Happy Ending or Die in a Fire

Romance is a popular book genre. Romance novels follow a predictable pace toward a predictable happy ending. They are light reads which leave the reader feeling optimistic in the end. I have read many romance novels in my life and enjoy them when I do, so I get the draw. I understand why they are important. I understand why, now that e-readers make reading more private, many men are beginning to read them.

But my books are not romance novels. I love romance *a lot* and so I typically include lovers in my stories. I write about relationships, but not with the intention of leaving you on cloud nine in the end.

I’m taking some time to write this blog post now because I often see people complaining about books which do not have a “Happily Ever After”. I see people complaining about characters dying because they are targeted for their race, gender, sexuality, disability, etc as if the author is actually the murderer just for having written such a storyline.

And this brings me to a conclusion I feel I need to proclaim: I do not write books to make readers feel good. (Though you will sometimes)

Additionally: I do not write books *solely* so you can see yourself in the pages. (Though you will sometimes). I aim, mostly, to make the reader see how not to be the villain.

When I set out to write Winter Seedlings, Jute and Allie were meant to move off to Illinois and open a little bookstore on the corner of some downtown street. That’s what I wanted to happen. Two girls in love finding a happily ever after. But Winter Seedlings was never a F/F romance novel. From the very beginning, Winter Seedlings was about childhood sexual abuse and how challenging it is to define love because of it. Jute withdrew herself entirely from intimacy while Allie did the opposite; she believed her only value was in how well she pleased others sexually. I wanted to explore what would happen when those opposite forces collided together. In the end, Winter Seedlings was meant to give those who have never experienced the trauma of abuse a glimpse into the psychological effects it sometimes causes.

I wrote Winter Seedlings for people who did NOT already know what it’s like to be abused.

And maybe I’m wrong for having approached it that way. Maybe I should have created it in a way that was light and fluffy and left everyone feeling warm inside.

But honestly, I was pretty upset about the issue. I didn’t want people to read it and walk away feeling like they hadn’t a care in the world. I wanted them to walk away feeling very, very thoughtful. I wanted them to care about what happened to those characters in a way that would stay with them in the real world where they could make a difference in real lives.

The same was true for Silencer. I tackled a lot of tough issues in that novella. Race, police brutality, mental illness, grief. Silencer is the kind of book that is meant to get inside you and twist you up, make you feel what you don’t want to feel so you’ll walk away with a lot more empathy when it’s over. It’s not written to make you feel good. And it’s absolutely not written because *I* as an author want bad things to happen to minorities or the mentally ill.

Not everyone can read books like I write them. Not everyone wants to dig so deep and work so hard emotionally. I don’t blame them. If you’ve lived your life with a certain pain, the thoughts of rehashing it through fiction can seem like torture. I do make an effort to avoid minimizing the bad things that happen in my books as if those bad things are easy to get over, and I make an effort to write from the victim’s POV and not the abuser’s. I avoid sensationalizing trauma for those who feed off hurting people. But I know my efforts can still, at times, not be enough. I respect anyone who says to me “I couldn’t read your book because it was too triggering”.

I have pulled my books out of LGBT fiction categories because most booksellers market that category like romance. Initially, I don’t think I had a clear understanding of where my books fit in. I still don’t. But, I have gained a better understanding of *why* readers read certain genres, and that has helped me know where my books do *not* belong. If a bookseller has a Psychological Fiction category, that’s usually a safe place for me to set up residence.

So, what have you learned from reading this? Hopefully, you don’t read it and think I object to your reading preferences, or your need for a HEA (happily ever after). I think you should be able to reliably find the books you are seeking and shouldn’t have to read books that upset you.

BUT, I also think that you shouldn’t complain about the existence of books which do not have a HEA. Complain if the author categorizes such books as romance, yes. Complain if the trauma is sensationalist and the storyline lacks empathy, but don’t complain just because someone dared to write a tragedy.

Oddly enough, I’ve actually been knocked for one of my books ending in a way that was “too tidy”. I don’t know what readers want from me. 😉

If you are an author, cherish every reader who “gets you”. Because there will always be plenty of others who would only use your book as a doorstop, or perhaps as a projectile aimed for your head.

My final thought: Let’s all try to see the best in each other.

