When A Man Loves A Woman

I had just turned 39 years old when I fell in love with Selena.  I knew it was love because that’s when the song started playing in my head.

When a man loves a woman…can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else…

It’s the Percy Sledge song about—well, you know.

According to Percy, when a man loves a woman he tends to do things that are out of the ordinary.  At least, out of the ordinary for Mr. Sledge.  In addition to having the inability to put his mind onto anything else, Percy’s girl had him doing such things as spending his very last dime and sleepin’ out in the rain.

My entire life has been like a really long movie playing in my head.  There are heroes and villains; triumphs and tragedies; and sometimes it’s fiction, based on actual events.  Most importantly it’s full of music.  It’s not a musical, but it has a fabulous soundtrack.  In my brain, such that it is, there is a song for almost everything.  All it takes is a keyword, an event, or a certain person and, as Steve Miller might say, Abracadabra…a song.

Selena is really special to me.  She’s my whole world.  So while there are probably dozens of songs that I associate with her, the Percy Sledge song was probably the first.

Of course like I said, Percy’s girl had him goin’ broke with his head in the mud; and in the end, she sucked the soul right out of the poor man.

She can bring him such misery

To be clear, Selena wasn’t like that at all.  I was wholly smitten and only the first line of the song would play at the appropriate moment.

When a man loves a woman, can’t keep his mind on nothing else…

pannellbytes; duane pannell; selena pannell; love graffiti

In 16 years, that song has played a lot.  It will undoubtedly play when I am a little resistant to something that she wants me to do.  And don’t misunderstand, it’s not because she’s making me endure something horrible, or even unpleasant.  Many times something really cool happens.

 

Discovery of one of my all-time favorite movies was borne of just such an event.

Me:  So what are we watchin’?

Selena: The Princess Bride

My Brain:  Princess?  Sounds like a kissing book.

Me: Oh…?

Selena:  Don’t worry, you’ll love it!

My Brain:  When a man loves a woman…

Reflexive resistance isn’t the only thing that can trigger this song.  I’ve had it start in moments of trial.  Not big trials, I’ve got a different song for that.  I’m talking about small trials, like trying to get Selena a present, or getting something done that I know that she’ll appreciate.  A little obstacle rears its ugly head and for encouragement the song plays.

When a man loves a woman…

Whatever the task, it soon becomes easier because Percy just reminded me that no matter the difficulty, I do love the woman.

I may live to regret sharing all of this information.  Sometimes I disclose too much in an effort to give a story context, but I want you to know what’s going on when Percy Sledge starts singing right in the middle of my story.  If you knew me as well as Selena knows me, you would know that this is a risk I constantly have to take.

Anyway.

Once upon a time, early in our relationship, Selena put me on a project.  We were settling in for movie night at her apartment and she was preparing snacks.  She thought it might be nice to have some Kraft Philadelphia Dip to go with our assorted veggies and crackers.

“They have several different flavors,” she said.

“I’ll get two. What are your favorites?” I asked enthusiastically.

“How about dill pickle and urban spice?”

“I’ll be back in a flash!”

I raced to the closest convenience store, determined to earn boyfriend points for efficiency.  I ran inside and found a small assortment of dips.

Dill pickle, urban spice, dill pickle, urban spice, dill pickle, urban spice

“Crap, they only have dill pickle!  That’s okay, I’ll try the 7-Eleven!”

7-11; ponoka; pannellbytes; duane & selena pannell; 3000 miles to eternity

Store number two was also a bust.  They too had the dill pickle, but not the urban spice.   I was discouraged and quite certain that impressing Selena with a quick return was no longer in the cards.  The simple errand had become a challenge.  But my sweetheart wanted urban spice!

The song began to play.

When a man loves a woman…he comes back with the dip she wants…

I decided to up my game and go to the closer of two grocery stores.  Once again I ran inside hoping to find the elusive condiment.

