Happy Holidays! December 22-24 FREE Worldwide Kindle Downloads of MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksFor an exciting holiday gift and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page,

I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels.

CLICK HERE FREE DOWNLOAD  DEGREES OF OBSESSION  

CLICK HERE FREE DOWNLOAD MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA

Amazon WORLDWIDE on DECEMBER 22, 23 and 24, 2017

book trailersVIEW THE TRAILERS TOO!

View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

degrees kindleDEGREES OF OBSESSION – SYNOPSIS

Charlie Pederson, fierce but flawed like all women who have loved deeply and lost, takes a dangerous thrill ride from risky infatuation to the edge of disaster when she stalks her still suck-the-breath-out-of-you handsome college flame.

As a therapist, Charlie knows she should abandon her crazed obsession over Danny Shapiro. But as a woman turning fifty and stifled in her marriage to deadly dull Harold, she finds herself driven to take a dicey last chance to find all that her heart needs.

Little does she suspect that an impulsive visit to Danny’s law office will make her the target of a homicidal erotomaniac. As she chases Danny down, she jeopardizes her professional reputation, infuriates her best friend, alienates her husband, and risks exposing the most painful secret of her life.

DEGREES OF OBSESSION has it all—juicy romance and heart-pounding suspense. Best of all, it shines light on the fears, follies, and fantasies that drive the choices women make and on the love that redeems them.

mother tongue kindleMOTHER TONGUE:LINGUA CORSA – SYNOPSIS

Child advocate attorney, Liz Fallon, desperately needs a break after legal blunders and her own negligence lead to the kidnapping and death of a mother and daughter she represents. Fluent in her mother’s native Corsican tongue, she nabs a job at a Paris newspaper as a lingua corsa translator for Pierre Benatar, whose coverage of the explosive Corsican Nationalist movement has enraged every separatist faction.

When Benatar and his seven-year-old son disappear, she resolves to prevent another tragedy and cons her way to Corsica under the ruse of researching a tabloid story about the mazzeri, the isle’s ancient harbingers of death. She cozies up to the prime suspects using her secret knowledge of lingua corsa and the aid of an elderly Brit and a courageous teen Corsican cousin. The hunters suddenly become the hunted when Liz’s inquiries arouse the suspicions and passions of both the separatist leader and the French police chief. When the mazzeri story also takes a chilling personal turn, she has to wonder whether Corsica intends to reclaim her as its prodigal daughter or destroy her.

Happy Holidays! December 22-24 FREE Worldwide Kindle Downloads of MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksFor an exciting holiday gift and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page,

I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels.

CLICK HERE FREE DOWNLOAD  DEGREES OF OBSESSION  

CLICK HERE FREE DOWNLOAD MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA

Amazon WORLDWIDE on DECEMBER 22, 23 and 24, 2017

book trailersVIEW THE TRAILERS TOO!

View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

degrees kindleDEGREES OF OBSESSION – SYNOPSIS

Charlie Pederson, fierce but flawed like all women who have loved deeply and lost, takes a dangerous thrill ride from risky infatuation to the edge of disaster when she stalks her still suck-the-breath-out-of-you handsome college flame.

As a therapist, Charlie knows she should abandon her crazed obsession over Danny Shapiro. But as a woman turning fifty and stifled in her marriage to deadly dull Harold, she finds herself driven to take a dicey last chance to find all that her heart needs.

Little does she suspect that an impulsive visit to Danny’s law office will make her the target of a homicidal erotomaniac. As she chases Danny down, she jeopardizes her professional reputation, infuriates her best friend, alienates her husband, and risks exposing the most painful secret of her life.

DEGREES OF OBSESSION has it all—juicy romance and heart-pounding suspense. Best of all, it shines light on the fears, follies, and fantasies that drive the choices women make and on the love that redeems them.

mother tongue kindleMOTHER TONGUE:LINGUA CORSA – SYNOPSIS

Child advocate attorney, Liz Fallon, desperately needs a break after legal blunders and her own negligence lead to the kidnapping and death of a mother and daughter she represents. Fluent in her mother’s native Corsican tongue, she nabs a job at a Paris newspaper as a lingua corsa translator for Pierre Benatar, whose coverage of the explosive Corsican Nationalist movement has enraged every separatist faction.

