Friday, August 26, 2016

Moving to Segliman,Az.

Pulling out early from Kingman, Arizona, once again the thrill of being on the road rushed through me like adrenaline.  As my music blasted ,  my mind  reviewed  the   past  events which brought me to this mile marker in my life. My heart thumped so happily I feared it might explode as I cruised down the interstate.

Though I had visited before I exited at Seligman, Arizona. The ninety-degree temperature enveloped me as I climbed out of my rig. I shot a couple of photos and I decided The Black Cat Bar across the street would offer a cold Coke and maybe interesting conversation.

Pool tables occupied much of the dimly lit space. A   young man at the bar carried on a conversation with the barmaid. I took a barstool leaving one empty between the man and me.

“She only six weeks old, but she is big,”   The man pulled a photo from his pocket and handed it to the barmaid.

“Aaah. She’s so cute.”  She handed picture back. “Yes, she’s going to be big.”   She looked up at me, “What’ll it be?”

“Just a diet Coke, please.”

The man paused and reached over and handed it to me.

A blonde lab puppy with shiny black eyes and nose gazed at me. Her head rested on her huge paws. “Oh my. It’s a puppy.  I thought you were talking about a baby.”

 “That’s Zena. That’s his baby,” The bar maid chuckled as she set my   Coke on a Route 66 napkin. Melting crushed ice dripped down the glass and soaked into the paper coaster.

 I handed the photo back and he gently slid it back in his pocket.

 I figured I had been introduced to his dog, I could ask questions.  “Do you live here in Seligman?”

“I do, just go past the general store about a quarter of a mile.”

“This is a great small town. What brought you out here?”

 He told me how he worked for his folks who had a flooring business for many years in Lake Havausu, Arizona.  Mom and Dad were getting on in age and they began talking retirement. 

“Dad invested over a three hundred thousand in ten acres and the materials to build a retirement home.

“That’s great. I would pick a town like this to retire to, also,” I said.

Dad was diagnosed with cancer shortly after he started building. In the hospital, he came down with MRSA, too. After several months, he quit going out to work on the house.  After dinner one night   he said, “I’ll never finish the house in Seligman.” A heavy silence settled in the room and I shivered.  Dad pushed himself slowly from the table and went out to the barn with the horses. The peal  of the gunshot burst into the dining room, followed by the  old mare's whinny. We found his body draped over a bale of hay, a bullet to his head.”
   “I am so sorry. That’s so sad. My husband suffered from lung cancer, and I expected him to do the same. He even said he would, if the pain was too much to bear. Luckily he didn’t.  But at the end of his illness, every day, when I came home from work, I took a deep breath, steeled myself for what I might find, before I came through the back door.

“From that point on, I drank all the time and if anyone mentioned my dad, I burst into a rage. I spent more time in jail than out from drinking and fighting”

The boy stared into his beer, remembering. His wife left him and went to California to go to law school in San Diego.   

One day his mother called him over to her writing desk.  “Son, the family   decided if you want to you can have the house in Seligman. She leaned aside and slid a check to the edge of the desk. “Here’s $30,000.00. The house and land is yours. Go out there and finish it.”

“I stared at her.  My life was going nowhere and worst of all I didn’t care.”  He twisted on the barstool and took a long drink from his beer. “The idea of going out there pulled at me. I seized it, loaded up my clothes and tools and was gone the next day.  I worked from daylight to dusk. It was just what I needed. The ache in me eased as the house took form.” He smiled at me. His presence radiated a simple pride and confidence.

 “I work at the Grand Canyon Caverns. My wife came back to live with me. She couldn’t stand the hustle and bustle of the big city. She works at the general store.”

“Wow. What an amazing story,” I hesitated hoping he would understand my next question.  “Did you thank your father?”

 He nodded with a smile more to himself. “I did.”

 “And now you have a new baby.” I grinned at him. “And a wonderful life. I am so happy for you.”

I drained the last of my Coke, shook hands with him and the barmaid. “It has been so nice getting to know you. Thank you so much for sharing your story.”

I pushed the door open to the harsh sunshine. The contrast struck me. In the coolness of the shadowy bar, I had just traveled along a crooked footpath with this young man. I followed him as he stumbled along, finding his way to Route 66 with all of its untold stories of challenges, and then emerging into a promising new world.

 Stepping out into the sunshine, I too, confronted historic Route 66, which would lead me, one mile at a time, to a destination that made no promises.

