Tag: You Know When the Men Are Gone


New Chapters Ahead…

February 23rd, 2019 — 8:02am

 


(This blog originally ran in a slightly different version on the MilSpoFineArtsNetwork blog on Friday, February 22)

1.     We hear that you went to the JAIPUR LITERARY FESTIVAL in India. Was this a work trip? How did you get involved? What was it like? Give us all the details.

Oh, this was pure fun! I have a friend here in the UAE who had been to the Jaipur Lit Fest in the past and kept asking me to go with her. This being my last year in Abu Dhabi and therefore the last time I would be just a quick jaunt from India, I finally said yes. And it was tremendous. I usually attend these sorts of events as part of my job—meaning I am there to be a part of a panel, to do a book reading, or in some way promote my own writing. So it was lovely to attend as a book lover, to be in the audience instead of on stage, to soak it all up without feeling the pressure to perform or be charming. I was amazed by the thousands of attendees– standing room only! Readings were held in a palace! It was incredible to see how revered writing is in India.

I had never been to India before, so that was an entire adventure of its own—seeing tourist sites, eating great food, exploring the textiles and art, soaking up the kindness and generosity of the people.

Christine chatting with a feisty Germane Gree

My traveling companion, Christine, has the heart of a backpacker, so we did everything on a budget. As in we shared a fifteen-dollar-a-night hotel room, slept in the same full-sized bed together, used bottled water to wash our faces and brush our teeth. This made me feel like a college kid with a Euro-rail pass.

*Our great driver & tour guide, Moin (rajasthanexpert.com)

It also made me grateful for all that I have. The young man who worked at our hotel had a small futon mattress he’d roll out each night and sleep on, right there in the freezing, tiny lobby. While America certainly has its issues, a couple of days spent in India reminded me of how much I take for granted every single day.

2.     We hear that you are moving back to the states this summer. How are you preparing for this transition?

Ah, yes, the great big, bad, move. We’ve been in Abu Dhabi for almost six years. Which is the longest we have every been anywhere as a family. Which is crazy. I have two daughters, ages eleven and six. Almost all of their memories involve life in Abu Dhabi. Their tender little American roots are actually Abu Dhabi roots—friends, school, their very idea of ‘home’ is this Arabian Gulf country. Of course, we have family in the states, cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents that my girls adore, but our day to day life is here. My youngest will randomly burst into tears and beg us to stay. So that’s stressing us all out a little.

My daughters at the Louvre, Abu Dhabi. I know they will fearlessly jump into life at our next post. It’s the momma who is having difficulty with the latest leap…

We recently learned we are headed to Tampa, Florida, which is a completely new place for us. And while I’m excited to be back in the USA myself, I’m not looking forward to starting life from scratch. The housing, schools and dentists, the grocery stores and dance studios, the meeting and making of new friends. Finding an art, or, even better, a writing community of some kind. You all know what I’m taking about. Even after all of our military moves, I have a very fixed idea of ‘home:’ for me, it’s Highland Falls, a small town in Upstate New York where I was raised and where most of my immediate family still resides. I have always wanted to get back to that home, or at least get close.

It will be comforting to be in the same time zone as my parents and siblings, but I wish I still didn’t have to board a plane to see them. I know, I know, this is our military life. Frankly, after fifteen years of it, I’m tired. But I have a few more months to start excited. “Selling” a new life to the girls will make me see the opportunities too. And the more I learn about Tampa, the more people who tell me about their own fabulous Tampa experiences, the more excited I get.

3.     Do you have a plan for continuing to write while in transition? What is it?

Ouch. I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m always trying to find more time to write, even under the best circumstances. And my very busy husband kindly tries to give me few hours each weekend to steal away and get work done. But I’m already seeing my writing schedule deteriorate as I try to figure out the move (actually, as my husband and I try to untangle the paperwork hell of getting our three cats out of the UAE. We’re talking four veterinarian appointments just this week alone).

Abu Dhabi

Writing, fortunately, is something I have been able to take with me and do almost anywhere. So I imagine I’ll be continue jotting down notes from airplanes and gas stations, and during the never-ending vet appointments. During the move, I might not be able to do my best work; I know I’ll be distracted and time will be fragmented, but it is still work. The words will accumulate, and that’s what a writer must do, write. When I am settled and have hours and hours ahead of me, I’ll fine-tune and rewrite and transform those words into something more than ink.

Research on the walls of my office…

I entered 2019 with the optimistic new year’s resolution of “writing every day.”  I’m in the early stage of a new novel, still doing a great deal of research, so even if the day is completely overwhelmed by kid activities or the usual mayhem life loves to throw at us all, if I delve into research, if I rework just a couple of pages of my work-in-progress, that counts as writing, and keeps me connected to the work. Even if it just means carrying one of my research books around with me (like when I attended the mass held by Pope Francis recently in Abu Dhabi. We had to get to the stadium hours in advance and, of course, I had one of my Libbie Custer memoirs in my bag. So when I waited an hour to use the restroom? I was reading. I was working! HA! Win/win, thank you Pope Francis!)

I never go anywhere– kid dance class, to see the Pope, horseback riding– without one these books in my bag.

This habit has helped keep the work alive for me day in and day out, from that particular moment in 1800’s history so different than my own, to the sound of my character’s voices. I recommend all of you out there who are writing to do the same, as best as you can, dip into the work in some way every single day, small or large, and you will see the difference.

4.     What’s next for you?

I’m throwing myself completely into this new novel. My first book, the collection of short stories, You Know When the Men Are Gone, is set in Fort Hood Texas during the deployment of an infantry brigade, circa 2006. I started writing it while living at Fort Hood, in between my husband’s deployments, and I tried to capture the different sort of experiences military families, both deployed soldiers and milspouses at home, were having. My novel, The Confusion of Languages, is set in the U.S embassy community in Amman, Jordan, during the Arab Spring, circa 2011. I started writing Confusion when we lived in Jordan, and finished it while we were living in Abu Dhabi. So again I was inspired by the present day world around me.

