Wednesday, March 30, 2016

What's in a Name?

#WWWBlogs #writingwednesday

During Easter Weekend, my daughter home visiting from college asked me, "Why didn't you use dad's name as your name for writing your book?" She wanted to know why I used my maiden name as my author name instead of my married name.

It is difficult as a woman to know what to do about the name game in this day and age. I have been my married name for 20 years now. It adorned my Army uniforms and every signature on every document since 1996. It is my legal name, the name on my Last Will & Testament, my Facebook name, the name on the back of my old soccer uniform.

Professionally in my job/career and in my "real life," I am known as my married name. It is Dutch and people don't know how to pronounce it or spell it correctly. They may glance at it and think it's Asian. I don't know how many times I've been asked if I'm Korean. Um, no?

When I decided to write a story and then put a novel out there to the world, I realized that I wanted to have a different identity all together for that new endeavor. I didn't want a pen name per se, like some people do. I didn't want to hide the fact that I'm a woman by using just initials or some unisex name, like some women authors do. I still wanted to be me - but also someone else. Kind of like writing a novel - creating an alternate world with fictional people and events.

I chose to use my full given name, the one on the yellowing, crumpled birth certificate from Trenton, New Jersey. This was the name my parents gave me. It is a unique name; not everyone gets to be named "Dori." While I had no barrettes or pens or key chains with my name on it, and that was infuriating when you're twelve, I do appreciate that it stands out from all the Jennifers and Michelles out there of my day. It was exciting when I came across the books about Dorrie the Witch and even more exciting when Finding Nemo came out with a good loyal pal named Dory. Once in awhile I meet a Dori/Dorrie/Dorri/Dory/Dorie but these women are usually named something else, like Dorinda or Dorothy or Doris. My name is actually just Dori.

My author name also carries my father's last name, which adds a touch of the exotic due to the French and the accent aigu over the e (é). It is also a way for me to keep his name alive, since he has no male grandchildren and was the only son. The name will die with my brother (hopefully a long, long time from now) but now, it will remain alive in the archives of published American books. It does have an ISBN after all.

What kind of name do you use for your writing and why?

-Dori

Monday, March 28, 2016

Scout's Honor Book Launch and Colon Cancer Awareness

#manuscriptmonday #coloncancerawareness

Colon cancer has absolutely nothing to do with my book. In fact, I don't think the word "cancer" is even in the story...which is saying something since there are over 120,000 words. However, colon cancer has indeed taken over my novel, my book launch, my purpose, my life.

Back in mid-November, my husband started experiencing symptoms of what he believed to be a kidney stone. Since he has had nine of them before, his only health-related issue, he knows what they feel like. That one evening, when he said those words, unbeknown to us, we started down this path of a nightmare that will not end. Well, let me rephrase. The nightmare for him will end one day much too soon. But it won't be pretty and it won't be at all what anyone expected or planned for or even thought of as how we would spend our Empty Nest years together. And our family will never be the same again. I will be left behind all alone in middle age. My young college student daughters will be without their father during some of the most important times of their young lives. And the three of us will be scarred forever. Losing your husband and father is not something that ever goes away. You don't get over that. You have to find a way to live with it.

On February 2nd, the day before his 47th birthday, we were told the C word. I wish it had been the other C word, believe me - call us all the disgusting names you want - but this C word? No.

That diagnosis, after further testing, turned into the worst diagnosis you can possibly have: Stage 4B terminal. BRAF genetic mutation. TERMINAL. Terminal. Ter-min-al. Terminal has always meant the airport to me. Now terminal is something else altogether.

Dealing with both the painfully slow not-quite-recovery from colon resection surgery (where they thought he had diverticulitis and instead found a tumor) and also the every-two-weeks of chemotherapy, my husband's quality of life is not very good at all. He doesn't have good days. He might have some good hours here and there. And "good" means "not bad and feeling like shit in bed." He is still waiting for this so-far mythical pattern of good days so he can try to do something, like go on a trip or physically do something he's always wanted to do. You know the song "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw? Yeah, that. His life is a Tim McGraw song now, only without sky diving and Rocky Mountain climbing because he's in too much pain and feels like shit all the time.

