Tag Archives: Vietnam War

When the Cold War Collides with Love: Interview with Author Steve Gladish

Sometimes, we arrive at the idea for a novel and promptly write it, moving from concept to cover in a short period of time. In many ways, that’s the hook of independent publishing.

That has not been Stephen Gladish’s experience. The Tucson, Arizona-based author of the forthcoming Tracking the Skies for Lacy (On Sale August 28) has spent the past decade working with a central premise: his adventures with the Air Force’s Sixth Weather Squadron, and how romance, faith and harrowing missions seemed to mix.

Like many authors, Gladish struggled with deciding when to finish and release his work. First, there is a lot of story; Tracking the Skies for Lacy is the first of three forthcoming romantic military adventures in the series. Second, his protagonists weave in and out of all three books, creating a delicious read to mind and heart that takes awhile to present as seamlessly as Gladish does.

Most of all, Gladish wanted to get it right. Now, the retired English and writing instructor in the Arizona Department of Corrections system brings out the beautiful, thrilling and ultimately redeeming story of Luke and Lacy, and their windy road to romance. He also brings us the lushness of Polynesia, harrowing thrills of chasing tornadoes, a critical return to Vietnam, and more, in typical Gladish fashion — large, sweeping, ringing with imagery, and constantly working the heart strings.

Tracking the Skies for Lacy is coming out in time for us to reload on our summer reads. Perfect timing, as the enduring warmth of this story feels like a day at the beach — but one that makes us wiser when we finish reading.

Word Journeys: You went through a few ideas before settling on the final title, Tracking the Skies for Lacy. Could you elaborate?

Stephen B. Gladish: The military weather focus of Tracking the Skies for Lacy began long ago with my tours of Tornado Alley. Then I extended the scope to chasing tornadoes, monitoring nuclear detonations, flying helicopter rescue and attack missions, and making white water rescues. The unique romance of Luke and Lacy spanned all the new adventures and held them together. And each one of these chapters involved tracking the skies.

WJ: Where did the central idea for the book come from?

Tracking the Skies for Lacy author Steve Gladish

SG: In addition to my childhood inspirations, and my lifetime interest in weather, I wanted to call attention to the importance of weather in everybody’s lives. I served in the USAF 6th Weather Squadron (Mobile) and the Severe Weather Warning Command in the early Sixties. I want to take the reader through the sheer adventure of Luke growing into a man, just as the military venue designs it. From a weather warrior, he graduates to become an officer and a pilot, one of the few who came home from the Vietnam War psychologically unscathed.

WJ: Tell us briefly about Tracking the Skies for Lacy.

SG: Tracking the Skies for Lacy begins with a cloudy sky, metaphorically speaking. Lacy’s wealthy family moves to Luke’s hometown and they attend the same school, Park Avenue Prep. Lacy is beyond beautiful, and Luke, a handsome star student and athlete, is drawn to her. At age fifteen, Luke is confronted by class structure for the first time: Lacy is told by Mr. De’Luca, her father, not to have anything to do with any boy beneath her status. Thanks to Mrs. De’Luca’s compassion for Lacy, Luke and Lacy have years of hidden closeness.

Lacy goes on to Stanford University, while Luke follows a family tradition and joins the Air Force. Running a military gauntlet of tornadoes, nuclear atmospheric explosions, wartime helicopter actions, and white-water rafting dangers, Luke follows his quest to bring back the love of his youth. Lacy graduates from Stanford University, then shocks everybody by joining the Peace Corps. A wealthy girl, she lives in huts, rides on rundown old buses. A future with Luke? Luke could be swallowed up by Lacy’s family and disappear. Lacy has to give up a total life style to turn the corner.

Two years later, Luke comes home for a two-week R & R respite from the Pacific Nuclear Proving Ground/Marshall Islands. He had fallen in love with the beautiful and educated Talia Su’sulu, a Samoan teacher. He knew there would be no cross-class clash. But then there was Lacy…

Author Steve Gladish in the South Pacific – the setting for much of ‘Tracking the Skies for Lacy’

WJ: The dance between Luke and Lacy becomes the romantic tension that holds throughout the novel.