Dill pickle, urban spice, dill pickle, urban spice, dill pickle, urban spice

The store was bigger but all they had was the same variety as the other two stores!  Of course, I would make the trip to the only other grocer in Ponoka, Alberta but I could sense that failure was becoming a real possibility.  Thank goodness Percy Sledge was there to remind me of the reason for my effort.

When a man loves a woman…he goes to the last dang store in town…

My heart sank as I arrived at the dairy case of my last hope.  The fourth and final store had only the same variety as the other three stores and NO URBAN SPICE!

I would have to call Selena and confess my failure.

“What’s taking you so long?” she asked.

“I went to four stores and none of them had the Urban Spice,” I said, sounding like a bad boyfriend.

“Do they have the Dill Pickle?”

“Yeah, I can get that.  What else do you think you would like?”

“What else do they have?” she asked.

“Um, let’s see here.  Besides Dill pickle, they have Onion, French Onion, Jalapeno, and Herb & Spice.”

dips2

 

There was a moment of silence to adequately observe my ineptness.

“Okay,” I said.  “I’ll just go pay for this and I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

I could sense that she smiled sweetly.

Urban Spice.  The official potato chip dip of the ‘hood.urban spice; pannellbytes; 3000 miles to eternity; duane & selena pannell

When a man loves a woman…

~Duane Pannell aka Majestic D

duane pannell; pannellbytes; 3000 miles to eternity

 

6 Things You Should Know About Writing A Book

If you could pick a newly published author’s brain, what questions would you ask? These are some nuggets of knowledge I would like to have heard to prepare me for the unknown;. thoughts to give me the courage to pursue what some family and friends consider a “nice hobby”. If you don’t know what to expect and have these voices in your head, I hope our experience will help.

We hadn’t told many people about our book being published before I began to notice a common response.  A real estate agent confessed, somewhat hesitantly, that she writes stories, but “never submitted any of them to a publisher”.  A young oilfield worker talked about wanting to write a novel, or maybe some short stories, probably in the fantasy genre.  Even my wonderful mother, although pleased and supportive, pointed out that she and my father were both “talented writers”, so this news was not altogether unexpected, relying on ‘the apple not falling far from the tree’ brand of logic.

As a kid, I remember enjoying any assignment involving writing when I was in school.  Even though I knew the odds were in my favor with multiple choice, I relished the challenge offered by an essay question.  I was confident in my ability to talk my way, or in this case, write my way out of the proverbial paper bag.

Once, I came oh, so close to the top of the junior high writing heap when I entered an essay contest requiring my heart and soul aspirations for the future.  Alas, I made the mistake of telling the shallow truth and came in second.  The judges agreed that my writing was as skillful as the winner’s, but she dreamed of saving the world as some sort of conservation super-hero.  This was apparently nobler in their eyes than my redneck desire to be a trick rider, complete with tastefully gaudy, rhinestone-studded outfits.

It was an adolescent disappointment, for sure, but I didn’t dwell on it.  There would be far more angst in my future to dissect and survive.

And there really wasn’t any need for my writing skills as a busy, young mother of five. To my credit, I did help a friend’s husband make a compelling argument with the folks who denied him unemployment insurance resulting in a favorable review of his case.  That and sporadic journal entries, copious grocery lists and, with the advent of the computer age, electronic correspondence were pretty much “all she wrote”.

That is until Duane began sending me ‘assignments’ three years ago when I was in Alberta and he was still at home in Utah.  These assignments involved re-reading our original emails and editing them for ‘the book” he was convinced people would want to read.  I love my husband, and after long hours with my dad and in the spirit of cooperation, I would work on these assignments.  They proved to be a welcome distraction from the draining emotions related to the certain loss of my father on a soon but uncertain date.

Once complete (both Dad’s mortal mission and the book collaboration) our search for the perfect publisher began.  We started with a long list of possibilities and while Duane the Cable Guy was working, I researched and trimmed the list down to a handful.  After some discussion, we selected Cedar Fort, Inc. We felt their company’s philosophy would be most welcoming of the book we had to offer.  Having become well acquainted with their submission guidelines, we filled out the forms asking about our social media involvement or willingness to become so and other questions like who, if any, prominent contacts we might know.  As daunting as those questions seemed when paired with our pitiful answers, we took a deep breath, pressed SEND and waited.

