Monday’s Friend: Stan Hampton Sr
Today my guest is MuseItUp author Stan Hampton Sr, whose real-life stories are as interesting as his fictional ones. And he’s going to tell us one. Welcome, Stan!
The Writing Life
By Stan Hampton Sr.
Good morning fellow writer, and reader.
It is Sunday morning. After a little over two years of officially being a homeless Iraq War veteran, and living in a small complex for homeless veterans next to one of Las Vegas’ major homeless corridors, I am now living several miles away in a weekly—that is a cross between an apartment and a motel, and bureaucratically speaking is considered one step above homelessness. I am making breakfast for myself and one of my children who is now living with me because they are separated from their spouse. And I have to take my 16-year old car for a fluid check before getting an oil change next month, and then today with my grandchildren from that now sundered marriage, I have to do a lot of photography to catch up on classes and meet current deadlines so that I can finally graduate with an Associates in Photography. And double-check the account of a bank I despise because I do not have a job and am living off of a Pell Grant and student loans until my monthly retirement pay starts, plus using the funds for my photography expenses—talk about being in a neck-to-neck race. And somewhere in all of this, get in some more editing on my second novel so I can submit that to my publisher (my publisher and I still haven’t completed the edits on my first novel).
No, I think that is it.
So, what does all of this have to do with The Writing Life?
Ah, well, I am not sure. But let us take a look at this together.
I have wanted to be a writer since I was 15 years old. Of course, once I saw a documentary about photographers that included a guy photographing a bikini-clad woman dancing on a beach, I wanted to do that too.
I became an Army-trained photographer. No bikini-clad women dancing on a beach there—there was sitting in the doorway of a Huey helicopter with my boots on the skids, and leaning out to get a vertical photograph during a training mission. And one time, in real-life, standing with one boot on the wall of a Chinook helicopter and one boot on the floor, leaning over the open side door to photograph a military airplane crash in which two people died.
There were good times though. Being stationed in Europe for five years provided plenty of photographic opportunity, not to mention 13 years in Colorado Springs.
But, I was 38 years old before my first fiction writing was published. Another 10 years passed before my second writing was published. Since 2002, the number of publishing credits have climbed until my first novel was accepted for publication later this year. (I dislike editing, and editing a novel takes so long compared to short stories and novellas.)
Life has been challenging for me, as I am sure it has been for many of you.
My point is, do not give up. Prioritize and keep going—this may be difficult, but if you believe in yourself, and you have stories to tell, do not give up. If anything, observe everything around you, even when times are difficult. There is no telling when your observations and emotions can be worked into your writing. And if you keep working at your craft, you will find a publisher who also believes in you.
But do not expect to get rich overnight. Very few do. Finding some financial success requires a lot of marketing, a lot of public relations. But, do not give up.
Oh, yeah—if you promise someone a blog submission and say you will have it to them no later than 10 days before the blog date, prioritize. Ensure you meet that goal. No matter what the circumstances, do not wait until the day before. Yeah.
And, hi Sara-Jayne. Here is my submission. Thank you for the opportunity. You, and everyone, have a great week!
“Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot.”
Ed. Joelle Walker. MuseItUp Publishing, June 2012.
Sergeant Jerry Stanton is a young soldier serving in the War in Iraq. He is a gunner on a gun truck nicknamed “Lucky Bear,” one of those tireless workhorses that escort supply convoys from camps in Kuwait to destinations scattered throughout the war-torn country. In the early morning hours before a scheduled mission, a dust storm howls across his camp and threatens to bring convoy operations to a halt. Worse, the camp receives word that a gunner from his company was killed by an IED while on a convoy mission. Unlike most soldiers, Jerry doesn’t carry a lucky charm, but upon receiving news of the death of the gunner, he begins to mull over/ponder the merit/virtue of a good luck charm—only, what would work for him? Perhaps mail call will provide the answer.
“People like a happy ending.”
Sergeant Jerry Stanton, an M4 Carbine slung across his chest, glanced at the dark form that trudged alongside him in the hot, early morning darkness. It was all the darker for the dust storm howling across the small camp, a dusty and sandy convoy support center, CSC, a mile south of the Iraqi border. He placed his hand over the tall styrofoam coffee cup from the messhall that was open at all hours to serve those about to head out on a mission. He felt the itchy dust filtering down his back, along his arms, and coating his fingers.
In spite of his short time deployed to Kuwait, he had learned that dust storms were worse than sand storms; they were hot and itchy while the sand storms stung exposed skin and chilled the air. Breakfast was good but tasted flat, more due to the question of whether their mission would be a go or no-go because of the storm that roared out of the midnight darkness hours before.
“People like a happy ending,” the soldier repeated. He was a gunner from another gun truck as the squat, venerable M1114 HMMWVs, which were never meant to be combat vehicles, were called. He held up a rabbit foot that spun frantically in the wind and added, “I like a happy ending. Especially now.” They rounded the corner of a small building, actually a renovated mobile home trailer with a covered wooden porch lit by a bare electric bulb. The gunner pointed to a small black flag, suspended from a log overhang, flapping furiously in the wind.
“Oh shit.” Jerry sighed as a cold chill raced through him.
“It’s been there for an hour or so,” the soldier said as he enclosed the rabbit’s foot within both hands and brought it up to his lips as if to kiss it. He glanced at Jerry. “I’m not superstitious, but still, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a lucky charm. You know?”
“Yeah.” Jerry nodded as he watched the twisting flag. “I know.”
The soldier looked once more at the black flag and then walked toward the shower and restroom trailers beyond which were the air-conditioned sleeping tents they called home…
Available from MuseItUp Publishing
SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. Second-career goals include becoming a painter and studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology. After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of April 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.
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