My newest book: an opportunity to share hope and resilience with trauma survivors

Something I’m thankful for: my writing partner and the book we wrote together. I’m sharing the cover with you. It’s the first time it’s been posted publicly.
My co-author, Matt, and I really like this cover because of the light coming into the group therapy circle: providing the light of hope in the face of the indescribable darkness that is being “stuck” in mental illness and desperation.

I think it was spring of 2016 that Matt Jaremko and I discussed writing a book to help trauma survivors. It took us a bit to find our writing groove in terms of both how we could best communicate what we wanted to say that would extend hope and model the power of resilience for traumatized people, AND for us to find the most efficient way for us to write together without becoming frustrated…we initially tried using Google Docs, and, never having co-written with anyone else, I didn’t realize we couldn’t be in the document at the same time. So I was working and Matt was, too, and the page was jumping all over the place…it was not fun. So we dispensed with that pretty quickly and moved to Word and Track Changes, which is the industry standard for working with editors.
Once we found our way to work together by exchanging the manuscript (“The book is now in your hands. I will not touch it until you send the manuscript back to me”), our book began to take shape in a meaningful, rewarding way. Matt and I have such a strong respect for each others’ strengths and abilities. He is, without a doubt, one of the two smartest, most compassionate and caring men I know, with the other being my husband, Daniel. Not coincidentally, these 2 men also comprised my primary support system when I was broken.

I rank our book, “Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt–Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims With PTSD,” as one of my “heart” books. What this means, for you non-writer types, is that this book is one of the most personally meaningful to me. It is defining. It IS to come full circle. While I love all 4 of the YA fiction novels I’ve written, 3 of them: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience, are the most precious to me because I wrote them while in recovery when I was working with Matt Jaremko, many years ago. They are the arc of Ashley, a teen girl who is entering recovery after being abused by her stepdad and neglected by her mom through deliberate indifference. Ashley’s biggest hurdle is facing the truth about her life–about her worth as a person, in spite of being discarded by the person who should have loved her most. She is removed from her stepdad & mom’s home & placed with her father, David, who she does not know at all.
Ashley is a frightened victim at the outset, a person beginning to realize her value in the middle, and a strong survivor capable of advocating for herself at the conclusion. That’s why the books are called Courage (1), Hope (2), and Truth (3). They are set in the small E. Texas town of Patience, and the girl’s therapist is Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews. Guess who he’s modeled after?

When Matt and I decided to take 2 of my characters–Ashley and Dr. Matt– and place them in a group setting in order to facilitate the combination of fiction and teaching about resilience, we took Ashley, aged her from 15/16 to 19, and made her a member of Dr. Matt’s Thursday evening Therapy Group for Victims, Survivors, and Righteously Indignant Angry Folks. Then we imagined the other members:
Hunter, age 32, who woke on the ground in the dark after a rain-wrapped tornado destroyed his mobile home, critically injuring his toddler daughter;
Felicia, age 34, who, at age 14, was nearly raped by her brother’s friend; 20 years later, she is still haunted by it, but needs to come to realize an even darker truth about her youth;
Ben, age 20, who saw combat horrors in the Middle East and returned home a fundamentally different person;
Patty, age 47, who lost control of her car, with her husband being killed when they hit a semi-truck;
Jake, age 30, an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who responded to a hate crime-shooting at a local church’s Wednesday night prayer service. The son of a preacher, Jake lost his faith as a result of what he saw.
Darrell, age 35, who served time in prison for armed robbery. When he was released, he entered therapy to seek solutions for the frequent rages that overtook his decision-making abilities. Through his work with Dr. Matt, Darrell learned new ways of interacting with others. He joined the Black Lives Matter movement and discovered his passion for making a difference through teaching young African-Americans about non-violent protest.
Betty, age 40. Her family-of-origin abandoned her when she began coming to terms with the sexual abuse perpetrated on her from a young age. Betty worked with Dr. Matt and gradually found the strength to rebuild her life. She entered college as a non-traditional student and became a bilingual education teacher, where she puts her native Spanish to work.

We wrapped our manuscript in July, began seeking a publisher in late summer, and by October–and this is remarkably fast to find a publishing “home”–we were offered a publishing contract with a “Mind-Body-Soul” imprint, Ayni Books, and our book will come out in late spring/early summer 2018. The book will have international distribution and be available in both print and e-book.

We began sharing the manuscript with others, asking for blurbs, and we were blown out of the water by what our readers said. Check ’em out.

We invite you to read the Prologue: The Internal Dialogue of a New Patient Being Sick and Tired of Being Afraid and Stuck.