We knew it would take up to six months to hear back so I placed October 2014 in the recesses of my mind and got back to the business of everyday life. We got the email in July.  Blinking neon words like “loved it”, “refreshingly honest and real” and  “witty, entertaining and inspiring” made me cry, re-read it and cry some more. Rinse and repeat.  They wanted to publish our book!

Looking back at the process, it definitely took time and work.  It took research.  I found out writing a synopsis and our author bios were more difficult than the book.  Choosing a new title (funny story for another time) was also unexpectedly challenging.  We needed to edit more, and fine-tune the manuscript as per our editor’s request.  Thanks to her experience and knowledge, the final product is far superior to the one she had to slog through initially.

What I would like every person who told me they want to write a book to know, is this:

1.  Writers write. Regardless of the busy-ness of your life, delaying the dream most often means compromising or giving up on it.  What have you got to lose by pursuing it?  What will you lose if you let time slip away from you?  The old adage “There’s no time like the present.” is an old adage for a reason. Honestly, if Duane hadn’t been the impetus, I highly doubt I would have justified the time and effort my part of the book took and I would not be having this awesome-scary new author experience now. .Start writing today!

3.   To edit is divine.  Write your hearts out, mercifully keeping the reader in mind to spare as much as possible, your new editor and yourself the absolute need to trim unnecessary words and phrases, paragraphs and pages. I knew all that going in, having read up on the whole ‘how to get published’ thing and still cringe when I think of the rough ride our editor had to take when she read our submitted manuscript.

 4.  Pick a publisher.  Select a publisher you’ve researched and whose mission and philosophy are congruent with your own. Your publisher should be one with whom you feel comfortable working and are proud to call “my publisher”.  And if a publisher is wildly prestigious and highly visible on an international scale, regardless of their popularity and authors’ success, resist the temptation to send your zombie apocalypse horror novel to one whose niche is romance.  I know you’re thinking that’s a no-brainer, but it is human nature ‘throw it out there and see what sticks’.  Be deliberate in this decision.

5.  Give your creation wings. Unless you’re writing for your own therapy, the goal has always been to share your gift with others. Letting go of a piece of you can be a frightening prospect, but now is not the time to lose your focus and purpose. To quote Susan Jeffers via my mom, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!” You believed in your project, now believe in yourself. You’ve invested your time and energy. You’ve  done the writing and research. You have your artistic DNA woven throughout your work. It’s time. For heaven sake, hit SEND.

6.  Relax. For a minute.

When your publisher contacts you about signing that contract, your ride on the crazy train has only just begun. Writing the book was the easy part!

You’ll be busy with new edits as per their suggestions, writing bios and a synopsis, getting to know your marketing guy or girl and contacting book bloggers who might be interested in reading and reviewing your book. You’ll need to set up author pages on Amazon.com and Goodreads. Have you secured your domain name(s) and set up a website?

You might want to get visible on social media, tweeting, Facebooking, and Instagramming, to name a few. There will be growing pains as you find out that Facebook page for your book was unnecessary and you need an author page instead. It’s all part of the learning process and you will find many along the way willing to help.A fantastic resource I’ve come across is Bad Redhead Media. Rachel Thompson has developed a FREE 30 day Book Marketing Challenge and a Book Marketing Chat where you can ask questions and connect with other authors every week.

Learning from others who have walked the path you aspire to will help you on your way to success as a published author. Now, you and I need to get back to work. Write. Now.

Selena Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles to Eternity: A True Internet Love Story

No Regrets for a Redneck Russian

Every successfully recovering alcoholic knows that we should never revel in the ‘glory days’ of our addiction, and I won’t. But we do get homesick for what was real and good. Just because we are not our best selves and living up to our potential does not mean that there weren’t genuine good times and love amid the chaos.

This is about one of those times.

