Sunday, December 13, 2009

A World Without Evil

When President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize he noted the very real existence of evil in our world. “For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism-it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason . . .”

The president, of course, is referring to kind of massive evil that plays out a the world stage, but evil itself can be on a much smaller scale, be far more subtle than the slaughter of millions, yet equally as dangerous. The evil the permeates Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace comes not from a military regime but a single individual bent on destroying a family for her own personal gain.

But there the differences end. Evil, whether the product of one individual or many breeds the same oppression, hatred, and violence and anyone, no matter how morally-grounded can find their principles tested in ways they never imagined.

Yes, evil exists – on the largest of scales and in the most mundane of activities. Our challenge is to recognize what evil is and rise to the challenge to stop it.
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Monday, October 12, 2009

Is This Fun Or Is This Family?

"Today I'm participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women on Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We're celebrating the release of Therese Walsh's debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost they were teenagers. Visit the Muffin to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit to find out more about the author."

Family relationships are at the center of my own novel, Shade of Darkness, Shades of Grace as well. The Pierson’s are a close-knit family, but they are tested, as we all are, by other people and events. You may not always like members of your family or agree with them, but it’s often our family members who rally around us when things get ugly or tough.

When Paul Pierson realizes his drinking has become a problem, it’s his family who helps him pick up the pieces. No one minces words about what they expect from him, but they support him through treatment and maintaining his sobriety. And when Paul’s marriage to Pamela implodes, it is again his family who stands by him. The emphasis on family leads to one of the book’s main themes – that we will do just about anything to protect those we love.

In many ways I see the same universal themes in Shades of Darkness and The Last Will of Moira Leahy - stories about that bond of family, the deep ties of generations that bind, and the shared blood that’s worth putting everything on the line for. It may not always be fun, but it’s family.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Read A Banned Book!

It’s here – Banned Books Week, celebrated from September 26, 2009 through October. The first Banned Books Week organized by the American Library Association (ALA) was celebrated in 1982 when there was an increase in books being challenged is schools, libraries, and stores.

Censorship continues to be a serious problem in the U.S with the ALA reporting an increase in book challenges. In 2008 the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 517 challenges, up from 420 in 2007. While most challenges are unsuccessful, they are a violation of our right to free speech as guaranteed under the First Amendment and the pursuit of intellectual freedom.

What is intellectual freedom? The freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular, and is the foundation of Banned Books Week. As an author I’m celebrating Banned Books Week by reading a banned book!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Literacy Promotes Life-long Learning

In an effort to encourage reading and encourage life-long learning, the Ad Council and Library of Congress and have paired up in the public service ad campaign promoting the idea along with life-long literacy. The ad campaign encourages children to explore new worlds through reading.

Also in September, Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT)hosts their 2009 Champions of Literacy Luncheon on Thursday, September 17, 2009. LIFT promotes literacy among adults by offering classes, GED preparation, and family literacy classes.

Why should you care?
• Because we need a productive and growing workforce…
• Because we want our families to thrive…
• Because we want lower health care costs and more efficient health care…
• Because we want to reduce poverty and get people off of welfare…

Literacy changes lives in a very positive way. Learn more at:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September Is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. While ovarian cancer only plays a small part in Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace, its affect on the Pierson family is profound.

Ovarian cancer is very treatable if detected early; however because there is no reliable test, the vast majority of cases are not detected until the cancer has spread beyond the ovaries. For this reason it’s crucial that women must become familiar with the symptoms of ovarian cancer and recognize and understand those symptoms in their own bodies.

Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition provide detailed information on symptoms, detection, treatment options, etc. Symptoms are subtle but persistent, frequently increasing over time. They include:
Pelvic or abdominal pain
Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
A feeling of frequency or urgency to urinate

Other symptoms commonly reported include: fatigue, indigestion, back pain, intercourse pain, constipation, and menstrual irregularities. However, these symptoms are not as useful in identifying ovarian cancer because they are often found in women in the general population who do not have ovarian cancer.

Women should consult their physician if these symptoms persist for more than a few weeks. When ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, the 5-year survival rate is 93% so it’s important that every woman be aware of ovarian cancer and the symptoms.

Friday, August 14, 2009

More Drunk Women Getting Behind the Wheel

The horrific car accident in which a woman driving drunk killed eight last week in New York sheds light on a disturbing trend – the increased instances of women getting behind the wheel when legally drunk.

In Westchester County – where Diane Schuler’s fatal crash occurred – the number of women arrested for driving under the influence is up 2 percent in 2009. Across the U.S. a federal study found that the number of women who reported abusing alcohol nearly doubled, rising from 1.5 to 2.6 percent in the 10 year period from 1992-2002.

Men still drink more than women and are responsible for more drunken-driving cases, however their rates continue to decline while DUI’s among women are rising rapidly. In 2007 the number of women arrested for DUI was 28.8 percent higher than in 1998, while the number of men arrested declined by 7.5 percent.

In the 15 years I drank, I was never picked up for DUI. Did I drive drunk? Unfortunately, my answer is yes, worse there was more than one occasion where I did not remember how I got home. In Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace, Kay Scott tells her brother Paul he must stop drinking before he is responsible for something “you can never take back” and certainly driving drunk is at the top of the list.

Ms. Schuler’s family appears to be in denial that she had a drinking problem, a fact which only compounds the tragedy. But the increasing numbers of women driving drunk now has the attention of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The department’s annual crackdown which begins in late August will focus on getting drunk women driver’s off the road.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

You Never Know

My sister Susan passed on Shades of Darkness, Shades of Grace to a friend who is a therapist by training. She (I’ll call her Jane) loved the book but also commented on the dead-on accuracy of Pamela’s sociopath character in her pursuit of the Pierson family.

Jane also imparted a chilling observation – therapists don’t actually see the Pamela’s of this world as they don’t ever believe there anything about them that might be problematic. Who they do see as patients are the persons dealing with the constant fallout from a Pamela. Just as in the book, a Pamela is never at fault, is often a master manipulator, and will not stop until she wears down the opposition. Jane has the clients to prove it.

Like many authors, I wrote what I knew. Readers have come along for the journey for which I am grateful. Some of the details are not pretty, particularly the Pierson family’s battles with alcoholism and drug abuse – the toughest part of the novel for Jane to read. But to hear from a trained professional that the characters, their flaws, and their struggles came alive for her is a great compliment. Honestly you never know who will be reading your book or what new insights you’ll learn from a reader.