Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pulitzer Prize Nominated Author Velda Brotherton Writes about PTSD in Beyond the Moon

With Veterans Day upon us, Velda Brotherton's Pulitzer Prize nominated novel Beyond the Moon strikes a timely chord.

1985 - A wounded warrior home from nine years as a POW in Vietnam, a woman grief stricken over the loss of her husband. He touches her and she descends into his disturbed world where they wage a battle to bring him home from the horrors of that captivity. A love story you’ll never forget.

Diaries of men serving in wars as long ago as 1,000 years spoke of suffering from symptoms that match those we identify today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many Civil War soldiers returned suffering from what was then known as nostalgia or soldier's heart.  Because there was no treatment, some were sent to asylums, but most of these were closed down after the war. Veterans wandered the streets, many starved to death or froze because everyone thought they were crazy and dangerous and shunned them.

Sadly, many homeless veterans today suffer from this disorder. Not too long ago, these men were labeled as malingerers. As late as the 1980s not much was known about treatment. Then called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, these men often suffered the same fate as veterans of the Civil War.

In the past two decades, though, various treatments have been tried with some success. Victims are taught to identify what triggers their frightening flashbacks, which appear to propel them back to the killing fields of war. In their minds tall buildings can hide snipers, unusual loud noises are threatening, and dreadful nightmares bring back memories that appear to be stored in the brain forever.

Recent studies have helped define what goes on in the brain of someone affected by PTSD. Doctors are hesitant to “mess” with brain functions, but one study produces an interesting and hopeful step forward in the treatment of stress disorder.

While this disorder is more common among veterans returning from battle, people who undergo any type of traumatic experience can suffer from it as well. Because I've written several books where either the hero or a supporting character suffers from PTSD, I've done months of research and talked to veterans and their spouses about this disorder. It can be debilitating, can disrupt a person's life until they can no longer function well in society or in family life. Many who are effected distrust those around them and feel that no one can love them which can cause withdrawal from loved ones.

Often it can be five to ten years after the trauma before PTSD strikes. Some veterans and their families live with its effects for many years while others are able to somewhat control their upsetting reactions when they return to their previous lives.’

Imagine, if you can, turning the street corner in a quiet town, only to walk into a battlefield. Soldiers lie dying all around you, heat and explosions of mortar fire blasts from all directions. All senses go on alert. No matter how you might want to believe it isn't happening, it is, and you are caught up in the middle of it. Thrown back into a battle so vivid you are there.

During World War II this was referred to as shell shock or battle fatigue, and was misunderstood and seldom treated. Thankfully, today two treatments are found effective for most suffering from this disorder. Counseling and medication.

The best thing you can do if you know someone who suffers from PTSD is listen to what they have to say. Encourage them to talk to you about their feelings and experiences. You may not be a counselor who can suggest solutions, but you can listen with an open heart and mind and try to be supportive. Show that you care.

And don't forget to thank veterans for their service.

Have a question?
Symptoms and treatment for PTSD 

******

Beyond the Moon has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize nominated book in literary fiction. It is available now in Ebook and paper back. Hard cover coming soon.

Velda Brotherton writes “Sexy, Dark & Gritty” romance and love stories, both historical and more recently vintage novels, with an authenticity that makes her characters and stories ring true. She has been writing for nearly 30 years and enjoys doing research almost as much as writing. Tough heroines, strong heroes, villains to die for, come alive in her novels. Her background in journalism adds a wealth of experiences that lend to her storytelling.







Velda lives with her husband and writes from her home in the Ozarks of Arkansas. Contact her:
WEBSITE http://www.veldabrotherton.com
BLOG http://www.veldabrotherton.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK http://www.facebook.com/vebrotherton

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Romance Author Liz Flaherty: Art, Craft, and Magic

Back to McGuffey's
Liz Flaherty talks about art, craft, and quilts.