SG: Our hero falls in love with Lacy, grows up, and becomes a Sixth Weather storm chaser. He and his military sidekicks locate and record deadly tornadoes while saving numerous people in the nation’s Tornado Alley, and then they are island castaways recording nuclear detonations all over the South Pacific. Lacy is miles ahead of Luke. He plunges into college and intensive helicopter training. Now as an officer, Luke and his buddies hunt down the deadly enemy in Vietnam, and then attend a reunion where Luke finally connects with Lacy. But the story is not complete until he and his buddies coordinate a stunning rescue as white-water guides on “The River of No Return.”

WJ: Could you talk about how you transferred your experience into the characters of Luke and Chance?

SG: Sure! It was primarily in the military part of the story. Luke and Chance had advanced training in upper atmosphere weather, as I did. We worked alone and isolated and became close for that reason as well, a camaraderie and brotherhood you see in the book. I feel we need a lot more of that today. In Sixth Weather Squadron, we repeatedly surveyed the drastic damages of tornadoes. Saving lives was a key part of our mission. Across the world, pilots and aircrews depended on our weather reports and forecasts. We had mission and meaning in our lives. We got hooked on it, to be quite honest.

WJ: Typically in romantic adventure novels, the story is set in one or two truly romantic places. In Tracking the Skies for Lacy, though, you mix it up. We’re in Chicago, Oklahoma, Vietnam and Northern California — quite a mix of landscape and feeling — but we’re also in Samoa and briefly in Hawaii. Luke falls hard for the simple Polynesian life. Tell us how the paradise settings fit into the story.

SG: In my view, Polynesia was not only a visual paradise, but also a beautiful family-oriented place. The grandfather, or matai, guided the family. Children were raised by the whole family. One family could adopt other kids with no paperwork. Life was gentle. Lovemaking was natural, innocent, and an accepted part of the island culture. Unlike the U.S., there were no constant comparisons of income or status or the homes in which everybody lived. There was little unrest or unhappiness with one’s job, or career, or position. Natives were natural teachers, nurses, caregivers. Trained teachers were prized, valued, and respected far more than teachers here. Church leaders and pastors and ministers were treasured, churches filled with white-clad Polynesians who sang with a childlike devotion and a sublime beauty you have to hear in person to believe. I really wanted to present this life in the novel.

WJ: If you were to bounce around a library, comparing your novel to others, what would you come up with?

SG: Many of Louis L’Amour’s stories, like Sackett and To Tame a Land, carry an innocent young man with strong moral values into situations where he must prove himself as a man in order to win the woman he loves. And all American literature for boys begins with Huckleberry Finn, the story of an innocent boy running away from his Pap and into freedom. Herman Melville’s Typee, the first romance novel based in the South Pacific, has an innocent and moralistic hero as well. The Jason Bourne character from the Robert Ludlum series has parallels with Luke LaCrosse: masculine qualities, adventurous and ambitious, needs to win. Furthermore, Luke’s odyssey, like Ulysses’, involves one challenge and temptation after another, tortuous romance sailing through numerous reversals, crashing , picking himself up, setting sail again.

WJ: The two principal romantic interests, Luke and Lacy, as well as others, hail from the Chicago area, where you also grew up. Even though you have not lived in Chicago in many years, it still holds you in many ways. Could you share what the city means to you, and the sentiment you wove into the novel?

SG: Frank Sinatra once sang, “Chicago is my kind of town.” And then he repeats it. Hey, it is my kind of town too. Any time I leave, Chicago tugs my sleeve. It is the kind of town that won’t let you down. Carl Sandburg was right: Chicago is a big-shouldered man. He is stormy, husky, and brawling. He is a wildly delinquent Paul Bunyan the Lumberjack, remembered around the country with a twenty-foot high statue. He can outwork anybody, and fiercely wields an axe left and right, up and down, to reach his goals. Whatever he destroys he builds up with something else new.

WJ: Your novel provides a fictionalized account of military service we often don’t hear about — forecasting the weather and studying it. Since you were a ‘tornado chaser’, a member of the Sixth Weather Squadron, what is particularly concerning to you about climate change today?

