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)

 

Meet My Character Blog Tour starring Silke Dyson

Barrett_GCLS 2014 ad (1)

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the award-winning author, Jae, and invited to participate in a character blog tour. I was flattered and a little intrigued.

If you are not familiar with Jae’s (Amazon) incredible books: Backwards to Oregon, Second Nature,  Something in the Wine, Conflict of Interest, Next of Kin and Hidden Truths–you might check them out.

Jae is also a generous mentor and teacher.  She will be joining us soon at the 2014 GCLS

On with the questions….

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

I just wrote a rather lengthy blog on the Damaged Series—Book 3 will be released in a couple of weeks)—I’d like to focus on one of the characters from my last novel, 19140588“Balefire.”

Silke Dyson is a fictional contemporary character from Wisconsin. Average height, strawberry blond hair, green eyes, and the body of a swimmer. Silke’s a free spirit with an eye for beauty.The other main character is Kirin Foster, a travel writer with a romantic heart.

When and where is the story set?

 The story starts out on a turbulent flight to Belize, where a significant part of the story is set up. They meet there and fall under it’s spell. As they navigate the initial awkwardness, they discover similar roots in Wisconsin.

 What should we know about him/her?

Silke is an artist/professor in an unhappy relationship with a charismatic narcissist.

 What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

 A bitter argument got physical resulting in Silke’s traumatic tunnel vision. She becomes dependent, distrustful, and trapped.

 What is the personal goal of the character?

 Silke wants to achieve enough independence to support herself and her career, without falling victim to outside forces.

 Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

 There were several working titles, but it was published seven months ago as “Balefire”  along with a follow-up novella, “Flights of Fancy.”

When can we expect the book to be published?

 When Jae, invited me to do this blog, I was going to talk about the enigmatic Zeke Cabot, star of my Damaged series, and her new release, “Dispatched with Cause,” but something made me choose Silke and that set me to wondering whether I was finished with that story. Who knows? There may be another story…

Meanwhile, I’ve passed the torch to two of my favorites: Critically acclaimed novelist, Ann McMan–Famous Author, mother of the Jericho series, Co-author of Lambda Finalist “Hoosier Daddy” with her dear wife Salem West, and the Neon Prairie Chicken, Sandra Moran. Her Edmund White Finalist, “Letter Never Sent”, “Nudge” and soon the fabled “Addendum.” Their answers will appear next Monday July 7th on their blogs.

Thanks for joining me, please check with Ann and Sandra next week.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

**But… that’s not all, because I’ve been a lazy blogger, I’m going to give you a super special treat–

TOMORROW! With great pleasure, I will present a personal interview with the remarkable Amanda Kyle Williams, critically acclaimed author of the Keye Street thrillers. Her third book “Don’t Talk to Strangers” will be released tomorrow! **

Don’t miss this one.

“My Writing Process Blog Tour” Barrett’s Turn

BinkLook! A Blog!!

At the behest of Jody Klaire, I am participating in the #Mywritingprocess Blog Tour. The purpose is to give each author and opportunity to discuss her work briefly and pass the torch to another author.

I’m delighted and honored that the irrepressible Jody—one of the bright new stars in the Bedazzled TOTS Brigade—chose me. (Look for her new book, Empath soon)

On with the questions.

1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

At the moment, I am working on revisions to book 3 of the Damaged series, Dispatched With Cause. After books 1 and 2, Damaged in Service and Defying Gravity, I needed a mental-health break and worked on a brand-new romance, Balefire.

The Damaged series was started in 2009. At the time, the story manifested so quickly, I could hardly keep up let alone worry about grammar or punctuation. That was a painful mistake that I am still correcting.

After some wonderful editorial coaching on my earlier works, I needed to make some signification changes to the third book in the series. In addition to cosmetic changes, I wanted to amp up the tension since this is the third book of four, it needs to produce a major turning point.

Now that I have pushed Zeke and Anne to another new challenge, I will begin work on revising book four.

 

2.   HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE SAME GENRE?

I guess I would say that the major difference is the story arc, which is deliberately written over a span of four books.  I envisioned the story like a television drama. It would be an end to season with a cliffhanger, then resume with the next season. Evidently, that’s not how commercial fiction is written. Who knew?

