About this site:

This site contains information about violent crimes. The contents include murder,  and crimes of a sexual nature. It is not intended for anyone under the age of 18.

Disclaimer: I am a crime fiction writer, not a profiler. However, I do have a background in mental health and a master degree in social work. I’m also licensed with the Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board in Kansas.

I have researched these topics over two years, to be included in my series of novels. This site was created for entertainment and promotional purposes only. It is all the information I’ve gathered throughout my two years of research.

I wanted to have everything in one spot so other writers can use the information for their books. The information is available to anyone everywhere who ventures to look. Each post includes information on where the information came from.

information hydrant

information hydrant (Photo credit: Will Lion)

This blogging stuff is new for me. I will eventually add monthly profiles and snippets of my book, but I felt I needed to post the history of profiling, those who contributed to the field, and how it has evolved. It also great information for anyone who writes historical novels.

A lot of people don’t understand certain mental health terms as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what the difference between a sociopath and psychopath is. These terms are used loosely and most people don’t know that they mean the same thing in the USA. But if you travel to the United Kingdom, they are viewed quite differently.

And when we are talking about the FBI-well, they are tight-lipped and give conflicting information. I’ve weeded through hours of information trying to figure out what the BAU really did, and hope to talk about this here on my blog.

I know when I first wanted to write about a profiler, I didn’t know exactly what a profile was, except what I saw on TV. A lot of people think its like mind reading or fortune-telling. The simple truth of it is, it’s not. Profiling is looking at the behavioral “tells” of the crime scene, the victims, the forensic evidence, and making deductions from them.

I have always been fascinated with the criminal mind and I hope to connect with others who have the same interests. I hope you find this blog interesting and can use it as a resource.

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

About this site

Stephen King Part Five

Diane Kratz at Stephen King Book signing event. November 13, 2014 KC, Mo.

Diane Kratz at Stephen King Book signing event.
November 13, 2014 KC, Mo.

What happens when you finally get to be in a room with a legendary author you fell in love with as a teen? Would you fear being disappointed? Well, I did, and I wasn’t disappointed!

 

On November 13, 2014, this chick went to a Stephen King event in Kansas City, MO. Rainy Day Books put on the event. My sisters from Midwest Romance Writers and I all went as a group.

 

Stephen King  on stage, wearing a Royal ball cap.

Stephen King on stage, wearing a Royal’s ball cap.

He came out on stage wearing a Kansas City Royals ball cap, and of course the crowd roared. (Read the blog above this one)

 

He even read an excerpt from his new book, Revival. How cool is that!

 

 

As a wanna-be author, I was enthralled especially when he talked about his writing process. He’ll see a story on the news and it will stick with him or, as he said, “percolates” for a few weeks or even months. The idea begins to beg him to write about it. Once it does, he sits and writes his story. The writing takes about four months, sometimes longer. But his bottom line was, “it takes as long as it takes, but if you don’t keep at it, you don’t pay the bills.”

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Of all the authors I’ve ever read, he is the one that sticks out as the “Great One” and always will be. Carrie scared the hell out of me when I was fifteen and went to the movies to see it with my girlfriends. That part where Carrie’s hand comes up from the grave and grabs her friend’s hand, just when she about to lay flowers on her grave, still gives me the willies. I think about it every time I visit the cemetery.

 

stephenking.wikia.com

stephenking.wikia.com

That, my friends, is what you call great writing—if the image is still with you from something you’ve read or seen a couple of decades ago. He talked about being called the “King of Horror” and how he never thought of himself as writing horror. He told about an older lady who came up to him in the grocery store and said, “I know who you are. You’re that man who writes all them horrible books and I don’t read those. Why can’t you write something like Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile?”

 

Ha! He wrote them both.

 

One of the questions he is always asked is, “What happened in your childhood that would make you write the kind of stories you write?” He didn’t have a bad childhood. His mother was a “hardcore” Methodist. He himself doesn’t like organized religion because it forces people to act, believe and think like the institution and not for themselves.

 

He read an excerpt from his new book, an excerpt about music. He loves rock and roll. The Rain Day people had a guitar brought in and he played song “Gloria” by the Doors for us. It was GREAT!

 

‪He talked about being offered a cameo part in Sons of Anarchy (one of my favorite TV series). He loves Kurt Sutter’s writing. He said, “Ordinarily I would say no but he said he’d put me on a Harley, so I agreed.” Sutter also assured King that his character would be doing something “suitably nasty.”

 

latimesblogs.latimes.com

latimesblogs.latimes.com

 

Stephen King played “Bachman” in Season Three, Episode Three, titled “Caregiver.” Also interesting for me is that King wrote two novels under the pen name of Richard Bachman—The Running Man (1987) and Thinner (1996). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1559911/

 

King has been getting some bad press here in Kansas from Kerri Rawson, daughter of Dennis Rader (aka BTK serial killer from Wichita, Kansas), over his screenplay and upcoming TV movie from a story inspired by Dennis Rader. “A Good Marriage” is a story in a collection from his book published in 2010, Full Dark, No Stars. See Associated Press article dated September 27, 2014: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2014/09/27/daughter-btk-killer-publicly-criticizes-stephen-king/

 

insidemovies.ew.com

insidemovies.ew.com

I am happy he is making the movie because his last stop before he came to KC was in Wichita, and I assume that was what brought him to our state. I love Stephen King books. As a writer, we get our ideas from the environment around us. Anyone who says different is in denial. I can’t wait for the movie to come out, and I ordered “Full Dark, No Stars” and got it today. I can’t wait to start reading it!

 

And so does Heidi Senesac!

And so does Heidi Senesac!

One disappointment was Stephen King only signed a certain number of books. I didn’t get one.  But our wonderful president of MRW did and e-mailed me asking if we could trade because she knows I’m a big fan! Thank you, Heidi! You’re the best friend ever and a wonderful president of our group!

 

What a year it has been! Life just keeps getting better and better!

 

Until next time,

Happy writing,

Diane Kratz

Blog Edited by: Sally Berneathy

 

 

 

 

Only a Kansas City Sports Fan would…Part Four

October 26, 2014

 

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Only a Kansas City Sports Fan would chant, “Let’s Go, Royals” for their professional baseball team (who made it to the World Series) at a Kansas City Chiefs football game!

http://fansided.com/2014/09/30/lets-go-royals-chant-breaks-kansas-city-chiefs-win-video/

 

I’m not from Kansas City. I live on a small farm in Kansas. I can tell you, coming from a small town doesn’t make you any less of a Kansas City sports fan. We love our sports teams!

 

Not so surprising when you think about small towns. Our kids play football, soccer, and baseball from the time they can hold a bat. There’s not much else to do in a small town.

 

Both my mother and father were diehard Chiefs fans. While they were married, they held season tickets. After their divorce, they only agreed on one thing: their love for their Chiefs would never die. And it never did.

 

I have memories of Sunday dinners and watching the game. We’d scream at the top of lungs when the team was about to make a touchdown or had made an interception. My mother once lost her false teeth screaming so loud for a Chiefs player to run. Her teeth went flying across the room and hit the TV. Even our dog barked when we yelled!

 

My husband won driver of the month at his company and was given KC Chiefs football tickets as a reward. On October 27th, 2014, I took my grandson, Alex, to his second game. It was his first one with me.