***

It’s a cool, spring morning.  I feed our horses and then steal a moment of serenity for myself.  As I look across the valley below our high desert home, I whisper the abbreviated prayer that I say when it’s getting late and I should be off to work.  “Thank you,” I say, “It’s a paradise that I can’t deserve.”

But something…

Horses, snow, Tag & Duchess, pannellbytes, Duane Pannell, mountains, Redneck Russian

Maybe it’s my inner redneck.  I look at the still heavy snow on the Colorado and Utah mountains and think how warm it must be in Savannah.  Warm enough I’ll bet, to put the boat in and spend the night fishing without getting too cold.

One thought leads to another and I soon find myself 30 years back in time.

My brother-in-law Darryl was an avid fisherman.  Up until we started fishing together, the only things we really had in common was, I was married to his sister, and we both liked to get drunk.beer, fishing, two guys, river, pannellbytes, Duane Pannell, Redneck Russian

It was a little past noon on a Friday when Darryl showed up at my job.  We had planned to go fishing for the weekend, but I hadn’t expected him to show up that early.  “Let’s go,” he said, “I told ‘em you had a family emergency and need to get off early.”

We walked back through the big warehouse and into the office area, making our way to the front door.  My boss stepped out of her office and wished me well, “I hope everything turns out okay,” she said.

“Yes ma’am,” I said, trying to look sorrowful…or disturbed.  I wasn’t quite sure how to look since my ticket out had not yet been revealed to me.

I don’t know what concerned me more; that Darryl had told my boss that my mother was at the hospital, about to have emergency surgery, or that he had parked the truck directly in front of the building with a boat full of coolers and fishing gear.

“You worry too much,” he said, “They’ll forget all about this by Monday.”

It wasn’t true, of course.  People asked me how my mother was doing for six months after that.  I had to lie my way through her follow-up visits and physical therapy.  I really was a bit of a worrier, but still managed to turn her fake medical condition into at least half a dozen more fishing trips.  Darryl didn’t have such inhibitions.  Rumor had it that he hadn’t been to work on a Friday in several years.

When he put that truck in gear he started talking about fishing.  Darryl was selling and I was buying, and any concern that I had about my job was soon a faded memory.  I had the attention span of a gnat.

But his passion!

Darryl could’ve been driving me to my doom and I would willing go.  It was his way.  It didn’t have to be about fishing.  No matter what we were about to do, he could convince me that I was about to have the time of my life doing it.  Lucky for me his idea of good times was not anything too illegal.  Hunting, fishing, and sleeping under the stars was all he ever really wanted out of life and everything else was just the necessary drudgery that got you to the next trip.

Darryl was a terrible driver.  That’s not an insult; he knew he was a terrible driver.  He turned and looked at me and with a mischievous grin and said, “You know what…?”

Before he finished what he was about to say the truck went off the pavement and slid in the gravel.  He had a bad habit of driving in the direction he was looking.  He got us back up on the pavement and swerved a nice serpentine pattern along both sides of the two-lane until he could regain control.  Lucky for us there was no other traffic.

“Dude!  Dang it!”  I said as I arched my body off the seat.  I had spilled half a beer and it made a nice puddle beneath me.

Darryl laughed but hadn’t really changed expressions.  He continued talking as if nothing had happened. “You know how you drive along one of these old rural highways and you see a locked gate?  And you know that the road that leads off into the woods on the other side of that gate—how you know it goes somewhere good but you ain’t got the key?”

“Yeah, ” I said as I sat back down in the cool puddle of beer.

“Well, today we got the key!  Braswell’s gonna take us to a black water lake up here that hasn’t been fished since 1949 and it’s just full of lunker bass!”

Mike Braswell was a guy that Darryl worked with and I had never met him.

“Hey!  You know what would be funny?” Darryl asked.

“What’s that?”

“Let’s pretend like you’re new to the country and don’t speak very good English.  See how long it takes Braswell to figure it out” he laughed.

I can be just as immature as the next guy and thought it to be an excellent prank.  We played around with a few voices, and although my fake Japanese was far superior to any of my other voices, we settled on fake Russian.  I could do the voice, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t fake looking like I was Japanese.

