Please Don’t Ask

LeeHutch (60 of 127)

The camera caught me in an unguarded moment. We all have our demons. 

Dear Readers,

This post has nothing to do with my book (available in ebook, paperback, and hardcover!), which I’m sure you’ll find a welcome relief. In fact, it isn’t about writing or history at all. It’s about a question. A question which I frequently find myself being asked (as in once every few months). Though the person asking never asks it with malicious intent, it nonetheless invokes strong emotions in me. So consider this a PSA. The scenario usually unfolds like this:

“So you are a retired firefighter, right?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”

Do you really want to know? Do you really want that inside your head? Because I’d gladly give it to you if it meant it would be out of mine. Do you want to know the sound a person makes when they are on fire? Do you want to know what it is like to hold a teenager’s hand and have them say “Please don’t let me die”, and you promise them that you won’t, even though they are fading right in front of you and there is nothing else you can do. Do you want to know what it is like to keep working on a drowned toddler, though they are too far gone, for the sake of their parents who are standing over your shoulder. Do you want to know what a body looks like when it has been ejected from a vehicle and said vehicle has rolled on top of it? Do you want the smells? Blood, piss, shit, burned flesh, vomit, or my least favorite, blood mixed with alcohol. Do you want to see what an explosion does to a body? And these are just a few examples. I could go on, but I won’t.

What you are actually asking me to do is to relive my worst nightmare. You ask the question, but what you don’t see is that I won’t eat or sleep for days afterwards. You won’t see my hands shaking uncontrollably. You won’t see me alone in the dark, surrounded by ghosts. You won’t see my wife losing sleep to stay up with me. You won’t see me having difficulty performing the most basic of tasks. Sure, it passes eventually. But I’d rather not have deal with it to begin with.

I know, people are obsessed with the macabre. They watch serial killer shows. They slow down to gawk at traffic accidents. But real life isn’t a television show. Trust me, you don’t want what is inside my head. I never thought, as a young firefighter, that all these years later that I’d lose sleep at night over incidents long passed. But I do. I guess that means I’m human after all.

So ask me about the funny calls, and I’ll keep you laughing for weeks. You can even ask me about the most memorable calls, and I’ll gladly share. But please don’t ask me about the worst thing I’ve ever seen. My wife is my best friend. There are some things, however, that I haven’t even told her about. She doesn’t know the answer to that question, and so I’m certainly not going to share it with a stranger.

Some public safety personnel are perfectly okay with answering that question. That’s their business. But just because some are doesn’t mean that we all are. So unless you know someone really well, it is best to avoid asking something so blunt and potentially insensitive. Yes, I know, morbid curiosity and all that, but if we want to tell you, let us tell you in our own way.

L.H.

Post Release Feeling

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Dear Readers,

It’s been one week since So Others May Live burst onto the stage. Well, maybe that’s a bit of an over dramatic way to phrase it. This past week has been hectic, to say the least. The book has been selling fairly well. I’m quite pleased with that, though to be honest, I wrote it because I had a story to tell, not because I expected to be jetting off to Tahiti with the money from a movie deal. As of this writing, Hollywood has not yet come calling. But if they do, I do have my actors picked out.

The amount of support I’ve gotten from the writing community, and my colleagues at the college, has been incredible. Not to mention from readers who are willing to fork over their money to buy something that I wrote. A think an author is eternally in debt to his or her readers. I know I will be. I am also in debt to all those who supported and encouraged me throughout this process. As this was my first foray into the publishing world, being able to ask for advice from authors who had been there allowed me to dodge many slings and arrows along the way.

Also this week, I secured a narrator for the audiobook. She is absolutely amazing. Seriously. I received several audition samples (the script was a few short scenes from the book), and when I listened to her my jaw dropped open. My initial reaction was “Holy [insert unprintable word]!” The characters sounded just like they sounded in my head when I wrote the book. My wife’s reaction was “Wow”. She’s German and that’s about as excited as she gets. It’ll be a while before the audiobook is ready, of course. But when it is, even those of you who have bought the book and read it will want to give it a listen.

The amazing thing to me about this whole process is, as I said above, people are willing to buy something I wrote. Imagine that, little old me from east Port Arthur, wrote a book. I’m an old firefighter. My joints hurt. My back injuries cause murderous pain. I don’t sleep much, partially due to pain and partially due to nightmares. I never thought I’d be able to actually write a book, though it has long been a dream of mine. I pushed through and got it done. So, Dear Readers, I implore you to never give up and keep chasing your dreams.

If you read or if you have read the book, drop me a line and let me know how you liked it. If you have a physical copy of the book, and you have a cat, I’d love to see a picture of the book with your cat!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

L.H.

