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.

Barrett_GCLS 2014 ad (1)

 

NaNoWriMo 2014

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

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!!

2014 WWW of New Mexico “Reader Writer Exchange”

DSCF2302

A little over year ago, and intrepid group of writers came together on a rainy Saturday morning to set up the campsite for the first annual WWWofNM grill ‘n’ gab.

The sun poked its head out and we enjoyed several hours of congenial fun and food.

We read excerpts from our books, met new friends, grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, and talked about everything—especially doing it all again a year later.

1897895_10151922915925373_1471095952_n

On Saturday, September 27th, we gathered at a new venue (read: indoors, A/C, chairs) for the 2nd Annual get together to talk books and writing. With help from the WOA (Women Out and About) 29 people gathered at Total Wine & More-Uptown, in Albuquerque. The classroom was large, open, and quiet.

10624915_10204808627513469_6484805286829533178_n

CK and Boz

 

 

 

Mary Ann Bosworth arranged for coffee and donuts, which allowed everyone to mingle and meet. CK provided a wonderful program with full-color pictures, bios, maps, and directions to local sites.Plus, she got most of the great photos

1904069_10204808608272988_1441172087743994265_n

Nat Burns and Kayt Peck

68932_10204808655554170_5902843227862311393_n

Janie Franz, Isabella, Kayt Peck, Nina Knapp, Julie Cannon, Nat Burns

Our diverse panel of authors included: Nat Burns, Julie Cannon, Janie Franz, Isabella, Nina Knapp, Kayt C. Peck, and Barrett.

10698612_10152320528125373_6287847185056664898_n

Barrett and Julie Cannon

 

The program was designed to provide readers an opportunity to ask questions about writing process, steps to getting published, reading, and critiquing. And even though we prepared a stack of index cards with common questions, our enthusiastic audience members were able to keep a lively conversation going until after 4 p.m..

10646779_10203297120085682_443821343058451637_n   We held a raffle to defray the cost of the morning break, and each author donated books and other swag to the winners.

1555385_10203297045363814_6578773644275601597_n-1 10685473_10203297057964129_4719840029760039797_n10277825_10203297050563944_3824846315941956518_n10702072_10203297051483967_5062055171492376688_n10670175_10203297059564169_2037424675048364239_n10600559_704376019634569_6952100992361247997_n

As planned, the very supportive staff at Total Wine prepared and delivered and informative wine tasting for those who wished to stay.

10383897_10203297126845851_1830603143873185702_n                10568845_10203297105085307_1761869204407136377_n

After final cleanup, we already assembled at Sadie’s east for margaritas, nachos, and a delightful meal with good friends.

10006363_10152320527340373_4573157415092555086_n                 10523673_10203883317501962_5710354836718422110_n

The overwhelming majority agreed to do it again next year, the last weekend of September, at our new venue.

10632650_10203297061324213_259386354765008645_n  1975051_10203297108045381_752591104665717588_n   10704148_10203297119405665_30047221326808813_n-1

The Day’s event was summed up beautifully by one of our participants:

“Nevertheless I was delighted to see all of you sitting up in front and the smiling, laughing comments and answers to questions. The power and joy I felt was akin to the early days of developing Women Studies at UNM when we were equally proud and self-assured and smiling. Thank you and all the women for a wonderful taste of joy!”  ~Ann Nihlen

                1233973_10204808618993256_8933620163151664260_n

Many thanks to all who helped make this event so successful especially the readers who so generously support our writing!

*Julie Cannon   *Nat Burns   *Isabella   *Janie Franz   *Nina Knapp  *Kayt C.Peck, *Barrett