Storytelling's a curious endeavor. Born of imagination, it can take both authors and readers on wonderfully intricate, lush and fanciful journeys. But it can also dropkick us back into the gritty realities of life in unexpectedly profound and painful ways.
The latter occurred to me as I sat down to write the beginning of book 2 in my Hidden Valor military veteran/K-9 suspense series. I'd barely begun crafting In the Name Of when I learned that my sister had committed suicide. Needless to say, that was a difficult manuscript to write. Especially since, in that story, the series protagonist had just started treatment for her crippling case of PTSD.
By the time I reached book 3 in the series, Braxton PD Deputy Kate Holland's mind and heart had begun to heal—mostly because Kate had worked hard with her therapist. And, of course, Kate's ever-faithful German Shepherd, Ruger, had been at her side since nearly the beginning, providing his special brand of unconditional love and support.
Life was finally looking up for Kate—and her creator.
And then, because so many readers asked for it, I decided to write the prequel to the series. Invisible Wounds is the story of how Kate and Ruger met. Since it's also the story of how truly awful things had become for Kate before she met her four-legged savior, the basics of the tale have been in my head since the opening line of book 1.
The prequel story also drags Kate back to those early days when she'd left the Army and returned to Arkansas. At the time, the fallout from her POW experience in Afghanistan was still raw. Kate was spiraling down hard, and she took steps to end her pain.
Since Invisible Wounds is the series prequel, it's not much of a spoiler to reveal that Kate makes it through. Ruger saves her life, and in more ways than one.
But it's a difficult journey. Fortunately, Kate's stories are fictional. But there are far too many struggles that are not. Because Invisible Wounds touches on the themes of PTSD and suicide, I wanted to offer up a few real world links.
The US National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is staffed 24/7 with people who can help. Phone 988 to speak to someone. The call is free and confidential.
If you're a military veteran or concerned about one, dial 988 and then press 1. You or your friend do not need to be enrolled in VA benefits or healthcare.
Veterans can also text 838255—or click here to chat online with someone: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help-now/chat/.
If you're not a US citizen and live outside the States, visit https://blog.opencounseling.com/suicide-hotlines/ for a complete list of suicide hotline numbers and other resources by country.
There's hope and help out there. Please reach for it. You are loved.
Fair Winds and Following Seas,