Thursday, June 23, 2011

Author Diana Cosby on Writing, Volunteering, and the Art of Camel Riding

My guest this week is international best-selling author Diana Cosby. Diana and I first met back in my RWA days many proverbial moons ago. Diana is one of those special people with a dedicated heart for caring for others--always reaching out. And that's why through the years I've been blessed she has offered both a shoulder to lean on and handfuls of advice. I hope you enjoy the visit with Diana. She has a surprise waiting for a lucky reader!


What lures you into the realm of history when writing your novels?

I’ve always loved reading stories set in the medieval and Viking timeframe.  There’s something magical about the era of knights, warriors who lived and fought by a code of valor.  As I began researching medieval Scotland, I became fascinated by the complexity of the history.

If   If you can step back in time, which place and period would you enjoy visiting?

I would love to return to Scotland’s fight for independence.  History books address the major points in Scotland’s growth and transition during this volatile timeframe, but I would love to know more about those who carved Scotland’s history behind the historically documented pages.  And, I would love to meet the Bishop Wishart as well as Andrew de Moray.  Both were incredible men whose expertise as passion for Scotland were major players in shaping their country’s history.
Diana Cosby at Scottish Ball

While we’re discussing different times of the past, if you could— would you like to know what the future holds for you?

No.  The journey is what’s important to me, the belief in self and overcoming challenges along the path to my goals.  If I knew what the future held, I might make different choices that change it.  Nothing in life is guaranteed, each day we can only do our best, build upon what we learned, be thankful for the blessings we receive and move forward in a positive manner.

You and I have often spoken about overcoming fears. Looking back on your journey to becoming a published author, what fears did you have to overcome to get published . . . or, has publication helped you to overcome any fears?

My biggest fear/hurdle to overcome was belief in self, that I was good enough, that I had what it takes.  The most important lesson I learned was to trust in yourself, trust your muse.  No one can tell your story except you.  If you’re unsure of what you want to do, you’ll have a whole bunch of people telling you what you need to do.  It’s the author’s responsibility to choose the path true to themselves.

You’re one of my heroines: multi-careered, multi-published, a devoted mom, a humanitarian (you’ve helped in Habitat for Humanity and donate a percentage of your book profits to causes of your heart—just to name a few!), have stepped leaps and bounds over too many life obstacles, and have even braved riding a camel. Can you share any of your secrets for mustering up daily energy? Any secrets to riding a camel?

First of all, I’m humbled by your kind words.  I love what I do.  To be able to craft stories, it’s truly amazing.  That readers enjoy my stories, sincerely humbling.  There really isn’t any big secret to muster up the energy each day for what I do.  Writing is my passion.  I feel blessed to get up each day to do what I love.  In addition, to be able to merge my writing with another passion, that of giving back as with Habitat For Humanity as other charities, is flat out the best.  To know you’ve helped inspire a person, that something you’ve done may have given them hope, it doesn’t get any better than that. 

As for the camel, what a blast!  I knew for my final enlistment in the Navy I wanted to do something fun and outrageous that I’d never forget.  Yes, enlisting on the back of a camel accomplished that.  LOL
*Evidence of that fateful day is on the RomVets page.  Look for Diana Cosby:

One of your dreams—to be part of an anthology with legendary author Hannah Howell—is about to come true. Tell us about this as well as share any other dreams on your T0 ACCOMPLISH list.

I have many dreams listed to accomplish and yes, one of them was to be part of an anthology with NYT Best-Selling author Hannah Howell.  In addition to being a fabulous writer, Hannah is a wonderful and gracious person.  A couple of years ago, with the assistance of another author and friend of mine, Rebecca Sinclair, Hannah gave me a cover quote for His Conquest.  An amazing life moment.  Recently, my editor contacted my agent to ask if I’d like to be part of the upcoming Highland Vampire anthology with Hannah Howell.  Holy cow, I absolutely said yes! 

As you mentioned, I donate 10% of my royalties to a charity of my choice.  In saying that, here are a few more goals I’ve yet to achieve on my very long list: 
-Buy a working dog for a local police station.
-Sponsor an entire house for Habitat For Humanity.
-Buy a fire truck for a local volunteer fire department.
-Open a place near a veteran’s hospital where veterans can stay with their families for free while they are undergoing therapy for injuries sustained while they served.  

