On Making Readers Cry

Portrait of the beautiful sweet womanSo much can happen in a year. Sometimes it’s good to revisit past moments, mental snapshots we take and swear we’ll never forget. But we’re human, and we do. I’m republishing one of the Divine Tease Blog posts that was lost in the changeover last spring. Not because I’m lazy, although I am.  🙂 But because it is relevant once again.

Brokenhearted Beauty received reader acclaim that made me blush. To hear that readers love my books and my characters and wish they could move to Divine makes me giddy with pleasure and burn with motivation to write them more erotic romances set there.

But Brokenhearted Beauty also made readers cry. It made me cry when I wrote it and as I edited it. It wasn’t the hardest book I’ve ever written but it was an emotional rollercoaster and I knew it would be for readers as well.

There’s catharsis in tears, if the reader is willing. Many called it an “ugly cry” kind of book, soaking Kleenex, towels, slinging snot, setting the book down to take a break because it got to them so much. But for every tear I hope there was also a laugh or a sigh. After all, it’s still a love story with a happily ever after.Fashion portrait of a very muscular sexy man

I was searching for something else and happened upon the blog post I wrote in October of 2013 and wanted to share once again, the deeper inspiration behind Patterson Elder’s character, and my future hero, Noah Cassidy. I’ve yammered on enough, so here it is…


I Once Knew this Kid

My first conversation with him occurred when he was in sixth grade. I was a new parent at the school he attended, where my firstborn was a kindergartner. In an attempt to fight off lingering post-partum depression, I’d volunteered to work in the school office each Friday. It was a difficult task for an introvert like me, but I greeted the kids every Friday and got to know all their parents for many years to come.

He was an extrovert, and that’s all I knew about him until the day my son and I encountered him in Wal-Mart one weekend. He was all banged up, face cut, bruised, and limping, but he was exuberant. You see, the day before, he and his dad had been involved in an ultra-light aircraft crash, and they’d both made it through with just cuts and bruises. The very thought terrified me, but as he described what happened, the only word I can think of to describe his reaction to the experience was exuberance. His eyes positively glowed as he told me about it, and I was a mom he barely knew.

Like many young men, the middle school years were difficult. He was short for his age but he made up for it with a tendency to be aggressive. He was out-spoken, and at times a bit of an ass. I once personally had a run in with him for bullying a student who had social difficulties with underlying medical causes. He bullied this student in my presence and he and I had some face to face time over it. That may shock you but what is even more shocking is that he showed me respect, he backed down, and he apologized. He went through a phase where every word out of his mouth seemed to get him into trouble. But through it all, he was still the same exuberant, extroverted kid.

I’m ashamed now to say that at the end of his freshman year, when I found out he wouldn’t be returning to our school, having chosen to go to the local public high school, I was glad. I thought him to be prideful, disruptive, and at times hurtful to those around him. He discovered in our local high school what many students and parents discover when they seek greener pastures, and he petitioned to come back the following year, for eleventh grade. At that time, I wasn’t happy but I hoped the experience had humbled him.

Instead, he humbled me. Because the young man returning to our school was the same energetic, extroverted leader I knew he would be…only now he was on fire. I was worried at first until I shared a few conversations with him and began to realize he’d changed. I was thankful for the change because by this point my son was a student at this school…and he idolized this young man. All the little kids did, because he made time for every one of them. If they approached him in the hallway, he always got down on their level and give them high fives and encouraged them. Each summer, he helped with football camp and basketball camp, and my son’s admiration for him only grew.

His senior year, I felt blessed to have seen the transformation this young man experienced. He’d managed to grow beyond the uncomfortable, awkward, stinky, hormonally-out-of-control kid I’d always known into a young man with true potential.

I will never forget the morning I pulled up on a Friday morning with the kids in tow, probably running late as usual. He parked behind me with his radio blasting, cut the ignition, got out and sang, at the top of his lungs, “That how country boys roll!” I’m a Billy Currington fan, and he and I shared a laugh over that. The kids were awed.

He was a musician, and an athlete, and a drama student, and he excelled at all three. He and his buddies took a very harsh beating at the state football championships when they were freshman against a team of corn-fed boys who were built like men. I mean they didn’t just beat them, they HURT them.

His best friend told him, “When we’re seniors we’re going to beat the $#!& out of those &*$%@#-&*)*@#$!!”

And you know what?

They did.

Their senior year, they beat that same team for the state championship, transforming our football program for years to come, just because of the belief he and his friends instilled.

During this time, I began writing, pursuing my own fledgling dreams. I was yet unpublished, and I was developing the story for what would eventually become Rosemary’s Double Delight. I was taking a risk with this story because the beginning includes a series of flashbacks from when my characters are young: kindergarten age, middle school age, and high school and college age. My characters were difficult. They didn’t always get along and they hit lots of bumps in the road. As you can probably guess, one character in particular resonated with me, because he reminded me of this young man I knew. He wasn’t perfect but he had a good heart. And that guy somehow wormed his way into my character’s heart. He was so much fun to write.