When Benatar and his seven-year-old son disappear, she resolves to prevent another tragedy and cons her way to Corsica under the ruse of researching a tabloid story about the mazzeri, the isle’s ancient harbingers of death. She cozies up to the prime suspects using her secret knowledge of lingua corsa and the aid of an elderly Brit and a courageous teen Corsican cousin. The hunters suddenly become the hunted when Liz’s inquiries arouse the suspicions and passions of both the separatist leader and the French police chief. When the mazzeri story also takes a chilling personal turn, she has to wonder whether Corsica intends to reclaim her as its prodigal daughter or destroy her.

Happy Holidays! December 16-17 FREE Kindle Downloads of MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksFor an exciting holiday gift and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels.

CLICK HERE FREE DOWNLOAD  DEGREES OF OBSESSION  

CLICK HERE FREE DOWNLOAD MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA

Amazon worldwide on DECEMBER 16 & 17, 2017

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

degrees kindleDEGREES OF OBSESSION – SYNOPSIS

Charlie Pederson, fierce but flawed like all women who have loved deeply and lost, takes a dangerous thrill ride from risky infatuation to the edge of disaster when she stalks her still suck-the-breath-out-of-you handsome college flame.

As a therapist, Charlie knows she should abandon her crazed obsession over Danny Shapiro. But as a woman turning fifty and stifled in her marriage to deadly dull Harold, she finds herself driven to take a dicey last chance to find all that her heart needs.

Little does she suspect that an impulsive visit to Danny’s law office will make her the target of a homicidal erotomaniac. As she chases Danny down, she jeopardizes her professional reputation, infuriates her best friend, alienates her husband, and risks exposing the most painful secret of her life.

DEGREES OF OBSESSION has it all—juicy romance and heart-pounding suspense. Best of all, it shines light on the fears, follies, and fantasies that drive the choices women make and on the love that redeems them.

mother tongue kindleMOTHER TONGUE:LINGUA CORSA – SYNOPSIS

Child advocate attorney, Liz Fallon, desperately needs a break after legal blunders and her own negligence lead to the kidnapping and death of a mother and daughter she represents. Fluent in her mother’s native Corsican tongue, she nabs a job at a Paris newspaper as a lingua corsa translator for Pierre Benatar, whose coverage of the explosive Corsican Nationalist movement has enraged every separatist faction.

When Benatar and his seven-year-old son disappear, she resolves to prevent another tragedy and cons her way to Corsica under the ruse of researching a tabloid story about the mazzeri, the isle’s ancient harbingers of death. She cozies up to the prime suspects using her secret knowledge of lingua corsa and the aid of an elderly Brit and a courageous teen Corsican cousin. The hunters suddenly become the hunted when Liz’s inquiries arouse the suspicions and passions of both the separatist leader and the French police chief. When the mazzeri story also takes a chilling personal turn, she has to wonder whether Corsica intends to reclaim her as its prodigal daughter or destroy her.

A Paean to First Love

What hour took you that day, that fourth Wednesday of January in 2017? Where was I? Was I sitting through a boring meeting sorting out policy issues? Was I driving home exhausted, listening to debates contentious political issues on NPR and rethinking my decision to remain in a high profile health care position at age seventy-three? Or was it later as I tried to keep the peace between my four and seven year old granddaughters while preparing their dinner of sliced tomatoes, beef and rice, and yogurt, and hoping that the promise of dessert would keep the mayhem to a minimum until their mother returned?

How could it be that the enormity of your last breath faded into eternity before reaching my senses so many miles and decades away? And what mystic force drew me to my computer on a rainy afternoon five weeks later and led my fingers to type your name and the word obituary? Running late for the play, I found myself reading the words once with disbelief, twice with an aching teenage heart, and a third time with tears that no one could possibly understand.

I skimmed over your accomplishments listed one by one, more reminiscent of a resume than a tribute to the vibrant young man who stole my heart in 1961. Your devoted companion, three fine sons, five enchanting granddaughters, a dear sister (I remember you telling me how much you loved her), even nephews and cousins, all dutifully named. Were they there at the end? I have to believe they were. You were too precious to me not to be a million times more cherished by the ones who were truly in your life.

