On Stalking – Liliana, Nathan and Real Life

(may contain some spoilers)

In ‘The Liliana Batchelor Series’, one of the story lines is how Lily is harassed by her boss, Nathan. He does his best to try and make her life difficult, make her dependent on his good graces, and when he is no longer her boss, he resorts to other means to disrupt her life.

I have been stalked twice in my life; once somewhat casually by a man who I now realise wanted to groom me and was testing the waters, (I was a sophomore in High School, he was in his late 20’s), and later on, after I moved out to Washington, by someone who threatened me with physical harm. I am sometimes asked if I use real life events in my books and I don’t, although my experience definitely influenced that portion of Lily’s story.

As you may know from reading my bio, I moved to Seattle when I was eighteen. It was rough – I had no support system and only two acquaintances out here. I also had bills, as it was difficult to get a job when all my references were in New Jersey, and I rapidly went through the savings I brought with me. After several years and a few jobs things were looking up; I was a receptionist/office assistant at a small software company in north Seattle. For a while I rented rooms in homes, then shared an apartment with a roommate, and finally was able to rent one on my own – a little one bedroom within walking distance of the aforementioned job. I still had a backlog of bills but I was paying them off, albeit slowly. I still had power, gas or phone, (in one case two of the three), turned off once in a while, but things were improving on the financial front. My relationship with my mother could still be described as fractious, but I was pleased to finally capture a bit of the stability that had eluded me since my father died, even if things with my mom were still strained. I was given a loveseat, bought an inexpensive table, moved in my futon, (I slept on the floor for six months after I moved here), and settled into having my first ‘home’ on my own. It felt good to have done it by myself – difficult, but good, empowering. I finally felt I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

I answered the phones at work, (let’s call the place ‘RTI’), and one day after reciting my greeting to a caller I was hit by a voice I didn’t recognise. I actually have a really good memory and had a knack for remembering voices – so that often just by a person’s hello I would realise who they were. “How are you Sonja? Are you still seeing that issue you mentioned yesterday?” People began to expect that which was a problem sometimes, especially during a busy spate when my attention was a bit scattered.

Anyway, that day I didn’t recognise the voice, and thought it was perhaps a prospect for the sales manager, but the brief return greeting was followed by something ominous: “I watch you walk to work.”

It could be a joke, a prank, and go no further.

But it did.

I could hear noise in the background as he told me he was going to rape me, although he called it fucking.

I hung up, but it shook me. I’m tall for a woman – 5’8” like Lily – and fairly tough, but I’m still the average height of a man and I know no match for the strength of a man. And of course there was that chilling fact he knew – I did in fact walk to and from work most days, even sometimes going home for lunch.

Perhaps it was a one off – a guy who did it on a dare, or whatever – but that wasn’t to be the case. After a few days he called again.

So I started walking to work less, usually sticking to bright days and times when other people were around the small building, because of course I didn’t know who he was. I would probably recognise his voice but by then it would be too late, right? I am a fairly cautious person with regard to my safety but that increased – I was even a bit nervous walking to my car which was parked in front or on the side of the building because maybe he was hiding in between the vehicles. I had my keys out when I did walk home, but that was a more and more difficult thing to do because he continued to call sporadically. I told my manager and she seemed alarmed but there was nothing she could do. I called the police but – and I’m not kidding – they couldn’t do anything because he didn’t call regularly enough. Sometimes he’d call once a week, sometimes three times, or skip a week entirely.

I started to hate it when the phone rang. Our clients liked me – during a survey of the company they said I was their favourite thing about the place! – and I had begun to settle in, feel welcome and make friends with some of the people who called as well as my coworkers. This harassment cast a pall over everything – my newfound security, my sense of my job, everything. At one point I briefly wondered if it was my fault in some way; my mom always said I answered calls like a phone sex operator, that my voice was too sexy and I thought, did I in any way encourage it? Luckily I was able to shake that off immediately – I had done nothing to deserve this.

As the weeks went by he got more bold, and his descriptions of what he was going to do to me became more violent. I would sometimes say something back to show him I wasn’t afraid, thinking that perhaps he wanted a cowering victim but it didn’t matter. Sometimes if I hung up straight away he would call back quickly and be angry, or wait for a few minutes or a few days. I called the police again, as what he said became more threatening, but still the calls weren’t specific or regular enough. It was often the same officer who was there when I called, and he genuinely seemed regretful that the situation didn’t allow him to tap the phones. It was surreal.

