AUTHOR: SS Hampton, Sr.
BOOK TITLE: Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot
GENRE: Military Fiction
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing
BUY LINK: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museitup/mainstream/better-than-a-rabbit-s-foot-detail
Please tell us about yourself.
I am a Choctaw from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to numerous grandchildren, a published writer and photojournalist, and a retired Army veteran. I served in the active duty Army 1974-1985, Army Reserve 1985-1995, and the Nevada Army National Guard 2004-2013. For almost three years after joining the Guard I was mobilized for active duty, including a deployment to Iraq 2006-2007. I retired in July 2013. I graduated from college with an Associates in Photography in May 2014. I also hope to someday discover a hidden talent in painting.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
I am now a full-time writer (or will be). Until I graduated from college in May 2014 I was a full-time college student. The decision to attend college full time was due to being unable to find a job after returning from my deployment in the summer of 2007. However, I generally do not organize my writing time. I write when the mood strikes me—usually in the evening. Sometimes I write until midnight or much later.
What are your thoughts about promotion?
Essential, perhaps more essential than writing itself. I say that because after having becoming a published writer in 2002 (I was published once in 1992), and being published by small presses, I see how important it is to a writer’s success. I am published by three small presses, plus I have had stories accepted for several anthologies. Based on my interaction with many other writers, promotions (marketing/public relations) is a driving force comparable to the art of writing. Without promotions, without getting your name out there for the reading public to know you and your work, you are dead in the water. You are a triceratops caught in a prehistoric tar pit.
What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?
Actually, I cannot think of any. Maybe it is because of my age or my life experience. I recall one reviewer referred to a short story I wrote as being “boring” or “disappointing”—something like that. Other than a brief mumble about the reviewer, I kept going. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. No one writes a winner every time. Besides, I have the best validation there is—my publisher sees sales potential in my writing and believes in me. And, what is literary criticism compared to some of the crap I have been through in my life? For example, right now I am practically destitute except for money I have borrowed from family and friends, due to a slow moving military retirement pay bureaucracy. I even have an Indiegogo campaign going to raise survival funds until my retirement backpay is finally processed by the bureaucracy. Financial worry is a depressing, every day fact of my life. So yes, what is criticism compared to “real life?” I’ll take criticism any day of the week over depression and financial worry. As for the biggest compliment, likewise, nothing stands out in my mind.
Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
Ah, not really. I write military fiction because I know the military. I drew upon my experience and emotions when writing about a young soldier (okay, I am not young) at a convoy support center, preparing to go on a convoy security escort mission into Iraq. I only went on three short missions into Iraq, but I know the emotions associated with such operations. I know the emotions of running my fingers across a Celtic Cross that I always wore with my “dog tags” (identification tags in case something happens and there isn’t much identifiable physical remains left). I know the emotions of learning of the death of a comrade. Writing Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot, in a sense, reawakened many emotions and memories, and I was able to draw upon those while writing.
What are your current projects?
I still have to edit a short story about World War II German soldiers on the Russian Front, with a healthy dose of the supernatural/unknown included. To me, war and the supernatural go hand in hand. Then I will return to editing a novella of World War II German soldiers in North Africa with—you guessed it—a healthy dose of the supernatural/unknown included. Then I will start on the third novel in a series about the adventures of an ordinary husband and wife in Kansas.
What do you plan for the future?
Write full time, photograph when I can (after I get my camera equipment out of the pawn shop), and plan on attending a university in the spring of 2015. I haven’t decided whether to study photography or archaeology, or creative writing.
Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
Better Than a Rabbit’s Foot takes place in 2006 at a convoy support center just south of the Iraqi border. It is about a young soldier preparing to go on a convoy security escort mission into Iraq right after he learns that a soldier from his company has been killed by an IED. This results in some thought about what a good luck charm is, and in particular about a young woman waiting for him to return from the war.
What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
I had the basic idea, developed the characters and plot, including an outline, and wrote it. And of course, plenty of editing before I submitted it to MuseItUp Publishing for consideration. Not only do I dislike editing, but I can take forever to edit, picking over grammar, punctuation, etc. As a result, I limit myself to three edits before sending it out. Then of course, there was working with an MIU editor, and coordinating with an artist assigned for the cover. Sometimes working with the editor required some negotiation, meaning military slang and usage as opposed to grammatically correct spelling and wording. There was a last MIU editorial sweep after we finished the edits, and finally my last examination before it went to “print.” Maybe better, before it went to “digits.”
Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
Not really. It is a work of current military fiction, which I am very familiar with. It also takes place at a convoy support center, where I was posted during my 2006-2007 deployment. So, overall, no, not a whole lot of research.
Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
Not in the least. Sexual scenes have become fun to write since I now leave the bedroom door open for the reader. If writing of violence, it has to be an integral part of the story and be justified. The violence I have written so far is associated with war rather than something like domestic violence or a brutal serial killer. Anyway, violence or sex are both an integral part of the human psyche and human experience. So no, writing such scenes do not bother me.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The emotion associated with losing a soldier. During my deployment 2006-2007, we were within 30 days of returning home when we lost a young soldier from our company. He was killed by an IED.
What books have most influenced your life?
There is no book that has influenced my life; there are books that influenced my interest, both personally and professionally. The first was the non-fiction book, The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them, by Eugene Kogon. He was a political prisoner and a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp. That was my introduction to Nazism, the extermination and concentration camps, and the SS. At the age of 12, I was stunned by the level of brutality capable by the human race against each other. 1984 was an amazing book, a fictional look at a level of totalitarianism comparable in some respects to the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. The spirit of 1984 was like a looming shadow present in the chaos of the 1960s with the protests against the Vietnam War, and the developing lack of trust in the government by my generation. The Centurions by Jean Larteguy was my introduction to the French Indo-China War and the French Algerian War, which were both far different from the American experience of fast-moving armored warfare and conquering enemy-held territory. Finally, there is Street Without Joy, a non-fiction book about the French Indo-China War by Bernard B. Fall. I had the sense, when reading this book, that no matter what the French did, the end had already been decreed by Fate, like an unavoidable Greek tragedy.
Describe your writing space.
I recently moved, and due to financial challenges outside of my control, I have been unable to get my stuff out of storage. That also translates into being not being able to work on my writing. About all I can do is research, outline, and write guest blog posts. Anyway, my current writing space is sitting at an island that separates the kitchen and living room, watching a lot of Netflix, DVDs, and Cable TV. Unfortunately this arrangement is likely to last a few weeks more.
“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…
Stan 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 Nevada 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) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.
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.
In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).
After 13 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, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.
Hampton can be found at:
Dark Opus Press
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing
Amazon.com Author Page
Amazon.com. UK Author Page
Goodreads Author Page