In this mystery-romance, widow Judy Howard drives her RV along Route 66, encountering the ghosts of her teenage past when she was drugged, raped, and forced to undergo an illegal abortion.
         Tragedy strikes when Judy is drugged and date raped on a Saturday night in the parking lot of the town’s roller rink. But her high school crush Brad comes to her rescue, helping her deal with the crime perpetrated against her, even going as far as to arrange an abortion for her, though the practice is illegal. Judy must live in fear as the drug prevented her from knowing the identity of her attacker. Racked by guilt over the abortion and panic over the sexual assault, she accepts a college offer in California and flees to West Coast.
         After four decades of marriage, her husband dies and a high school reunion invitation from Brad threatens to shatter her illusory peace. Nonetheless, she summons up the courage to go, loading up her motor home and heading out on Route 66 with her cat named Sportster.
            Judy Howard is a writer whose debut novel is fictional, even if she happens to share the same name as her protagonist. She has traveled alone in her motor home with her cat, Sportster, throughout the country.

Sportster the cat had always envied the huge cats who lived the big life in the jungle until opportunity sends the motorhome in which he travels veering into a roadside ditch. When strangers whisk away not only his Winnebago, but also his chauffer, Judy, he is alarmed. However, once the dust settles, he purrs a happy tune as he discovers he is free! I He is in the wild! And he is in the Olympic Forest!

ACTIVATE LION MODE is just what Sportster does as he spins this yarn in his own words. Living wild and free brings on encounters he never have imagined. The life he dreamed becomes an adventure full of bears, pit bulls, drugs and more. Sportster weaves this story of his incredible journey as only a coddled cat of leisure can do.


When her husband of twenty-five years, Jack, passes away, Howard is faced with an overwhelming sense of loss. She takes to the road in her Winnebago on a journey of self-discovery accompanied by her cat, Sportster, and Jack Incarnate, a life-size stuffed doll she creates with an eerie resemblance to her late husband. During their travels she and Sportster experience the beauty of the land as she resolves her troubled memories through conversations with the doll. She comes to terms with her deep love for her husband despite the abuse that was part of their relationship and discovers how she became a stronger woman for it.

“The book is a narrative, both of physical travel and of emotional and spiritual evolvement,” says Howard. “It leads the reader through the hills and valleys and provides insights to fear and bravery.”

Howard aims to weave an emotionally-charged narrative with humorous anecdotes and a unique perspective on life, engaging and inspiring the reader. She looks to take the readers on a ride into her new stage of life, through the joys of travel, over unexpected bumps in the road with glimpses of the world through her eyes and even the eyes of her cat to a final destination that is hope.

Masada, a bumbling golden retriever puppy, struggles through eighteen months of training to become a lifeline for a veteran with PTSD.
As part of her training, the puppy is assigned to prison life, where she matures and adapts to the cold concrete life of confinement and experiences hair-raising risks, tension, and the ache of loneliness.
She forms unusual bonds, first with Roy, her inmate trainer, and in the end, the total prison population as well.  

When she walks point for her veteran down the graduation aisle, an awe of respect silences the crowd.

Will the readers also be led down the wedding aisle?  Brad and Judy, founders of the K9s for Warriors training facility,  who have reunited after a forty-year separation, face monumental responsibilities that test their relationship as they try to build the dog-training program for veterans.

A touching yet educational story, about the world of service dogs who save veteran lives.


When the subject of our military arose, I proudly stated my patriotic views and gave a blanket, but silent ‘thank you’ to all who lost their lives to keep me safe. My heart twisted in sadness every Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I consider myself an average American.

              When I decided to write MASADA’S MARINE, I imagined it as a nice story about a puppy named Masada who grows up to become a service dog and changes the lives of two men.

              One man, who began his life as a patriotic boy, graduates high school, starts his own family and becomes a gung-ho Marine. The young man has everything to live for until he comes home from his first tour in Iraq with PTSD and loses it all, even his will to live.

              Another man, who began life as the son of a drug addicted mother, learns how to fight a war of survival on the streets and exists inside a life of crime. The pressures of the young man’s illicit career takes its toll, and he ends up in prison, defeated. He, too, has nothing to live for.

              As I penned my story, the characters took on lives of their own and demanded that this not be a nice story about a man and his dog. During hours of research and interviews the characters became people, electric with emotions, and sometimes terrifying, like the firefight that promises only one victor. As I learned more about the invisible disease, PTSD, the story’s heartbeat pulsed out of my control, like the disease itself.

              Masada and her littermates, the real heroes in this drama, matured into valuable service dogs. They changed not only the characters’ lives, but my life as well. I am no longer the silent American. I hope Masada will change your life, too.

Every hour a veteran takes his own life.


Author, Judy Howard’s mailing address is Sun City, California, but you will rarely find her there. Instead, you might find the top ranking Amazon author strapped in at the race track ready to check out the Mario Andretti Racing Experience or cruising  down Route  66. 

Of one thing, you can be sure she is living up to a quote by Henry Thoreau, Howard questions, “How vain is it to sit down and write, when you have not stood up to live?”


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