BURDEN OF PROOF Available for Sale

Burden of Proof is now available on Amazon.com in both ebook and paperback!

The charities benefited by this book are the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) and The Rape Foundation. Half of all royalties from the sales of this book will be divided between these two charities, annually.

Thank you to the talented Nikita Gordyn for the beautiful cover art.

This book contains possible triggers for those who are survivors of rape and domestic violence. Chapter specifically involving trigger information will be marked with a trigger warning.

About the book:

When Justice Fails, Can Love Prevail?

Chelsea Hanover prides herself on one undisputed fact; she’s never lost a case. A crack young defense attorney, she takes only cases she believes in, and sticks to her rule of never mixing business with pleasure. Now, Pittsburgh socialite Marlene Cavarella has been arrested in the fatal stabbing of her wealthy husband, Dominic, and Chelsea finds herself thrust into the midst of a murder case set to turn her entire reality inside out. And the only man who might save her is a man she doesn’t want to trust, or to love.

Burden of Proof Final

If you, or someone you love, has been the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault,  please know you are not alone.  Domestic violence and sexual assault crimes are the  largest number of unreported crimes in the US and Europe. Break the silence, and help take back the night.  For help, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or  RAINN at 1-800-656-4673. 

Get involved, and help take violence out of our homes, and rapists off the streets. Contact  your local shelters and domestic crisis organizations.  Together, we all make a difference.

Advertisements

“In Morning’s Light” — Excerpt from BURDEN OF PROOF

Burden of Proof Final

HE WANTED JUSTICE,

BUT AT WHAT COST?

Assistant District Attorney Justin Blakely believes only in the letter of the law. When asked to prosecute a dangerous woman accused of killing her husband with sixty-four stab wounds to the chest, he sees only a butcher who should be locked away for her depraved act. But when he comes up against the woman’s driven, feisty attorney, he knows Chelsea Hanover has the power to change his mind. And, as he realizes her aim is truth rather than law, he can do nothing but respect her integrity. Knowing she’s stumbling into trouble, he’ll do anything to save her from herself, even if the casualty of his crusade is the law in which he believes

“In Morning’s Light” — Excerpt from BURDEN OF PROOF —

Justin blinked awake to the feel of warm fingers on his face. Opening burning eyes, he looked up to see Chelsea sitting on the edge of her hospital bed, fully clothed, with her right arm in a sling. The fingers of her good hand traced his stubbly cheek again, as a soft smile touched her face.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look disreputable, before.” The soft lilt of teasing in her husky voice twisted his heart in the best way. She frowned, then. “I think I remember talking to you, last night. Have you been here all night?”

He sat up straighter, stifling a yawn as he glanced at his watch. Six-thirty. “Yeah, you did. And yes, I have.”

Her frown deepened, confusion and fear written in its lines. “You’ve been here every night when I go to sleep, and every morning when I wake up. Why?”

He tensed in surprise. He hadn’t expected to be cross-examined about his motives.

“Because I l–” He stopped, sucking in the words he was about to say. She wasn’t ready to hear how he felt. Not yet.

“Because I promised you I’d stay,” he answered instead, his voice husky with sleep and emotion. “The doctor says you have nightmares when I’m not here. I promised you I’d be here for you, and so…”

He managed an awkward shrug. He couldn’t tell her how important helping her was to him.

She shook her head slowly, as if having trouble thinking. With the amount of blunt force trauma she took to the head, he wasn’t surprised. Fresh anger shot through him, and he squeezed her good hand gently.

“You still haven’t told me what happened.” Her worried gaze searched his.

“Don’t you remember?”

“I… I think so. I just don’t know what’s real, and what’s a nightmare.” She pressed slim fingers to her forehead, eyes squeezed shut in effort. “I remember coming to your office. Talking. We were trying to reach a deal on Marlene’s case.”

He nodded, silently encouraging her to continue. The doctor told him to let her recall things at her own pace. Telling her what happened would force her to face the attack before her psyche was ready, and could be even more damaging.

“We had to go see the D.A. I remember that. And seeing–“

She cut off sharply, sucking in a shaky breath.

He straightened, alerted by her response. “Chelsea? What do you remember?”

She shook her head. “Running. I had to get away. I,” she stopped, thought. “I went home. I needed to hide.”

“From what? From who?”

“From… from everything! From him!”

Look for BURDEN OF PROOF, coming soon from Esther Mitchell and FyrRose Productions!

Out of the Dark: It’s Not Easy

I’m sure, by now, that many of you are wondering why I would expose my deepest pains and darkest nightmares in such a public way.

