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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from War Impact Families

“Ripple Effect: Because Of The War” is a novel I wrote to show how post-traumatic stress disorder from combat can impact one person and everyone in a family.

Before the war, two characters deal with normal issues of relationships; meeting, falling in love and marriage. War impacted everything. A child lost her mother. Secrets were buried. Her adopted father returned with PTSD, and family life changed.

Richard, the air-force, hero, returned with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. The handsome, charming, practical, loving man changed. His behavior became controlling, with aggressive anger and abusive interactions with his family. He couldn’t deal with conflict without becoming agitated. He startled easily, with loud noises or unexpected sudden events. These reminded him of being under attack, triggering his instant alert responses to fight back. He suffered from insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks about his war traumas. He became withdrawn, irritable and defensive when challenged. He avoided any discussion about his behavior and refused to talk about his war experiences. He avoided anyone who would remind him of the past. He became depressed and attempted to change his emotional state with alcohol. His alcohol use began to take over and his health suffered. Suicide was a possibility.

Many veterans now suffer from similar symptoms.

This is a typical response to war trauma from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf war, Afghanistan, September 11, and terrorist attacks since then. In fact, ever since wars between nations existed, warriors’ minds and bodies have been damaged. It used to be called shell shock or battle fatigue. Men were labelled as cowards and weak. That judgment has changed somewhat. Now it is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; a mental health diagnosis. It carries its own stigma. It shouldn’t.

Post-Traumatic Stress is not just for the military. It is experienced by anyone in civilian life. Trauma can be from a car accident, witnessing a death, witnessing a shooting, experiencing a home invasion, a house fire, a near-drowning, being hit, a concussion, sexual abuse. All are traumatic experiences where there is an intense fear of death, threat, pain and helplessness.

The symptoms experienced are similar to that of a combatant in war. The brain is impacted, by an extreme ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response, flooding the brain and body with adrenalin and stress hormones. The brain becomes ‘hotwired’ so that a trigger in the present will instantly set off the reactions, actions and memories of the past.

A trigger may be a loud sound like a car backfiring, sounding like a gun. The sound of a helicopter or plane may trigger a fear response. For a firefighter, it could be a certain burning smell. The brain can usually recover, with debriefing and therapeutic interventions as soon as possible after an incident. This can prevent traumatic stress from becoming chronic.

After school shootings or an accident in the workplace, Critical Incident Counsellors are called in to begin to talk about the experience and encourage follow-up care. If stress symptoms persist it becomes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even so, PTSD can be treated more successfully now.

In the novel, ‘Ripple Effect: Because Of The War’, the family members suffered exposure to Richard’s PTSD behavior and became reactive and combative themselves, critical, depressed or withdrew from interactions. Love and compassion for each other gradually eroded.

The reader judges the behavior and begins to dislike Richard. Things had to get worse before help was accepted. An incident happened that precipitated him to get medical and therapeutic help. Then the reader begins to feel compassion for the man and the negative judgment disappears. The loving, caring man reappeared from his internal hell. The reader rejoices with him and his family as they all struggle to find hope and healing, and reconnect.

This is only one thread of the stress within a family with an absent or returning veteran.

The stress of an absent mother, father or other family member produces other emotional problems. This can cause attachment issues with children growing up without the significant parent, causing discipline, anxiety, depression or learning issues. The spouse may suffer loneliness, feel overwhelmed with responsibility if raising a family alone, may use alcohol or other drugs or act out depression or anger in other ways.

The novel shows the ripple effect of war on the people of Britain in the WWII era. The reader follows the everyday lives of a family struggling to survive, learns their personal wounds and secrets, the effect on individuals, and the family as a whole. It also shows how strength and compassion can grow, as wounds heal.

Jenny Ferns Interview with Florida Writers Association and Sample Chapter about WWII

I was interviewed about my book: “Ripple Effect: Because Of The War.”  Logline: An independent woman raised her dead sister’s child during WW II in England. Postwar, the ripple effect of wartime losses, wounds of the soul, secrets, and lies almost destroy her.