We met up with Braswell and followed him out to the lake.  It was so beautiful there.  It ‘looked’ fishy.  Big, moss-covered cypress trees growing throughout the lake; gators, snakes, frogs, and mosquitos.  It was paradise.

cypress gardens, south carolina, alligator, swamp, pannellbytes, Duane Pannell, Redneck Russian

We put the boat in the water right away.  Braswell and brother Darryl were giving me pointers as we fished.  Darryl was giving me pointers because I’m a city boy; Braswell because I was Russian.

I played the part well and I totally had him on the hook, but every now and then Darryl would get tickled.  He would burst out laughing, and just when I thought he had ruined the joke, he’d turn to Braswell and chastise him, “Don’t make fun of him, man!  He’s not from around here!”

Georgia, jon boat, michael braswell, pannellbytes, Duane Pannell, fishing, Redneck RussianBraswell, the good-natured guy that he was, would apologize—leaving me to keep my composure.  And so it went, into the evening.  Fishing, drinking and being Russian.  Oddly enough, the more beer we drank, the more convincing my character became.

I’ve seen a lot of evenings pass away, but none like the reflection of a Georgia sunset on that pretty black water.  We caught several bass and even got a glimpse of some wild pigs running through the swamp.  A couple hours after dark we sat around a campfire on the bank and roasted some hot dogs and told lies.

We all told lies, but in fairness, I had to tell lies—I was a fake Russian.

The night might have been quiet, but for a Lynyrd Skynyrd cassette playing over and over again in the truck.  I think Braswell went out in the night to cast a few times, but we were all mostly asleep after midnight.

The other guys were stretched out across the front seats of the trucks, but I awoke with a cold dew on my face right at sunrise, laying in the bed of one of the trucks.  The hangovers don’t last long when you drink beer for breakfast, and with no one around to tell us not to, that’s just what we did.

crappies, mississippi, fishing, pannellbytes, Duane Pannell, Redneck Russian

It was hard to keep being Russian while all that nature was making life so sweet and real, but I maintained character.  It was around lunchtime when Braswell suggested that we take our stringer of fish and cash them in at a market in town.  This began our longstanding tradition of cashing in our Saturday afternoon catch.  We called them ‘Liquor Fish’.

I elected to stay back and let them go to town without me. “Go comrades.  I am to fish, and possibly take nap,” I said in excellent broken English.

We pulled the aluminum jon boat up to the spillway and we all got out.  When they got into the truck and pulled away, I decided to go back to the boat and resume fishing.  It may have been the hot sun, or it might’ve been the beer, but somehow I misjudged my step into the boat.

The boat tipped, and when it did, it immediately gulped up about 30 gallons of water.  I don’t know what happened next—the whole thing is a bit of a blur, but in my panic I…well, I sunk the boat.

It might not have been so bad if I hadn’t, in my own efficient way, taken the time to untie the boat before trying to get in. As it was, I had no idea how deep the water was at the spillway. I could only guess that it was much deeper than we would be able to salvage if I let it go.

iron rod, hand, hold to the rod, fishing, pannellbytes, Duane Pannell, Russian Redneck

So there I hung.  One arm gripping an iron rod on the spillway; the other arm trying to gather all the gear that was floating away. And down below the water’s surface, between my legs, was our boat.  I wasn’t entirely sober, but I was doing some serious cipherin’.  Those guys had just pulled away from our camp and would be going to Adrian, several miles away; selling fish; buying liquor; driving back.

‘I will probably drown way before they get back,’ I thought.

It was hot, but I wasn’t in direct sunlight.  I was holding on to the most important stuff.  A couple of coolers and a big tackle box were floating nearby.  If I could just hold on until they got back, this whole situation could easily be rectified.

My face was all sweaty and I was feeling kind of sleepy.  I dipped my face down in the cool water in an attempt to get my bearings.  I had no sense of time.  I tried singing songs to distract myself, but the stress of holding on was apparent in my voice and made me feel even weaker.  My legs were really cramping from holding the boat.

