Monday, June 27, 2016

So today's the day. . .

 
So today's the day!
Release Day for Susanna's Secret 
a 'summer short' from Solstice Publishing. . . 


It wasn’t so long ago that a writer-friend told me about the call from Solstice for ‘summer shorts’ around 15K words. “I know you have something somewhere,” she said. “Get it out.” So I did.
With the word count in the ballpark, I did some polishing and pruning and sent it off--and received the pleasant e-mail surprise that it had been accepted!
Then came the cover--and I loved it!
Then came the edits--about four of them.
Then came the proofs--about the same number.
Then came the selection of a release date and the inevitable marketing plan.
Now it’s all over but the shouting (and, hopefully, the purchasing!)
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If you like a fast-paced story--a story dealing with real people in real situations but one that won’t make you blush (or, horror of horrors, delete and wish you hadn’t spent the $1.99!), Susanna’s Secret is for you. It’s set in nineteenth-century Texas, a family drama with what I believe is a surprising and satisfying ending. . .one of those ‘feel-good’ reads you can take on vacation, to the park, to a bubble bath, or a quiet coffee shop. . .and spend some good time considering what you might have done in Susanna’s place.
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Visit my website for pre-release reviews
AND some great release day ‘deals’!
Visit Susanna’s Pinterest Board to get acquainted with the characters.
Scroll to previous posts in this blog to find out what makes the characters tick.




Sunday, June 19, 2016

Yesteryear's Madness



She closed her eyes. “Howard, did you ever know anyone with a head injury—a really bad one that caused them to be—well, helpless?” 
“Sure, I saw a lot of that during the war.”
“What happened to them?”
“Most of them died.” He put his hand briefly over his eyes. “They were the lucky ones. The others, well, they went home. You couldn’t say they were really alive though.”
“Their families had to take care of them, you mean.”
“Or find some place to put them.”
“A hospital.” 
He shook his head. “Nothing so fancy. Asylums, they’re called.” 
“But people are cared for there.”
“I’ve seen a few of those places, and no, I can’t honestly say people are taken care of in them.”
“Why not?”
 “No money for one thing. No decent help either. I’d beggar myself before I’d put a member of my family in one.” 
“They’re that bad?” 
“Do you believe in hell, Susanna?”
“I think so—yes.”
“Well, that’s what they’re like.”

Although institutions/hospitals to deal with mental illness/brain damage/birth defects were conceived  as early as the medieval era, such places were meant to house rather than treat the unfortunate inmates and were often--as the character in Susanna’s Secret opined--“hell”. Before the era of public “madhouses”, families had no choice but to keep their mentally ill members or mentally challenged children locked away or boarded out.
Great Britain took the lead in the 17th and 18th centuries, and the concept spread to America when the Utica State Hospital opened in New York in 1850 due to the influence of Dorothea Lynde Dix. Around 1841, she reported to the Massachusetts State Legislature, "I proceed, Gentlemen, briefly to call your attention to the present state of Insane Persons confined within this Commonwealth, in cages, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience."
Women were particularly vulnerable to confinement in these so-called hospitals. Being outspoken, having strong opinions opposed to their husbands, and even real illnesses such as postpartum depression or symptoms connected to menopause, could earn them a one-way ticket out of sight and out of mind.
Ten Days in a Mad-House resulted from journalist Nellie Bly’s (arranged) commitment to the Women's Lunatic Asylum in New York City in order to investigate conditions there in 1887. (Follow the link Nellie Bly to read about her brutal experience.) She also published her findings in the New York World newspaper. The ensuing investigation led to a budget increase to ensure that only those who really needed institutionalization were admitted.
In Nazi Germany, Hitler emptied hospitals and institutions and dispatched the residents to premature deaths in order to be rid of anything he deemed incongruous with the perfect specimens who would populate his Thousand Year Reich.
Along the way, many horrific and unhelpful ‘treatments’ have been visited on the mentally ill: trepanation, hydrotherapy, chemically-induced seizures, insulin-coma therapy, and the irreversible lobotomy which reduced presidential sister Rosemary Kennedy to living out her life in an institution with twenty-four hour care. These rare photographs from the 19th and 20th centuries illustrated the slow progress of treatment.
In the 20th century, parents who had a child with signs of mental challenge or serious physical impairment were often encouraged not to bring the baby home from the hospital but rather allow the doctor to find a place for them. (It happened in my own family in the 1940s.) Today, medical science has advanced to the point of being able to diagnose problems in utero. As a result, many doctors encourage, even urge, the termination of such a pregnancy. It’s estimated that as many as 90% of babies thought to have Down Syndrome are never born.
In Susanna’s Secret, I deal with the subject of mental impairment and what it meant in the 1870s-80s. 

Available June 28 from Amazon
  
Susannah's Secret is a fast paced tale of human failings and triumphs. It typifies how courage and compassion in the face of adversity works to the advantage of all. The characters are so believable through their human failings but rise above their selfish interests. Readers who have wanted, birthed, raised, or lost a child can especially connect with Susannah and her choices which is what good reads do by pulling us into the story with our emotions. ~Georgia

Visit my website for more reviews and information.



Friday, June 17, 2016

A Man Forever Free






Though not mentioned frequently in Susanna’s Secret, Elijah is by no means a minor character in the story. His ‘back story’ tells everything--how he came to Texas with Nathan and Susanna Kingsley as a slave and remained technically such until the end of the Civil War some 20+ years later.

Mr. Nathan brought me out here when I was a slave, but he never treated me like one. Place to live, work to do, chance to learn to read and write, a name. . .Kingsley. . .even the chance to leave when the war’s over.”
“I’m glad you didn’t. You’ve been part of us for a lifetime. Part of our family.” 

This brief exchange between Elijah and Susanna tells his back story in a few words, though in Wednesday’s blog on Nathan Kingsley, I imagined him as a slave on a plantation in the deep south. I could see the lower social status Nathan and Elijah becoming friends as little boys and growing up together--so Elijah’s escape to accompany Nathan to Texas seems a natural circumstance.
The story portrays him as working in the house rather than on the ranch, a sort of ‘houseman’. But he did back-breaking labor alongside Nathan and Susanna as they built the Kingsley Empire. I believe, when Nathan could afford help, he place Elijah inside not as a servant but as a manager. He helped raise the Kingsley children and probably became their confidante in the stead of a busy, frequently-absent father.
He states his position neatly:

“Elijah, how much do you know about. . .”
He shook his head and held up his hand as if to stop the flow of her words. “I don’t know nothing, Miz Kingsley. Nothing but what I see ‘round here.” 
She laughed a little then. “And you don’t miss a thing either. It was a good day for all of us when my husband brought you out here. I didn’t believe in slavery, but he said you’d be better off with us.”
“And I was.”

I expect Elijah was a ‘free’ man long before Emancipation. Upon Nathan’s Kingsley’s death, he probably inherited what was rightly his--either an interest in the ranch itself or land and capital to use for himself.
Perhaps Nathan knew what he wanted, but did he know who he was? Susanna struggles with her own identity. But Elijah knows who is he, so his personal dignity and self-confidence brings a certain stability to the shattered family.
Does he know their secrets? Of course. Does he keep them? To the grave.
And will he always be there for them?
Until his dying day and probably beyond as they remember him.
A minor character ‘on the fringe’ often guides the story more than anyone else.


 I have been a fan of Ms Nickles books for a long time, I love her writing skills. This book is no exception, "Susanna's Secret" kept me spell-bound to the last page.      ~Paula






Releases June 28
Pre-sales available June 21
from Amazon

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Photos purchased from Fotolia