 

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Alex knows football. When I say he knows football, I mean he knows the players on every team in the entire NFL. No, he didn’t learn it from me; instead, he learned it from the PlayStation Madden NFL game he plays with his friends. He knows all the players’ stats in the NFL. Alex learned to be an analyzer of players so he could pick the best teams for his Madden game. Plus, he plays as a defensive tackle on his junior high football team.

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He also enjoys telling me what I don’t know about players.

 

But Alex didn’t understand what it was like to be a Chiefs fan until he went to the game with his grandma.

 

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I screamed and banged on my seat when the opposing team had the ball. (In case you don’t know this already, Arrowhead is in the Guinness World record book for being the loudest confirmed stadium in the world.)

 

http://www.kcchiefs.com/news/article-2/Arrowhead-Stadium-Breaks-World-Record/47d77f49-e8cb-4e19-b6a4-8c17ff027bbd)

 

He kept hushing me, and I’d scream louder. Alex is a little shy. As I said earlier, he’s an analyzer of the game. I chanted when we got a touchdown or a first down.

Finally in the fourth quarter my grandson started to yell, chant and bang on his chair. My duty as a Chiefs fan and as his grandma had been fulfilled.

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Alex also got to experience a couples engagement two rows down. Three KC Chief’s band members showed up beating the drums in our section. KC Wolf followed them. KC Wolf showed the gal he stood in front of a chalk board. On It read: “Emily will you marry me? Blake”

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And she said yes!

I told Alex, ” Now, that’s a game she’ll never forget! I’d marry him!” LOL!  All of the couples family stood behind me holding up signs. It was great!

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Both my parents are gone but I felt their presence at this game when I saw my grandson loosen up and scream for the Chiefs. He wasn’t an analyzer anymore; he was a Chiefs fan. My parents would have been so proud of the fans when we chanted for our Royals in Arrowhead Stadium. Win or lose, we love our teams!

 

And even then!

And even then!

We won against St Louis. It was the first time I ever went to a game where the Chiefs won. Alex is my lucky charm. As a writer, we must write words that evoke emotions. Sitting in that stand, feeling the power of the love for a team from all of the KC Chiefs fans is a emotion I know he’ll never forget. I know I never have!

 

Diane Kratz with her grandson Alex. at Arrowhead Stadium, KC, Mo.

Diane Kratz with her grandson Alex, at Arrowhead Stadium in KC, Mo.

 

Happy writing,

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

PSWA Conference 2014 Part Three

 

July 10-14, 2014

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Another year, another wonderful conference put on by the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association) July 10-14 at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas! The conference is open to anyone writing crime and mystery fiction or non-fiction technical writing for public safety magazines in print or online or anyone interested in writing.

 

This is a small conference filled with public safety officers from all walks of life.

 

We had former undercover DEA agents, FBI agents, CIA agents, Naval Intelligence agents (that’s a whole lot of agents!), and detectives/police officers from all over. EMTs and firefighters were also in attendance as were seasoned mystery writers, therapists and social workers.

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This year I volunteered to be a contestant to play CSI Jeopardy. I was the only non-law enforcement person to play.

and Diane Kratz

Joe Haggerty and Diane Kratz

I was up against Pete Kilsmet whom you met here on my blog. He wiped the floor with me. Even though I came in last place, everyone rooted for me. It was a great experience and lots of fun!

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Pete Klismet and Thonie Hevron

 

This year’s panels were a mix of the writing craft and expert knowledge.

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Panel- Madeline Gornell, Janet Greger, Marilyn Olsen and Marilyn Meredith.

 

Flexibility in Your Plotting

Writing Articles in Today’s Competitive Market

What are Setting and Dialogue and How Should You Use Them?

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Mike Black put together this years conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Point of View: What is it, How to Use it Best

Working with an Editor, the Art of Revision, and How to Edit Yourself

The Aspects to be Considered When Writing a Series

 

 

On Expert Knowledge:

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Dave, a former DEA agent , gave a presentation on Working Narcotics Undercover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Narcotics Undercover

The Medical Side of Wounds and Forensics

Weapons for Writers

Defense Criminal Investigative Organizations in the Military

The Evolution and Aspects of Fire Fighting and Arson Investigation

The Art of Interview and Interrogation

 

They also have a competition every year. No, I didn’t send anything but the entry fee is only $10.00 per entry.

 

Competition categories were:

Michelle Perin officiating Judge

Michelle Perin, PSWA award spokeswoman

 

Fiction:

Books, Short Stories, Flash Fiction

 

Non Fiction:

Books, Creative-Non-Technical, Creative-Technical, and Technical Manual

Poetry

Screenplay

 

 

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Also, if you join this group, you are entitled to a free one-time manuscript review.

 

On the last day we had our awards luncheon where the winners of the competition are revealed. I didn’t attend this because we met up with family.

 

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This year I got to meet in person, two people I’ve become friends with over the web in other writing groups. Sam Bradley, my KOD sister, joined PSWA this year and fit right in to the group. She volunteered to be on three of the panels.

 

Diane and Sam

Diane and Sam

 

Rayne E. Golay, an Elements group sister, also joined PSWA this year. She volunteered to be on two panels. I had a great time and learned a bunch.

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Rayne E. Golay

 

I can’t say enough about this group of writers. I love, love, love PSWA!

 

If any of you would like information on or would like to join PSWA please go to their website at: http://policewriter.com/wordpress/

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

Oceanside, California the adventure continues…Part Two

 

LA- in front of  train station

LA- in front of train station

We arrived in the beautiful town called Oceanside. Oceanside is on the southern California coast next to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean, it’s a beach community. Bags still in the car, we went straight to the beach. WOW! Talk about breathtaking!

Oceanside, California and my first look at the Pacific Ocean.

Oceanside, California and my first look at the Pacific Ocean.

I saw the ocean once as a child but never remembered it the way I saw it as an adult. It was powerful. It was beautiful. And it was seductive. I could have sat there for hours just gazing at the ocean’s beauty.

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

Lisa and I had just earned our train legs. Now we had to earn our sea legs. The waves were strong. We walked up to the edge. When the wave came in, it almost knocked us over. Then when we thought we were out of danger the wave exhaled and almost sucked us back into the water.

My cousin Carla instructed us to position our legs slightly apart and dig our feet into the sand—sand shoes—which we did. I don’t know how long we were there, but I didn’t want to leave.

My cousin Carla

My cousin Carla

Eventually we left the ocean for lunch. We ended up at a sports bar named PCH to have burgers and beer while we watched the Chiefs playing against the San Diego Chargers. We were the only Chiefs fans in the bar. Lucky for us, the other patrons in bar were more interested in the San Francisco 49ers game than the Chargers. Only one TV had our game on.

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I didn’t realize that California has three professional football teams—San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers and the team every Chiefs fan hates the most, the Oakland Raiders.

This man has his car covered in jewels! Never seen anything like it!

This man has his car covered in jewels! Never seen anything like it!

We drank dark beer, watched our team lose by three points, then went on a tour of Oceanside. I got to see sea lions warming themselves on boat docks and a bedazzled car before we proceeded to Linda and Carla’s home.