But my new novel is something very different. At least for me. It’s historical fiction, set in 1879, and it examines the fall out of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Most of us vaguely remember that General Custer and two hundred of his men met their deaths at the hands of the largest gathering of American Plains Indians ever seen. But what surprised me was the military world of the Seventh Cavalry, stationed at Fort Lincoln, in Indian Territory. The officers had been together for years, yet there were these strange and bitter factions among them. And then there are the wives, from learned and pampered families back east, suddenly thrust into drafty, ill-made housing (hmm, that’s not necessary so different from today ;), who wait for weeks for a newspaper from “the states,” who put lead shot in the hems of their skirts to keep them from flying into their faces on windy days, who don’t see fresh produce for months at a time, who face drought, grasshopper plagues, prairie fires, Native American attacks.

My office desk– Marie Kondo, stay away!

For me, most fascinating of all is Libbie Custer, George Armstrong’s widow. She was this feisty little thing who was determined to justify her husband’s military career and get to the bottom of what really happened at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. She wrote articles and memoirs, collaborated on an autobiography of her husband, even helped instigate a military tribunal with the hopes it would decide that officers under Custer had disobeyed his orders, and it was their cowardice that led to the massacre. She is one heck of a military spouse. She was also a huge supporter of the arts—she had wanted to be an artist/fashioner designer until she met her ‘boy general’ during the Civil War, she wrote both fiction and non-fiction, and spent chunks of each year living in an artist colony in Upstate NY.

In death, as in life, Libbie wanted to be seen only in the shadow of her husband. But I know there is a lot more to her. General & Mrs. Custer’s graves at West Point Cemetery, NY

I had never heard of Libbie, her tenacity and dedication (she remained unmarried until her own death fifty-seven years after Custer’s). I never would have even imagined the likes of this military tribunal, or the intrigue and back-biting of the officers in the Seventh Calvary. This paired with the injustices the United States government was meting out to the Native American populations, and the entire chapter in our nation’s history just blows me away. Not to mention it is pretty amazing material for a novel!

So while I say that this is different material for me to work with, it does match up with themes I tend to write about. I like to explore life in small, insular military communities (like Fort Hood for my first book, embassy life abroad in my second, and life on a military outpost in the 1800s for my latest). The sometimes fraught dynamic between husbands and wives, friends and enemies. So there are familiar reverberations.

5.     Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers?

Yes! Thank you for reading this! Thank you for every ‘like’ or ‘click’ or ‘share’ on behalf of myself and every other military spouse artist. It’s hard for us to have community since we move so often, and therefore all of this virtual support is so very, very important for us.

You guys are the best!

(* And if you are planning a trip to Jaipur, please contact Moin at rajasthanexpert.com, he is the loveliest, most trust-worthy guide and driver you could possibly find.)

Website at: www.siobhanfallon.com

Facebook at: www.facebook.com/SiobhanFallonAuthor

Twitter at : www.twitter.com/SiobhanMFallon

Insta at: www.instagram.com/siobhanfallonwriter/

The original blog can be found here:

Catching Up with Siobhan Fallon

 

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Paper(Strikes)Back!

June 4th, 2018 — 5:50am


It’s time for the PAPERBACK release, my friends!

Updated cover, new author conversation, discussion guide, and excerpt from You Know When the Men Are Gone in the back materials. Hurray!

Events are currently being updated on my website, please check them out (Bethany Books on June 22 and One More Page in Virginia on June 25!)

I have an article about a day in my Jordan life that just ran in Stars and Stripes: 3 blondes in an ancient car in an ancient land. What could go wrong?

I also have a ‘My First Time’ short essay about writing, traveling, and attempting tasks that start hard but are worth every stressed and sweaty minute, on David Abram’s esteemed Quivering Pen blog.

If you’ve missed it, I made my own book trailer (yes, I know, not exactly my lane; you can stop laughing now). Here it is on YouTube.

A friend of mine from The New School writing program wrote an outstanding review of Confusion, here’s Jude Joseph Lovell’s book blog review: https://www.judejosephlovell.com/books

And I’ll be on Army Wives Radio doing an interview LIVE on Monday, August 13, 8:30 PM Eastern time.

Sorry to throw all of this information at you at once, can you tell I am chugging directly from a liter bottle of Diet Coke as I type???

Well, folks, I’m heading stateside in a couple of weeks. Hope to see some of you there!

Thank you, thank you, thank you for loving books.

Happy reading,

Siobhan

P.S. For those of you savvy enough to be on that hip young thing called “Instagram” or maybe the young ones call it “insta,”  I have recently tried my old hand at it. You can find me at @siobhanfallonwriter There’s a give-away going on at the moment so please pop on over before it finishes up on June 7, 2018.

P.S.S. The cat and the kids really, REALLY wants you to spread the word about The Confusion of Languages

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New cover for paperback release!

January 30th, 2018 — 3:26am

I’m very excited to reveal the new cover for PAPERBACK…

drum roll please….

Paperback release is JUNE 5, 2018!

The paperback is available for pre-order through all your trusty booksellers, from Amazon to B&N to your favorite indie book shop. Speaking of those book shops, it’d be wonderful if you could contact your local store and ask them to stock the paperback of The Confusion of Languages. And if that store of yours seems like the cozy type that hosts authors and fun reader events, please suggest that they get in touch with Putnam and see if I can do a reading there this summer. Paperback releases are usually much more low-key than hardcover releases, but, hey, it’s worth a try, and I love an excuse talk books…

For future events, or if you are just curious about where I have been lately, please take a look here.

