The Quest for a Book Cover

Here it is. My cover for The Clay Remembers. There are still some minor tweaks necessary, but it is very close.

Final cover design for The Clay Remembers

Final cover design for The Clay Remembers

Everyone knows a good book cover can help sell books, and I’m hoping this cover does the job.

Finding a designer who can do a worthy book cover is not always easy. Nor is it cheap. Generally, your options are to find a good cover designer to personally work with or to look for an online designer at one of many cover design sites. There is one site where designers offer their services for as low as $5.00. Because I believe you get what you pay for, I didn’t even bother to explore the site to find out if these folks are any good. Perhaps I am wrong, but I can’t imagine top-notch covers being offered for such a low price.

For example, let’s just say that a designer spends three hours designing your cover.  For three hours’ work, that’s sixty cents an hour. Would a true professional successfully produce a good cover in only three hours? And would she work for sixty cents an hour? Add a reasonable time to create a cover and the hourly rate is microscopic. I wanted a designer who would design a cover, listen to my feedback on revisions needed, revise, and do that again and again until a final design is developed. So, no, I didn’t go to that site looking for a cover. Besides, I have the feeling that these designers are being taken advantage of by the site masters.

I shopped around online looking at various sites and what they offered. I came across 99designs and spent a lot of time looking at the kind of work their designers produce. It’s impressive. Their model involves designers competing to create your cover; you set up your contest, choosing from several options across a range of prices. Having several designers competing for your cover is very exciting. You get to see lots of ideas–often very different from one another. I chose the lowest priced package after looking at the portfolios of designers who had offered covers at that price, and I concluded that I did not have to break the bank to get a good cover.

I liked the fact that I could look at a designer’s work and then invite him or her to compete for my cover. I ended up with about 15-16 different designers who offered over 100 different designs (many of them revised versions of their first efforts). When you sign up for a package at 99designs, you are guaranteed a full refund if you are not satisfied. Once I knew I had some very promising designs, I was invited to guarantee purchasing a design, thereby guaranteeing that one designer would definitely be paid for his or her work. Presumably, that increases the designers’ commitment to your contest.

Another thing I liked about using the site was that I was asked to provide a detailed brief about my book that helped the designers envision their cover. To further assist my competing designers, I gave them links to my websites (www.sharonkmiller.com , www.buckskinbooks.com, www.theclayremembers.com) and to a new Pinterest board I put up specifically for their benefit. The board includes pictures of various settings for the novel and images that I hoped would provide insight into the story. It quickly became obvious which designers had explored the brief, the websites, and the board to get ideas. Those designers moved to the head of the pack rapidly.

Each time a designer offered a design, I gave very specific feedback for making adjustments–perhaps a different color text or background, for example. They responded to my feedback with questions that helped them move forward. It was very like having a conversation with each of them, and it became clear which designers could implement changes I sought. As they began using images from the Pinterest board that I believed were good choices, I provided all of them with a link to a hidden page at my website where they could download the images in higher resolution for the final cover.

Eventually, I had to choose up to six finalists, which really wasn’t too difficult. Choosing from among them was the challenge. I had sent out Tweets and Facebook posts along the way asking for opinions and finally sent out a poll from 99designs where I could invite others to rank the finalists. Most responders said it was hard to choose. They were all that good.

I finally chose the winner and am in discussion with JCNB about final tweaks and preparing for the transfer of files. I don’t know my designer’s name yet, but I hope I will learn it so I can give him credit in the book and declare him designer par excellence here on my blog.

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Is Romance Devolving?—50 Shades vs. No One Puts Baby in a Corner | Kristen Lamb’s Blog

You have to read what Kristen Lamb has to say about the book, the movie, the cultural phenomenon it has become, and how it could (will?) affect the way women and men see themselves and their relationships from this time forward. She is spot on with everything she says. And it’s scary.

Is Romance Devolving?—50 Shades vs. No One Puts Baby in a Corner | Kristen Lamb’s Blog.

Someone posted this image on Facebook. I think it says it all.