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

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Teaching Autistic Kids about Consent

My autistic son wasn’t always affectionate. As a baby, he pulled away from embraces. Looking back, I am sure there were many times I stopped breastfeeding him because I thought his turning away or crying meant he didn’t want milk. There are many, many things I misinterpreted before his diagnosis. Because of that, even today when he is 7 years old, I try really hard not to prematurely assume things about his behavior.

As a toddler, my son became much more affectionate. He liked the deep pressure he felt from hugs. He liked to drape himself over my lap and roll around. I knew he wasn’t just doing it because he loved me, but also because it served a sensory purpose. But I valued it anyway.

Now, my son is still very affectionate, but expresses much more love for us while being that way. He crawls in bed with me in the morning and rolls up in the blanket as tight as he can get it, scoots really close, and then presses his feet against my thigh, or bends his knees and presses them on my hip.

His way of expressing affection looks something like this:

“Oh, Baby bird,” He’ll say in a high pitched voice, “You are so cuuute!” He will hug whatever body part is near him, my waist or my arm or my leg or my face, and squeeze tightly (sometimes suffocatingly). “Whee!” He will say and take my long strands of hair in his hands and cross them in front of my face so that if I speak to him I will immediately have my own hair shoved in my mouth. “You are sooooo cute, Baby bird. You are just a delicate flower!”

It’s kind of like torture love. Still, I am incredibly thankful for every single word and every single (excessive) embrace.

But I have recently become aware that it is time to set boundaries. I know my son is completely innocent in his motivation. I know my son is still years behind with his social skills. I know my son has a valid excuse for not acting as his peers in regard to displays of affection. I am in no way saying that his actions should not be viewed through the lens of autism.

But he can’t kiss people. He can’t go to school and embrace his peers and kiss them because he loves them. That might be okay at age 3. It’s not okay at age 7, autistic or not.

I happen to be quite firm in my belief that everyone should be taught to respect consent. You might have noticed from my other blog posts that I am very concerned about the effects of sexual abuse and assault. I incorporated this concern into my parenting by personally asking permission before kissing my kids and allowing them to request physical space, even in an argument, if they think we are standing too close. I have done this with my son especially.

“Can I kiss your cheek?” I’ll ask.

My son will nod or he may tell me no. I respect his answer.

But now the roles are reversed. My son has a new found joy in kissing. It is absolutely a sensory thing. It is absolutely fueled by his autism. I am not faulting him for this. But, I have to address it.

Personally, I don’t mind it so much because I know it *is* sensory. But will everyone know this? No, absolutely not. No one except his family will permit it. That is reason enough to take on the challenge of teaching him about personal space. But in addition to people not accepting that behavior, there are also people who will be triggered by it because they have been abused. Even scarier, this behavior makes children easier to victimize.

Here are the actions I have taken and the rules I’ve established. We will see in the coming weeks what effect this has:

  1. Define personal space and explain why it’s important to respect it with everyone. Let him hear me use the phrase “personal space” where it applies in other conversations, such as when disciplining his sisters for fighting or roughhousing.
  2. Rule: “Ask first before hugging or kissing.” As badly as I want his hugs and as much as I do *not* want to push him away, I do it anyway and make him ask first. I do not expect this to deter him from hugging or kissing. He is seeking that sensory input, so if the rule is he must ask first in order to get it, he will ask. (This is my hope, we shall see.)
  3. Rule: “Do not hug or kiss anyone, ever, at school.”. Perhaps I should make this rule more broad. But because school is the immediate concern, I am keeping it focused on that. Once he accepts this rule for school, I will broaden it to include other places he goes.
  4. Rule: Kisses can only go on cheeks, foreheads, or hands. Nowhere else.
  5. When he asks, “Can I kiss you?” I tell him where and how many times. I do not simply say “yes” or he will machine gun kiss wherever is closest. I say, “Yes. You can kiss my cheek two times.” He does, but will simultaneously grab some strands of my hair and cross it over my face when he’s done. So… we’re still working on that. (BTW, I plan to solve this hair issue by whacking most of mine off. It would be one less distraction.)
  6. Make a suitable consequence. I am not trying to teach him that kissing is equally bad as hitting. So the consequence is something like, “You will lose ten minutes of electronics time.” It’s not a big deal, but it does get his attention enough to make him think about his actions. Ideally, I want him to follow these rules because he understands the importance of personal space, not because he’s afraid of losing electronics time. But, you and I both know it’s not that easy with most kids. If I sense that he begins to do it just to cause a negative reaction, then bigger consequences will apply.