Diana's updated office

Your three Scottish historical novels released have all been published in other countries. How does that feel?

That the rights to my books have been sold and translated for five difference countries is amazing!  Each time I learn the rights for another book is sold to a country, I’m blown away.

On that note, on your website you have various people from several different countries (Russia and Iraq to name a couple!) holding up a magazine with your photo on it. What is that experience like?

A wonderful interview was written for Texoma Living, which they chose to feature on the cover with my photo.  Wow, another amazing life moment.  I was so excited and wanted to share this special time with my friends.  So, I asked for volunteers who’d take a photo of them holding the magazine in a ‘fun or unique’ place, which ending up going worldwide. 

And yet, you’re one of the most grounded and humble people I know. Any tips on how not to let ego rise as your career grows?

I feel blessed to be able to craft stories and do what I love.  My career focus is on how I can make a positive difference in others’ lives.   I grew up very simply.  My hope is to inspire people to believe in themselves and that through perseverance you can achieve your dreams.

And last, here’s what I hope will be a fun question: you know the extraordinary Nora Roberts and even have done a book signing in her husband’s bookstore, Turn The Page Bookstore Café. Please share with us that special experience.

With the release of my first book, His Captive, I was overwhelmed to learn I was invited to sign with Nora Roberts before the Washington Romance Writer’s annual retreat at her husband’s store in Boonsboro, Maryland.  I’ve had the pleasure to meet Nora as introduce her at a conference in the past, and she is an amazing as gracious person who I sincerely respect.  She’s definitely a role model for me in my career. 

I traveled to Maryland with two of my close girlfriends, and we had a blast.  As we drove down the street to Turn The Page Bookstore Café, a festive feeling filled the air as hundreds of Nora’s fans lined up to meet her.  Inside, tables were set up for each author signing that day with Nora at the front.  It was neat going through the store to meet so many really nice people all out for a day of fun and to meet their favorite author.

One the book signing began, excited and super sweet fans poured in, shared exciting stories of their travel to Boonsboro, or their favorite Nora story, as well as how many time’s they’d returned.  For many fans, Nora’s booksignings are a ‘must’ attend event.  It was all so incredible, and I was humbled to be a part of such an amazing event. 
*A couple of photos of that day are on my website:

Elaine, my sincere thanks for having me as a guest on your blog.  Your dedication to the craft is truly inspiring, and please know that I wish you every success!

My sincere thanks to everyone who took time out of their crazy lives to stop by today.  I’d love if you share what person inspired you to go after your dream.  Or, if you have a favorite author story, I’d love to hear that!    Take care and always believe in your heart! I will give away a signed copy of HIS CAPTIVE, the first in the MacGruder Brothers series, to a person drawn from everyone who posts during my blog visit and who leaves an email address.

Diana Cosby, International Best-Selling Author
His Captive-Alexander MacGruder/ His Woman-Duncan MacGruder/ His Conquest-Seathan MacGruder
His Destiny - Oct 2011  Pre-Order now!

Guest Author's Bio:
            Most people think of retirement as a time to relax. For me, retiring at 36 from my job as a Navy Chief Meteorologist/Oceanographer allowed me to pursue my passion – writing romance novels. With 32 moves behind me and having traveled through many countries, I was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people I’ve met over the years.
            After nine and a half years of writing and while I was working on my eleventh novel, I received “The Call” from Kensington and sold the first two in the MacGruder brothers series.  A couple of years later Kate Duffy bought the third and fourth books in the series.
            I have many passions, but one that resonates most in my life is that of giving. I firmly believe that each of us can make a positive difference in another person’s life.  There are so many charities, and, with each book I sell, I will tithe a percentage of each novel to a charity of my choice.  In addition, I enjoy volunteering for Habitat For Humanity, Ducks Unlimited, and at a local high school I have an annual Diana Cosby Writing Scholarship. 
            I am currently working on the next Scottish medieval romantic suspense book in the award-winning MacGruder brothers series.  I'm thrilled to share the rights to His Captive just sold to The Netherlands and will be translated to Dutch, the 4th international sale.  I look forward to the years of writing ahead and meeting the amazing people who will share my journey.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Has Inspired and Motivated Me As A Writer by Nike Chillemi

My guest this week is debut author Nike Chillemi. I've had the pleasure of meeting my "neighbor" who lives about 3.5 hours south of me through ACFW as we've shared emails on various loops. Nike's novel BURNING HEARTS with Desert Breeze Publishers is a current release. Nike is sharing with us about what has inspired her to write. If you have any questions or comments for Nike, please drop her a line on this blog. She'd love to hear from you!

