Five-Star Review: “Never Settle for a Fairy-tale”

Want to start from the beginning of the Once Upon a Reality series? Kristen A. Scearce has given ‘Till the Last Petal Falls a five-star review: 

 

During my Psychology classes in college, we discussed how various characters have psychological issues: popular cartoon characters, the cast of “Winnie the Pooh,” and the vast majority of the Disney Princesses. Belle is no exception, and this book explores that idea beautifully, no pun intended.

Jolee answers a Craigslist ad which sounds too good to be true, and she finds herself in the mountains of Aspen, tutoring a shut-in with some very serious issues of his own. As time goes by, she learns [more] and more about this man, and most of it is not good. However, she sticks by him, hoping to “fix” him with her love.

Sound like a recipe for disaster?

I used to teach a rehabilitation class for men convicted of domestic violence, and this book definitely delves into that dynamic head-first. It’s a real eye-opener into the lives of those involved in those situations, from both sides of the coin as well as an outsider’s perspective. Comparing it to the story of “Beauty and the Beast” really adds a whole new layer to it, as most of us either grew up with that story/movie or fell in love with it because of our kids/grandkids/etc. It’s a crazy thought, but the more you think about it, the more you realize Belle suffered from Stockholm syndrome as well as battered-woman syndrome, and that HEA Disney ending is not the one generally associated with those situations.

Bravo to the author for writing this cross-examination of a beloved children’s story and shedding some light on this serious issue while also maintaining a gripping novel.

 

 

Thank you, Kristin! Remember, you can still get a copy of Till the Last Petal Falls in either paperback or e-book format, as well as the second installment of the series, To Dwell in Dreams.

 

 As always, I appreciate any and all reviews of my work, posted on Amazon, B&N or Goodreads- it helps me as an author to see what I’m getting right, and what I still need to work on with my next project. 

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Why I Write: About Abusive Relationships

I’ve promised to write this post for a long time, and I honestly thought it would be easier to do. However, the past couple of times I’ve tried to sit down and write this, I’ve ended up gravitating away from my computer in a kind of act of self-preservation. You’d think, having just finished and published an entire novel about abusive relationships, I wouldn’t have this kind of aversion to it. It just goes to show, it never gets easier.

For those of you who have read or heard about my first novel, ‘Till the Last Petal Falls, you might know that it uses the classic fairytale, Beauty & the Beast, as a lens through which to analyze an abusive relationship. Through this, I show a couple of my own theories regarding societal views of abuse, and attempt to accurately portray the real-time feelings of an abused woman.

Now, I wish I could say that that experience was entirely fabricated. To be honest, however, I probably wouldn’t have written the novel if it had been. As it is, I remember reading about abusive relationships when I was younger and in the midst of abuse, and not really caring. Abuse didn’t happen to people like me- middle class, blonde-hair-light-eyes white girls with decent families and good grades. It wouldn’t really be until I got into college, and began talking to other survivors of abusive relationships that I realized that that is what I had been in- several abusive relationships, one after the other, in a vicious cycle that lasted years.

My mother has admitted her own fear that her practice of corporeal punishment on me as a small child might have predisposed me to seeing physical punishment as being more normal for ‘deviant’ behavior, but I knew the difference between a spanking, and what was being done to me. I didn’t ‘float away’, or mentally shut down as it was happening. I was entirely present- but I still didn’t believe that what was happening was abuse. I will not go into gross detail as to what happened, or how, or how long. As it is, it is enough to admit that some of the things that happen in my novel happened to me- whether they got downplayed or had details changed in transit to a fictional narrative. violence

I never planned on writing about my experiences. And why would I? The memories made me feel physically ill. I wasn’t a huge fan of talking about it- mostly because I didn’t want to admit that it had happened, whether it was admitting it to myself, or to others. I opened up to my friends first, and years later would finally admit what had happened to my mother. She cried, a lot. Like me, she couldn’t imagine that something like this would happen to someone like me.

It’s that kind of mentality that I wanted to address first, when writing this novel. The idea that abuse only happens to certain kinds of people. First of all, no one deserves abuse. Saying that ‘someone like me’ couldn’t be hurt is on the same coin as ‘someone not like me’ is more likely, or more deserving, of this kind of treatment. So my protagonist was to come from a good family, be a good, smart girl, and good-looking. I also wanted to address the idea that there is only ‘one kind’ of abuse. There are at least four abuse victims, of both genders, in ‘Till the Last Petal Falls. If you’ve read it, did you recognize them all?

When I read stories about abusive relationships in high school, it seemed like the abuse was either always happening to small children, troublemaking teens, or older, married women. Not straight-A teenagers in a higher end neighborhood, like me. The victim always knew what was happening to them, recognized it as abuse, but kept on going because they ‘loved’ the abuser enough, or trusted them. While I know that this can be the experience of some victims, I knew that part of the problem with me recognizing that what had happened to me was abuse was that I had never seen abuse framed in the way it happened to me before. I just kept taking the advice of my similarly young and naïve friends: love him more, and he will change. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to ask for help, and no one knew how to ask me if anything was wrong.

