Flashbulb Memories

Skellig Michael, our first time.

Skellig Michael, our first time.

If the weather is cooperative, we’re off at the Skellig Islands today, climbing a long, steep trail of steps and exploring an ancient monastery.

In the meantime, remember when I was guest blogging?  One of my gracious hosts was mystery author Kassandra Lamb, and we talked about Conner Prairie, the inspiration for my book setting.

Kassandra is so awesome that she’s helping me out again, giving you something to think about while I’m taking an overdue break from my computer.   She’s sharing some insights into the shocking moments our brains can’t forget – take it away, Kass!


While Jen is off gallivanting on a much deserved vacation, I promised to hold down the fort for her today.

Between her recent release of Through the Shimmer of Time and the 13th anniversary of 9/11 this week, I’ve had history on my mind lately.

We read about history, write about history, hear about it and sometimes even see it in the making on TV. But what happens when historical events become entwined with our own personal histories in our memory banks?

This often happens when an event is particularly shocking, tragic and/or strikes close to home for us emotionally. Our brains will record what’s called a flashbulb memory. We will remember, years later, where we were and what we were doing (and sometimes even what we were wearing) when we heard the news of such events.

My first flashbulb memory is from the day President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in 6th grade, and my class was outside playing softball during our Phys Ed period. We were called back in mid-game and told the news by our teacher. I can’t remember her name but I can see her face as she told us.

Challenger_Rocket_Booster_-_GPN-2000-001422 pub domain

Challenger explosion: I was eating dinner in a restaurant, when I saw this image on the TV over the bar. (image: public domain)

I have similar flashbulb memories of when I received the news of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, of the space shuttle Challenger explosion, and of course from 9/11.

These are called flashbulb memories because they are recorded so vividly, as if our brain is actually taking a picture of the moment. These memories, like those of traumatic events in our personal lives, tend to be more accurate than normal memory.

A lot of people find that counter-intuitive. If you’re emotionally upset, wouldn’t that interfere with recording the memory? Well, yes, most of the hormones released when we’re stressed do interfere, so there may be gaps in our memories of what happened. But another hormone, released in moments of extreme stress, enhances the recording of the memory.

Thus the flashbulb effect. A very vivid image, often a bit suspended in time, and often with details missing from the moments before and after it.

800px-Tribute_in_Light_memorial_on_September_11,_2010 by  Ekabhishek CC BY 2pt0 wiki

World Trade Center “A Tribute in Light” memorial. Photo: Ekabhishek, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

At 9:30 a.m. on 9/11/2001, I had just come in from feeding the horses (we had a small horse farm at the time) and was about to change my clothes to start my work day as a therapist. The front door opened and there was my husband, a government worker who should have been twenty miles away at his desk.

I remember standing at the top of the short flight of steps that went down to our foyer and asking him why he’d come home. I only remember bits and pieces of the conversation after that. But to this day, I can see him standing in that doorway, and I remember what I was wearing.

It used to be one of my favorite shirts. Now I don’t wear it often because it reminds me, on a very visceral level, of that day.

What flashbulb memories stand out in your personal history?

ZeroHeroFinalSmPlease check out my book, Zero Hero, which explores the unhealed wounds of 9/11 through a fictional mystery. I found it difficult but healing to write. Many readers have told me they had the same reaction reading it–difficult in places, but healing.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 the media replays the videos of that day’s devastation, and a national hero’s life begins to unravel.

When the first responder–already struggling with delayed PTSD and addiction–is accused of murdering his former drug dealer, psychotherapist Kate Huntington finds herself going above and beyond to help him. As she and her P.I. husband set out to clear him of the charges, they are thrust into a deadly world of drugs, prostitutes and hired killers, and end up questioning who they are and what it means to be brave.

Image00005Zero Hero is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Apple iTunes.

Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist and college professor turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series. Zero Hero is the 6th book in the series, but is also designed to be read as a stand-alone.


It’s Jen again.  I’m obviously not around to comment here, but Kassandra will be!  Do you have particular memories of these history-making events?  Do you have a personal flashbulb moment you’d be willing to share?

Leave a comment below, and I’ll be back in a couple weeks!


Am I Coming or Going?

Time travel is great, but how about the ability to split yourself and be several places at once?

Photo by Michael Sean Terretta via Flickr, CC

I’ve been guest blogging to get the word out about Shimmer, and today I’m over with mystery writer Kassandra Lamb and the rest of the gang at Misterio Press.  They asked me to write about Conner Prairie itself – the living history park that was the inspiration for Through the Shimmer of Time.  And as a bonus for you, I even included some of the mistakes I almost made!

