One week left!

We are almost a week out from the release of “Our Hero” and I am so excited for you to read it. This book is unlike any others in the series and I am incredibly proud of it.

I will have another preview for you soon, but in the meantime, I’d love to do another interview with a character.

Anyone you want to see? Any particular questions?

I’m open.

🙂

A little more insight

Our Hero

That’s what Tommy has always been to me and for this series, he has been the rock.

It’s not that I like him more than the others, but he represents something different than Jack and Bill and Mike.

He is my ‘normal’ character.

Let me explain.

What I mean is that Tommy is a reluctant hero. He has always been the quiet type who lived to be the family man his father was. He takes immense pride in his work and his life has become everything he ever wanted.

Tommy represents hope and strength. He is the one who everyone relies on. Jack counts on him as his brother and Julie thinks of him as both brother and parent. Tommy was the first person to welcome Bill into the family and he helped bridge the gap between Jack and Stephanie when they met.

He would never say it, but seeing his family happy means that he did something right. That his parent’s would be proud.

That means the world to him.

It’s who he is.

When I started this series, Tommy was my voice. He said what I was thinking and he reacted the way I did in situations. I have had people try to fix me up like Jack did with him. I have had people think I was lonely when I simply preferred to stay at home. He represented a man who wasn’t lonely, but rather he was waiting.

Waiting for something extraordinary to happen.

He just didn’t know it.

This series has taken many characters through ups and downs. Some have had it a little worse than others, but through it all, the family has remained in tact.

Until now.

It’s never who you expect. It’s never the one you plan for.  It’s never fair.

Having Tommy be the victim at the end of “Defining Moment” was something that had been in the works for a while. Ever since Megan died, her brother was in the back of my mind.

Plotting.

Planning.

Waiting.

It needed to be unexpected and the shock needed to hit all of the characters in a way that stopped them in their tracks.

Evan was consumed with his fear about Liz.

Mike was still coming to terms with what Jimmy had done and how it effected so many, and he and Jade were welcoming a miracle daughter.

Bill was trying to help his son navigate a budding relationship with Desi and he was helping his wife to get ready to go back to work.

Brittany and Stephanie were set on helping Evan and Liz, and Jack was trying to get his brother to let what Jimmy said to him, go.

They were all dealing with Rachel’s death and trying to move forward.

It was time to relax and calm things down.

It was the perfect time to attack.

*******

Much of the drama in the series comes from what happened to Brittany and the people who have been intent on hurting her. There was always an end game; something they wanted.

With Tommy, there was nothing Megan’s brother wanted but to see him suffer.

That’s impossible to deal with, and when Naomi was brought into the situation, all bets were off.

Tommy will give his life for his daughter.

Everyone knows that, and Brittany and Jack and Julie know it’s a matter of minutes before they may be too late.

They have no idea where they are being held.

They have no way of getting help.

It’s a race against time to find them, and when they do, everything will change.

“Our Hero” takes the story to a dark place where the characters we have always counted on are the ones who need us.

The goal is not to break hearts, although I know it will be terribly sad.

The goal is to show strength and to remind us of the power we all have to move forward, even when we think we can’t.

Tommy is my hero. He is my passion and my fear.

He will always be my greatest accomplishment as a writer.

I hope you understand what happens.

Here is another preview…

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“You need to eat something,” Stephanie said as she sat with Brittany.

“I’m fine. Do you know if they found anything?” she asked.

“Mike and Bill are going over some things. Jack and Julie are on their way from dropping off all the kids with Ron and Jenny. We will know more soon.”

Her knee shook as she sat there.

“I’m so sorry,” Stephanie said. “I wish I had more news.”

Brittany looked up when Jack and Julie walked in.

“Any news?” he asked.

“Not yet,” Stephanie said.

Julie walked to Brittany and sat down.

“My brother won’t let anything happen to Naomi. He lives to protect his family.”

“I know,” Brittany said. “He would give his life for her. I would do the same.”

Jack looked at them.

“Then we need to find them before he has a chance.”

Mike and Bill came in and Brittany stood up.

“I don’t care what it is,” Brittany said. “I want to know what’s going on.”

