My Father Made Me Do It

My father and I are very different. He’s loud and confrontational and I tend to get lost in any group larger than four people. Make him mad and you’ll know. I’m the opposite. It is really hard to offend me and you would have to try really hard to make me yell.

Recently I did two things that really surprised me.

First, I was in a restaurant/bar with my daughter. She was singing karaoke and a really drunk guy kept hitting on her. He was about 40 and she was 17. When he started touching her I tapped him on the shoulder and shared a few words with him.  Two minutes later he left the restaurant and didn’t come back. I didn’t threaten him per se, but I think he saw in my eyes that he was on dangerous ground.

Today I was in my allergist’s office. They have a policy about staying there 30 minutes after an injection because you could have an allergic reaction and die if they don’t attend to you right away. It’s a bit of CYA, but I have always complied with the policy.

Right after my injection I got an important phone call that was critical to one of my girls. I can’t say what the call was about, but imagine a highly confidential call that has to be taken in that second or else.

I got up and headed for the outside door.

The nurse told me I couldn’t go outside. I told her I needed to take the call.

She told me to stay inside.

I asked, “Do you have a gun?”

She said she didn’t and I walked outside. I didn’t see her again, but the doc came out with a concerned look on his face in about 45 seconds.

Driving home I chuckled to myself about the gun comment even though I felt bad about upsetting the nurse. The words just blurted out of me and I wondered where they came from.

It didn’t take long to realize I was acting like my father in both situations. While I almost never model his aggressive behavior, when my kids are threatened, my reaction is completely instinctive. I rarely confront anyone, but my father taught me how. I should thank him for that someday.

Fiction is similar. While most of us never have a chance to be heroic, books and movies give us a recipe for good decision making in a crisis. (And you thought they were just for fun.)

If an earthquake hit or if terrorists attacked your neighborhood,  who would be your guide?


Have You Fallen For Someone Too Good To Be True?

One of the great things about being single is that you can publicly reflect on the dating life without worrying about the consequences when you get home. In fact, I am home and I’m not worried at all.

Last week my friend S C Cunningham and I were talking about our fictional characters and how they related to our desires in dating and relationships. I took the bait and today I’m going to talk about some of my characters and how they may have found their way into my books.

My characters often come to me in a flash and then develop into more complex people as I work with them over time. I’m not sure where any particular character comes from and if you want to psychoanalyze me at the end of this blog, feel free. Also feel free to chime in with the characters from fiction (or movies) that you’ve fallen for even though you know it is too good to be true.

Jo Caulfield from Sin & Vengeance is the place to start for me. Jo is a tall blonde that turns every head. She’s a complex women who marries an older guy in a marriage of appearances designed to improve her husband’s status in the community. Jo is paid well and is allowed to pursue her love of music as long as she remains celibate.

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Jo Caulfield

I fell in love with the image I worked from to create Jo. She resembles someone I adored when I was young and I think her complexity and sophistication – maybe even a touch of craziness was really appealing to me. Of all the female characters I have created, Jo remains my favorite. If she appeared in the flesh, I’d propose in three months.

Charlotte Finch from The End of Marking Time  is even more complex than Jo. She’s a redhead (I’ve never dated a redhead) and she’s devious and manipulative. It’s clear that Charlotte is doing her job, but she seems to be enjoying the machinations she puts Michael through. For those of you who think I have something against redheads, that’s certainly not true. One strange thing about my dating life is that all my serious relationships have come when women have approached me. I’m not sure if this is the way it always happens and I’m just more willing to admit it than other guys, or if I should be more proactive.

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Charlotte Finch

Anyway, writing the book I was attracted to Charlotte’s character and I even remember flirting with myself during an online chat where I played CJ West and Charlotte at the same time. (I’m not sure which of us was more turned on, but it was fun.)

Deirdre Deudon and Leah Donovan (Sin & Vengeance and Addicted to Love) are both on the prowl. Deirdre because her husband doesn’t pay any attention to her and Leah because of the peculiarities of living in Highland Falls. It’s obvious where these women came from and just as clear that I want to find a woman with a similar attitude and desire for passion.

