The term “PTSD” is a familiar one, and I want to make it clear from the outset that I am not a medical professional and cannot write as one. What I want to do is just provide some basic accepted facts and links to read more.
The character Col. Sid “Bull” Bullington (USMC, Ret.) got the double whammy, so to speak. His childhood was traumatic, and he left home after managing to skin through high school and joined the Marines. As he tells Gail, “I guess the Marines kept me out of prison.”
Two tours of Viet Nam and countless other deployments in a thirty-year career left their mark on him, but he has resisted all help to deal with the demons of war and his previous life. He keeps to himself so no one will notice the most obvious symptoms:
flashbacks and nightmares
drinking too often and too much
guilt and depression
thoughts of ending his life
In World War I, the term “shell shock” came into use; in World War II, “combat fatigue” took its place. Today, 3.5 per cent of adults in the United States will be affected with PTSD. One in eleven people will receive a diagnosis at some point in their lifetimes.
I often hear spots on the radio talking about people recognizing these and other symptoms in friends and loved ones and urging them to get help. Most of us, even in far less dire circumstances, resist admitting our need for help, much less asking for it, and believe we should be able to handle things ourselves.
None of us walks away from anything unmarked and unscathed. In Sid Bullington, I have tried to create a character—a decent human being who retains his gentle spirit however deeply wounded—but he can’t recover alone. He, like the rest of us, is not an island alone.
For more on PTSD, visit these sites:
Download a free ebook on PTSD from Mighty Oaks on this page.
~~Posted September 17
My characters with disabilities—which they don’t let get in the way of a full life:
I often write characters with some degree of disability which they have successfully overcome.
In Where Is Papa’s Shining Star and Finding Papa’s Shining Star Alan Ashley, has become a successful businessman despite the loss of his sight in World War I.
The Dreamland Series features young Danny Jefferson who has Down Syndrome buy is a valued employee and talented amate photographer.
“Cart” in Four Summer Days was born with severe mental impairment about which there was little knowledge in the mid-1800s—yet as a beloved son and brother, he exhibits a talent for woodcarving.
In Ruthann’s War, much-admired school superintendent, poet, and artist Drew Mallory has lived with a worsening leg injury he received in World War I and now faces the loss of his leg.
Gail Calloway and ataxia
Now, in Showboat Reunion, ex-Marine Sid “Bull” Bullington lives with severe PTSD, and Gail Callaway was diagnosed as a child with a form of ataxia.
A basic definition of “ataxia” is “the loss of full control of bodily movements” and also “impaired coordination”. She is 31 years old but already must use a cane for balance and is often mistaken for having had “one too many”.
Ataxia can be hereditary (genetic) or acquired. The National Ataxia Foundation has more information about the various kinds. It’s official definition (copied from their site) is
The Mayo Clinic also has an overview of the difficulty.
I hope that even my limited knowledge of many of these difficulties with which my characters deal courageously will lead us all to be part of their struggle.
~~Posted September 16
Almost one hundred years after the first showboat set sail, novelist Edna Ferber published her book about a floating theater called the Cotton Blossom. A year later in 1927, Showboat came to life on the stage at the hands of Florenz Ziegfield (of the Follies fame). It contained many firsts:
1st linking of plot and music
1st serious theme (alcoholism, miscegenation, desertion)
1st black actors in major performing roles
It was a sell-out wherever it played and was followed in 1929 by a silent film starring Laura LaPlante and Joseph Schildkraut.
In 1936, Irene Dunne and Alan Jones reprised the roles of Magnolia and Ravenal. Helen Morgan sang the tragic Julie LaVerne, and Paul Robeson’s magnificent rendition of Old Man River has never been rivaled.
In 1950, Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel starred with Ava Gardner as Julie. William Warfield sang the signature song Old Man River.
Due to copyright concerns, I’ll just post a link to the many beautiful posters which have heralded this story over the years.
I saw the 1950 version as a five or six-year-old and have never forgotten it. To this day, if I feel the need of a “good weep”, I put it on and cry buckets of tears over Magnolia and Ravenal’s love story and Julie’s tragic destiny. I’ve also seen the 1936 version, which has a slightly different story line, but the 1950 movie is my favorite.
When I was working in Ft. Worth, I took a visiting 19-year-old friend with theatrical aspirations to see the stage performance at Bass Performance Hall. It satisfied her soul—and mine as well. We need more stirring music, more happily-ever-after, more dreams.
It’s a story of life. And life is what it’s all about.
~~Posted September 9
Showboats, also known as floating theaters, floating operas, or boat shows, appeared on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in 1831 and lasted until the 1930s or 1940s (depending on the source). There was a hiatus during the Civil War, but by the late 1870s, music and drama once again entertained folks along the waterways.
The first showboat was launched by the English Chapman family in Pittsburgh. The last, the Goldenrod, docked for the last time in 1943 in St. Louis MO. Though there were efforts to preserve this monument of history, it flooded in 2015, after which many artifacts were removed such as tin ceilings, stained glass, and chandeliers. Then in 2017, it burned.
The drama and romance of the people who lived and worked on showboats has been carried on in countless versions of movies and stage plays. More about those later this week.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more, go first to the Online Steamboat Museum for authentic photographs and stories about the real showboats.
There are a couple of print books about the history of showboats listed at Amazon. One looks enticing but isn’t an expense I’m up for right now. Here Comes the Showboat by Betty Bryant on Amazon is worth a look, and you might even find it at a library. I just ordered a used copy of Showboats, the History of an American Institution by Phillip Graham.
And in October I’m headed from my third dinner cruise on the Branson Belle in Branson MO. I’m too old to dream of romance, but I can stand at the rail and live vicariously through Gail and Sid in my newest book Showboat Reunion. (Release date October 1) Have a preview on Pinterest.
~~Posted September 7