“I don’t even know if it’s a good lead, but Megan’s brother has been renovating a cabin near the others they had. The one Tommy was in before it burned to the ground, but he owned the land and has been rebuilding a much larger compound. It takes over more of the land than it did before,” Mike said as they sat in a conference room near Jade’s room.

“We need to go there right now,” she said.

Bill shook his head.

“It could be a decoy,” he said. “We need to be certain before we go in.”

“And what’s happening in the meantime? What kind of torture is my family enduring while we take our time?” Brittany asked.

Bill sighed.

“I can’t imagine what you’re feeling right now, but we have to be smart about this. If we go there and he has them somewhere else, we might be doing more damage than good. It seems awfully convenient that they would be there.”

“And if they are? We have to check!” Brittany said.

“We will. I sent people there to canvas the area and see if there has been any movement. In the meantime, we need to try and figure out who is helping him. He didn’t act alone. He had help and we need to figure that out.”

Brittany shook her head.

“I need some air.”

They watched as she walked out.

“I’ll go with her,” Jack said.

*******

“Daddy? Please wake up,” Naomi said as she tried to rouse Tommy. She looked around for something to help and didn’t see anything. They were in some sort of basement cellar and it was covered with concrete. She went to the door and it was solid steel.

Turning, she saw him move a little and she rushed over.

“Dad? Can you hear me?”

He blinked and smiled at her.

“You okay?” he asked quietly, his body on fire.

“I’m fine,” she cried. “I don’t know how to get us out of here. I can’t find a way.”

“Shh,” he said. “We will get out of here, okay?”

She wiped her eyes and nodded.

“Okay.”

“Can you try to untie my legs?”

She looked at the rope and tried to untie it. His hands were tied together and there was a rope connecting them to the tie around his thighs.

“It’s too tight. I need to try and cut it,” she said.

“Can you move it down my legs at all? Maybe try and slide it off?” he asked, fighting to stay alert.

She looked at his legs.

“It’s so tight,” she said through her tears. “Isn’t it hurting you so much?”

“I’m okay,” he lied.

“Can you squish my thighs and try to pull it down?”

She did and he saw stars as the pain ripped through his back. He tried not to make any noise, but he had trouble holding it in.

“I’m sorry! Did I hurt you? I’m sorry!”

“No, Mini Red, you’re doing great. I think it moved a little. Keep going, okay? I need to get free so we can get out of here. My legs will heal. It’s okay.”

She looked around and then leaned in and tried to use her teeth to cut the twine.

“It’s not working!” she cried as she sat up.

“Okay,” he said. “Can you try and help me sit up? Maybe it will help.”

She moved closer to him and wrapped her arms around his upper arm and pulled with all her might.

“Stop, stop,” Tommy said, the pain intense.

“I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

He lay there and closed his eyes, breathing slowly.

“Don’t go to sleep. Please look at me,” she cried.

“I’m here, it’s okay,” he said and smiled at her. “I just needed to catch my breath.”

She looked around and then her eyes lit up.

“Are your keys in your pocket?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Check.”

She did and felt them.

“Okay, I think I can use this as a saw and cut the rope,” she smiled.

“Be careful. Don’t hurt yourself,” he said as she worked on the ropes holding his wrists.

“Did they hurt you at all? Before I saw you?” he asked her.

“No. They just put me in a room and I was blindfolded until they brought me here,” she said as she worked.

“Okay, good,” he said and tried to ignore his pain.

They heard someone coming and they both froze.

“Put the key back and hide. Please go hide,” he said in a panic.

The door opened and Paul walked in.

****************************************************************************************************************

Thoughts?

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A different kind of interview

 

A little fun with Tommy for you…….

Interviewer: “Thanks again for talking to us. I know we’ve done a few of these, but this interview is going to be a little different. Did they tell you why we were here?”

Tommy: “I thought it had to do with my job. Is this about something else?”

Interviewer: “Yes. It’s for your daughter.”

Tommy: “I don’t understand. Is something wrong with Naomi? Is she here?”

