just a warm body to pass the time with in the desert.
He looked back at my leg. Did he see himself pushing me around in that damned wheelchair, or the horror of having to touch the stump hidden under the sheets?
He reached out and touched my arm.
That was all the good-bye I got. He turned and left.
All the way to Germany just to dump me. At least, I lied to myself, I meant enough to him to do it in person.
I couldn’t blame him. Who wanted to be saddled with a cripple?
He had his career. We both did. Or I had. Twelve years into my thirty, I’d planned to retire at fifty-five, full pension, full medical, and start a new life still relatively young.
Instead, my career was over.
Still, I got the full medical.
In Pacific Nights, I wanted to write about WWII. It was an era that I’d grown up hearing about, watching movies of it, and hearing and dancing to the music. So of course, I wanted to do my own gay version of South Pacific, where two men are plunked down on a island to watch the enemy.
Here’s a bit of that story… (Sorry no cover yet. It’s between publishers)
“Change of plans. We’re jumping.”
“Jumping? What? Where’s the ship? I thought we were going to land and take a boat to the island?” He sat up and rubbed his eyes under his spectacles.
“Didn’t I just say change of plans?” Mike swore. “The landing strip is under fire. We have to jump from here.”
Hamilton struggled to his feet and caught his balance as the plane pitched and rolled. “How?”
“Parachutes. Jesus, I thought they said you were a fucking genius.” He guffawed and tossed the harness and the canvas chute bag at Hamilton, nearly knocking him down. “Put these on, Einstein.”
Hamilton stared at it. Then he shrugged on the harness and adjusted it around his legs. “How does it work?” The thing hung on him, unbuckled, almost too big for his slim frame.
Mike stared at him. From the scene the man had made in Masker’s office when he’d been told Mike would be on the mission with him, Mike knew he’d be trouble. The professor had taken one look at Mike and refused him, as if he’d had a choice. For Mike’s part, he didn’t like the idea any more than Hamilton. The professor had that air about him, as if everyone else was a lowlife, and being a lowlife himself, it ate at Mike.
He might be a lowlife, but he was the lowlife who was going to keep Hamilton alive on that island.
Mike stepped closer and fastened the chute to the harness. He touched the first pull. “Here’s the major chute rip cord. Once you’re out the door, count to five, then pull it. If it fails”—he looked up and caught Hamilton’s light blue eyes staring back at him—“pull this one.” He put his hand on the reserve cord. “It’s the emergency chute.”
Those eyes took him in with such intensity he had to look away, just like Hamilton had stared at him across Masker’s desk. That assessing look unsettled Mike.
“Got it. Count to five and pull.” Hamilton nodded. “When?”
“Coming into position!” the navigator shouted from the cockpit.
“About now.” Mike told Hamilton.
Fear flashed in the professor’s eyes, then his gaze darted to the still-closed door.
“Don’t worry. I’ve done this loads of times. You’ll be fine.” Why he felt he had to reassure the professor was beyond him, but what did it hurt? Still, if it had been anyone else, he’d have kicked his ass right out the fucking cargo bay door.
“Right.” Hamilton straightened and gave Mike a sharp nod.
Mike turned and waved at the private to stand ready. The kid pushed the first crate into position. Mike threw back the lever and pushed the door open. Wind rushed through the cargo hold, loose papers flew, and the noise made his eardrums ache.
“Ready!” Mike watched the cockpit for the signal.
The navigator leaned back, listening for the mark, and shot his thumb up.
“Crate one away!” Mike shouted.
The kid pushed it out the door, and the crate disappeared into the darkness, the tether ran out, then snapped back, opening the chute. He caught it and hooked it to the next one with swift efficiency.
“Crate two away!”
The second crate fell, and the private hooked up the last one.
“Crate three away!”
The last crate had disappeared into the blackness, and Mike turned to the professor. “You’re next.” He grinned around his cigar. He wanted to see what the guy was made of, and if anything showed a man’s mettle, it would be jumping out of a plane in the dark over a small, uncharted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The professor removed his glasses, folded them, and placed them in a pocket of his jacket, pulled on his helmet, then moved into the opening, his hands gripping the metal frame of the door.
“On my mark, Professor.”
“Call me James.” Mike could barely hear the words over the roar of the wind and the engines.
Braced against the wall of the plane, Mike glanced at the cockpit. The navigator and the pilot were working on something. As they conversed, he waited with one hand on Hamilton’s shoulder. The heat of the man’s body came through the drab green shirt and flak jacket. Ropelike muscles flexed beneath Mike’s hand, and he felt the rapid rise and fall of Hamilton’s chest. Mike wanted to pull away but kept his hand in place.
The plane tilted as it made a slow curve around for the second pass. The night whipped by outside the cabin. There was a half-moon, enough light to see by, but not bright enough to be dangerous. Not like the deadly spotlight of a full moon, thank God.
If they made it to the ground alive, everything should be fine. If there were still no Japs on the island. If they weren’t patrolling the waters. If they hadn’t heard the plane.
Too many goddamn ifs.
The navigator turned back to Mike and put his thumb up.
“Now!” Mike pushed, but the professor didn’t go; his white-knuckled grip on the edge of the door held him back.
