Captain Florent A. Groberg, U.S. Army; the hero I took to vote yesterday.

Over the years, as I exercised the most precious right of a democracy, the right of self-governance through voting, I have thanked, out loud, the names of many American heroes for their supreme sacrifice. As President Lincoln phrased it, “Those who gave their last full measure of devotion.” In the past, it was in honor of the extraordinary courage from past wars, mostly Medal of Honor recipients. This year, 2022, I chose a living recipient. One of our warriors from the Afghanistan conflict. He saved a formation of superior officers and his fellow soldiers by selflessly placing himself in front of one of the brigade commanders, then Captain Groberg rushed forward, using his body to push a suicide bomber away from the formation. 

Quoting from his citation, “Captain Groberg’s immediate actions push the first suicide bomber away from the formation significantly minimized the impact of the [two] coordinated suicide bombers’ attack on the formation, saving the lives of his comrades and several senior leaders. Captain Groberg’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect credit upon himself, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and the United States Army.” 

I said it in the voting booth today in Midtown Manhattan and I repeat it here; “Thank you Captain Florent A. Groberg.”

I also noticed one pertinent fact that speaks loud and clear to the great experiment that is America, namely:  Captain Florent A. Groberg, U.S. Army, Medal of Honor recipient was born in Poissey, France! 

To read his entire MOH citation and see his picture go here: https://www.cmohs.org/recipients/florent-a-groberg

To read up on others who merit all of our adoration and respect go here: https://www.cmohs.org

Take A Hero to Vote

https://www.cmohs.org/recipients

Use the link above to find the name of a hero who, through their valor and courage, risked or lost their life to insure our right to self govern our own. Simply say their name and, “Thank you,” right before you exercise your right to vote.

The Pen is Mightier than the Empire!

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy and reflective Independence Day.

We often forget the extreme bravery it took for those 56 colonists to sign the Declaration of Independence and tell the most powerful man in the world;

“Take your British Empire and stuff it! – Oh, and by the way, King George, here’s my name, you know where I live.”

British Troops hunted many of the signers down and tortured them to force them to renounce their pledge. Not one of them renounced their conviction to liberty or the commitment of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of freedom, even though for some it was a horrible death.

Before the Declaration, everyone who was living on Earth or had ever lived did so at the pleasure and under the tyrannical yoke of a King, Potentate, Dictator, Emperor, Pope, or other “Men” who granted rights to their subjects and solely decided how the masses lived, and how they died.

America, as declared on July 4th 1776, broke with that worldwide, centuries-old practice of oppression by declaring the radical notion that people had the right to be free. In today’s terms, the Declaration instilled a “firewall” into the human program, namely the idea that rights come from above, be it God, the Supreme Judge of the world, the creator, the Laws of Nature, and of Nature’s God or whatever else you hold it to be, but not, repeat NOT, another man or men. And no man or group of men can take those natural-born rights away from any human.

This year, it is crucial for all of us to reflect on our Declaration’s firewall and the message our Nation was founded on.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

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Here follows a list of the First Americans. They who mutually pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor.

FYI, the youngest was Edward Rutledge, 26, and the eldest Benjamin Franklin, 80.

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton 
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr. Arthur Middleton 
Massachusetts: John Hancock 
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton 
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross 
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean 
NewYork: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris 
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark 
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry 
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery 
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott 

Life (and everything else) is a movie…

From my first book, The Eighth Day, to my current release, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, many readers emailed me or commented that “they could see it as a movie.” Or that “it should be a movie,” or “it would make a great movie.” My favorite is, “Why didn’t you make it as a movie?

At some level, these well-intentioned comments bristle my literary soul. After all, a published book is the same achievement, relative to process, as a produced movie. They are both the end-product of creative inspiration. And each is the pinnacle of its art. (My card-playing Uncle Guido would say, “It’s da Pinochle a de art.” Uncle G always put his cards on the table.)

Last week I attended a very fancy dinner in a chic Manhattan restaurant. The check was more than my monthly rent when I was 35. Luckily, this time I was the guest. I’m no kid, but I was the youngest guy at the table. The purpose of the dinner meeting was to discuss a “big investment deal.” More money than the entire block I lived on back then costs. This was serious stuff. Four hours of exquisite apps, salmon, Delmonico steaks, wines, martinis, and “to the moon” desserts. All for three people!

But the amazing thing was we all had movie stories. It seems the movies were a common drug we were all addicted to. By mid-dinner, we were suddenly all teenagers, speaking of our hits and near misses in the movie biz, fueled by celluloid enthusiasm and cinematic verve, it was the most energetic part of the evening.

Orson Welles, in describing what it was like to be making his, (soon to be classic film), Citizen Kane, is quoted as saying, “It’s the biggest electric train set a boy ever had.” Well, the ‘little boys’ sitting around the table agreed.

The big, eight-figure deal may or may not happen, but that night, we all got to dabble in “the dream.”

P.S. Every time, and there are many, that some reader says my books should be a movie, I always ask, “You know anybody?