Gets up to 126/ 10 MPG City/Hwy. Found picture at: http://www.nissanusa.com/electric-cars/leaf/

Gets up to 126/ 10 MPG City/Hwy. Found picture at: http://www.nissanusa.com/electric-cars/leaf/

As I stated in an earlier post, Californians eat smart and are environmentally responsible. My cousins are no exceptions. Carla and Linda recycle everything. They have a Nissan Leaf electric car and Fiat 500 convertible; both are energy efficient, as is every appliance in their home.

We stayed up late talking and catching up outside in their beautiful back yard. They have an avocado tree as well as a milkweed plant for caterpillars to munch on. Butterflies were hanging in cocoons everywhere. They are called “the butterfly whispers” by friends.

California days were in the high 80s and at night the ocean breeze cooled down Carla and Linda’s house to the 60s. PERFECT weather!

Bright and early the next morning we were on the road and off to Disneyland. California’s highways are very different than what we have where I live. They have a car pool lane that only car poolers can use. The landscapes that encircled the California highways were like looking at paintings. Absolutely stunning!

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As soon as we entered Disneyland, my grandma guilt kicked in for being there without my grandkids. But I looked at my sister’s face glowing with excitement because she had never been to “the happiest place in the world” before. I shucked the guilt and had fun watching her grin from ear to ear especially when we rode the teacups. Her dream since she was seven was realized.

Life was GREAT!

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We rode the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, went into the Haunted Mansion, took a ride through Storybook Land, ate homemade toffee, chocolate covered marshmallows on a stick, pretzels shaped like Mickey Mouse, and Carla and I had her favorite, corn dogs.

Tinkerbell in the parade

Tinkerbell in the parade

We watched the parade before going home. Carla thought since we spent the day walking, the next day should be a spa day—a day of relaxation, rejuvenation and, as a social worker would say, a day of self-care.

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The next morning, we got up early and headed to Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa, in Corona, CA. http://www.glenivy.com

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I live on a farm. My nails are always in bad shape because I always have them in the warm earth. I’d never been to a spa before, and I have to say, this was one of the most enjoyable things I did while in California.

 

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I had my nails, feet and face done. Their nail polish had no harsh chemicals to damage my nails. The facial—I didn’t want it to ever end. The term “magic fingers” was an understatement!

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Afterward I was slathered with a paint brush with a deeply hydrating masque of aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter and hints of eucalyptus and lavender oil. This mixture was applied from the neck down and allowed to soak into my skin as I relaxed in a heated grotto area.

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The grotto was a cave-like sauna. I came out feeling ten years younger. I could do this again and again!

Lisa at Club Mud!

Lisa at Club Mud!

They have nineteen pools that I didn’t get to experience but my sister did. She enjoyed a massage, the hot spring water pool, saline pool for her aching muscles and the mud pool. It’s red clay mud only found in California.

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The setting at Glen Ivy was magnificent. It was like walking into a tropical paradise.

From right to left: Diane, Carla and my sister Lisa.

From right to left: Diane, Carla and my sister Lisa.

When it was time to go, we headed to Callaway Vineyards to do some wine tasting. But because I took advantage of so many of Glen Ivy’s treatments, we arrived at Callaway Vineyards five minutes before they closed so we didn’t get to experience any wine tasting.

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We did, however, get to see all their vineyards with the grapevines. They were massive and gorgeous to gaze upon. I promised my friend I’d bring her back some wine. Lucky for me I have the best cousin in the world, because Carla and Linda belonged to Callaway’s wine club. Carla picked up their monthly offering and gave it to me so I could give it to my friend. Isn’t that wonderful?

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Lisa and I, holding the wine Carla gave me. Neither of us had on any makeup. We just came from the spa.

We spent the next day at Buccaneer Beach in Oceanside. Carla packed a picnic basket with sandwiches, baked wheat potato chips, grapes and vitamin water. We were hypnotized by the waves moving in and out while we sun bathed, people watched, bird watched and collected shells. Finally I got up the courage to attempt to swim in the ocean.

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As I walked out, the sand turned rocky. I had to walk out a little farther to find sand again. The powerful waves grabbed me and I felt like a rag doll being shaken by a dog. I tasted salt water in my mouth and smelled it in my nose. Carla advised me to jump into the waves as they came so I wouldn’t be tossed about. I did, and I survived! I’ll admit I was scared to death. But I can die now knowing I swam in the ocean.

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That night we went to Carlsbad Farmers Market in Carlsbad, California. I bought Asian Pears (they tasted much sweeter than any Asian pear I ever bought in Kansas) and Pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid).

They sold big avocados called Reed avocados which I had never heard of before. Who knew there was more than one kind of avocado? There was strawberry guava too, another fruit I’d never heard of.

They had different honeys from different beekeepers. You could buy honey made by bees that pollinated plants from the region. Examples included: orange honey, avocado honey, wildflower honey, etc. I bought honey from wildflower because that’s what I knew and because it tasted the sweetest to me. Yes, we got to sample everything sold there.

Homemade peach pie! Thanks Linda!

Homemade peach pie! Thanks Linda!

Linda doesn’t eat meat but, bless her heart, she grilled us New York strips on the grill, and Carla made us a delicious kelp salad. For dessert, Linda made my sister and me our favorite pie, peach, from scratch. She revealed after I wolfed down half of it that the flour she used was whole wheat flour. I would have never guessed the crust was made from whole wheat. It was delicious!

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The next day we were off to San Diego to do some whale watching. Carla’s sister, Nellie, and our other cousin, wanted to take us on a chartered boat tour to watch whales.

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It was great! My sister’s phobias started to kick in again so I bought all of us a Mimosa (champagne and orange juice), hoping it would calm her down or at least take the edge off. She wouldn’t bite (or should I say, drink). She stayed terrified all the way there.

The captain kept us out an hour longer than he was supposed to. He wanted to make sure we saw a whale. And we did. I got to see an Orca. I’d love to say I got a picture of this beauty but by the time I got my camera out, she was gone.

I also saw a flying fish and, yes, this fish has wings. It flies and swims. Its scientific name is Exocoetidae, an Asian fish with wings.

 

. I’d love to say I captured a picture of this elusive fish, but although I snapped many shots, none of the fish were visible in my pictures. I found pictures of them on the Internet. They kind of look like dragonflies to me. It was AWESOME!

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Here’s one of many pictures I tried to get of the flying fish. Just too fast to capture on my iPhone.

 

Afterward we drove to a restaurant called C Level right on the ocean and ate dinner. Carla had coupons she saved just for our trip so our meal was free. My cousins shared salmon with Wasabi mashed potatoes and ahi tuna stack topped with caviar. Linda had lobster macaroni and cheese. I ate a feta chicken salad, and my sister had a burger. We shared each other’s food, talked, laughed and had a wonderful time. The food was delicious, the company superb and the views were beyond words.

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The last night, Thursday night, we went to the Oceanside Sunset Market and shopped for souvenirs. I found an alpaca sweater for my daughter and a stone cross necklace for my husband. Carla bought us a cup full of homemade caramels. We hurried so we could watch the sun set on the ocean.

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OMG! What a sight! I watched the ball of fire slowly descend into the ocean as if it was taking a dip in the water. My sister and I waved goodbye to the ocean and I felt a sadness seep inside. I knew it was the last time we would see each on that trip.

After seeing all these beautiful landscapes, it’s hard not to believe in God or a higher power. Someone or something far greater than you or me painted these pictures. I feel so incredibly lucky to have seen them.