Posted in domestic abuse, Dysfunctional Families, Movies, Sexual assault, sexual assault on college campuses, Spanking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And Life Continues: Sex Trafficking and My Journey to Freedom–A Beautifully Rendered Story of a Shocking, Disturbing, and Ugly Situation

24857230Wendy Barnes tells a compelling story in And Life Continues: Sex Trafficking and My Journey to Freedom. It is not an easy book to read, and, without question, it was not an easy book for Barnes to write.

She details her experience as the victim of a sex trafficker, a man devoid of compassion, humanity, and morals. In the preface to the book, she says, “Through a childhood of poverty, neglect, and abuse, I formed the beliefs that would write the script of my life. At fifteen, I left home to escape the chaos and traded in a childhood of violence for a fifteen-year ‘adult’ relationship of violence.”

Forced into prostitution by the man she fell in love with, the man she believed was saving her from her difficult childhood, Barnes never sugar coats her experiences or assumes the mantle of “poor me.” Even though she is brutally honest about the things she had to do to protect her children and to please her husband, she does not make excuses for her behavior. She does not seek our pity; she seeks our understanding as well as our outrage that things like this go on in our society today.

It is a beautifully rendered story of a shocking, disturbing, and ugly situation. Barnes’ voice is powerful as she describes her multiple attempts at suicide, her self-mutilation, and her addiction to her husband-pimp, an addiction more controlling than any drug. Whenever she took her children and escaped from him, one phone call would bring her back.

Ironically, for Barnes, prison brought her freedom. It was her true escape from a life of violence and degradation. Her husband’s imprisonment and her enforced separation from him gave her the time and space she needed to confront the truth of her experiences and to begin building a healthy life.

I’ve heard prostitution called a “victimless” crime, and in places where it has been legalized the prevailing myth is that the women involved and their clients should be allowed to make their own choices and live their lives as they wish. Sadly, too many women have been coerced into that lifestyle, finding no alternatives for their lives.

Human trafficking is real and it isn’t just women who are its victims. Children—boys and girls—are often bought and sold in a not-so-secret marketplace. And it isn’t just somewhere else. It’s likely in your state, your city, your town, in your own backyard. Read Wendy Barnes’ story and walk in her shoes for a few hundred pages. You will be changed.

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Mediocre movie is merely 50 shades of abuse, degradation porn

David Fitzsimmons is the brilliant editorial cartoonist for Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star. In addition to his cartoons, he regularly publishes a column about something of local or national import in which he uses his comic talents to lampoon the issue. It is interesting that this column does not use humor to analyze the movie, 50 Shades of Gray. He apparently recognizes that the topic of this movie is of such significance that humor would only devalue his message. He makes the point that

Omnipresent on our computers, iPads and smart phones, degradation porn is the norm today. Not just porn. Degradation porn. According to a 2013 study, “Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis,” 88 percent of porn scenes featured degrading physical abuse, while nearly half depicted verbal humiliation.

In today’s global cyber world women are pliant piñatas “yearning” to be abused, used and discarded.

In his description of the main characters in the movie, he says:

Grey is our “I don’t do romance” billionaire. He sadistically intimidates, isolates, subjugates, sedates, dominates, berates and humiliates his social and economic inferior, Miss Steele, a naive college senior, a timid virgin, devoid of self-worth. She has all the qualities that would move a predator to squeal, “Jackpot!”

As someone who grew up surrounded by and the victim of domestic violence and someone who suffered sexual abuse, I refused to either read the book or see the movie. I cannot understand those women who think this movie is worth seeing or that the book was worth reading. I can only imagine that they have never experienced domestic or sexual abuse and have created some romantic notion of what it would be like to be spanked (or worse) and abused by someone who doesn’t “do romance.”

The women who made this book a best seller and the movie a blockbuster need only our pity. They are the ones who perpetrate some men’s beliefs that women like to be beaten and sexually abused and that it is acceptable in today’s society.

It makes me sad.

Fitzsimmons’ take on the movie is brilliant. And the fact that he restrains his humorous bent is a generous gift to women everywhere. Thank you, David, for your commentary.

Mediocre movie is merely 50 shades of abuse, degradation porn.

