PTSD, Paralysis, and Human Trafficking—Creating True-to-Life Characters with @MtnMoxieGirl Amber Lea Easton #ASMSG

Welcome to Through Stephanie’s Eyes. Today we have a very special guest. She’s not only a fabulous author of romantic suspense, she’s one of my personal friends. Amber Lea Easton has also joined another group of friends of mine: The Four Seduced Muses. Today will be The Temptress’s very first post there so make sure you check that out as soon as you leave here. 😉

Amber’s here today to tell us a bit about her romantic suspense novel Reckless Endangerment and how she came up with characters dealing with a very real issue Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Let me turn over the reins to her so she can tell you all about it in her own words.


PTSD, Paralysis, and Human Trafficking—Creating True-to-Life Characters
Amber Lea Easton
War doesn’t end once a Marine sets foot back on US soil. Battle takes a toll, not only physically but mentally as well. Self-doubt affects heroes as much as anyone, only they know how to conceal it better than most. In my latest romantic suspense novel, Michael Cedars faces the concept of never walking again and questions his ability to be the man his wife married.
When writing this novel, the characters were my main priority because I knew they would drive the plot. I needed to research paralysis and partial paralysis. What kind of surgeries and physical therapy would be involved in recovery? More than that, what is the emotional toll that takes on a man who once commanded men in battle to know he may not be “whole” again?
Add other layers of his wife, Hope Shane, who’s not willing to let go of their marriage without a fight and a human trafficking story she’s chasing as an investigative reporter. Research about sex trafficking, post-traumatic stress disorder, and physical therapy served to form the characters from their mannerisms to their reactions in every scene.

There’s a saying that goes, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” That holds true for the story of Michael Cedars and Hope Shane.  I felt their pain, their frustration, their fear, and their hope with every rewrite and each word. In order to create fully fleshed out characters that readers will not only cheer for, but also cry for, an author must make them flawed in a way that is believable and forgivable. Human beings aren’t perfect. Neither are heroes. Maybe that’s why heroes are held to a high standard. We know they are mere humans, but they do things for the sake of justice or love that others wouldn’t dare. 

Reckless Endangerment Blurb

Sometimes heroes fall and take the ones they love down with them. Colonel Michael Cedars and reporter Hope Shane fell in love in a war zone, but then the world blew up, and splintered their lives in two.
Michael Cedars returns home from Afghanistan wounded and unsure where he fits in this ‘new normal’ of civilian life. Unsure if he’ll walk again, he questions his abilities as a man, husband, and father. Accustomed to giving orders, he’s thrown into a world where he doesn’t know the rules anymore and no one is respecting the officer in the room.
Hope isn’t one who gives up easily—not on her marriage and not on the innocent victims of a human trafficking ring she’s investigating. As the danger of her story intensifies, she struggles with her own post-traumatic stress disorder and a husband who resists her love.
Danger intensifies as Hope searches for truth and justice. Everyone she loves is at risk. Will her reckless pursuit of the human trafficking ring jeopardize their lives?

Michael knows she needs him, but doubts his ability to be the hero she still believes him to be. Is he still the man she married or has he become a liability that could get her killed?