I am a very lucky woman. I’m so thankful to have a family who loves me.

 

Carla and Linda, my cousins

Carla and Linda, my cousins

 

Thank you, Carla and Linda! You made our days in California unforgettable.

 

Nellie and I

Nellie and I

Thank you, Nellie, for showing me what lived in the ocean. I love you girls with all my heart!

Until next time, enjoy the beauty that surrounds you!

Happy Writing,

Diane Kratz

 

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

Trains, Superliners, and Roomettes… Oh My! Part One

 

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October 3, 2014

There is a reason I haven’t posted much of anything on my blog lately. My family had a horrible year dealing with my daughter’s psychopathic boyfriend. I was finally able to relax and take a deep breath recently when he was captured and sent to prison.

Since that time I’ve been traveling and experiencing many things this year, trying to get my groove back. I’d thought I’d take this opportunity to share some of my adventures with you.

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My sister, Lisa, and I decided we would take a vacation together to visit our cousin Carla and her new wife, Linda, who lived in Oceanside, California. Since my sister has a fear of flying, we opted for a train trip, something neither of us had ever done.

We planned this trip back in January and both of us were extremely excited for our adventure to begin. Our trip on the train would consist of two nights to get from Kansas to California. We splurged and booked a Roomette. Amtrak described a Roomette as:

“Our Superliner Roomette is ideal for one or two passengers, with two comfortable reclining seats on either side of a big picture window. At night, the seats convert to a comfortable bed, and an upper berth folds down from above. Roomettes are located on both upper and lower levels of our double-decker Superliner train cars.”

http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=AM_Accommodation_C&pagename=am%2FLayout&cid=1241210576173

Sounds wonderful, right? Keep reading…

Lawrence Amatrk  train station

Lawrence Amatrk train station

Our train took off from Lawrence, Kansas, at 11:45 p.m. We were shocked when we arrived and realized the train station was closed. A sign on the door said the station opened fifteen minutes before our scheduled departure. This was what they did for every trip. When the attendant arrived, we were shocked once again when our baggage wasn’t inspected and couldn’t be checked.

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Taking a train isn’t like flying.

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There where no weighing in, inspection of bags, or going through a mental detector like you go through to get on a plane. No probing at all!

I made my cousins Kahlua and Lemoncello. Alcohol. I didn’t think I’d be allowed to take them on the train. I had my husband stay in case I couldn’t and so he could take them home. They didn’t inspect one bag.

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Kind of scary if you think about terrorists and all the money our government spends to secure our travels. Guess they forgot about trains.

And…

 

Not all train stations check baggage. Why do I bring this up?

Because both Lisa and I, not knowing what the weather would be like in California in October, packed our suitcases for any scenario we might encounter and packed close to the allotted amount (50 pounds).

 

imgres-5Lisa brought two big suitcases and I brought one plus our carry-on bags. Train stations that don’t check baggage mean, basically, your entire luggage is carry-on. And our roomette was upstairs. Not fun lugging the bags up those steps.

After getting our luggage situated we went to our roomette. Small is an understatement! My closet at home was bigger than our room. The attendant had already turned our beds down, which made the room even smaller. It was dark, we couldn’t locate the room light and we had less than two feet to move around.

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Our roomette before the beds were down. Picture two grown women sitting across from each other. Knee’s touching and all!

I volunteered to sleep in the upper berth. It was 2’0” wide x 6’6” long. I had to hoist my leg up and over to get my body into this bed. Once I did, I realized I couldn’t sit up to read because of the train’s curved ceiling. I couldn’t even sit up to turn around in this bed. Not a lot of room for an old lady!

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I took this one off the web. It’s a family suite. Ours didn’t have a ladder and was a lot smaller than this. The door is about 2 inches from the bed when its down.

My sister has some phobias, and, during the course of this strange, dark train ride, her irrational thinking began to take over her mind. Every bump was a break-in and every jerk was the train going off the tracks. Luckily for me, sleeping in the top bunk, a harness strapped across the middle would catch me if I started to fall off. Needless to say, neither of us slept a wink all night.

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Finally daylight came and we had survived our first night. And what a difference daylight makes! The views were magnificent! We spent hours drooling out our window, gazing at extraordinary views of America.

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I had traveled this area many times by car. I never saw anything more breathtaking than the views we experienced by train. Please take a minute and look around at my pictures.

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The dinning car was awesome too!

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They seat everyone in fours. My sister and I had to eat with other train people. We got to eat with two firefighters who traveled trains every year, two ladies who were on their way to a funeral in New Mexico, and lots of people from Kansas. We made a lot of train friends!

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Once you get your train legs, Amtrak has a wide variety of train cars to visit. The observation car was fantastic! It has a panoramic view on both sides. AWESOME doesn’t explain how gorgeous the views were. If you don’t believe in God before your trip, you will once you see these views. I’m so happy to have the scenes forever etched in my mind.

More Colorado pines.

Colorado pines.

But remember to be safe. One lady’s shoes and lunch were stolen while she was in the Observation Car. She kicked her shoes off before going to the restroom, came back and they were gone.

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Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! But I’d be wiser the next time.

Here are some tips for train travelers:

  1. Pack ONLY what you need.

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2. If you get a room, don’t pack food because you will eat three big meals a day in the dining car. This is included in your ticket price. (Yea, I had a backpack full of food I also had to carry around. Geez!).

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3. Get on the train in daylight, especially if it’s your first time.

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4. Bring lip balm and hand lotion. The air on the train dries out your skin and lips!

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5. If you need room to move around, book the Bedroom Suite or Family Bedroom Suite. MUCH BIGGER!

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6. Bring a camera because you are going to see the most beautiful landscapes you will ever see again.  I used my iphone.

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After our adventures on the superliner came to a halt, we ended up in Los Angeles Grand Central Train Station. Here we had to transfer to a smaller commuter train that would take us on to Oceanside. What a culture shock this was for us little ole Kansas ladies.

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First thing I noticed was bicycles. They were everywhere inside the train station. Californians are very health smart. They eat well, are environmentally responsible, and exercise. Guess that’s the reason for all the bikes. Below is a picture I took while we were inside:

 

LA train Station

LA train Station

Second thing, people in LA are rude and weird! Once we got to LA, we were able to check our luggage. We had to hurry because our train took off for Oceanside in 45 minutes. Plus, my sister and I are smokers and we needed our nicotine fix.

We got to the baggage check line and waited our turn, moving our 3 big suitcases, my Nike bag (my grandson’s football bag which I had stuffed), my nifty backpack I won at the PWSA conference (full of food), my sister’s 2 small (43.75 pounds each) over-the-shoulder suitcases, our purses and my make-up train case along with us. No easy task, I promise!

And yes, I ordered a special make-up case made especially for trains. It was really cute! Here a link if you don’t believe they make these kinds of bags:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00842HM4I/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1.

I rarely wear make up but I still packed it in case I needed to wear make-up somewhere.

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When it was finally our turn to talk with the baggage employee, quite a line had formed behind us.

My sister had called before our trip and upgraded our tickets from coach to one night in a Roomette, but she had to pay for it in L.A. We barely got to the booth when a rude man in the back of the line yelled, “Hurry up, ladies, there are other people in line.”