What Has Inspired and Motivated Me As A Writer by Nike Chillemi

photostock /

I've always enjoyed expressing myself through writing. As a teenager, I wrote typically youthful poems filled with angst. I think when I entered a room with my poetry-spiral notebook, my parents and brother wanted to flee, having been trapped once too often and forced to listen to stanza after bleeding stanza. I was an honors English student in high school, so that also fueled my writing at that time.

Then, of course, I went to college and entered the work force. I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked in the bridal industry…the manufacturing end, where I was involved in marketing and public relations. I attended industry bridal fairs in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, and of course NYC. These marketing skills, I think have come in handy now that my debut novel BURNING HEARTS has been launched. BURNING HEARTS is set in 1946 in the fictitious village of Sanctuary Point on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY. My fashion background led me into many hours researching 1940s fashion for my characters.

Though fashion is great fun, especially vintage fashion, the turn my writing has taken toward gritty action scenes and more complex subthemes has been motivated by something deeper than the rag business. I have a certain readership I'm writing for. My readership may be churched, or not. They might've been born into the church and are comfortable with Christian symbolism, but that's where it stops. I'm also writing for the backslidden. Rather than sermonizing, because that will make this group throw the book into the trash, I want to create engaging characters who have a deeper walk with the Lord.

All my books have a subtheme calling for justice for the murder victim. I notice on Facebook and Twitter that I've garnered some followers who are members of victim's rights groups. I also have a number of recovering alcoholics as followers and I welcome them as my online friends. BURNING HEARTS has alcoholism as one of its sub themes. 

Nike's writing environment--do you see the cat behind the computer?
I try to create heroines and heroes who are very human, some with deep flaws, some snarky, some gullible, some fearful. But then, I show how their love for another causes them to rise up and become something greater than they were. I show how ordinary, very fallible people, when motivated by love, can begin to walk through life with dignity and honor and become a person who is admirable.
In a nutshell, the gospel message I try to demonstrate in my novels is that when light is shined into darkness, even if it's a faint glow, it dispels the dark. I try to show that love is more powerful than evil and cannot be defeated by evil. That as we walk with the Lord, and come to share in His love and grace, we can feel a peace that is beyond our understanding, even in the worst of storms.

Author Nike Chillemi's Bio:
Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning). She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. BURNING HEARTS is the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, published by Desert Breeze.


BURNING HEARTS (arson/murder, action, and romance in equal measure)

Can a sheltered young seamstress, disillusioned by the horrors of WWII, escape an arsonist/murderer who has killed her employer and mentor, while trying to decide if she can trust the dashing war hero who’s ridden into town on his Harley—who some say is the murderer?
Erica Brogna’s (23) parents doted on her and taught her to think for herself. Many boys she grew up with have fallen in the war, shaking her childhood faith. In rides a handsome stranger, at the hour of her most desperate need. A woman who is her best friend and mentor is trapped in a burning house. After making an unsuccessful rescue attempt, Erica stands by as this man rushes into the inferno and carries her friend’s lifeless body out.
Lorne Kincade (27) can’t out run his past on his Harley Davidson WLA, the civilian model of the motorcycle he rode in the war. He’s tried. He’s been a vagabond biker in the year since the war ended. His Uncle Ivar bequeathed him a ramshackle cottage in Sanctuary Point, on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY and now he’d like to hope for a future again, repair the miniscule place, and settle down. The only problem is, a young woman with hair the color of mink is starting to get under his skin and that’s the last thing he needs.