“Let go! Jump!” He pushed again, but the guy didn’t budge.
“I can’t!” Hamilton’s pale eyes met Mike’s dark gaze and Mike read the fear and the trust in them.
“We’ll go together.”
The professor nodded. Mike stepped up beside him. “On my mark at three.”
“One. Two. Three.”
Both men stepped out of the plane and into the night.
And I have a new m/f series I’m finishing the first book on, about a band of ex-special forces guys who do rescues. But I also have a space military story The Ambassador’s Daughter with a heroine whose family has a long history of soldiers and who is an former Earth Marine. She can kick ass if she needs to, but fitting in is difficult on her new world.
Here’s the scene where her father explains her heritage to her prospective in-laws….
At this, Lady Diane gave a small soft snort. Jonathan slowly brought his gaze to her and spoke softly. “Do you have something to say, Lady Diane?”
She raised her chin and glared at him. “Indeed I do, Ambassador. You may be sure my son is a match for your daughter, but I’m not sure the opposite is true. I had hopes Stephen would find a more…traditional woman to marry.”
“When you say ‘traditional,’ you mean, from here on New Commonwealth?”
“Yes. He may be swayed by your daughter’s exotic ways, but in the long run, I wonder if she will fit in here on New Commonwealth.” She smiled, but her blue eyes were steely.
Brett frowned and looked at Stephen. He stared open-mouthed at his mother.
The duke still sat back, his chin now resting on his fist, taking in the scene.
“If I know my daughter, fitting in will be the least of your worries. Brett doesn’t ‘fit in’, she leads, madam.” Jonathan leaned back in his seat.
“She may lead on Old Earth, but here, the women follow what society dictates. Miss Butler may find herself fighting a battle she can never win.” Jonathan locked his eyes on Lady Diane and exhaled. Her eyes were so blue. He hadn’t noticed before. He blinked and then leaned forward to make a point.
“Lady Brandon, let us concede that will be something Brett will have to deal with herself. Hopefully, with your guidance, she will find it an easier time than you suppose?”
“There was also the hope that Stephen would find someone with impeccable bloodlines.” Diane again stared at Jonathan; her gaze never went to Brett.
“Madam, if you are implying Brett’s bloodline is less than any woman on New Commonwealth, you are very much mistaken.” Jonathan’s voice dropped as he sat up straight and placed both hands on the table.
“Am I, Ambassador? Just because you were rewarded for your military deeds I can’t assume that your bloodlines are of the right quality.” She placed her chin on her hand, elbow on the table, and waited for his rebuttal, as if enjoying sparring with him. Her lips curved up in a slight smile.
Jonathan took a deep breath, held it, and then slowly let it out. God, the woman is infuriating. She needs to be either spanked or…kissed. Maybe both.
He spoke slowly, and his voice was very soft. “Madam, Brett can trace her lineage back to Colonial America, to the 1700s. She is a registered member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a Daughter of the Confederacy. Her forbearers fought in the Spanish American War, in World War I, lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor, and died on the beach at Normandy in World War II. They fought in Korea, Vietnam, and in the Gulf Wars. She has great-grandfathers on both sides that fought in the First Interstellar War. Her bloodlines are without question, madam.” He finished with a sharp nod to Lady Brandon.
Softly, Brett added, “And her father led the Old Earth space fleet to victory and was injured in the line of duty ten years ago against the Ottoman jihad.” She smiled at Jonathan lovingly. He reached out and touched her hand where it lay on the table next to his.
“And Brett served for six years with honor, earning the rank of major.” He finished with a squeeze of her hand. “Look where you will, Lady Brandon, you will find no one better.” His gaze fell back on Lady Diane. Hopefully, she’d listened to the litany of Brett’s bloodline and realized that as much as Lady Diane was of royal blood here on New Commonwealth, bought and paid for by her forefathers’ money several hundred years ago, Brett was a type of royal blood on Old Earth bought and paid for by her ancestors’ lives.
“Ambassador Butler, in the old days, a young woman came with a dowry. It was expected that she would bring certain assets to the marriage. Nowadays, we don’t practice that anymore, I’m afraid. However, I wonder just what Brett will bring to this marriage?” Lady Diane sat back and waited for his reaction.
“Dowry, eh?” Jonathan rubbed his chin. “Well, there’s the ranch in the hill country, that’s twenty-five thousand acres, her mother’s homestead, and four thousand head of prime Black Angus cattle; all her mother’s jewels, which she is already in possession of, although she rarely wears them. The income from the ranch, of course, is yours also, Brett. Last time the accountants ran the estimates of fair market value, it was,” he paused, closed his eyes, and tallied it up in his head, “just over fifteen and a half million North American dollars. Is that dowry enough?” He tilted his head at Lady Diane and frowned.
So yeah, love the military. They are my heroes. Back in the day, very few women served, but I sure respected those wives like my aunt and my grandmother who stayed home, worked, raised kids, made meager pay stretch, and waited for their men to come home, one way or the other. God, that’s some kick-assery, for sure.
Memorial Day is just a day off work to some, but for my and my family, it’s a way to honor and show respect to those living and dead, who have served and do serve our country.
Who are your heroes?