Interviewer: “No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. We are talking to a few of the doctors here for career week. We are compiling information from fun questions and then we are going to have the kids match up the answers they think are from their parent. It’s for the final day of career week. They won’t know any of the questions ahead of time. It is a ‘how well do you know your mom or dad’ kind of game.

Tommy: “Oh, okay.”

Interviewer: “I’ll ask a bunch of ‘this or that’ kind of question for you to answer, okay? Just one word.”

Tommy nodded.

Interviewer: Dog or Cat?

Tommy: Dog.

Interviewer: Netflix or YouTube?

Tommy: Netflix

Interviewer: Phone Call or Text?

Tommy: Text unless it’s my wife.

Interviewer: Toast or Eggs?

Tommy: Toast

Interviewer: Cardio or Weights?

Tommy: Neither

Interviewer: Facebook or Twitter?

Tommy: Facebook I guess, but I don’t really use either.

Interviewer: Ice Cream Cone or Snow Cone?

Tommy: Ice cream

Interviewer: Form or Function?

Tommy: Function

Interviewer: Cake or Pie?

Tommy: Pie

Interviewer: Big Party or Small Gathering?

Tommy: Small Gathering

Interviewer: Football or Basketball?
Tommy: Hockey

Interviewer: Hamburger or Taco?

Tommy: Chicken

Interviewer: Blue or Red?

Tommy: Red, of course.

Interviewer: Honesty or Other’s Feelings?

Tommy: Honesty. Always.

Interviewer: TV or Book?

Tommy:TV

Interviewer: Movie at Home or Movie at the Theater?

Tommy: Home.

Interviewer: Okay, now we have some questions we want you to answer that we will be presenting to your daughter.

Tommy was hoping this was over soon.

“Okay.”

Interviewer: What job would you be terrible at?”

Tommy: Chef.

Interviewer: What skill would you like to master?

Tommy: Cooking. It’s so important to my daughter and she is so good, I would like to share in that with her.

Interviewer: What do you wish you knew more about?

Tommy: That’s a hard one. Life? How to be a good parent? How to relax? How to make sure my child is safe?

Interviewer: What’s something you like to do the old fashioned way?

Tommy: Write letters. I have letters from my parents and it’s something I treasure. I can look at their writing style and picture them sitting down to craft each one. I write to my daughter so she will always know my time was spent thinking of her.

Interviewer: What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?

Tommy: Watching all of the kids graduate and move on in their lives. I want to see them happy and then spend time with my wife doing nothing but being happy.

Interviewer: What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Tommy: Took responsibility for my 12 year old sister when I was 18. I think that was definitely a win.

Interviewer: Have you ever saved someone’s life?

Tommy: Yes.

Interviewer: What are the top three things you want to accomplish before you die? How close are you to accomplishing them?

Tommy: I don’t know. I guess I want to create a legacy for my daughter. I want to help establish better treatment for pediatric cancer patients. I want to be happy. I don’t know how close I am to those, but I think I have time. I’m a work in progress.

He smiled at that.

Interviewer: Thank you so much.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Tommy has always been my hero. I adore him and this next book will show why. I will be posting another preview tonight along witht he preorder links.

Thank you for reading!

 

Silence

Just like people, when characters are quiet for too long, I worry.

After writing this series for so long, the characters have a way of making their voices heard when I am simply living my life. Sometimes they start talking while I’m teaching a lesson and I make a mental note to write down what I’m hearing. Sometimes they yell when I’m trying to sleep. Mostly, they come to life when I’m driving.

Don’t worry, not literally. I’m always a safe driver. 🙂

There are times where one character is particularly loud, and I know they need me to focus on something.

Other times, a character stops talking to me.

That’s kind of what happened in book 22.

The focus of the story went from Desi and David to Evan and Elizabeth.

Then to Jimmy.

And finally, to Tommy and Naomi.

Jimmy.

Ugh.

What happened to the happy young man who we all adored?

Having Jimmy turn into such a jerk was a calculated risk. I have always had a soft spot for Jimmy. I saw him and Naomi together from long before I actually had them go out. I knew that if I had him hurt her, in any way, I would be risking his place in the series.

But he had been quiet, and when I listened to him, I heard his anger and his frustration.