My brother’s story of his life in WWII England became the seed for my story. He said in his own words, “there must have been a lot of smoke and mirrors that obscured the truth.” The truth was murky about being adopted as a toddler by his aunt during the war. His biological mother, presumed killed by a bomb in the Blitz of London, turned up when he was eighteen.

I lived for twenty-two years in England after the war. The ripple effect of the war on my life, my brother’s life, and many in the military returning home, continued and continues years later. I wrote about this in a fictional story. The effects include alcoholism, family violence, a secret adoption, and secret affairs. The shame and secrets of the trauma of war affected the minds of combatants and non-combatants who often silently suffered with PTSD. I wrote about the effect on every member of a family.

I hope the story will resonate with others impacted by other wars even if the time and place differs.

Read the whole interview here and a link to one of the chapters.

The paperback and ebook is availble on Amazon:
https://amzn.to/2N06WLw

OMG! First Prize for historical fiction at Royal Palm Awards

I won first prize for historical fiction at the Royal Palm Awards in October. My novel, Ripple Effect – because of the war is unpublished at the moment.
Amazed me!

The historical fiction novel is a saga of a family that suffers, over many years, from the ripple effect of war on their everyday lives.

Summary of Ripple Effect
WW2 touched and damaged many lives in England. Veronica adopted baby Susie because her mother was presumed killed in the Blitz. Richard, Veronica’s handsome RAF husband, developed shellshock (now known as PTSD) and became an alcoholic. Susie grew up influenced emotionally and physically by Richard’s behavior. Veronica held the secret of Susie’s origins and secret adoption, which when revealed, almost destroyed the family.

This is historical fiction set in the long shadow of WW2. It is also a women’s fiction genre. Women with families impacted by PTSD, alcoholism and drug addiction will find it resonates with them, now. I write that there is hope for recovery for everyone in the family. This is my experience as a psychologist. Healing is possible.

Thanks go to my critique group and my editor, Marsha Butler. They helped me every step of the way. I couldn’t have achieved this without unbiased critiques. Every writer needs this feedback. The Florida Writers Association is a great support for all writers.

In the meantime, I am writing a sequel.

So maybe an agent and publisher will be interested?

I took painful writing steps. Where are you in your growth as a writer?

 Steps to become a writer.
            To become a writer and an author can be a painful process. It also can be a joy once the writing growing pains are overcome.
Baby steps. My first foray into writing something personal came in the form of a memoir. Somehow, I stumbled along, dusting off vague memories of sentence construction and use of tenses. Someone edited it. Goodness, gracious – what were all those red marks? It was not good. I rethought what to write about and how to do it.

Student steps. I realized I had a lot to learn. I began to read, learn, listen. I went to conferences.  I exposed my tender attempts to a critique group. More red marks. But I began to get the hang of it, and my writing improved.
My creation, coming from inside my heart and soul, when born, was tender and still unformed. At first, any criticism hurt. My skin was thin. I even felt a bit rebellious, like a teenager. I thought, ‘this is my writing. How dare they? I’ll do it my way.’ Of course, that was immature thinking. I eventually developed a thicker skin and listened and applied other people’s suggestions – most of the time! The writing grew and changed.

The Mature path. I structured my work and my writing. ‘Plotting and pantsing.’
Plotting. I started fresh and plotted out the whole project from scratch, beginning to end.
Pantsing. With a chapter in mind, I wrote free hand, by the seat of my pants, as thoughts flowed. Then I began the serious writing once the thoughts had been formed. Then a strange thing happens. The thoughts begin to take shape and fly. Some say its ‘being in the zone.’ Nothing matters except what flows onto the paper. It becomes art.

Then reality sets in. The flight of fancy ends and finds feet on the ground.