Thank you!

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Behind the Book: The Guard

August 27th, 2017 — 6:02am

In early 2011, my family and I lived near the US embassy compound in Amman, Jordan—so near, in fact, that our apartment was inside the outer guard ring. I was very happy about this situation. Two weeks after my three-year-old daughter and I arrived, my husband was sent to Italy indefinitely to help with a NATO mission. Meanwhile, the Arab Spring was taking root and there were protests outside of the Syrian embassy, protests outside of the American embassy, protests in the rural areas outside of Amman over the high costs of cooking oil and bread, and protestors in Amman demanding political reforms. Then Osama Bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces in Pakistan, which was seen by many as another US invasion of a country’s sovereign territory. Prime-time news was filled with burning American flags.

So you can imagine how much I loved seeing the US embassy guards standing at the gates.

Everyone stationed at the embassy had to attend a Regional Security Brief within a few days of arrival. We were told to change up our driving routines in order to make it hard for us to be followed, to look under our vehicles for explosive devices, to not drive beyond Amman city limits after sunset, and to always let a fellow American know when we went on a trip.

We had also been warned about our Western ways, with a special emphasis on how American women needed to be sensitive to this culture quite different from our own. It was recommended our clothing cover us from wrist to ankle. That we be aware conservative Muslim men would feel uncomfortable shaking the hands of women not related to them. How it was verboten to sit in the front seat of a taxi, the front seat being reserved for the wife of the taxi driver and our presence there could be misconstrued as a sexual advance. How we should try to not touch the hand of a male cashier at a grocery store when he was handing over change, lest he view this as suggestive.

But the embassy guards, well, we did not need to worry about them; they had been thoroughly vetted, many had worked with Western companies in the past, some had even lived in America. Their English was better than the average Jordanian, and they were accustomed to our strange cultural differences, like American women wearing shorts and tank tops to the embassy gym (otherwise we were advised to never wear shorts and tank tops in Jordan).

There was the guard who showed me video of his son’s gymnastic competitions. The guard who handed candy to my daughter, his pockets crammed with single-wrapped mints. The guard who meowed because he’d seen us feed stray cats. I brought them cookies, bottles of water, chocolate bars. I would have my daughter present the treats, and the guards would direct their thanks at her, press their hands to their hearts, say “Alhamdillah,” or Praise God,” pinch her cheek or ruffle her blond hair.

The guard who worked the gate closest to my house spoke very little English, and while I spoke very little Arabic we exchanged pleasantries almost every day. He was in his forties, clean-shaven, wore glasses, and would throw open his arms when he saw us. Most Jordanians said “You are welcome!” This guard would shout, “A million, million welcomes!” Then one of us would inevitably say something the other would not understand, we’d pantomime merrily for a few incoherent minutes, and I’d wave good-bye.

About a month after my husband left, my daughter and I came to this particular gate and found him on duty with another guard, a young man with beautiful green eyes whose English was better than most. The older guard reached into his back pocket as I drew close, produced a carefully folded piece of paper, and handed it to me. I hesitated, knowing this was out of the ordinary.

I opened the letter and began to read, the words in capital letters, the writing painstakingly exact:

You are beautiful. Your smile is the sun—

I looked up, startled, feeling a blush warm my neck. The guard was watching me, nodding. I glanced down to read more just as the younger guard tore the paper out of my hand. He began to yell at the older man in rapid, angry Arabic, pointing at the high embassy wall behind us, then stabbing his finger in the direction of my apartment. I froze, trying to keep a smile on my face and ignore whatever was going on.

The young man crumpled the paper in his fist. He stared with those green eyes into mine.

“He does not understand,” he said. There was something combative about his face, his words. I nodded, chastened, as if I did understand. I took my daughter’s hand and walked toward the embassy. Later, I exited the embassy by another gate, sneaking around to my apartment building without having to pass those guards.

He does not understand.

What could those words possibly mean? And how could I ever find out? He didn’t understand I was married? He didn’t understand it was odd for a near-stranger to tell a woman she was beautiful?

Or he didn’t understand that I smiled and chatted with everyone, that it wasn’t a declaration of affection on my part?

***

They relocated those guards.

I’d occasionally see the older guard at one of the farther gates. He always welcomed me but he did not put his arms out in the joyful way he had before; he did not say “A million, million welcomes!”

And he never wrote me a letter again.

How I wish I had held on to it, read it in its entirety, studied the intentions and misspellings. It could have been nothing more than a show of friendship, Jordanians often being more effusive than Westerners. I had strangers tell me I was like a daughter to them. Once, I spent a few hours with a woman and she yelled as I drove away, “I love you! I love you! I love you!”

He does not understand.

So I started writing a short story about Jordan as a way to figure it out.

That story became a three-hundred-page book, The Confusion of Languages, and could have been much longer. All those endless opportunities for miscommunication.

I lived in Jordan for a year. While I never wore a tank top or sat in the front seat of a taxi, I’m still not sure exactly what I understand—not just about the Middle East, but about men and women. About people. About the ways we get one another wrong every day, about the moments that seem small but for some reason linger.

About all the fragile messages we want so desperately to share with another human being, only to find the distance is just too far, and it’s too easy to lose the words before we ever get the chance to read them.

***

For more of Siobhan’s essays, fiction, photos of Jordan, or to order copies of her new novel, The Confusion of Languages, please see her website: www.siobhanfallon.com

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The MilspoFAN interview

February 16th, 2017 — 1:11am

This interview first posted on the Military Fine Artists Network, or MilspoFAN, on January 31, 2017. Thanks for letting me repost here!

MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Siobhan: The journey has been a fairly scenic one. I met my husband in 2000, while I was bartending at my father’s Irish pub right outside the front gate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. My husband, KC, had just graduated and was staying on for a few months coaching soccer at the USMA prep school before heading to Fort Benning. I was working my way through getting an MFA in Creative Writing at the New School in NYC, and my future husband, hearing this, told me he loved to write. I’d met plenty of West Point cadets and soldiers and officers over the years, but this one won me over with talk of literature.

KC went to Fort Benning, Georgia, and then Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and we were married on the beach in Oahu just before he deployed for a year to Afghanistan in 2004. I’m going to list the other posts we went to after getting married, it’s too exhausting to give a description of each and I have a feeling your readers know the deal: Fort Benning, GA (again); Fort Hood, TX (my husband did two year long deployments to Iraq during our three year assignment at Hood); Monterey, CA; Amman, Jordan; Falls Church, VA; and now we are in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

MilspoFAN: How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as a writer- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?
Siobhan: Well, creatively each post has been inspiring, and all of them are so vividly different from each other that I usually can’t help but write about them. I like to think that the settings of my work are as important as the characters themselves. All equally determine the story. Perhaps I take the adage “write what you know” a little too seriously? I enjoy examining the different ways people live, whether it be how people are on a military base vs. outside it, or how Western women living in the Middle East blend (or don’t) into a different culture. You Know When the Men Are Gone is set in Fort Hood, Texas, during a deployment of a brigade and I worked very hard to get the real Fort Hood, from the vast, scrubby firing ranges to the clever street names like Tank Destroyer or Hell-On-Wheels, into the stories. I’ve also written about Hawaii: one of the characters in You Know When the Men Are Gone met her husband when he was stationed at Schofield, and my story in the anthology Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War, is also set in Oahu. The new novel, The Confusion of Languages, takes place in Amman, Jordan, where my family and I lived in 2011. Of course we were stationed at all of the above, so I feel like the writing that came out of these places were gifts from the United States Army. It’s also helpful that a writing career is portable; I can take it with me no matter what corner of the world the military throws us into.

On the downside I inevitably miss opportunities in America. It’s difficult to do a reading or book signing at an indie book store in Chicago when you live in Jordan or Abu Dhabi. And while planning the release of my new novel this summer, I know I have a very small window of time when I will be on U.S. soil during the school break of my small daughters. Combine that with the responsibilities of seeing family and friends, who I usually only get to see once a year, and my blood pressure starts to rise with thoughts of all the ground I have to cover in a such a short amount of time. I really have to be focused about what I can accomplish in advance, and get the word out as much as possible before I even get on a plane. Naturally, I also participate in fewer panels and conferences than I would like because of the tremendous distance. But every once in a while some generous writing program will send me a plane ticket, and of course there is social media, email, and Skype for staying in touch with readers or book clubs.

My husband is very supportive and there are times we can work in an extra trip stateside for me, as long as we can balance childcare and travel expenses with his long work hours. So yes, the distance and unpredictable nature of military life does make it more difficult. You do what you can. We military spouses know how to roll with the punches, and my family and I have been pretty darn blessed with some excellent locations. So like everything in life, it’s a trade off.

MilspoFAN: Of your 2011 work, You Know When the Men are Gone, the New York times wrote “This lean, hard-hitting short-story collection outshone some of the year’s most imposing doorstop-size novels.” How does your writing style and writing process for your first work of short stories compare to your upcoming full-length work, Confusion of Languages?

Siobhan: A novel is a pain in the ass. Honestly, I didn’t think I had any idea how hard it would be. I thought going from stories to novels was a natural progression, something that I’d be able to do without much effort, especially after I practiced so much by writing all those lousy novel drafts that are still lurking on my old hard drives. Right? And everyone was always telling me that my stories read like small novels, and that they wanted more. So I thought I’d just write, you know, more, as in a really, really long short story. HA!

You can read a short story in one sitting. Of course there are things that happen off the page, but the author can keep track of every detail in thirty pages, sometimes to the point where I remember whole snatches almost word for word. You can sit down and sip your coffee and read and say aha! I need to change this and this and then go get another cup of coffee and come back and make those changes. Thirty pages is a small town with a no name grocery store. But three hundred pages! I could never get my mind around the three hundred pages. Three hundred pages is New York City on New Year’s Eve. You can’t possibly keep track of what made it into the novel or not in one sitting, especially after all the editing and rewriting and gnashing of teeth. There are notebooks and index cards and piles of drafts taller than your four year old daughter of everything you deleted and reinserted and deleted again, how can you possibly remember everything?

But you do it. It takes time. Painstaking editing and screaming at your children not to come in and disturb Mommy again for another damn cup of apple juice! You feel like the worst writer (and mom) in the world and the biggest failure and no one will read you and those who do won’t ever be able to look you in the eye again because now they know you have absolutely no talent—and then you write the most beautiful paragraph you have ever written, or figure out why one of your characters behaves in a certain way, or how this one very important plot line can tie seamlessly into another. And that epiphany keeps you going. And when all those terrible thoughts seize your brain again, amazingly enough another epiphany will smile at you.

You need to remember that the things you want to say are there on the page, black and white and real, and it’s worth all the self doubt and agony and hangdog looks of your poor neglected children. Tomorrow you will take the kids to the park, you promise! Writing should be hard. Readers are going to dedicate hours and hours, days maybe, of their precious lives, reading what you have penned, letting your words fill their heads and linger in their thoughts. Those words better be your best.

MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Siobhan: The new novel, Confusion of Languages, will be out June 27, 2017. It started as a short story I wrote in Jordan in May of 2011. That means it’s taken me about six years. Dear God, that’s the first time I’ve done the math. SIX YEARS!! Plus more rewrites than I could even count at this point. I’d started each rewrite from scratch– I’m talking blinking cursor on a blank computer screen, five, six, seven times. I would work from a draft that I printed out (300 $%#@ pages!) next to my computer, but I would retype everything all over again because it felt like the only way to really be in the story, to allow myself to write new material and edit/ catch every nuance of the material I might want to reuse/retype. When I just cut and paste, I feel like I am less critical, I don’t get seized by words in the same way or see the story as something malleable that I can drastically change if need be.

That said, now I’m taking a little bit of a break. It feels good to let new ideas sort of well up in me again, rather than focusing so completely on The Confusion of Languages. I’m writing some non-fiction essays about life in Jordan, thinking about ideas for future projects, letting this incredibly weird and wonderful world of Abu Dhabi inspire me. But it’s nice to not be caught in the thrall of something as overwhelming as working on a novel, if at least for a little while.

MilspoFAN: Is there anything else that you would like to share with MilspoFAN readers?
Siobhan: Reach out to other Military spouses who are in the arts as much as possible. There are more of us than you think. And we are pretty freaking fantastic! Read Andria Williams most excellent blog Military Spouse Book Review (https://militaryspousebookreview.com/),every word that lady writes is brilliant (you should see her Lego creations) but Andria also shares the space with other mil spouse writers who chime in to review books or write blogs of their own on her page. It always feels good to know we’re not the only ones who worry about these insane mil lives of ours. For something a little more ‘highbrow’ but definitely worth being aware of, I recommend Peter Molin’s blog Time Now (https://acolytesofwar.com/), which reviews all military related arts, from photography to film to writing to dance to theater productions. Molin is incredibly supportive of mil spouses as well as female vets, so it’s not just a list of macho men war novels, if you know what I mean (I’m sure those of you who married to infantry men like me know exactly what I mean).

I want to thank you, Jessica, and I also want to thank all of you who are reading. We need to support each other, and this site is doing that beautifully. We are far flung, we don’t have the natural support system of the home town neighborhoods where we grew up, the libraries and churches and cafes and town halls where we could gather and spread the word about our different projects, so we have to improvise and create our forums online, in places like this. So let’s spread the word and support each other here, and show everyone how much mil spouses have to offer, how we’re not at all the way stereotypes paint us to be, how diverse and talented and amazing we can be.

MilspoFan: https://milspofan.wordpress.com/
Time Now https://acolytesofwar.com/
Military Spouse Book Review https://militaryspousebookreview.com/

Learn more about Siobhan’s books at: http://siobhanfallon.com/books.html

Excerpt from You Know When the Men Are Gone, Siobhan Fallon

Three a.m. and breaking into the house on Cheyenne Trail was even easier than Chief Warrant Officer Nick Cash thought it would be. There were no sounds from above, no lights throwing shadows, no floorboards whining, no water running or the snicker of late-night TV laugh tracks. The basement window, his point of entry, was open. The screws were rusted, but Nick had come prepared with his Gerber knife and WD-40; got the screws and the window out in five minutes flat. He stretched onto his stomach in the dew-wet grass and inched his legs through the opening, then pushed his torso backward until his toes grazed the cardboard boxes in the basement below, full of old shoes and college textbooks, which held his weight.
He had planned this mission the way the army would expect him to, the way only a soldier or a hunter or a neurotic could, considering every detail that ordinary people didn’t even think about. He mapped out the route, calculating the minutes it would take for each task, considering the placement of streetlamps, the kind of vegetation in front, and how to avoid walking past houses with dogs. He figured out whether the moon would be new or full and what time the sprinkler system went off. He staged this as carefully as any other surveillance mission he had created and briefed to soldiers before.
Except this time the target was his own home.
. . .
He should have been relieved that he was inside, unseen, that all was going according to plan. But as he screwed the window back into place, he could feel his lungs clench with rage instead of adrenaline.
How many times had he warned his wife to lock the window? It didn’t matter how often he told her about Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, who had gained access to his victims through open basement windows. Trish argued that the open window helped air out the basement. A theory that would have been sound if she actually closed the window every once in a while. Instead she left it open until a rare and thundering storm would remind her, then she’d jump up from the couch, run down the steps, and slam it shut after it had let in more water than a month of searing-weather-open-window-days could possibly dry.
Before he left for Iraq, Nick had wanted to install an alarm system but his wife said no.
“Christ, Trish,” he had replied. “You can leave the windows and all the doors open while I am home to protect you. But what about when I’m gone?”
She glanced up at him from chopping tomatoes, narrowed her eyes in a way he hadn’t seen before, and said flatly, “We’ve already survived two deployments. I think we can take care of ourselves.”
Take care of this, Nick thought now, twisting the screw so violently that the knife slipped and almost split open his palm, the scrape of metal on metal squealing like an assaulted chalkboard. He hesitated, waiting for the neighbor’s dog to start barking or a porch light to go on. Again nothing. Nick could be any lunatic loose in the night, close to his unprotected daughter in her room with the safari animals on her wall, close to his wife in their marital bed.
Trish should have listened to him.
. . .
This particular reconnaissance mission had started with a seemingly harmless e-mail. Six months ago, Nick had been deployed to an outlying suburb of Baghdad, in what his battalion commander jovially referred to as “a shitty little base in a shitty little town in a shitty little country.” One of his buddies back in Killeen had offered to check on Trish every month or so, to make sure she didn’t need anything hammered or lifted
or drilled while Nick was away.
His friend wrote:
Stopped by to see Trish. Mark Rodell was there. Just
thought you should know.
That was it. That hint, that whisper.
Mark Rodell.