So Others May Live: The Silver Screen

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Dear Readers,

I’m sure I’m not alone among novelists in pondering who we’d like to play our characters should our book be turned into a movie. Mine never will be, of course, but it is still a fun exercise. Sure, I’d love to see my characters brought to life, but then I’d complain about how the director/producer took my work of art and turned it into something else. I wrote my novel without considering this question, and so I’ve had to search for actors/actresses who fit what I envision when I think about my characters. Once you’ve read my book, please let me know if you concur with picks, or, if not, who you’d pick to play a character and why.

Of the utmost importance of selecting the following folks was age. Too many war films have actors too old to be believable in the role. Also, for Ursula, a redheaded actress was an absolute must as that is an essential part of her character. The only main character not in their early twenties is Karl Weber, who is in his mid thirties. But fortunately, there is a perfect actor for that role.

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Let’s start with Grace. Her character is in some ways the most important one in the novel, but I won’t spoil it for you by telling you why that is. It’ll be apparent when you finish reading the book. For her character, I’d select the English actress Rachel Hurd-Wood. She’s close to the right age, and she did an great job in the period drama Home Fires which ran for two seasons before it was abruptly canned. She has the right look, or at least I think she does. To me, having already acted in a WW2 series is a big plus. Though she wasn’t really a major character in the series, her character did experience highs and lows, from getting married to then losing her new husband in a tragic accident. As an actress, she handled that quite well and I am confident she could do justice to Grace’s character.

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From Grace, let’s move to her fiance Michael O’Hanlon. This would be a tricky one to cast. While Michael is from Belfast, whoever played him would have to be able to handle that accent, which is kind of specific. I don’t know if my selection, Liam Ainsworthy, can do that, but if so, I’d think him a good fit. He’s done some soap opera work in the UK and I know he isn’t Irish and it might be best to have an Irish actor in the role, but his name is Liam and that is Irish, so it’s close enough. The reason I think he’d do good in the role is that he has a brooding, almost haunted Irish look about him. That is an essential part of Mick’s character and so I think Liam would work in the role, provided he can do a Belfast accent. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. Note, he’s also young enough to be believable in the role.

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Confession time. I don’t watch Game of Thrones. (Go ahead and send me hate mail if you must, but it just isn’t my kind of show). That said, I think Sophie Turner would be perfect to play Ursula. She has red hair (a must for the role), and she’s young (another must). Acting in a series like GOT is no doubt quite a challenge, and is somewhat akin to a historical drama, so I’m certain she could handle portraying a young woman in 1943 Berlin.

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Volker Bruch is an absolutely perfect fit to play firefighter Karl Weber. He’s only a few years old than Karl’s character, and he has done an absolutely amazing job in two big period pieces, Generation War and Babylon Berlin (now on Netflix). In Babylon Berlin, he plays a police detective in the 1920s, so I’m sure he could handle playing a firefighter in the 1940s. He speaks English too, which is kind of important since the movie would need to be filmed in English. Though I had already finished writing the novel when Babylon Berlin debuted on Netflix here in the States, when I saw his character on screen, I thought to myself that he’d do a great job as Karl.

And as a bonus, this would be a great song to play over the closing credits.

I haven’t gone so far as to consider all the minor characters. That would be a bit too much for me, so I’ll just stop with the major ones. Feel free to let me know who your picks would be for characters major or minor. Maybe I’ll revisit this post in a few months with reader picks.

If you haven’t bought a copy yet, So Others May Live is available for Kindle and in paperback on Amazon and is available for hardcover pre-order on the Barnes and Noble website.

L.H.

 

Book Release!

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Dear Readers,

It is finished! So Others May Live is now out in ebook and paperback. Hardback and audio book to follow. It has been a long road (two years) and the book went through multiple drafts (8), but now it emerges onto the world stage. I have to admit I’m a bit nervous, as even the best books get nasty reviews from some people, but I’m also happy it is finally done. Exhausted, yes, but happy.

So happy reading! And thank you all for taking this journey with me.

L.H.

 

Cover Reveal!

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Dear Readers,

At long last, it is finally coming together. On Saint Patrick’s Day (fitting, that), I received three draft covers to choose from. I really liked the first cover, as it showed firefighters putting out a fire during an air raid. There was only one problem. They were in London, not Berlin. So that one wouldn’t work. I didn’t care for the second draft as it looked a little bit too much like every other World War Two book out there. Nothing made it stand out. That left me with draft three, which fortunately, I really liked.

