Just keep swimming.
If you're an author, you'll know what I mean when I say I truly struggled to keep writing this year. Thankfully, I did manage to publish both Redemption's Road and, my latest, Sovereign Chance in this abomination of a year.
Sometimes I felt Dory in Finding Nemo. This entire year I felt like I was swimming through Covid fog, and I know I wasn't alone.
I'm an avid reader, and I know how nailbiting it can be waiting for the newest book in a series that you've fallen in love with. I'm forever grateful to the readers who let me know how much they've been looking forward to the next Five Points series book. I certainly struggled mightily. I made a promise to myself and others, that Sovereign Chance would get published this year. I wanted to deliver the story and am happy to say I did it.
I've mentioned to you many times that I am a born Murphy. If you remember, there are several stanzas of the law attributed to my last name. The first three general ones are guiding principles of my life. Writing this story fell right in line.
Covid consumed my world with concern for my fellow firefighters, my family, my community, and my own safety in this deadly virus. I watched my nurse and doctor friends struggle with extremely critical patients and a heavy death toll. This will not be a year I will look back on fondly, but that's a whole other blog that's coming soon.
When I came up with my storyline for Sovereign Chance, I could never have imagined the real-world events when I went to write it. Though the story's situation is vastly different, one of the plotlines revolves around a group of individuals that believe the United States Government is illegal and fraudulent. Sound familiar? A group with subversive with antigovernment ties ultimately put my hero in jeopardy.
In 2016, a group of these same individuals claiming to be Sovereign Citizens seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 for over a month.
The saying "you don't know what you don't know," also came into play. As authors, the readers expect us to do research and try and make our scenarios as true to life as possible to make the story believable. Readers are mostly forgiving when we embellish some small things for entertainment purposes. By contrast, there are certain things you have to get right. If not, it shows a complete disrespect for the struggle of those who live with different abilities in their real lives. That is a major responsibility.
With every book I write, I ask the fantastic AJ Adaire to read through it and let me know if she sees problems. On this particular issue, she's as close to a subject matter expert as you can get. She and her partner, The Queen, spent their teaching careers in education with the deaf and hard of hearing. I got a note back that we needed a major rewrite when it came to a major storyline. AJ and I have a fantastic working relationship. Over the years, I've come to respect and love her 'sledgehammer held in a velvet glove'. If you are going to ask someone for their help, be willing to fix what they tell you is broken. With all that being said, I included this forward in Sovereign Chance.
In book four of the Five Point series, I attempt to tackle the plight of a young boy with severe hearing loss brought into the lives of my main character through tragedy. If you have read the other books, you might remember Hunter, a small boy who overdosed on drugs left lying around. It also led to an unexpected overdose of my main character, Jax, as she performed duties as a paramedic. Hunter was born into poverty and hasn’t had the advantages available to many born with hearing. I realize there are great difficulties faced by real individuals in their ability to communicate with those around them. Their educational opportunities are different, and without intervention, they could be left at a disadvantage.
In my first draft of Sovereign Chance, I unknowingly glossed over many of those issues until I consulted with those who have lived with the struggle and those who have educated children with hearing loss. I will admit that romanticizing the character and his abilities at six might make for a good book, but it would feel like I was diminishing the achievements of those in the deaf community. I’ve tried to explain some of those struggles and admittedly have taken some liberties in finding solutions to make the book enjoyable for the reader. What I don’t want to do is offend those individuals who walk through life with this reality. As Hunter grows, I hope to accurately bring attention to the difficulties and be an advocate for realistic solutions. There are those among us who are differently-abled than others. They are part of the fabric of humanity and deserve their rightful portrayal in the pages of a book. Everyone needs to recognize themselves in the characters and dialogue authors write. I just hope I’ve done them justice.
Don’t worry. There is still plenty of action and adventure between these pages, but I pride myself in being able to blend those scenes with romance, love, and family. Enjoy.
After I released it, I got an instant message from a reader that had me sighing with relief. "I just finished Sovereign Chance and loved it. I’m an audiologist so when I read the author’s note in the beginning regarding including a character with hearing loss I was apprehensive. I’ve seen hearing impairment and audiology represented in other fiction poorly more often than not so I was not optimistic that you would do it any better. I was glad to be wrong, though. I think your effort was commendable and there were only a couple of very minor inaccuracies. I hope you choose to expand this storyline further in future books."
I'll take that all day long. I hope you come away as happy as they did. Enjoy this small excerpt from Sovereign Chance.