Excerpt

“I’m sick of not having a say in what I do or don’t do.  You can’t do this. Just because I’m trapped in this chair doesn’t mean I don’t have a say about my life and I want you out of it. Get the hell out and leave me alone. I don’t want to be married to you and, unless something’s changed in the good ol’ USA, you can’t stop me from divorcing you. Listen closely, babe. I. Don’t. Want. You.”
Rage consumed him. Rage for what could have been, what should have been, for a life lost. Rage for everyone acting like he had no rights anymore, like he couldn’t make his own decisions.  He tossed the wedding ring and pictures across the room.
Looking horrified, she covered her mouth with her hands and walked to where the frames smashed against the floor.  As she bent, her bag spilled, contents ranging from liquid soap to a flashlight scattered across the tile. She fell to her knees, hands shaking as she scooped up the items. Broken glass crunched beneath her.  Hair shielded her face from view, but he knew she cried.
He remembered another time with her on her knees when that bag had saved his sanity. Bombs had rocked the walls. Blood had dripped into his eyes. Dizziness weakened his legs. From that bag, she’d retrieved bandages, protein bars, and bottles of water. He had thanked God for her and that oversized bag.
“I’ll make sure I call next time,” she said in rushed, quiet voice, “wouldn’t want to inconvenience you.”
“I’m sorry.”  He dropped his hands to the arms of the chair and stared at her bent head.  “I don’t know how to handle any of this anymore, Hope, especially you.”
She froze at his words. “Especially me, huh? I’m the one constant in your life, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Despite all the bullshit, here I am. Me, stupid me, still needing you as much today as I did a year ago.”
His chest caved in at the sight of her eyes glistening with tears. He wanted to take it back, every word.
“I don’t know how to do this, how to be married, how to be back in the States, how to be a civilian again, how not to walk,” he admitted.
“You break my heart,” she whispered.
“How could I possibly break your heart?”
“By not seeing how strong you are, how much you mean to everyone in your life, how worthy you are to be alive, how heroic you’ve been, how much I love you.”
“Don’t say that.”
“Maybe I need to stop trying to hold on. Maybe you’re right.”  Sighing, her shoulders slumped.  “We were this close,” she held her fingers an inch apart, “to having a life together when everything blew up in our faces. Literally. What else do I have to lose, right? I already lost my dignity when I begged those damn bureaucrats to let me see you in Germany.  And when I say begged, I mean I begged, pleaded, bartered, whatever I could possibly say or do to get in and they told me that you,” she pointed at him, “said no, you told them I lied about being married to you. McGee backed you up. I looked like a fool and a liar.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Now you’re doing it again, denying me. You’d rather sit in this place alone than admit to the world that I’m your wife. It’s true.” She nodded, gaze gluing him in place. “I gave up my everything for you. My life. My pride. My dignity. I gave it all up for you.”
“Why?” he choked out the question. “I did everything to get you to let me go.  I don’t want you to give up anything for me; can’t you see that? You were born to be in the spotlight, dodging bullets, charming your way into and out of trouble. I’m an anchor to you now; you know it but refuse to admit it. I want you to forget me. Why won’t you let me go?”
She closed her eyes, face tilted toward the ceiling. “Because maybe I went crazy over there. Maybe we weren’t this close,” again with the fingers, “to having a life together. Maybe we were already there. Maybe it wasn’t conventional, but it was real, it was us. Maybe I misunderstood sex for more. Maybe I thought that our wedding meant as much to you as it did to me. Maybe I’m the biggest fool to walk planet earth.”
“But now I’m broken so…”
“Yeah, that’s right.”  Nodding, she looked away and brushed the back of her hand over her eyes.  “And I’m too shallow to be the person you need, right? Too superficial? I know the truth. I know that you should be capable of limited mobility, that you are not trapped in that chair, that you have sensations in your right leg and have even managed to stand for a brief period of time here and there. Didn’t you think I’d do some research on your injuries? I may have kept my distance, but I have a knack for getting people to talk to me, remember?  Yes, you’re in a wheelchair, but your situation isn’t hopeless.  You’re the one who gave up, but for the life of me I don’t know why.  It’s not like you. You’re a goddamn colonel in the Marine Corps. You don’t surrender, so what’s going on with you?”
Her words stung. He had heard them for months now and he didn’t know the answer. He couldn’t explain anything to anyone, not even himself.

Buy Links


About the Author

Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of both nonfiction and fiction. She spent years working in journalism and advertising with a brief detour into the financial sector. She has three published romantic suspense novels—”Kiss Me Slowly”, “Riptide”, and “Reckless Endangerment”—and a contemporary romance novella, “Anonymity.” Her memoir about surviving the suicide of loved one, “Free Fall”, published in September 2013. 
Easton is also an editor and professional speaker. Links to radio interviews can be located on her website, http://amberleaeaston.com, and her videos about romance writing have been showcased internationally on the Writers and Authors television network. 
Easton currently lives with her two teenagers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. She gives thanks daily for the view outside her window and healthy children. As long as she’s writing, she considers herself to be simply “a lucky lady liv’n the dream.”

Connect with Amber





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#SaturdaySpotlight with @KaraLeighMille1 and Her New #YA #romance #TheGeorgiaCorbins

Welcome to my very first Saturday Spotlight. One of my alter egos has hosted this author a few times already, and this time I get to be part of the fun as well.  Kara Leigh Miller’s new YA contemporary romance The Georgia Corbins came out on June 10th. Since this is one genre I love to read and write in, it’s an honor to have her here today to share a bit about the book, herself, and a special giveaway at the end. So come on down and join me in welcoming author Kara Leigh Miller here today. ~Stephanie


