Reflections Past, Present and Future

I know some really cool people. I mean – REALLY COOL. And I’m grateful for each one in immeasurable ways. Where to begin…

The other day I realized it was ten years ago that I started working on CONSUMMATE BETRAYAL. Wow! A decade, gone by like the snap of my fingers. Saying it’s been interesting would be an understatement, to the max.

An array of things went into the start of that first story. An Alaska cruise, made possible by my long-time, amazing friend Loretta, gave me the opportunity to think with no distractions. By the end of the cruise, I knew I wanted to write thrillers.

Enter my always kind and encouraging husband, Ernie. When I told him what I wanted to do, his comment: “Quit your job and do it.” He didn’t need to say it twice.

My friend Becky, a true BFF if there ever was one, listened night after night to my uncertainties, my lack of belief in myself, and despite it all my determination to write the story…a trilogy of stories no less. I will always be thankful for her endless support, even agreeing to help read the entire manuscript out loud, taking up an entire weekend.

Of course, the series wouldn’t be the same without the image of my flawed hero, Rowan Milani, portrayed by Nicholas Guilak. _ZZZ6865This “picture” of Rowan (by Bjoern Kommerell) will always be my favorite.  I never dreamed a talented Hollywood actor and producer would ever consider lending his image to me, for my stories. But Nico’s one of those cool people I’m privileged to know. And a kind and generous one as well.

Fast forward to present day and I find myself amazed over and over at the wonderful friendships begun with my tentative reaching out for the information I needed to write accurately. Each one is special to me.

The many readers who tell me how much they enjoy the series, love Rowan, and can’t wait to find out what happens next are THE BEST. I appreciate each and every one of you.

Looking to the near future, my personal deadline for finishing TERMINAL REDEMPTION (book number four) is the end of May. Because of and thanks to the really cool people I mentioned at the start of this blog, I’m excited to spend the summer writing a story that’s been brewing in my mind for darn near ten years – a prequel to the Rowan Milani Chronicles.

And then…it will be time to work on what happens after the end of TERMINAL REDEMPTION.

It’s been interesting road so far and I can hardly wait to see what unfolds in the future.Y TRIP 5-12 5

Dreams, Visions and Religion

Occasionally readers ask me why I chose to insert a religious element into my thrillers. I take issue with using the word ‘religious’ to describe what I’ve written. For me, the word religious or religion implies sitting in a house of worship, following along and reciting the correct things at the appropriate times.

My relationship with God is anything but that. It’s cultivated in long walks, exhilarating drives in the Mustang, illuminating conversations, music, or myriad other ways. Sometimes it withers while I slog through woundedness, grief and righteous anger. Other times it flourishes like a wildflower, spreading its fragrance everywhere.

For those who haven’t yet read my stories, the protagonist is Rowan Milani, (portrayed on the cover of my books by Nicholas Guilak)_ZZZ6865 an über-confident man who’s been betrayed and wounded beyond belief. He’s filled with grief and rage. Over the course of the series, Rowan has several encounters with an enigmatic ‘presence,’ offering him unfathomable kindness, healing and redemption.

These experiences, coming when Rowan is in desperate need, haunt him. He can find no rational explanation for what he senses is being offered. Of course, that’s the thing about the spirit realm. Rational explanations don’t apply.

My goal is to write as accurately and believably as I can and Rowan’s encounters reflect elements of my own brushes with the spirit realm. Dreams and Visions, by Tom Doyle, was a valuable resource as well. This book shares the experiences of Middle-Eastern people who meet the person of Jesus Christ in dreams and visions.

It’s fair to say Rowan has a deep-seated and sometimes outright antipathy toward God. It’s also fair to say God has a habit of pursuing the most unlikely people. (Take a few minutes sometime to read about Saul who became Paul). God is pursuing Rowan, in the fictional sense of course, as He pursues all people.

One thing I’ve discovered in the process of working out my own Christian faith, is that God does indeed reach out. I’m always free to respond – or not. Whether Rowan will choose to respond remains to be seen. Stay tuned. My characters write the story and I follow along, so we’ll figure it out together.

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I Love Surprises

Many of you know that as I’ve worked on Book #4, things took a turn I wasn’t expecting. My characters, bless their sneaky hearts, create unexpected twists and turns all the time. In essence, they write the story.