Now, I had to figure out what Jimmy had been doing with this anger for so many months. He put on a good front for his family and Mike and I know he figured Naomi would stand by him.

But when he began to spend time with Rebecca, he was taken in with her lies.

He just needed a reason why his life was so out of control. He needed to understand things. He took what she said as truth because it was different and it gave him an outlook that wasn’t so dreary.

He didn’t realize it was all lies.

An innocent boy looking for a way out of his anger caused irreparable damage to so many people.

I’m not really sure that he will be able to come back from that.

Rebecca had power because she had knowledge. By telling Jimmy about Megan, she gave him leverage he didn’t know he had and what it did to Tommy was break open a wound that never healed.

He hurt Naomi in ways she never saw coming.

He hurt Mike and Jade by bringing up the worst time in their lives and by sending the twins the rice, he destroyed any confidence they had in him.

But what couldn’t be taken back was what happened to Rachel and Brian.

Jimmy’s life is forever changed.

I hear him now, but his words are full of confusion and sadness and remorse.

I’m not sure where he goes from here.

The damage this did to Tommy is something I don’t think I even saw coming.

Megan has always been the one thing he hasn’t been able to reconcile. I’m not sure why.

Maybe it’s because she was a woman.

Maybe it was because she hurt Brittany so deeply.

Maybe it was because she was able to get to him.

Tommy has been nothing if not protective of his family. I think a lot of it comes from his parents being taken from him at such a young age. He likes to have control over things.

Most of us do.

But Megan hit at a part of Tommy he didn’t know how to protect.

And it left him incredibly vulnerable.

I wanted Naomi to learn about what happened, but I wasn’t sure how.

One of my favorite scenes from “Defining Moments’ is after Jimmy confronts Tommy. Naomi sees just how broken her father is and she does what she can to help him.

“We are in a conference room by Jimmy’s parents. Um, room 4352e. He said he needed a minute, but I think he needs you.”

“I’m on my way,” she said. “Don’t move.”

“Okay,” she said and hung up. She went to the water fountain and got him some water. She went back to him and put the water next to him before she sat down and wrapped her arms around his upper arm, leaning her cheek against his shoulder. 

“I’m here daddy,” she said. “It’s going to be okay.”

I couldn’t leave it there. I knew the Megan story needed to be resolved, but I wasn’t sure where it would go.

Tommy was still quiet. I was trying to hear him, but it was hard.

Of all the characters, I have always been closest to Tommy.

I hope that doesn’t sound weird. 🙂

I heard Naomi and I heard Mike and I listened to the silence and it finally came to me.

We both needed to figure out how this story ends.

Tommy needed my help on this one and I guess I needed his, too.

So I began to write. I had to find a way to make him fight, in the midst of the worst moments possible.

He tends to shut down when talk of Megan comes up. His legs hurt. He has flashbacks.

He just stops dealing.

I was afraid he would give up. I was afraid he would just say that it was too much.

I mean, really, just how much can a person endure?

I needed him to fight.

So I gave him a reason.

Naomi.

Having Naomi brought into the torture gave me a whole new way to look at both characters.

Tommy would never give in if his daughter was in danger.

Naomi could also show how she has grown and her strength was just itching to come out.

But this fight wasn’t going to be fair and the two of them were no match for a crazed individual with nothing to lose.

He wanted nothing but to have Tommy suffer.

That’s a dangerous scenario.

Book 23 will go places I have never taken this series and that says something.

Here is a sneak preview of chapter 1:

_____________________________________________________________________________________

“Let her go,” he said. “I’ll do whatever you want.”

The man laughed at him.

“I told you what I wanted. You need to die. But first, you can suffer a little,” he grinned and pushed the stun gun into Naomi’s side.

“Stop it you sick son of a bitch!” Tommy yelled. “I’ll give you whatever you want. Please!”

The man looked at Naomi and smiled.

“Your daddy loves you, doesn’t he? He knows if I do this, with all of your problems, your body won’t be able to handle it. Do you know what will happen? Your body will melt from the inside. It will hurt like the worst pain you’ve ever felt.”

Naomi stood there, crying.

