About Moxie Girl Musings

Moxie Girl Musings is about starting over from square one after tragedy impacted my young family. It's filled with stories of triumph, struggle, snafus, hopes, and dreams. Sometimes there will be features from other writers that I like and every so often I'll include an original short story, but normally I simply write what's on my mind at the time. Welcome to my unfiltered true-life story as I figure out this thing called life. http://www.amberleaeaston.com

Thursday, July 9, 2015

How Real Life Inspires Fiction on #TBThursday #amreading

It's Throwback Thursday and I'm talking about the tragedy that gave birth to my novel, Riptide, that is three years old (OMG, how'd that happen?!) this month.

Back when I was twenty-five, I lived and worked in North Carolina. I was proud of myself for venturing across the country to start a life of my own in a career I loved--journalism. As most twenty-somethings, I struggled with getting and staying on my feet. My bed was an air mattress, dinner often consisted of salads or rice, and I wouldn't have changed anything. I met new people, spent weekends in Charleston or Myrtle Beach, and loved being on my own.

Enter Mr. Wonderful who was ten years older than me, a vice-president at a major tech company, who swept me off my feet with roses, nice dinners, and fancy trips. He truly swept me away with romance and I believed every sugary word.

But then the abuse started. Not just any kind of abuse either--wicked, rip-my-clothes off, spit in my face, terrify me, and threaten my family kind of abuse. I broke it off. He stalked me. My work had added extra security in the front office to try to keep him from getting to me.

He got to me anyway. He kidnapped me for several days, beating me to an inch of my life, dislocating my jaw, bruising my ribs, rendered me unconscious multiple times, destroyed my picture albums saying he wanted to erase me until I found the strength--which I still credit to a guardian angel--to fight my way to freedom.

But even then I was afraid. I went into hiding--literally. I lost the career, the apartment, the spark of a new beginning. He'd taken it away from me and shrouded me in fear and pain. I had looked into his eyes and witnessed evil. When he'd threatened to kill me, he meant it. Any innocence I'd had ended at age twenty-five.

I had a long road ahead of me due to the brain injuries I sustained. It took me six months of physical therapy to write again--it took longer than that for me to stop being afraid of the dark.

I rebuilt my life, although it's drastically different than what I'd imagined before that event. I fell in love, had a family, but the Amber who lived before that horrible event in North Carolina has never returned.

My romantic suspense novel, Riptide, is loosely based on that event in my life. The heroine, Lauren, is definitely all me as she struggles with trust issues and PTSD. The creepy stalkers in the novel aren't my ex--but the evil undertones definitely are.

When mining one's life for the raw emotion used to create a story that closely parallels events, it's sometimes a brutal experience. I would cry, lose myself in the writing even though I kept saying "it's fiction", and be mentally worn out afterward. Does it help? Is it therapeutic? I don't know if I'd say that--but I do know I needed to do it.

Writers often dig deep to connect to a raw emotion when fleshing out their characters. I've used my tragedies in one way or another to shape many characters, not just those in Riptide. When this is done authentically, readers feel the tears that the author used to build the story.

Today for "Throwback Thursday" I indulge in revisiting Riptide...

Book Trailer 

One violent night shatters Lauren Biltmore’s life. As an anchorwoman, she's accustomed to reporting the news rather than being the lead story.  She escapes the spotlight by fleeing to her brother's home in the Cayman Islands. Haunted by nightmares, all she wants is a distraction from reality.

Distraction arrives via sexy screenwriter, Noah Reynolds. His take-me-to-bed looks mask a past ripe with scandal. He knows he should stay away from Lauren, especially when the worst night of her life unlocks his writer's block and while he's dealing with a stalker of his own, but ethics are his weakness.

Attraction sizzles beneath Caribbean sunshine. As their relationship grows, Noah's stalker intensifies her torment. Lauren wonders if her paranoia is justified or a carryover from her past. What's real? What's imagined?  Tentative trust is tested as their love is swept up against a riptide of deceit, murder, and revenge. 


Heart thudding in her chest like steel drums, she jolted awake, and blinked at the stars glaring at her from the open hole in the ceiling. She froze with fear, every limb paralyzed, breathing labored. Someone watched her from the foot of the bed. She could feel their gaze on her...on them.

