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A Peek in the Window

Stephanie A. Collins Author Interview

Stephanie A. Collins Author Interview

With Angel’s Wings is one mother’s raw and heart-wrenching account of her life with two daughters with special needs. I understand that this book was based on your life. What made you want to put your story into a novel?

I never meant to write a book. I wrote therapeutically through some tough times (which was helpful). Nurses and therapists who were in our home through those years read what I had written and strongly encouraged me to share our story. Well…all except for one physical therapist who said, “Be careful who you allow to read this; child protective services may be called.” That bit of advice certainly fed into any misgivings and concerns I had about publicizing our tale! After years of prompting, though, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes tight, and sent it out for the world to judge me to their hearts’ content. I’m glad I did. The most gratifying moment was when a mother of a toddler boy who has Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome messaged me and said, “I happened to stumble upon your book. Before I read it, I thought there was no way anyone could possibly understand what I’m going through and how I’m feeling. After reading it, I went out and bought 3 more copies to hand out to my family members in the hopes that as they read about you they’ll better understand me.” That’s what it’s all about, right?

You describe every obstacle encountered as you come to terms with your daughters’ challenges. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

Given the fact that I was writing therapeutically, I can’t say any part of our story was particularly difficult to write. Writing it down was what made things a bit easier. That being said, there are multiple parts that I still can’t read without crying (most of the marathon IV poke sessions, when Sarah [“Hannah” in the book] coded in my arms, when she got her I.O.’s…I could go on and on). The one section that I avoid reading whenever possible, and when I do have to read it, I feel physically ill, is the section about my “breakdown” (when I [apparently] threw the knife at my husband). There are so many things I would change if I had the ability to go back, knowing what I know now (not that I’d ever want to!). One of the biggest is the way I addressed my depression (or DIDN’T address, as the case often was). I now understand just how big a role depression (and PTSD) played in our story. I wish I had known more about it then, taken it more seriously…and cut myself a little more slack, which hopefully would have allowed me to relax a little more and address every other aspect of my life a little more successfully.

Hannah’s is diagnosed with Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. What are some misconceptions about this condition and how did you educate yourself on it?

Well, to have misconceptions, I suppose you’d have to have any concept at all. Not only had I never heard of the diagnosis, but very few people I’ve come across have ever heard of it, so finding out I was wrong in my thinking hasn’t really been a problem. Something I definitely understand now that I didn’t before is that within every genetic diagnosis there’s a spectrum – not all with the same diagnosis present the same picture. There are, for instance, individuals with Down Syndrome who you hardly recognize as having the disorder, who are quite independent, and those who are much more involved, who are completely dependent on the care of others. Wolf-Hirschorn Syndrome is no different. Some WHS kids are quite high functioning…Sarah is not; she’s at the lower end of the spectrum. I have to remind myself of that, sometimes, when I’m feeling guilty over burnout and other WHS moms are posting about what a JOY their son/daughter is in their lives (along with pictures of them going to prom or enjoying a trip to Disney World). Same diagnosis in no way equates to same experience.

Because there isn’t a ton written about WHS, a lot of what I’ve learned has come more recently, since the explosion of social media. This is the generation that specialists are looking to for data on growth charts and life expectancy. That means we don’t have information to look at, but we have a wealth of experiences shared by many families that offer some clues as to what to possibly expect or watch for.

This is an emotional book that, I felt, was honest. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

For the “general population” reader I hope to offer a “peek in the window” of a family living a life likely very different from their own. When the reader sees a medically fragile child on the street, maybe that child will be looked at with more admiration for his/her strength, rather than pity. Maybe if the reader comes across an autistic child, he/she will be a little more patient and a little less judgmental toward both the child and the parent, alike. It can also be just plain interesting to read about others facing challenges we aren’t. It’s the little details that make you say, “Oh yeah…I never even THOUGHT of that being an issue!”

For readers within the special needs community, I hope to offer hope that if I could find the light at the end of my tunnel, you can, too. I hope to offer companionship by way of admission to my own doubts, frustrations, struggles, and screw-ups. I hope that a fellow special needs parent will understand this book is me saying, “You are not alone. You are not wrong for the way you feel. This, too, shall pass. And you are stronger than you know. You can do this.”

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With Angel's Wings by [Collins, Stephanie A.]

With Angel’s Wings is the true story of Laura, a young wife and mother of a three-year-old daughter. Her husband, Kevin, a marine, is deployed overseas, leaving Laura to give birth to their second daughter and handle the two young children on her own.

Thirteen days after the birth of her youngest, the pediatrician detects a heart murmur. That leads to just the first of multiple diagnoses for both of her daughters, sending Laura on an unexpected and emotional journey into the world of parenting medically-fragile, special needs children.