“Naomi? Listen to me,” Tommy said. “Just breathe and listen to my voice. You’re going to be fine, okay? I love you and you’re going to be fine.”

The man let her go and walked over to punch Tommy in the face.

“No!” Naomi cried and ran to him when the man grabbed her arm again.

“Oh, how rude of me. Let me introduce myself. My name is Paul James, or P.J. I used to have a sister, but your dad destroyed her. Now I need to destroy him, so the best way I can do that is to mess with his mind. I am not going to hurt you any more than I have to.”

“If there is any decency in you, please let her go,” Tommy said as he felt the blood fall down his face. “Your issues are with me, not her. Do what you need to do to me, but leave her alone.”

The man looked at Naomi.

“Your daddy wants to be brave, doesn’t he? He knows what this would do to you if I used it. He knows I’m right because he’s a doctor and he saves children, right?”

Naomi tried to move and he held her arm

“Ow, stop,” she cried.

Tommy tried to get up, but he couldn’t move from the ties around his legs.

“Get your hands off her,” he said.

Paul ignored him.

“You see, that’s why my sister fell for him. She always loved helping kids, too, and she was the best. She had everything going for her, until your mom ruined everything.” Paul laughed and looked at them.

“She must be going crazy right about now. Both of you missing and no sign of what happened. That’s what goes on when there is good planning involved. You can do things for days before anyone can find you.”

Tommy pulled on the ties and one of them loosened. Paul turned around and smiled at him.

“Hey Naomi, how long ago was it that your dad almost died? When his heart exploded?”

She didn’t say anything and he turned to her, grabbing her face in his hand.

“I asked you a fucking question.”

“Get your hands off of her! I am going to rip you to pieces!” Tommy screamed.

“Si, six months,” she said through her tears.

“Right, so I bet a huge zap of electricity will probably do a lot of damage, huh?”

Paul moved away from her and faced Tommy.

“What do you think that will do to her? To watch you fry from the inside out? Do you think she’ll ever get over that?”

He walked closer to Tommy and tightened the ropes before he looked at the stun gun.

“Try not to wet yourself,” he said.  Tommy saw Naomi looking at him.

“Mini Red? I need for you to listen to me for a minute, okay? I need for you to close your eyes. Please. Close your eyes.”

She shook her head and he saw the stun gun as the man put it against his side.

“I love you, baby. Close your eyes, okay? Do that for me, please.”

She cried as Paul shot the voltage into Tommy and his body went into shock.

“I’ll be back,” he said as he turned to her. “Better say your goodbyes, although I doubt he can hear you.”

He left and Naomi ran to her father.

“Daddy? Daddy can you look at me? Oh please, daddy look at me!” she cried and held his face as his eyes were open, but he saw nothing.
________________________________________________________________________________________

Thoughts? Questions?

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Someone recently asked me about my choices for couples when making the series. I have answered that question a few times, and I think I’ve tried to explain my reasoning for why I paired certain couples together.

One thing that I don’t think I really ever discussed was the influence certain things have had on the development of the series.

I know I’ve talked about certain characters and how they came to be, but the series itself has roots in many parts of my life.

When I was in college, I met a professor who ended up having a profound effect on me.  He was my musical theatre performance teacher and what the class consisted of was a pianist on stage, and each member of the class would receive a song of the professor’s choosing and we would have to sing it in front of everyone and be subjected to intense critique from the Prof. I kind of think of it now like our own tiny little version of American Idol.

Thankfully, none of us were voted off.

To say I was intimidated by this concept would be an understatement. I think I’ve mentioned my singing before, and how I have been in community theatre and have auditioned for and been accepted to theatre schools.

However, this was before that and to be honest, looking back, this class gave me the confidence to pursue those auditions.

But back to the class.

It was 1992 or 1993 when I first met Pirooz, the Professor. I remember sitting in the auditorium, where the class was held, and hearing him tell us what would be expected of us. I wondered if I could drop the class and still get my money back. I wondered if he would ask me why I would attempt to be in a musical theatre performance class when I had no talent.

I mean, I never sang in front of people I knew. I was in choir in high school and I was in musicals, but if my parents asked me to sing in front of them, it would have never happened.

