Blogs, Books, and Blithering

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images-2Spring is beginning to show its tender shoots, and walking with the canine triad is becoming more enjoyable, especially  with the impressive amount of ballet and aerobics. (you are missing quite a sight.)

I just got back from a walk and it made me think about springtime as a child. Where I grew up, there was a vacant lot between our house and our grandparents. We called it images“no mans land.” Closer to the street hung an incredibly long tire swing. Some local tree surgeons hung it on the high branch of an oak tree—at least 25 feet. You can imagine how far that tire would swing. It was strong enough that two of us could ride it. Many hours were spent out there playing, exploring, or making up games.

imgresBetween that and the garages at the back, lay a large wild flower bed. There were a couple of trees, a few bushes and scads of flowers. We had lily-of-the-valley, violets, and a trillium. We spent hours playing out there in the summer, and to this day I remember the smell the flowers. Dad got us an army surplus hammock with a tent cover. Perfect!

Life was so very different back then. It sometimes makes me nostalgic thinking about the simplicity and slower pace. We rode bikes everywhere and images-1had our own skate-keys. Alas, I have no moral to this trip down memory lane. Just remembering.

What I really wanted to write about was my fourth book in the Damaged series. It’s taken a few years for me to get Zeke and Anne through the trials of Scylla and Charybdis.

Throughout, it has been a challenge and a pleasure writing about two women I’ve grown very fond of. The road has been rocky for all of us. But the takeaway lessons have been worth it. I’ve both resisted and embraced the many facets of post dramatic stress disorder, but learned a great deal in the process.

From the very start, in an unpublished story, Zeke has been a very complex character. Anne was much more linear. Because of those differences, they adapted to problems in very unique ways, which added to the fabric of the story. It was a challenge for me to switch POV’s (point of view) during some of the challenges they faced. I needed to jump from Anne’s linear, emotion-laced logic to Zeke’s compartmentalized rigidity. So when I got to book 4, I was able to discover and reveal what Zeke was like before the trauma that started with the serial killings in Chicago.

I won’t give it away, but I’m very pleased by the direction these two women chose. I think you will be too. I know there are many readers reluctant to start a series until all the books are published. For those special people– you won’t have to wait long. The book is finished and in the hands of my beta readers. As soon as I finish their reviewing their notes, it will be off to the editor. In the meantime I do have a brand spanking new cover to reveal. Once again Ann McMan and Tree House Studio have put the icing on the cake.

deliverusfromevil_lg Many thanks to all of you who have followed the series providing me with inspiration and support.

The next project is forming out of the mist and I’ve begun the research.

Stay tuned and have a happy spring.

My sabbatical is over

Time to get back to business. I’ve been away researching, revising, and resting. Yes, sometimes I over do and need to pull back and recharge.

I just finished a guest blog for a friend who requested this topic, I decided to share it here. Since I am currently wrapping up the revisions on Book 4–“Deliver Us From Evil” (for release this summer) this is a good time to think about the Damaged Series. Next blog, I’ll provide an excerpt and the new cover!

For now…

V__5431Barrett’s Eye View of PTSD
“PTSD is a tawdry, insidious, undiscerning little bitch.

She doesn’t care who you are or how finely tuned your sense of logic or emotional balance is. It doesn’t matter to her if you’ve survived a war zone, walked away from a car crash, been physically or sexually assaulted, faced a devastating illness, said goodbye to a lover, friend, child, or parent, or even if you tried like hell to keep someone else’s business from going up in flames.

She’s a trickster for sure. She knows how to find your secret backdoor, piggybacks her way into your internal control room, then resets all your psychological, rational, and coping DIP switches until up is down, right is wrong, and haywire is your new steady state.

You can’t sleep, but you’re exhausted. You’re angry about things that have never bothered you before. Your heart races, your head throbs, your hands shake, and your left eye twitches wildly with any sudden noise. Parts of your body suddenly start hurting, and nothing makes them feel better. You isolate yourself from family and friends, and it takes all day to screw up the courage to dial a phone or write an email. Maybe even, you’re afraid to drive over a patched pothole on your street, or you order your groceries over the Internet because the dairy section is too much commitment for any given Sunday. Some days are definitely better than others. Then again, some days are worse, much worse.

Yeah, she’s a sadistic bitch – the stronger you are, the harder you fall. Just the way she likes it.”