I could write a book on how unfair this is for him to have to live his days like this - pain, suffering, desperation, the mental torment of facing your early death when you have worked your ass off your entire life and will never be able to enjoy the fruits of it. I probably will write a book, actually. I know this story has been told before by many great people who have faced what my husband is facing and what our family is dealing with, but this time it is our family and our story.

In short, he doesn't deserve this. At all. I know most people probably don't. I suppose I don't get too sad when I learn of a murderer or a child predator having a terminal cancer diagnosis. But a guy like my husband? Seriously? He has never done anything wrong to anyone. Ever. He always did the right thing. Always. And this is what he gets for it all? Yes, hard to believe in a merciful or just God in times like this.

The reason for this post is not to make anyone feel bad for us. I know so many people out there have not only faced this themselves but they have also watched a loved one face this. It is the most helpless feeling in the world, watching someone you love suffering needlessly. I know shit happens every day to good people all the time. But some shit is simply worse than others.

I've written a couple of essays on how the healthcare system - as it is - failed him. I've written another very personal essay that I may never share. The reason for this post is share with anyone who reads my work or is interested in my work: my new book, Scout's Honor, which will be released on April 14th finally!, is not only dedicated to my husband's cancer fight but some of the profits and royalties will be donated to Colon Cancer awareness efforts - particularly focused on the screenings of younger people - and any research related to Gastrointestinal Cancer at the UNC Lineberger Cancer Hospital.

Any book events that I am able to schedule will include information about colon cancer awareness and any talk I am invited to give with include my husband's story. If just one person under 50 goes and gets a colonoscopy and has a precancerous polyp removed before it turns into something that sets them on a path toward their early death, then I will feel like writing my book maybe mattered.

My book is actually about another rarely addressed issue, and I hope that book clubs and discussion groups talk about those important life matters within the story. However, my purpose for Scout's Honor is to spread the word about the fact that you are NEVER too young for a colon cancer diagnosis.

-Dori



Friday, March 18, 2016

Book Review: We're All Mad Here by Leigh Raines

#funfriday #bookreview


We're All Mad Here by Leigh Raines
Leigh Raines' first person quick, sarcastic, witty, word slinging narrative is all New York. There's a certain verbal clip that comes with folks from the North East, and her ability to translate that to dialog and tell a raw story about basically spoiled college kids is incredible.

Her main character, Jade, is a young college student from New York with some level of wealth who is around other students with the same or even more means. In a world of privileged young people, there is always way more than enough of everything: food, housing, clothes, luxury cars, designer everything, money, education...and then drugs - and not just pot but hard drugs, alcohol, depression, anxiety, stress, prescription drug abuse, family problems, drama, parties, and the soul sucking quagmire that is modern sexual behavior, yet another form of addiction to suppress the pain that lingers deep inside. While these kids don't qualify for government student loans or need based scholarships, they are qualified for the same needs that every other human being has - the kinds that truly fill emptiness - the kind of emptiness that can't be filled with all the excesses listed above. More than anything Leigh shows that no matter how much money you have, all people just want the same things: self and peer acceptance, true friendship, loyalty, meaningful relationships, respect, love.

The book centers around Jade's panic attacks, anxiety and attachment issues and how she tries to navigate it all while in a time and place that is filled with overload of everything. Oftentimes, there is a concrete reason why these kinds of mental health plagues creep up on a person, and for a lot of the book I wasn't quite sure exactly what the baseline was problem was for Jade. I liked how Leigh wrote that because neither did Jade, and it wasn't until the end of the book, when Jade finally started making headway within her own self, that it became more clear the root of her mental health problems.

It is good that she was able to combat it into some level of submission at such a young age - so many women go many years never getting a grasp on what causes their pain that they waste half or more than half their lives screwing it up before finally addressing them.

The book also gave me a good education on Greek Life. My daughters are both in sororities and so to get a better picture of what that is all about was useful to me as a parent.

Great story for young adults. Look forward to reading more by Leigh Raines!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Scout's Honor Soundtrack

I was challenged by my editor to assemble a playlist for my book on Spotify. I'm too old for Spotify - I'm more of a CD girl. But I went ahead an put together a list of songs that should give the right feel to Scout's Honor. Because the story takes place over a large amount of time, I knew I'd have a good range of music. I like so much music, and so many different kinds, whenever anyone asks me my favorite - I can't really answer. It's like asking me my favorite author or favorite book or favorite dog. Too many, too much.

