Posts Tagged With: fiction

Why Grammar Nazis Need to Get a Grip

By Lauren Carr

The Internet has made it much easier for anyone yearning to voice their opinion about anything and everything to do so. Among those striving to be heard are readers anxious to release their inner book critics to heap praise or criticism upon the authors of those books they love or hate. Nowadays, any reader with a kindle simply has to hit a button at the end of the book to leave their ratings and thoughts—whatever they may be.

Thus, Grammar Nazis can now easily warn perspective readers of any book that does not meet their lofty standards by posting reviews citing the read as poorly written and badly edited.

This is not necessarily a good thing because nasty reviews from Grammar Nazis can potentially deter unwitting readers from purchasing and reading books that are actually very well written and finely edited.

What is a Grammar Nazi? According to the Internet, a Grammar Nazi is someone who believes it’s their duty to attempt to correct any grammar and/or spelling mistakes they observe—

  • usually found hanging around book reading chat rooms,
  • or posting one-star reviews declaring books poorly edited (or not edited at all) on Amazon, Goodreads, and every other book website they can find,
  • or sending emails with multi-paged lists of spelling and grammatical errors to authors of said books, and declaring their editors and proofreaders incompetent.

I am very familiar with Grammar Nazis. My mother is one. Luckily for authors, she is unplugged and has more important things to do that compose detailed lists of what she considers to be grammatical mistakes in books—unless it’s one of mine.

What type of books have fallen victim to one or more negative reviews from Grammar Nazis? Well, here’s a sampling of reviews that I have found on Amazon, the biggest book seller in the world.

One reader, who identifies him/herself as a literature teacher, begins a long-winded one-star review by stating that he/she only uses To Kill a Mockingbird in his/her class “when forced to” because it is so poorly written. This reader goes on to say, “The descriptive passages were rather crude, and at times the language became practically unintelligible.”

Another reader posted a one-star review for For Whom the Bell Tolls. Not even Ernest Hemingway is immune from Nazi attacks. This reader writes:

I will not presume to say that I am right & that millions who love this book are wrong, but I really do not understand why this book is considered a classic. The dialogue is so choppy & forced-formal that it seems like the characters are all talking past each other.

Another reader had trouble understanding how Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October became a best-seller:

Clancy could have edited 40% of the text out and had a much better story. This novel is bogged down with irrelevant character descriptions, military acronyms, tedious sub-plots, and background stories that have nothing to contribute to the novel’s overall focus. I found myself constantly frustrated with the monotonous length it took to cover simple plot points. Clancy obviously has a huge audience; however, he needs an effective editor. This novel is a very slow read.

As you can see, Grammar Nazis really don’t care who you are or how experienced your publisher or editor is. When they see a mistake, they’re going to let readers know. Like in this Nazi’s review for Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, published by Little, Brown Books for YA:

…the editing—or lack thereof—is appalling …; the grammar and syntax are unforgivably bad; the plot is onion-skin thin; and the characters are uniformly dull and uninspiring.

The purpose of this post is not to rip apart Grammar Nazis. After all, I am closely related to one. My mother even proofreads my books before they are released to catch errors missed by my team of editors and proofreaders. (More about that later.)

Nor is the purpose of this post to convince Grammar Nazis that they’re wrong. Believe me, there is no convincing a Grammar Nazi they are mistaken about errors they have noted. They got “A’s” in English in school. They have worked for a hundred years as an editor for a daily newspaper and never once during that whole century—publishing two editions seven days a week—not once was there so much as one typo in any of those newspapers—not a single one! Therefore, the prospect of them being wrong about whether you should be using a comma or a semi-colon within dialogue is inconceivable.

As an author and a publisher, I would like to put this issue into a proper perspective for both readers and those authors whose books fall victim to a reader or two who has too much time on his or her hands. As a rule, I do not engage or argue with the rare Grammar Nazi who posts a nasty review for any of my books on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other sites.

However, I do believe that the average reader who sees reviews posted by Grammar Nazis and new authors who will (not if) receive such reviews should be aware of a few things before they accept the Grammar Nazi’s claims of bad writing and poor editing as fact.

A couple of years ago, an author friend of mine independently published a book. During the publication process, her book went through two rounds of editing (by two different editors) and was proofread by another editor, plus a friend of hers, who happened to be school teacher who taught English. Thus, her book was looked at by four different pairs of eyes before publication.