I yelled back, “Like we have any control over that, dumb@#$!” Fifty minutes later our bags were checked, but we had missed our train and had to wait an hour before the next one came. We went outside to curb our nicotine cravings. We had to walk outside the station to smoke.

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First a lady came up and asked for a cigarette. My sister gave her one.

Then a longhaired guy who looked as if he was wearing a dreadlock hair and cap wig asked for a smoke. I handed him one of mine.

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With the cigarette in his hand he asked, “Is it poisoned?”

“No,” I replied.

“Do you believe in God?”

“Yes,” my sister answered.

“Do you swear on a stack of Bibles this cigarette isn’t poisoned?”

I looked at my sister. She looked at me with a “WTH” kind of look.

I said, “No, I don’t swear on a stack of Bibles for anything.”

He turned, dropped the unsmoked cigarette in the ashtray and left.

Weird!

 

Another strange man verbally assaulted my sister. He shouted at her in the train station, said she shouldn’t be wearing “that shirt” in here. Granted, she was wearing her Kansas City Chiefs shirt and we were playing against the San Diego Chargers in about an hour, but—some people!!!!

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The first commuter train we were scheduled to ride in ended up having repairs and we had to run to the next train that was about to leave. Once on board, we walked all the way down to the front. By this time our train legs had kicked in and we were able to continue until we found seats though not together.

Ocean View

Ocean View

The ride was a pleasant one. You could tell when we entered Oceanside because the Pacific Ocean appeared in the window. What a beautiful sight! We had finally reached our destination, Oceanside, California.

Happy writing and travels for all,

Until next time,

Diane Kratz

Blog edited by Sally Berneathy

 

Oceanside, California the adventure continues…Part two

 

PTSD

Please help me welcome two very knowledgeable ladies to my blog today. These ladies share vast knowledge on the topic of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, more commonly known as PTSD.

 

Ellen Kirschman, MSW, PhD.

Ellen Kirschman, MSW, PhD.

First, welcome back Ellen Kirschman, PhD, Public Safety Writing Association buddy. Ellen has been on my blog before when we discussed Analyzing Cops. She is a PhD who has worked as a police psychologist for over thirty years.

 

Kathryn Jane

Kathryn Jane

 

And welcome Kathryn Jane, a Kiss Of Death writing buddy. Kathryn studied Human Psychology, Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety Communications in university and won a national scholarship by writing an extensive research paper on PTSD, Critical Incident Stress and Cumulative Stress Disorder as it relates to Emergency Services. As a certified Public Safety Communicator she trained in Emergency Police, Fire, Ambulance, and Airport dispatch, she has seen first-hand know how Critical Incidents affect everyone differently.

 

Ladies, thank you both for being on my blog today. There were a couple of reasons why I wanted to do this blog. First, I know there are lots of folks out there who have experienced PTSD at least once in their lives and some who live with PTSD on a daily basis.

PTSD is often associated with soldiers returning from war. But I want everyone to know that it can happen to anyone. Public Safety workers, victims of domestic violence, rape, victims of a natural disaster. I could go on and on with my list, but I think you get the point… It’s not just soldiers who suffer with it.

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After my son Eric’s death, I had some PTSD experiences. To this day when I hear a gun going off (and I live in the country, surrounded by avid hunters) I jump out of my skin. And anytime I hear someone has died from suicide, especially someone young, it takes me back to the day he died. I hope this blog will help others out there who are experiencing this and they will know they are NOT alone as well as where they can go for help.

Moving forward, can you ladies tell me, what is PTSD?

Ellen:

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a painful emotional condition that develops in some people following exposure to:

1) A single extremely disturbing event such as combat, crime, an accident, or a natural disaster.

2) A series of such events. The psychological disturbance created by this exposure is so great that it significantly disturbs or impairs a person’s social interactions, ability to work, or to function in general.

The diagnostic criteria for PTSD must include a clearly identified trigger such as the threat of death, serious injury, or sexual violation. This is in contrast to other stress-induced conditions like cumulative stress which is the result of a buildup of what might be called micro-insults.

Further diagnostic criteria require that exposure occurred in one of the following scenarios:

a) The individual experienced the traumatic incident directly.

b) Witnessed it first hand.

c) Learned that a close family member or friend was the victim of a threatened or actual violent or accidental death.

d) Experienced first hand repeated or aversive images of the traumatic event. This last criterion about repeated exposure is especially important for first responders who will attend dozens of disturbing events in their careers.

 

Kathryn:

To quote the academics:

“PTSD consists of three reactions caused by an event that terrifies, horrifies or renders a person helpless.”

1. Recurring intrusive recollections

2. Emotional numbing; constriction of life activity

3. A physiological shift in the fear threshold affecting sleep, concentration, and sense of security.

 

Ellen:

There are also four distinct clusters of behavioral symptoms that accompany PTSD:

Re-experiencing, Avoidance, Negative cognitions (tapes we play in our minds that are distorted) and moods, and Arousal.

The following composite example adapted from Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know (written with Mark Kamena and Joel Fay) shows how these four clusters can manifest in a police officer’s life.

 

Counseling Cops, What Clinicians Need to Know       “John responded to a call of a suicidal teenager. He talked to the young man who convinced John that the call was a prank and he was not suicidal. Minutes after John left on another call, the young man killed himself. John was devastated but couldn’t show his emotions. He was depressed and blamed himself (negative cognitions and mood). He couldn’t sleep and heard the teenager’s voice in his sleep. He believed the boy was calling to him because he had failed to save him (re-experiencing). At work he was terrified of getting deployed to another suicidal subject call and started missing work (avoidance). He was irritable with the public, his co-workers, and his family and received several complaints for being too aggressive on a mental health call (arousal).”

Kathryn:

In less academic terms:

PTSD means that a person is experiencing specific symptoms at least 30 days after a catastrophic incident. It is a NORMAL reaction to a ABNORMAL event, a bone deep reaction that affects mental health, physical health, work, spirit, family and friends.

PTSD can be experienced by someone who has faced a single incident (usually one that made them feel completely helpless in the face of death), or by continuous exposure to psychological trauma such as that experienced by emergency workers, military personnel, public safety workers, or victims of abuse.

Are there different types of PTSD? If so, what are they called?

Kathryn:

 

Critical Incident Stress is often confused with PTSD. CIS refers to the symptoms experienced in the days immediately following an incident.

 

 

 

PTSD refers to symptoms manifesting 30 days or more after the incident.

Critical Incident Stress can precede Post-traumatic Stress Disorder but it isn’t an expected progression.

Ellen:

There is also a category of trauma known as complex trauma. In simplest terms this refers to people who have histories of childhood abuse. John, in the prior example, grew up in an abusive, sometimes violent, home. As the oldest child, he believed it was his role to protect his younger siblings. The terrible burden John carried in childhood amplified the shame and failure he felt for not preventing the teenaged boy from killing himself. His feelings of helplessness were an echo of the helplessness he felt as a child.

 

What are the Symptoms of PTSD:

Symptoms fall into four categories: emotional, physical, behavioral and cognitive.

Emotional symptoms might include: numbness, irritability, depression and so on.

Physical symptoms can range from elevated blood pressure to a variety of medical problems with no diagnosable medical cause.

Behavioral symptoms involve sleeping problems, changes in personal habits, eating patterns, or use of drugs and alcohol.

Cognitive symptoms include difficulty concentrating, poor memory, problems with mental tasks and details, difficulty making decisions.