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Deirdre Deudon

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Leah Donovan

But it was a surprise to me while writing this blog that Leah’s desire for constant sex and Deirdre’s willingness to get naughty didn’t create as strong an attraction for me as the more complex characters of Jo and Charlotte. This could indicate one of two things. Either I’m able to look beyond offers of constant and fantastic sex and see a woman for who she is OR I like being tortured by sophisticated and manipulative women. I’m not sure, so feel free to tell me in a comment.

I need to mention one other fictional woman. I’ve read hundreds of books, but only one female character stands out to me as potential dating material. Ruby Goodman from It Happens In Threes.  Ruby is fiercely independent and has a penchant for skinny dipping. In one scene Ruby stands nude on the edge of the pool talking to two men. It wasn’t so much the eroticism of the scene that grabbed me, but her confidence and independence not to walk over and cover herself with a towel that captured my imagination.

If I had to choose a date with a fictional character it would come down to Jo Caulfield or Ruby Goldman.

What about you?

Which fictional character have you fallen for?

Which fictional character would you set me up on a blind date with?

(authors, if you’d like to continue the discussion on your blog, let me know and I’ll link your post here.)


Today I’m Giving Thanks For My Pain

I had a very inspirational post planned for you today, but then something happened that knocked me off my feet. I can’t think about anything else, so I hope you enjoy the lesson I learned from my misery today. Literally.

Last week I blogged about the loss of my friend Terri Krause. The outpouring of support on her Facebook page and here on my blog reminded me that our pain over her passing is a direct reflection of how much she meant to us all. We hurt because Terri touched us. My lesson today begins there.

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Romeo and Juliet

Last year I had the most amazing experience of my life (with the exception of the lives of my two daughters.) I fell madly in love with a woman who touched me in a way that no one has. In my heart, Romeo and Juliet is a high school infatuation compared to what I felt for her. Guys, compare riding a ten speed to piloting a fighter jet.

I can’t describe how much I loved her or how devastated I was when we parted. Words (even for me) pale to describe the agony that followed and as you’ll see in a minute, the feelings that still take hold of me sometimes when we are in touch.

Instead of trying to describe how I felt, I’ll share an experience I had a few weeks ago.

My mother asked me to trim around some bushes for her, a process that would take about 5 minutes with an electric trimmer. I didn’t want to get grass stains on my new sneakers, so I took them off and used the trimmer barefoot.

My father arrived minutes later with advice (no surprise).

“Get some boots on,” he said. “Your bare feet are a perfect ground and if you hit that wire you’ll kill yourself.”

“I’m okay with dying,” I said in a flat, serious voice.

My own comment stopped me cold. It wasn’t a smartass remark. It came from somewhere deep inside me. When I heard those words coming from my own lips I recognized an important truth about my life.

I’m a lucky guy. I’m incredibly thankful for my experiences in this world and if God wants to take me, I’m ready to go.

Please don’t think I’m going to jump off a bridge or something. It’s not that sort of feeling. It’s one of utter fulfillment and maybe the realization that I’ve seen what I came into this world to see.

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The wonder of God’s creation smiled at me with hazel eyes and a head of curly black hair. The memory of that love will burn inside me forever. No matter what happens in my future, I have been blessed to experience the joys of this love and the love of my family. No material success can compare to those things.

If I am lucky enough to experience real love again I will be doubly blessed. I’ll never give up looking, but having this experience has changed me in a fundamental way.

In the last few months I’ve been able to embrace the truth without fear of what it says about me. Mistakes don’t change my value in this world because I am beginning to understand how small I am.

At times I have also felt what it means to love your enemies, because the outcome of any feud or battle isn’t significant.

A feeling of real peace has washed over me as my sadness ebbs.

Back to today…

Today I got some news that stabbed me hard. It was debilitating. It knocked me so flat I couldn’t write the upbeat blog I had planned. I went for a drive to the library to return some books and somewhere along the road an insight gave my day an entirely new meaning.

What if I am someone else’s Romeo?

What if things I say unknowingly hurt someone this deeply?

Today my pain taught me a new level of compassion. To be careful with my words around those I’ve loved in my past. To be sensitive of those raw nerves and to be understanding when touching a nerve causes them to lash out.

What has your pain taught you?