The time has come (and is now, past due) to regale everyone with the Big Birthday adventure of 2015. It actually began in 1945, but I’m going to skip a few decades and get right to the celebration stuff.
Negotiations, planning, arrangements, reservations for multiple plane flights, nearly did me in. I wanted to share this celebration with loved ones in Wisconsin and North Carolina, so the first leg took me to Atlanta and then Greensboro, where my Lodge Sisters, Ann and Salem greeted me warmly. We hugged, giggled and hurried off to fetch cooking supplies
Once “home,” I unpacked and took a deep breath of a heavenly smell. All-day red sauce was simmering on the stove. (Ann’s specialty). First things first, I decanted the contraband (a Distillers Edition of Dalwhinnie single malt whisky barreled in 1997) into a beautiful carafe. The aromatic and beautiful spirit we would share with our favorite padre.
Louise and Christine joined us for an utterly divine chicken Parmesan dinner. Just when we were all too stuffed to move, Christine surprised us with an extraordinary 5 Spice pound cake with fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Oh My God. It was incredible! Thank you, ladies!
Friday morning was another special treat. I slept late and did not have to get up for three dogs! Sadly my hosts got up early and were chomping at the bit for breakfast. My bad. I didn’t realize they were waiting.
I know! Let’s go to I Hop! Now everyone was happy.
Saturday was Operation o’dark Herman Miller. ssshhh. We only got part way there when Ann insisted we get some nourishment for this dangerous [you’ll see why later] maneuver. A quick stop at Sheetz (yes, really) provided some surprisingly delicious biscuits. Sated, we were off to Ann’s regret-able day job. The parking lot was empty as we slipped unnoticed in the backdoor, punched in the code, and navigated the staircase with the imitation Aeron chair.
While Ann stopped to shoot off a business email note, Salem, sensing danger, perhaps, wrestled the authentic 56# Herman Miller Aeron chair downstairs and stowed it safely in the car. By.Herself. Eeejit.
Sunday was brunch on “The Porch” with the Sharp family. A hip trendy and very popular place with inspired creations featuring tater tots–what’s not to love? Add a mimosa, a sunny morning, in the outdoor tent, and great company. It was divine and blessed. Thanks Father Ben!
It was just as delicious as the frittata. In fact, I slept with it (the bag, not the frittata) and refused to take it off.
It will be cherished as another bittersweet moment. I felt loved, spoiled, and didn’t want to go. However, I did want to see my Wisconsin family.
My brother picked me up at Mitchell Field Tuesday afternoon, and soon we were touring the fast growing new neighborhoods that surrounded, what used to be my home for over twenty years. Oconomowoc. I hardly recognized it.
Everyone enjoyed dinner as we shared stories and memories of when we were all younger. Their thoughtful birthday gifts included jewelry, soaps, a surprising Yankee candle “Girl Scout Thin mint” and it smells just like the cookie. I told how I managed to miss the cookie sale every year, and out of the bag came a box of thin mints!
The next day an old friend dropped in for a visit. Then, John and I went through a box of memorabilia from forty years ago. Wow, some great pictures and information. Then…it was time to go.
Now, it’s after Memorial Day weekend and I’ve been mulling over my past, present, and future. It’s been a long, interesting, roller coaster ride for which, I am grateful and blessed. My life has been filled with loving friends and family, challenging work, beautiful experiences, and more than a few pets. But there are a few more waiting for me.
Thank you all for touching my life and sharing yours.
Spring 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 “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.
Between 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 had 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.
The next project is forming out of the mist and I’ve begun the research.
Stay tuned and have a happy spring.
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!
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.