Coming June 27, 2017:
Excerpt from The Confusion of Languages, Siobhan Fallon

We are close, so close, to Margaret’s apartment, and I feel myself sink deeper into the passenger seat, relieved that I have succeeded in my small mission of getting Margaret out of her home, if only for a few hours. The day is a success. Sure, I
had to let her drive, something I usually avoid. Margaret is always too nervous, too chatty, looking around at the pedestrians, forgetting to put on her signal, stomping on the brakes too late. But today I actually managed to snap her out of her sadness.
I have done everything a good friend ought to do.
It’s not until we reach the intersection at Horreyya and Hashimeyeen that I realize my mistake. I’ve misjudged the time, something I never do. Friday prayers have already let out. We’d stopped by the ceramics house to pick up a box of pottery I’d
ordered and Margaret, being Margaret, sat down for too long with the hijab-ed women at their worktable, letting them touch Mather, pinching his cheeks and thighs, rubbing silica dust all over his tender baby skin. Now the intersection ahead is congested, chaotic. I see men strolling from the mosques, climbing into the cars they triple-parked along the main road.
I sit up straight, the seatbelt pressing against my chest. The traffic light turns yellow as we approach and cars alongside us speed by. Margaret could step on the gas and easily make the light but both of us see a man on the sidewalk, waving his
entire arm in the air.
“Just go—” I urge, but Margaret shakes her head, slowing the car, the corner of her mouth turning up.
“It’s uncanny how he always spots me.” She says something like this every single time and I usually reply, The man’s livelihood depends on his ability to spot the softhearted suckers. But today I am silent. Mather shouts from his car seat but she ignores him too.
Her window is down before we’ve come to a complete stop. The man reaches into the cluster of dented white buckets at his corner-side stand, pulls free a few dripping-wet bouquets, then dodges traffic until he’s at Margaret’s side. He leans through the window, wearing a red and white checked kaffiyeh around his throat. Margaret’s wallet is on her lap, ready.
“Hello, baby!” the man shouts at Mather, avoiding looking at both of us women with our loose hair and bared elbows. His flowers are spread perfectly across his arm, inches from the very face he will not to peer into. The car fills with the scent of crushed rose petals, exhaust, and his sweat, a faint mix of onions and soil. I do not point out that most of his offerings are wilted, tinged with brown. I notice the cluster of pristine white blossoms at the same time Margaret does, fragile, lacy blooms on very green stems, and she nods toward them, holding up her money. It takes only seconds.
As he passes the chosen bouquet to Margaret through the window, Mather yells again from the backseat, wanting something; that child is always wanting something. The man turns to the baby but he doesn’t stop there; he lifts his face and stares behind our car, his brown eyes widening with fear as he stumbles backward. Before I can look around, there is a ripping scream of brakes and our car leaps forward with a thud of crushed metal. Our heads rock on our spines and there are flowers in flight across the dashboard, white blossoms spread open like tiny, reaching hands.

#confusionoflanguages

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FORT BLISS

January 8th, 2015 — 5:28am

Nearly every time I gave a reading or discussion about You Know When the Men Are Gone, someone would inevitably ask me why I hadn’t written a story from a female soldier’s point of view. I just didn’t have the insight or the story to tell, I’d reply, a little ashamed of my lack of imagination. So as soon as I finished watching the powerful FORT BLISS, I wanted to reach across cyber-space, find all those people, and tell them to watch this film.
FORT BLISS is the story of a female medic who returns to Texas after a deployment and tries to salvage her strained relationship with her young son. The movie viscerally sums up everything I hoped to cram into my stories, that razor-edged tight rope walk of being part of the military community, either as service member or family member, during this prolonged period of war. It strikes the right note about deployment vs. home front, duty toward country vs. duty toward family, and everything in between, without getting clouded by politics or headlines. FORT BLISS is one of the most authentic pieces of art I’ve watched or read about our current military situation. Bravo to actress Michelle Monaghan and director Claudia Myers and everyone else who made this film happen.
This Army spouse is recommending it to everyone she knows.
Last I checked it was streaming on Netflix so everyone please take a look soon…

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What (Not) To Do On A Book Tour, Part 2

March 29th, 2011 — 12:43pm

DAY 1: Harker Heights Barnes & Noble, just outside of Fort Hood, Texas

Pure author bliss.

It’s not a bad idea to kick off the official tour in the place where you wrote the book, even though you will be incredibly nervous, thinking someone will throw Texas tomatoes at you (which are of course much bigger and much riper than anywhere else in the country because Texans do everything bigger and better), or, worse, no one will show up. But, maybe, there will a full house, even people standing up in the aisles, and they might seem to actually like your reading, gasping at just the right spots, acting like they want more. You even see a few of your old neighbors and gals from Alpha Company FRG (yay 2-7 Arrowhead!).

But just when you think you might have done everything right for one whole day of your life, I am going to remind you of something foolish you might have done earlier that afternoon. You may have driven around your old neighborhood in the incredibly obvious Lincoln Continental that your publishers sent to indulge you. Be warned that if you make that mistake and ask your driver to swing by your old house, he might decide to stop in the middle of the street and show you a picture of himself with Sean Puffy Combs from the last time Puff Daddy was doing a concert at Fort Hood. While the driver is scrolling through his cell phone pictures, you might see all the children in the neighborhood, who were just playing dodge ball on your old yard, stare at that big black car, then start to scatter for their homes, and it might even seem like they are screaming. That’s when you will ask your driver to hurry up and drive away but for some reason he will just take his time making a K turn in the middle of the street, then hand you his phone to show you a picture of his Texas-bred football playing son. I tell you all of this, because when you are smiling at Barnes and Noble, signing books and chatting away,  the woman who lives in your old house will peer at you, a little embarrassed, and asked if there is any chance that you drove by her house earlier? She will be with a couple other of your neighbors, who will also be staring at you a bit oddly. And you will feel yourself go all red and wonder if you should lie, but you will nod, and she will tell you how there has been a pedophile loose in a dark car, how the entire neighborhood was worried sick all day when their children came sprinting in talking about a big black car lurking.