Then it got more surreal. I think my boss, ‘Judy’, didn’t really ‘get’ how bad these calls were but she definitely got an earful when he left a message on the answering machine. One of my jobs was to check the answering machine for messages and he fucking left one on there. Fairly brief, and to the descriptive point. When Judy heard it, she turned pale and was shocked. I called the police again – aha, proof! – but no. Still no help.

I won’t get into specifics and exact descriptions but I will say this – he promised to repeatedly rape me violently, to the point of injury.

So I did what I had to do; I got a gun.

My father used to hunt and I had fired a gun on my great aunt’s farm with him – he had grown up on a farm himself, and was a good shot. One of his exercises for me was to shoot a watermelon and I remember it was mangled afterwards. This was a reminder to never shoot unless you mean it, because the damage is horrific – you could easily kill someone, so do not do shoot lightly, he said.

I never thought I might actually NEED to protect myself like that until those calls, and until the police would do nothing about them. I had endured the harassment for about two months – two months of every day going to work and wondering who was watching me, which building he lived in… could it even be mine, and he was biding his time? Two months of hating when the phone rang, because the PBX didn’t show a caller ID on the phone a lot of the time – it could be a client, it could be him. Two months of breathing easily when he didn’t call for four days, only to be unpleasantly surprised on the fifth, perhaps, or the sixth day.

During one of the phone calls to the police, the officer I spoke with several times – let’s call him Officer Nelson – said something interesting. He had asked if I recognised any sounds or distinguishing features and I said it sounded like there was a cartoon on in the background. (!!!) He didn’t seem surprised, (I’ll paraphrase what he said).

“A lot of times these men are ones who feel impotent. They might have lost their jobs or whatever and are now the ‘wife’ and they are looking to gain control in their lives and this is how they do it. Sounds like this guy is home alone with the kids and these calls are how he is making himself feel important again.”

None of this made me feel any better – sure he was home with the kids now but he leaves the house sometimes. Could we shop at the store and he’d pass me and I would never know it and he would? Would I walk outside one day and find my tyres punctured? Could I go out with my girlfriends and unknowingly meet him at a club? His recitations of what he was going to do to me as I said were getting more violent and descriptive, despite any stand or attitude I gave him or how many times I hung up on him, so would it progress to the next step?

I don’t think I scare easily, but I was worried.  I hope to God you never have been or ever will be in this situation, but no matter how brave you think you are it gnaws as you – he knows me but I don’t know him, and I have to be vigilant.  I felt it was clear he was watching me by comments he made, so I wondered if it was only a matter of time until something broke, until he escalated, until he learned some pattern or saw a hole he could exploit.

So I had a gun at home and that helped, because I could even the playing field if he tried to force his way in, since he knew where I lived. I didn’t answer the door to people I didn’t know, speaking through it instead when the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by, for instance, and I looked into getting a concealed weapon permit after I found out a friend had one.

Then, thank God, there was a break. I called the police again – it had been a bad week for calls – and Officer Nelson suggested something.

He told me it might not work, but it was a trick that could scare the stalker.   Nelson told me next time the stalker called, I should tap the disconnect on the phone, as if I was switching to call waiting but not actually do it enough to hang up, and say something to the effect of, “Officers, this is the call to trace.”

So simple, yet it worked. The minute I did that HE hung up and never called again. To be honest I felt guilty a little because it didn’t solve the problem – he wouldn’t call me, but was he still a threat to someone else? He could have been calling other women too, or moved on to an easier target.  It took a while before I finally believed he wouldn’t call again, and for things to return to some semblance of normalcy; after a while I once more felt that bit of security I had captured when I got my job and apartment, constructively taking control of my OWN life.

Even though the worry is gone and it’s been a long time, the shadow of those feelings remain, even as details – like the name of the Officer – have faded. It felt good to exorcise those demons through Lily and for Nathan to get his comeuppance. As I said early in this post the situations aren’t the same, but I definitely drew on my experience when I created Nathan and that situation.

Holly

Liliana Batchelor Series & Editing; Upcoming Compendium

Hello all! Thanks for stopping by. I am currently editing Lily’s story into a compendium, and over the years I’ve received a few comments about how some of the books, especially book 1, seem to have odd formatting that goes beyond the unusual or archaic spelling or formatting I sometimes use, (particularly on the Kindle). One reader was even so kind as to provide me with approximate locations of some of these things, (including multiple dashes, words hyphenated inappropriately, like ‘balk-s’, etc), but using Amazon’s emulators I hadn’t been able to approximate the behaviour.