Nine months after the book was released and received several glowing reviews, she received one poor review declaring that it was poorly edited and had numerous grammatical errors. So, she hired yet another editor to proofread the book again for grammatical mistakes and misspellings. This editor, who used a different style manual than the other editors, ripped that book apart with changes on every page.

Over a year later, a traditional publisher signed my friend to a multi-book deal. As part of the publication process, this same book was edited yet again! It went through two separate editors—one of whom contacted my friend to tell her that it was very well written and was pretty clean to begin with. Not only that, but after the book was formatted, it was proofread by yet another editor.

First review my friend received from a reader stated:

This is the first novel I’ve read by this author, and while it was a good read, with a good plot, interesting primary and secondary characters, and was very suspenseful, the sheer number of grammatical errors, misused words, and spelling errors certainly detracted from my enjoyment of this book. While I’d like to read the next novels in this series, I can only hope that they are better edited and proofread than this one.

Excuse me! This book was looked at by—count them!—seven different editors plus an English teacher. Not all of them were ill-educated, poorly trained, or incompetent!

The answer to how this happens lies in this one simple question:

Grammatical errors, misused words, and spelling mistakes according to whose rules?


I have assembled a team of editors and proofreaders to work on my own books based on each one’s strengths. It is a given, where one editor has strengths, he or she has weaknesses in another area.

Let me explain. Last year, I sent one of my books to a new editor to be proofread before its release. Because she was unproven to me, I sent the same book to yet another editor as a backup. Neither proofreader knew the book was being worked on by someone else. Therefore, they thought it was completely up to them to catch every mistake.

When the book came back from these two proofreaders, they had both identified completely different errors. Only in one instance did they both identify the same error! They concentrated completely on different areas in proofreading the book. One proofreader was more concerned with the punctuation while the other focused on the spelling.

Also, each one of my editors/proofreaders works under a different set of rules.

One of my editors, who I have used for years, follows the new comma rules—whatever those are. From what I have seen, the comma is rarely used. I have read many books in recent years, whose editors seem to be following these rules. According to the new comma rules, the line from Gone with the Wind: “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn,” has no commas.

Another one of my editors loves the Oxford comma. Thus, the line would be written, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Based on what she learned when she was in school, my mother swears it is, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Who is right? Under interrogation, both of these editors and the Grammar Nazi could cite a source and reasoning to back up their argument of where the commas go and why.

Another area of disagreement is the ellipse. That is the “…”. One of my editors believes there should be no space before or after the ellipse. Another editor firmly believes there should be a space before and after the ellipse.

Even highly regarded style manuals used by editors disagree. Some argue that the ellipse should be treated like a word, which means it should have a space both before and after. Others (mostly journalistic style manuals) say it should be treated like an em-dash (—) so there should be no space. This is because the space before and after can create havoc with formatting.

Therefore, I quite literally split the difference. During formatting I use a half-space before and after the ellipse.

To better illustrate this issue, I love to tell writers, new editors, and readers about a book I edited for another author several years ago.

This book contained a character whose name ended in an “s.” Well, throughout the book, there were many instances in which his name was used in possessive.

Now, every editor has a thing or two or three or dozen, in which they will not trust their knowledge. To be safe, they will look it up in their style manual every single time. For me, the question of a proper name ending in “s” and used in possessive was one of those things. The Chicago Style Manual called for this possessive to be “s’” not “s’s.”

Well, the author said I was wrong and that it is supposed to be “s’s.”

So, I looked it up again, not just in the Chicago Style Manual, but several sites on the Internet. Not only did I discover that the answer varies in the Chicago Style Manual depending on which edition you use, but I also found a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States had gotten involved in this very argument while writing a decision on a case. Even the justices disagreed! Clarence Thomas (who should know since his name ends in an “s”) declared that it is “s.’”

I let the author have the last word. He requested that I change all of the possessive references for this character to “s’s.”

Then, upon proofing the book, the author brought in his daughter, a technical writer who goes by a totally different style manual. She stated that it should be “s’” without the extra “s.”

So I had to change it back.

Many people who are not in the business of writing, editing, or publishing fiction fail to realize that many of the grammar and punctuation rules that we were taught as being carved in stone really are not—especially when it comes to fiction.