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Maggie Jean: 1961, Part 1

Graduation would soon be here. Who would have thought? Maggie Jean was graduating and nothing had happened yet to stop it. All of her life, whenever she was looking forward to something, she feared that it wouldn’t, it couldn’t, happen. Something would stop it—something would interfere. Whether it was a school field trip or an upcoming dance, she was sure that it would never happen. Something would come up. Her mother would decide she couldn’t go or there would be no money or the world would actually come to an end. She couldn’t imagine that anything good could ever happen to her. She wasn’t meant to have fun. She wasn’t worthy.

When her senior trip to New York had been planned, it was a given that everyone in the class would go, but she knew there would be no money. How could she go to New York with zero money to spend—either on a soda or something to eat or at least a souvenir? How could she go with nothing? Wouldn’t the rest of the class notice? It would be humiliating. In the weeks before the trip, she was convinced that something would happen and she wouldn’t be able to go, so it didn’t matter that she had no money. The trip would be cancelled. Even if they started out on the trip, the bus would break down, like it did on the sixth grade trip to Gettysburg. When these things happened, would the rest of the class know it was her fault?

The night before the trip, she asked her mother if she could have some spending money. The answer, not surprisingly, was that she had nothing to spare.

“Go ask your father,” her mother said.

She almost decided that she’d go penniless before she’d ask him for anything. That she would have to walk into the living room, where he was sitting in his chair, reading and smoking, and interrupt him to beg for money. How could she do it? She trembled, completely humiliated by the prospect. She didn’t want to ask him for anything. She hated him. In all of the fights and the violence in that house, she had always taken her mother’s side. Although her mother was not blameless, she needed to believe that at least one of them was a victim. It was easier to take sides than to try to see how they were both responsible for the toxic atmosphere of the household.

Hesitating at the doorway to the living room, where she and her mother had taken a sledgehammer to the wall—that was another story altogether—she stood there until he noticed her and looked up. He put his pipe down in the ashtray and looked over his glasses.

“What?”

“My class is going to New York tomorrow . . .”

“Yeah?” He stared at her. She felt like an intruder. She had to decide what would be more humiliating, asking him for something, or going on the trip with nothing. She knew she had to ask. Besides, the world would end before dawn tomorrow, anyway.

“I don’t have any . . . well, could you. . . do you have any . . .?” She tried to breathe, but she thought she was suffocating. She didn’t know how to ask. She couldn’t remember asking him for anything, ever. Finally, she just blurted it out: “Can I have some money?”

He looked at her long and hard. When she could no longer bear the penetrating force of his steely eyes, she turned to leave, but then he stood up and reached into his back pocket. He pulled out his wallet, handed her two dollars, sat back down, and picked up his pipe and his book. He went back to reading without a word.

She stood there for a moment, looking at the two one-dollar bills in her hand. That’s it? Two dollars? She should be grateful—it was, after all, the first time she could remember that he had actually given her something. Somehow, though, she wondered if having only two dollars to spend in New York would be as embarrassing as having nothing. She folded the bills in half and climbed the curving stairway up to her room.

The world didn’t end before the morning came and she actually had a good time in New York. She bought a small replica of the Statue of Liberty. Curling up to sleep on the bus coming home, she wondered why and how it had actually happened. She had been to New York. There was a world out there that had nothing to do with home.

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My Book, The Clay Remembers, and Similar Books

TCR_Card_front

Many of you know that my novel, The Clay Remembers, is fast approaching completion. I’m excited about having got it to this point—ready for an archaeologist to fact-check my descriptions of the work after which I’ll pass it along to my editor who will do the final edit. I’m hoping this means it will be ready for publication by the first of the year.

In the meantime, this month I will attend a writing conference sponsored by the Society of Southwestern Authors and Writer’s Digest, featuring Chuck Sambuchino, WD author and blogger. I will pitch my novel to a couple of agents: Adriann Ranta, Wolf Literary Services, and Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. It would be great if one (or both) of them like the concept and ask to look at the manuscript.

