Sunday, February 14, 2010

To Tommy, With Love

My guest today is, Charlee Boyett-Compo, the creator of the Reapers™, badass Alpha male shapeshifters with black hair and amber eyes that turn blood red when they are angry. Handsome, deadly men with tortured souls and the only thing that can tame them is the female destined to be their mate. Only she can save her warrior from himself.

  • Reapers™ can be found in several series: DemonWind™ (futuristic assassins), WesternWind™ (whip-wielding, six-gun shooting lawmen of the Old West), WindVerse™ (intergalatic warriors), and BlackWind™ (contemporary fighters of evil). The WesternWind™ werewolf Reaper™ series has been Charlee's bestselling series since 2005.

Her stories are of love and passion and happy ever after endings--but the characters work hard for the HEA. In my opinion, to write believable love and passion, once must first experience it.

I'm honored Charlee was willing to share her own love story with me. This blog's Valentine's dedication is to Tommy, the love of her life.

I am the proud and humble owner of five large scrapbooks, the first of which was started in December of 1965. On the first page of that first scrapbook is a Christmas card from that year. Each page of those scrapbooks holds Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Birthday, Anniversary and Christmas cards. There are 252 such cards plus dozens of others. There was never a year missed. There was never an occasion missed. The other cards are Get Well, Congratulations, or simply a verse that was appropriate when the card was given. In all, there are over 300 colorful cards. The last card, however, can’t be placed in the scrapbook because it’s a musical card and it holds a very special place in my heart.

On April 18, 2009 I became a widow. My husband of 43 years…my most precious Tommy whom my readers knew as Buddha Belly…passed away quietly after a brief two month devastation caused by lung cancer. Not a smoker, the cause of his death was determined officially by the Veterans Administration as a direct result of exposure to Agent Orange when he served duty in Vietnam. No matter the cause, he was gone and with him my life changed with that one last breath he drew into his embattled lungs.

Out of the blue, the illness had struck. They doctors tell me he was dying before he even knew he was sick. That’s the brutality of cancer. He was diagnosed on February 18th. As I sat in our bedroom that afternoon…crying, terrified, numb…I looked at the Valentine’s Day card he’d given me a few days earlier. It would be the last gift he ever gave me.

It was a musical card. On the front is says: “If I had nothing else but our love”… On the inside, it finishes with “I would still have everything I need”. As you open the card, the song plays: “I would give you my heart until the end of time. You’re all I need: my love, my valentine”. He signed it as he had every card he’d ever given me: “With all my love, Tompe” and the date February 14, 2009. He had no way of knowing that his end of time was rushing out to take him.

Tom was a staunch supporter of my writing. He encouraged me from the very beginning. He had faith in me when I had no faith in myself. He cajoled me to query time after time after time…even when it seemed no one would ever take a chance on me. He was the first to read each and every thing I wrote. He bragged about me to anyone who would listen…and some who really didn’t want to. He carried my business cards, promotional postcards, and bookmarks with him everywhere he went. He handed them to his clients, to anyone he saw reading a book. He was there for me at every book signing I ever had. He went to every convention. He was my self-proclaimed agent and promoter. His pride in me could be seen in his beautiful hazel eyes…the corneas from which were the only things salvageable at his death. It makes me proud that those gleaming eyes now help others to see, to read.

Since his death, I have been in a state of flux. Depressed, moody, unable to concentrate for long at a time, I start a project but quickly lose interest. There’s no one to share it with now so it’s not as important as it once was. A new review holds no thrill because I can’t show it to the love of my life, my soul mate.

For the longest time I couldn’t make myself sit still long enough to put words to screen. I turned down requests to review my books. I turned down interview requests and opportunities to be on internet radio. I shrugged off promotion of any kind. Basically, I was shooting myself in the foot professionally but I really didn’t care.

How does a writer write with a broken heart? When there is only numbness and aching depression and the direction has gone from her life, what road looks interesting enough to venture down? From what well can she bring up the waters of creation when she fears her very soul has withered on the vine?

Having a pushy editor didn’t help. If anything, her goading only made me dig my heels deeper into the mud of my own disinterest. I know she meant well but her opinion in the grand scheme of things was nothing more than a single drop into that murky well of emotions I was experiencing. I ignored her as I ignored everything else around me.

So how do you deal with a tragic event that stops cold the ability with which you were graced? How do you go from apathy to engrossing interest when all you want to do is curl into a fetal position and whimper?

I can tell you it isn’t easy. It gives you an entirely different perception of the term writer’s block.

For years I’ve always answered the question of whether or not I believed in writer’s block by maintaining that it was nothing more than an interruption in the natural flow of creativity. Writer’s block is the ringing of the doorbell, the trill of the telephone, the dog wanting in/the cat wanting out, the demand of a significant other or a parent or a child to be cared for. Such interruptions take the writer out of the here and now of invention. It knocks them off course.

It took me eight months before I finally sat down at the computer and called up the book I’d been working on when Tommy got sick. I read through the 80+ pages, saw they needed a little extra oomph to them. So I took one chapter at a time and added a clarification here, a little dialogue there. I went back over that same chapter four or five more times until it ‘spoke’ to me in the voice I was so accustomed to hearing when I wrote. When I was satisfied that chapter was the best it could be, as well edited as was possible for me to make it, I moved on to the next chapter.

By the time I finished with the last chapter I had written, the fire was once again in my soul and the story was beginning to unfold in my mind’s eye. I felt the difference within me. I was writing again. I was doing what Tommy always said I was born to do. I was creating characters and dialogue, building onto the world I had created in the nine other books of that series. I was fleshing out my hero and adding depth to my villainess. I was making my heroine a strong, sexy woman who was not too stupid to live.

As my fingers flew over the keyboard, I swear to you I could hear Tommy cheering me on in the background. He is the reason I returned to writing. He would have expected no less of me and so for him….

I write.

Everything is for him.

What do you do to get back on track with writing or with life after emotional upheavals?

Charlee Boyett-Comp is a prolific author of over 60 full length books in her Reapers series. The first Reaper™ novel, BLOODWIND, was written in 1996 and was released by Dark Star Publications in 1998. Prime Reaper Kamerone Cree, the black-clad warrior known as the Iceman, started a franchise for me and my Reapers™ can be found in several series: DemonWind™ (futuristic assassins), WesternWind™ (whip-wielding, six-gun shooting lawmen of the Old West), WindVerse™ (intergalatic warriors), and BlackWind™ (contemporary fighters of evil). The WesternWind™ werewolf Reaper™ series has been her bestselling series since 2005.

"I hope you'll try one of my signature Reaper™ novels soon."

You can visit with Charlee on her website. She has several background pages on each series.