I *think* I may have found the culprit. I realised I didn’t have all of the formatting notations turned on, and in several of the problematic places, extra ‘en’ and ’em’ spaces seem to have been inserted – possibly when I copied the original document into a formatted template I created. I am currently re-editing the series, removing things like , ‘to-day’ which people feel is too archaic, and fixing the extra inserted formatting. I hope this will solve some of not all of these problems, and will re-release book one with the fixes as soon as I am finished. I will post here when it goes live with the new changes.

If you want to download the new version when I am done, just delete the book from the library on your device, browse to it again on the Kindle store and re-download it.

Sorry for all this, but I HOPE this effort will leaving your reading experience cleaner and better!

xoxo,

Holly

Q & A for “The Templars Falter” Blitz!

I did a Q & A as part of the promo stuff supplied to blogs for the  book blitz – here it is in its entirety, for your enjoyment. =) -Holly

 

Let’s start with telling us a little something about your book that might surprise us.

This is actually the tenth book I have published!  It also puts me about 900 words shy of one million words written in just under four years. So great milestones, and I *think* this might be my favourite novel; I feel that despite  her ups and downs and moments of weakness, Julianna really starts to come into her own.

What was your favourite scene to write?

I think the ending. Without spoiling anything…  Julianna had to pull away from something, from a temptation that was great after she had suffered a lot. Even when she had a chance to enjoy things and get a respite she was restless, felt her duty tug on her, remembered her loyalties. She made a choice – a very definite choice and although she regretted the pain it would cause, she knew it was right. But to do all that she had to be honest with herself – about her feelings for various characters in the story, what she thought she owed others and herself.  She wasn’t bitter about it either, although like I said there was some regret; I think that says it a lot about her, sums up her drive, her perseverance. She is not immune to fear or doubt, but she is very clear-minded when it comes to her principles and values and I was proud of her for doing what she did.

If you could hang out with one character in your book, who would it be and what would you do?

Hard choice! I love Julianna, and I think she is amazing – spending time chatting with her about how she has coped and adapted would be an incredible opportunity.

Tristan is also compelling – he’s achieved so much at a young age, is already one of the most respected leaders in Templar history, and is a heady combination of sensuality, intelligence and drive.

But I think I would have to go with Lucas. He is a complex character – motivated by intense passion and determination, with a dark and tragic history that has made him who he is. Lucas is an imposing figure, energetic and powerful, sort of like containing a thunderstorm in a spice bottle.  If he would actually sit down and talk and share, I would pick him.

What was the most interesting part of your research for this novel? Is there something surprising or fascinating that you stumbled on?

First off, I tend to do a fair amount of research for my books. Even though I have a lot of interests across a broad spectrum of topics, I want to get it right and I don’t know everything, unfortunately! =) So researching herbs that are used in aromatherapy, types of weapons, the best treats for horses and the gaits they have… I look it all up. One thing that pulls me out of a book fast is reading something that I know is blatantly incorrect. I want my books to be accurate, as much as I can help it.

I love ruins and ancient fortifications and it was fascinating to look at layouts for castles and get a sense of the scale of them. They really were self contained, with things like bakeries, wells, halls and granaries surrounded by sometimes two layers of walls. The Cloisters layout is roughly based on the floor plan for Harlech Castle in Wales.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The death and destruction and in particular the Cloisters, which is a Julianna’s first large battle. The typical follower of the Void is ruthless, and up until this point you see the destruction they have wrought after the fact or watch as smaller battles like Hayden’s Gate unfold. Here I really wanted people to get a sense that the Templars are fighting a difficult war – that as much as you have seen them train and how they spar and prepare, they are battling terrible foes who have tireless servants. I wanted the weight of their responsibility and the near impossibility of their task to weigh on the reader.

What does your writing process look like? Do you outline the story or go with the flow?

I know the story from start to how it will end and I also know the big milestones or revelations that will occur, so it’s just a matter of weaving it all together and ensuring the flow of information works well. I don’t outline it, other than having it in my mind as I mentioned, although I do use OneNote to track everything related to the lore and story that is important, so I can refer to it easily.

So generally once I sit down I just start typing.  =) I might add something or change around a scenario with another one or alter a little detail, but for the most part it’s a matter of following the track in my head and figuring out the specifics of dialogue and minutiae. I save my document at various points along the way, using an underscore and letter after it to show the order, so I can back track if I make some significant changes I decide to reverse.  It’s only happened once, but I’m paranoid I might tear something up or change things around and then have to undo it all!

How do you go about creating your main character? 