Some time ago, I learned that many agents  expect an author to compare her book to successful titles, books that have some elements in common with hers. It can help the agent see the book in terms of the marketplace. My task, then, was to identify those books that might help an agent see where my book fits.

outlander1The first book I selected was Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. It may be a stretch to make this comparison because, unlike Gabaldon’s character, Claire Randall, my character, Anna Robinson, does not physically travel back in time. She does not engage with characters and events in another time. The point of comparison for Anna, an archaeologist, is that she has visions of people and events from the past, visions triggered by artifacts she uncovers, visions that help her learn the stories of two women who were associated with those artifacts. What she learns about these women is only possible because of brief episodes in which she shares certain experiences with them.

sleepingwiththeenemymovie

sleepingwiththeenemybookIdentifying the second book was harder. Since domestic violence is an important element of my story, I needed a book that dealt with that topic. I found a few, but they weren’t as well-known as I would have liked. When one of my readers told me my book reminded her of Sleeping With the Enemy, I found the comparable title. I had seen the movie many years ago, but remembered very few details. I knew that Julia Roberts’ character faked her death to escape a brutal husband and that he eventually found and confronted her. So, yes, Anna’s story has a similar plot structure, although Anna does not fake her death; she leaves hoping he will not find out where she went.

I was not satisfied that the association of plot and structure worked effectively. And I was making the comparison with a movie that I only vaguely remembered. I finally located the book, by Nancy Price, on which the movie was based. (The book, by the way, is vastly different from the movie.) I was surprised to discover many more similarities to my story, but also a fundamental difference.

Sara Burney’s husband, Martin, is very like my character’s husband, Foster. He, like Martin, is an obsessive control freak, but he does not insist the cans in the pantry be arranged in a particular way and that the towels be folded into equal thirds. Foster’s control is exercised primarily over his wife—forbidding her to get a job, even though she has an advanced degree in archaeology, making certain she will not have children who might compete with him for her love, insisting she not be anywhere but at home. Unlike Sara Burney, instead of cowering and trying hard to please him, Anna defies him by taking jobs, only to have him show up and force her to come home. Her defiance leads to his violence.

Having grown up in a household marked by domestic violence, Anna has sworn she would never stay in an abusive marriage, and although she didn’t leave as soon as she might have, she manages an escape that leaves very little evidence of where she has gone. Eventually, of course, Foster finds out where she is and comes after her.

The fundamental difference between the Sara in the book and my character, Anna, is that Book-Sara undergoes very little development. At the end of the book, she is still the same woman she was at the beginning. She has not grown and sees no possible way to resume her real identify. Really? Even though her husband is dead? She is gloriously happy that she can continue living as Laura Pray, a woman with no history. Movie-Sara, on the other hand, told Ben who she was, and she has a dramatic scene at the end in which she shoots Martin, and not exactly in self-defense. (I checked the plot summary on Wikipedia.) In the book, Martin’s increasing instability leads him to take his own life as Sara, in disguise as a man, looks on. I could admire Movie-Sara for standing up to her husband and taking charge of her life—her real life. Book-Sara fails on all counts. I cannot imagine a happy future for her and Ben because she intends to continue their relationship built on a lie; even though he knows she is not Laura Pray, she plans to keep her identity a secret. It is an ending that, for me, simply did not work.

My character, Anna, reclaims her independence and becomes a stronger and more courageous woman as the book progresses. From the women whose stories of strength and survival come to her through history and the artifacts, she gains the strength to confront Foster and win.

This difference is significant, but I hope the comparisons work for the agents who will listen to my pitch.

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Part 3: Domestic Violence

My forthcoming novel, The Clay Remembers, deals with the subject of domestic violence:

When archaeologist Anna Robinson’s husband becomes increasingly violent in his effort to keep her under his control and isolated, she runs away to the Southwestern desert where she feels at home for the first time in her life. Finding a network of supportive friends and the freedom to pursue her career dreams, she believes she is finally safe. When her husband shows up the first time, her new friends stand with her in the face of his threats, but when he comes back, armed and dangerous, she must rely solely on her wits and the strength she has drawn from the creative and expressive forces of the earth and the stories the artifacts tell.  