I felt like I was splitting myself when, at almost the same time, the uber-creative Coleen Patrick hosted my dilemma over just how much creativity I can really claim.  I thought it was Blog Stop #3, but gee, let’s go back and count.  No, it was #4, which means I’ve done . . . hmm, I’m not sure my brain has the energy to count.  I just know it feels like I’ve written more than I have in a l-o-n-g time, especially since Shimmer has been in edits and production for the last while.

Do you get the idea that my head is spinning out of control?  Me too.

I am immensely grateful for the chance to write and get the word out, though, and for bloggers who are willing to help.  Wouldn’t you agree they’re awesome?  So while I recover from all the deadline writing, would you show some support for my blog hosts and see what wacky things I’ve written for them?  Please click over and read (and comment!) on these posts:

  1. End-of-summer, back-to-school rituals.  Or not.  At Myndi Shafer’s Ordinary, Extraordinary Life
  2. “Booking a Time Travel Vacation,” in which I put in requests with a special kind of travel agent.  At Pauline Jones’ The Perils of Pauline: Life Happens. A lot
  3. Favorite “Olden Days” moments that captured my imagination, with another middle grade writer, Lynn Kelley.
  4. My struggle with creativity (and a look into how my mind works, if anyone is brave enough), over at Coleen Patrick’s Read. Smile. Repeat.
  5. And finally, we’re “Walking the Paths of the Past,” spotlighting Conner Prairie and the advantages of “being there” for historical research at Misterio Press.

But wait!  Don’t call yet!  For $19.95, you also get . . . . No, seriously, there’s one more Blog Stop to go – an actual interview about writing – scheduled to hit the blogosphere next week via Joanna Aislinn.  Watch for it!

PS:  Did you notice?  There’s a new tab at the top:  “Read an Excerpt!”  Click on it and see what Through the Shimmer of Time is all about.

Chasing the Mailman

Photo by Greg Goebel, Flickr Creative Commons license

Follow that mail truck!

Friday:  Waiting for the mailman is a difficult thing for an author.  The postal tracking number showed that the print proof of Through the Shimmer of Time would arrive today, and the mail comes about noon.  I worked hard on guest blogs in the morning so I could enjoy the moment.

11:30 – No mail yet.

12:05 – Mail!  But no book package!

12:07 – Back inside, I check the USPS tracking number on the computer.  “On Delivery,” it says.

Is it on a package-only mail truck?  Or did it go astray? We’ve had mail mis-delivered before. I sign up for text alerts and they send one immediately, telling me once again that it is “on delivery.”

12:32 – My phone chimes.  The text from USPS says that the package has been delivered.

12:32 – I check the mailbox again.  I check the front porch and beside the big garage door.  No package.

12:33 – I call the number in the text.  “Welcome to USPS.com.  Listen carefully to the following options.”  I hang up.  I find the number for the local post office and call.  Busy signal.  Re-dial.  Another busy signal.

I pace.  I empty the dishwasher.  I pace some more.  Another call to the post office, another busy signal.

12:45 – I can’t take it anymore.  I grab the keys and leave.  I will hunt this mail carrier down!

Turn right out the driveway, since that’s the direction she would have gone.  Skip the dead-end street next to us – she’d be past that by now.  Pause at the entrance to the large subdivision, keep driving.  Pause at the entrance to the smaller subdivision, keep driving.  Not sure why, I just think I need to check the next road and come into the subdivisions the back way.  Maybe meet the mail carrier on her way out.

The pavement makes a 90 degree turn and becomes another road.  I head up that and my view is blocked by a big van.  I should be able to see half a mile up the road but I can’t see past him.  My grip on the steering wheel tightens.  This is serious stuff, folks!

The van turns left, no vehicles are ahead.  I make a quick decision to turn into the back entrance of the small subdivision.  The entrance splits and I have to decide right or left.  I pull over to look at my Maps app and check the layout, and I catch a glimpse of a postal truck.  Success!

I zoom over there, where he (he?) is trying to get to mailboxes in and around a long line of parked cars.  Someone is having a Saturday party.  I go past him, park in the road with my flashers on, and dash back on foot.  I give him my address (after he pulls his headphones out) and yes, he’s my mail carrier.  A sub, not my regular lady.  The conversation goes something like this:

“You had a package for me and I didn’t get it, even though tracking says it’s been delivered.”

He checks his bins.  “I don’t have it here.”

“I know, but is there a way to find out where it is?”

“I don’t know.  Without the package, I don’t have any information.”

Sigh.  “Look, here’s the tracking number, can you do anything with that?”

“Not really.”  He looks through his bins again, maybe just to mollify me because we already know it’s not there.