It’s not easy.

It’s not easy to have to remember those nightmares, or to feel that pain.  But, even more, it’s not easy being an adult, and reflecting on my early childhood with the knowledge I have today about rape and rapists.  At the time, I felt dirty and bad, ugly and horrible.  I truly believed it was my fault, that I had done something wrong.

Today, I know that there’s no such thing as a one-time rapist.  Rape is about power and control, about inflicting pain.  I know I wasn’t to blame for what happened to me.  It took someone loving me, without condition or reservation, for me to understand that.  But I still can’t help thinking about all the other little girls that boy who raped me might have already raped by that time, or might have gone on to rape, afterward.  How many girls like me might I have spared that pain, shame, and misery if I had been stronger, less frightened, or felt more sure of my family’s love and support.

I never knew his name, or anything about him, so I can’t even be sure he’s ever been caught, ever been held accountable for any of the crimes I either know he’s committed, or am pretty sure he’s since committed.  That’s a fear I have to live with every day of my life — that someday, I might come face-to-face with him.  Maybe I’d recognize him, or maybe he’s changed so much I wouldn’t even know him to see him.  The idea, quite frankly, makes me want to vomit, every time it crosses my mind.

I’ve devoted a substantial part of my life, both as a writer and a counselor, to helping other victims of abuse.  And not just girls.  There are a large number of boys who are also victims of rape.  Unfortunately, our society makes it even more difficult for them to come forward than girls, because of a misguided belief that males cannot be victims of sexual crimes.

So, while revealing the past I’ve kept so closely guarded all these years isn’t easy, I do believe it to be necessary.  At the very least, it will help you, as a reader of my work, to understand what drives and fuels my darker brand of Romance.  But it is my fervent hope that relating my experiences does more than that — that it inspires you to reach out and help someone who may be suffering as I have suffered for all these years.  If my words move you to become that listening ear, that non-judgmental, loving compassion that shows a victim they are beautiful, clean, and worthy of love, then every word I’ve labored over in order to express the experiences that still plague my nightmares, still visit my daily life with fear, are worthwhile.

Out of the Dark: Glimpses from My Life, Part 1

I promised everyone that I would let you take a peek inside my head, to help you better understand what and how I write.  I always keep my promises, one way or another, so here goes:

The faceless “they” of publishing wisdom always advise a writer to write what he or she knows.  I often wonder if “they” know what they’re asking for.

I write gritty, dark Romance that often skirts the very edge of denying the traditional “Happily Ever After” ending.  I write characters with real flaws – nobility tarnished by deeds not so very far in the past, nightmares that still follow, and destinies riddled with the very things they most fear or despise.

Why?  Because life is NOT a fairytale – at least, not the watered-down, roses-and-songbook variety of today.  Life is an old-fashioned, Grimm fairytale, drenched in blood, tears, and darkness, through which a sliver of light shines, if you know where to look for it.

That’s not to say that I don’t dream of happiness, or that I don’t believe in true love.  I happen to believe in both, and I’ve been called a Pollyanna, before, for insisting on looking at the bad parts of life as a learning experience.  But I’m also realistic enough to know that turning life into a Valentine’s Day greeting card fantasy isn’t likely to inspire much hope – it only highlights how destitute one’s life looks, in comparison.

I know my writing, and my viewpoint, isn’t for everyone.  I tend to deal with material and circumstances that turn conventional Romance, and even fiction, on its ear.  I’m sure some people have found my work shocking, disturbing, and even offensive (and I have the reviews to prove it).  I make no apology for what I write.  I’m doing exactly as the publishing axiom says – I’m writing what I know.

Bits and pieces of my life and experiences show up in my books.  In the characters, the locations, the plots.

One of my most common themes is trauma.  This isn’t a capricious or accidental move on my part.  I’ve seen enough personal trauma to fill a dozen lifetimes, and I tend to mete a portion of that trauma out to my character, especially.

I’ve learned the hard way that life and love aren’t the stereotypical hearts-and-flowers romance.  I’ve learned that sex isn’t always precipitated by love or desire — sometimes, it’s a power play.  Sometimes, it’s an armored tank that leaves you flattened and bleeding in the middle of life’s road.