Anna’s flight from her husband is in the vein of Sleeping With the Enemy with touches of Outlander in the experiences she shares with two women whose stories of survival come to her through the prehistoric and historic artifacts she uncovers. It is a story that illuminates the legacy of the past as a means of understanding the present and tells the eternal story of a woman trying to find her voice and her power.

My character, Anna, is not unlike many women who find themselves in an abusive marriage. As a vulnerable young woman, she allows herself to be drawn into an unhealthy relationship with a man who has cultivated a public persona that masks the reality of who he is. There were signs that Anna might have heeded if she had known, but she wasn’t aware of them. Here are six warning signs to look for from Pamela Jacobs’ blog:

  • He will romance you. He will buy you flowers and gifts. He will likely be the most romantic man you have ever met. He will pay attention to you and make you feel special and wanted. You may find yourself thinking that he is too good to be true — because he is. He needs you to trust him and develop feelings for him, because it is much easier to control someone who loves you.
  • He will want to commit — quickly. He will say that it’s love at first sight, that you are made for each other, and that he can’t imagine his life without you. He will sweep you off your feet, and tell you he has never loved anyone this much.
  • He will want you all to himself. He’ll make you feel guilty for spending time with friends or family. He will call or text you several times a day, and may accuse you of flirting or cheating. He will say he loves you so much, he can’t stand the thought of anyone else being near you. And soon, no one else will be. This is the beginning of isolation.
  • He will be very concerned about you. He may get upset if you don’t call him back right away or if you come home late. He will say it’s because he worries about you. He will start to make decisions for you — who you spend time with and where you go — and claim to know what’s best for you.
  • He will be sweet and caring — sometimes. He will be the sweet, loving man who everyone else sees, and who you fell in love with. But, sometimes, he will become the man who puts you down, makes you feel guilty, and isolates you.
  • He will play the victim. If he gets in trouble at work, it’s someone else’s fault. He may apologize for yelling, putting you down, or hurting you, but will always find a way to make it your fault. He will say things like, “It’s just that I love you so much,” or “I wish you didn’t make me so crazy.” Eventually, he will blame you for making him hit you.

Pamela Jacobs is an attorney and speaker dedicated to empowering women and ending sexual assault and domestic violence. Find her at http://pamelajacobs.com.

2014-10-18-hotline-thumbJacobs provides more details for each of the warning signs, but I selected out those that apply to the relationship between my character, Anna, and her abusive husband. Interestingly enough, I did not use this list as a reference before I wrote the book and developed the character of Foster Robinson and the manner in which he groomed Anna to become his victim. There were elements of his past (his backstory) that would have been prime indicators of his penchant for violence, but when that past was effectively hidden, Anna had no way to know what she was getting into.

Ironically, Anna’s past (her backstory) involved growing up in a house where domestic violence was a regular occurrence. For her, then, to find herself in an abusive relationship comes as a shock since she had sworn all through her life that she would never marry an abuser. It is that past, however, that leads her to make the decision to run away to where she hopes he will never find her.

There are too many women (and perhaps men, also) who are caught in an abusive relationship and cannot leave and who do not need public damnation for staying. Too often, women do not have the financial resources to leave, they have children whom they must protect, or the consequences of trying to leave are deadly. Fear of staying is often tempered by fear of leaving.

I hope that Anna’s story can offer other women in her circumstances the courage to leave.

Learn more about The Clay Remembers at www.sharonkmiller.com.

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Child Abuse, Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence: So What? (Parts 1 & 2)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the past several months, you’ve seen, heard, or read multiple news reports detailing incidents of child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence. For the record, the discussion of child abuse will be specific to the practice of spanking and whether or not that rises to the level of child abuse.

Child Abuse and Spanking:

Football player, Adrian Peterson was charged with felony abuse for giving his four-year-old son a “whooping” with a switch (a tree branch stripped of its leaves–which he stuffed in the boy’s mouth). In his text to his wife, he admitted he “got him in the nuts once.” The details of the child’s injuries are horrific, and if Adrian Peterson or any other parent believes this is appropriate punishment, then they need to be taken to the woodshed with the same switch applied equally to their bare buttocks, thighs, and nuts.