Kathryn:

The range of PTSD symptoms is wide and diverse.

  1. Debilitating flashbacks or slide-show type memories
  2. Trouble with concentration and problem solving
  3. Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  4. Feeling alienated and alone
  5. Anger and irritability
  6. Guilt, shame, or self-blame
  7. Hyper-vigilance
  8. Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
  9. Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  10. Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  11. Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  12. Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
  13. Insomnia – Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  14. Difficulty concentrating
  15. Feeling jumpy and easily startled
  16. Nightmares
  17. Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  18. Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event
  19. Withdrawal
  20. Irritability
  21. Sense of a limited future, don’t expect a normal life span
  22. Questioning the meaning of life
  23. Questioning of faith

What types of treatments are out there for folks who have PTSD?

Kathryn:

There are a wide variety of treatments. Among them, Cognitive-Behavioral therapy and EMDR seem to be quite successful. The use of service dogs has become very popular for people dealing with PTSD.

Ellen:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially helpful in the treatment of trauma. In simplest terms, the central hypothesis of CBT is that our thoughts or cognitions cause our emotional reactions. The goal of CBT is to challenge these negative thoughts and distorted beliefs, rescript them into positive cognitions, and gradually help clients reengage in activities they have been avoiding. CBT requires active participation by the client, including systematic desensitization (approaching the feared object or situation in gradual steps), tracking triggers and negative thoughts, journaling, relaxation, and meditation.

Prolonged exposure therapy (PE) is based on the principle that anxiety diminishes in the absence of danger. This is a structured treatment, lasting 8-15 sessions of 90 minutes each during which time the client retells the story of her traumatic experience over and over. It includes homework, journaling, education and breathing exercises.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is based on the theory that traumatic memories are stored in the brain differently than non-traumatic memories. Under the direction of a therapist, the client processes the carefully targeted memory by stimulating both sides of the brain using alternating hand tappers, ear tones, or light bars or the therapist’s hand as it moves from left to right.

Virtual environment (VE) uses technology to create visual, auditory and olfactory reproductions of a traumatic event using lifelike avatars. It seems to work well with combat vets by recreating field experiences.

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) involves the client reappraising his or her experience in terms of growth and resilience. This is accomplished by employing some of the building blocks of positive psychology such as listing the positive consequences of the disturbing event and keeping a gratitude journal. Rather than focusing on the negative, PTG theorizes that many people become stronger, more compassionate, and more appreciative of life after a traumatic incident.

Two other recognized approaches to trauma do not necessarily include mental health professionals. Psychological first aid is an approach for assisting people in the immediate aftermath of disaster and terrorism. The goal is to reduce initial distress and to foster short- and long-term adaptive functioning. The Red Cross, the community and faith based organizations are often trained to provide this service.

Peer support offers victims the opportunity to talk with others who have survived similar traumas and are willing to assist the newly victimized.

Are there any medications that can help with PTSD symptoms?

Ellen:

There are many medications that can help. I recommend seeing a psychiatrist or a prescribing psychologist because they are the experts in medication used to treat psychological conditions. Some medications provide relief very quickly while others take several weeks to get into the system. There are also medications that help with sleep difficulties and nightmares. Be patient. Because everyone has a unique metabolism and neurological structure, it can take time to find the right medication at the right dose. Don’t be afraid to tell your prescribing doctor about side effects because they can be adjusted.

Are there any studies out there to predict what types of people may become more affected by PTSD than others?

Kathryn:

In the last 10-15 years there have been several studies done that looked for predictors of PTSD among emergency personnel (Police, Paramedics, Firefighters, etc.), and some interesting trends and risk factors have been identified.

1. People who deal with trauma by mentally disengaging, using wishful thinking and practicing dissociative tactics may be at risk of developing PTSD.

2. A wide range of organizational and job stressors that could increase the risk among emergency workers were identified as:

a. Management inadequacies in the areas of training provided

b. Lack of recognition of a job well done and fairness in promotion

c. Personal disquiet over media reports

d. Long shift hours versus familial demands

e. Introversion

f. Emotional fatigue

g. Lack of outside interests such as hobbies

h. Social detachment outside of the job

 

I’ve learned a bunch from you ladies! Thank you both so much for appearing on my blog and talking about a very important topic that affects a lot of folks.

 

Books by Ellen Kirschman include:

Counseling Cops, What Clinicians Need to KnowscOw9ilac_cover_smilaff_cover_sm

 

 

 

 

 

And Ellen’s website www.ellenkirschman.com where you can catch up on all of her appearances and new books she has in the works!

Be sure to check out Kathryn Jane’s Emergency Preparedness Class being offered through KOD. http://goo.gl/v3dZ7p Books by Kathryn Jane include:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daring to Love is being offered on Brenda Novak Auction for Diabetes Research. Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/WND1VZ Kathryn Jane’s website is: http://kathrynjane.com

 

 

Below are some resources the three of us put together.

Until next time,

Happy Writing

Diane Kratz

 

Helpful Resources

Websites:

The American Psychological Association offers a great deal of information about trauma and other topics in psychology. They also can connect you with psychologists in your area. www.apa.org .

The Battle Buddy Foundation is funded by veterans to serve veterans. The Battle Buddy Foundation will pair veterans with service dogs and assist veterans suffering from PTSD with the many challenges they face on a daily basis. The Battle Buddy Foundation will also promote the reintegration of Combat Veterans back into society and the work force. http://www.tbbf.org/

Element Behavioral Health Creating Extraordinary Lives is a facility that offers treatment programs for PTSD and other mental health problems.

http://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/trauma-ptsd/animal-therapy-ptsd-treatment/

The First Responders Support Network (www.frsn.org)  sponsors six day retreat for first responders suffering with post traumatic stress injuries. The program is peer driven and clinically guided. They have graduated more than 700 first responders. FRSN also sponsors three retreats for the spouses and significant others of first responders. More info about both is available at www.wcpr2001.org

PTSD Foundation of America Providing Healing For The Unseen Wounds Of War is a website that offers programs like Warrior Groups, fellowships for combat veterans and their families to share their experiences, testimonies of healing, compassion and hope in overcoming the invisible wounds of war. Participants are required to be military combat veterans or family members of those who have served in combat and be willing to face the challenges of managing post-traumatic stress and related conditions. Camp Hope provides interim housing for our Wounded Warriors, veterans and their families suffering from combat related PTSD in a caring and positive environment, one-on-one mentoring by trained mentors, and a national outreach program for PTDS sufferers and their families.

http://ptsdusa.org/what-is-ptsd/

Saddles For Soldiers Program is a program for veterans to reduce the suicide rate, provide a safe place to relax, learn new skills, assist in reintegration, provide life skills, provide referral, establish a bond with an animal, and to provide short and long term care in an holistic approach. This is a free service for veterans and their families. http://saddlesforsoldiers.org

The Ranch Treatment Center provides comprehensive trauma treatment for survivors of childhood and/or adult trauma of all types, including PTSD.

http://www.recoveryranch.com/treatment-programs/trauma/

The Refuge Treatment Center offers a12-step based program that treats each person as a unique individual. They believe trauma is centered in the nervous system and telling the story in a nature setting helps the nervous system process the trauma.http://www.therefuge-ahealingplace.com/ptsd-treatment

The National Institutes of Health is a website that offers up to date information and statistics on PTSD.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/winter09/articles/winter09pg10-14.html

Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center is a residential treatment center for women that offers therapeutic interventions for trauma.

http://www.timberlineknolls.com/trauma

Veterans and PTSD is a website that offers Veterans statistics from a major study done by the RAND Corporation: PTSD, depression, TBI, and suicide. http://www.veteransandptsd.com/PTSD-statistics.html

US Department of Veterans Affairs on The National Center for PTSD- revisions in the DSM5. This is helpful for researchers, providers and helpers.

http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/PTSD-overview/dsm5_criteria_ptsd.asp

The National Center for Telehealth and Technology, www.T2health.org, offers a number of free mobile apps that assist those with PTSD or stress management.

