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Posts Tagged ‘paramedics’

LieLayLain_Cover.fh11It’s official: my second novel, Lie Lay Lain, is out in the world today. The book is about a special events planner who witnesses a hit-and-run, and makes an impossible promise, a church secretary who turns her life upside down to make a lie true, a paramedic whose whole life is a lie, and a child no one will admit is missing. In short, it’s about so much that I find myself practically rewriting the book every time I try to describe what it’s about.

In honor of its release, I’m giving away a few copies.

First of all, if you drop by Goodreads, you can enter to win one of two copies. You just have to click to enter by April 27th.

If you’re not into Goodreads, you can enter to win right here. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, and I’ll choose two winners at random on April 8th. If you’re not sure what to comment, I’m taking questions about what it’s really like to be a church secretary.

*I hope that Lie Lay Lain will turn out to be my sophomoric effort from a strictly numerical standpoint, as my second book, and not in the sense of ill-informed or lacking maturity.

 

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I always struggle with what to do to commemorate Veterans Day. I’ve never understood the whole “big sale” concept as a fitting way to honor military veterans, but I often feel anger and frustration when I attend the more traditional Veterans Day events. As a society, we like veterans neatly wrapped up in faded photographs (in the case of those who have died) or in crisp, but somehow archaic uniforms. We want to see them at parades and speeches and the openings of war memorials. We do not like to see them in mugshots or sleeping on a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk. Yet a disproportionate number of veterans become homeless or end up in prison.

This dilemma returns to me today, because I just received the final full cover for Lie Lay Lain. I had seen the front cover, but the back cover came as a surprise to me. There in shadow is the image of a paramedic. All of which has what to do with Veterans Day?

LieLayLain_Cover.fh11

Beyond my two point of view characters, Jennifer and Olivia, the third main character of the book is Rindell James, a paramedic and a Marine Corps veteran. The character developed out of me asking the question we all ought to ask ourselves: what becomes of our veterans?

In Lie Lay Lain, Rindell is still carrying the baggage of two tours of duty in Iraq, including post-traumatic stress disorder and a drug addiction that was born out of a combat injury. Throughout much of the book he is just a few missteps away from homelessness or tumbling back into drug use. These elements of his character are not things I cherry picked or over-dramatized to heighten tension in the novel. They are part of the everyday lives of many veterans. You don’t have to go far or look hard to find veterans who are suffering from combat injuries or PTSD, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed.

Combat injuries can lead to lifelong pain and in the pursuit of relief, many veterans become addicted to a variety of drugs. The psychological wounds of combat can also lead to self-medication with legal and illegal drugs, as well as alcohol. Combine pain, stress, addiction, and emotional troubles, and it’s not surprising that veterans disproportionately become homeless, unemployed, or incarcerated.

What is surprising is America’s somewhat cavalier attitude toward the lifelong fallout of going to war. People seem eager to thank veterans for their service, and they occasionally want to buy dinner for them, or contribute to adapting a home for a disabled vet. We do not, however, seem to have a united front on the absolute necessity of providing all veterans with the services necessary to keep them healthy and contributing members of our society.

Instead of thinking about veterans on one special day a year, we need to think about them more often, and more openly discuss the obstacles they face. We can do this by being more involved with local veterans groups, by being informed about veterans issues, or by communicating to our elected officials that veterans are important to us.

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For those of you left wondering, “What happened with the paramedic?” after last Tuesday’s teaser, this is simply … a further tease.  What can I say?  It takes more than a few chapters for this particular incident to unfold.

***

Olivia was the kind of girl who never managed to break the ice, even at parties where she knew everyone. The paramedic, on the other hand, leaned out of the ambulance window every day for weeks and said, “Morning.” Or sometimes, “Hey there.”

Down by the river

Down by the river

Startled out of her pre-dawn reverie each time, Olivia nodded, half-smiled, and kept walking. She walked every morning for an hour, looping around the river park trail before the sun made it up over the tree line. The ambulance parked at the edge of the river, its driver leaning back in the seat, arm propped on the window. He had been parking there as long as Olivia’s resolution to lose weight had been in effect and for all she knew, before that. She supposed he was on his break.

Olivia had finally accepted the exchange of greetings as an unavoidable annoyance. Then one morning, as she stepped off the curb to cross the street and start her walk, he opened the ambulance door, got out of the cab and walked toward her. Standing in the middle of the sidewalk, he seemed to be waiting for her to cross the street and reach him. Or perhaps he hadn’t noticed that he was standing directly in her path. Except that he was looking at her.

“Good morning,” he said.

Olivia dropped her gaze, giving her half-smile and trying to step to the side, between the trash can and him. He side-stepped to match her and then there was no place to go. She flushed. She hated games like that, where someone was made to feel stupid and embarrassed. Resigned, she muttered, “Morning.”

“Nice and hot, huh?” he said.

“Global warming. That’s what they say.” She hesitated, her foot seeking the curb, trying to gauge if there was enough room to squeeze past without touching him.

“Yeah, you right.”

Olivia wondered if maybe he were a little “off.” Touched, as her grandmother said. He had the hint of an accent, something exotic to Tampa. When he said hot it sounded like hawt. New Jersey, maybe? Belatedly she felt nervous. There it was, still practically dark, and she was alone.

“You new to Tampa? Dis neighborhood?” he asked. He rocked back on his heels like he was enjoying himself. Daring a quick glance at him, she guessed at a nice tan and hazel eyes, maybe? Hard to tell in the pre-dawn. Sort of swarthy–Italian?  His hair was cropped short, military style, too short to really have a color. Dark blond or brown, she guessed. Embroidered on the right side of his uniform shirt was his name: James.

“Neither. I’ve lived here my whole life.” Just the sort of personal information you shouldn’t offer to crazy strangers.

“Really? I only been seeing you for a few months. Not before that.” He should have been embarrassed or uneasy–she was trying to make it difficult for him–but he didn’t look it.

Olivia stepped up on the sidewalk and, bracing herself for it, pushed past him, her shoulder brushing against his.

“Excuse me, James, I need to go for my walk.” That at least startled him. He looked down at his chest and laughed.

Behind her, he said, “James is my last name. I’m a paramedic, not a quick-lube guy.”

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