In one or two sentences, give the core premise behind your story.
Levi and Tucker Corbin have been Ali’s best friends her entire life, but when they begin to fight over her, she’s face with the impossible decision of choosing between them.
When and where does your book take place?
The Georgia Corbinstakes place in the present day. When I wrote it, I had a time frame of Spring 2012 in my mind, but really, it can take place at any time, that’s what makes it so great.
It’s set in the fictional small town of Haldeen, Georgia. Haldeen is modeled very closely on my own hometown, Mexico, NY. It’s a very small town with one main road and two stoplights.
How does the time and setting weave into the plot and persona of the characters?
The time and setting play a large role in the story, even though it may not seem like it. Haldeen is like every small town: everyone knows what everyone else is doing and they’re not afraid to talk about it. This leads to some pretty nasty rumors about Ali and the Corbins that she has to deal with. Also, the use of technology, cell phones mostly, play into some not-so-funny pranks. For example, Ali’s biggest rival, Shelby Blake, records Ali doing something she shouldn’t have been doing, and then Shelby sends it to Ali’s boyfriend. 
Who is the heroine? What drives her?
The heroine is Alison (Ali) Philips. She’s a seventeen year old junior in high school. Deep down she’s a tomboy, but slowly she’s become more of a girly-girl. All throughout elementary and middle school she was teased by her classmates. It was only once the Corbin boys befriended her that things got a little better. However, when the Corbins move away, Ali is once again alone and forced to fend for herself.
It’s the need to show her tormentors that she doesn’t need the Corbin’s to protect her that drives her. Also, she’s really driven by the all-consuming need to keep Levi and Tucker on speaking terms, to keep their friendship intact no matter what the cost to her own heart.
Who is the hero? What drives him?
There are two heroes in the story. Bonus! Levi Corbin and Tucker Corbin—they are seventeen year old, fraternal twin brothers. Levi is a true southern gentleman, always polite and always trying to do the right thing. Tucker, on the other hand, is more of a jokester, always getting into trouble, and trying to take Ali with him. Both Levi and Tucker are driven by the need to protect Ali and to win her heart from the other.
Is there a villain? Who is he/she? What’s he/she like? Why is he/she the way they are? What motivates him/her to cause oppositional force to the characters? Without giving any spoilers, can you give a hint as to what sort of opposition he/she gives to the main characters?
The biggest “villain” in this story is Shelby Blake. She’s been a classmate of Ali’s since Kindergarten, but it wasn’t until middle school that Shelby became a true villain, or rather, a bully. It’s hard to stay too much without giving away some spoilers, but I can say this, Shelby has always had a thing for Levi and Levi has never had eyes for anyone but Ali. Shelby doesn’t handle rejection well and has made it her mission to make Ali’s life hell by spreading rumors, making snide comments at the most inappropriate times, and butting her nose into places she has no business being.
Is this book a part of a series?
Yes, this is actually the first book in a trilogy. Ali eventually makes a choice at the end of this book, but that’s not where things end. The Corbin brother she didn’t choose isn’t going to give up so easily. Book two will lead to a final and resolute choice along with the reveal of a huge, life changing family secret. Book three will follow the brother who wasn’t chosen on his path to finding love. Oh, and there is going to be a major accident that will threaten the lives of one of the boys. 

Excerpt


The music reverberated through my body as I approached the field, and the crowd around the keg was bigger than I’d ever seen it before. A few dozen people gathered around the bonfire, several more hung out near the swimming hole, and I couldn’t begin to count how many couples were canoodling in the backs of pick-up trucks. Where the heck had all these people come from? I looked around and smiled. Man, I loved the field parties. You never knew what to expect.