After writing a document for a few hours, I let it sit for a day, and edit the next day, before starting a new piece. Editing became a process to allow the piece to evolve and grow stronger.
I began to write like a pro. I began to write like an artist. A novel was born.

 

Want Instant Editing For Every Word You Write? Try Grammarly.

Who hates editing? I do. It takes away the fun of writing a big document, book or paper. But it has to be done.

I found a painless way to get editing done immediately. Or almost immediately.

It’s a computer editing ap called Grammarly. Once installed in the computer it catches every little slip of spelling and punctuation as I write.

It’s awesome. I write fast and not that accurately – at first. You know how writers write – get it down fast- before the inspiration disappears, and there are lots of slips.

The hard way to get edited can be painful. I belong to a writing critique group. Before Grammarly, I got good praise and encouragement, (thank goodness), but also a lot of red editing marks on my document. Horrors.

Then I had to rewrite and edit all the grammatical and spelling errors. Of course, I couldn’t remember some of my high school grammar classes. That was a long time ago.

Once I started to use Grammarly with it’s fine attention to detail, my documents got so much better with fewer editing errors.

The great thing about Grammarly is that it edits everything I write on my computer, my manuscript, blog posts, emails, Facebook posts. It’s painless!

It’s not just for authors. It’s for anyone who uses a computer to write anything that needs editing.

Give it a try.  click:   Grammarly Ap

See my writing  progress: Jenny Ferns Writer

Writers’ League Of The Villages, Book and Author Expo

The Writers’ League Of The Villages – WLOV – is hosting the Central Florida Book and Author Expo.

Are you and avid reader? Want your children or grandchildren to love reading? Come to The Book and Author Expo.  Over 40 authors will showcase their books for purchase. Many different genres are available: books for children, fiction, romance, mystery, thriller, business, sports, historical fiction, non-fiction.

Meet the many talented authors in Central Florida, get to know them and get a book signed.

Tell everyone about this exciting, fun event. Something for everyone, young or old.  Prizes too!

Save The Date: January 28, 2017, 9.00am to 3.00pm
Place: The Eisenhower Recreation Center, The Villages, Florida.

Are you a writer?  Explore what The Writers’ League of The Villages has to offer writers. It is the ‘umbrella’ organization that supports and encourages writers who live in The Villages. Whether you are a newbie writer or established, this organization is for everyone. WLOV

Have you ever visited the amazing Eisenhower Rec Center? Its is worth a trip if you have never been.  It is a museum with memorabilia from the military donated by veterans. Very moving.

See the video about the Central Florida Book and Author Expo:

Is Your Writing Sensuous? Does it Tickle Your Taste Buds?

Is your writing sensuous?

A presentation by a writers group “Writers In Time”, focused on developing writing with sensuous details that tickle the taste buds. Use the five senses and one other; smell, touch, sight, smell and the soul. A scene or place described richly will come alive and draw the reader deeper into the atmosphere and emotion. The reader will fall in love with your writing.

In ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens’ the writing is vivid.
“It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick steam, perpetually rising from the reeking bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog, which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above.”
The reader can almost smell the marketplace. (He does use a passive voice, which we try to avoid these days!)

Dylan Thomas wrote about his dying father:
“Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
He talks about ‘the dying of the light’ and ‘rage’, unusual uses of words that convey a powerful emotion about death.

A simple boring description of women going into a pub could be:
“They went into the pub and sat in the corner. Heather ordered a beer.”

Or something more vivid with sensuous details from my book:
“The heavy oak door swung on well-greased hinges into the bar of the ancient pub; timbers blackened with age and hundreds of years of smoke. Heather, as always in charge, found a secluded table in a shadowy corner, away from curious eyes. Veronica wrinkled her nose with distaste at the sour smell of beer.”

I don’t write romance, but sensuous details would definitely be sexy.

I take the time to enriching my writing. I want my readers to see, smell, taste, hear and feel my scenes.