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Facebook Support Groups and Pages:

https://www.facebook.com/HeroesAreHuman Canadian and they deal with emergency service workers and Canadian military.

https://www.facebook.com/battlebuddyThe Battle Buddy Foundation (TBBF) was founded by Veterans to Serve Veterans suffering from PTSD and other war related injuries.

https://www.facebook.com/ptsdusaFoundation of America is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting combat veterans and their families with post- traumatic stress.

https://www.facebook.com/ptsd.home – PTSD support and global awareness.

Books

Guilford Press: If you know a first responder with PTSD, you might find Ellen’s books helpful: I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know and I Love a Fire Fighter: What the Family Needs to Know. Both are available in print or as e-books from your favorite vendors.

Therapists working with police officers may be interested in Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know. Guilford also publishes Life after Trauma: A workbook for Healing by Dena Rosenbloom and Mary Beth Williams, Guilford Press. (www.guilford.com).

New Harbinger (www.newharbinger.com) publishes self-help books for the lay reader. They have several titles on trauma.

If any of my readers know of a PTSD resources they feel was useful, please e-mail me at: authordianekratz@gmail.com and I will add them to my list.

Blog edited by: Sally Berneathy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blog Hop Stops Here

 

jackiebuxton.blogspot.com

jackiebuxton.blogspot.com

Last month I was invited by Linda Williams Stirling who has a blog called, Ramblings of an Eclectic Mind, eclecticstirling.com, to participate in a blog hop tour. I don’t like blog hopping but I love Linda’s blog and her eclectic mind. Since my blog is supposed to have information about writing, I sighed and said “ok.”

Linda Sterling

I had to find three people to jump on the blog hop with me. I guess everyone else must hate hopping as much as I do, because I only had two takers. The first was the incredible, ultimate Alfie Thompson and, bless her heart, she doesn’t even have a blog!!!!!

Second was the sassy, sidesplitting (from laughter), multi-talented Sunny Cole. Since the blog hop stops here, I’ve decided to have them answer the BIG FOUR QUESTIONS on my blog. You’ll read more about my MRW sisters later.

writing

humansareweird.com

Now the hard part…my answers to the BIG FOUR about MY writing process.

1. What am I working on?

I’m working on a couple of things. First, I’m writing a self–help book on teen suicide. It’s for parents, siblings and friends who have lost someone to suicide. After my December blog, “Surviving Christmas Grief,” I realized there were lots of folks out there who have lost someone to suicide who weren’t finding any resources to help them cope with their grief. This is what the book is for.

And I’m working on my prequel to the Victims of Love series. It’s about an FBI profiler who runs across a cunning and prolific female serial killer. She has been killing since her teens and getting away with it. It’s set in 1986 before DNA when profiling was just taking hold as an investigative tool for law enforcement.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

My son Eric.

My son Eric.

In my non-fiction book my focus is on teen suicide because I lost my sixteen-year-old son to suicide in 1996. I know what others have gone through after losing someone and I’ve done extensive research on this topic since I lost my son. I found books which helped but a lot more that didn’t help at all. In fact some of the literature out there feeds into the stigma associated with losing someone to suicide.

This book will pull all the right information together and have resources where the grieving can go to find help. It explains the brain chemistry, hormones and depression of the adolescent. I haven’t found one book out there that emphasizes those topics and teen suicide. My book also focuses on societal views of suicide and the facts vs. myths associated with suicides.

In my Victims of Love series, my villain is a female serial killer named Jillian. In almost all serial killer books I’ve read, the villain is a man. If you read my blog than you know statistically men serial killers do kill more often than female serial killers, but female serial killers kill over a longer period of time. What makes better killers for me are the next-door neighbor types. Like real psychopaths, they hide behind a mask. Jillian Black does it with expensive clothes, a sexy body, a butcher knife and syringe hidden in her Gucci handbag.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Obviously I’m working on my nonfiction book because my son’s death has taken root inside me. Mental illness is hard for people to understand, and death is taboo to talk about. Suicide is the worst of all of these. Just hearing the word suicide gives most people an image of someone with a dark, tormented soul. It leaves an invisible “x” of guilt planted on the minds and hearts of survivors who loved them and are left behind. I want to change this. I want people to understand the un-understandable.

For my Victims of Love series, psychopaths fascinate me as they do a good percentage of the world’s population. Shows like, Dexter, Criminal Minds and my all time favorite, Law and Order Criminal Intent (which started my writing career of writing fan fiction) are incredibly popular. I love to figure people out. It’s what I did as a therapist and it’s what I want to do as a writer.

4) How does my writing process work?

My process for writing fiction has changed over the years. When I started out I just wrote what I felt without realizing writing is a craft. Some are born to do it while others learn how to do it. I’m the latter.

I still write what I feel, but I’ve learned there must be a reason for every sentence in a book. It took me a while to accept that some sentences I really love may not add anything to my story and must be deleted. I basically had to go back from scratch and think while I wrote. A total re-write for me. Now when I read some of the early things I wrote, I can’t believe I wrote so poorly!

Every chapter has to have goal, motivation and conflict in it. Any moron can write. I’m proof of that! But if you don’t have these three things, you don’t have a story anyone wants to read.

Writing nonfiction is easier for me than fiction. You must research both types, but with fiction you also need deep POV (Point of View) within your characters to make them real to the reader. In nonfiction you are basically the narrator of the facts. And I’m very good at that.

Luckily I have great support from my local writing group, Mid-West Romance Writers, and my on-line group KOD (Kiss of Death) that allows me to be in a critique group eloquently named Lethal Ladies. These ladies (and gentlemen) know how to bloody up a chapter in red! They keep me on track and focused. I’ve learned so much from them all. Thank you everyone! You ROCK! I’ve learned the most from my next guest, Alfie Thompson. In a fictional story, she would be my mentor. In real life she is just that!

Alfie’s Bio:

With over 5 million books in print, Alfie Thompson’s 10 Harlequin and Silhouette novels have been published under the pseudonym Val Daniels in 29 languages and in 33 countries. Alfie has presented writing workshops from New York City to Hawaii for local, regional and national groups and conferences, and her non-fiction book, Lights, Camera, Fiction: A Movie Lovers Guide to Writing a Novel was published by Running Press.

Alfie T. Book Cover Lights Camera Action

WOW! Now doesn’t Alfie make a fabulous mentor?

Recently she self- published one of her most popular workshops as an e-book, Point Of View: Understanding Which POV is Best for your Story and Using It Effectively. During her five years on the Board of Directors of the Romance Writers of America, she initiated the first ever RWA “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing which has raised over $825,000 for literacy since its inception in 1990.