SG: I spent a lifetime of study, especially on the cruel euphemism “global warming,” a blurred, imprecise way of “dumbing down” the debate. The real definition is catastrophic climate change. Global emissions of carbon dioxide exceeded 400 parts per million in 2017 — the highest in the 800,000 years they can study scientifically — and has been climbing for fifty years. It signals the build-up of human-related greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and forests.

Orwell said, “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” That’s where we are right now — telling the truth in the face of those who wish to deny climate change to hang onto their vested interests. The world faces multiple catastrophes: sea level rise measured in feet, not inches, staggeringly high temperature rise with four hundred consecutive months of above-average temperatures, permanent Dust Bowls, the desertification of the West, massive species loss, more intense and severe hurricanes, masses and clusters of tornado outbreaks, the vast enlargement of Tornado Alley, and other unexpected impacts such as the violent rainstorms in Italy October 2011 which inundated towns of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza and Monterosso.

TRACKING THE SKIES FOR LACY releases worldwide from Christian Faith Publishers on August 28. It will be available through bookstores, Amazon.com, and other online booksellers and e-book sellers.


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July 5, 2018 · 5:03 pm

Brewing an Adventure Romance Saga: Interview with Stephen B. Gladish

Author Stephen B. Gladish

Author Stephen B. Gladish

(NOTE: Stephen B. Gladish is the author of a trilogy of adventure romance novels: Mustang Fever (2007), Storm Chasers (2013), and a reworking of a 2005 novel, now entitled Island Fever and currently in the final editing stages. The three books tell the interwoven stories, adventures, challenges and triumphs of a few memorable characters – Chance Chisholm, Luke LaCrosse, Annie Banner, Moana, and Cheyenne Autumn. Gladish is also the creator and co-editor of the 2006 anthology, Freedom of Vision, featuring writing from behind prison walls. He served in the Air Force, and is a retired creative writing teacher from Pima (Arizona) Community College. His writing is adventurous, colorful, deeply engaging and filled with characters who bring out the best qualities in each other … and themselves.)