I requested a few changes to the original version. First, I asked that the font used on the first cover be used on this one. Then, I asked that the burning corner image on the first draft be placed on this one as well. Lastly, I asked that the colors on the helmet be dulled just a bit to blend in better with the background. Thankfully, my cover designer was able to oblige me and came up with the incredible image that you see above. What you actually see there is the ebook cover. There is also a paperback cover, an audio book cover (which is exactly what you see above, just square), and a hardback dust jacket.

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Above, you see the hardcover dust jacket. The front inside flap contains the book blurb. The back inside flap has the “about the author” bit. Typically, the back of hardcover dust jackets contain snips from reviews or advance praise, etc. For mine, I decided to go with something simply and (hopefully) a bit eye catching.

All told, I’m extremely happy with how the cover has turned out. I think it stands out, but also conveys the genre quite well. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, as this is my first time. We are finishing up the formatting at present and the book will be available on April 18th!

L.H.

Booking a Cover

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Dear Readers,

Next week I should have my draft cover designs to choose from. Once I pick the concept I like the best, it’ll be refined until it is perfect. At the same time, So Others May Live will be going through it’s final formatting. I should be able to reveal the cover around April 1st and I’m hoping the book will be available around April 18th (ebook, hardback, and paperback with Audiobook to follow later). At least that’s the date I’m shooting for. I’m using Damonza for my cover design and formatting needs. Everyone raves about them, and thus far they have been really easy to work with. I’m on pins and needles waiting to see what my cover concepts look like.

It has been a long wrong. Two years ago today, March 9th, I wrote the first word of So Others May Live. And now, I’m just over a month away from publication. That’s kind of exciting to think about. I knew that writing a novel was a long, slow process, but I had no idea how much work would actually go into it. In some ways, writing the first draft was the easy part. Revisions, editing, etc, proved to be the tough stage. Clicking “send” to deliver my manuscript for cover design and formatting was both a proud moment, but a scary one too. Rather like dropping your child off for their first day of kindergarten.

As soon as I am able, I will share the final, official cover with you. Until then, happy reading and happy writing.

L.H.

 

Pride in the Job

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Dear Readers,

Yesterday I found out that I have been walking around with a broken back (literally) since my fall in January. I have a compression fracture at the L3/L4 level. That’s above the two levels I destroyed in 2012 which led to my retirement. It is a stable fracture, so I just have to give it time to heal and suffer quite a bit in the meantime. Though everyone talks about the “Opiod Crisis”, what they don’t tell you is that all of the restrictions on getting the medications don’t actually have an impact on illegal drug users, but those with a legitimate medical need (because their f—–g back is broken), can’t get adequate pain control. But I digress.

Since my original injuries are due to the fire service, I’ve been reflecting a little bit on my career and what it meant or means to me. When I was a young kid, new to the job, we’d make fun of the old school firemen we worked with. These were men who’d served in Vietnam and had 30 years on the job by the late 90s. They would sit around the table upstairs and bitch about the “youngsters” on the job and how much better it was “back in the day”. I would never consider myself old school now, but a conversation I had with a young firefighter the other day proved otherwise.

He was shocked when I told him how, back in the 90s, we could smoke in the fire station. These days, a lot of departments have gone to requiring all firefighters to be non-smokers, on duty AND off. Hell, I remember smoking a cigarette on the fire truck. En route to a fire. We didn’t wear our seat belts. We didn’t wear SCBA while doing salvage and overhaul. Our engines routinely went out with three person crews. In fact, my first engine was a 78 La France, which just so happens to be the year I was born. We did not hit it hard from the yard, we went in, found the fire, and put it out. Now, I’m not saying the old days were better. They were merely different. If anything, the increased awareness of things like job related cancer indicates that the job is finally starting to own up to the fact that just because putting out fires in dangerous, you can still mitigate a lot of the ancillary risks.

I had a student once ask me (during a lecture about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire) if I would have preferred to work in 1911 or when I did. I had to think about it for a minute. There were pluses and minuses to both. Ultimately, the job really hasn’t changed all that much. Sure, we have more EMS calls than fires. But at the end of the day, we are still firefighters. The feeling a firefighter in 1895 had when responding to a reported building fire is no different than what I experienced in 15 years on the job. It’s a feeling like no other. Better than sex and as addictive as cocaine. And it is universal. I’ve met firefighters from different eras and different countries, but our bond transcends time and distance. Our shared pride in our jobs brings us together.

So no, I don’t really consider myself old school (despite the fact I wore a leather helmet and ate my share of smoke), but the main reason for that is because I could never manage to grow the legendary handlebar mustache required of all Old School Firemen.

L.H.