Nike Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista

Friday, June 10, 2011


Last week, my guest, author Angela Breidenbach, and I talked candidly about what it was like to be raised in a home with a paranoid schizophrenia mother. It was our intent to help others from troubled homes. There is no condemnation here, but rather we express acceptance. We hope to encourage others to hold onto God's hand when walking through tough times.

Angela is graciously giving away an e-book version of her newly released GEMS OF WISDOM to any one randomly chosen commenter who wishes to leave his or her name and e-mail address.


Angela: I think it was doubly hard because just like the child of an alcoholic, I'd make excuses for my mother's schizophrenia. I'd also take the hits too. It was almost impossible for me to get junior high and senior high managed for anything that required after school participation. Let me explain. I had to rely on Mom to drive me to concerts, plays, and special events. Many of them had grades attached to them. Most of them I was sweating whether we'd get there at all because I was still trying to get her out of bed and dressed just to get the ride to the concert. I once wore a pinned together choir dress, not sown, pinned. But I was banned from the special choir performance anyway. I was over an hour late and missed the concert choir performance. So I couldn't perform in the higher-level choir. Why? Mom had been in bed for weeks. She wouldn't help me sew the dress, she wouldn't get up to take me to the concert, and I flunked both classes that night.

Elaine: That was tough. I’m sorry you went through that. In a way, looking back, it was a good thing that my mother didn’t drive and withdrew more . . .the upshot of those times is that I was forced to become very independent and self-reliant. I’m thankful I had a couple of close friends then, and my faith. Although I didn’t become a Christian until I was 22, as far back as I can remember, I always walked holding onto God’s hand. To this day, I believe He kept me sane. Kept me moving ahead.

Angela: What seemed like you shouldn't have had that particular responsibility as a child?

Elaine: When my mother took off from home (she ran away to California, the land of storybook magic, in her eyes) I was suddenly a teenager doing laundry, cooking meals, running errands, teaching my brother how to drive, and juggling a few other things like taking over my mother's secretarial work for my father. Confession time: at first upon learning my mother had flown the proverbial coop, I was happy. Happy that she and my father's constant yelling and fights wouldn't end up more tragically as in death (as I teen, I was worried I’d come home and that they’d killed each other). I didn't mind the extra stuff. Structure. Busyness. It was all good. Then. As an adult, I now understand why I get a bit “fried” sometimes.

Angela: I really struggled. I struggled with anger, frustration, and a sense of hopelessness. The situation was out of my control yet I paid the consequences. That seemed to be a running issue for years. Much of my anger and unforgiveness were rooted in these regular, undeserved consequences. I was stuck in the cycle of how unfair it all was. I did eventually forgive, but it wasn't until much later in my adulthood. Once I gave up the need for fairness, I actually began moving into the life I was called to lead.

Elaine: Interestingly, just a few years ago anger snuck under my skin. It just all seemed unfair. For the first time—many years after the death of my other in 1988 from ovarian cancer—I was angry with my mother. It passed. Anger has to be vented, but it doesn’t do the soul any good. Some other things were also going on in my life then and I continued to pray, but more than ever, began to truly think of my relationship with God as one with my Father. I am His daughter. I just don’t want to disappoint Him. That’s all that really counts.

As a child, Angie, did you have anyone to talk to? Did anyone understand this thing called mental illness?

Angela: No, not really. I was blessed with a couple of adults that would console me in the worst of times. But they didn't understand the situation either. I'm very grateful for a woman named Linda who took me in when Mom was in the hospital, another couple, Nita and Paul, who loved on me and still do today, and my choir teacher in high school. Mr. Sheehan didn't know the full of the situation, but he was a loving Christian who did his best with what he did know. I'll always appreciate these folks for helping me through.

Elaine: That reminds me of a woman who once helped to put things into perspective for me. Shortly after my mother took off from home, Judy, aware of some of the troubles I’d faced, said, “Your mom did the best she was capable of. She loved you the best she could.” Wow. Maybe my mother was messed up and did odd things, but she loved me. In her own way. That’s the bottom line.