This will now be part of your legacy, how you wrote a book about Fort Hood, and when you came back to town, you scared the hell out of all your neighbors’ kids.

But it will still have been a close-to-perfect day.

You might also be a bit nostalgic as you leave Fort Hood the next morning, wishing you had more time to get on base, to see the front gates and Battalion Avenue and those tanks and helicopters outside of the First Cav Museum that you wrote about. And you will close your eyes for a minute, think of the neighbors and FRG wives who now have soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, all those Fort Hood heroes, those soldiers and spouses and families, those who deployed, those who stayed, and be grateful to them.

DAY 2: Tattered Cover Books, Denver, Colorado

Marti and Charles at Tattered Cover-- the BEST!

This will be one of the most beautiful book stores you have ever seen. You’ll also get to hang out with Charles and Marti, who are the most enthusiastic, loveliest booksellers ever, and you will want to bring them back to your hotel, feed them chocolate, and listen to their author stories all night, they are that wonderful. I got to glimpse two branches of this fab indie—the cavernous, labyrinth, books-in-all-the-nooks one down town (LoDo location), where I got to sign a tremendous stack of You Know When the Men Are Gone, as well as the refitted old theater with the statue of an old man that you will be certain is a real old man (Colfax location). When that old man hasn’t moved a hair from the time you arrived until the time you are about to leave, you might wonder if you ought to alert a clerk that they have a corpse on the premises and wonder if you should really ruin your night by being the bearer of bad news. Fortunately Marty points him out definitively as a statue and the crisis is averted. (Podcast of the reading, minus any mention of the old man, can be found at http://authorsontourlive.com/siobhan-fallon-podcasts-you-know-when-the-men-are-gone/)

Day 3– Book Passage, Corte Madera/San Francisco, and Capitola Book Cafe, Capitola/Santa Cruz

Elaine and Karen, The Goddesses of Book Passage

Book Passage! Fabulous in every way! Elaine Petrocelli and her incredible staff  will make you feel doted upon and adored. Olivia Boler, your friend for a decade and one your best readers, gives you a smile and a thumbs up during your entire reading. Michael David Lukas, author of The Oracle of Stamboul, shows up and he has even brought his sweet mom to help cheer you on. As you leave, Book Passage packs you up a little to-go bag of goodness–soup! Two pints of it! I ask my kindly media contact, who drives me all the way from San Fran to Santa Cruz and back again, if he wants some, but I say it in the kind of way that definitely lets him know I really don’t want to share, sort of, “Um, you don’t want any of this spectacular soup that I am very quickly devouring, do you? Since, you know, you are driving on a windy California highway, and I have already put my dirty spoon into both pints?” He graciously demures.

KUSP 88.9 The Agony Column

(DO try to talk to Rick Klieffel of Agony Column/KUSP 88.9 if you are in Santa Cruz, he has the most amazing radio voice, asks really insightful questions that make you sound smarter and more thoughtful than you actually are, and he’s fun. Podcast of this interview can be found at the Feb 6, 2011 segment at http://www.kusp.org/shows/agony.html)

Lovely Tamera Walters of Capitola Book Cafe

Capitola Book Cafe will have been worth the drive. There might be another fantastic standing room only crowd.

Blue Star Moms

The Blue star Moms will be there talking about their soldier sons and daughters in Iraq and Afghanistan (more about their amazing charity at http://www.santacruzbluestarmoms.com/).

Defense Language Institute Ladies

And a bunch of your army spouse friends from the Defense Language Institute at Monterey might be there, having smushed into a big van to surprise you. It will be another great day altogether, actually,  it will all have been too good to be true so far, which is why you deserve what happens next at…

DAY 4: Powells at Cedar Hills Crossing, Portland, Oregon

Lydia's very nice mom.

You might be getting a little cocky there, cowgirl, thinking your boots are mighty nice. Which is when you ought to get your come-uppance. And it will come. Maybe at Powells in Portland, which is enormous and beautiful, and the event planner might have put out way too many chairs that will remain empty, even though you start your reading about fifteen  minutes late, hoping some stragglers will come by from the gaping wide entrance to the  mall beyond.

Be prepared, there is a chance you might actually get heckled. Maybe heckled is too cruel of a word, but while you are begging the five people in your audience to ask you a question (one of them is your husband’s wonderful second cousin, the other an army wife friend’s mother), three very pretty teenage girls will come strolling through, talking to each other loudly, and they will sit in the last row and begin elbowing each other, as if on some kind of dare, and then all three will shoot their arms in the air and since you are answering a question and don’t immediately call on them, they will start shouting out things. Like, “DID YOU WRITE A BOOK?” and/or “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” and even “IS THIS FICTION OR NONFICTION?” which will illicilt something like impressed high fives from her friends. At this point you might have forgotten what you were talking about, stop speaking, look at the teenagers, Irish skin of yours getting flushed and red, and you will feel like a teenager yourself that just slipped near the water fountain in the gym and landed on her butt. You answer all three of the teenagers questions, trying to be witty and self-deprecating in hopes that you will get a laugh, but you don’t get any laughs, you just get pitying looks from the five people in your audience, which makes you manically try to be even funnier but you are just not very funny to begin with on good days, and you will go back to your nice hotel room feeling very very tired and a little scared about the readings to come.  But come on, no more pity party, this is your dream, so you take a bath, tell yourself to buck up, and get ready for an incredibly early wake up call and the next day’s adventure in LA…

Links mentioned in this blog:

Market Heights B&N http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/68695

Tattered Cover http://www.tatteredcover.com/

Book Passage http://www.bookpassage.com/

Rick Kleffel and The Agony Column http://www.kusp.org/shows/agony.html and http://www.bookotron.com/agony/index.html

Santa Cruz Blue Star Moms http://www.santacruzbluestarmoms.com/

Capitola Book Cafe http://www.booksite.com/texis/scripts/community/eventcal.html?sid=4892&cal=1

Powell’s http://www.powells.com/

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Fun with War in Colorado…

October 14th, 2010 — 1:14pm

It seems like my first official on-site blog should address another first: attendance at a conference. Granted, it was a little bit like the rest of my life– half military, half civilian. It was the War, Literature, and the Arts Conference, held at The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Perhaps it was a strange introduction to writers’ conferences, but, as an army wife, everything bizarre about it was absolutely ordinary to me.