Ever.

For my 21st birthday, my parents bought me a karaoke machine where I could sing and record myself on a cassette tape so I could hear myself better and work on my tone.

I only used it when home alone.

So sitting in this intimate setting, with 15 other students who all seemed to be ready for Broadway, was a tad unnerving.

He also made us all dance as a group on stage at the beginning of each class.

He would pick one student to lead the dance and he would play a random song and the class would have to follow the moves of the leader.

If there was anything that terrified me more than singing, it was dancing.

This was NOT for me.

But it was too late to change, so I stayed. Sometimes I would come late, just to miss the dance, but Pirooz caught on to that. I just sort of stayed in the back and kind of swayed a little to whatever movement was going on.

I think he took pity on me and never asked me to lead the dance.

At least not the first quarter, but that’s a story for another day.

The flashback of how Julie met Bill came from this experience. Her terror was my terror. I guess I hoped my “Bill” would save me, too.

There is a reason I’m sharing this, I promise, but I need to set up the scene a little more. 🙂

Now coming into this class, I thought I had a pretty diverse amount of theatre knowledge. What I soon discovered was that I knew pretty much nothing about the vast diversity out there.

That class exposed me to songs and composers which changed my perspective on life and watching the way my Professor worked with each student, no matter their level, to bring out the heart and soul of the song transformed my outlook on life.

One such musical was called Falsettos. It is currently having a revival on Broadway, which I would love to see.

However, I was given a song called “Holding to the Ground” and the first couple lines were as follows.

“I was sure growing up I would live the life my mother assumed I’d live; very Jewish, very middle class and very straight. Where healthy men stayed healthy men and marriages were long and great.”

I knew nothing about this show and one of our first jobs was to always research the character and find the motivation behind the words.

When I researched the show, it was fairly new, having gone through a rewrite from 1981 and was now a full length show. The character I was singing was named Trina and her husband had left her because he was gay and was going to finally be true to who he had always been. They had a young son who was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah and the husband fell in love with a wonderful, funny and handsome man who Trina found very hard to dislike.

There is a lot more to the story, but the crux of the second act is that the boyfriend develops and ultimately dies from AIDS.

This was at the height of the AIDS crisis when so much was unknown and more was feared. I remember falling in love with the characters and the humor and the gut-wrenching powerless feeling of the characters when dealing with something so unpredictable and so misunderstood.

I think, subconsciously, I always knew I wanted to write a character living with HIV.

I think a lot about that class when I think back to the development of the series. It’s hard to trace some ideas back 20 years, but if I truly look at the characteristics of my characters, I can see the influence.

I took that class three different times over the course of three years and I can never express how valuable it was for me as a performer and an eventual teacher.

And I guess also, as a writer.

It also shaped my love for groundbreaking theatre and it introduced me to Ragtime, another musical I adore. I was able to codirect Ragtime at the high school my first year teaching and it was one of my proudest moments.

When I tell people about that story, about Falsettos, I’m asked about why I didn’t make Tommy and Jack lovers. Why it wasn’t a love story about them.

I remind them that I wrote Brittany before I wrote anyone else, and Jack and Stephanie fit so well together, I couldn’t see them with anyone else.

Tommy was made for Brittany and they are my favorite love story.

I did toy once with having Brittany and Evan have an affair, but it just wasn’t me. Well, it wasn’t them, either. 🙂

I’ve been thinking a lot about that time in my life and the courage and strength that class gave me. I think there are elements of that class in how I write each character.

This series is a lot like a prime time soap opera. The stories and issues are ongoing, but each book or episode focuses on one specific highlighted story.

I like to look at it that way. Sometimes we live our lives and time passes without much standing out. Sometimes I feel that way with a character and I have to go back and ask them what I’ve been missing

When a character is quiet for too long, I worry about them.

What have they been going through that I haven’t been paying attention to? What’s on their mind?

Then I decide if it’s something I can weave into the fabric of the story.

Anyway, it’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m reflecting. I guess I wanted to share.

I hope you all have an amazing 2017.

Thank you for sticking with me.