WJ: Steve, what types of adventure did you weave into Storm Chasers to illustrate the title?
SG: It includes four variations of storm chasing: tornadoes, nuclear detonations, attacks via helicopter, and white-water rafting.
WJ: How would you describe the book in a long sentence?
SG: The storm chaser protagonist, Luke LaCrosse, locates and records deadly tornadoes in our nation’s Tornado Alley, is blasted and temporarily blinded as he tracks nuclear detonations in the Pacific, hunts down the deadly enemy in Vietnam, and effects a stunning rescue as a white-water guide Idaho’s “River of No Return,” through all of which he struggles to reconnect with and win back his childhood sweetheart, the one consistent love of his life.
WJ: That’s a long sentence — almost a taste of Jack Kerouac! Speaking of which, who are some of the authors that influenced you most over the years, as a novelist and as a teacher of creative writing?
SG: I have a long list, both from writing and teaching. All are pretty well-known authors: Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louis L’Amour, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Emmanuel Swedenbourg, J.D. Salinger, James Fenimore Cooper, Larry McMurtrey, Herman Wouk, Ken Kesey, Stephen Crane, Langston Hughes, Stephen King, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote, Walt Whitman, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Harper Lee.
WJ: Back to your latest book. Where did the idea for Storm Chasers come from?
SG: I wanted to call attention to the importance of weather in everybody’s lives, especially with all the climate change going on right now. I served in the US Air Force 6th Weather Squadron (Mobile) and the Severe Weather Warning Command in the early ‘60s. In this fictional story stemming from real life events, I take the reader through the sheer adventure of Luke LaCrosse growing into a man just as the military venue designs it. From a weather warrior, he graduates to become an officer and a pilot, one of the few who came home from the Vietnam War psychologically unscathed.
In addition, I spent a lifetime of study especially on the cruel euphemism “global warming,” which I find a blurred, imprecise way of “dumbing down” the debate. The real definition is catastrophic climate change. Global emissions of carbon dioxide were a record high in 2011, and we had record high temperatures in the U.S. in 2012. The build-up of human-related greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and forests must not be ignored. Because of catastrophic climate changes, the world faces multiple catastrophes including: sea level rise of five feet, with sea levels rising as much as twelve inches a decade, staggeringly high temperature rise, permanent Dust Bowls, massive species loss, more intense and severe hurricanes, masses and clusters of tornado outbreaks, huge enlargement of area in Tornado Alley. There are other unexpected impacts, such as the violent rainstorms in Italy in October 2011 that inundated towns of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza and Monterosso, and almost sank Venice. As George Orwell said, “During time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
WJ: How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?
SG: Twelve months and three hundred desert trail runs in the Rincon Mountains.
WJ: All of us who write novels have our dreams of seeing the motion picture version. With that in mind, which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
SG: If they were a little younger, Matt Damon would play Luke LaCrosse, Josh Brolin would play Chance Chisholm, and Elizabeth Hurley would play Annie.
WJ: Here’s a question that comes from the Next Best Thing Book Blog Tour, which I thought was quite revealing for readers who want to get a better grasp on an author’s influences and style: To which other books would you compare Storm Chasers within your genre?
SG: Though not technically in my genre, many of Louis L’Amour’s stories take an innocent young man with strong moral values into situations where he must prove himself as a man in order to win the woman he loves: Sackett, 1961; To Tame a Land, 1965. All American literature begins with Huckleberry Finn, the story of an innocent boy who runs away from his Pap and all the sins in the culture of his time. Luke too runs away from a broken relationship into freedom. Both Luke and Huck find a true friend on their adventure. Huck’s adventure rafts on the Mississippi River; Luke’s adventure sails in the Armed Services. Herman Melville’s Typee, the first romance novel based in the South Pacific, has an innocent and moralistic hero as well. The Jason Bourne character from the Robert Ludlum series has parallels with Luke LaCrosse. Masculine qualities, an adventurous and ambitious protagonist, needs to win.
WJ: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
SG: The desire to fictionalize key events from real life, to show the infinite possibilities of life, to demonstrate what it takes to grow into a man. To bring to attention the dangers of catastrophic climate change; recent massive outbreaks of tornadoes; possibilities of present day nuclear bomb disasters, which in 1962 the United States strove to avoid as they developed and tested the most powerful deterrent; a thermonuclear arsenal.
WJ: Tell us a little more about Luke LaCrosse. He is quite a morally strong protagonist, truly a model for young men today even though you’ve set the story in the 1960s. On top of that, you show romantic love not as a quick, perfect event, but as something that, in many cases, you have to pursue for years.
SG: Luke’s odyssey, like Ulysses’, involves one challenge and temptation after another, as we experience Annie Banner and Luke’s tortuous and seemingly tenuous romance. Luke the adventurer has the need to feel like a warrior; he is quietly rebellious, leading to moments of anti-authority. He may be the last soldier to settle down, while Annie comes from a traditional upper class authoritarian family intent on her marrying anyone other than Luke. They both grow away from their families in independence. Theirs is an extraordinary journey with reversals and crashes on the proverbial rocky island shores, in war and in peace. They pick themselves up and in their separate crafts set sail again, hoping to connect finally on the sandy shores of a harbor home.

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In Honor of Dad on Veteran’s Day

I’d like to commemorate this Veteran’s Day by sharing three pieces from “Phases of Dad,” a poem suite I wrote about my Dad that appeared in my book, “Shades of Green”. I have since added a new piece, which appears here for the first time. Robert Yehling Sr. (1928-1995) served proudly in the Marine Corps for 20 years, fought in Korea and Vietnam, commanded troops in Vietnam, and gave his two sons and daughter valuable lessons in life that have served us since. Hope you enjoy.


Dad walks to the house

behind my house,

seized by curiosity over

the Vietnamese woman and her American husband.

He walks with such humble, dignified steps

my old man, turning gray

in the spirit of the graced.

He spends an hour with the woman, Thanh,

my old man who taught me to respect everyone

but privately never quite trusted any Oriental

or ate a bowl of rice or Chinese food again

after ‘Nam.

An hour later, Dad walks back, his wide smile

failing to hide pools of sadness in his eyes,

twenty years of animosity releasing.