May the Force be with you…

Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

Okay, so by now we have all chuckled over the unofficial holiday name of May 4th. So here’s my, MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU writing tip.

Unless you were living on Alderon… (Sorry, too soon?) You know that THE FORCE is a tappable energy source that puts the physical in metaphysical. Well, for we who chose to wield a pen over a lightsaber, there is a force many of us have had with us all along. I am speaking of what can also be defined as being in the zone. Now, I can’t scientifically prove this, but I believe when we are really comfortable with our CRAFT, our ART is free to wander through the universe. To drop in on past lives, current lives, or future lives. Suddenly, if we are deep in creation, an out of the box thought comes to us. It may be a small detail or major plot point. Other authors have used terms like, out of nowhere, all of a sudden, then it came to me, and a few other synonyms for that ‘Aha’ moment when a missing piece or needed next piece comes to us. Another term maybe the MAGIC of writing. I love it. I have tons of moments of synchronicity when what was in my head, and on the page was suddenly standing before me.

Like when I was writing (on the subway) and offered a woman my seat. She liked the chivalry involved and we spoke for a bit. Eventually we got to, “What do you do?” She says, I used to be a trainer for Koko the Gorilla. I stopped dead in my tracks (while the train kept rolling on its tracks), opened my laptop and showed her the last thing I wrote before I looked up to offer her my seat.

“You know like that monkey on TV, you know, Koko the Gorilla.” Kronos, the kid from the Bronx said.

“Oh yes, many cognitive issues and studies have been done with her. She’s amazing, and talks to humans through sign language.” Janice, the trained psychologist said.

At which point the woman made a peace sign, tapped it below her left shoulder, and then made like she was beating her chest, she was signing “Koko the Gorilla.”

Q.E.D.

Many of us have had this experience when we are totally engaged and actually living in our writing. I once described it on radio some time back as, “tapping into universal intellect.”

So may your writing jump into hyperspace and may the force… well, you know.

Writing Tip Wednesday: The Gun in the Drawer…

The audience settles. House lights dim. The curtain opens. The stage lights come up. On the stage, an opulent den. Big cushy leather chairs opposite an ornate desk. Well-stocked bookshelves along the wall. A globe on a stand. A character enters stage left. He reaches into his waistband and pulls out a revolver. He slides open the drawer and places the gun in, and slides it closed.

I guarantee you, from that moment on, everyone in the theater is focused on that drawer. The specter of it being within his reach charges every line of dialog with a subtext of impending confrontation. A normally innocent inquiry becomes a possible trigger to pull the trigger. “What did you do yesterday?” suddenly has a dark shade as the aura of the gun raises it to an interrogation tone.

It is the same as if a wife character learns she is pregnant but hides it from her loser husband. A husband who has lost his job and the family doesn’t know. The kid who flunked out but can’t tell his parents. The fiancée, who lost the engagement ring money at the racetrack. These too are guns in the drawer. They shape the trajectory of the dialogue and the character’s actions and responses to things.

Got it? Secrets. Below the text, subtext, charge the text. Now as a book coach I have found a very common error in most manuscripts is when the writer places the gun in the drawer, but it does not affect anything. Like it was never there. Secrets are prime character motivators. Secrets yield lies. Lies yield mistrust and mistrust yields suspense. All that takes a simple scene, sequence, or book and charges it with subtext.

For more writing tips to help you author your next novel, check out my online course, From Writer to Author. It will open up the drawer to your next manuscript!

Meet Brooke Burrell

For those of you that haven’t read my novels, Brooke Burrell has appeared in many of them. She had a great role in my first #1 bestseller, The Eighth Day, came to age as an operative in The Hammer of God, and took the lead in book number 3, The God Particle. Brooke then became the star of her own series when I wrote Give Us This Day.

In my latest book, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, the press, terrorists, and other groups go after Brooke for her unconventional methods used in eliminating a dire threat to millions of lives. Some take it too far, only to find out they have messed with the wrong, pregnant “housewife.”

Okay, sounds cool. But who is she?

She’s a tomboy turned Naval JAG Officer, turned FBI agent, and was the pointy end of the stick for the President of the United States. Brooke’s courage valor and situational awareness have earned her the right, and the reward, of being a top member of this ‘best-of-the-best’ team. Want a deeper look into Brooke’s world? Check out this interview.


Judy Helms: I recently had the chance to sit down, one-on-one with Brooke Burrell-Morton, many of you may not immediately recognize that name, but she’s been all over every TV, Newspaper, and checkout magazine for weeks. Here’s the first-ever interview with the woman who, in media shorthand, is referred to as, the BBK.

JH: Brooke, let’s get right to it, how do you feel now that it’s all over?

Brooke Burrell-Morton: Judy, all I know is, I was out of that life. I was happy here on the island, coaching girls’ soccer. Looking forward, with my husband, to bringing a new life into this world. That was all the excitement I was looking for, believe me, this whole nightmare was the last thing I needed. But looking at how it all came out, I guess it was inevitable.

JH: So how did you wind up in the middle of all this?

