Thursday, October 29, 2015

Choosing Good Will

In 1997, I watched a movie called Good Will Hunting, which is a movie about a young math prodigy who refuses to take a chance and become the world changer he was destined to be. I hated the movie. It was ripe with profanity, irreverent humor, and horrible language. Despite the fact that the storyline of the movie is one of the best I’ve ever seen, I chose to be offended and I hated the movie. I was appalled that anyone would enjoy the film.

In 1997, the main character, Will Hunting, played by Matt Damon, was rude, arrogant, snobbish, trash-talking, low life who selfishly chose to engage in underage drinking, sexual carousing, and generally wasting his life. Robin Williams played the part of the therapist who helped Will find his way and to heal his past so that he was able to embrace his destiny. His character was rude, abrupt, filthy mouthed, and disrespectful. I hated how unprofessional he was.

18 years passed and I held to the memories of how horrible that movie was.

Yesterday I watched Good Will Hunting after a gap of 18 years. I was floored at how brilliantly written, character rich, and otherwise awesome the movie is. Will, the main character, is a kid who is hurting, and who learned to push people away as a defense mechanism, because he was orphaned as a child, and was abused by the adults entrusted to care for him. All through his life he survived by laying low and making do, all the while self-educating at the library because he couldn’t afford to go to college. He was an undiscovered math genius who would some day change the world, but he was afraid to commit to that course because the pain he lived in was too real for him to see beyond his modest life.

His therapist was a man who was reeling from the loss of his one true love, and was withdrawn and bitter from losing all he once had. He was a man who was barely hanging on, desperately seeking shelter from the storm. Because of the pain he embraced, he was able to reach Will and help him find healing from his broken, abused childhood, and gave him the courage to step out and take the risk of living beyond his modest life.
18 years ago I hated this movie because it offended me. Why? Because I was a self-righteous, arrogant, selfish, religious zealot who chose to hate the world and reject it before it could harm me—again. Yes, again.
You see? I was a Will. No, I was not abused as a kid. I was not hated by my family, but I was still afraid to step out of my comfort zone and find depth and meaning. I was comfortable living my modest life. But, I was inflicting pain and misery upon my friends and family, and I was a horrible Christian who was hiding his fears inside of his religious fa├žade. I was afraid of the world and what it represented and I chose to hide behind what was comfortable. I rejected anything that was not religious. And I inflicted pain on those around me. It was my defense mechanism. And I was wrong. Is there anything worse than a self-righteous, religious, snob? Sadly, it was the life I chose.
Why am I baring my soul to you now? Because I have grown. And, like Will, I learned how to step out of my comfort zone and live my life and take risks. One of the risks I’ve learned to take was to write. Yes, I’m an author. I write books, and I make myself vulnerable to you and allow you the option of filleting my stories, which are microcosms of my soul, and grant you the ability to reject me. I’ve chosen to put myself out there. And to be honest, it’s a bit overwhelming.
My newest release is titled, Shadows, which is a book about choices, and the inevitable conclusions of our choices. Due to the magic of fiction, I allow one man to make two choices, and create two realities that reflect those two choices. In one choice he remains true to himself and reaps the benefits of that choice. In the other reality, he chooses to defile himself, and watches in horror as the consequences cause his life to spiral out of control.
18 years ago I made a choice to hate a movie. I chose to reject that movie because it offended me. And why not? It was not a movie that reflected Christian values. Therefore, I must reject it. I chose to do so.
And now, 18 years later, I’ve grown. After seeing the movie, I realized that I never really saw it the first time. I was too busy judging and rejecting it to see what it was actually trying to say. Yesterday I saw the movie for the first time. Instead of seeing the things that offended me, I saw people. People who live in pain. People who don’t want to live in pain any longer. People who are desperate to break free and live free. Free from pain. And I chose to feel the depth of their pain and experience it with them. Rather than reject them, I chose to hear them. I chose to understand them. I chose to appreciate them. And my life is richer for choosing to do so. These are people I can appreciate and I can share their lives. I can be their friend. I might even be able to help them with their pain. None of us want to live in pain.
Look, I still don’t enjoy bathroom humor. I probably never will. It’s not my personality type. I will probably never use the language used in this movie, and I will never tell the jokes in this movie, BUT I will not reject the characters because they do. I choose to accept them as they are, and not cast judgment upon them for not being like me. Our choices really do make a difference in who we are and how our lives play out.