In my experience, hundreds of victims are silenced and kept from speaking out about their abuse due to several factors. One, the stigma of being a victim. There is still a lingering idea in society that abuse victims, and rape victims, deserve the violence they get. Why complain when the rest of the world is telling you that you got what you deserved? Two, the stereotype of a victim.  I was stuck in the mentality that abuse ‘couldn’t happen to me’. I can’t tell you how many more people I’ve encountered who never spoke up because of the same idea- female on female abusive relationships, one-sided love abuse, female on male abuse, male on male abuse, child on parent abuse… the list goes on. Three, the horror of abuse tends to lead support systems to try to find any other reason for the abuser’s behavior that doesn’t point to abuse. Case in point, I had been trying to get advice, and help, only several months into the abuse. Every time, my friends and adult confidants tried to explain away the behavior of my attackers. They didn’t want to face the horror of abuse themselves, and so put it back on me- the bringer of ‘bad news’- and successfully, for many years, convinced me that the beatings I had been enduring were not, in fact, abuse.

So I endeavored to write a story that would share some of the things that I’ve learned about myself in the most accessible way that I knew how- by manipulating the stories that we know and love, to let them be a comfort for the reader as they delve in some of the darker aspects of their own reality, in order to bring up new questions surrounding what many people mistakenly believe to be a ‘dead subject’. I know that my experience is not ‘the’ experience for abuse victims. Every victim reacts, protects themselves, and heals in different ways. It is my hope, however, that by adding my voice to the crowd that I would be able to foster more discussion about how to prevent abuse, how to detect abuse, and how to live on after being a victim. The novel itself was created to raise awareness, while the donated royalties will serve to support organizations locally who are using their own unique gifts and resources to ensure that not one more man, woman or child is allowed to be abused in our society without justice being found. My hope is that by sharing this story, even if it is fiction, we can continue this conversation about abusive relationships without shame or stigma.

In wrapping up this post, I would simply leave with a polite request that my readers not ask me to delve into specifics about my own experience with abuse. What I have put in my novel is what I am comfortable with sharing. If I wish to tell more at any time, it is my decision to do so. I only ask that you respect my decision, both in sharing as much as I have about my history of abuse and my refusal to share more, from here on out.

God Bless.

 

Book Blog Tour: Second to Last Stop!

Well, it’s been a blast everybody! I’m glad that I got this awesome opportunity to tour around a couple of great blogs and meet some new potential readers, as well as take the time to really examine myself as a writer, and my book as a product.

So for my last stop, we have something most dear to my heart- On Day by Day I talk about my own faith and how I came to see how domestic violence is incompatible with a Christian worldview. Whether or not you subscribe to this particular belief, I know that many of us have been affected by the ways that religious doctrine can be used to keep people in bad situations. I hope that my arguments for the unacceptable nature of abuse in the Christian tradition will at least release women of that faith from their bondage- and give other tips on how to explain to victims they might know why they are allowed to leave their attackers.

Current Trends in Woman’s Lit

 

Came across this jewel of a picture parodying ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’. At first I laughed, and then I frowned. Not because I believe that the person commenting is wrong- at the contrary, I’m wholeheartedly behind this person’s sentiment. But it’s disconcerting to me to see this trend in current popular books for women that glorify abuse, both mental and physical, to a ridiculous degree. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that BDSM is intrinsically abusive. I have friends in the lifestyle, and they are healthy individuals. But even they will say that the action portrayed in the Fifty Shades Trilogy is sickening and rather goes against the strict safety codes of a true BDSM lifestyle.

 

So, ladies, why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we revel in something that- when examined- would in real life have us calling the cops? I was in an abusive relationship for four years, and I am incapable of reading things like this without shuddering and having horrible flashbacks. I could barely get through Twilight because of that. And yet, women around me are soaking it up as if it was the Gospel.  Does anyone else see this trend? Do you have support for it? Do you think I’m wrong? Let’s discuss!

To Love is to Be Loved

“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”

― G.K. Chesterton

 

 

For many, this is one of the first lessons that we learn regarding love and how it works. Love begets love, right? So how do you explain domestic violence? Is it because you did not ‘love’ the other person enough? Is it because your ‘love’ wasn’t real enough? That you didn’t mean it enough? Speaking as a woman who has been both physically and mentally abused by those I have loved for years at a time, I can promise you that this kind of an explanation just doesn’t cut it.

When does it become okay to release yourself from the conventional ‘stick-it-out’ love and get out of a horrible relationship? When does it become okay to admit that you can love someone all you want, but you cannot force someone to change if they do not wish to? When does it become okay to admit that, just because the object of your desire doesn’t love you back, it doesn’t mean that you are unloveable? 

I would love to have an open discussion about this, as this was an honest challenge for me to tackle when taking on a re-imagining of such a classic, and sometimes classically misleading, fairytale. What are your thoughts on this?