Check my progress click: Jenny Ferns Writer

Got A Hook For The Heart Of The Matter With Your First Page?

Have you got a great hook for your first page?

What is a hook? What is The Heart of the Matter?

The first page is important to hook the reader to continue to read and turn the pages. There must be something that entices a reader to be curious and to think and feel deeply, to get an indication of the depth of the journey of curiosity and emotional connection to the protagonist and the dilemma presented right on the first page.

The Eagles’ ‘The Heart Of The Matter’ was about deep emotions; love, loss, forgiveness. So your reader must feel that the journey to the heart of the matter of your book will be a powerful experience, the whole way through. It starts with the first page.

My first attempts did not have a hook to get the reader to carry on turning pages. My writers’ group made that painfully obvious with my first attempts. They helped me feel better when they told me that it’s normal to take a long time to get it right. I have written and rewritten and agonized over my first page. I am not alone in that process.

Some thoughts to create a hook.
*The main character is immediately present.
*Action is already happening in a setting that is interesting.
*Some challenge reveals the hidden goals, desires, needs or fears.
*Dialogue brings action alive.
*No backstory.
*Some indication of plot goal.

Then the reader will continue to read, and the others too!

Resource for writing: ‘Writing The Heart of Your Story’ by C.S. Larkin

Check out my progress: click: Jenny Ferns Writer

 

 

 

Meet My Lovely In-house Editor Helps Authors Look Good

I am in love with my friendly, in-house editor. It is possible to edit painlessly at home.

A piece of writing I labored over was perfect. I thought everyone would love it. Right?
That’s what I thought when I first joined a writers’ group. Wrong! My ego got a little bruised. The piece needed extensive editing.

Because I loved reading, it didn’t mean I knew everything about writing. English grammar from high school was a dim memory. I had forgotten the rules.

Fortunately, the ten or more people in my critique group gently refreshed my memory about good writing. The edits came back. Red marks all over! Horrors!

Then I found Autocrit.
I managed to transform my writing before the group got their eyes on the work. That was much better.
Autocrit is a friendly in-house computer program manuscript editor.

It was easy. I copied and pasted a piece of my writing into the editor. Then it told me about passive/active errors, overuse of adverbs, overuse of dialogue tags, overuse of cliches. It gave me a score, and as I made changes, I watched my work improve, and the score got higher. Yes!

I refreshed my memory and rewrites became a part of learning. I was grateful. My writing improved. I could even recognize editing errors in others. I made progress.

I did the edits. Autocrit editor told me what to correct. So I learned and edited writing errors at the same time.
It might even save me hiring a human editor. It does it so well.

Every writer and author would benefit from such a friendly in-house editor.
Want to give it a try? Try Autocrit editor

My writing progress: click Jenny Ferns Writer

Growing Pains of a Writer. Are you a writer? Or a wannabe writer?

1. Thinking is the start. Not doing the shopping to do list. I do my best thinking — that is creative thinking when –
a) I drink my tea in bed in the morning. It is a quiet time. No interruptions. My thoughts wander.
b) I dream, and remember what I dreamed—fast before I forget.
c) walking my dog and she is collecting pee-mails.
d) weeding or pruning my garden.

2. Write my thoughts fast—by hand in a notebook. It is amazing what happens when one thought leads to the next.

3. Just start to write anything that comes, by the seat of my pants. That gets the juice going. Then change and think some more. Change again. Throw it away and start again! Eventually the writing on page looks good and it feels right.

4. Next time. Plan it out a bit first before letting thoughts flow. Channeling the process a little helps. The writing comes out more formed and hey, it’s much better.

5. Throw away my ego. Show my scratchings to another writer or a group of writers. The feedback that comes is good, bad and ugly, but that helps. Tears don’t help. I learned not to take anything personally. This is just help to get the writing better. It does get better.

check out my progress: click Jenny Ferns Writer