I wrote this Prologue from the memory of where I was when I entered treatment to recover from Childhood Sexual Abuse. At that time, I was 38 years old, the mother of 3 teen girls, and I broke. I could no longer pretend that the stuff I’d gone through as a child and young adult, and in many ways continued to endure as an adult, were not killing me. The pretending was killing me. I was slowly killing myself through binge eating. Efforts to deal with the never-ending anxiety I lived with night and day were futile. Prior to working with Matt, I never stuck with therapy once I was nudged toward being authentic and honest with myself and others about how broken I was. I “clicked” with him and, after Daniel, Matt is the first man I ever truly trusted. Until that time, my understanding of men was that they would abuse me once I began to let my guard down.

This prologue is thoughts of the person prior to entering a therapist’s building when the choice at that time is either get better or die. These are exactly what it was like to be in my head at that time.
Facing the truth about one’s life is a soul-searing experience. For me, the journey to REAL, and WHOLE, was much like the process of birthing a child. It was exhausting, but without a doubt, learning to be resilient and authentic was the most gratifying experience of my life.
This is what we hope will be the result for those who read our book.

Please help us spread the word about our Facebook page. “Like”/”Follow” us, and you won’t miss out on the journey.

Shiny new reviews & Shiny new ebooks make Beth a Shiny Smiling Person!

Hey, there! 3.13 FINAL Courage_Epub_cover

I’m so excited to share some fabulous news with you: first, there are some great new reviews posted of THE PATIENCE TRILOGY. Please stop by YA Books Central to have a look–and please don’t be confused by the former edition covers on Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience: the reviews are for their current editions: YA Books Central

Resized Hope Covercropped-Resized-Truth-Cover.jpg

As if shiny reviews weren’t enough, I am here to announce that THE PATIENCE TRILOGY ebooks are now available EXCLUSIVELY on Amazon for a GREAT price! Courage in Patience e-book is .99; Hope in Patience e-book is 1.99, and Truth in Patience e-book is 3.99. The thing I’m MOST happy about with this development is that Courage in Patience has an excerpt of Hope in Patience now and Hope in Patience has an excerpt of Truth in Patience!

AND, keep watching because beginning Monday of next week, I’ll have more exciting news to share with you!

 

How Writing Another Person’s Recovery Story Helped Me Turn Toward the Sun

How Writing Another Person’s Journey to Recovery

Helped Me Turn Toward the Sun

            It’s been six years since I completed writing the first draft of the last book in The Patience Trilogy, a series about fifteen year old Ashley, who has been removed from her mother and stepfather’s home because her stepfather has been sexually abusing the girl since she was nine.

Over the course of the previous six years, 2004-2010, I was in therapy, working on recovering from the sexual abuse that I endured at the hands of my stepfather. Writing The Patience Trilogy—looking at the experience of recovery as an observer and not solely as a person mostly crippled by pain the first couple of years—was incredibly healing. I wrote all three books: Courage, Hope, and Truth, through the course of getting well.

I had to learn to manage the myriad of disorders I have as a result of what I endured at my stepfather’s hands, and the deliberate indifference practiced by my mother. To this day, she refuses to know the depth of what happened to me. And because she refuses to know it, we do not have a relationship. I will not accept “crumbs” from anyone or be treated as if my life does not matter. The first 38 years of my life were spent doing that. No more.
I was suicidal the first year or so of therapy. I thought the grief would destroy me. I suffered through PTSD flashbacks so severe that I ended up in the emergency room, my body wracked with spasms when I remembered incidents my mind had blocked until I could handle them.

Over many, many hard-won months, then years, of healing, the fog of pain lifted as my therapist reparented me. My husband, daughters, and I grew even stronger in our love for one another. We were made whole by living in the Light of Truth, even when getting to “whole” was an excruciating journey for all of us.

My husband and therapist’s tough determination and love, coupled with the fierce love I have for my children that kept me tethered to Earth, are why I survived the journey to recovery.

I know that I’m one of the lucky ones.

On August 10, 2010—the day of my last therapy session, I knew without a doubt that I had emerged from a six-year “gestation” period to become the person I am today.

I am so very, very unlike the terrified woman-child who entered therapy on November 4, 2004, and I am surely unrecognizable as the broken soul in early 2005 who had to white-knuckle it past every bridge column I approached in my car, because I knew I would slam my car full-speed into it if I did not picture my children in my mind constantly.

At some point over the course of a journey my therapist compared to a barefoot journey from Texas to Alaska and back, I no longer cared why my mother refuses to recognize the depth of damage that occurred on her watch. I was, and am, so surrounded by people who love me unconditionally and accept me as I am, that I no longer need the answer to the question of “Why did this happen to me?”

Because there is no answer that could ever justify it. There is never justification for a child to be sexually abused.