“It says you delivered at 12:32.  Can you figure out where you were at 12:32? That’s 20 minutes ago.”  We had a package go astray a few weeks ago, no big deal, but it took the residents four or five days to get it to us.  I CAN’T WAIT FOUR OR FIVE DAYS, I scream in my head.

“Twenty minutes ago . . . hmm, it might be on (names road).”  It’s the one that ours turns into after the corner.

We speak at the same time.  “I’ll go look.”  “I’ll follow you.”

Lo and behold, there’s a house on that street with the same number as our house, and yes, my package is there.  He apologizes sincerely.  I grill him as to who sorts the mail into the bins (the carriers or the office staff) so I know who to blame next time.  Because there will be a next time, I’m sure.  But I don’t yell or scold or anything.  I’m polite, even pleasant.  (Pick your jaw up off the floor, now, Sis!)

I thank him and leave, book package in hand.  But do I get to enjoy it?  No!  I still have to shop for salad ingredients for Cutest-Grandbaby-in-the-World’s second birthday, make said salad, wrap presents and then we leave. I’ll finally get to examine it on the hour’s drive to her party.

In My Hands:  Through the Shimmer of Time

In My Hands: Through the Shimmer of Time

But I did take time for a picture.

FYI:  The print proof has been edited and is now in the queue at Amazon.  It will become available anytime between Monday and Saturday.  Keep checking!

Also, it probably won’t be linked to the Kindle version for another week or two.  Be sure you click into the one you want!

Can You Love the ‘Olden Days’ and Hate History?

It’s time for Stop #3 on the Blog Tour:  I’m over at fellow middle grade author Lynn Kelley’s blog today talking about my favorite “Olden Days” times.  Stop by for a visit, and see if you have the same love/hate relationship with History that I do.  (And yes, that’s a capital H on purpose!)

Update on Through the Shimmer of Time:  I’m waiting for the mail carrier today . . . tomorrow . . . SOON!  The print proof has been shipped and I’ll go through it once more as soon as I get it into my hot little hands.  Cross your fingers – and watch this space!

Now, pop on over to Lynn’s, please.  She’s awesome and I’d love to have some of my readers leave comments over there!

Laughing with Robin Williams

If you’re old enough (or are a “Nick at Night” fan), do you remember an episode of Mork & Mindy where, at Christmas time, Mindy was showing Mork her Gucci angel and then had to explain what angels were? And then Mork took the Gucci angel in his hands, lifted it up and launched it, saying, “Fly, little angel, be free!” Crash, tinkle, tinkle.

That’s one of my favorite comedy lines ever, and Mork & Mindy was where I first met Robin Williams. Throughout his career, it was the greatest fun trying to figure out what was actually in the script and what he simply ad-libbed. We recognized most of the references in Mrs. Doubtfire, but are still trying to figure out some of the ones from Aladdin‘s genie.  And his portrayal of the genie is what, in my mind, began shifting kids cartoons into something that could be thoroughly enjoyed by adults at the same time.

With the help of IMDB, here are some fond memories:

Robin Williams Mrs DDaniel: [Posing as a caller for the housekeeper ad] I am job.

Miranda: Do you speak English?

Daniel: I am job.

Miranda: I’m sorry, the position has been filled. [Hangs up] [Answers phone again] Hello?

Daniel: [This time with a southern drawl] … Aaaaaargh! Laila, get back into your cell! Don’t make me get the hose! Hello?


Robin Williams-Aladdin3192

image courtesy of Disney.Wikia.com

Aladdin: You’re a prisoner?

Genie: It’s all part and parcel, the whole genie gig.

[grows to a gigantic size] Phenomenal cosmic powers!

[shrinks down inside the lamp]   Itty bitty living space!


Robin Williams dead-poets-society-04

Dead Poets Society, IMDB.com

But some of Robin Williams’ roles had a lot of thought-provoking dialogue, both for creativity and for living life.  From Dead Poet’s Society:

John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?

Dalton: To feel taller!

John Keating: No! [Dings a bell with his foot] Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.


And while the humor is what first fills my mind when I think of Robin Williams, this quote is the advice to live by:

John Keating: They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – - Carpe – - hear it? – - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

Goodbye, Mr. Williams, and be at peace.  We’ll miss you.

(And before I forget, dear reader, do you have a favorite Robin Williams movie moment?  Please share!)

Dreaming of a Time Travel Agent!

Photo: William Worby via Flikr Commons

The Ultimate Time Machine!  Photo: William Worby via Flikr Commons    

For the second stop on my Shimmer of Time blog tour,  I’m talking to a time travel agent about the possibilities of booking a trip to the when of my dreams!