And no, I’m not crazy. I’m a typical author. Well, OK…maybe that means…never mind!

Back to topic.

cool rowan picFor those of you who’ve read the first three books in the series, you know Rowan is the main guy. He’s the protagonist with his own agenda and a big-time attitude. The latest unexpected twist of the story involves Rowan’s interaction with another character, forcing that character to respond according to his own nature.

End result: Rowan finds himself in a situation he never expected, one he’s helpless to extricate himself from.

This turn of events left me flummoxed. I frowned at the screen, muttering “what the…how am I supposed to fix this?” To be honest, my first thought was to rewrite the scene and change either Rowan’s initial action that caused the huge problem, or the response his actions engendered.

Would that be an honest depiction of my characters? No. I don’t think so.

Instead I wrote a scene involving the characters most likely to help Rowan out of a tough spot. Those characters seemed to balk at the solution I was sure they’d choose, which surprised me even more.

At a complete loss (I hate even the feeling of being unproductive), I started re-reading the manuscript and creating an outline of the story so far. When I finished reading all 61,158 words, I stared wide-eyed at the screen as it dawned on me that pretty much everything I’d written led to that ONE SCENE.

To clarify a bit!

When I start a book, I know how it’s going to end, but have no earthly idea how everything will play out to achieve that ending. I just write and write and see where the story goes. The characters do their jobs and lead me along. This book was no different.

Except this time…

For the first time ever, the ending and how to get there laid itself out in my mind. It felt like I was standing on a mountain top, looking down at a panoramic view of the rest of the story, following and turning on what has become THE pivotal scene of the book.

Or maybe it’s the pivotal scene of the whole series. Could be. You’ll just have to read the stories to find out.

For TBT…on a Monday

As the old cliché goes, time flies.

I meant to post this blog for Throwback Thursday. Getting ready for the non-starter winter storm that left us with an inch of snow on top of a glaze of ice, plus my one-day-a-week “real world” job left my once-a-month blog unwritten.

Moving on.

Some of you know about my affection, well OK, love for Glock pistols. For a bunch of new readers of both my books and blog, I thought it would be fun to reminisce about how that love affair started. FAVE_PIC

So. Here goes!

In 2009 I was hard at work on Consummate Betrayal, the first book in the Rowan Milani Chronicles. My research told me that FBI agents carried Glock pistols. At that point in my life, I had never fired a pistol. I’d always thought of shooting firearms as a someday hobby.

Quick aside – my mother did tell me that when I was three or four, she found me sitting on their bed, pointing my dad’s revolver out the window. According to her, I was going to shoot a “sqrill.” Thankfully, she averted a sure disaster!

But I digress.

In order to accurately portray a gun-toting protagonist, I had to shoot a pistol. Since my protagonist, Rowan Milani, is (guess I should say – was) an FBI agent, I really wanted to shoot a Glock. A great friend took me to the range and let me shoot his 9mm pistol. But it wasn’t a Glock, so of course, that wasn’t good enough.

I had to get a Glock.

On Valentine’s Day weekend in 2010, in an almost blizzard, my intrepid husband took me to a gun show in Sioux Falls. The Ramkota Exhibit Hall was jam-packed with gun folk of all sorts. Getting close enough to actually see the myriad offerings of semi-autos, revolvers and every possible accessory, took patience and a little smiling, insistent elbowing my way between bodies.

I’ll never forget seeing that black pistol, lying among all the other offerings, on one of many tables. It was the first Glock I’d ever seen in person. I’d read somewhere that when you find the perfect pistol, it speaks to you. And so…

I picked it up.

It felt so right. The grip fit my hand perfectly. The balanced weight felt comfortable and at the same time, powerful. On that snowy Saturday afternoon, the sleek, sexy, 40 caliber Glock 22 came home with me. And that, as they say, to use one final cliché, is the rest of the story.

Or is it?

I began a new life that day. For me, carrying a gun isn’t about appearing badass and cool. It’s a huge responsibility. For anyone contemplating purchasing a gun for self-defense, I highly recommend a great book, titled Armed Response: A Comprehensive Guide to Using Firearms for Self-Defense by David Kenik.

Your answer to THE QUESTION posed at the beginning of Chapter Two will tell you whether or not you should carry a gun.

