I’m happy to welcome journalist and author Trixie Stilletto. Today, Trixie shares her inspiring journey and new release, Do Grave Harm.
I grew up in eastern Tennessee where storytelling is a huge part of everyday life. My dear departed husband used to say we were all experts at telling whoppers. And in a sense, he was right. Sunday afternoon was for family. The first question? What’s new?
If you stuck to the truth, it’d be a mighty boring story. So my family expounded more than a little. We didn’t consider it “lying” just making the story more entertaining. I never considered writing those stories down until I took a high school creative writing class. Though I excelled and my teacher urged me to continue, it wasn’t a “job.”
Fast-forward to college. I was on track to become a lawyer. Mostly for the money. While yawning through pre-law classes, I thought about where I’d be going drinking that night. A classmate suggested I take a journalism course.
I went to the “Intro to Newspapers” class the next day and I was hooked. (My mother lamented that day until she died.) My path was set. I spent the next twenty years working for different newspapers all over the eastern United States, meeting my husband, another journalist, along the way.
In my free time, I read. Voraciously. Yes, newspapers but also romance, mysteries, science fiction, anything. In 1988, I wrote my first romance novel. It was terrible. Life intervened. I was still working as a full-time journalist and on my books when I got my first publishing contract in 2001. I thought my life was set.
As often happens when we’re on one path, it veers away from where we think it should go. A series of deaths (both my parents and my husband), two moves, and finally a diagnosis changed me forever.
In 2014, my doctors discovered a small lump in my left breast. It was a particularly aggressive type of cancer called Her2+. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation followed. I may never be completely free of this disease.
While undergoing my first treatment, I came up with the idea for my newest release, Do Grave Harm, and Jennifer Atkinson. Like me, she’s a cancer survivor. Unlike me, she’s plucky, determined and dedicated. I hope you’ll visit my website to learn more. There are links listed with this post to online retailers where it is on sale.
A percentage of all proceeds will be donated to metastatic breast cancer research. Each October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, 100% of the proceeds will be donated to these charities.
“Helpless” and “vulnerable” aren’t normally part of freelance writer Jennifer Atkinson’s vocabulary. But there’s nothing normal about her regularly scheduled radiation treatment, especially when she discovers that while she was fighting claustrophobia inside the massive machine aimed at her breast, someone was murdering the technician at the controls.
As the gruesome scene plays over and over in her mind, small details that didn’t seem significant at the time start the wheels turning. Soon she’s asking more questions than she’s answering for the seriously attractive investigating officer, Blue Bald Falls Detective Ben Manteo.
Despite Ben’s warning she should keep her nose out of it, Jennifer can’t resist using her limited energy to pick up seemingly unrelated threads that, inevitably, begin to weave themselves into a narrative. A story of lies, deceit, and betrayal that someone will go to any length to make sure never gets told…
Something wasn’t right. I didn’t want to panic, but I was starting to feel claustrophobic. Having a two-ton radiation machine sitting only inches from your chest will do that to you, especially when it seems you’ve been forgotten.
You’re not truly alone, Jennifer, I reminded myself. There were dozens of people down the hall in the waiting room. And this was a hospital. People were constantly moving around, even though they kept the radiation section closed off.
Repeating these things and more didn’t help. At that moment, I felt abandoned, as if no one knew where I was.
“Excuse me,” I finally called, hoping the radiation technician who’d brought me in here would answer, reassuring me.
Robert. I picture his name tag in my mind. Raising my voice, I called again, “Robert?” Nada. The room was probably soundproof with the door shut.
Panic sped up my breathing as I stared at the machine. It hadn’t moved after my radiation treatment had ended. That was the problem.
In my mind, the six inches between me and it had shrunk to three. My arms were starting to go numb, as well as my feet and legs. No one was coming to help me. I had to do something. Now.
Moving while under the machine was kind of tricky. I was a large woman, and I’d never been dexterous on my back, much to my rat ex- husband’s lament, I guess.
I kicked my legs out of their rubber support and, after several tries, scooted my butt down the metal table. Then I did an ungainly slide, like I was slipping under a barbed-wire fence. Except this particular fence was the size of a VW Beetle, and it seemed to be inching closer to me with each passing second.
When I moved enough that my head and neck were no longer in the plastic mold that kept me still during treatment, I banged the back of my skull against the table. “Ow, ow, ow,” I muttered, inching my way farther down it until I cleared the machine.
Finally, my legs dangled off the end. I sat up, took my first relieved breath in eons, and waited for my head to stop spinning. Freedom! I looked around the room, and everything seemed normal. Walking over to the plastic chair to my left, I picked up my long-sleeved cotton jersey and put it on. Since I got topless for my treatment, most of the time I didn’t bother wearing a bra when I came here. It would be one more thing to take off.
I moved to the doors. They’re made of thick steel and tightly sealed. No wonder no one answered me. They wouldn’t have heard me even if I’d shouted. I pushed on one a bit, staggering under the unexpected weight. When it opened a scant few inches, I peered around the edge. I don’t know why I was acting like a guilty person, doing something or going somewhere I wasn’t supposed to.
I hid a giggle behind a cough. Jeez, Jennifer, get a grip. Something still wasn’t right. In fact, I felt an overwhelming sense that things were horribly wrong.
“Robert?” Still no answer, so I pushed the door open a little wider. Now I could see the second lab and computer station. It was as dark as it had been when I came into the radiation lab at the Blue Bald Falls Cancer Center no more than ten minutes ago. I opened the door wide enough and stepped into the bright lights of the hall.
Robert had his head down on the computer keyboard like he was napping. The scalpel sticking straight out from the side of his neck and the blood pooling on the table down to the floor told me sleep had nothing to do with it.
A southern girl, Trixie traveled north when she found the love of her life. Together, they enjoyed more than 20 years working as journalists. Now back home in Tennessee she’s writing stories that range from short hot romances with a kiss of humor to southern-flavored mysteries. She lives seven miles from the neighborhood where she grew up with two cats, an aging beagle and a host of characters waiting for her to tell their stories.
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