Peterson’s indictment unleashed a public dialogue about whether spanking was appropriate punishment for a child. And let’s be clear, there is a difference between spanking and what Peterson did to his son.

Some arguments that were made in favor of spanking were built on the premise that “my parents spanked me when I was a child and I turned out all right.” In fact, Peterson says, “I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man.” Of course it did. He probably would never have been a successful football player if they hadn’t beaten him. He undoubtedly owes his career to a switch applied frequently to his bare behind.

His belief was echoed endlessly by pundits and columnists defending his right to discipline his child the way he was disciplined. I wonder how many of those who share the same childhood experience can look back on those beatings with fondness. You know, sitting around the Thanksgiving table with your family and reminiscing about the good old days, when mom or dad bloodied your backside with a switch. “Man, that was the best part of growing up. Those were the most righteous scabs and scars I ever got,” or “If I could go back and live parts of my childhood over, it would be those wonderful times when mom took that razor strop to my butt. It made me the man I am today.”

Yeah, right. Those are the childhood experiences that shaped them into productive citizens and philanthropic adults. Or not. Beating a child bloody does not a healthy adult make.

Sexual Assault:

The current issue of sexual assault on college campuses is the topic of a heated debate, much of which places the blame squarely on the women for dressing provocatively, or getting drunk, or passing out. The men involved in these assaults are the innocent victims according to some pundits. It’s not their fault that they can’t control their sexual urges in the presence of an unconscious woman. You know. Boys will be boys. And what red-blooded young man can resist an unconscious woman who smells of alcohol and vomit?

No pundit was more outspoken (and wrong) on behalf of the “male victims” than George Will. He blamed liberalism, progressive colleges, and the Obama administration for endangering young men’s futures by promoting frivolous sexual assault charges. He dedicated a column in the Washington Post to his “wisdom” on the subject.

 After his column generated a backlash, Think Progress summarized an interview in which he tried to defend his position:

According to Will, colleges are lowering the standard of proof for sexual assault allegations, and he’s worried that ruin the lives of young men. “What’s going to result is a lot of young men and young women in this sea of hormones and alcohol that gets into so much trouble on campus, and you’re going to have charges of sexual assault. And you’re going to have young men disciplined, their lives often permanently and seriously blighted by this — they won’t get into medical school, they won’t get into law school, and all of this,” Will said in the interview.

CNN commentator, Mel Robbins, took Will to the virtual woodshed, but she didn’t use a switch or a razor strop on him, she used an intellect greater than his in her response to him. Among other things, she said:

I’d no more want to have a conversation with George Will about sexual assault on college campuses than I wish to discuss racism with Donald Sterling. Both men are shockingly out of touch with reality. The fact is, George Will is so wrong.

The analysis and rebuttal that follow are so powerful, George Will’s argument falls flat on its face. Perhaps a formal debate between Robbins and Will would demonstrate who comes out ahead. I can assure you it won’t be George Will.

See this public service announcement called, A 25 Second Guide On How To Handle A Drunk, Passed Out Girl On Your Couch. It’s all about respect.

If boys will be boys, then men must be men and teach their boys how to control their basest urges and quit blaming women for their failures.

I will address domestic violence in Part 3 of the post, coming soon.

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Posted in Adrian Peterson, Child abuse, CNN, Dysfunctional Families, George Will, Mel Robbins, parenting, Sexual assault, sexual assault on college campuses, Spanking, Think Progress, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If Canada Can Do It, Why Can’t the US?

It’s interesting that in Canada, a patient can refer herself to a doctor (see below) and request a stem cell transplant to cure her rare autoimmune disease, but in the US, my friend, Cristy, was turned away from countless clinical trials and was refused the treatment even though doctors agreed that it was her best hope for survival.

It is inexcusable that elsewhere in the developed world, autologous stem cell transplants have a proven record of curing debilitating autoimmune disorders, yet in this country such patients must travel abroad to save their own lives, or stay home and suffer.