My Glock inventory has changed several times. Currently, my 45 caliber Glock 36 is my favorite, supplemented by the sweet, newish Glock 43, a 9mm baby brother to the .45 that fits nicely in my purse or ankle holster.

I’m always up for a civil, well-informed conversation about how our American culture is, indeed, gun culture and about our cherished Second Amendment, guarantor of ALL the other rights we hold dear. I am more than willing to help anyone interested in pursuing responsible firearms ownership.

Thanks, everyone, for reading my blog and books! Please give my blog a FOLLOW, and my author page a LIKE, if you’re so inclined. Here’s my fave – the Glock 36. ♥♥  

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The View From Behind The Dashboard…Of The Mustang

IMG_0306Random life. That’s all I’ve got.

When I started the Rowan Milani Chronicles blog site, I was determined to post once a month. Shouldn’t be too hard to come up with something interesting, maybe book-related and fun for the lovely fans of the series to read, right? So far, I think (fingers crossed) that’s been the case.

Not so much for October.

Working away on book #4, occasionally I’d consider writing the blog. And wait. For inspiration, something meaningful or entertaining. An idea. I got nothing. A blank mind. Well, not so much blank as crammed with great scenes, dialogue and myriad possibilities for #4 and beyond. Which reminds me…

I’ve discovered Melatonin. It’s a miracle, a natural wonder. I can now actually fall asleep instead of replaying all of the above items over and over and…yeah, you get it. Otherwise, when or if I’d eventually, finally fall asleep, I’d be awake in a couple hours and start the replay again.

Tedious. Irritating. To the max.

Which makes for more restless hours staring at the ceiling and making the mistake of touching Lucy. Of course the tiny terrorist is sound asleep, claws firmly affixed to whatever part of me she settled next to. She gets grumpy when awakened from a nice night’s sleep.

Geez, devil dog! Chill.IMG_6427 (1)

On the bright side, a new resource for my endless research has revealed itself. I’ve got nothing more to say about it, because it’s embarrassing to admit I couldn’t find it for the last eight or nine years. Sometimes I am simply obtuse, or dense, or something. You decide.

This past month of random life involved a weekend in New Ulm, Minnesota to celebrate Oktoberfest with my niece Angela and her husband Erik. We had fun at Schell’s Brewery, which is the focal point, and a worthy destination, but Morgan Creek Vineyard and Winery holds a special place in my heart. Their wines are delightful.

Yet another bright spot – Blackie the Mustang has been detailed from bumper to bumper, inside and out and under the hood. After a busy summer traveling all over God’s creation, it needed it. The interior looks brand new. Daryl, aka Boomer, (his stage name) told me the interior was quite a challenge.

Then he said – What kind of dog do you have??? So far, I have found two, yes only TWO Lucy hairs in the super clean interior. Before that, you could look up and count them on the roof…like stars in a velvet sky.

But I digress.

We picked up the car last Thursday morning at 7 a.m. The exterior literally glowed in Boomer’s well-lit garage. Enter the rain. SNAFU, right?? Story of my life. A few blocks out, we met a school bus and just like that, the Mustang was filthy again.

Moving on.

One crisp evening Ernie and I walked downtown with dear friends Arnie and Becky to the Icon Lounge and Event Center. For a few lovely hours we were transported out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As its website states: Retro upcycling meets urban minimalism with the charm of the historic downtown scene. Whatever that means, I agree. It’s a cool place.

Hey, they serve Ramen. You have to try it. Along with a Phil Collins. Best cocktail I’ve had in years. But the main attraction is a breathtaking professional Jazz quintet. Oh my!  JAS Quintet is special. Their passion and creativity raised the experience to a whole new level for me. They invited local musicians to join them on stage, which made it even more fun.

And…book #4 is progressing. I believe the arc of this particular story is established. Now it’s a matter of writing and researching and letting the characters do their thing. I’m enjoying the solitude, albeit with the above mentioned forays into the real world.

The colder the weather, the less distracted I am. (Duh!) I’m surprised to admit that I kind of enjoy getting up, shivering through a quick walk with Lucy and then camping in front of the laptop with my beverage of choice. Believe it or not, it’s ALWAYS five o’clock somewhere.IMG_0316

Like I said…random life. That’s all I’ve got. See you next month!

Ahhh September…

IMG_0056You’re a melancholy month for me, with too many endings and beginnings. Because of that, I dislike you. A lot.

