Saturday, June 12, 2010
GetToKnowTheBook: 'All the Good Men' by Cindy Jacks
My novel, All the Good Men, centers around two characters who find love while dealing with the challenges of life at middle-age. Dahlia Foster is a florist who owns her own shop and Jackson Carmichael is firefighter. The two meet when Jackson moves in next door to Dahlia.
Though there are lots of scenes I love about this book—if I do say so myself, lol—my favorite scene has to be the 'training burn' because it's based on a real life experience. I'm in a committed relationship with a firefighter and was fortunate enough to attend a training situation in which a fire was set under a controlled situation to train the new recruits. The sheer amount of practice and study that goes into becoming a firefighter is amazing, but when face with the reality of the job they do, I was floored.
Since it was Community Day, we had a company veteran give us a walk-through of the practice building that would be set ablaze. Aside from being dark and foul-smelling—due to having been charrred repeatedly—it also set off my mild claustrophobia. I couldn't imagine entering the building as it burned while wearing sixty pounds of personal protective gear. The experience gave me a whole new respect for that the men and women of fire and rescue squads all over the country do.
When I returned home from the training burn, I added the following scene to All the Good Men as my humble tribute to brave firefighters everywhere.
Dahlia is sure the hackneyed platitude is true: After a certain age, all the good men are married or gay. She feels her thirty-eight years put her well past that 'certain age.' Her best friend and her sisters dare her to put her fate where her mouth is. The terms of the challenge? During the month of October, she has to end her five-year-long man fast and go on dates with men of their choosing. Oh, and she also has to go out with anyone else who asks.
Jackson pulled his turnout bag from the back of the truck, unzipped it, and stepped into his gear. First the boots and pants with suspenders, then a hood and thick leather gloves. He slipped on a massive coat marked with reflective tape. Once the jacket was zipped, snapped and velcroed shut, a helmet followed. He'd become indistinguishable from the other firemen on the scene. Dahlia could only recognize him by the muffled timbre of his voice.
The seasoned pros explained the exercise and strategy the trainees should employ, if the burn went as planned.
With a laugh, Jackson reiterated, “If all goes as planned, right Smithy?”
The older fireman gave a knowing grin and nodded.
“Let's do this thing,” another instructor said.
They disappeared inside and came out once the smoke poured from all the windows.
“This is what you would see as you pull up to the scene,” Jackson yelled over the noise of the fire. “You see that top window with all the black smoke?”
The trainees nodded.
“The darker the smoke, the hotter the fire. Keep watching. The window frame is going to start glowing orange and then burst into flames.”
As if Jackson had psychic powers, the attic window did just that. Though Dahlia knew there was no supernatural phenomenon involved in his prediction, it still seemed like magic to her and to the other civilians who'd come to watch their local fire department at work. A seasoned vet stood nearby to narrate for the viewers and answer any questions.
The firefighters donned their SCBA units—self contained breathing apparatus. The trainees broke into teams, performing esoteric tasks that Dahlia couldn't quite follow. There were different types of hoses, different nozzles, different techniques to apply water to contain and extinguish the flames. And once the fire had been put out, the salvage and overhaul began. The probies performed exercises with ladders and other tools to ensure the fire had been fully extinguished and to remove any items from the building that might be saved, such as furniture and fixtures.
One new firefighter's PASS—personal alert safety system—alarm sounded, but only because he'd stood still for too long.
“You see that little side-to-side jig the guys do from time to time?” The instructor said. The onlookers made an affirmative murmur. “That's because if they're motionless for longer than thirty seconds, the PASS alarm will go off. It's a system we use nowadays so that if a fireman loses consciousness or is too injured to make his way out, we can find him in building. Keep in mind, our visibility during the thick of a fire is only about a foot in front of us—if we're lucky.”
“Wow,” Dahlia said.
“It's a lot different now than in my day,” the old-timer went on. “In my day, you showed up at the fire, ran inside to check for victims, put out the fire and went home. No one cared if you were okay, physically or mentally. You had to man-up and just do the job.”
Jackson worked with the search and rescue team. They emerged triumphant with two adult-sized dummies and a doll-sized one. He patted his crew on the back. They'd saved the baby. Though they joked around with the doll, Dahlia could tell they were proud of themselves. And rightfully so, she thought.
All in all, the burn took two hours from start to finish. Though wilted and covered in soot, the firefighters-in-training seemed to ride high on a powerful adrenaline rush.
Jackson came over to check with her. Grimy and sweaty, his gear half removed, he'd never looked sexier or more masculine. “Hey, you. So, what did you think?”
“That was freaking awesome. I'm impressed.”
“Good.” He rubbed his gloved hands together. “My plan worked.”
“You know you don't have to set a building on fire to impress me. Candlelight and dinner works, too.”
“But I figure why go for mediocre when I can pull out all the stops? What other guy's gonna set a house on fire and put it out for you?”
“I need a shower and then we're all going out for a beer. Care to join us?” he asked.
Fighting a knee-jerk denial, Dahlia said, “Yeah, I'd love to.” God only knew what horrors awaited her at home.
“Well, if you don't mind sharing the truck with a dirty, stinky man, let's go.”
He stowed his gear and stripped off his soggy shirt. She'd seen him make this move before, in her own living room as a matter of fact, but at the time hadn't noticed the scars that marked his back and abdomen. Some looked neat and surgical, others more jagged and erratic. Having faded to almost the color of the rest of his skin, they weren't ugly. Quite the opposite, she had to catch herself before she reached out and ran her fingers over them.
Prior to becoming a writer of romantic and erotic fiction, Cindy was a 'jacks' of all trades. Besides obtaining a BFA in sculpture, interning as a pastry-chef, and learning the art of furniture restoration, she worked for ten years in the corporate arena, but now happily spends her days as a full time author. Her first published work--"The Point of Distraction Series"--was inspired by a collection of short stories she wrote to entertain her best friend. Since then she's explored her inner bad girl and penchant for love stories by producing books full of humor and packed with real emotion. When not chained to her laptop, she enjoys belly dancing, international cooking, and making jewelry. She and her family call the Washington, DC area home.
Book Title: All the Good Men
Tagline: Good things come in forty-something firefighter packages...