BB-M: I kept asking myself that same question, but when I think about it, it was that sixth sense from being in years of being in law enforcement that started nagging me, one of my girls was showing signs of abuse. So, I mean, I guess I got a lot to learn about no longer having a badge or creds. Anyway, I confront the dad in the parking lot of his job, he takes a swing at me, I duck, he falls. The next day the dad, he winds up dead, and I am murder suspect number 1.

JH: Did you?

BB-M: Did I what?

JH: You know, kill him?

BB-M: No way! All I did was try to put the fear of God into him, so he’d never raise a hand to his daughter again. He got all dead on his own time. Can we talk about something else?

JH: Sure. Tell me about Mush?

BB-M: Ah, he’s proof that if you wait till you see exactly what you want it’s the best thing ever. You know, I spent a long time married to the job. If I did meet a guy, he was either intimidated or afraid I’d lock him up. So, I kind of avoided the whole issue.

JH: So, what did you see in Admiral Brent “Mush’ Morton that told you he was the one?

BB-M: Well, there are less than 100 men in America who have been entrusted with the power to destroy 50 cities with one push of a button. So, my nuclear submarine Captain husband was already extremely vetted at the highest level. But he has what I call, command voltage, you feel it when you are with him. Also, his hands. Something about them, but most of all he’s incredibly passionate and truly an officer and gentleman.

JH: I ask because you know there was that rumor…

BB-M: Oh, him and Susan Brock, the Hollywood actress with the ‘leaked’ sex videos. Let me tell you something, any other guy would have jumped at the chance to be a notch on her garter belt, but my Mush, he taught her a thing or two about commitment and true love. We’re good me and her. In fact, she wants to play me in a movie someday. Haha!

JH: So now that I finally have the chance to interview the Blonde Bridge Killer, the toughest get in media I might add, it must have been a rude awakening, I mean, being a top-secret operative working for the president one minute, then suddenly on every TV news show, newspaper, and gossip magazine in the world, the next.

BB-M: Yeah, made me want to dye my hair.

JH: …and… that’s it? That’s all you are going to say about the most sensational news story of the decade, the insidious plot, the hundreds of thousands of lives, the entire civilized world brought to its knees?

BB-M: Look, Judy, that’s all classified, I can’t talk about, acknowledge, confirm, or deny anything. I thought that was made clear to your editor before I agreed to this sit-down.

JH: Can’t blame a girl for trying…

BB-M: That’s what Susan Brock said. Hahaha

JH: Can we talk about your brother, Harland for a minute?

BB-M: You know, I’m pregnant, more emotional than usual you sure you want to go there?

JH: I’m sorry it’s just, he was a big part of your life.

BB-M: Wow. Where do you get your intel? Yeah, Harland was my big brother, I grew up with 5 brothers, and I was a tomboy. Everybody was trying to get me to be a proper little girl, but not Harland, he said, “If you can whip ‘em, don’t back off.” So, for a while, I was the one to beat. I was pretty good at everything, but then the boys started to catch up as they got older, so Harland said, Brookie, he called me that, “You can’t outrun, or outplay them anymore, so you’ll just have to outsmart them.” And I did. When Harland was killed in Gulf War I, that was when I joined the Navy. I… I… I’m sorry.

JH: That’s okay take your time…

BB-M: When I was all alone, out in the middle of the ocean, and the sharks were circling, and I couldn’t fight them off and didn’t have the energy to swim to a life raft, Harland, he came to me, told me not to quit. And you know, that’s when Mush showed up in his 5-billion-dollar submarine and plucked me out of the ocean. I guess Harland knew I couldn’t die out there because I had, I had to, to meet Mush. Sorry, it must be the hormones…

JH: Do you need a minute?

BB-M: No, No I’m good…

JH: All right, you brought up hormones just now, obviously, this is your first child, you’re carrying beautifully, by the way, was it hard defending yourself against a murder charge, being hounded by the media as the Blonde Bridge Killer, and stumbling on to a terrorist plot worse than one thousand 911s while pregnant?

BB-M: It really sucked. The biggest problem was, yeah dealing with all that, what you mentioned, but here I am big as a house, in a moo-moo, while my husband is being propositioned by a sex goddess without an ounce of fat… and her own jet. That was hard. And yeah, constant bathroom breaks can really get in the way of a gunfight.

JH: For me, it was hard-boiled eggs and Welches’ grape juice. What was your craving?

BB-M: Brussel sprouts and a Cholados Colombianos. It’s a dessert made of chocolate, fruit, and ice. I had Mush going out in the middle of the night to a Colombian place on the other side of Honolulu for it. He finally got an ice crusher and all the ingredients.

JH: How did you ever…?

BB-M: Early in my career, I was stationed in Colombia, then when I was pregnant it came back to me.

JH: Well, thanks for your time, good luck with the baby, do you know what you are going to have?

BB-M: Sorry, but that’s classified as well… for now.

She’s pretty badass. Grab your copy of Forgive Us Our Trespasses today through Amazon or Barnes & Noble!