I write about a lot of things here, not always Autism. But this particular topic is for the parents of autistic kids who follow my blog. Despite writing about many topics, most of my readers find me through searches about autism, about which I am no expert. I simply share my own experiences and what little bit of knowledge I glean from raising my son and hope it helps others. If anyone else (parent, teacher, or autistic) has something to add about this topic, please feel free to post a comment. I’m curious to know if you have dealt with this, what has worked, or what did not. Your insights are just as valuable as mine. ❤

Book Reviews: Abuse in Fiction

I promised I’d weed through the gigillion books at Amazon and find a few gems of self-published work. I’m a slow and meticulous reader, so in no way will this blog turn into a book review site. But, I do hope to highlight some books worth mentioning as I find them.

My book series, Winter Seedlings, deals with the effects of childhood sexual abuse. So, for the first chunk of reviews, I decided to read books touching on similar themes.

I’ll start with The Goldfish Diaries by Winona Teague.

goldfishdiariesThe Goldfish Diaries is an unusual book in that it deals with the very heavy subject of domestic violence in a way that is accessible to teens. Combined with the fact that the narrator is a goldfish, perhaps you’ll assume this book is too childish for adults to enjoy. But, you would be mistaken. The goldfish is like a fly on the wall, seeing everything that happens in the house and trying to make sense of it. As explained by this description of this book on Amazon: “Through the eyes of their long-forgotten goldfish we come to know the Havens family. Tom: the boy with the broken heart. Millicent: the little girl with the broken teacup. Mrs. Havens: the woman with the broken bones. And Mr. Havens: the man who gave them to her. ”
The Havens family goes through so much, but Tom is the one being pulled in all directions. I empathized with every character Winona Teague created, maybe not so much with Mr. Havens, but I understood why he thought the way he did. Though self-published, The Goldfish Diaries is very well written, believable, unforgettable.

The next book on the list is It’s Not Always About Freud by Adele Scott.

itsnotalwaysaboutfreud2

Adele Scott has a Masters degree in psychology and trained as a child psychotherapist. She lives in Auckland, New Zealand. This is her first novel, self-published, and impressive. It is not, however, about a cat.
The story centers around the life of a therapist as well as a situation with one of her clients. I’ll post the Amazon description here:

Thirty-seven year-old psychotherapist Laura Flight works in a mental health clinic and appears to be better at solving other people’s problems rather than her own. She drinks too much, is not woman enough to dump feckless ex-partner, Brad, and is finding it harder to drown out the sound of her ticking biological clock.
Then an attractive new client, with connections to the clinic’s manager, walks into her therapy room. The unfolding events reach a crisis, which unexpectedly jeopardizes Laura’s position in the clinic and inevitably forces her to take charge of her life.
Laura learns the biggest battle she has to face, is the battle with herself.

There is no mention of abuse in the description; and though it is not the central theme of the book, it does happen. Because the author, Adele Scott, is a therapist in real life, this book is full of clinical-speak. I actually enjoyed that and appreciated that she didn’t dumb it down for those of us not in the field. A plus for me was that by the end of the book, I had learned some things about psychotherapy and Auckland.
I hope Adele Scott will write more books. But in the meantime, if this sounds like something you would enjoy, here is the link to It’s Not Always About Freud.

This list is in order from most tame to most graphic. So I am going to put my Winter Seedlings books right here. Most of you have already heard my plugs for them. I’ll just quickly say that they both deal with childhood sexual abuse, mostly the aftermath and recovery. They are both intensely emotional stories focusing more on the psychological effects than the assaults themselves. Both have diverse LGBTQ characters. Each is a complete story within itself, no cliffhanger at the end, just solid unforgettable endings.

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And last on the list, yet first in terms of emotional impact is Crush by Laura Susan Johnson.