Just when I thought that I could hold on no longer, I saw the truck! I started screaming for help!  They heard me right away and came running. 

“The boat!  It’s down here!” I said, as they were grabbing the gear.  I got a bit of an adrenaline rush and between the three of us we managed to save most everything, even the boat. When the danger had passed and relief set in, we were on the ground laughing.

“So…were there pirates?” Darryl asked.

“No.  No pirates…”

“Were you trying to hide the boat from us?

I expected that I would probably never live down the day that I sunk the boat, but I was too relieved to care.  They continued to give me a hard time about it for a few minutes when Braswell got a real serious look on his face.

“You know what I noticed?” he said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“I noticed that you speak perfect English when you’re about to drown.  That’s what I noticed.”

Darryl and I had forgotten about our little prank and we all had a good laugh.

***

I hate that I can’t remember the details of all the adventures I had with Darryl and my good friend Michael Braswell.  We parted ways long ago.  I left Georgia in ’88 and never went back.  I quit getting high and drinking in 1990 and my life changed so much for the better.  If it were possible to separate out the bad from what was good, I would sure love the chance to go back.

But in a way, this week I did go back.  Thanks to modern technology and Facebook,  I reconnected with Braswell.  He’s had some medical issues recently, and maybe he’s feeling his mortality.  I woke up to a message from him that said, “If you ever come to Georgia, the place on the Ohoopee would really like to see you again.”

Braswell Lake, Georgia, sunset, pannellbytes, Duane Pannell, Redneck Russian

I told him, “Dude, you’re gonna make me cry. I tell my wife and my little boy about the black water and the cypress trees, the alligators and the HUGE crappie, and what I can remember of my adventures with Darryl and Michael in the south Georgia wilderness. It seems like a million years ago and my life is so different now. I only wish I could be there with you guys again…sober.”

Braswell told me that 12 years ago he got sober, and he’d love to have me come down.

“Darryl finally got sober, too.  October before last,” he said.

I guess that’s why this story has been on my mind all week.  Our dear friend Darryl passed away in October of 2014.

It’s not smart to have regrets.

We all need our struggles to be who God wants us to be.  And I do love my life as it is today.  But what a sweet thought it is to me, to think of what it might be like to spend a day at that beautiful lake in Georgia.

Sober.

With my good friends.

~Duane Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles To Eternity: A True Internet Love Story

Back Story – Chick Pics

Writing a true story seems to be a call for more information. Some of our readers, once having gotten to know the ‘characters’ send us questions like these; what do they look like, where are they now, and how do they feel about being part of our published story?

Well, how they feel will probably be scribbled down in some therapist’s notes and kept in a locked filing cabinet somewhere. But as for how they looked, well, today’s little nugget brings a smile to my face.

On page 59, I told Duane:

“Thought I would send you a pic of my little chicks. Auriana is in braids on the left and Savannah is wearing the yellow shirt.”

3,000 Miles To Eternity Little Chicks pg 59

Duane’s response on pg 60:

P.S. Do you have eyes like that? Did they get that look from you? How will I ever know without a picture for reference? If I can post a picture of me eating a live mouse, you can share a picture of you that features your eyes!

Auriana has become a photographer whose creativity manifests especially with still subjects, like food and scenery. And Savannah is busy saving lives as a registered nurse.on a neuro ICU in northern Alberta.

3,000 Miles To Eternity Little Chicks Grown Up

~Selena Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles To Eternity: A True Internet Love Story

Back Story – How Not To Attract A Typical Wife

With online dating becoming more mainstream, a great deal of attention is given to creating a great profile that will not only garner interest from quality, potential soulmate candidates , but give an accurate portrayal of the spouse-seeking individual.

Duane included this picture in his online profile album.  It took a special kind of, uh, special to overlook the obvious and find the amazing man on the other end of that mouse. .

*We pulled it out of the archives because we’ve had requests for pictures to go along with some of the stories in the book.  Happy Throwback Thursday!

~Selena Pannell, co-author of 3,000 Miles To Eternity: A True Internet Love Story