Right when Laura fears she will break under the incredible pressure, she encounters the beauty of true love, in a most unexpected and unconventional way.

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Death by the Jaguar

Death by the Jaguar

Sudden and violent loss is the introduction to this story, a war veteran and his family fall victim to a tragic and yet seemingly deliberate attempt on their lives. Our main character survives, along with the family dog, but we quickly learn the fate of his wife and son was far more grisly. When local law enforcement fail to provide the answers he seeks, our war veteran takes matters into his own hands. Answers alone will not right this; we follow the recently widowed down the rabbit hole of his own thirst for revenge, strongly driven in his pursuit.

Death by the Jaguar piqued my interest right away, a personal fan of sailing and being on the water, and I definitely enjoyed how often it returned to that setting. Either James Ruby is experienced himself or did his research, as his attention to detail regarding many basic mechanics and proper names surrounding the handling of water craft was on point. His technical skill as a writer shined through once more in regards to setting the scene. Ruby paints a picture well, giving enough focus on the characters surroundings to immerse the reader without putting too much weight in to detail. One aspect that continuously distracted me was his over use of commas. The flow of the story remained choppy throughout, thoughts consistently broken up too much by the trip of a comma.

I feel Ruby did a solid job portraying the scattered and distracted mindset of the main character, writing his portions of the story from a first person point of view. Consistently being pulled into the memories of a war veteran while he doggedly pursues justice for his family shows a glimpse of what it is like living with PTSD. I was a little bit back and forth on how I felt overall about just how quickly he gained his thirst for revenge, with little to no mourning and not even attending the funeral. However, I still felt he wrote this broken character with fair knowledge of human psychology. One thing that caught my attention was that we never seem to catch the name of our main character. I could be wrong and just missed it, but I personally find myself relating to a character better when I at least know their name.

Another issue was the repetitive interactions of Sullivan, an arrogant Chief of the local law. It seemed that with every interaction there was so much focus on this characters need to assert his station of power, his need for it to be recognized. The story itself left me wanting; the entire tale is a build up of vengeful actions, but in many respects it lacks the expected action factor, making it somewhat difficult to stay interested.

I was impressed with James Ruby’s ability to set the scene and draw the reader in, as well as his attention to detail regarding areas that the common person wouldn’t be too educated in.

Pages: 291 | ASIN: B0755JWFNR

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Sticks and Stones and Broken Bones Book Trailer

Linda Lee King grew up in 1950s America where children did not speak until spoken to and when the Catholic Church concealed many occurrences of inappropriate behavior. One moment in her young life caused trauma that would haunt her into adulthood. Now a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she struggles daily to stay afloat. Linda has been divorced, widowed, and haunted by paranormal forces she cannot explain. She sees the world as not black and white but bleeding red with violence. That violence breeds brokenness, but it is never too late for someone to seek help. She especially worries about the future children of America and how violence will affect their lives. The battle is not hopeless, though. Linda believes with early detection and counseling any past trauma can be treated. She has been through so much in her life as a single parent and a recovering Roman Catholic. Now, she reaches out to others who share her pain to tell a personal story of forgiveness, hope, and-in the end-healing.

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Covert Activities

Phyllis A. Still Author Interview

Phyllis A. Still Author Interview

Fleeing the Shadows is a satisfying follow-up in the continuing Dangerous Loyalties series as our brave heroine flees with her family into the Kentucky frontier. What direction did you want to take this novel in that was different from the first book?

After the danger caused by Papa’s covert activities in book one, I wanted readers thrust headlong into survival mode with thirteen-year-old Mary and her family.

The family is always running from something and danger seems to lurk around every bend. Did you plan the plot twists before writing or did they develop organically?

I used a rough outline to keep the story moving but allowed surprises to happen naturally.

 Mary continues to carry the bulk of the family’s worries as her Papa makes increasingly difficult decisions. What were some obstacles that you felt were important for her characters development?

Mary struggles with PTSD. She must deal with each fear and keep going. Mary rises to the task of taking charge of her siblings when Papa must care for Momma. When Mary shuts down in fear, she allows her family to care for her. Her ultimate challenge leads her to face real and imagined shadows to save her family.

Where will book three in the series take readers?

Mary hopes life at Fort Boonesborough will fulfill her dreams of a peaceful life with friends and suitors. She has her heart set on a certain someone and is determined to win him for her future husband, but Papa and the American Revolution say otherwise.

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She blames herself for the bounty onPapa’s head.

Book Two in the Dangerous Loyalties series–a historical novel for teens–continues the riveting story of Daughters of the American Revolution patriot Mary Shirley McGuire.

It’s late summer in the Alleghany Highlands, 1775. Colonial Virginia has resolved to support the American Revolutionary cause for liberty. The British are determined to retain control of the fur trade and keep frontiersmen fighting Indians instead of joining the Continentals.