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This book is not a light read. Be warned: you will not just cry, you will sob. Laura Susan Johnson does not shy away from describing atrocious acts of abuse, nor does she shy away from the details of the physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual effects of that abuse. She is a nurse in real life, and in many regards, the author has seen a lot and is not squeamish. I would almost categorize Crush as horror, but I don’t think the author wrote any of this to sensationalize abuse. She is not trying to glorify the pain. The book is intense and there’s no way to read it and not feel changed by it.

The Amazon description is: “Raw, graphic, candid portrait of two young gay men whose love affair is deeply affected by the scars they sustained from childhood sexual abuse. Tammy and Jamie are soul mates, but their love is thwarted for years by bad timing, fear of ridicule, and the damage that lingers long after childhood.”

Again, here is a link to Crush by Laura Susan Johnson.

I hope this is helpful to those wanting to support indie-authors. I’ll continue to post recommendations as I find gems worth mentioning. I am currently reading a few sci-fi novels. I’ll get back to you on those, possibly in March.

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Hate, Forgiveness, and Self-Control

My mom would often tell us, “You don’t hate anything.” Hate was not allowed in our house.

But when my uncle would visit, he would tell us elaborate stories from their childhood, finishing with, “I hate that woman/man.”

Mom would say, “Now, now. You don’t hate anyone.”

My Uncle responded, “Hell yes I do hate them, and you should, too!”

I tend to be more like Mom. I’m not comfortable with hate. I think it can eat away at the heart of the person holding it, and does nothing to change those we feel it toward. There are plenty of people I have reason to dislike, some of them are hopelessly flawed and unrepentant. But, I can’t think of anyone I hate in a forever kind of way.

Forgiveness is a different issue. Despite hating no one, I seldom forgive the most harmful people. They simply don’t deserve it, having never asked for it, or even acknowledged the harm they caused. Some people say we should forgive those who have hurt us so we can move on, but I’ve moved on quite well. Forgiveness is not the key to happiness. The assertion that we are going to be carrying around the weight of another person’s transgressions unless we forgive the person who hurt us is a lie.

As a perfect example, nearly a decade after leaving an abusive relationship, I called the guy. I wanted to hear him apologize. I scheduled a meeting in a park. We sat in my car. I asked him why he had physically hurt me so many times. I listed all the atrocities he had committed. He listened, then laughed. He said, “You used to be such a damn crybaby.” And then he leaned over and kissed me. What a prick.

Forgiveness? I’ll pass. But, I don’t hate him. I don’t have room in my life for it. There are occasions when I wish there was justice because I love it when people get what they deserve. But, it’s important for me to feel in control, so I try not to brood over things I can do little about.

Feelings of great dislike do arise, but they are usually short-lived. They usually happen on social media, or when one of my kids is hurt by someone, or someone messes with my mom. I am capable of passionately, momentarily, hating. But if it lasts more than a couple of weeks, I know it’s time to either do something or let it go.

Just for fun, I’m going to tell you about some things I hate right now, in the momentary, yet passionate sense.

I hate the t.v. show The Slap. I hate it because there are no likeable characters. They are all so stereotypical that I think the creators wanted the audience to hate them. That must have been the entire premiss: “Let’s create a show to fuel discord by having non-realistic characters as stereotypes people already love to hate.” And it works. I looked at feedback on twitter. Lots of people hating the characters, no one noticing it was a set up. Lots of people arguing about the show as if it reflects any semblance of reality, and it doesn’t.

I hate the song Jealous by Nick Jonas. My kids know I hate it because every time it comes on, I switch the channel while saying, “I hate that song, I hate that song, I hate that song.” And then I explain to them, every time, “He has no right to act hellish just because he’s jealous. He doesn’t own her. He should either be with her or not. There’s no excuse for being a jerk.” Repeat: No one has a right to be hellish. (Are you listening, Nick Jonas?)

I hate that girl… no, correction, I hate WHEN that girl on twitter mocked Quentin Alexander’s appearance on twitter while he sang I Put a Spell on You by Screamin Jay Hawkins. The girl posted a pic of Quentin and asked something to the gist of “What the hell is on my tv screen?” I’ve never before come so close to calling someone an asshole on social media. I know lots of people just like her. They distract from their own flaws by creating a constant barrage of insults toward others, mostly those perceived as underdogs. I could rant all day about how much I hated that girl at that moment, and how actions like hers almost always set me off. But I won’t. I’ll just share Quentin’s performance because it was rich with emotion, beautiful and smart, and everything that girl isn’t.

