Release day is the day I normally show you the cuts that didn’t make it into the final story, but for Cinderella Wore Combat Boots, I can’t do that.
Okay, not what you think. This is the first story that went so smoothly while I was writing it, I honestly didn’t have any big chunks to cut. Really. Every word I penned was a joy. I pounded away at the keyboard, laughing my ass off while I captured the personalities of my reluctant Cinderella on paper.
Since this is a military story, I’m dipping into my journal from my Army days, and I’m going to give you a little taste of life while I was enlisted. One of these entries actually made it into a story I’m currently working on.
The reason I originally kept a journal wasn’t because I was a writer, it was to keep my sanity. I still can remember the day I wrote this piece twenty-two years ago, sitting on the floor, leaning against the washing machine in the barracks on a Sunday afternoon during basic training. Because we couldn’t sit on our bunks, nor did we have any other free time to write, and you just didn’t leave your laundry unattended unless you wanted someone to steal it, I sat down with my notebook and scrawled my experiences down.
Bear in mind, this was written right after it happened and the notes here are just that, notes. It’s not an edited story, but a simple journal entry tweaked to make it reader-friendly, and recently copied from a notebook found stuffed under the bed—if that tells you anything.
Here’s the first excerpt:
“Get off the bus!” A man poked his head in the pale green Army bus. His brown felt hat shadowed his eyes. “I didn’t stutter. I said move it.”
We jumped to life in mass confusion, grabbing for duffle bags, suitcases and other belongings.
“If I have to tell you one more time, it’s going to be a very long night. Move it!”
The passengers panicked some dropping things in the rush to get off. Two other Drill Sergeants in brown hats waited outside, yelling orders, lining everyone up on a painted yellow line that ran across the pavement in front of us.
I looked down at my luggage, which sat on the ground beside me. Damn. I’d left my hat on the bus.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” The voice hit me like a wall of concrete.
“I left my…,” I spluttered
“Whatever you left, forget it. You ain’t gonna need it now.”
“You heard me! I didn’t ask you anything. If I don’t ask you anything, you don’t talk. Do you understand?”
I felt tears well up in my eyes and I nodded, looking down.
“I asked you a question,” Smokey the Bear barked. “Let’s try this again. Do you understand?” He dipped down and looked up into my face. “What are you doing? Look at me when I talk to you,” the drill instructor’s voice pounded at me. “You ain’t nothing.”
“Yes, sir,”I mumbled.
“What! What? I ain’t no sirrrr. I’m a sergeant. From here on out you will address me as drill sergeant. Do you understand? Nod that head one more time and you’ll be holding up earth all night.” His breath was in my face, so close I could taste what had been on the menu that night.
“Yes drill sergeant.”
“Yesss drill sergeant,” he mimicked me in a whiney female voice. “Grab some balls when you answer me.”
I didn’t have balls so I wasn’t quite sure what the hell it was he wanted. “Yes, sir I mean drill sergeant,” I said a little louder and glanced toward the end of the line where someone had snickered.
Okay, some of you may wonder what a First Sergeant is. Cori Valentine in Cinderella Wore Combat Boots is of that rank. In the Army and Marines they are an E-8, enlisted rank—non-commissioned officer. They usually have combat experience and are tough as they come. First Sergeants have three chevrons on the top, three rockers on the bottom and a diamond in the middle of their rank. They are the highest ranking non-com in the company and represent the commander when he isn’t present. Your First Sergeant can be your best ally, or worst enemy. They don’t take shit from anyone, and they’ve earned the right. Here’s a bit from a WIP I’m working on where you meet one of my favorite First Sergeants from my Army days. The real deal was really a big teddy bear, but he did have that eye thing going.
Here’s an Excerpt from One Shot, a WIP:
“Good morning, Charlie Company,” the first sergeant barked.
“Good morning, first sergeant.”
“As you’ve noticed we have females in the ranks.” He paced along the front of the formation and stopped in front of Smitty, giving her an up and down appraisal. “The Army in its infinite wisdom has decided to train them to be snipers and quarter them with infantry.” He turned and continued back the other way. “You will treat them with respect as you would any male soldier. There will be no fraternization with the female trainees. They’re here to become snipers and to infantry soldiers, not get dates. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, first sergeant,” the formation yelled out.
“Parade rest.” We stepped out, spreading our legs and placing our arms behind us.
“We have three instructors who will be in charge of our female trainees and will be with them every step of the way. I don’t care that our instructors are here for the specialized training, if they tell you to do something, do it.”
“Yes first Sergeant.”
As he began to introduce them, my heart leapt into my throat. There he stood. Tall, dark, dangerous—and off limits.
Off Limits’s eyes swept over the formation and stopped to rest on me. The corner of his mouth curled. I could swear heat sparked in their depths, sending my stomach tumbling.
This time his jaw was clean-shaven, his hair cut short. He wore it well. It was hard not to stand there and drool like an idiot. Somehow I managed to keep it off my chin.
There was no mistaking he was a soldier today. In the daylight, he looked twice as lethal. He raised a brow and then had the nerve to wink. The last thing I heard the first sergeant say was his name, “Staff Sergeant. Perez.”
“Shit,” I muttered. An instructor, Rachel?
“Do you have something to say, Sergeant Davis?” The first sergeant homed in on me like a laser-guided missile. Damn, the man had excellent hearing. Not good. First day, bad impression. Oops.
“No, first sergeant.”
“In the infantry, we don’t talk in formation unless we’re addressed.”
“Yes, first sergeant.”
“Do you think you’re special, Sergeant Davis?”
“No, first sergeant.”
The next words from his mouth seemed to blast across the post. “Seems we’ve got a celebrity in our company.”
My heart skipped several beats. How’d he know my secret? Not even my prior unit, or my best friend Smitty knew.
The first sergeant bulldozed his way through the ranks to get to me, not bothering to go around. He went nose to nose, an inch from my face. His breath smelt like a mixture of Copenhagen and toothpaste. One eye looked forward, spearing straight through me, the other drifted off, looking somewhere to the right, almost skyward. Any other time and I might have been distracted and stared, it was hard not to, but the fact that the man scared the piss out of me, seemed to be enough. Still, it took all my strength not to shift my gaze to the ground. Instead, I fixed my attention on an object in the distance and prayed he didn’t notice.
So now you know where the inspiration for Cinderella Wore Combat Boots came from. I hope you enjoyed my post and don’t forget to purchase a copy to help wounded warriors. All the proceeds I earn from the sale of this story will go to The Wounded Warrior Project.
Stop by my website, http://authordljackson.com to check out the book trailer for Cinderella Wore Combat Boots and also take a sneak peek at my future release with Decadent, This Endris Night.
D L Jackson.