When I step outside at midnight with Lucy, our naughty rat terrier, I take a deep breath of air that still holds the comforting scent of long, warm days. But its chilly crispness is a bittersweet reminder of summer’s end and fall’s beginning. And we all know what comes after that. Except for my southern and west coast friends, of course.

For me, the unwelcome change of seasons notwithstanding, 9/11 is the main reason for my disillusionment with the month of September. My life and every other American’s life changed forever on that day. September 11, 2001 marked a definite end of our national complacency or perhaps willful blindness, regarding the threat of Islamic terrorism.

A whole slew of things began after that. The USA Patriot Act, the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security are the most notable to me, as an airline customer service agent at a United Express station in Sioux Falls, SD, during that chaotic time. Suffice it to say, I learned and experienced a lot, which translates to a bunch of airline stories. Hey, give me wine and I’ll tell you everything.

But I digress…

A Canadian friend told me that over time, the searing, wounding emotions evoked by watching the planes crash into the Twin Towers and seeing those two magnificent towers implode, would fade. Maybe for some that is the case. Speaking for myself, I must say, my Canadian friend was wrong.

I remember like yesterday the first time I saw Ground Zero up close and personal, in February, 2002. An NYPD angel…another story altogether…gave my friend Helen and I a behind-the-scenes tour, around the backside of the smoldering, twisted wreckage. Our police officer angel showed us things and told us stories we would never have otherwise known.

We choked back tears in the private viewing area reserved for United employees and family members. We walked the endless blocks of chain link fence bearing mementos, letters, pictures, and pleas for the lost who would never be found. We listened to the horror stories told by our hotel proprietor, who experienced the attack only a few blocks from Ground Zero.

The entire experience was heart breaking and gut-wrenching, but without it, the Rowan Milani Chronicles would not exist.

My goal in writing this series of stories has always been to utilize an entertaining plot and a flawed but compelling hero to help regular, everyday people understand the plans Islamic jihadists, empowered by the Muslim Brotherhood have for the United States. And to illustrate how our seemingly naïve intelligence agencies unwittingly (or wittingly…you do the research and decide) aid and abet them.

An ever expanding reader base gives me hope that maybe I’m succeeding. One thing is certain.

I will never stop trying.

And I will never forget. world-trade-center-67695_1920

Thanks for reading my blog! You may check out the books in the Rowan Milani Chronicles at www.MaryYungeberg.com.

Enjoy Your Life

During our seven long months of unpredictable South Dakota winter weather, I worked on book #4. By mid-May I’d glommed together 31,000 or so words of the story.

Once the weather finally warmed up, my mind went blank. I couldn’t conjure up a single scene to continue the story. I’m a fairly introspective person, so I needed to figure out what was going on in my head. Had the story line run dry? Was it done? Over? Time to move on?

One thought kept returning, almost like a mantra, whispering across my mind while I was feeling unproductive, guilty, and half depressed. Enjoy your life.

Say what?

“I do enjoy my life,” I’d retort, yet the thought persisted. Enjoy your life. When I took the time to consider, I couldn’t get past the idea that God was trying to tell me that this summer was mine to simply enjoy. It was up to me to choose to either listen to or ignore the gentle, insistent voice.

Anyone who follows my Facebook page knows I chose to listen. And it’s been a glorious summer.

It was hard at first because being productive is an integral part of my sense of self-worth. I’ve always worked hard. In High School I had three part-time jobs. During my four years at Iowa State, I worked every summer. After that came a career, a family and several more careers. On and on it goes.

It’s called life.

A couple days ago, something changed. For kicks, and because I hadn’t thought about it in quite a while, I decided to reread what I’d written for book #4. As I read, all kinds of ideas fired in my mind. I wrote a pivotal scene. I’m excited about it, although it’s kind of terrifying and sad and sets the pace for the rest of the story.

It looks like my summer hiatus is over, although a couple more adventures are in the offing. By the time summer slides into fall and the first snowflakes arrive on a brisk, 30 mph breeze, I’ll be more than ready to continue the next installment of the Rowan Milani Chronicles.

Why share this?

It was a wise choice to listen to that still, small voice. Of course it always is, but often I’m so busy and harried and concerned with being productive, that I miss things. Since I love you all, I wanted to share this in case someone is hearing that insistent, gentle voice. If you are, give it a listen.

Enjoy your life.

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