I was a geek when I as a kid, still am to a large degree, and got used to being alone or perhaps ostracized and that made me an observer. So I notice details, mannerisms and the like, and I know I weave them – or something like them – into every character. I want them to feel unique, for speech patterns to perhaps have a different cadence or vocabulary selection, so that is how I go about building up my characters, thinking about the little things that make someone an individual. I don’t try to do that just for my main, but for important supporting characters as well. I want them all to feel fleshed out, and although there are traits I admire or focus on for my main characters, I do try to differentiate them in some way.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

I am in all of them to some degree, probably. I channel and recall the emotions I have had at various times – uncertainty, disappointment, passion, lust, surprise, et cetera – and try to conjure them with my writing when it is appropriate. Although I’ve never had to sword fight minions that want to kill me, when I am tackling a scene I might recall something difficult I have done and try to extrapolate that for Julianna’s character and set of circumstances.

With regard to Julianna, I sympathise with her determination and frustration, and then her acceptance of her situation and after that how she pushes forward to make the best of it. I moved across the country by myself when I was eighteen and had no idea how difficult it would be – there were no friends here just two acquaintances and some saved money but no job. It was a huge adjustment; Seattle is very different from the NJ/NY area where I spent my entire childhood, and I initially had these feelings of alienation and confusion whilst trying to learn the city and get my feet under me.  I definitely think about that when I am highlighting Julianna’s uniqueness and pangs of loneliness.

Give us a brief description of “The Templars Falter” using only 2 sentences.

Juliann’s tryst with Lucas is a secret and soon she learns something unexpected about VoidCleaver; it all weighs on her, and she is not certain who to trust. The battle at the Cloisters gives Julianna a glimpse of the power inside her while at the same time showing her the terrible price that must be paid while fighting the Void.

Want to be daring and share some of your (writing-themed) confessions?

Despite this being my tenth book, I still get nervous when I publish! I’ve accidentally uploaded the wrong covers and old documents, had issues at one point with the cover not showing on the nook, periodically had readers email me with weird formatting problems I have a hard time replicating… I spend a great deal of time and energy trying to make the story compelling and consistent, and the moment of truth – ‘firing phasers’ as it were – still rattles me a bit. I want things to go smoothly, but fear they won’t! I also dread the post-publication depression I get. For a few weeks it is a little hard to focus on things, especially writing related, I get distracted… it’s because so much of my concentration and efforts have been on finishing and getting the novel ready for release. I wake up and go to sleep thinking about the bloody thing, so when I don’t have that task to focus on, it takes me a while to re-centre and move on. I’m still in publishing mode afterwards, even though it’s done… sort of novel empty-nest syndrome or something!

I absolutely need snacks when I read – what would you tell me to eat while reading this book?

Julianna misses the comforts and familiarity of the world she knew – even though there are analogues for a lot of the things in her new world, it’s not quite the same. I think she would want to enjoy something fairly pedestrian to us but missing from her life in Galea. Maybe veggies with onion dip, potato chips with Hidden Valley Ranch dip or just some salsa and chips; food you would nosh on easily while watching a movie, which is something she will never get to do again… unless she finds a way back.  When we’re away from home it is the simple comforts that call to us the most, so I would suggest going with that. =)

“Blood and Frost” – Free on Amazon For A Limited Time!

At midnight PDT on August 19th, “Blood and Frost” will be FREE until midnight August 20th. If you’re curious about this supernatural dark erotica book, now there’s no excuse not to pick it up!

Also I am currently in the midst of a promo for “The Templars Falter”. Exciting times! Be sure to head on over to Goodreads or Rafflecopter for a chance to win a free signed copy! The Goodreads promo is open to the US, Canada, Australia and the UK!

All the best,

Holly

 

Goodreads giveaway!

I am hosting a giveaway on Goodreads to coincide with the Book Blitz next week for “The Templars Falter”. Xpresso will be hosting a separate giveaway too, so that’s eight copies I will be signing and mailing, and I have opened the Goodreads giveaway to Australia, England, Canada and the US. =)

Visit Xpresso or click on the link in the previous post to see what blogs are part of the blitz!

Holly

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Templars Falter by Holly Blackstone

The Templars Falter

by Holly Blackstone

Giveaway ends August 22, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

“Templars Falter”

Hi everyone!
“The Templars Falter” is live on Amazon and Lulu, and hopefully will be on B&N, Kobo and iBooks within a few weeks.

Currently I am getting ready for a Blitz, hosted by Giselle at Xpresso book tours! I am also in the process of re-editing and compiling Lily’s story into a boxed set! As that progresses, I’ll be sure to update. =)

All the best,

Holly

Editing

So I am currently editing book three in the Void Chronicles, “The Templars Falter”. It’s a fairly long book, right now 104,000+ words, counting the Table of Contents, etc.

