There are several axioms about fiction versus reality. One is, “Fiction has to be logical, while reality isn’t always logical.” Another is, “Fiction has to tell the truth while weaving a beautiful lie.” I’m not sure if I heard those or where I read those or if they just popped in my head, but they seem true to me.
When I first wrote the Prequel and the First Book of the Lives Trilogy, Taking Lives and Stolen Lives, my family and I experienced and lived through a terrible event. We are still living through that event and always will, to some degree, live with this event.
In July 2014, the time Taking Lives was originally published, my son, Wil, was shot and killed as he walked down a street after eating lunch and shopping for his and his wife’s apartment in Chicago. Unbeknownst to him, Wil was behind a gang member. A car full of rivals spotted the gang member, and according to court records, the driver handed a .45 with an extended magazine to a fifteen-year-old and told him to “wet his shirt.” The fifteen-year-old got out of the car with an accomplice and chased down the rival.
Wil was caught between them. The rival used my son as a shield so he could get away, and as a result, my son was struck with one bullet- the only bullet that hit anyone, and died.
A tragedy, to be sure. We feel it at various times, but mostly at holidays when there is an empty chair where Wil would normally sit. We feel it at special occasions, like my daughter’s wedding, when a crafted sign was placed on an empty chair, “In loving memory for those who can’t be with us“, along with a picture of him in a locket in her floral bouquet.
It was difficult to celebrate the publication of Taking Lives and Stolen Lives while we mourned the loss of our son. As a former counselor with a background in psychology, I know grief hits different people in different ways. I see it in my family, in me, but it didn’t really hit me until I reread all of my previous work in the past two months.
Even as dark as child sex trafficking is (the storyline of the Lives Trilogy and Prequel), my work will always be of hope, of survival, of family relationships, with a coming-of-age thread woven into a thriller. Tough to do? For me, at least, not really. Because I see hope and survival in life. I have a deeply held belief that good will, and does, triumph over evil. My characters exude that belief. It oozes out of their words and their actions in the pages you, the reader, reads.
For example, in the Third Book of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives, there is a conversation that takes place between Brett, a character in all of my books, and Brian, a character that was first introduced in Splintered, but has since become a primary character in each of the successive books. This will be a spoiler of sorts, so be aware, but it beautifully emphasises life imitating art. Brian just lost his twin brother, Brad, who died tragically, along with many other children and adults, at a soccer game just the night before this conversation takes place.
Just a week or two before this conversation, Brett, along with 30 other boys, were rescued from a brothel. Brett was held captive for twenty-two months. He has always been frank and honest, telling it like it is, and his language, especially at this time, hasn’t been cleaned up or filtered. Like I said, he tells it like it is- at age fourteen.
… Brian said softly, “Life isn’t fair.”
“It’s not fair, but is isn’t unfair, either. It. Just. Is.” Brett paused, took hold of Brian’s hand and said, “It just is.
“As bad as all of that was, there was some good, too. I didn’t … couldn’t, see it at the time, just like you can’t see it right now. It takes time. I’m not over it. Shit, I’ll never really get over it, just like Mikey and Stephen and Bobby won’t get over it, but you kinda live with it. You move on. You get up each fucking morning, and you breathe. You put one fucking foot in front of the other and you move. You fucking move and you don’t stop, and the next morning, you do it all over again, because that’s the only choice you have. The only choice. It sucks. It hurts. It hurts so bad, Brian, I know that. But you keep breathing and you keep moving.” (Splintered Lives, page 287)
I think that’s what happens to those of us who experience loss. We get up, we breathe, we put one foot in front of the other and we move and don’t stop. We get up the next morning and repeat it. Over and over. We live with it. We deal with it. At times, we feel the loss coming on, and we fight back by keeping ourselves busy and we try not to think about it. At other times, we give in and we let that wave wash over us, hoping we don’t drown.
I guess my point is, and there are several points, in all of this, is that even in as dark as the Trilogy and Prequel are, there is hope, faith, companionship, caring, and, of course, survival. They survive. We survive.
In my next post, I will give you another of my beliefs that comes through in my writing using my current and newest book, Fan Mail. Until then, I would love to hear your thoughts on my post. Just add them below. And thanks for following along on my journey.
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death? http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5
Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2