Angela: One of the battles our system has is how to manage the high cost of mental illness. It's never been well managed. But unless we can face the problem instead of hiding it, we relegate more children and families to the shadows. That's why I wrote Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life. I want so badly to help other people deal with the difficulties, the devastation, the deep hurts. I believe now God gave me a very special calling. The life I've been given is the training ground to reach out and help others with what I learn on the treasure hunt.

Elaine: I’ve always believed that there are no coincidences and randomness when it comes to God. He placed me—places me—with an array of different people in my life. Many have helped to lift my spirits . . . some, I think I’ve been around to offer my supportive shoulder. I know God has never left me and I hope to encourage others daily with this belief, as well as show it in my stories.

How do I deal with the pain? Sometimes, it hurts at the weirdest and most inopportune times, like if I see a mother/father being affectionate with their child in the cat food aisle of the grocery store or the opposite, like hearing of tragedy on the news, I will get so choked up that I have to duck out before I lose it. But, most of the time it’s like changing the radio/TV station. Don’t like a song/movie? Then change the station. Don’t like the thought/memory—then switch to something else. You don’t have to relive anything you don’t want to.

So, what do you do when the most basic desire or need or expectation of family isn't met?

Vlado /

Elaine: what can I conclude? My mother was a mentally disturbed woman. Most likely, due to a mixture of biology and social conditions, she unfortunately slipped into an illness—paranoid schizophrenia—and had not way to turn back. Unlike then, today there are improved medications that can help some of these troubled people. But, that’s moot. My mother is gone, and I pray she is eternally happy in God’s presence.

I do know one thing: I distinctly remember my mother saying that she would do anything or try anything (even electric shock treatments—though I don’t know if she did) to get rid of her illness. She did not want to be unhappy. She did not want to cause others unhappiness. And as that family friend was wise to console: My mother loved me the best she could. Okay. So, I don’t have terrific childhood memories. Yet, in comparison, I do know that it could have been far worse—and that others have had experiences that make paranoid schizophrenia look tame.

For those struggling with troubled/troubling parents (and note, I’m not talking about physically abusive and dangerous situations here) I urge you to FORGIVE them, LOVE them even if you yearn more love than they can offer you, and turn all of your heart to GOD whose love you can always count on.

Angela: I think the most powerful lesson I learned from being the daughter of a paranoid schizophrenic is that God uses broken vessels. She was one. I am one. We are all so weak, but Jesus can use our weakness to shine through His glory. He uses those things that seem impossible to minister to others. When I see this happening, I see the purpose and the hope. I understand that He knew what was going to happen in my life and whom I needed to help from what I experienced. It's a very healing and honoring place to be when I can share what I know to help someone else. It's a great honor to walk along side someone, be their guide, be their encourager. Seeing my difficulties as "boot camp" for life lets me help prepare others for the battle in their lives. It amazes me to see the triumph in another person's life when they can face down the battle with new confidence because of something I had the blessing to share. Even more so when I see them do the same for yet another person. Then I'm awestruck at the power of the ripple effect.

How about your, readers? What have you been led into because of your experience? What do you do to deal with the pain? Do you see ways to help others because of what you've discovered? We'd love to hear from you.--Angie & Elaine

Author Bio:

Angela Breidenbach is Mrs. Montana International 2009, a multi-award winning inspirational speaker and the author of the Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life from Journey Press, the Creative Cooking Series including the new release of Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance and the new Kindle release, Creative Cooking for Colitis. Other works by Angela include compilation books and devotionals from Guidepost, Group, and articles in magazines, ezines, and newspapers. She connects missions to her work with Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries and the Jadyn Fred Foundation. Angela also teaches online classes and coaches one-on-one in courageous confidence, personal growth, and powerful living. She’s certified in mentor/peer counseling as a Stephen Minister and life coach. Angela serves as an assisting minister for her congregation in Missoula, MT. She volunteered as the American Christian Fiction Writer's publicity officer for two years. Not only did she walk the hard line of deciding to donate her mom's brain for the study of schizophrenia, but she’s also on the brain donation list at the Brain Bank-Harvard McLean Hospital. Angela is married with a combined family of six grown children and two grand children.