I grew up loving quilts. I have ones that were made by my great grandmother, my grandmother, and my Aunt Nellie. They’re old and beautiful, with tiny stitches and scraps of memories scattered over them like the leaves that are rustling through my yard these days. While I treasure the quilts and the memories, making quilts wasn’t something I ever truly thought I’d do. For one simple reason.
         
They are art.

I am a writer. I’ve had nine books published and am still at it. There is little that I love more than writing, but it’s a craft to me, not an art. Some writers are artists, and I writhe with envy when I read their books, but I am not. This is okay with me. I just write.

But then I had grandchildren—they are seven of the things I love more than writing. When I got ready to retire, I was afraid—for one wild, crazy instant—that I would be bored, so I thought why not go ahead and make a quilt for each grandchild? Not fancy like the old ones I have that would require anything artistic of me, but simpler patterns. After all, I liked to sew. How hard could it be?
          
Ahem.
          
It could be hard. And it was. Especially since I haven’t had a single minute of boredom since I retired—there hasn’t been time. Five of those nine books have been published in the three and a half years since retirement, six of the seven quilts are made, and I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life.
         
Quilts tend to consume the person who’s making them. I started out with a 6-inch by 24-inch ruler, a rotary cutter, a cutting mat, and enough fabric for the quilt I was making. I now have many rulers, many cutters, a mat that completely covers my cutting table, and enough fabric to cover a small country.
          
Years ago, I wrote a book called The Debutante’s Second Chance, a Silhouette Special Edition. In it, the heroine made a quilt. It was incidental. When I wrote A Soft Place to Fall, the heroine opened a quilt shop, and it wasn’t incidental at all. In my newest book, Back to McGuffey’s, Kate is a lover of quilts. In my work-in-progress, Arlie has a quilt room many of us would cheerfully die for. Quilting and writing have over time become inextricably intertwined.
         
I’m working on Number Seven on my grandkids’ quilts. It’s still a craft to me; I can’t do anything without a pattern and need help choosing fabric every single time. Likewise, I’m working on my Number Ten book and I’m still a craftsman, not an artist. And it’s still okay with me.

What I love, and what maybe is a little artistic, is what is alike in books and quilts. They both have stories to tell, they’ll both be around for children and grandchildren, they both contain beloved memories within their construction. Not big memories, perhaps, like wedding days or births or even bittersweet goodbyes, but ones that lie gentle in the pockets behind their owners’ hearts. When the quilts are used or the books read, the memories slip out and create magic.

And there it is. Whether writers and/or sewists artists or craftsmen, we have the opportunity to create magic. Aren’t we the lucky ones?

Thanks for having me here today. I’ve enjoyed it. I hope you find the magic.

******
Back to McGuffey's

The one that got away...
Could Kate Rafael’s day get any worse? First she lost her job, then her house burned down and now her ex is back in town. Apparently, Ben McGuffey's taking a break from being a big-city doctor to help at his family’s tavern and reassess the choices he's made for his career.

Ben ends up giving Kate a hand...then giving her kisses...and finally, a second chance. But when a local teenager shows them both a glimpse of what it means to be a family, Ben wonders if having kids in small-town Vermont would clash with his ambitions. Or can he truly come home again…to Kate?



Liz retired from the post office and promised to spend at least fifteen minutes a day on housework. Not wanting to overdo things, she’s since pared that down to ten. She spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and doing whatever else she wants to. She and Duane, her husband of…oh, quite a while, are the parents of three and grandparents of the Magnificent Seven. They live in the old farmhouse in Indiana they moved to in 1977. They’ve talked about moving, but really…37 years’ worth of stuff? It’s not happening! She’d love to hear from you at lizkflaherty@gmail.com
Buy links:


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Author Larry Farmer: Using Personal Experience to Write a Love Story

Fiction is not always just making stuff up. Sometimes an author draws heavily on personal experience.