“I was wondering if you were gonna show up,” Brody said to me as he approached.
Today was the last Saturday of Spring Break. School would resume in two days. “You really think I’d go missing it?” I asked.
I took the cup of beer Brody offered me. He flung his arm around my shoulders and kissed my cheek. “As the resident bad girl of Haldeen, I’d sure hope not.”
I laughed as he let out a loud whooping noise. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you like the fact that I’m a bad girl.”
“You’re so much more fun now,” Brody said with a wicked gleam in his eye.
I smiled at him and finished my beer in two long gulps. None of us were old enough to legally drink, but Jimmie Allen’s alcoholic father owned the only supermarket/liquor store in town, and Jimmie Allen was always stealing beer from his father. “I see the keg is the spot to be. Is there another one around here someplace?”
“Over by the tree, darling.”
I let Brody slide his arm from my shoulders to my waist and walked with him to the large tree near the end of the swimming hole. I refilled my cup and turned my attention back to the party before I was flooded with memories that I didn’t want — memories that always seemed to surface every time I was near that tree — memories of my two best friends I hadn’t seen in nearly three years. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the memory from consuming me.
“Race you to the swimming hole,” Tucker shouted as he took off running.
“That’s cheating.” Levi chased after Tucker.
“Yeah, quit your cheating!” I called as I followed both of them. I was a fast runner, and it didn’t take long for me to pass them. Maybe I’d finally beat them this time. My ponytail bounced with each step I took and the harder I pushed, the more it’d swish back and forth. Old Man Potter’s swimming hole was close. I could hear the water moving, and I could smell the distinct fish-like odor of the Chattahoochee River.
“Grab her,” Tucker panted.
“No!” I squealed as Levi grabbed me around the waist and held onto me so that Tucker could take the lead. Levi nudged me, not hard enough to hurt or make me fall, but enough so that he could take off ahead of me. And just like that, I knew I had lost yet another race to the Corbin boys. Someday I’d beat them.
When I reached the swimming hole, Tucker was climbing the tree. He did this every time we came here. He’d climb out on the large branch that extended over the deep part of the river. After yelling 
“Beat this!” he’d jump into the water. Levi never did it because he was terrified of heights. I hadn’t done it either, because I was afraid I’d hit my head on a rock in the water or something.
After jumping in, Tucker surfaced and grinned at me. “Your turn.”
I took a deep breath. Today would be the day. I’d do it. Getting up to the branch was easy. Maneuvering my way onto it without falling was a bit tougher. I made the mistake of looking down. My heart rate spiked, my palms began to sweat, and I felt like I had to throw up. What had I been thinking? I couldn’t do this.
“Don’t be such a girl, Al. Jump,” Tucker said.
I scowled even though I knew Tucker couldn’t see me. I was one of the boys and for him to imply I wasn’t made me angry. But the longer I stood on the branch high above the water, the less I cared about being one of the boys.
“It’s okay, Al,” Levi said, looking up at me. “We won’t let anything happen to you.”
Deep down, I knew they wouldn’t. They’d probably even try to catch me if I asked them. I took another deep breath and climbed back down the tree without jumping. I was surprised when neither of them said anything to me about it.  
“Ali!” Cassidy Hamilton called my name and waved.
I snapped out of my memory, thankful for the interruption. “Hey, Cass, when did you get back from Atlanta?” I asked as she ran toward me with her arms open and her wild, curly auburn hair flowing behind her. I hugged her.
“Yesterday. So, how was your spring break?”
“Not bad,” I said with a shrug. “I spent most of it sneaking outta my bedroom window.”
Cassidy’s eyes got wide. “A guy?”
“No.” I laughed. “I took my daddy’s pick-up truck without his permission, drove to the next county over, and went to a bar. He found out, and I got grounded.”
“Ali!” she squealed. “How’d you get into a bar? You ain’t old enough.”
I smiled. “Shelby Blake’s aunt owns the place.”
“Since when did you start hanging out with Shelby for fun?”
“About the time you took off to Atlanta and I had no one to hang out with,” I said and took a drink of my beer.
“Oh, I’m sure you could’ve found someone other than Shelby to hang with.” Cassidy nodded over my shoulder. “It looks like Brody is still obsessed with you.”
I glanced over my shoulder and saw him staring at my ass. “Yeah and now that he’s gone and grown some facial hair he thinks I’m gonna fall at his feet.”
Cassidy laughed. “You really should be nicer to that boy. He ain’t too hard on the eyes, y’know?”
“Yeah, I know.” I studied Brody for a moment. He played three different sports and his body reflected that. He was tall, with a thin, yet muscular frame. Pure brown eyes and sandy hair accentuated his round face. A short trimmed mustache and goatee covered his upper lip and chin. He was definitely cute, but I just didn’t like him that way.
* * * *
Physics lab first thing Monday morning? Somebody in the administration office had to have hated me. There was no other explanation for it. I should’ve been used to it by then, but I wasn’t. It sucked. Then again, every class that wasn’t an English class sucked, in my opinion. The first bell had already sounded, but the hallways were still full of procrastinating students. Returning to school after a week-long break was always hard.
“Hey, Cass,” I said, catching up to her before she turned the corner. 
“Where’re you going?”
“Trig.” She made a sour face. “You’d think you’d know that by now. You ask me every Monday.”
I frowned. Cass was in a bitchy mood today. “Have fun.” I was eager to get away from her attitude.
“Wanna hang out after school today?”
“Don’t you have to babysit your brother?”
Cass smiled mischievously.
“Nice try,” I said, “but I’ve told you. After last time, I’m never helping you babysit again.” Last time Cass had conned me into babysitting with her, it’d been a friggin’ nightmare. Her little sister had been sitting on my lap, bouncing up and down and laughing when she threw her body back, head butting me. She’d given me a bloody nose. It’d hurt so much it’d brought tears to my eyes. So I’d gone to the bathroom to clean up and change my bloodied shirt. 
Cass’s nine year old brother and his friend spied on me changing and using the toilet. Never. Again. And if all that wasn’t bad enough, my nose was swollen and my cheekbone was black and blue for days after. Shelby had decided to tell the entire school that she’d kicked my ass. 
“C’mon,” Cass begged. “You know how much I hate babysitting alone.”
“See ya later.” I laughed and waved as I walked into my class.
Cass peeked her head in the room. “Will you at least think about it?”
“Fine. I’ll think about it.” I’d said it just to shut her up, but there wasn’t anything to think about. There was no way in hell I was going to put myself in harm’s way like that again.
“Well I’ll be…don’t look as though this class is gonna suck as much as I thought,” Brody said, walking towards me.
I smiled. “Hey, Brody.” He sat beside me. “Since when are you in this class?”
“I was doing an independent study so I could get some credits for college to help me earn a scholarship, but I was failing. Coach told me if I didn’t get my grade up I’d be kicked off the baseball team,” Brody said with a shrug. “I was just going to drop the class but apparently it’s too late for that.”
“Mr. Nash?” Mrs. Dolgen said. She was the only science teacher in the high school and not many students liked her. A lot of people said it was because she gave out detention a little too generously and without good reason. I’d gotten it from her a few times, but overall she wasn’t so bad. 
“Here.” Brody raised his hand.
“Yes, I can see that. Would you mind taking that seat over there?” She pointed to a table on the opposite side of the room.
“Do I have to?” Brody whined.
I stifled a giggle. Last year Brody and I had Biology together, and Mrs. Dolgen was always yelling at us for goofing around. It was probably best that she separated us, but that meant I was still going to be the only one in class without a lab partner. I’d been doing the same work as everyone else all year, but I’d been doing it alone. I should ask Mrs. Dolgen for some extra credit. Although, she’d probably assign me detention for being disrespectful to a teacher. She was famous for that.  
“Yes,” Mrs. Dolgen said. “Last time you and Ms. Philips were lab partners there were problems.”
“I have to disagree, Mrs. Dolgen. I enjoyed being Ali’s lab partner last year. We didn’t have any problems at all. In fact, I think we worked very well together,” Brody said.
“And therein lies the problem. You two worked a little too well together.” She came over and stood in front of our table, arms tightly crossed over her chest.
I held my breath. Being Brody’s lab partner again would be fun, but he was pushing his luck arguing with Mrs. Dolgen, and the last thing I needed was to get detention again.
Mrs. Dolgen looked back and forth between me and Brody. 
“Consider today a trial run. I’m doing you a favor allowing you to join class so late, Mr. Nash. Don’t make me regret it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Brody said.
“Thank you, Mrs. Dolgen,” I said with a smile. When she walked away I jabbed Brody in the ribs with my finger. “Are you trying to get us sent to detention already?”
Brody rubbed his side and laughed. “Relax, it’ll be fine.” He winked.
I shook my head and turned to face the front of the room as the second bell rang. For the first time all year, I was actually looking forward to physics lab.