Alfie T. POV Book Cover

Isn’t she AWESOME!!!!!

Alfie, now it’s your turn to answer the BIG FOUR Questions…

1)     What am I working on?

When I suffered through a severe attack (several years) of Writer’s Block, what brought me back to writing was non-fiction. After selling a book on the subject of writing (Lights! Camera! Fiction! A Movie Lover’s Guide to Writing a Novel) to Running Press, giving programs and daylong workshops to writers’ groups kind of became my “writing” thing for several years. I’ve finally come full circle and am writing fiction again for the first time in a decade. It feels so good.

I’m writing a series of traditional romances that I haven’t decided if I will submit to traditional publishers or not. I may self publish them. (And I love, love, love my wounded hero in the first one.)

And I’m trying something brand new. This one is really difficult to write because it is different than anything I’ve done before. It’s a futuristic (30 years in the future) and I’m not sure if there is a futuristic genre it might “fit” in. My characters are also unique in that they are neither traditional in today’s times or that imagined distant future. They don’t “fit.” With this one, I’m just having fun, but my critique partners tell me they love it.

everlite.deviantart.com

everlite.deviantart.com

I’m also working on another e-book based on another of my popular workshops, Writing For The Reader. I hope to have it available in the next month as the second in my series, Tips, Tricks and Tools of the Writer’s Trade.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The futuristic one differs from anything I’ve read so I don’t know if it even has a genre. Maybe I’ll start my own.

My traditional series fits snugly into the traditional romance genre. The three stories are three brothers (two they have to find) who inherit their father’s ranch. It has many of the hot elements traditional publishers consistently request. The unique (I hope) element is that none of them knew this man was their father or that they had brothers. And they all have to “learn” to be cowboys. They’ve never worked or been around a ranch before.

Barthle Brothers Ranch sfbfp.ifas.ufl.edu

Barthle Brothers Ranch sfbfp.ifas.ufl.edu

3) Why do I write what I do?

I’m one of the lucky writers. When I first started writing, what I loved to read was exactly what I wanted to write.

For most of my writing life, people (writers) have been discussing writing from the heart vs. writing for the market. Which is the right approach? I’ve always argued that we should be doing both. Successful writers figure out how to write the story in their heart in a way that fits into the current market.

The current trends in publishing make it possible to successfully reach readers with either stories from the heart or stories written directly with the market in mind. I still believe writing from the heart for the market will be the way authors find the most success. So my traditional series is aimed directly at writing what the market wants (length, format and expectations) with three stories (and characters) I dearly love.

My futuristic is definitely “from the heart.” It is a book most knowledgeable people would have considered me to be wasting my time on a decade ago. There is no clear genre where it fits. I am trying to write the characters in such a way that any person reading it can identify with and totally understand their motivation.  I am “writing it for my (potential) reader.” If I can’t find that reader through a traditional publisher, I will definitely try to find him or her by way of self-publishing.

Whatever I write–fiction, non-fiction, traditional romance, futuristic, whatever–I write with the enjoyment of the reader in mind. In all cases, that means I have to love it, whatever it is, as I’m writing it.

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library
4) How does my writing process work?

My life is way too chopped up to work well as a writer’s life. (I didn’t fully appreciate how wonderful I had it when I had contracts and deadlines and no one expected anything from me if they knew that deadline was approaching.) I have several part time jobs that I love (freelance editing for one), that are flexible and let me schedule most of my work as I want to. That should mean I get lots of writing done, right? What it means is that I tend to put my writing last. I’m getting better at realizing my writing does not get done if I don’t put it on my list—with deadlines–like everything else.

I’m a total SOTP (seat of the pants) writer until I get about a third of the way into a story, then I have to stop and become a plotter and planner to figure out where I am going. I use my 5 Star Plotting techniques from Lights! Camera! Fiction! (which is a structural checklist of sorts) to get successfully to the end of the story.  At some point, the story veers and I become a SOTP again—though I do refer to my checklist frequently, and seeing specific things I need to achieve on that list becomes a great idea generator.

I’m still learning to do this. Thanks, Alfie, for bailing me out today. You will always be my mentor! And thank you so much for taking the time to teach me the craft of writing.

Next, a fellow writer and someone I consider my friend, Sunny Cole. I can’t say enough good things about this lady. She is talented and sidesplittingly funny. I have the utmost respect for her and all her talents. Continue reading and you’ll find out what “dramedy” means…

Sunny’s bio:

Bobbie Cole, aka Sunny, has written approximately 60 books under various pen names, ranging from women’s fiction to fantasy, and from erotic romance to romantic suspense. Her 2013 books included a romantic suspense for Harlequin Australia as Bobbie Cole, called  and an essay for disco diva Gloria Gaynor’s nonfiction, How We Survived.

Sunny's Book Cover

1) What am I working on?

I’m writing quirky women’s fiction involving cancer, recovery, bread baking, and blizzards. The first book in the Survivor series is MJ’s story. MJ has what she calls cancer of the soul. She fortunately fails a suicide attempt at the beginning, and the rest of the book revolves around her interactions with true cancer survivors. What she learns from their recoveries eases her into repairing relationships with her mother and others. The second book, a work in progress, is Kendra’s story. She’s just had a double mastectomy and gone through her second divorce when both her parents wind up in a nursing home.

Each book reflects the lives of women who can’t escape the harsh realities of life. With the help of their support group, they learn not only to survive but also to thrive. To grab reality by the throat and choke until they are able to architect the lives they want. Life doesn’t just happen to them. They impact life–theirs and the lives of others.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Most writers seem to feel their books are their babies. Mine are my parents, each one teaching me something I haven’t learned until I meet them. I’m not as interested in telling a story as I am showing the human condition and the process of growing from despair to joy. Characters, like their real counterparts, make mistakes and (hopefully) learn from them. They have feelings, motives, fears and inadequacies. Like I do. Like readers do. My books in this series are intended to offer hope, to swing the reader from tears to laughter, then ultimately to satisfaction…and maybe acceptance if they share traits or conditions with these characters.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and I figured there were others like me wearing Milk Bone underwear. I don’t sugarcoat emotions. My critique partners won’t let me. It’s difficult for me to bare my soul, but I’ve found my writing rings true when I do. I’m learning along with my characters that life can be joyous when I find my authentic self and when I’m not afraid to be open to risk and let others know the real me. Life doesn’t change. It is what it is. We change, and those changes fascinate me.

4) How does my writing process work?

What I feel I do: Character development then plot. Apply meat to seat and write until blood drips from every orifice.

What is more accurate: I grapple with subjects in which there’s little humor, and I find characters who exemplify what traits, abilities, and understanding are needed to overcome tragedies. I write dramedy. Drama with comedy. Difficult situations are plentiful. Characters/people who make the best of lousy situations and go on to succeed despite obstacles are trickier to find. But that’s what keeps my interest.

Mine too! And Sunny is great at it! Her books are sad but funny at the same time. Dramedy.

You can connect with Alfie at:

https://www.facebook.com/alfie.thompson
Twitter   @valfie

http://www.pinterest.com/valfie/

And my girl Sunny at:

https://www.facebook.com/bobbie.cole.73

http://safariofthewriterssoul.blogspot.com/

What’s your writing process?

Happy writing,

Diane Kratz

Blog Edited by: Sally Berneathy