Navy RTC aka Boot Camp: Grinning Through the Grind


Being at Navy RTC (aka boot camp) and living in a single room with 77 other women came with a unique set of challenges, not the least of which was figuring out how to not only get along, but to work as a team.

I admit the passage of time has dimmed to a blur the actual schedule of daily events. One day seemed much like another, filled with learning and drilling and scrubbing and polishing. (Lather, rinse, spit shine, repeat.) But a few things stand out and while not all of the big moments make me smile, I can recall some of them quite clearly. And some of them are still funny.

The first couple of weeks were spent learning the ropes, among other things. We learned to tie knots, grew to understand Navy jargon (a language all its own), and attempted to march in formation. Being a dancer for many years and having spent time on the HS drill team, I was unprepared for the lack of coordination of many of my new “ship mates.” I had no idea it was that hard for some people to step in time to cadence.

Because we were so bad at it, we spent a lot of time practicing our marching skills, such as they were, out on a large paved area called the grinder. (Yes, grinder. March around outdoors on a hard surface for hours on end in Florida in June and the name makes sense.) The weather was steamy, averaging around 95 degrees with 73% humidity. (I found the historic weather details scrolling through the online almanac.) While I admit to not remembering the temperature specifically, I do recall how it felt. Especially when standing at attention wearing a diverse cloud of insect life like a living, buzzing helmet that we could not swat away. And we stood at attention a lot. (Facial tics became the norm, but even that had to be done when no one was looking.)

RTC Orlando Grinder

The Recruit Division Commander (RDC) discovered early on that my theater background provided me with the ability to call out cadence in a voice that carried all the way from the back of the unit to the front, and she used me to this purpose. Unfortunately, that also meant that my name was one of the first she learned. And the one name that seemed to stick with her.

As if being raised Catholic hadn't provided me with enough guilt, no matter where we went or what we were doing, and even when I was marching completely in time, the RDC was constantly yelling, “Skinner, get back in line!” “Skinner, move your ass!” or “Skinner, get in step!” It boggled my mind at first, as I knew I was doing what I was supposed to. I was often the one calling cadence, after all. But after a while, I simply accepted the fact that she had decided to single me out for whatever reason.

Some of the other activities that took place those first couple of weeks included visits to medical—as a group to get shots—or dental, where we went singly by appointment, to have our teeth checked. When my name was called for an appointment, I ran up and stood at attention before the RDC, who sent me “double time” over to dental. After having my teeth prodded and x-rayed, I was sent back to my unit. When I arrived back at the barracks, I was met with raucous laughter.

Turns out, while I was at dental, the Training Unit continued to march and drill out on the grinder, and all the while our RDC kept yelling, “Skinner, get back in line!” “Skinner, move your ass!” and “Skinner, get in step!”

After that, all the way through graduation, it didn’t matter who did what. If there was blame to place, no matter what it was, the automatic response was “Skinner did it.”


In the Navy: Arrival at RTC Orlando (1977)

NTC Orlando Command

*Naval Training Command, Orlando, Florida circa 1977

I really don’t recall the first leg of travel. It was 1977 and a lot of things fade after nearly 40 years. I was already out of the house when I joined, so there was no big send off. Nothing to really bookmark.

My journey really started at the depot where they loaded us on the buses. It was the middle of the night, and I shivered—not from the cold, it was June in Florida, after all, and not particularly chilly—dread and anticipation rode my being equally.

And I was tired.

It’s a long way from California to Florida. Even longer when you’re barely twenty and you’ve signed your life away for the next four years, placed yourself in a position to be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. After all my rebelliousness and leaving home at an early age, here I was, standing among gray-faced strangers, loading bags onto a gray bus in the gray night, not knowing what to expect, yet knowing I had agreed to place my life in someone else’s hands. Irony is not a concept I knew well before I entered this phase of my life’s journey, and I had no idea we would grow to be such bosom buddies along the way.

The bus rumbled through the dark and I don’t recall there being much conversation, but time and distance fray the edges of memory. I only know that I was quiet.

How long was the ride? Twenty minutes from the Airport to RTC Orlando, according to this site, which also contains some great photos and additional information, but for me it seemed longer.

When we got off the bus at the receiving center, we were lined up and ushered inside where we were given a stack of bedding and uniforms and instructed to label and hand over our personal belongings. From there, we were marched—not that you could call what we managed actual marching, yet—to a barracks and assigned a “rack,” the Navy term for a bed.

It was around 1:30am when we fell (or climbed, if you were on the top rack) into bed.

Suddenly, there was a great ruckus. Metal garbage cans crashed down the center of the room. Trash can lids clanged together. People yelled, screamed and blew ear-piercing whistles, directly in our faces.

Startled and bleary-eyed, 78 young women scrambled out of bed, trying to make sense of the chaos. Some of them ran in circles, still asleep and with no idea how to escape the madness. The command to “hit the line” rang out over and over, but no one knew what “the line” was, much less where to find it, nor how to “hit it.” It was like being thrust into the center of a Keystone Cops drill, only this was serious.

Finally, the “Blue Ropes” as we came to know them, started to shout clearer instructions. “Stand here!” They pointed and ordered. “Straighten up!” “Hands at your sides!” “Eyes forward.”

We finally found ourselves assembled into two more or less straight lines, standing at what passed for us at the time as attention—wide-eyed, groggy-headed, adrenaline-filled, ready-to-be-hatched sailors.