I admit this final pass I have been dragging my feet a little. Well, that’s not ENTIRELY true… it’s just been difficult.

Why? Because when I’m done I am ready to publish. This novel has a lot going on,  some things in it are pretty intense, and there is no turning back once it is out there. I knew the things in the book had to happen but that doesn’t make it any easier, if you catch my drift. I regret some of the episodes in the book, because they’ve made me sad and things are even MORE difficult for the decent but beleaguered Julianna.

That’s not the only reason it has taken me a while – some ‘real work’ stuff has occupied a bit of my time, and I’m working with my cover designer whilst considering promo options.

So I am editing but gosh… this is the most difficult book to publish so far because it is so important. Julianna changes a lot here, goes through the wringer and has heartache, has to hurt someone she loves but she is beginning to come into her inheritance as the Deorwyn, and starts to get some answers about VoidCleaver, Tristan and even Lucas.

If you haven’t read book one yet, “A World Away”, look at Goodreads, see the reviews there and read the blurb. It’s only $2.99 so if you’re interested at all in fantasy erotica, give it a gander. I’ve worked really hard to develop an interesting world and rich lore that fleshes out even more in subsequent novels.

All the best,

Holly

Travel

So I work part time for a relative, (gotta pay the bills), and that sometimes means travel, in particular to Utah. So earlier this month I went on a little road trip, took care of their business and came back. I feel like I am finally digging out of the accumulated personal items, blast giveaway and residual things from my trip. Unfortunately when I’m away I can’t check this blogsite easily because I have an old laptop with a dead battery so I only take my nook. =| Would love a new laptop, but I have other expenses first – it’s near the bottom of my list, (after a new dishwasher =( ). Unfortunately I also couldn’t log in to Goodreads either; for some reason my stored password wasn’t saved and the resets I finally realised were going to junk mail! Such is the joy of traveling. =P

Whining aside, I actually love road trips, to be honest. It is amazing to see the scenery change as you travel across the US, the different businesses, (like restaurants), the attitudes. I love the climate in the PacNW, the trees, the ocean and mountains, but some of the people, especially in Seattle, I find frustrating. I’ve run into a lot of passive aggressive people, (particularly drivers!), and being originally from NJ I am a more direct person. There are also a fair share of people who have a chip on their shoulder because they live *IN* Seattle, (or whatever), and it’s a bit off-putting.

I’m a little cautious and suspicious too because of my origins, and in parts of Utah, (and other places), there is still this innocence that is both maddening and heartening. Maddening because there are bad people out there and you worry someone might not be prepared for that, but heartening that there are still places where things have been safe enough that people have a higher level of trust. I remember as a teen that for over a month one year there was at least one rape within a mile radius of the Pavonia station in Jersey City, and I worked at a mall, Newport Centre, and grabbed the Path train to it from Journal Square and got off at Pavonia. That was my experience as a kid.

I still haven’t eaten at a Cracker Barrel, which I think might be my next rite of passage when I have to make that trip. =) Although I hate being away, it is a bit of an adventure. I much prefer driving too, so I don’t have to hassle with the TSA, and if things take longer, I only have to worry about a hotel and not changing a flight.

Plus, the journey is important, isn’t it? Getting out in Eastern Washington on 221 to take pictures of the wheat fields as they wave in the wind, the large Valley watering arms spraying crops in the late afternoon, the droplets glistening in the warm sun… life is full of simple beauty, peaceful vistas and magic.

I remember when I was driving back from Texas in a Penske truck filled with my mom’s stuff; I was alone, in mourning, tired and emotionally wrung out. I had my Blackberry and maps to get me home, and I was driving unfamiliar roads. The first day of driving I stopped in N Texas to get gas; it was still a little early but dark, (it was April), and I went to get a drink and saw a cat by the side of the convenience store, looking for food. Alone, I had been berating myself for missed opportunities, mad at my mom, (how could she not go to a doctor for years? She always told me to!), and it was difficult to break out of it. When I saw the cat, I went back inside and got a can of food and carefully put it where they could see it, and when I walked away they pounced on it. It helped me get out of that mindset I had gotten into.

And as impossible as it sounds, the next day it happened again, at dusk somewhere in Colorado or New Mexico, when I went and got gas. It really pulled me out my funk, made me focus on something outside myself, and think about all the surprising moments life can hand you, how it is good to care for others and not get wrapped up too much in yourself.

So I like roadtrips. Although I hate being away from home, from my cats, my lovely man, there are beautiful things to see out there.