Where to Find The Georgia Corbins

About the Author 

Born and raised in the small town of Mexico, New York, Kara was an only child who was forced to find ways to entertain herself. Playing make believe with her Barbie dolls and stuffed animals was her first real taste of storytelling before she became old enough to develop a love affair with the written word. In early 2010, Kara picked up her very first erotic romance novel, and she was instantly hooked. She loves to write contemporary romance, erotica, and young adult romance. 
Currently she has several full-length novels in the works, a series of novellas, and a handful of short stories. Kara is an active member of the CNY Creative Writers Café and the CNY Romance Writers. Today, Kara resides in New Haven, New York with her husband, five kids, and three cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s thinking about reading and writing. And when she’s not doing that, she’s spending time with her family and friends.

Links



Giveaway!

To celebrate the release of The Georgia Corbins, Kara Leigh Miller is giving away exciting prizes. The Grand Prize, which is open to US residents only, includes a signed copy of The Georgia Corbins, The Georgia Corbins hardcover journal and postcards, The Georgia Corbins tote bag, Kara Leigh Miller pens and notebooks, and Legasea bookmarks. 


Second and third prizes are an ebook copy of The Georgia Corbins, and one lucky person will win a first chapter critique. International entries are welcome. Good luck! Winners will be announced July 1st.

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