So, I was going to list more things I have hated this week, but that video just derailed me into a happy zone. That’s okay. I’m not trying to bring everybody up onto the hate wagon.

Sometimes people are just not worth the price of hating them. It’s not that they don’t deserve the hate. It’s not that letting go of your hate for them means you forgive them. It just means that getting them out of your circle so you can heal means not having to think about them at all. They don’t deserve the power we give to villains. They deserve to be sad and pathetic nobodies.

Winter Seedlings: Jute Confronts Her Mother

I’m sharing an excerpt from Winter Seedlings. This is a small part of Chapter 3 when Jute confronts her mother for abandoning her for four days. Winter Seedlings focuses on the effects of childhood sexual abuse and the difficulty of overcoming them. It’s a journey fumbling toward self-love with a broad range of diverse characters.

In this scene, Jute has been up in the woods behind her house collecting kindling. It is the first week of January and bitter cold. On the way back to the house, she sees her mother getting out of a GMC Jimmy driven by a man Jute doesn’t recognize.

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          As long as it takes me to walk to her, she never stops smiling. She is like that when people are around. Even when she shouldn’t be. She makes it hard to stay mad at her.

“Jute, this is Jerry.”

She turns to him and smiles, then looks back at me grinning. She lowers her voice seductively, “We’ve been sleeping around.”

“Momma!” I glare at her. She is trying to be funny but it makes me mad.

“What?” She says, batting her lashes at me and still grinning. “I’m finally free of that asshole. I can do whatever I want.”

She shrugs and walks past me like she’s Marilyn Monroe walking into someone else’s run down shack.

“Momma, I don’t care what you do or who you do it with. Just keep the details to yourself. Okay?”

I follow her up the porch steps and drop the kindling in the cardboard box by the door. Instead of going inside, I head back to the wood pile and pick up two small logs, leaving the largest for tonight. When I enter the house, Momma is in her bedroom talking to me through the door as if I have been there the whole time.
Ignoring her, I open the wood stove door. The heat is heavenly warmth on my face. I grab the poker and jab at the ashes and burned pieces of wood before throwing on the logs. I hear the snapping and cracking and try to focus on that instead of how angry I am at Momma for being gone so long. I can’t keep the door open any longer or the room will fill with smoke. I reluctantly shut it and hear Momma saying, “Jute, are you out there?”

I stand up and take my hat off. Jerry is standing by the couch, rocking on his heels and toes with his back to me. His hands are in his pockets and he’s looking at a picture of Jesus. It’s the only picture in the room, left here by the previous residents. This must be an awkward moment for Jerry. I don’t plan to make it any easier.
Before he has time to gawk at my shaved head, I walk through the kitchen to Momma’s room. She is sitting on her bed in her underwear. Her back is to me, bent slightly forward as she puts one leg into her black pants. Her olive skin stretches over her bony spine. Everything about her is not enough. Even the blanket on her bed looks threadbare. It wouldn’t even keep a dog warm.

A sigh escapes me. “Momma? Momma, what are you doing? We’ve been here a couple of weeks. You can’t run off with the first guy asking if you have change for a dollar.”

She doesn’t turn around. She looks drained. Her voice lacks all the entertainment qualities it had when Jerry could hear her, “If you had been listening to me a minute ago, you would know he isn’t just any guy. I don’t know what I would do without him. I have been a prisoner for too long, married to that crazy man. So, don’t tell me now that I should still think about that psycho before I make my decisions. I’ve snagged a nice man this time. He bought us those groceries, you know.”

My words come out quiet and empty, “That was nice of Jerry.”

Memories of the last week flash through my mind: The day I scraped the mold off the bread and ate it with mustard. I missed the bus Thursday. Missing school meant missing a free lunch. The next day Allie had to pick me up after school so I could make up the Chemistry test. Allie has always made up for Momma’s negligence, but Allie graduated early and is moving to Ohio tomorrow. I don’t say any of this aloud. Momma doesn’t care. If she knew how I felt, she would just use it to hurt me. She didn’t even want me here.