Noah slept next to her, completely unconscious judging by the steady rise and fall of his chest and the weight of his arm over her abdomen.

Look. It’s my imagination. No one’s there. I double-checked—no, triple-checked—all the locks before bed.

Her thoughts immediately went to the morning before...the blackout, the pictures, the fear. She exhaled slowly and raised her head.

A woman stood at the foot of the bed, hair hidden by a yellow scarf, face in shadow, dressed in a baggy sweatshirt and jeans. Real.

“Who are you?” She bolted upright, eyes wide as the woman turned and ran from the room.

Pushing Noah’s arm aside, she bolted from the bed. 

Anger replaced fear in an instant. Unable to control the emotions raging through her bloodstream, she ran into the living room. No one. She’d left all the lights on before going to the bedroom. She turned in a circle, plastic from the still unfinished kitchen crunching beneath her feet.

The deck door remained closed and locked. Nothing appeared disturbed.

Heart still slamming against her ribcage, she walked to the top of the stairs leading down to the laundry room. She took one step...and then another...slowly...unable to breathe until she reached the bottom. All the deadbolts remained locked.

No one had left.

She flattened her back against the wall and looked over her shoulder toward the top of the stairs. If no one had left, then the woman had to still be inside.

Ali? Alicia? Someone pretending? Questions rattled her mind as she ascended the stairs with her back kept firmly against the wall. She wanted to call out to Noah, but her voice lodged in her throat.

Once in the living room, she again checked the lock on the sliding glass door before staring down the hall toward the spare room she’d never entered. Fear battled anger until she thought her head would explode from the pressure of the two heated emotions.

As she passed the bathroom, she flicked on the light to make sure it was empty inside. It was. She pushed open the door to the spare room with her foot as she kept her back pressed against the door.
Dark. She slid into the room, her hand moving along the wall for a switch of some kind.

Then she heard footsteps behind her. Slow. Creeping.

“What’re you doing?” Noah asked from where he stood in the open doorway.

He flicked on the light, showing the room to be empty except for piles of boxes and tools. She stared at the open window at the far side of the space.

Without answering him, she walked over the mess and leaned out the window. Palm trees swayed with the night wind. Shadows danced in the darkness, black on black. In a moonless sky, stars fell toward the dark void where the ocean lay.

“Lauren? Are you sleepwalking or something?” Noah’s hand dropped against her shoulder.

The truth of what she was seeing warred with the knowledge in her heart that someone had been standing at the foot of the bed. The intruder could have escaped out this window. It wasn’t a long drop for an athletic person.

I’m not going crazy, I’m not. God, I hope I’m not.

She shoved the window closed with more force than necessary and latched it. When she finally faced Noah, she felt like someone dancing on the edge of a cliff in the darkness, someone about to take a free fall into the abyss.

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” she said, her voice husky with emotion.

“You look terrified.” He smoothed her hair back from her face, his thumbs caressing her cheekbones. “Did something happen that scared you?”

“You look better.” She flattened her hands against his chest and forced a grin. “How do you feel?”

“Hungry.” His grin reassured her that all was well in the world. “Want an omelet?”

She smiled and let her hands trail down his chest. Maybe she’d been dreaming, after all. Yesterday had been more than a little stressful.

“I hear you make the best omelets on the island—”

“In the world, actually.” He winked. “World famous omelet.”

“World famous, yes, of course, how could I resist?” She exhaled the nervous energy that still zapped through her system and leaned into him. The man had a way about him. There was no denying it.

“You can’t resist me. I’m like a drug.” He glanced behind her toward the window she’d forcefully closed. “Want to tell me why every light in the house is on and why you’re in here closing windows at three a.m.?”

“Not really.” She linked her hands behind his waist and looked up at him. “I like being here with you in the middle of the night, think I’ll make it a habit.”

He squinted at her, obviously curious about the reason behind her madness. Again, he glanced toward the window but said nothing.

Habit? Had she actually said that word? There’s no way she could stay here again, probably shouldn’t be here now, not when she was having blackouts, chatting it up with creepy redheads and hallucinating women standing at the foot of the bed. She’d successfully gone from one nightmare into the next and could no longer distinguish reality from fantasy.

She cringed when he looked away and turned off the light. She was such a liar, a dirty, rotten liar. A hypocrite. A fraud. She needed to control herself and slow this down before they both got in too deep.

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