Chance wasn’t the least bit surprised to see the small dark-haired boy curled up in Jax’s arms, both of them fast asleep with a blanket over them. For the first time since the call came in, Chance sighed with relief. She was so thankful that her partner in life was willing to walk this road with her, no matter how many potholes the blacktop delivered. Hunter’s hair was damp, and a hot chocolate mustache dotted his upper lip. She heard a car door shut and turned to look out the window as her mother climbed out.
Maggie walked in with an armload of clothes and kissed Chance on the cheek as she passed. “Jax called me. I kept some of the clothes Eddie outgrew. I can’t tell you how many times I thought about sending these to charity. Something always made me stop. I guess now I know why.”
Chance touched a blue and green item on the top of the stack. “I bought him this dinosaur shirt. I’m sure Hunter will love it just as much.”
“How is he?”
“Clean, fed, and asleep, which is a thousand percent better than when Jax picked him up.” Chance crossed her arms over her chest and clenched her teeth so tightly, she could feel her jaw starting to spasm.
Maggie reached up and cupped Chance’s face. “Don’t crack a molar over this. You did the right thing. He’s safe now. The rest we can figure out in the morning.” She touched the clothes. “They might be a little big on him, but they’re clean. I couldn’t find any shoes, but I’ll take care of that in the morning. Have you heard anything about his mother’s condition?”
“No, I called but they would only say she was being seen. They won’t tell us anything that would violate HIPAA. Privacy laws are a double-edged sword. I’m more worried about Hunter.”
“Dee and I’ll come back by around nine and make breakfast. She can make her famous Mickey Mouse pancakes for Hunter. That should make him smile.”
Chance took a deep breath and said a small prayer of thanks for the blessing of her family and the love that surrounded them all.
Over the next few hours, Chance made calls to obtain warrants. She’d urged Jax to lay down on the couch. Hunter was curled contentedly at her side and the two of them slept soundly. She was born to be a mother. If only we hadn’t been torn apart. We’d have our own kids by now.
At eight, Chance called CPS and relayed everything she knew. The woman on the other end of the line was someone she was familiar with. April Reeve had been with the Department of Health and Human Resources for many years. She was damn good at her job, and Chance had witnessed the toll the job had taken on the woman now in her sixties.
“This one is going to be tough, Chance. Very few people know any sign language, and Hunter doesn’t read or write well enough yet to express his needs in that way. The place he was at while Crissy was in rehab had a picture board they used for him to point to. They aren’t available, because they already have two new children in their care. His limited communication skills really cause an issue. We could try to put him at the West Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind over in Romney. I can start working on that, though that could take a while.”
Chance looked in to see that Jax and Hunter were awake and playing on the floor with some toy fire trucks and police cars from a keepsake collection she kept on the mantle. Jax’s smile lit up the room, as Hunter used her bent knees as a tunnel. Jax had canceled her morning appointments so that she could stay with him while Chance followed up on the case. “April, hypothetically, what would Jax and I need to do to foster Hunter? We both know some sign language, and he’s familiar with us.”
Chance turned and looked out the window, as the phone line went silent for a few minutes. She could hear the tapping on a keyboard in the background.
“I’d need to get back to you on this. As I’ve said, he’s a hard placement.”
“My sign language is par at best after the classes I’ve taken, but he always seems to understand Jax.”
“That’s another point in your favor. We’d have to do a home evaluation. There are forms and background checks you’d both need to have, not that I’m worried about them. It’s standard procedure.”
“Let me talk with Jax, though I’m sure I know her answer. Go ahead and get the ball rolling on an emergency placement with us if that’s possible. If not, maybe with my moms?”
“Hunter’s mother is the only blood relative we’ve ever identified. His father is unknown. None was listed on his birth certificate. For the time being, he’s a ward of the state. I’ll get everything ready and make the calls to see if this is acceptable. Talk with Jax and let me know. We’ve placed different kids over the years with Maggie and Dee, so I’m sure we can make that happen. For the time being, as long as it’s acceptable with you, I’ll leave Hunter there. If Jax declines, I’ll start checking with the School for the Deaf.”
Chance blew out a long, slow breath. “This kid has been through hell. I know the school is an option, but he needs some personalized attention right now. Last year he almost died and now his mother might. He’s been living in squalid conditions. If we can keep him with us, I think it will be beneficial to him.”
“I don’t disagree, Sheriff. Let me know.”
I'd be thrilled if this little snippet is enough to encourage you to, once again, take a ‘Chance’ on my latest offering. You can pick up a copy at all of the usual retail outlets. I’ll post links below for your convenience. I am always grateful to those of you that leave a review. I can attest that more than once when I’ve really needed the push to continue, looking at something from a reviewer has given me the much-needed encouragement to keep going.