It’s always been hard for me to talk about it, at least partly because of the assumptions that are made about me. Because of the questions that are asked. You seem smart, how could I not have known? I know the judgments that are made…and they are made. Silently. Because they really don’t want to know. No one does. There’s a part of me that is curious to know what people make of the idea that I went back, since it’s so much a part of the pattern, and part of me is glad that I don’t.
Back to those assumptions.
How could I not know?
It wasn’t like he had a great big A tattooed on his forehead. He was handsome, with beautiful blue eyes. He was more romantic than almost any man I met, hearts and flowers. If he was a little jealous, well…when you’re nineteen it just seems sweet. After all, isn’t that what they show on TV and the movies, the guy who’s just a little bit jealous because he loves you so much? And if he’s just a little uncomfortable that other men are looking at you? At your clothes and how well they fit. He just doesn’t want to lose you. What’s more romantic than that…even if it’s a little overboard. That’s the first time that he gets a little too heated, though, and his anger is just a little disturbing. Frightening. But you forget, you let it go, because he loves you, and he’s so sorry. Until it happens again. But still, he’s loving, and there’s the flowers. And you’re nineteen, isn’t this how it’s supposed to be? That’s how they do it in books and movies. When he proposes, its on one knee, and it helps you forget that his temper and criticisms of your clothes are getting worse. You quit the job to make him happy. Maybe now it will be better. Except of course it isn’t and it doesn’t. It gets worse. Only now there’s no one to talk to, no one to tell. Every little thing can cause a temper tantrum. There are guns all over the house. And then one time he pulls the gun, spins the cylinder, and points it at your head.
I was lucky. I got out. But, like many, not the first time I tried.
Most domestic violence victims run to family the first time. It’s easy to track them down. They have no money – he controlled all that – so where else can they go? It was easy to track me down, but a neighbor got me out of the house. It was my pastor who betrayed me, under the guise of ‘trying to save my marriage.’ I told him I didn’t want to save my marriage, I wanted out. He said he’d help me convince my husband. I asked him if there would be other people there. He told me there would. What he didn’t tell me was that they would be in another part of the Church, and many wouldn’t even know we were there. What he didn’t know was that my ex-husband would show up with a gun. He’s lucky to be alive.
That’s what many women face, in addition to the rest. Even so, most don’t go back because of threats of violence, but because of poverty. For their children. Without jobs, battered women have no money to support themselves or their children – while their exes do. Child support doesn’t really kick in until after the divorce has been decided. Meanwhile the ex has the house, the children’s toys, their pets. Even if they can find a shelter – many counties don’t have one, in fact you’re more likely to find a dog shelter – they will live one family to a room and subsist on charity. For many of these women, returning to the abuse is better than living poor. Of seeing the judgment in eyes of others as they pull out the food stamps.
After being stalked for a time, I found shelter at one of the resorts, living on property where there would be no record of my residence.
For me it’s been a few decades, but one of the things I noticed when the discussion about domestic violence comes up among those who survive is the victim mentality.
So, being a writer, I wrote. The idea was to create an entertaining mystery novel about a victim of domestic violence who not only survives but thrives. I based the novel on real events taking place at that time. To my amusement the book has been criticized for having too much going on, and yet all of that was happening around the same time. Life is messy, it doesn’t always go predictably, and when you don’t have enough time, it throws even more at you. That’s the way it goes sometimes, and I’ll stand by that.
More than anything else, though, I want to stand for those women who want more than what society expects from them. I want to show them that it can be done, that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger and you can survive. You can even live happily ever after.
20% of all proceeds go to Domestic Violence charities.
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When I first heard of Parkour it was probably 2009, and I no longer remember how it came to my attention but it was probably the opening scenes to Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond movie. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen such a thing before, but that was when it struck me, and somehow I learned that what I was seeing was called Parkour. I had already had the first glimmerings of the book that would become Nike’s Wings in my mind – a female assassin, trained by the US government. Beside how she came to be made an assassin, I wanted something that would make Nike unique, and utterly believable. Watching that, suddenly I had the one element that set Nike apart from all others.
I devoured videos of parkour, learned more about it and the sport they call free-running. I envisioned the techniques used, remembering my days of gymnastics as a teen, as well as what I’d learned in jiujitsu, and so Nike was born.
You have to see those videos to know what traceurs and traceuses are truly capable of. Here’s a sample of David Belle, who developed Parkour into an art.
Of course, now they’re all over the place. Parkour practitioners are showing up on American Ninja and in plenty of movie and TV shows. It still amuses me that some people think Nike’s skills are a little exaggerated. I don’t use half the techniques in Nike that real traceurs use, although I do use the videos to help me visualize the action.
So much of Nike is unique. One of my editors says I write action/thrillers with heart. That works for me.
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When I began to write the book that would become Lucky Charm the Enron CEO was just going to trial – the catalyst for the book – and I remembered my own odd brush with a financial scam.
For me it was an awkward and disturbing moment in my life – I was to accompany two County Sheriffs, a detective and an auditor for the company I worked for to an office where I had installed computer software nearly a year before. I was aware of the multiple issues with the company in question, but I also knew the people there and considered them friends. Despite that, both morally and legally I couldn’t warn them of what I knew was coming. Instead, we entered their office. The receptionist hadn’t arrived yet. My job initially was to simply do one thing – shut down their computer system so they couldn’t transfer the money elsewhere or destroy the records. Because I knew them, and probably because I was unthreatening, I was requested to go into the office of the company president to tell him and the other executives that there were people waiting for them in the lobby, and then immediately go to shut down the computer system.
Now, I have to say, I didn’t much like the president of the company – he had a habit of declaring his devout Christianity at every opportunity – but there was at least one person in the room I liked. I was dismayed to learn he’d been just as deep in the scam as everyone else.
I delivered my message, and then walked to the computer room… past dozens of people who I knew would be out of a job in a few moments due to the greed of the three people now walking toward the lobby. To add insult to injury it was likely that none of them would be getting a paycheck that week – the company’s finances were being locked down at that very moment.
As I walked into the computer room something in my face must have told the in-house IT guy – another nice guy – that something was seriously wrong. If that didn’t do it, pushing the button that shut down the server certainly did. As insurance I also disconnected the network cable and took it with me. In the main room I could hear the consternation of the employees. I was also thinking of all the people who had entrusted their money to that company – of what would happen to the homes they were in the middle of buying or selling.
As I worked on various drafts of the novel, I researched and tried to understand the various kinds of Ponzi schemes and all the ways – large and small – that finances could be manipulated.
Bernie Madoff and R. Allen Stanford made it a lot clearer. Madoff stole from the rich. Stanford stole from everyone. Both took the walk of shame – handcuffed and escorted out of their offices.
Lucky Charm echoes much of those days, detailing the time spent on the road installing software, the offices and the type of people I met in them, but also the financial finagling.
Years would pass as the cases moved through the courts before the money could be released. The one thing I couldn’t detail in the story was the upheaval in the lives of those affected by these people – homes lost and dreams destroyed…
Lucky Charm is a fun and exciting book described as a “complex mystery/thriller that just happens to have a really good romance in the mix…” I hope you enjoy reading it.
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