Larry Farmer's bio-fiction novelette, The Kerr Construction Company, is about a disenchanted ex-Marine after the Vietnam War. Searching for a new direction in life. Dalhart McIlhenny heads to Gallup, New Mexico, and finds employment in a construction company working with the Navaho, illegal aliens, and ex-bullfighter from Durango.  Far away from fast cars and parties, Dalhart searches for meaning. Finding peace in a callous world seems impossible. Then he meets Carmen.

How much of this story is based on your life?
Most of it. After a stint in the Marines during the Viet Nam era, and time spent traveling the world, I came back home to Houston. It was the fastest growing city in America at the time and perhaps the most prosperous. All around was wealth with no substance. People elevated material things over culture. I had seen poverty both in America and during my travels. Rural Mexico was just a few miles from where I had grown up. People traveled in donkey carts and wore shoes made from worn out tires. Wealth sure beat that, but I quickly became disenchanted by the new America. We seemed absorbed with money and much of our social fabric had been discredited, although some of it justifiably.

I needed to get away and reexamine my life, so I bought an old beat up panel truck and started driving. That truck became my home. With hardly a penny in my pocket, I eventually ended up in Gallup, New Mexico, the capital of the Navajo world. The poverty wasn’t pretty, but I wanted to know more. Houston has been my life, but here was a different perspective.

Wanting to get back to my roots, I found a menial job working with both Navajo and illegal aliens. I met the ex-bullfighter who eventually became a character in my story. He was charismatic and smart and became a close friend. It put a very personal face on the immigration issue. This whole immigration thing has been so politicized its easy forget the struggle illegals have in order to carve out a life. Living among them made me face difficult questions about their survival and mine every single day.

 So…the girl in the story.  If you are Dalhart, did a romance with Carmen really happen? Spill the beans, Larry.
There was a Mexican waitress. I was sitting at this restaurant at the end of a long hard physically demanding day. While waiting for my order, I looked up from my book and there was this dark skinned goddess who took my breath away. There was this electricity between this girl and me even before we said a word. We tried not looking at each other but couldn’t stop ourselves. She poured a glass of water and her hand was shaking, spilling water on the table even. She was a recent divorcee, living with her mother, also trying to survive and find herself again. When dating back then you always had to be cognizant of racial and social divides, but this girl just knocked my socks down. I didn’t want it to consider racial or social issues. All I wanted to do was be with her.

What was the most difficult part to write?
None of it. All of it. It just flowed. It had already written itself into my life and I was simply the messenger.
  
No spoilers, but was the ending in the story the same as real life? Did you make any changes and why?
I made up the ending. Circumstances occurred in my life too complicated to write about and took away from the story. So, I tried to find a place about my relationship with Carmen and make it entertaining and believable. The truth is much my inner search than just the events in Gallup, New Mexico. That’s another story.

Since you’re a nice Jewish guy from Texas did you have more trouble writing a woman’s point of view or a Native American’s? What challenges did you face?
I was the only boy growing up in my family of two sisters and three step-sisters. I opened up to a lot of changes brought on by the woman’s movement. It made including a female perspective easier for me. I’m part Cherokee too. I love the Cherokee, one of the Five Civilized Tribes. They endured perhaps the cruelest history when Europeans came. So, meeting Native Americans such as the Navajo wasn’t a new experience. I wanted to present some of their lives, but not dwell on it. The story is not about that, but Gallup and the Navaho were part of the setting.

How difficult was it for a man to write in what is generally thought of as a woman’s field of romantic fiction?
I loved the process. I want to say I love women, but that sounds tacky, uncouth, and a little too macho. I like the ying and the yang thing; Mother Nature plotting to keep the species alive and thriving by bringing the two sexes together.  

I’m part of a writer’s club in College Station near Texas A & M. Two of the female members are romance novelists, published by The Wild Rose Press. That’s how I found out about this publisher. I had been writing, developing the craft and decided to give it a shot. My editor suggested I nurture the love story. I thought that was a great idea. I didn’t want to be a strict romance novelist, but I do love a love story. It enhances a good tale.