Thirteen-year-old Mary Shirley is still recovering from emotional wounds inflicted when she risked her life delivering traitorous dispatches. She trusted the wrong men, and now the family must flee Indian Creek to stay ahead of British Loyalist who seek her papa’s life.

But they can’t risk being captured by taking the main road to Daniel Boone’s trail that leads into Kentucky territory. They must endure the more dangerous and grueling hunter’s path that leads to rough frontier forts along the Clinch River.

Passions are ignited, friendships are formed, and shocking lessons are learned.

Papa ignores the warnings to wait for other travelers, causing Mary’s anxieties to worsen. Once they cross the Cumberland Gap, they’re at the mercy of God and the Chickamauga Cherokee to make it to Fort Boonesborough alive. Frontiersmen tell them the settlement of Fort Boonesborough isn’t defendable, and Mary doesn’t want to continue. Papa is confident that the Indians are too busy preparing for winter to raid.

A few days from the fort, Mary is feeling hopeful for the future. Then disaster strikes, leaving the family devastated and heartbroken. There is no other choice. Mary must lay aside paralyzing fear and excruciating pain to save her family before time runs out.

Fleeing the Shadows (Dangerous Loyalties Book Two) invites readers to experience traveling the dangerous wilderness trails with Mary and her family through thick wild forests of Southwest Virginia and into Kentucky territory that leads straight into a Native American hornet’s nest. Mary just wants to make it Fort Boonesborough and live in peace.

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Uniquely American

Kwen Griffeth Author Interview

Kwen Griffeth Author Interview

The Law of Moses is a captivating western novel that paints a vivid picture of life in the American west. What were your sources of inspiration as your created this world that Sam lives in?

I’ve always enjoyed Westerns. I grew up reading Louis L’Amour, Clair Huffaker, and even today, I enjoy Craig Johnson and Tony Hillerman. The western is uniquely American and even modern heroes are compared to the tales of Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and such. All too often, in my opinion, the western hero is portrayed as shallow. I asked what if a soldier from the 1800’s became sick with an illness not identified or understood until the late 1900’s? I’m talking about PTSD. I grew up in the west, I’ve studied the west and I spent two decades in the military around men who suffered from PTSD. I was compelled to write the story. I knew I got it right, when I received an email from an 82-year-old veteran of the Korean War and he told me Sam inspired him.

Sam has a tumultuous past and lives a dangerous life while being a very deep character. How did you set about creating his character?

As I mentioned, I was blessed to work for several years in a rehabilitation center for troubled veterans. Many of them had alcohol problems, as the most common remedy veterans find is intoxication. Underneath, the illness attacks the spirit, the humanity of the soldier, and all too often, the alcohol is a secondary problem. Serious? Yes, but secondary. Sam is a blending of several men I worked with. I purposely made Sam a non-drinker (essentially) as I wanted the reader to focus on the real issues suffered by veterans, anger, guilt, loss, failure and loss of faith. It was important to me that Sam, after years of suffering, not meet a beautiful woman and suddenly be cured. In the story, the first “person” Sam connects with is a stray dog. Kind of like Sam, himself.

I felt that the backdrop, time frame and use of guns was very well used. Did you do any research to maintain accuracy?

Anyone who writes historical/fiction is obligated to the reader to do full and complete research. Every gun, the cattle trails, and the battles are accurate. Sam grew up in Elmira New York. In actuality, Elmira was not only a rally point for Union troops going south, there was a POW camp in the later stages of the war. The death rate of the prisoners matched those of Andersonville in Georgia. The Confederate soldiers housed there referred to the camp as “Hellmira.”

Even the weather conditions for the Battle at Antietam was researched as best as records kept for that time frame. The retelling of that battle is accurate with the one exception of the Forty-duce from New York.

What is the next novel that you are working on and when will that book be available?

I currently have “Dead Men Walking,” book two of the Nate and Clare series (The Tenth Nail), with my editor. She tells me the book should be ready late May or early June. We are shooting for June 1st. I am working on my first fantasy/crime drama/romance and it is a story of werewolves. As always, I strive to make my characters as “human” as possible. “The Shadow on the Moon,” working title is planned to be ready this fall.

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The Law of Moses (Sam and Laura's Story)Samuel Cardiff had a plan. He had recently graduated from the Teachers College and now he was returning home. The first goal completed, his next step was to find a position and then he could get married.

Samuel was a quiet man, some would say a pacifist. He believed in God, family and education. He was not concerned with the happenings outside his home town.

Outside events, however, were about to drag him from his beloved Elmira. It was the spring of 1861 and Confederate forces had recently attacked Fort Sumter.

Against every moral belief, he enlisted in the Union Army and with his first step toward the south, he changed his life forever.

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