Interact with or learn more about Angela Breidenbach: on Wednesdays each week

Friday, June 3, 2011


My guest today is Angela Breidenbach, a speaker, an author, past ACFW publicity officer, a wife, a mom . . .and like me, a daughter of a paranoid schizophrenic mother. Please join Angie and me this week and next as we discuss what it was like to be a child in a troubled household and how we made it through the years into adulthood by the grace of God. We hope this dialogue will bless readers with a sense of peace and bring encouragement over past hurts. 


To Be Sane In An Insane World Is To Be Insane
—Hudde Jr. High School Year Book Motto

Elaine's Note: This quote was my junior high school’s graduating class motto. Back then I thought that pretty much described my family. As an adult looking back, I’ve learned of so many whom—for various reasons—have struggled with childhood heartache. Some turned to vices to escape; others just treaded water to cope. But what do you do when it’s your family that’s cracked up and you can’t run far?

When I joined ACFW, I came across Angela Breidenbach’s website. Whoa. This woman too had a paranoid-schizophrenic mother. Recently, I contacted Angie and she has graciously and enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to dialogue about this “touchy” issue. It is our hope and prayer that this will encourage others with painful pasts to move forward and to embrace life.

We’d love to hear from commenters. However, please note that we are NOT dispensing any professional psychiatric advice. These are our opinions based upon our own experiences. Also, there is NO condemnation of family or friends expressed in either Part I or Part II (which will be posted next week).

Elaine: When you're a mere child, the world is narrowed to one's family, perhaps some friends, and events. A child raised in a socially unhealthy home may not realize that life is untypical. When was it, Angie, that you first remembered something about your mom/family being a bit askew?

Angela: I realized Mom was different when I was about ten. That's when friend's parents began saying no to play dates and invitations that I actually knew about. Prior to that, parents used to set up play dates. We had family friends and I didn't play much outside of that circle so it wasn't apparent. We moved so much between my preschool and third grade I didn't know anyone anyway.

Once we settled into a house in third grade, she'd complain about neighbors sneaking around outside our house and anyone in authority like the pastor or police. I'm sure it happened before, but I actually noticed it around the time I turned ten.

About that same time my social skills didn't keep up with other school children. I didn't understand why then, but now I can look back and recognize I wasn't being taught the same way about social behavior. I tended to be very uncomfortable in groups, distrustful, I didn't catch standard social cues, and I didn't understand normal conversational patterns. I also craved attention so I'd say things I shouldn't, or not know the right thing to say, and other kids didn't have the maturity to understand that odd duck. Mom was so busy in her own mind dealing with hallucinations and extreme emotion, there wasn't a lot of time for a child's need to be cared for. But again, I didn't understand this until my adult years.

By the time I was twelve, I started buying my own clothes because she was divorced and not able to keep a job. I did odd jobs from working in a short summer job pulling skeet to babysitting to cleaning houses until I was old enough to get a job on the record. But I didn't do well because I didn't understand organization. Life was chaotic so anything organized was foreign. Then later when I could work legally, I picked either food shops or clothing stores because the discounts helped me. ;-)

Elaine: For me, flashes of my mother acting terrified of stray dogs (at the time, we lived in East New York, a rough section of Brooklyn with many packs of stray dogs, let alone riffraff) comes to mind. Sure, I think it's normal to be cautious around any animal whose teeth is sharper than mine, but I remember my mother going out of the way to guide my brother and me across the street and then rush away as if any second the dogs would come up behind us and attack. But, one distinct memory surfaces. We lived in an apartment building, on the 4th floor. I was about six, playing with a friend in her apartment, on the 6th floor. Suddenly, my mother knocked on the door and said I had to leave. And fast. Once away from my friend, she warned me that a gang of teenagers was about to strike our building and cause a lot of trouble--that they'd been hitting every building in the area. We needed to escape downstairs before they got to us . . .but we shouldn't use the elevator because they could trap us and hurt us. So, we descended down the stairs, quiet and attentive for the slightest sound that trouble was gaining on us. Later, I overheard someone--and I can't remember whom, perhaps my father or a neighbor--telling my mother that absolutely no one was going from building to building and hurting others.