The Scout's Honor Playlist is:

Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield
This song is referred to once in the story but it signifies the times. Scout is a girl coming of age in the early 1980s.

Take It Easy - Eagles
Charlie talks about this song and how it makes him feel about how his life would be if his father hadn't left. He also pictures his father looking like Glenn Frey. I found it odd that both Harper Lee and Glenn Frey died this year - the year my book comes out.

Swingin' - John Anderson
This song takes place during a scene between Charlie and Katie. It was a popular country song back in the early 1980s and lots of southern kids were singing it, if even they weren't country music fans.

Where the Streets Have no Name - U2
Classic U2 song represents two things in the book. One is the time period - 1987-1988. The other is the feeling you get about small towns.

Hello - Lionel Richie
Every girl growing up in the 1980s sat with her heart broken and listened to this song, at least once. Every girl wishes there was a man out there singing this and feeling this about her.

Papa Don't Preach - Madonna
This song represents the times and the fears of the times.

Landslide - Dixie Chicks version
The Dixie Chicks redid this song in 2003. Since that year is Part III, I found it it be a great representation of the time period and also the time in Scout's life. She is getting older and her life is changing.

Don't Know Why - Norah Jones
Another popular song of the times and it makes you feel comforted in a way.

Bring Me to Life - Evanescence
Scout has been a suppressed human being for so long, this song just screams for her to break free from her self imposed chains.

Burning House - Cam
This is a 2015 country hit that I fell in love with. It describes, to me, how Scout treats Charlie, even if she doesn't mean to or realize what she's doing. This song will break your heart.

Time in a Bottle - Jim Croce
One of my personal favorite songs and artists ever. It reminds me of my own father. There is a scene toward the end of the story between Scout and her father, and I hear this song playing in the background.

Only Hope - Mandy Moore
This song was made popular by the movie A Walk to Remember, based upon the Nicholas Sparks book of the same name. It is a Christian song, and I wanted it to reflect the underlying struggle that Scout faces concerning her faith or lack of faith.

Simple Man - Lynyrd Skynyrd
This song is Charlie. Charlie and his mom. Good ol' Southern Rock that says it all.

I hope you will come find me on Spotify or subscribe to my YouTube channel - where I'll put this soundtrack as well.

-Dori




Friday, March 11, 2016

Book Review: A Safe Place With You by César L. Baquerizo

#funfriday #bookreview

I have never read a LGBT book before. It has honestly never even crossed my mind to read one and certainly not one that also needed to be translated into English and about something I've never even heard about before.

While this book is about LGBT issues, it is really about a lot more than that. I think to only put this book in that genre is unfair to the totality of the story. 

First, it was refreshing to read a novel that debunked certain stereotypes - the main one being that gay culture is mostly promiscuous. In fact, it was great to see that pervasive stereotype hit head on by one of the main characters who expressed not only his personal discomfort with the promiscuity in the gay clubs but also his deep desire for love. He was not at all interested in what the club culture offered him as a young gay man in the big city for the first time. I think that it's important for writers of this genre to address these kinds of stereotypes because in the wider world...this is exactly what people think about gay culture - earned or not earned, fairly or unfairly. Showing gay characters who just want the same things that the average straight person wants, rather than what is usually shown in movies and media, is how to help dispel ignorance. Highlighting our similarities rather than our differences is how we really bond and move forward.

Cesar did a great job in handling the complex issues that surround an individual who needs to live his or her truth in a world that does not accept it and wants it to either change or go away. He was fair to people who are mostly indoctrinated into religious beliefs, who otherwise are not bad people - most of the time they are just scared: scared for their gay loved one and the struggles that person will face in life, scared for what God will or will not do to their loved one because of their homosexuality, scared because it is not something that everyone can understand. But - how Cesar writes it - if a "scared" straight person can see that it is just about love, and not sex, then it is for everyone to understand. All people want love. Sex can be a part of love but love is the foundation of his story. He makes this very clear in his message.