It was 0400 hours.

“Welcome to RTC Orlando.” AKA Navy boot camp.


#amwriting The Love-Hate-Love-Hate-Love-Hate Part of My Writing Process

heart skeleton woman

While I am eagerly anticipating the release of my new book, The Matriarch's Devise, and looking forward to getting into the hands of readers, as usual, I am hard at work on the current WIP.

Yesterday was a good day, an I love this character, did I really write that, it's better than I thought day.

Today, not so much.

As much as I wish I could say I always love my work, I find that my writing process seems to contain a perpetual love-hate-love-hate loop that drives me to the "cliffs of insanity" where I find myself looking down and thinking of jumping off the publishing trail. Then I remember why I #amwriting in the first place and realize that if I don't write, I'll be right back here at the edge of the cliff looking down into an even darker abyss.

So I write and I work through the devastating doubt, ignore the blistering self-criticism, push through the I hate my work days. Not because I'm certain I'll come out on the other side and fall in love with my work again, but because to do anything else is basically unthinkable.

Writing is an art form, but it's also a passion. And there are few emotions as passionate as love and hate. As any artist knows, there is an amazing amount of truth in the song lyric by R&B vocal group The Persuaders. It is indeed "a thin line between love and hate." At least until the final revision.


The Matriarch's Devise Cover Reveal

Matriarchs Cover FinalxxHere it is! The cover for The Matriarch's Devise, due out November 2, 2015. Presales are now open!

I am overjoyed to have my words once more wrapped inside the fantastic art of Thitipon Dicruen (xric7). Thitipon is extremely talented and always manages to take the images from my head and enhance them, bringing the characters to life and filling them with emotion and meaning. Each time I look at the artwork, I see more of Kira's world reflected than I could have imagined in one illustration. Ah-mazing!

Once more, Brick Cave Books has done a beautiful job of packaging my work. Just look at that color match in the title. I am so lucky to work with such an extraordinary and creative team!

I am so happy to be able to bring the next stage of Kira's journey to my fabulous, faithful readers, who have waited too long to be able to take to the road with her again. Thank you for joining Kira (and me) on this marvelous quest. Also, a huge shout out to my editor, Anne Lind.

Thank you to all for your support and companionship on this publishing trek. I couldn't it without you.

And, yes, I have already begun working on the next book. I will try not to make you wait so long for the next installment.


Putting the Book to Bed: The Distance Between Editing and Publication


I have typed “The End.” Again.

The Matriarch’s Devise, the sequel to The Healer’s Legacy, has gone through a final round of edits and has been schlepped off to the publisher for packaging and shipping of review copies, etc., etc.

The actual target release date for the book is November 1, 2015. That means that, in order to get the book into the hands of some of the industry’s key reviewers in time to meet their lead-time requirements, it has to be shipped out ASAP.


In July.

If you think being a reader awaiting the next book in a series is difficult, try being an author who has done their part and is waiting the seemingly interminable months from final edits to release date!

I know. I know. I should already be working on the next book. And I am. Believe me. But there’s a feeling of unfinished business during that period of waiting that hovers in the air like a swarm of tiny gnats just waiting to land on your scalp just often enough to make you itch and swat at your ears in frustration.

Besides, my fingers ache to hold the finished book.


At least it’s not a picture book with a two-year lag for illustrations between editing and publication. Right?

It’s going to be a long, long summer.

November 1, 2015.

“Are we there yet?”



When did life get so busy with Facebook, Twitter, and all manner of other distractions so compelling that my LJ sits idle for months?

I'm still working full time, blogging on my website, using Wordpress to tweet my blogs, writing fiction, attending and helping to facilitate writing retreats and illustrator intensives, working on fashion shows, presenting at Comicons, taking on consulting clients, fulfilling my GPA National board secretary requirements, churning out items for my new Steampunk clothing line for Evermore Nevermore, editing stories for the recently released Haven I book, promoting and doing book signings for my new book, In Case You Didn't Hear Me the First Time, and getting ready for the launch of my YA Fantasy novel this fall . . .

Wait. I. Need. To. Catch. My. Breath.


I guess I'll cut myself some slack.


Adieu, 2010. You have been a blessing, a trial, amazing, annoying, inspiring, frustrating, glorious, painful, joyous, and many other things.

What you have not been is boring, nor have you ultimately let me down.

Family and friends are healthy and we are still here, gainfully employed and living in a sturdy home.

You also gave me the most incredible birthday present ever. A once in a lifetime (actually once in 450 years) full lunar eclipse on the winter Solstice. What more could a Solstice baby ask for?

I am surrounded by family members who love me, friends that are true gifts and a husband of the ultimate order.

I continue to write and create and to find success in those endeavors. And no matter how small those successes may appear to some, I count every single one as a win. Each is an invaluable bit of kindling that keeps my creative fire lit and my motivation strong.

2011, you have some mighty big shoes to fill, but I know you won't let me down.

May we all have the most successful year ever, in whatever way we measure our own success.


Gems from the 2010 SCBWI summer conference:

Local artist Molly Idle won first place in the portfolio competition.

Ashley Bryan.

Saw lots of wonderful authors, editors, publishers and SCBWI friends.

Danced like a madwoman at the poolside party.

Justin Chanda's comment, "If everyone writes to the trends, the vampires win."