I was born in Indiana when dinosaurs walked the earth. In those ancient times, it was not uncommon for young lower-middle-class women to be told that they should either learn to type or study to be a nurse. I did both.
So eager was I to leave the flatlands and travel the world, that I believed an Army recruiter who told me he could snag me a hitch in Hawaii or Germany or, at the very least, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, if I just signed this little paper.
Alas, it was a pack of damned lies.
I was walking primly down the aisle of my nursing school's chapel, white cap on my head and spanking new diploma in my hot little hand, when Hey, Presto! The military snatched me up, cross-dressed me, and shipped me off to Viet Nam.
In that strange, backward, put-upon country, I spent a year and a month covered in blood and amorous men. I ultimately married one of the latter. Many, many, many years later, I still can't get rid of the silly man.
Life got complicated, as life always does. I earned a BA in journalism over 16 years while birthing and raising three kids, spending a year in the Peace Corps, working as an RN, writing for local newspapers, volunteer-coordinating just about anything volunteer-coordinate-able, singing in dives, telling children's stories, and moving eight or nine times to keep up with my husband's career.
Then, at last, we landed in a town near Boston and stayed for 25 years. This gave me time, between working and mothering, to sit at the computer. I churned up a pile of reject slips and one major acceptance: A collection of short stories about medical types in combat hospitals. It's called 'Don't Mean Nothing,' and it was originally published in 2001 by Ballantine Books, a month after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Like everything published at that troubled time, it went nowhere.
Except...my intrepid agent Nat Sobel managed to sell it to Black Swan books in the UK. Where it went nowhere.
I nagged my team at Ballantine to sell the paperback rights for educational purposes. They did; UMass Press bought them at almost the exact time that Ballantine/Random House downsized my team out of existence.
In time, I got those rights back, and a small press in NJ, Serving House Books, put out a new, expanded edition--two more stories--and electronic versions. It's still for sale through Serving House, and you can now buy it for Kindle, Nook, and a number of other popular ebooks.
Buy it here. Enjoy it. But be aware that, like all fiction, Don't Mean Nothing is a pack of damned lies.
We are now well-launched into the 21st Century. The kids have flown, and that aforementioned husband and I have retired to Brooklyn. HE has retired, that is; I still hunker down with my computer. I have helped edit books, and I put out blog essays now and then, thanks to that year so long ago that we spent in the Peace Corps, on a site called Peace Corps Worldwide--http://peacecorpsworldwide.org . I recently gathered up and polished a number of non-fiction pieces--from this and an earlier blog, as well as a few obscure literary magazines--into a collection called 'Calling New Delhi for Free, [and other ephemeral truths of the 21st Century].' The Peace Corps Writers imprint graciously put it into print (and, soon, into several popular electronic formats).
Calling New Delhi's essays are linked loosely to the theme of Technology, and what it does to us poor, clueless mortals. You do not have to embrace--or even like--Technology to enjoy the book. The pieces are short and mostly humorous, and...well, you can read about it on the book page itself. Or find a sample on my home page, http://susanoneill.us .
It is--surprise!--a pack of damned truths.