Most fiction authors’ literary style and narrative voice don’t follow all of the rules taught in simple fourth grade grammar. Keeping in tune with the casual manner in which people communicate today, writers focus more on creating a conversational tone and flow to the narrative than using the correct pronoun.

When I sent my third book to the editor, I could practically hear her laughing between the lines in her notes when she rewrote a sentence in my narrative. “When was the last time you heard someone use the word ‘whom?’” she asked.

While my sentence was grammatically correct, she noted that it had such a formal stilted sound to it that it broke the easy going pace of my writing. As a result, the reader would be pulled out of the story. Yes, the sentence, rewritten by the editor, was grammatically incorrect. However, the narrative flowed much more naturally.

Grammar Nazis, particularly those who have spent the bulk of their education or professional lives in the world of non-fiction writing and editing (working in journalism or teaching grade school English), fail to realize this when reading fiction. Being a Nazi, they are incapable of becoming immersed in the plot and the story because they have spent their lives searching for mistakes. When they encounter what they perceive to be an error, they are so offended that all enjoyment of the other 99.9% of the book becomes an impossibility—all they can see and think about is that imperfection.

Feeling righteous about what they know is right, they feel compelled to note said error and to warn readers via bad reviews and/or notify the writer of what a sloppy job his editor did.

the first installment in Lauren Carr's upcoming series, Kill and Run is scheduled for release September 1.

The first installment in Lauren Carr’s new mystery series, Kill and Run was released September 4. It has been receiving rave reviews from reviewers and readers … except for a couple of Grammar Nazis

Less than two weeks ago, my fifteenth book, Kill and Run was released. Over the years, the publication of my books, which I publish independently, has been fine tuned. I use two different editors, plus I will do a round of editing myself. After the book is formatted, my books are proofread by a professional editor who has never laid eyes on the book beforehand. Plus, a copy will go to my Grammar Nazi mother.

Yet, in spite of the many steps I take to produce high quality books, shortly before Kill and Run’s release (but too late to make corrections before the release date) a total of twenty actual grammatical and spelling errors were discovered. (The corrected version is now available and being sold. Pre-order e-book customers can download from Amazon under “manage my kindle.”)

Two Grammar Nazis (my mother was not one) demanded to know how this could happen. “Your readers deserve better!”

Here’s how and why this happens–not just with my books, but most books published, both independently and traditionally:

Prolific writers (those who write more than one book a year—I release three or four) make mistakes. A prolific writer cares more about writing a thrilling book with fully developed characters and an intriguing plot than determining if every single word (Is it lay or lie?) is right and ensuring that every punctuation mark is correct (To use the comma or not to use the comma?).

Such minute details have the power to tie a Grammar Nazi’s panties in a knot.

One Grammar Nazi was upset because in The Murders at Astaire Castle, David O'Callaghan went into a donut shop to buy a box of donuts.

One Grammar Nazi was upset because in The Murders at Astaire Castle, David O’Callaghan went into a donut shop to buy a box of donuts.

A few years ago, I received an email from a woman informing me that I was a shoddy writer and how dare I consider myself worthy of editing other authors’ books. (I don’t edit other authors books anymore because I am too busy writing my own books.) Her complaint: In The Murders at Astaire Castle, which has been consistently in the top 100 of Ghost Mysteries on Amazon since its release in July 2013, contained this sentence:

“On the way into the police station, David stopped at the donut shop to buy a box of donuts.”

The Nazi wrote, “No, sh!t.” She used the actual word. My error was using “donut” twice. That is repetition, which is a no-no. This, she declared was sloppy and shoddy writing. She went on to post a one-star review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Think about it. The Murders at Astaire Castle has 66,000 words. This Nazi was having a hissy fit over one sentence, consisting of nineteen words, in the middle of a 286-page book. Frankly, I thought one bad sentence out of the thousands of sentences in that book was doing pretty good.

Since the Grammar Nazi revealed in her email that she was a writer, and obviously much better than I am since she would never have written that sentence, I looked up her profile in the social media sites and found that she has never published a book. To date, she still has yet to have a book published under her name. Based on her reaction to the news that David had stopped at a donut shop to buy donuts, I think she is probably too busy sweating over every page, paragraph, sentence, comma, period, and word to allow her book to be released to the public.