We had a rigid schedule; after showing identification and having our names checked off a list, we boarded a bus that took us through the guard gates and onto the Air Force Academy grounds. There were young, smiling cadets in their shiny dress blues, who made sure we crazy artists didn’t stumble off on our own and get lost on the parade grounds. We were not allowed to leave the main area of the conference EVER, unless guided by one of those cadets. Every sort of military uniform was represented among the attendees, from your current desert-ready Marine, Navy, and Army camouflage, to the snazzy dress blues that those Air Forcers shined up, to the office greens of the West Point English Department professors, to the strange little Star Trek outfits of even more of those adorable cadets. (Do I spot a trend? Am I in love with cadets? Perhaps. College students all over the world are doing keg stands and these cadets get up at 5 a.m, don uniforms, get into formation, debate Just War Theory, make out their wills, AND knowingly face deployments soon after graduation. From a gal who stupefied half of her brain cells in college, how can I not think these kids are super?)

 While some of the writers maybe have done a double-take at all the uniforms and rules, this is the world I am most comfortable in. The in-between life of military and ordinary. The guard gates, the imposing face of military buildings, even the awkward mouthfuls of acronyms, make me feel safe. As do the salutes and disciplined ‘yes, sirs’ overheard at every turn. And I always feel relieved talking to people whose daily lives have been impacted by deployments, who feel lucky to spend Thanksgiving and Christmases with their spouses and kids: after a few short sentences we know that we share many experiences. We understand so much about each other immediately.

Cadets sat in the back of the lecture halls, drinking their Gatorades and chewing their gum like students who spent the previous night cramming everywhere else in the world. There was a sprinkling of more weathered military faces in the crowds, with rows of medals on their chests. There were a lot of men, yes, but also a lot of women. Women who were Air Force professors or Air Force students. Women who were instructors at small mid-western colleges and taught War Literature courses. Women poets. Women writers who had nothing to do with the military, and women writers who were military spouses like me. Sometimes the presenters wore uniforms, most often they did not. And while the themes might have been related to war, there was no topic that was off limits. Here we were, standing on official military property, near huge American flags and a hallway lined with paintings of American Air Force Deans who kept their students in tip-top order, yet everyone, from cadets timidly raising their hands, to poets reading anti-war comedic riffs, were able to speak their mind. Even within the rank and file world of the military, all types, religions, and political parties, were represented.

Ultimately, military-themed or not, I had the time of my life.  Like I imagine most other conferences to be, there was a well defined delineation between the Famous and the Unfamous. The Famous were the key notes who dabbled in war: from Benjamin Busch, war photographer, ex-marine, actor and director; Mark Boal, previously embedded journalist-turned-screenwriter of Academy Award winning The Hurt Locker; Dexter Filkins, renowned foreign correspondent from The New York Times and author of the book The Forever War; and Brain Turner, Army veteran, of Here, Bullet and other acclaimed books of poetry. They had an entourage of dress-blued majors and colonels showing them around, they went to nice restaurants that required reservations, they did not take the bus with the rest of us, they did not stay at the Embassy Suites but somewhere rumored to have leather couches and personal Jacuzzis.

The Unfamous lapped up the “manager’s special” at the Embassy Suites and listened to spastically bad karaoke at the hotel bar afterwards (except for that dapper older gentleman who sang Sinatra. Thank you, handsome septuagenarian with your gold cuff links and suave twirling of your microphone!). But we Unfamous had fun, dammit. I hung out with a brilliant non-brat pack: Matt Gallagher of the electrifying war memoir Kaboom: Embracing the Suck of a Savage Little War, poet Victor Inzunza, literary critic Matt Hill, poet and English professor Bradley Johnson, Australian iCinema researcher Timothy Barker, fiction writer James Moad. We talked war and writing, MFA programs and literary magazines, new books and old, and, most informative for me, even after my third glass of Chardonnay, we took notes as Matt Gallagher, whose book came out a few months ago, told us about his book tour and what worked best when he gave a reading.

Reading an excerpt of You Know When the Men Are Gone.

On the final day of the conference, I shared a panel with Matt Gallagher and James Moad. I hadn’t read any of my fiction in almost a decade, but I managed to stand up, read an excerpt, and I didn’t die. People even made eye contact with me afterwards and claimed that they just might order my book.

When the conference was finished, we Unfamous hopped on our bus and rode away from the military installation, the Air Force Academy and its strange nuclear silo-looking cadet chapel safely disappearing behind its check points and mountains. We grabbed our bags from the hotel, shared a long cab ride to the airport, talked excitedly about the conference, swapped business cards, promised to find each other on Facebook. We went through security, stripping off our shoes and belts and lap tops, forgetting perhaps, that all of these new security measures are a result of recent wars (no one had given a lecture about TSA).

We went directly to the airport gift shop, buying Colorado themed stuffed animals and t-shirts, admitting sheepishly that we were excited to fly home to our families. We did not run into any of the Famous when we boarded Economy Class.

And I? Well, I returned, very happily, to my mostly civilian world.

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