I pick up the hair brush and start to brush through the tangles in Momma’s hair. I gather it in my hand, turn it in a twist, and pin it. She stares at herself in the mirror. I’ve always loved to play with Momma’s hair. It is bittersweet to do it now. She picks up a small mirror and moves it so she can see the back of her head. She kisses the air and snort laughs.

“Oh, my heavens, who is that wretched old woman?” She giggles before pushing up her nose with her thumb and crossing her eyes.

“Momma, you are beautiful. Shut up.” I smile at her reflection, failing again to stay mad at her.

She winks at me.

I tell her, “Now, put on a shirt. And not that red and gold shirt with the clocks all over it. I hate that damn thing.”

I leave the room and find Jerry standing at the fridge with the door open. He’s pulling a container of cottage cheese out of a grocery bag and putting it in with the other items. There’s sliced cheese, bologna, a bag of apples, and a can of peaches. I see bread on the kitchen counter. I pick up the bread box from the kitchen table and carry it to the counter. We can’t leave bread out or mice will get in it.

“Got a mouse trap?” I don’t look to see if he smiles. It was a bad attempt at humor. I sigh.

Finally, after closing the bread box, I look over at him. He’s staring at me, mostly my stubbly hair.

“Is Jute your real name?”

“It wasn’t. But, it is now.” I don’t offer details. I don’t tell him that Momma named me Judy after herself. I don’t understand why she did that. The name Judy is bad enough without it implying that I am also my mother’s replica. I’m nothing like her. When I started kindergarten, I insisted everyone call me Jute. It stuck. We changed it legally when Momma married Earl and he officially adopted us.

“What do you think Judy is doing in there?” I see his eyes land on my tiny scar, then shift around my face trying to find a soft place to land. He gives up and looks away. My face might be full and round, but it isn’t a place to find comfort.

“She has trouble making up her mind,” I say as though I’m not being mean. “I’ll check on her.”

Opening the bedroom door, I see her shoving her folded up blanket into the top of her closet. She’s wearing the clock shirt. There is a suitcase open on the bed, full of her clothes. Her dresser is cleared except for a bottle of baby lotion.

She turns to me and forces a weak smile. She walks toward me as if she is on a t.v. screen. She is just walking toward the camera.

*****

Books by Julie Roberts Towe

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Writing about Childhood Sexual Abuse

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
[Click here for more child sexual abuse statistics.]

There are many ways to process this information. Just the idea of childhood sexual abuse brings images to mind which are unsettling. We probably think of stories we have heard on the news, or a friend who confidentially divulged their darkest secret to us, or perhaps our own painful memories. What comes to mind is the act of abuse and we find it hard to divert our eyes, like seeing an accident on the road. We look at it in awe of its terribleness. We may even feel compelled to act to prevent the abuse, report it, or beat the shit out of the perpetrator. Almost all the feels we feel about childhood sexual abuse are centered around the horrific images we hold in our mind of the act itself.

News stories about child abuse are often written with the voyeur in mind. A voyeur being an enthusiastic observer of sordid and sensational subjects. The big questions in the minds of many are, “How bad was it?”, “How low can a human being get?”, “What was it like to be in that situation as the perpetrator and/or the victim?” Some of us like to push the limits of our empathetic responses as if being able to process that much pain will somehow make us stronger. Some of us want to peer into the ugliness to figure out where it is rooted so we can avoid it in our own lives. Some of us just get a rush from it like going straight down toward the ground on a roller coaster.

No, I’m not policing society’s motivations to consume information about sexual abuse. I am simply stating that for many reasons, we eagerly consume it. And there is plenty of water in the well.

But for the children who have experienced sexual abuse, the train wreck is just not a good analogy. With a train wreck, people rush forward to save the passengers, clear the track, haul off the train, bury the bodies. News articles go away and lives go on. With childhood sexual abuse, the tracks take decades to clear. Sometimes the bodies are never buried.