If you read the series, you’ll know that cliff-hanger was not a popular option for many of the lesfic community. They wanted HEA – happily ever after, as well as all the loose ends tied neatly.

I radically changed the story in book 2, but needed to keep the storyline intact. (Note: writing “by committee” is not the wisest direction.)

I consider this series romantic intrigue. However, that wouldn’t describe each individual book. Yet there are strong elements of both romance/love and intrigue in all.

 

3.   WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

 

Like many others, I write the kinds of books I want to read. And in fact, it’s one of the things that make it difficult for me to read them critically. Almost every time I start to don my editing cap, I get caught up in my characters lives and don’t see the minutia. It makes me lousy editor. But…a good reader!

Recently I had this discussion with a friend and told her that I enjoy writing romance because I want to learn to be a better writer. I want to learn the craft by reading and writing stories that resonate with so many people.

When I’m ready, I have at least three books in my head that will be much closer to literary fiction. In the meantime, there are at least three or four manuscripts already written that I want to revise and submit.

And besides, I can’t NOT write.

 

4.   HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Glad they saved this one until last.

I would best be described as an imaginative, unrepentant, undisciplined, procrastinating Panster (someone who writes from the proverbial Seat of her pants). This is the polar opposite of a plotter (someone who lays out a foundation with a plan, notes, and or an outline.) I attended a conference with a very successful plotter who brought her outline in the form of an excel spread sheet 12 feet long!

At that moment I feared that I just didn’t have the fortitude to become a writer. But, at some point, I realized my strong suit was story-telling. I come from a long line of Gaelic story tellers.

Most of the stories I’ve created initially character driven, so I begin by creating the individuals around whom the story will grow. For the purpose of this blog I’ll use Balefire is an example.

I scoured several name lists to find Kirin Foster and Silke Dyson. I made up birthdays and did horoscopes on each woman, including their compatibility.  I threw them into an actual situation based on a true story to see what would happen. I knew I wanted a Romance that was fairly uncomplicated. (Insert snickering)

I transported each woman to the airport. Coincidently, both left from the Milwaukee airport, where their paths did not cross. During this process, I found out who the secondary characters were. I also learned some of the back story.

Each scene unfolded moment-by-moment depending on whose point of view I was writing from. If it was Silke’s point of view, everything was painted with a level of anxiety, resignation, and her visual disability.

When I was with Kirin, I became a type A impatient, irritated, and disconnected frequent traveler.

Voila! The scene is set and I just need to navigate my two characters through it. The rest comes from my own history of traveling the same route, from the same airports, with the same conditions. The only thing I needed to change was the point of view. Then add to the mix a circus-trunk full of imagination.

One scene begets the next scene. For me, it’s linear and organic. I don’t create scenes independently and try to fit them into the story. On rare occasions, when I have been asked to move the scene or event to another part of the story, it’s been incredibly difficult, because each piece of the story is built on the information provided by previous blocks.

I have tried outlining a new story first, and I’m stopped at the gate. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I can use the structure to evaluate AFTER the story-line is written.

The downside of the linear approach is breaking the scenes and chapters into manageable pieces, while still keeping the reader turning the pages. I like to take breaks 😉

The upside? I love to makeup stories and then “Spackle” them with ambiance and emotion. It’s been fifteen years since I started writing the Epic Medical Mystery with 22 characters and 6 subplots, all from a singular omniscient narrator.

Thanks for stopping by!   I’d be interested if anyone has questions, please share.

 

And now, it is with great pleasure I pass the baton to another of our Bink TOTS, Baxter Clare Trautman. 

Baxter Clare Trautman earned a Masters degree in Biology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and promptly turned her hand to writing. Her thesis became Spirit of the Valley, published by Sierra Club in 2000, and was immediately followed by Bleeding Out, the first in the critically lauded L.A. Franco mystery series. Her latest Franco book is  in the pipeline.

A practicing wildlife biologist, Trautman lives in central California with her wife, dogs, cats, and chickens.

Her latest release: The River Within

 

 

Whaddabout ME?

reading Just looked over my recent blog posts about everything BUT.

There are reviews, recommendations, and caterpillars. Good Lord.

Is that anyway to promote your work? Seriously? “If you were working for me, I’d fire you!”