According to the article, Stem Cell Transplant Brings Promise of Remission for Those with Rare ‘Stiff Person Syndrome,’ published on the Council of Academic Hospitals Ontario website:

Responding to a patient’s ardent request, the Medical Director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute applied a stem cell treatment, used for autoimmune diseases, to a rare brain disease characterized by debilitating muscle stiffness and spasms. It has stopped the disease, and improved the patients’ quality of life beyond measure.

It started with one patient. A woman with one of the rarest and most debilitating neurological diseases, dubbed ‘stiff person syndrome (SPS),’ contacted Dr. Harold Atkins, Medical Director and Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI). She begged him to perform a stem cell transplant on her, knowing that this treatment had worked for others with different autoimmune diseases.

Encouraged by the success of stem cell transplants on other diseases, Atkins prudently made the decision to go ahead. And he was right: This new stem cell transplantation, although not a cure, prevented the disease from progressing and left the patient well enough to return to normal activities. In fact, quality of life for these patients has improved exponentially. . . .

Stem cell transplants have been used for decades to treat leukemia. At The Ottawa Hospital, the exact same kind of stem cell transplantation had been used to successfully treat patients suffering from other autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), which can be resistant to more conventional treatments. . . .

To read the complete article, click on the link above.

The article is careful not to suggest that SCT is a cure, but when all symptoms of a disease disappear and normal functioning is restored, it’s pretty close to a cure.

It’s time for the United States to move into the 21st Century and approve SCT for autoimmune diseases.

Posted in 5 STEPS Advocate, 5 STEPS to Being Your Own Patient Advocate, autoimmune disorders, Cristy Kessler, stem cell transplant | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Clay Remembers: The Characters

A few days ago, I promised to begin introducing the characters in the novel, The Clay Remembers.

ANNA (Anna McClure Robinson) comes from a modest, difficult background, having been raised in a household where domestic violence was the norm. As a young girl, she developed a passion for digging in the dirt to find Indian projectile points and determined that she would be an archaeologist and build a stable life anywhere but near her family.

After winning a full scholarship to Northwestern University’s program, she sailed through the undergraduate program and earned her master’s degree as well. She had distinguished herself as an outstanding field archaeologist, and she was eager to begin her career in spite of having fallen in love and married the most eligible and sought after anthropology student at the university. Because their interests seemed so compatible, she was convinced that her “happily ever after” was assured.

When that turned out not to be the case, as her husband’s controlling and abusive behavior escalated to dangerous levels, she could no longer “go along to get along.” She was determined that she could not live a life like her parents had, and she runs away, finding solace, comfort, and a career in the shadows of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona. For the first time since she met Foster, she finds friends and the kind of life she had always dreamed of–if only Foster would never find her.

FOSTER (Foster Robinson) appears to have grown up as a child of privilege and social status, an image that Anna accepts as authentic. His parents, however, came into their riches when Foster was an adolescent. When he and his best friend were likely headed to juvenile detention, his mother enrolled him in Elgin Academy, a private prep school where he learned to project the public persona she demanded in exchange for anything he wanted. He learned well.

When he met Anna at Northwestern, he recognized her vulnerable side, a young woman who needed a strong arm to guide her, one he could control. He took great pleasure in showing her the kind of life he could offer, knowing just how foreign it was to her background. He swept her off her feet and they were married in a lavish ceremony that was the highlight of the Chicago social scene, a ceremony organized and paid for by his mother, who decided every last detail without regard for Anna’s wishes, right down to the hideous mass of satin and lace that she wore down the aisle.

After they both earned their advanced degrees, Foster went on to an assistantship and the doctoral program, which kept him largely on campus teaching and working on his dissertation. With only time for summer and temporary field assignments, Foster insisted that Anna could not do fieldwork without him and he kept her isolated. As tensions increased with her insistence on working and his demands that she stay home and be a proper wife, their relationship deteriorated. The Foster behind the image began to emerge in frightening ways, and his efforts to control her escalated into domestic violence,

Anna’s independent nature resurfaced when he least expected it and her desertion of him increased his instability to dangerous levels. He was determined to find her and bring her home at all costs.

I would appreciate any comments you would like to make about these characters. Are they characters you would want to read about? What would you expect to happen in the story? Your comments will help me determine whether or not the direction I’ve taken them works. 

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