Monday, January 23, 2012

I read the news today: Little Murders leading to Mayhem

Reading the newspapers could destroy our sense of security and completely annihilate our faith in humanity, but staying abreast of world and local events is imperative. We cannot avoid the world in all its turmoil. I find the inspiration for many of my plot lines there. As a writer, I often explore the darkness of humanity; the cruelty, inhumanity, carelessness, and plain rudeness of people never fails to amaze me. In LOVE AT WAR,, I depicted the cruelty of battle, but local and even petty crimes exist as kin to the kind of destruction marked by war.

What makes people murder, rape, rob, and engage in all sorts of cruelty? Every day we read of public officials who betray our trust, criminals who shoot acquaintances or foes, and sports fans who are just downright rude. The same kind of hatred that sparks petty but vicious acts is at the root of the more destructive and cruel behavior that results in murder and genocide. LOVE AT WAR portrays the brutality of WWII. Soldiers and civilians died in that mayhem, and human beings carried out horrific atrocities upon each other.

Why do people commit such awful acts? Perhaps such behavior stems from original sin, but people who commit crimes against others (and against sentient creatures) view others as irrelevant. This week alone, the newspapers reported on a woman who gave birth and left the child exposed to the elements. A man killed the father of his grandchild because they disagreed on the child's upbringing. Local police arrested one disturbed young man for having sex with his pet husky. Another man was arrested for systematically torturing cats. An Alabama fan exposed himself and assaulted an unconscious LSU fan. These tales of deviant behavior accompanied tales of murder, rape, and corrupt politicians and reflect the kind of cruelty that leads to destruction. The people who commit these crimes on the local scene see their victims as irrelevant and disposable.

What do all of these horrible acts have to do with war? In WWII, the Nazis and their allies convinced themselves that some people were inferior to others. People could be eliminated or tortured. In LOVE AT WAR, Nuala swallows her disgust when her Nazi lover revels in revealing his cruelty. As a covert operative, she must convince him of her attraction, but his brutality repulses her and forces her into a situation where she must match his brutality.

Mundane cruelty and thuggish behavior? How does it reflect war time behavior? Human beings have the potential to commit cruel acts as children. Bullies are made in childhood. Who hasn't been the victim of a childhood bully? Those people, unless checked, grown into the Nazis of tomorrow.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Loss and LOVE AT WAR

I've thought quite a bit about LOSS these days. While losing people and/or things is part of the life cycle, that loss does not diminish the devastating effect it has on our lives. My father died shortly before my twelfth birthday. His death devastated my family, tore us apart, and resulted in my leaving the only home I'd known since birth. As is the case with most people, I've lost friends, family, and lovers over the years. Some have simply moved on. Others have kept in touch; others have not. Still others no longer grace this earth, and they live only in the shadowy land of my memory. Most recently, I lost my beloved mother in 2008. Of course, I was lucky to have her for so long. She lived until she was eighty-six, and I was an adult when she died. It was her brothers' letters that inspired me to write LOVE AT WAR (, my own chronicle of WWII and the carnage it created.

Loss can exist on a small and a grand scale. Catastrophic events can result in the deaths of thousands, even millions. For example, millions of people--civilians and soldiers--died in the two world wars as well as in conflicts like Viet Nam. On a large scale, people often suffer the loss of their homes and communities during war, and on the even more personal front, individuals suffer the loss of loved ones they held close to the breast. I'd heard tales of my uncles in WWII. I never met the uncle who didn't come back, but I'd heard of him in glorious detail. He'd built a window fan for my grandmother's kitchen, and he'd saved his own money so that his little brother could have skates for Christmas when money was tight. His daughter is my beloved goddaughter. Listening to tales of his life helps me place him at the metaphoric family table, arousing my curiosity; however, such tales are bittersweet. I'll never know this man. Even his daughter never saw him.

Loss. . .I'd heard tales of catastrophic loss, but I'd never experienced the horror of it until Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. That tragedy, too, was a war in many ways, and like war victims, we mourned those we lost, shed tears, and then moved on, rebuilding our lives. Perhaps we're like people who have been in war. We now all too well understand the horror of loss. Katrina shook me in ways I can't even begin to describe, but in a positive way, it also made me more in tune to the suffering of others. Pre-K, I would hear of natural disasters, feel some stirring of sympathy, and move on. Now, I feel the loss all too well. I fully emphasize with their plight and remember my own sense of terror when I knew my old life was gone. At one point, we were called "refugees" by our own countrymen. So many people in war become refugees. Now, I know what it is like to be "displaced" and to feel alone. You become the ultimate existentialist--alone, all alone, and seemingly, no one hears you. You are just one person flailing alone in cold water.

LOSS is at the root of war. Young people march into battle, and war is devastating no matter how it begins. Civilians and soldiers die in the carnage, and we, the survivors, can only bleed for their loss, place a bandage on our gaping wounds, and pray for healing. All that remains are memories of the good times we shared with those we loved and cherished. In LOVE AT WAR, Nuala suffers great loss when she believes her husband is a casualty of war, but like many brave souls, she puts a metaphoric salve on our wounds and forms a plan of revenge.

I once asked my mother why my grandmother so seldom smiled. My mother stared at me for a long time before answering. She said that too much had been taken from Grandma. Only until after did I really understand what she meant. LOVE AT WAR,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Strong Women, Love at War, Pirate Woman

Recently, a colleague of mine quit teaching in thew middle of the school year to live in an isolated area with an abusive man. She would rather live in physical danger and constant harassment than work at a modest job. This woman has such low-self-esteem that she would give up her life in order to live with a man who drinks and who has used her as a punching bag. She doesn't want to be alone, and she is so desperate not to be alone that she would rather live in terror. I've worked with battered women, and I understand that many of them are trapped in terrible situations. However, their dependency shows a lack of self-respect that I personally abhor.

In my writing, I've concentrated on strong women. Nuala, my protagonist in LOVE AT WAR (, is an innocent, pure girl when the novel begins. However, she soon emerges as a powerful woman who braves the perils of dangerous undercover assignments. After joining the military and then the OSS, Nuala parachutes into occupied France, disguising herself as a farm woman and spying on the often stupidly arrogant enemy. Chameleon-like, she then changes into a vixen who seduces a dangerous Nazi. Nuala evolves from an innocent schoolgirl into a daring covert operative, willing to sacrifice herself for her country and for the man she loves. Nuala is so strong that she rises above others' expectations to become the woman who rescues others. No one--not Nuala's overly protective parents or her dominating sister--would have credited her with so much courage.

My latest manuscript, signed by Red Rose Publishing, also tells the story of a powerful woman. Grace O'Malley was the daughter of a powerful Irish chieftain in Mayo. Legend has it that when her parents said she couldn't go to sea with her father's sailors, she cut her hair and sneaked aboard the ship anyway. At eleven-years-old, Grace proved herself to be an able sailor. Throughout her two marriages, Grace also proved that she was a leader within her own family. Often she saved her family from ruin when the men in her sphere behaved rashly or stupidly. Donal O'Flaherty, her first husband, was a brave warrior who acted before he thought. Richard Bourke, her second husband, was more prudent and wily than her first and had the sense to listen to his astute wife. I admire strong women who defy others' expectations.

LOVE AT WAR has now been released over six months, and I'm celebrating. Go to my website at Check out the pics, interviews, and the covers. Go to the "Questions" section of the site and post a comment. Be sure you leave a name and e-mail. The first three (3) people to respond will receive a free PDF copy of LOVE AT WAR.