By virtue of being a Grammar Nazi, her book must be perfect. Anything less is unacceptable.

That’s pretty sad in my opinion.

Prolific writers know that there comes a time in every book’s life where we need to just let it go and move on to the next book. We accept the fact that there could very well—No, we know and accept the fact that there will be one, two, three, or twenty grammatical errors in the book that our team has not caught.

From a professional stand-point, it is not good business to hold up the release of a book to invest in yet another editor to scour a whole book in search of those few errors that will cause one or two Grammar Nazis to have hissy fits—even if they do use the power of the Internet to proclaim the book as poorly edited.

At what point can a book—not a five-hundred word article or a student’s ten-page research paper—but a 60,000 to 110,000 word book—be declared error free, especially if editors, proofreaders, and Grammar Nazis can’t agree on what the rules are?

Alas, there is yet another important reason Kill and Run was released with twenty actual mistakes that had been missed by my team of paid professional editors and proofreaders—and yes, I do consider them professional and am proud to have them working for me.

Unfortunately, not only are my editors and proofreaders professionals—but also, every single one is a human being. Therefore, they suffer from the condition that every human suffers—Yes, even the Grammar Nazis suffer from this dreaded incurable condition:

Human beings aren’t perfect. As intolerable as it may be, we all make mistakes.

I have worked with numerous editors in the thirty plus years that I have been writing and I have yet to meet an editor who is perfect, which is why I use more than one on every project.

With this in mind, I look at those twenty mistakes in Kill and Run this way:

  • Kill and Run has approximately 110,000 words. Twenty mistakes out of 110,000 words amounts to a .018% error rate.
  • That means my team of editors and proofreaders got 99.982% of the book right—based on the grammar and spelling rules as we know them.

I wouldn’t call that sloppy, shoddy, incompetent, or poor. Would you?

About the Author

Best-Selling Mystery Author Lauren Carr ... and Gnarly, too.

Best-Selling Mystery Author Lauren Carr … and Gnarly, too. click on photo to visit Lauren’s website.

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime Mysteries. Kill and Run the first installment of her new series, The Thorny Rose Mysteries was released to rave reviews from reviewers and readers on September 4, 2015. Lauren introduced the key detectives in the Thorny Rose Mysteries in Three Days to Forever, which was released in January 2015.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learnt in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:



Blog: Literary Wealth:


Gnarly’s Facebook Page:

Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:

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Who Are the Phantoms?

Do they still play King of the Hill on playgrounds? If you aren’t familiar with this game, let me explain it to you.

First, you have to have a hill. I’m not talking about Mount Rushmore, I’m talking about a big hill. It can be a huge mound of dirt. Sand is even better because it slips out from under your feet, which makes it hard to get up.

Then, you put a flag at the very top of the hill. The one who takes the flag is the King of the Hill.

Now, imagine this.

Two teams are trying to make it to the top of the hill to snatch the flag so that they can be the winner. You can picture the two teams anyway you want. One can be a team of bullies while the other are the good guys. Or both teams are bullies. Or maybe both teams are good guys. Fact is, they are both big and strong.

In their effort to get to the top of the hill to win the prize, they start fighting each other.

As the fight grows in intensity, both teams lose their focus on the flag at the top of the hill, which is taken by a lone child who belongs to neither team. How did this child become King of the Hill, he kept out of the fighting and remained focused on the primary objective of capturing the flag.

That child represents the Phantoms as I have created them in my latest Mac Faraday Mystery, Three Days to Forever.

Who are The Phantoms?

A Mac Faraday Mystery, Three Days to Forever introduces Lauren Carr's new series, the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Click on book cover to download from Amazon.

A Mac Faraday Mystery, Three Days to Forever introduces Lauren Carr’s new series, the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Click on book cover to download from Amazon.

Three Days to Forever opens in the Middle East where David O’Callaghan, Mac Faraday’s half-brother, is leading a team of special ops Marines in taking out a terrorist training camp. While scoping out the camp, they discover that the trainees are being visited by a major terrorist leader who is on the Homeland Security’s most wanted list.

However, protocol dictates that David needs to call in for permission to use fatal force to take out the target. His team bets that he will be told to stand down, not execute the man who was responsible for leading a terrorist attack that took out many of their comrades. This is not the first time this leader had been in the military’s sights and every time they had been told to let him go.