Which makes the perfect segue into giving you a peek into my past.  I will warn you, what follows is as shocking and terrible as it is true… And it’s a trauma I live with every day of my life, and will continue to struggle with until the day I die.  Contrary to popular opinion and urban myth, there is no 100% recovery — because there’s always that wary little part of your soul that keeps waiting for disaster to strike.  Most of the contents of the following, I have only recently finally revealed to my own parents – I hid it all so well that even those closest to me wouldn’t suspect.  Nor did anyone suspect just how badly the false face I wore ate at me.  But my path in life does not allow me to hide from myself or others, and part of facing my past, for myself, is in relating my story to others in bare terms, no longer covered by the thin veneer allowed for so long by my writing career.

I’m sure most people live an idyllic childhood.  I’ve heard enough stories to be jealous of those people who remember childhood fondly.  I have a very few of those memories.  Most of the “happiness” in my childhood is false.  It was a veil I dropped over the terror and shame I felt.

That’s not to say it didn’t start out relatively normal.  There were a few bumps, but those remain highly private, as I don’t seek to harm the person who inflicted them – in any event, those would have been bearable, compared to what came later.

The horror descended into my life at the tender age of six.

To say I was entirely ignorant of the mechanics of sex, even at that age, would be a lie.  Thanks to an accidental exposure to a particularly racy adult film, I had an academic knowledge of sex starting at the age of 4.  However, my childish mind equated all sexual acts with love and romance.  I truly believed in it.

That all came crashing down after I turned six.

My elementary school, at the time, had mandatory swimming lessons at the base pool.  Two days a week, we were bussed over to the pool, where we learned to float, swim, etc.  Sounds like a great time, right?

Not for me.

Now, I’ve never been overly fond of the water.  It’s part of my nature, a kind of back-of-my-mind fear.  At least, it always was before.

I remember it being a sunny, warm day in September.  School had just started for the year, and I was excited about first grade.  When I learned we’d have a short set of trips to the pool for swimming lessons, that Fall, and then a longer stretch of them in the late Spring, I was naturally a little anxious.  But not so much as to keep me from attempting my best to learn a new skill, and maybe conquer my minor trepidation.

To this day, I wonder if some of those early misgivings were a warning I failed to heed.

Our final day of swim lessons for the Fall, I wasn’t feeling well.  Given that I was never a strong swimmer, the swim teacher decided it would be better if I lay down somewhere quiet, rather than get back in the pool.  She had some high school kids there, helping (I’m guess, now that I’m older, that they were on work study), so she instructed one of them to take me back to the pool’s office area, where it was quiet and dim, so I could lay down.

Did I mention that I was a trusting child?

I did as I was told, followed the guy back to the offices.  I still remember the smell of chlorine and dust, mixed together – it hung in the air, there.  To this day, the smell of chlorine makes me ill.  Because that day is forever etched in my nightmares, and began a long, terrible battle with PTSD.

I remember how quiet it was.  You couldn’t hear a sound from the pool area.  The office was dark, smelled of stale air and pool water.  The couch was hard, the material abrasive.  I didn’t want to lay down on it.  He didn’t give me a choice.  He pushed me down, held me there, and did things to me that still make me nauseous to think about, all these years later.  That day was my first introduction to real evil — I can still see the cold, soulless look in his eyes, smell the scent of chlorine on his skin and the feel of his hand over my mouth when I started to scream.  When he finished, he threatened me with terrible things, told me what a terrible little girl I was, and that if I told anyone, he would find me and hurt me more.

I was six years old, and my innocent belief in fairytales came crashing down.  I learned the ugly truth that sex isn’t always about love.  Sometimes, it’s about power.  Sometimes, it’s about pain, and fear.

I’ve spent a lifetime with that secret locked in my head.  Tried not to gag, or scream, or give away any emotion whatsoever, when confronted with water – particularly swimming pools.  I just scrunched up my courage, and forced myself into the water, when I couldn’t avoid it.

That afternoon in Hell was only one among many I would eventually face, but it scarred me for life, and for years afterward, I thought I was bad, I was shameful.  I hated myself, and believed no one could ever love me.  I was tainted.

I’ll leave off there, for now… I’m emotionally drained just from that, and I don’t think I can bear to share any more, at the moment.

Do I believe I am the only one who’s ever suffered this way?  Far from it.  There are people who suffer far worse every day of their lives.  These are the people I write for – to show them there is hope.  That you don’t have to live an idyllic, or even a “good” life to find love or peace (and yes, in spite of everything, I do believe in both – but that’s a story for another day).  It can find you in even the most destitute and imperfect of situations.

You don’t need a white knight to rescue you — you only need faith in yourself.  With a little faith, and a sliver of hope, you can find love even after the most terrible of tragedies or abuses.