What we believe about our world and expect from society is learned. The rules are created by us and are illusions. The truths you think of as absolute are often not. A child who suffers will often not view that suffering as abnormal. It is not unreasonable that, with no other points of reference, abused children will believe whatever they are told about the world and themselves. By the time they have enough world experience to inform them otherwise, they typically find themselves in a mess of trouble and are seen as the source of it. This is why the train wreck analogy doesn’t work for child abuse. It isn’t about a black eye or ripped skin. This is the loose tie rod causing the car in front of you to shake, the car that annoys you as you attempt to get around it, perhaps screaming at the driver to get that fixed. The long term effects are neither sordid nor sensational. They aren’t a tsunami of pain, but a repetitive crashing of unceasing waves.

Those children will grow to experience a higher rate of depression, substance abuse, low self-esteem, self-mutilation, sexual promiscuity, and suicide. They likely distrust their own ability to view the world and society correctly, to predict social outcomes, or judge the character of others. They often distrust others’ perceptions as well and have little faith in authority.

When the people you trust most hurt you in such a traumatic way, every single thing you ever thought was true becomes a potential lie. Your strings are cut loose from the order of the universe and you just float around in chaos trying to figure out if it’s safe to land and how to reconnect, if at all.

Breaking free from the grasp of a hand on your wrist is a piece of cake compared to trying to find a place that feels like home ought to feel once you’re free.

I don’t want to write about the easy part.

I write about trying to find that home. My first set of novels, a two book series titled Winter Seedlings, is about these journeys. They explore life beyond the actual events which caused the trauma. My characters want to heal, they want to love, they want a place that feels like home should feel. My stories aren’t perpetrator-centered, or sexual-abuse-centered. They are centered on the heart’s persistent desire for love despite all obstacles. I hope the stories shed a light on the part of childhood sexual abuse which never makes it to the headlines.

Books

Winter Suns Cover Reveal

The release of Winter Suns, the sequel to Winter Seedlings, will happen very soon, I promise. (I have been making this promise for a month, I know.)

While you wait, let me throw out a few sneak peeks and hints:

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Allie

December 25, 1990

I know I’m running because I feel my legs moving. A dim light before me grows larger as I near it. I don’t know what I am running away from, but I hear my heart pounding loudly. The sound of my heart seems to be coming from the tunnel itself. I can hear nothing else. How long have I been running?

The light from the tunnel grows brighter and other sounds emerge. Cries of a screaming baby. The echo bounces off the walls, multiplies. I can’t hear my heart anymore. I can only hear the sound of crying. As I move into brighter light, all sound begins to fade. The light becomes so bright that I can’t see. Then I hear nothing at all.

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The Girl

December 25, 2006

It was with thoughts of eventually sleeping under a large dense pine that I felt my foot step too low. It landed down an embankment, pulling all of me with it. I slid, clinging to my hat, trying to dig in my heels where there was nothing in which to dig. I then fell briefly through the air before landing face down on hard flat rock. I hadn’t fallen far, but I was disoriented. I slowly started to push myself up from the rock when bright light filled the space around me. Blinded for a moment, I thought that it was God. But I registered the sound of a motor just before the sound of squealing tires. I realized I was in the middle of a road.

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John

December 23, 2006

I would have liked to have a normal life, just for a while if not forever. Many times I wished for my parents to actually live together, not just on the same farm but actually in the same house like when I was six. But when they bought this place, everyone decided that I needed to stay mostly with Mom because my Dad Tracy was out of town a lot on tour with his band and Dawson worked at night. So, I didn’t get to stay in the all-guy house with the swimming pool, mini theater, and ten bedrooms. I stayed mostly with mom in the all-girl Victorian house with the endless supply of crying. Secretly, there were times I thought the house was kind of awesome because it was a hundred years old with lots of hidden nooks. It would have been much better if it had been a home for just our family and not the 24/7 abuse shelter Mom had turned it into.

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Jute

“…… life can take many twists and turns and still come out okay in the end. I guess what I’m telling you is that life isn’t planned out ahead of time. Tomorrow isn’t set in stone. There is no fate waiting on you to be ready for things. Life just dances about, whirling, twisting, jutting, and throwing its arms around. Sometimes it even falls on its face. But none of it is planned or synchronized between us all like a movie on a screen. That means you’ll have to step up and try to take a little control over what moves your life makes. You can’t just sit back and watch it dance. I believe in the power of our choices. I don’t believe in fate.”

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Winter Suns

Cover designed by the talented and magical Anna Wand.wintersunsfinal