So many choices – where and when do I want to go?  And where would YOU want to go?

Hop on over to The Perils of Pauline to discover my favorite time travel trips, and to tell us about your own.  Or come back here and leave your dream trip in my comments!

And in the meantime, great news!  Through the Shimmer of Time popped up to #6 in one of its Kindle categories yesterday, and even made the top 100 in ALL time travel books, including umpteen versions of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and all the Magic Tree House books.


What Do My Kids Remember About Summer? Not What You’d Think!

Horses, swimming, campfires . . . you’d think my kids would have awesome end-of-summer memories.  But what do they say when I ask them what they remember?  And what Labor Day trick did my parents play on me as a kid?

For the answer, click here to go to Myndi Shafer’s blog – I’m guest posting over there today!

And when you’re done laughing at how gullible I was, check out some of Myndi’s posts – she’s hilarious!

Today’s the Day!

Come celebrate with me!

Through the Shimmer of Time is now available on Amazon.com!

It’s in Kindle format only right now, but there are free Kindle apps for any iPad, tablet or non-Apple device out there.  And once you buy it, you can even lend it to someone else!

(Note:  clicking here takes you to Amazon through my affiliate link, which means that you pay your normal price but I get a few extra pennies.  More about that in a later post.)

The print version is coming soon, hopefully within a week.

And for all my friends in Ireland and England *waves*, you can head for Amazon.co.uk.  It’s even on the French and German sites, although the book is still in English.  Sorry, you can’t have everything.

And now, on with the celebration!

snoopy happy dance photo: Snoopy Dance dancing20snoopy.gif
(Snoopy’s dance courtesy of photobucket.com)

Shimmer of Time: Cover Reveal

I have two new shiny things to distract you today!  Well, make that one shiny and one a bit dingy.  And if you get this in your email, you’ll have to click the title – the pictures only show up on the blog.

The best new shiny is the official cover reveal for Through the Shimmer of Time.  I’m thrilled with it, and with my cover designer, Melinda VanLone, of Book Cover Corner.

Middle grade time-travel adventures!          

The cover design comes with its own story.  Because I wanted my cover characters to be the right age, and because of the 1830s period (the Civil War era would have been much easier), stock photography sites didn’t have anything we could use.  So guess who turned photographer?

I found two awesome young people who were very willing to be part of my book journey, set my trustworthy old Canon on “sport” so the shutter speed was fast enough to compensate for hand shakes, and we did some hot, muggy photo shoots.  Add Melinda’s magic, and voila!  What do you think?

Also, I’ve been digging around to find a countdown clock.  I thought it would be pretty, but I’m having problems getting it to look like I want.  Sigh . . . the trials and tribulations of a non-programmer, who has to get back to the business of producing a book.  But it’s here, up in the top right of the page.  Mark your calendars and set your watches – that’s how long until Shimmer becomes available on Amazon.

Surrounded by Story

Notice anything different?

I’ve been thinking about the direction I want this blog to take. Everything I’ve written has fallen under the “Reading, Writing & Real Life” categories, but that’s because everything fits there. Reading meant favorite books while Writing has included how-to’s, the writing life, and my own work-in-progress.

The mish-mash that is my blog

The mish-mash that is my blog

Real Life, on the other hand, has ranged from learning to quilt to living in Ireland to the simple pleasures in life. Those are all fine, but sometimes I go off on a rant about trivial things that should probably be left for Facebook, or ramble about something that’s probably too personal and shouldn’t be posted at all.  Writer’s remorse?  Oh yes.

As I come back to regular blogging now, I’d like a little more focus.  I’ve pondered, tested out ideas, and pondered some more.  What I keep coming back to is story.

The stories I read and the stories I write – yes, of course they’ll still be here.  But also the stories that surround us all.

photo by "nickkmoch" via freeimages.comThe best family gatherings aren’t about the food or asking how old a niece or nephew is now, they’re about getting to know one another, telling stories around the dinner table or campfire.

Time spent with friends is often best when we do more than ask how the job or kids are, but share stories about particular times.  “He said this” and “I did that” are the stories of our days.

My Dad

My Dad

I do a lot of genealogy, but just finding names and dates aren’t enough.  As I learn the details of my ancestors’ lives, they become real people to me and I can imagine their stories.

Stories connect us to each other.  Stories enrich our lives.  Stories give us hope and empathy and new ideas.  And as we take those connections and feelings and incorporate them into our own lives, our own stories grow into something to be shared.

I can’t imagine life without being surrounded by story.  I hope you’ll enjoy the stories I share, and that you’ll share some of your own, too.photo by "asafesh" via freeimages.com