— From the review by Salem West    –The Rainbow Reader. October 2011 

 

While it’s not exactly a ‘sexy’ topic, Samantha asked if I would discuss PTSD, since that was the running theme of my first series. (However, one of the unusual symptoms demonstrated was a hyper-sexuality used to compensate for the inability to express feelings. It also helped provide a connection and sense of being “present.”)

My intention was to tell a story about a damaged FBI agent visiting New Mexico for a little R & R. As often happens, my research took me much deeper, and the storyline began to mirror my character with increasingly frustrating symptoms. The horrific case she worked undercover in Chicago (involving serial murders with decapitated victims) primed her with the nightmares, headaches, and anxiety. A closed head injury compounded her symptoms and mandated some time off. The character moved to a strange city with no connections, and enough cognitive impairment to create more opportunity for accident and injuries. And the character suffered more head trauma.

 Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is brought on by witnessing a terrifying, usually life-threatening, event. Severe anxiety, flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts, and nightmares are common symptoms of the illness. These symptoms can worsen and last for years, so it is best to seek treatment for PTSD as soon as possible.” –Elements Behavioral Health

The constellation of symptoms, which included: anxiety, sleeplessness, impaired cognition, flashbacks, poor appetite, headaches, and depression, was carefully concealed from friends and coworkers at a great cost. Each of her interpersonal relationships revealed only one facet of her true self. Because of her experience and skill, she never appeared impaired.

In the fourth book, Deliver Us From Evil, a panic attack sparks a confrontation, and the serene affect is blown. She elects treatment through an equine-based therapy program. The delay in finding help, however, threatens her job, her relationship, and her safety. Of course, it’s a romance, so we know eventually it will end with a “happily ever after.”

In the initial appearance of the protagonist, she appeared as a smart, capable woman working in a male-dominated profession during the mid 90s. She followed a strict, self-imposed set of standards. Not unlike military standards, which created a convenient comparison. However, the deeper I delved into the character and the subject, the more difficult it became. I began to feel as if I was the one impaired. Any scenes in which I featured other characters were much easier to write, especially the dialogue.

Throughout the process of writing these four books, I found this particular character difficult to write because of her compartmentalized personality.

After I rewrote the first two books (for a new publisher), I needed to take a break and write something different. I just couldn’t be in her head any more.

However, what I learned from writing about this difficult topic has helped me grow as a writer. The more completely I put myself into the shoes of my character, the more authentic my words will be. Seeing the world through the eyes of someone as damaged as my character was, at times, exhausting. I also gained tremendous empathy for her and the other characters that dealt with her.

The enlightenment was a gift, a tool to unlock the depth and breadth of fictional characters. Additionally, it’s provided me insight into the difficulties faced by many of our public servants including police, fire, rescue, medical, safety, military, and security personnel. Every day these individuals leave home not knowing whether they will return or be seriously injured. That alone can create symptoms of PTSD.

For jumping in the deep end with my character, I’ve been rewarded with wonderful notes and comments from readers, thanking me for discussing post-traumatic stress disorder. Its victims are often invisible, because they lack visual evidence of their trauma. The experience has encouraged me and obliged me to provide stories to readers with as much authenticity as possible, for enjoyment and for insight.

Many thanks for stopping by.

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NaNoWriMo 2014

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It’s that time of year, when my world goes berserk

Every day a test to survive… (Sung to the tune of The Carpenter’s “Christmas Waltz”)

Of course, that song is now lodged firmly in my ear and I feel like twirling about the living room in a taffeta gown…well, not that much. Christmas music always makes me smile, but for the next 30 days, I will be nose to grindstone for my 9th annual Writing Extravaganza.

After I published three books in eight months, I took four months off to recharge my batteries. Now, It’s time to get back on the proverbial horse. There are stories percolating and characters nudging me for attention.

In preparation for book 4 of the Damaged Series, I’ve been researching Equine Gestalt Coaching Method ™ and hope Zeke will be willing to try it. Since this is the last book in the series, I will need to ferret out the loose threads sewn into the first three books. I’ll start today by figuring out the details for some new characters in this story.

Tomorrow begins the daily run to pen 1,667 words a day for 30 days to tally up 50,000 words! The only year I didn’t hit the mark was year one when I wrote by hand <g>.

So, until then, “Give ’em hell, Wrimos!”

PS  I hope to have an exciting announcement before the end of the month. And I mean Exciting!!