I was extremely shy as a child. I'm sure this incident didn't help my trust in others. Though, the one thing I recall during this time was not so much my own fear but rather feeling very sorry for my mother because she was afraid, and then later, either embarrassed or in denial or both, that she had to live in this terror, that this terror in her mind had become her real world and not like the pretend world when I played with my dolls and made things up.

Angela: I have similar memories. Everyone trying to convince Mom she was imagining it all. My mom's fears had us run from the FBI in the middle of the night. I was 11. She'd been hospitalized at Colorado General in their mental ward. Somehow (and I don't know how) she'd escaped. She managed to get to my grandparent's house several miles away from the hospital and hid in the basement. She really scared them. She had all the lights out and made them whisper. They called my step-dad. He brought us. All night he tried to get her to go back to the hospital. We were put to bed in our clothes, shoes too. Told to be ready to run by Mom.

It happened. She woke us up in the dark, wee hours. She'd made my step-dad park the car up around the corner. We raced around the block, watching behind us, terror-filled that someone was going to catch us. My step-dad then drove all around central Denver trying to convince her to go back to the hospital. As morning dawned, she tried jumping out of the car while it was moving. I watched him grabbing at her to keep her in while steering through traffic. Finally after what seemed like hours, she agreed to go back to the hospital.

She escaped a second time and stole a truck. This time she was taken to jail and then released back to the hospital. The sad part is after she was stable, and released, she divorced my step-dad. Even sadder, he really loved her. That's a hard thing to find when dealing with mental illness. She divorced both my dads over their desire to get her help. Heart breaking because she was so lonely for so many years after those decisions.

Elaine: With us, our world/community gradually but steadily shrunk. What little friends my parents had seemed to drift away. Looking back, I imagine it was difficult to maintain an ongoing relationship with my mother who increasingly stayed longer and longer in her room. My mother's extended family also seemed to drift, perhaps each of her siblings channeling energy into their own growing families. Perhaps my mother pushed them away; I really don’t know, except we were pretty much left alone. I think there was a huge depression factor going on as well, tinged with some self-pity from her own difficult childhood day. In my early years my father worked 7 days a week. With growing alienation, both physical and mentally, it seemed as if my mother was pushed into the decline of schizophrenia. Funny, how that word is still difficult for me to say.

Hospitals and doctors seemed to come into the picture when I was about 8. Vaguely, I recall my mother being treated for something, but it wasn't discussed. Of course, this was back in the 60s when mental illness was still shut behind the closet door. Then again, it probably was because my brother and I were young . . .but still, children *know* when their parents are hurting, especially when they're in emotional agony. When I was 12 my father was in a sledding accident that almost cost him his life. After weeks in the ICU he came home, but then it seemed as if my mother suffered a "break down" and seemed to disappear for a couple of weeks.

Divorce came up on tearful evening when I was 6--a night my brother and I watched Sesame Street. She stormed into our shared bedroom to announce the end of our family, which didn't happen until ten years later, when she ran away from home when I was 16. Before the divorce was final--when I was 18--and she'd come home to try again with my father--there was another stint in the psychiatric hospital where she stayed about a month.

Angela: Wow, we do have very similar life patterns. My mother stayed in her bedroom all the time too. Sometimes she'd get on the mania high, come out and go shopping for new dress. She was sure that would get her a job. Then she'd work for a few months before we started into the cycle again.

Elaine: I think along the lines of suffering any kind of abuse, I lucked out. My troubled mother pretty much became a recluse. Oh, don’t misunderstand. I do have some fond memories, like her taking my brother and me to movies or museums. Did you have any physical trauma? The only thing physical I can remember was her coming after me with a dish towel—just out of the blue and swatting me a bunch of times. A mother blowing off steam? A disturbed mother imagining I was something or someone else? I don’t know. Emotionally, she did play some mind games on me, like giving me a fat complex (photos showed I was an average weight child) and threatening me that I might have to wear a girdle (remember those things?). I was 8! It seemed like that whatever way she could knock my self-esteem, she did.

And phobias. To this day, stray dogs still make me nervous. This reminds me of another hallucinatory time of hers: I was having eye surgery when I was 9 and upon being admitted into the hospital, she had me convinced that a pack of doctors were about to descend on me and draw vials of blood—gives new meaning to vampires, I guess.