Since many of your characters are based on real people, have any of them read it? If so, What did they think?
I’ve lost contact with everyone back then. It would be great if this story catches on, they recognize themselves, and remember this college educated Texas cowboy that entered their lives. They didn’t have a clue what the hell I was doing there. I didn’t make a lick of sense to them. I didn’t belong, but we ended up fitting in to each other’s lives. Ideally this is how life is supposed to be. I’d like to think they’d read it and say “That son-of-a-gun gave us form.”

Your second novel, I Will Be The One, is due out late 2014. It's also based on biographical experience, this time your Peace Corps experience in the Philippines during the Ferdinand Marcos administration. Was a full-length book more difficult? What new challenges did you face?
Once again, it wrote me. I couldn’t get it out of the word processor fast enough. The Peace Corps is so underrated. It was a marvelous experience, but there were some real problems going on where we lived. Violent upheavals in a dangerous place made more so by politics. My best friend in the Peace Corps at first was a girl from Cleveland, but then we got sent to different parts of the county. Next this Southern white conservative became close friends with a smart as a whip, politically liberal, African-American man from Los Angeles. It was a great dichotomy, but we hit it off.

For the story, I wrote about the day in the life stuff, the dangers, the unbelievably horrific poverty, and the insurrection against a dictatorship. I was there for the overthrow. I met Cory Aquino and Cardinal Sin. I saw political assassinations. So, again, I don’t want to make it sound too easy, but the story wrote itself. It told me what to say and I couldn’t get it out fast enough.

Even though this wasn’t a strict romance novel, a deep love story is the foundation. Life as seen from the eyes of two people living in tumultuous times. So out goes my black liberal friend and in goes the girl. I mixed the characters up, shared her life and times, but added some details from his life, too. Funny thing, after all these years he looked me up on Facebook and we reconnected. I found the girl on LinkedIn and she shared even more stories and experiences to enhance the story.


*****
Excerpt from The Kerr Construction Company

“Quitting time, McIlhenny,” I heard Ira shout.
“Another five minutes,” I shouted back.
“I’ll load up,” he answered. “Oh yeah, another thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked when he didn’t follow through.
“Didn’t you say you used to play football?” he asked.
“Yeah.”
“You’re a fast runner, right?”
What does that mean? “Yeah,” I answered again.
“You better be. This is a stick of dynamite here in my hand.”
He lit it and threw it my direction. I didn’t look back until I heard the explosion. There was a hole ten yards from where I used to be.
“Come on,” he shouted again, not bothering to laugh. “Let’s go home. Go get your shovel if it’s still there.”
Later I thought of Ira’s shenanigans, sitting in the restaurant, savoring the rich garlic aroma. He would have made a good Marine, I decided. I never made it to Vietnam, but I get to tell my grandkids about when I worked for the Kerr Construction Company.
I heard Carmen’s voice come from beside me. “You got a look about you, hombre,” she said as she walked over to me and planted a small kiss on my lips. “Is that a smirk? What wickedness are you contriving? Better not leave me out of it.”
“Nearly got blown up by dynamite today,” I said as my smirk turned into laughter.
“Good Lord, man. How did that happen?”
“Aw, not really,” I said. “It’s a long story anyway.”
“Don’t eat here tonight, Sweets,” she said with a wink. “Mother has supper ready for us. She’s going to bring up Monument Valley. She knows what the hell we did there. And I ain’t talking the scenery or our intimate little conversations. I’m talking she put two and two together and she knows we’re not virgins.”

“She would’ve suspected what was going to happen even before we left.”

*****
Larry Farmer is an ex-Marine who grew up on a cotton farm on the southern tip of Texas. He has two degrees from Texas A&M University where he works in IT. Married with three sons, he writes fiction incorporating experiences from his extensive travels. Find Larry at:
 www.larryfarmerwrites.com         
Twitter @LFarmerWrites
Pinterest larryfarmerwrites