In this excerpt from Three Days to Forever, Hallie, a member of David’s special ops team, tells him the legend of the Phantoms.

“They will (give us the order to proceed),” David said with as much confidence as he could muster to pass on to his team. “We’re at war. We can’t win it if we don’t neutralize the enemy, no matter how nasty killing might be. I don’t like shooting people, but in situations like this, there are two options. Kill, or have my brothers and sisters in arms—or even innocent civilians like those in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and flight ninety-three—murdered.”
“We may not have forgotten,” Lieutenant Dean said, “but Washington sure has.”
“Not everyone in Washington,” Hallie said. “Not the Phantoms.”
“Phantoms?” David chuckled while cocking his head and pressing his radio to his ear to make sure he got the order when it came.
“It’s a myth.” Dean was laughing as well. “You know how people in the military talk.”
Hallie was shaking her head. “A friend of mine who works on the top floors at the Pentagon says it ain’t.”
“What’s a Phantom?” David asked with a grin. “Do they run around wearing black capes?”
“According to what I was told—do you remember the untouchables from Al Capone days?”
“That was before my time, but yes,” David said. “A group of federal agents and cops who banded together to take down organized crime in Chicago. They couldn’t be bribed or intimidated. They were untouchable.”
“Well, this is the military version,” Hallie said over Dean’s quiet laughter. They were all aware of the camp full of men who would think nothing of torturing and killing all of them if they were discovered.
“This team is made up of members of each branch of the government and military, more highly trained than special ops and Navy SEALs,” Hallie said. “You don’t apply to be a Phantom. You’re hand-picked. They have the top equipment and training, and their sole mission is to protect our country and citizens without the influence and intimidation of politicians and deal-makers with their own personal and political agendas.”
She jerked her chin at the chief terrorist down at the bottom of the mountain. “Twice we’ve had that man in our sights, and twice we’ve been told by someone high up in Washington to let him go. Why?” She scoffed. “Because killing him would hurt those poor terrorists’ feelings. Like he didn’t care about hurting our feelings when he planned and coordinated the jihad attack in Afghanistan?” With a knowing expression on her face, she said, “It’s going to take a Phantom to terminate him.”
“They’re a myth,” Dean said.
“Do you remember that mansion that al-Baghdadi had in Syria?” Hallie asked.
“I wasn’t there.”
“Huge mansion,” Hallie said. “They say that the downstairs was a command center for ISIS. Well, that mansion is no more. It’s an eighteen-foot crater in the desert.”
“Caused by an accidental explosion from their own weapons,” Dean said.
Hallie whispered to David. “That’s the hallmark of the Phantoms. When they strike, it’s never traced back to us. You’d be surprised by what I heard—”

Readers will learn more about the Phantoms in Kill and Run, the first installment in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, which is to be released later on this year.

The first Thorny Rose Mystery, Kill and Run, will be released later this year.

The first Thorny Rose Mystery, Kill and Run, will be released later this year.

In the meantime, Three Days to Forever is not my standard Mac Faraday Mystery. It is filled with murder, action, suspense, thrills, home-grown terrorists, jihadists, twists and turns, conspiracies, and even political cover-ups.


Novels that include political corruption and cover-ups have been around as long as there have been novels. While some may have based less that savory fictional political figures on real politicians, most have not.
Not surprising to me, after the release of Three Days to Forever, some more sensitive readers have perceived it as a political message and bashing of our current administration, in spite of the author note that I have included on the book page on Amazon and in the front pages stating that this book is fiction and not a political commentary.

For those itching for a political commentary, here it is:

Back in my youth, I worked as an editor and layout design artist with the federal government during the term of three presidents: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Bill Clinton. Two republicans and one democrat. I met and worked with people from all different backgrounds, status, and worldviews.

By the time I left the government to concentrate on my writing, I learned this about Washington:

Cover-up is a way of life and knows no party-line. Watergate was the republican’s cover-up. Ronald Reagan had the arms for hostages deal. Monica-gate was Bill Clinton’s cover-up. Obama has Lois Lerner and the IRS, and Hillary has Benghazi.