Angela: Did you have to pick up something of adulthood like working to eat or buy clothes?

Elaine: You mentioned being organized earlier, or not being :) In my case, I clung to the other extreme, wanting, needing structure. To this day I'd say I'm still that way, appreciating schedules, organization . . .though I admit housework is not my thing! I think that's why I gravitated toward reading, writing (in junior high I wanted to be the next Neil Simon), and doing well in school.

Though I wasn't forced, I did take on little paying jobs at I think an unusually early age--I was 8 and babysat. Does that count?

For a while my mother had part time jobs here and there. Seems to me I was a young latchkey child, whether it was because she worked (my father was always, always away, due to work or his dedication to the Boy Scouts). My brother and I were pretty much on our own. How we didn't wind up in trouble was amazing (I'm sure God kept His hand on us). Actually, as I grew older and watched my mother's health decline I went out of my way *not* to mess with my own mental health. No way did drugs or booze or anything to alter my mind appeal to me, and believe me, as a city kid, there was plenty of temptation all around. To this day I do not drink or partake in drugs. I still don't know what it's like to be stoned on pot and have no desire to find out.

Angela: I am very mentally organized. But alas, the housework is not my fav either, lol. Seriously, I also stayed away from drugs and alcohol. I dealt too much with the fear I'd be out of control. I dealt with a constant fear of being illogical. I didn't want to appear or feel in any way illogical. That's a tough place to live because that's the heart of where embarrassment comes from too. Not wanting to be embarrassed or misunderstood or crazy. Not wanting to be associated with crazy. Not wanting the world to look at me through eyes of judgment. Such a teetering edge.

Elaine: Yes!! It was definitely a fear of losing control of your mind. And embarrassment. Socially, my mother embarrassed me quite a bit—saying negative things about me in front of others. The last thing I wanted was to embarrass myself.

And let’s face it, one of the biggest price tags of mental illness—whether it’s yourself or a loved one—and despite present day society’s “advance” way of seeing things—mental illness has a stigma attached to it. For many years I didn’t tell anyone about my mother because, aware that they’d misunderstand, I didn’t want to have someone assume that I’ll be just like her.

Readers, did you feel like you grew up in a crazy household? What do you see now looking back from an adult's perspective? We’d love to hear from you.


Angela Breidenbach is Mrs. Montana International 2009, a multi-award winning inspirational speaker and the author of the Gems of Wisdom: For a Treasure-filled Life from Journey Press, the Creative Cooking Series including the new release of Creative Cooking for Simple Elegance and the new Kindle release, Creative Cooking for Colitis. Other works by Angela include compilation books and devotionals from Guidepost, Group, and articles in magazines, ezines, and newspapers. She connects missions to her work with Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries and the Jadyn Fred Foundation. Angela also teaches online classes and coaches one-on-one in courageous confidence, personal growth, and powerful living. She’s certified in mentor/peer counseling as a Stephen Minister and life coach. Angela serves as an assisting minister for her congregation in Missoula, MT. She volunteered as the American Christian Fiction Writer's publicity officer for two years. Not only did she walk the hard line of deciding to donate her mom's brain for the study of schizophrenia, but she’s also on the brain donation list at the Brain Bank-Harvard McLean Hospital. Angela is married with a combined family of six grown children and two grand children.

Confidence Coach & Purposeful Living Educator
Personal growth = Powerful living!

Interested in having Angela speak? Contact Christian Speaker Services 800.871.9012 x40250

Angela is represented by Tamela Hancock-Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. Tamela can be reached at

Interact with or learn more about Angela Breidenbach: on Wednesdays each week

“Angie has amazing passion and mission for helping others achieve their goals and live healthy, fulfilled lives. With her eye always on the Big Picture, she is an unending source of inspiration, energy and empowerment for others.”
~ Tosca Lee – Gallup Organization Senior Consultant/Performance Coach & Christian Author of Demon: A Memoir and Havah: Story of Eve.
“Any cause Angie supports is truly blessed. She has so much energy and passion.”
~ Linda Bauman – Owner, Market Place Media

Memberships: ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), AWSA (Advanced Writers Speakers Association), and RWA (Romance Writers of America)

Add This