I watched this guy grow and mature. My career took off, and like with many other friends who have inspired characters, I could never tell him he’d inspired me. It just wasn’t going to happen but I was still grateful to him. He could sing his heart out. He could act the fool on stage with such genius. And he carried the football with honor, heart, and courage.

He graduated from our school and went on to college with a full scholarship with plans to join the military. I hated his new haircut but I was so proud of him. He came back for our home football games and he would smile and wave at everyone. He would talk to everyone. And the kids…oh, the kids adored him, because he remembered them, including my son, who he’d been throwing a football to since he was four years old.

The funny thing about guys like him is that they approach the world head-on with guts and determination, sometimes forgetting they aren’t bullet-proof. Two weeks ago, he got on his motorcycle, without his helmet, and never made it to his destination. A driver failed to yield, and after impact, he flew fifty feet through the air and landed on his head. An emergency worker just happened to be at the scene of the accident and she was there comforting him as his cognitive abilities faded.

The outpouring, the uproar, and the force that is Facebook lit up with the pleas and prayers for this young man. I heard about this secondhand, as I am unable to have a personal Facebook page. But what I heard didn’t surprise me a bit.

At his funeral, which happened in a standing room only crowd, and took two and a half hours because of the stories people shared from his life, I learned something amazing. Because he had signed up to be a tissue and organ donor, with his vital organs, he has already saved the lives of FIVE people. He gave sight to two individuals. His skin, tissues, veins and blood will help between 50-100 people. The donation coordinator was able to go from the operating table where his heart was harvested, to the OR where it was implanted into another person, thus completing the circle of life for an organ donor. One of his vital organs went to his own godfather.

Some people might call it a fluke, the way the accident happened, the fact that he was brain-dead but otherwise uninjured, but I don’t think it was. His funeral was attended by hundreds from the school he grew up attending, from his church, and from his college. His pallbearers were all classmates from high school and fellow athletes. One look at them and it was painfully obvious their hearts were in shreds. His best friend, a sweet, introverted guy, came out of his shell to deliver one of the eulogies to honor him. My heart broke as his mom followed along behind his casket, crying her eyes out.

That day was a hard day. My son sat beside me at the service and all I could think was, don’t smother him with requested promises to wear his helmet if he ever gets a motorcycle, don’t remind him constantly to keep his head up when he’s playing football, and don’t beg him not to text and drive. I had to smile, because I know I’m going to do all those things anyway because I just can’t help myself. He and I went to Wal-Mart today, because he got his first quarter report card and he had all A’s. I promised him a reward for all A’s and he got Pokemon cards. And yeah, he’s a sixth grader, and it makes me wonder who he’s inspiring with his exuberance and extroversion.

Basketball seasons starts soon for our middle-schoolers. On the first game day, my heart will burst with happiness when I see him step aside with a team mate to quietly pray before the game. I’ll thank God, because I know that my son learned by the example of not only his parents, but also from his hero, who stopped to pray before every game. And I’ll think of this guy I knew, who was going to grow up and do great things.

I can’t type his real name here, but you know him as Evan Garner, of Rosemary’s Double Delight, Patterson Elder of Brokenhearted Beauty, and Noah Cassidy…of some book yet to be written in Divine, Texas.


*************ONE VERY IMPORTANT NOTE 😀 This mom feels compelled to share with all of you that my middle school son scored his very first TOUCHDOWN tonight! 😀 High Fives and Hugs to Brattley Rainier!!!***********

If you’ve read Brokenhearted Beauty already, thanks for taking that journey with me. If you haven’t yet, you can find it here. Click on the link to the right and you will find a blurb and preview link for the excerpts.

Today is September 11th. I will never forget.

Everyone have a fantastic day. I think I’m going to go sit in the sun…and just be grateful.

~H

4 thoughts on “On Making Readers Cry

  1. Heather

    Thank you for sharing. Sometimes we need the crying so that we can move to the next phase.

    I love your books but especially Divine Grace with Grace.

    I wish you continued success both professionally and personally.

    G

  2. What a wonderful young man..I believe that some people come into this world and burn so bright,then leave us with all this feelings of what could have been. You just have to be glad you were there to share their time. I think of people like that as Angels. I have also been lucky enough to have one in my life and when you look back you realise they always seemed to know they were never going to be with us forever and needed to experience everything now…..

    I also cried reading about him….I also love reading your books many times over and to be able to laugh and cry that just makes the story more heartfelt for me….

    I want you to write books so I can treasure them forever.

    1. Thank you, Heather. I think you’re right, in that many of us have known people who were like super novas in life. They burn bright while they are with us and leave a lasting impression. I’ve known several in my life. I think creating characters and storylines that reflected his “reality” as well as his “might-have-been” was my way of making sense of the tragedy

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