From my mountaintop in West Virginia, I see two opposing groups of children, fighting each other for the flag at the top of the hill so that they can be King and, in the process, losing sight of that flag … and the security of our country and its citizens against its enemies.

Thus, behind them, in slips the Phantoms to do what they need to do.


About the Author:

Lauren Carr is the best-selling author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. Three Days to Forever is the ninth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series.

Best-Selling Mystery Author Lauren Carr ... and Gnarly, too.

Best-Selling Mystery Author Lauren Carr … and Gnarly, too.

In addition to her series set on Deep Creek Lake, Lauren Carr has also written the Lovers in Crime Mysteries, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates, who were introduced in Shades of Murder, the third book in the Mac Faraday Mysteries. They also make an appearance in The Lady Who Cried Murder.

Three Days to Forever introduces Lauren Carr’s latest series detectives, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday in the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Look for the first installment in this series in Spring 2015.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This year, several books, over a variety of genre, written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services, which is currently accepting submissions. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren Carr’s website at to learn more about Lauren and her upcoming mysteries.

Gnarly’s Facebook Page:
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:

Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

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Guest Post: A Burden Becomes a Gift by Thomas L. Trumble

Click on Book Cover to purchase at Amazon.

Click on Book Cover to purchase at Amazon.

Today’s guest post is from Thomas L. Trumble, author of Time to Go Home, a fictionalize memoir about honor and comrades during the time of the Vietnam War.

At first glance, Time to Go Home is a collection of war stories, one after the other, many told by ghosts who had served and died, but whose souls have yet to return home. 

But then Trumble takes the reader deeper into an exploration of its narrator, John Rowe.  Amid the story telling, John begins to ask where God was in all of this. Why did the politicians let it happen? Why is death so haphazard; a mortar round out of the sunrise and the soldier on the motor bike becomes a hole in the ground?

Since the opening of Speak the Word Only, a play based on his book, Trumble has observed that many who have seen the play, and now read the book, have commented on how his story has prompted war veterans to talk more about their experiences. “I’ve have people who have seen the play come to me and tell me that their fathers or brothers have served in World War II, or Korea, or Vietnam, or even as recent as Iraq, but they have never talked about it.”

Thomas L. Trumble with Royal, one of his gifts.Click to visit Thomas's Facebook Page for more stories from the stables.

Thomas L. Trumble with Royal, one of his gifts.
Click to visit Thomas’s Facebook Page for more stories from the stables.

A story of duty, honor, and being comrades, Time to Go Home tells not only war stories. It is also a collection of going-to-war and coming-home-from-war stories, as well.  “Because war is not an event,” author Thomas L. Trumble explains. “It is a continuum that begins at home and then ends at home.  The soldier does return to join either the quick or the dead.  But John never did come home, not really.  He just sort of settled in. That’s the hardest story to tell, when you’re an old man standing in a graveyard far from home, just talking with ghosts.

A Burden Becomes a Gift

Truth be told I did not want horses. Thought they’d just be a big burden. But, Ann wanted them. Said she’s wanted horses since she was 10 years old. Not me, I wanted a Maserati when I was 10.

“You got your Maserati”, she said. “Now I want my horses.” So we got em.

I knew that that they’d be expensive. You would faint if you saw the cost of restoring the barn, putting up 5 and a half acres of fencing, and installing a freeze-proof watering system. And this doesn’t include the cost of the hay and the vet bills and the Gower-12 horse feed.

I knew that they’d be lots of work and Ann wouldn’t retire until mid-January. Twice a day, every day, feed and muck and water. Tote those hay bales, lift that feed bag. Damn near everything about a horse weighs 50 pounds. Except the horses. They weigh about 1200 pounds; 1200 pounds coupled with the mind of a 6 year-old; a mischievous kid who has OD’d on Curious George while main-lining Red Bull.

But you know what, the horses were a wonderful gift. I’ve lost 25 pounds since Suzie and Royal arrived. And they gave the barn back its soul. But they gave me the best gift of all: new things to learn and new skills to master. I know how to pick a hoof and how to load hay on an F150. I know what the 12 is in Gower-12. I know how to design a horse barn and how to create a pasture. I know how to worm a horse and to count the flakes on a bale of hay.

And now I know the difference between a burden and a gift. And this is important for my family to know as well. I’m not getting any younger.

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