“She told me all about what happened

after we left ‘Nam. Makes you want to cry.”



As months and years pass

the tone of your voice

fades into wind

and your green eyes

are absorbed by trees

but in my walk

my duty, my desire

to get it done, advance

to a greater capability,

I wear you as you wore

your uniform —

saluting life.

Your passing links us closer together,

old warrior soul.

All that remains is for me

to finish the dance

and join you as your friend

in Light.

I’ll know where to look:

Straight in the Eye.



An eagle passed by

with his wife,

looking at a cafe menu

taped to a sidewalk window.

The short silver hair — the eyes —

the smile — the way your eyebrows raised

behind his sunglasses —


Ten minutes you were there,

all of you … the way you folded your arms

across your chest. I looked

away, tears in my eyes,

seeing you again, on Earth.

I shook my head, looked over once more —

You were flying again.


TUCSON MARATHON: December 2004

You would’ve loved the plan, Dad:

Run each five-mile segment at thirty-nine minutes,

tough it out the final two kilometers,

and I’m in the dream marathon — Boston.

Deep in the desert, clicking off the miles,

hawks and snowcapped mountains

kissing heaven in its puffy cloud descent,

stride sure as a parade march,

focus no further out than the next mile,

getting it done …


A scent in the Catalina desert breeze,

aftershave I haven’t smelled in ten years,

a buzz in the ear — strange —

words in formation:

“You keep up like this, buddy,

and you’re going to Boston.

Perfect time. You’re on perfect time.

The race of your life, buddy.”

No one ever called me buddy.

Except you, Dad.

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Interview: Timothy Dean Martin, author, Mental Hygiene

Timothy Martin made his first writing mark as a lyricist, penning several national pop hits during the 1970s and 1980s. Now, he returns with his debut novel, Mental Hygiene, based in part on his experiences in a Mental Hygiene Clinic while serving in the U.S. Army in the late 1960s. In this interview, Tim describes not only his novel and the circumstances surrounding it, but also the process of integrating life experiences into fiction — and, most significantly, some of the haunting similarities between what is happening with returning troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and those who returned from Vietnam. Most specifically, as it concerns post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury.

Q: In what ways did you incorporate your personal experience in the Army with the story of Mental Hygiene?

A: Many of the characters were based on real people with whom I served in a Mental Hygiene Clinic at Fort Jackson, S.C. in 1967-68.  The historical perspective was easy because sociological events like wars, riots, assassinations, and the like, embed themselves in one’s moral consciousness.  Many people have asked me if Michael Murphy, the protagonist, is based on me. Michael and I shared the same experience of losing our innocence, so there is that similarity.    

Q: One of the fun aspects of the book that struck me as really unique — and positive  — was creating a relationship between Murphy and a young hippie woman. In the ’60s, the hippie and military cultures were polar opposites, yet your characters found a common bond: love.  Could you elaborate on what you saw in the hippie culture as a young serviceman?

A: When I was drafted, I considered myself a post-beat era poet.  In my mind, post-beat morphed into the hippie generation.  I was definitely not military material but unwilling to run to Canada. The hippie culture, big on the west coast, was an anomaly in South Carolina.  Nonetheless, thanks to the draft they imported it.  Coffee houses like the UFO in downtown Columbia were magnets for artists, writers, and counter-culture types who were draftees from all over the Eastern Seaboard.  That’s what led to the start of the anti-war movement inside the military.  As the Vietnam War became unpopular, the movement became emboldened.  Peace, love, and rednecks; what a combination.

Q: Mental Hygiene offers a perspective on the Vietnam War that is completely different from other books that have come out on the subject. What knowledge did we have in the psych wards about PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other brain-oriented afflictions at that time?

A: I don’t think it was a matter of knowledge that was the problem, although amateurs like me had no business treating mental illness.  I was an English major, for God’s sake!  Luckily, I had quality psychiatrists to consult with, and a referral procedure.  Mindset was the big issue then and now; the culture of the military.  It’s difficult to diagnose the patient when the beast needs to be fed.  We had half a million troops in Vietnam, so careful diagnosis got put on the back burner.