Although my publishing career hit a bit of a bump when my first two publishers went out of business, and Truth in Patience is only being released now (April 19, 2016, actually), I was given the gift of the unique opportunity to rewrite all three books from the perspective of who I am now: a pretty-much-healed person.
I think I needed to be as healed as I am before the last book in the Trilogy, Truth in Patience, could see the light of day. The main character, Ashley, comes so far from where she was in the first book, Courage in Patience, and she continues to grow stronger through Book 2, Hope in Patience. But in Truth in Patience, she is like a flower opening to the sun.

And I know exactly how that feels.

 

 

 

Writing toward Love and Light

The Patience Trilogy: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience, are the story of a fifteen-year-old girl’s rocky path to recovery from a childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. I was inspired to write them by the therapist I worked with for six years as I fought to recover from a traumatic childhood with the same experiences.

I had been writing short stories and poems and sharing them with my doctor, and one day he suggested that I try writing a novel. I was struggling mightily to pull myself out of my grief, rage, and sense of disbelief at the fact that my mother turned her back on me–and it took about four months of stopping and starting, always ending up in the same place: asking “Why did this happen to me?!” and of course finding no answer.

I imagined what it would have been like if I had made an outcry when I was a teenager instead of keeping the secret for years until I broke, unable to manage my life any longer. (A better way to put it is this: I was batsh*t crazy, honey.)

Then I imagined a girl, Ashley, who had never known her biological father, and I created a situation in which the girl is removed from her abusive home and placed with this man. The only impression Ashley has of him is the horror stories she’s heard from her mother about his violent temper and alcoholism.

Ashley was unaware that her father, David, stopped drinking the day Ashley’s mother left him when Ashley was three months old, and that he carried great shame within himself for abdicating his duty as her father. When he finds out that his ex-wife’s husband is sexually abusing his daughter, he steps up and meets Ashley then brings her home to Patience, Texas.

That’s when Ashley’s path to recovery begins.

People are often surprised when they read The Patience Trilogy and find a lot of humor in the pages. I know, I know: how could I even think of anything funny related to Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA)?

There is nothing funny about CSA, to be sure, but humans are funny creatures, and I populated fictional Patience, Texas with eccentric characters for comic relief.

There’s Billy Ray Sublett, Ashley’s classmate Dub’s stepfather, who has a racing lawnmower named “Bubba’s Dream.”

Kevin Cooper, another of Ashley’s classmates, is a mountain of a boy with a baby face, thinning blonde hair, a heart of gold (especially when it comes to his girlfriend, Roxanne Blake), but not a whole lot going on upstairs. That’s why Roxanne’s ready to kill him in Truth in Patience, when he whips out his wallet and shows everyone the condom he carries “just in case” when dating and relationships are the topic in Human Ecology class.

  1. C. Williamson, newly moved to Patience in Hope in Patience, has a mom who recently acquired a Bejeweler machine, which she uses, to K.C.’s horror, to create a sequined diaper on K.C.’s classic Nirvana t-shirt depicting the Nevermind album cover that features a nude baby boy in a swimming pool. Mrs. Williamson thinks the rainbow symbols K.C. collects are related to her loving her My Little Pony doll when she was little. But then, again, she also thinks that if she subs at the high school enough and keeps an eye on her daughter, K.C. won’t “keep” being gay.

Marvella Brown, the Patience High School secretary, can’t stand Mr. Walden, the principal, so whenever he does something especially repugnant or boneheaded, Marvella calls her friend, a newspaper reporter, and gets the story splashed on the front page.

Ashley’s best friend, Zaquoiah “Z.Z.” Freeman, is five-and-a-half feet of solid rock. Her beaded braids sound like rattlers when she’s especially put out with Pam Littlejohn, who acts as if she’s the only girl on their track team able to win. Pam will be lucky if Z.Z. doesn’t knock her upside the head, unless someone else does it first.

Ashley’s stepbrother, Ben, wears Christmas boxers all year round, and he and his cousin, Steven, conspire with Steven’s dad, Frank, to blow a toilet skyward with Fourth of July fireworks.

Finally, Ashley may be a mess, and she may have a long way to go, but she’s equipped with a dry sense of humor and perseverance that won’t quit. She’s not a sad sack, and the people in her life wouldn’t allow her to be one if she was so inclined. Ashley’s got a sharp sense of humor about her mental problems, for example, she wonders, when completing a school assignment about self-identity, if she can just list her disorders instead of personality traits that make her who she is. (Those of you with disorders are hearing a rim-shot (ba-dum-bum!) just about now. Hopefully.)

These are just some of the characters inhabiting Patience, Texas. I hope you’ll love them as much as I do, and find yourself laughing out loud at them the way I did when I wrote their stories.