Sigh.

Very true. Too much lack-luster and not enough spit-shine! So here goes.

I’m a writer. Loud and Proud. A new career which I started about 5 years ago. And in the past couple years, I’ve published four books (two were second editions–to be fair), a novella, and a soon-to-be-released new novel! So for anyone who may have missed the news, I will refresh this page (clever, huh?)

sm DISDamaged in Service is Book I of the four book Damaged Series. It kicks off the series with an overview of the primary character, FBI Special Agent Zeke Cabot. Traumatized by an undercover job to identify a serial killer responsible for the decapitation murders of a dozen homeless victims for medical science, she’s fragile.

Her escape to New Mexico is a mixed blessing. She’s captivated by a wonderful nurse whose chemistry is irresistible. But her past won’t stay past. Anne Reynolds has her own burdens and certainly not looking for a relationship …with a woman.

New Release

New Release

Defying Gravity, Book II, explores the challenge for two headstrong women daring to try. Zeke takes the risk of relocating to New Mexico and a new job. Anne risks her heart.

Dispatched with Cause, Book III, (in Progress) will ramp up the action as Zeke skates closer to the edge. Her denial of her symptoms is interfering with her job. Anne is fearful but unable to help.

 WindyCityWindy City Mistletoe was written right after Book I was published as a Christmas gift to readers. It’s a Novella that takes place AFTER the series ends, when the two women take a holiday in Chicago. Happy!

   balefire_lgBalefire is a stand alone love story about two lives inextricably woven together over time and circumstance. Constantly shifting Yin and Yang provide each woman an opportunity to assess their lives and choices. It’s a warm story that begins in Belize and travels to Milwaukee, Door County, and New York. You will meet Kirin and Silke along with friends, families, cheats, and some fun times.

Look for Balefire later this Fall 2013

Not only that…you can like my Face book page: Barrett Writes

or Twitter 

or Goodreads Barrett

Bink

I would also like to give a shout-out to Claudia and Casey at  Bedazzled Ink for their support.

As well as Ann McMan IMG_1137

Author and Graphic designer extraordinare at Tree House Studio for my amazing covers.

(gosh this is uncomfortable...)

so please go buy a book so I don’t feel so silly. http://bink.bedazzledink.com/

and support my talented team members.

total TOTS

Contest for give-aways!

I’m still a little flush with the excitement of finishing the first draft of “Balefire” and sending back the signed contract for it. This story derived as they often do from the ‘shotgun’. I entered Nanowrimo last year for the eighth year and won, as I have every year except 2005…when I did the whole thing with pen and paper. For Balefire, I wrote the first 50k  then continued the next 50k for five more months. It still needs beta reading and revising, but I really like it. As soon as I clean it up, I’ll post an excerpt about these endearing characters. ( I hope you’ll agree.)

It will only be a slight commercial interruption before I plunge head-long into the amped-up book 3 of the Damaged series, tentatively titled “Deliberate Choices”. In this one, Zeke will have her hands full, her weapon loaded, and a Kevlar vest handy. Lots of pots will be boiling and Anne’s frustration will be one of them. Stay tuned.

Back to the current topic. I want to share the love with some prizes. So, I’m planning a little contest where the winners will receive a copy of their favorite book. In order to make it fun and challenging, there’s a pre-contest.

For the top three people who submit an interesting “question” I can use for the contest, I        Barrett postcardwill send a signed copy of my table card used for my booksigning. (which is an 11×17 poster). The questions should relate to the series or to my writing.

The winners question will be chosen on the basis of cleverness, interest, and difficulty.

When I’ve got three good ones, I’ll post Phase II of Project Give-away. Need I say, if your question is chosen…you can’t submit the answer in the next phase.

Come on, folks help me get this Give-away moving!

Meantime, I gearing up for the SW Book Fiesta which will open next weekend at the ABQ convention center May 10-12, 2013.

“The Southwest Book Fiesta is all about the past, present and future of books and publishing. We’re bringing together authors, publishers and the public for a family-friendly weekend, focusing on nationally recognized as well as local authors, literacy, learning, and most of all – fun!”

I’m part of a panel discussion with my LERA sisters on Saturday and signing on Sunday.

Happy Mother’s Day to all those brave souls–for every Mother.