Let’s get this out of the way right from the start: this post contains SPOILERS if you haven’t yet read The Black Wolf Series, but especially Blood Wolf and the Book Four preview at the end of Blood Wolf.
AGAIN: if you haven’t read those things, SPOILERS AHEAD. Do NOT scroll past this picture if you’re not ready to see what I’m going to share.
Now, for those of you who have read Blood Wolf and the Book Four preview–or for those of you who decided you don’t care about spoilers–hi!
Let’s talk about Book Four.
Normally, by this point in the year, I’d have started writing my next full-length novel. I might even be finished with it and awaiting my first round of beta reading.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Book Four, which is STILL in outlining. This book has grabbed me by the ankles and hauled me into a dark hole. I’ve had nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and cold sweats. The weirdest thing that has happened during my work on this book is that, at times, my tongue goes numb. It’s numb right now, even, as I’m opening this topic up. I’ve never had that as part of a panic response before. It’s weird. It feels ominous–like I’m telling a story someone doesn’t want me to tell.
And, in truth, I am.
Years ago, in a different life, I was a victim of intimate partner violence. For nearly two years, I lived in a home where I was never safe. Where the one person who had promised to protect me was the scariest person I knew.
I was a very different person back then, which is a silly thing to say. Everyone was a very different person ten years ago.
But I was almost wholly different. I always start this conversation by explaining that I was deeply devoted to my Christian faith. It’s strange to look back, though. For more than half my life, almost all of my friends have been members of the LGBTQ+ community. I’ve never had a problem with my divorced relatives who remarried. I never had a problem with many, many of the things that Christians are often warned away from.
For some reason, though, when it came to my own life, I wasn’t that open-minded. I stayed with a person for years longer than I should have because I thought my faith demanded it. Hell, I didn’t just think that. The pastor of the church I attended at the time told me as much.
When I went to him and sought counsel, thinking he was someone I could trust, the advice I got blew my mind. That advice seemed to be intended to pin me to my place in life. Instead, it became the reason I realized I should run like hell.
“Your church family can’t condone you leaving the relationship. I suggest you get a journal and keep a record of your interactions. That might help you figure out what you’re doing to trigger his anger.”
Pardon me, but: What. The. Fuck.
I didn’t see clearly until the moment those words came out of that man’s mouth. All the snark and self-awareness I didn’t even know I’d misplaced crashed over me like water at the base of a waterfall and my brain opened up.
In that way, I was left with the uncanny sense I’d been brainwashed. My faith is still broken. I don’t know that it will ever be mended, and I don’t know that I want it to be. That’s going to be hard for a lot of my friends and family to read (if they read this) but it’s the honest truth. I was so ingrained in my beliefs that I was willing to keep myself in danger. You might argue those beliefs were warped. Maybe. But how did they become so twisted in my mind? How could I be sure that would never happen again?
I lost myself in those years of abuse. I’m still finding my way back, but I really thought I was making great strides on my healing journey–until the day I met Morgan McPherson.
When Morgan first came to me, she appeared exactly as she does in the Blood Wolf scene when Riley and Thorne come to her aid. Beaten, bruised, bloodied.
My heart broke when I saw her because I knew. I just knew what it meant. I immediately recognized what she’d been through and understood I was going to have to face my past in the form of her antagonist.
I know it may sound strange, but truly: Riley brought her to me. It was some of the weirdest mental shit I’ve experienced as an author. I was writing the car scene near the end of Black Wolf when the pack is fleeing Snelgrove’s facility and Riley is trying to heal Grace. During the time I was working on that scene, Riley shuffled up to me with a look that said, “You’re not gonna like this.” Then he stepped out of the way and there she was.
Like I said. Weird mental shit. Big Magic.
My outlining process has been tough. Every day, I’m confronting the demons of my past in the demons of Morgan’s past. She’s not me. She’s not supposed to be me. We really couldn’t be much more different in most respects. But we’ve shared an experience and can look into each other’s eyes and see the same hollow ache deep inside.
They say you move through phases. Victim. Survivor. Fighter.
I’m a survivor now, but I don’t always feel like a Survivor–and there’s a difference. I’m not some tall, brave warrior woman. In truth, I’m not terribly tall. I’m also not terribly brave. I am a woman. I’ve been called a warrior for living through what I experienced, but that’s just it. It’s often hard to feel like a Survivor when you feel like you simply survived.
I’m trying to move beyond that, though, to Fighter. I’m finding my spine to open discussions when people around me offer uninformed opinions on the matter. So many myths surround criminal domestic violence, domestic abuse, and intimate partner violence. Here’s some truth: on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (CDC, 2017) The odds it has, or will, affect you or someone you know are clear in those statistics. I encourage you to learn the truth. To have an informed opinion.
And if you, like me, have first-hand knowledge and experience, know this: I am here for you. We can fight together.
So, yes. Book Four is rough stuff. It turns out, fending off my fear and panic every day does not lead to the fun, creative romp I usually experience while writing a book. And I didn’t expect it to hit me this hard–especially not while working on a fictional story about wolf-people and vampires. This part of my past is something I thought I could peel off and toss away, like a snake shedding its skin. I always assumed I could step out of it, in one piece, and leave it blithely behind me. Imagine my surprise to learn it’s just like every other part of the past. It follows me wherever I go.
It’s there in the way I still flinch at sudden movements around me. At the way I cower when people yell–even happy, excited yelling. A theme park–one of my favorite pastimes–is a trash fire for my emotions now. I still go. I won’t let the demons take that from me, even if it’s harder than it should be.
I’m ever hopeful, though, even in the depths of the depression I now frequently experience, that things will turn out alright.
Which, I suppose, is why I’m still optimistic that completing Book Four–no matter how painful it is, no matter how long it takes–will be the next piece in this puzzle I’m always working. The one where my life has been scattered in little bits all over the place and I’m constantly picking them up and trying to find where they fit.
I know monsters are real. I’ve met them and I’ve lived to tell the tale. I have a better life now. A life that’s safe. A life that’s happy, most of the time–or as happy as it can be, given the depression and anxiety I’m left with.
When I look into Morgan’s eyes, I recognize the pain. I’m doing the best I can to make it right for both of us. For all of us.
It’s hard. It’s scary.
But I’m doing it anyway. I won’t let the demons take the joy of writing from me. So maybe I am Surviving. Fighting. At least a little.
Book Four is coming. I’ll keep you updated.