Q: One thing that’s never talked about, but you subtly alluded to, was the down time between battles in Vietnam — and how that messed with soldiers’ minds. How does the down time in a war affect one’s psyche?

A: The best depiction of down time I’ve read is in the novel Matterhorn by Karl Malantes.  The description of living in the bush in Vietnam is soul eroding.  In the Afghanistan conflict, soldiers in the Korengal Valley go about their daily routine while being constantly attacked.  It’s no wonder that the rates of PTSD and suicide are skyrocketing.  Sebastian Junger wrote a book titled War and made a companion documentary, Restrepo, which deals with the stresses ever present in that war zone.  Imagine a fifteen-month tour of duty waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Q: I find Mental Hygiene to be an important book today, with so many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan coming home with everything from PTSD to traumatic brain injuries and the like. What are the similarities and differences in the way we need to care for these veterans from what you experienced in the Vietnam era?

A: In the Vietnam Era, PSTD was largely ignored by the military.  We lost a generation of men who have never recovered.  It’s a disgraceful reminder and lesson that we still seem to be ignoring.  Until 2006, when the Hartford Courant published a major news story, PSTD and the alarming suicide rate among returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan was largely ignored in the national press.  Today, the military and present Administration are making bolder proposals about mental health treatment.  Whether they will bear responsibility and provide funds for more personnel is unclear, in my opinion.

Q: That’s an interesting point. After otherwise thoroughly enjoying the colorful, entertaining story that is Mental Hygiene, I felt a sense of deja vu, that we’ve been down this road before with PTSD.

A: It doesn’t help that the Army’s stance has been to discount PTSD whenever possible in treatment of returning veterans, according to reliable reports.  Nothing that I know of has been done to address the “culture” in the military that encourages soldiers to minimize mental health problems.  Returning troops are not routinely given a face-to-face interview with mental health personnel, although some reports state that as many as 30% of them suffer from PTSD in some form.

Q: You’ve decided to carry on Murphy’s story in a second book. Without giving up too much detail, where will we find him heading in his post-Army life?

A: Murphy will be heading for the music business circa 1969.  It’s just your everyday story involving sharks in tie-dye, lunatics running the asylum, and staggering one’s way to the top, a perfect Michael Murphy environment.

Q: You’ve got quite a diverse writing background. You were quite successful as a songwriter in the ’70s and ’80s. Who were some of the bigger acts to which you supplied songs?

A: I wrote songs in an era when recording artists weren’t necessarily songwriters.  It gave me the opportunity and privilege of writing for a diverse group of artists including David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears, C.W. McCall, the DeFranco Family, John Davidson, Cilla Black, the Outlaws, Manfred Mann, and a host of others.  It was a fun ride.

Q: You’re also a very good poet, which I find can work hand-in-hand with strong fiction writing. Could you briefly discuss how the precision, voice and feel of poetry correlates — or differs — from what you’re trying to achieve in your fiction?

A: Poetry has its own language.  For me, there’s no room to maneuver in the heart of a poem.  It’s your entire life on stage alone.  It takes a special courage.  Fiction, at least the way I write it, is like a dance or sometimes like trying to get cats to march in a parade.  It moves outside of me and tells me what happens next.

Q: Tell us about the Wounded Warrior Project how it’s going so far.

A: The mission of the Wounded Warrior Project is to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, It helps those service members aid and assist each other, and provides unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of severely injured service members.  It’s a great non-profit organization that I can’t praise enough.  81% of donations go directly to their programs.

Q: Writing seems to continue in your family. Your daughter, Alwyn, is a fine up-and-coming short story and fiction writer.  Did you raise her in a household that honored literature and fine writing? Speaking of which, what authors proved to be the greatest influence in your development over the years?

A: Writing and books were always around the house.  Since I was a writer, my children got to see me expressing myself that way.  I think it took away the fear of failure that so many kids have when it comes to exporting their thoughts and feelings onto a written page.  Writers that have influenced me the most over the years: in poetry, Robert Creeley; in disciplined fiction, Hemingway; James Lee Burke for a good story; and the New York Times for great journalism.


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