Reading about these clinics in South American culture and the atrocities inflicted upon these young people in order to change them into straight people is disturbing. A few of the scenes were graphic. However, also reading about how the relationships formed among these "patients" in such a dire situation is a testament to the human spirit, no matter who you love or where you live. 

While some of the wording is a little different than I am used to, I also knew that this was a translation into English. So it is easy to just overlook that and get to the author's most important message: love for everyone. It is an important story. 

This book will be release in June 2016. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Scout's Honor Character Description: Lee and Raelene Webb

#manuscriptmonday #mondayblogs

Lee and Raelene Webb are Scout's parents. They are a couple deeply in love. As Scout narrates during her young years, she describes her parents as the kind of couple who have a fairytale marriage, who go off without their kids and do their own thing together, and who makes their children feel lonely sometimes. They are so in love with each other that the offspring feels like they aren't always welcome.

Lee owns his own garage, and Raelene is a reading teacher. They both grew up during the Jim Crow South and came of age during Civil Rights. While my book does not address race much at all, I do try to round out these characters within their time.

Raelene was the kind of feisty southern girl who did not subscribe to the time's way of thinking. She was rebellious about "separate but equal" and would embarrass her mother by drinking from "colored" water fountains and befriending a black girl in town. When she read Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Raelene knew that one day, if she had a daughter, she was going to name her Scout.

Lee is a quiet man who works hard. He is a gentleman who generally keeps his thoughts and feelings to himself. Charlie describes Lee in one of his narrations as someone who is cool and confident and has a dry sense of humor. When I created Lee, I wanted him to represent the kind of father who came along during a certain time and place who is not overly involved with his children's lives and tends to keep his emotions in check. He has his own world view, his own opinions and isn't necessarily sure how to handle certain situations, like many dads. For example, teenaged girl issues.

The relationship between a father and a daughter is of paramount importance. It sets the stage for any man that a girl will love during the course of her life. "Daddy issues" are real. They can be the kind that lead a girl to dance on a pole for a living: abandonment, abuse, belittlement, alcoholism and drug addiction, etc. They can also be kind that undermine - and not on purpose - a girl's sense of self, a girl's self worth - simply because of a miscommunication or an unresolved matter that goes on for years.

In Scout's Honor, Scout has a great relationship with her father. She looks up to him, admires him, and loves him. But one crack during a key moment eventually causes a cavern that takes years to fill in...all while the father has no idea what damage he did. I try to highlight this toward the end of the story.

Fun fact: Lee is named for my daughter's middle name, Allison Leigh. Raelene is named for my other daughter's middle name, Abigail Raelene.

Scout's Honor is available for PreOrder. Go to bit.ly/BuyScoutsHonor to sign up for your copy! Also, go to my website and read some of the great reviews coming in. Enter my Giveaway on Good Reads too! Just click the widget on my website.

Happy Reading,
Dori

Friday, March 4, 2016

Book Review: The Bomber by David O'Sullivan

#funfriday #bookreview

I have to admit that I cannot quite compare David O'Sullivan's writing with any author in particular. He writes descriptively without being too wordy. He writes thoroughly without overwhelming a reader with prose and bogging us down with details. He writes Point A to Point B but in a way that makes you feel like you are actually there, walking on the dark streets of the "city" or waking up to a dawn so full that you would rather just stand there and look at it than get a move on with your day. I like how you are never quite sure what actual war he is writing about or what city this is in, because really, it is not important, but you can still picture everything as if it is in the news. 

This book is about a young soldier named Joseph who has returned from war. He is a bit lost and more of a wandering soul at the time, like many displaced soldiers who leave the military after a challenging service period. His best friend, a female he met while in the infantry, is murdered by her husband who is a war protest organizer. The husband goes into hiding. Joseph befriends her brother, who works odd under-the-table jobs for a mysterious old man with a lot of money. Then he is manipulated by another character to become suicide bomber in order to kill the protest organizer and avenge his beloved friend's death.

Without telling the whole story, I encourage readers who are interested in delving into the complexities facing those who have returned from war and dealing with not just normal life, but also human relationships. How can a seemingly average person turn into a bomber? Great story. I hear there's a sequel in the works and so I look forward to that someday.

The Bomber can be found on Amazon