One choice a future makes.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Sara Vinduska and The Drowning Man

An Interview with Sara Vinduska

The Drowning Man is an intense romantic suspense/thriller that will grab you by the shirt collar from the very first pages, and will plunge you into a world of fear, regret, and revenge before surfacing into a very satisfying victory. This incredibly well written book will make you hold your breath so many times—you might need oxygen therapy in order to survive. That's how intense this book is! I've long maintained that Sara Vinduska is one of the best writers I've ever encountered, and this book confirms my assertion. So, what's it about?

Well, after watching his best friend drown when they were children, Kansas City firefighter Trent Barlow has devoted his life to saving others. Twenty years later, Dr. Caroline Newberry still blames Trent for the death of her son. Pushed over the edge by not being able to save a young child at work, Caroline abducts Trent, intent on retribution. Essentially, she snaps and executes a diabolical plan to drown Trent in retribution. Relying on her skills as a doctor, she drowns him, resuscitates him, only to do it again. And again. And again. How long can he endure before finally giving up?

But, Trent is not forgotten. A savvy police detective, Lora Tatum, refuses to give up hope. She can see Trent as more than a victim, and believes in him. But, Lora carries her own baggage as well. Can she save Trent? Can she save herself in the process?

This novel offers so much more than intensity. There is depth and meaning to this story, and, despite the dark subject, there is a message of hope and healing. And it’s so well written! This book deals with adult topics, so I’ll let you know, it is rated R for language, violence, sexual content, and sheer grittiness.

Rather than me offer you a review of the book, I thought maybe you’d rather hear from the author, herself. So, I asked her a handful of questions:

Sara, I loved your newest release, The Drowning Man! This book kept me guessing and never let me relax. You’ve become a master suspense author. I truly could not guess how you were going to end your novel until the very last few pages.

Thank you! I especially appreciate that coming from a talented writer like yourself!

Q. Tell me, why do you write about such dark topics?

I believe that the more the characters are tested, the more challenges they have to face, this is what makes them become the man or woman they are destined to be. It also makes for more interesting reading and makes it so rewarding when they do triumph over all the obstacles in their path.

Q. You tell much of this story from a firefighter’s point of view, and you actually make me believe you have first hand experience on a ladder company. How much research went into your story to make it so believable?

A lot! I first did extensive online research and watched every firefighting movie I could get my hands on. After that, I toured a firehouse in North Carolina where I was living at the time. That was a great experience, they let me sit in the truck, try on all the equipment, and patiently answered my questions.

Q. You place your main character in a position to be drowned and resuscitated multiple times as a torture technique. Why did you choose this method to tell your story, and how much research did it require to make the story so believable?

The basic concept of this story, a man at the bottom of a tank, being drowned over and over actually started out as a dream I had. I know it sounds like a nightmare, but I woke up and immediately thought, I have to write that down. Then came the research.

Q. PTSD is a real struggle for so many people, and your characters each experience some form of PTSD as the story progresses. How does this shape the story and define the characters?

Overcoming their own struggles with PTSD is definitely a fundamental part of the story. The main characters have to become strong enough on their own before they can have a relationship. And by opening themselves up to each other, they continue the healing process.

Q. How much of this story reflects the life of Sara Vinduska? In what ways did you weave elements of your personal life into your story?

Very little actually. That’s the fun for me of being a writer; I get paid to make things up. I do think the one thing I want to resonate in my writing and that is a big part of my life, is that true love can overcome any obstacle.

Q. Could you tell us a little about your first novel?

Sure! Reflections is the first in a romantic suspense series that centers around Lash Brogan, an Irish actor, and his friends and acquaintances. It is much grittier than your typical romantic suspense book, but it sets up the rest of the series and future characters.

Q. What other genres have you tinkered with?

I’ve written a few articles and played around with writing a book about my journey starting out on a farm in Kansas, to wanting to get away from rural life, to finding my way back to it.

But mostly, I write what I love to read, which is romantic suspense.

Q. What’s next for you?

I am finishing the next book in my Lash Brogan series that picks up where Reflections left off. I hope to have it done by the end of the year.

Q. You are a very diverse woman, and you have a second career selling homemade products. Could you tell me about your other hobbies?

I love making natural bath and household products and sell them at our local farmers market. I am a registered yoga instructor. I also love cooking, wine tasting, and K-State football. And chocolate. I’m going to take a master chocolatier class starting the first of the year.

Q. What is the best way for people to follow you or contact you?

My email is and I can be found on twitter @scvinduska