Your loved ones know nothing of me, nor the grief I feel. Yet I too caught glimpses of that courageous man who fought on as his life and body progressively diminished, often quite literally, throughout an arduous and determined battle against diabetes. Ordeals made bearable by your impish humor—writing me after your second amputation that you used to be six foot four but now were four foot six!

They know nothing of those months we spent together so many decades ago, these people who shared a lifetime with you and are trying to make it through each day, hoping their grief will lessen with time but perhaps grateful that your ordeals have come to an end.

Our writing brought us together. You penned more than a half-dozen novels, well-crafted, filled with romance and suspense. I discovered them online in 2008. I had written two novels myself, the first bearing the back story of our romance at Stanford—I, the naïve freshman dreamer and you, the charming, seasoned senior. Degrees of Obsession was an apt title for a paean to a first love that refused to fade and, in fact, ultimately had no replacement. I searched further and found what I believed to be your home address and mailed my fictitious version of our romance to you. Within days your name popped up in my email inbox, causing the same palpitations that had seized my heart forty-seven years earlier. I had a trip to Southern California already planned and we met soon after.

You greeted me at your door in your wheelchair, the body of that handsome, virile young man I had known hidden behind a beard and infirmity but the magnetic eyes and alluring basso voice still recognizable. We exchanged a few sweet nothings and then you wheeled your chair chose to me and drew me into your arms so that I could smell the scent of that special cologne that you always used, the musky one created by that haberdasher in Beverly Hills. You had dabbed in on knowing that it would take us back to our beginnings and for the first time I heard from your lips the true story of our parting. How after I had made a suicide gesture and was forced by Stanford officials to tell my parents, that they had called the University and demanded action. How you had been hauled in by Captain Midnight, the campus cop, for a three-hour inquisition and had been told to never speak to me again. How they threatened to keep you from graduating and going on to law school if you defied their orders. And worst of all, how these despicable actions on the part of my family had left you with a lifelong impact that was eons beyond the broken heart that I had endured.

What a gift that was. Knowing, after all these decades, that you had loved me after all. An unforeseen resolution to the agony of unrequited first love that few are privileged to find, told in an embrace filled not with the fumbling passion of youth but with the grace and forgiveness of age. I thought with amazement how brave you had been on that one occasion, sitting on the hood of your white MGA, the gray wool sweater I had given you on your 21st birthday draped around your shoulders on a hot June day, and calling me over. And I, on the way to the Anthropology class we mutually shared, caught up in the pique and heartache of a rejected eighteen-year-old turning away, giving up that one in a million chance for reconciliation. But even then in your sweet honesty, you explained that had I made a different choice, I might not have fared better, that your road as a husband had often been a rocky one.

So here are the EXCERPTS FROM MY NOVEL that tell our story, from my point of view of course, for those out there who care to read it, as told through the voice of my protagonist, Dr. Charlie Pedersen. I called her “Charlie” because it was the nickname you gave me. I called you “Danny”.

The excerpts are taken from my romantic suspense novel entitled Degrees of Obsession. Watch the book trailer.

Readers picked their poison and the winner is…

degrees kindle

DEGREES OF OBSESSION has it all—juicy romance and heart-pounding suspense. Best of all, it shines light on the fears, follies, and fantasies that drive the choices women make and on the love that redeems them.

DEGREES OF OBSESSION by Karen Stephen

A landslide victory ~ 452 copies (74%) downloaded

vs. 160 (26%) for MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA

OBSSESSIVE LOVE vs. POLITICAL INTRIGUE 

The numbers don’t lie. Stalking trumps assassination, intrigue in Los Angeles and La Jolla wins over mystery in Corsica, a 50 year old psychologist pursuing her old college flame outflanks a 32 year old attorney using her mother’s native tongue to infiltrate a Corsican separatist group, and nostalgia run amok outshines a passion for justice.

TRAILER FOR DEGREES OF OBSESSION

Both novels STILL FREE for kindleunlimited customers

DEGREES OF OBSESSION Kindle Version BUY for $0.99

MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA Kindle Verson BUY for $2.99

TOMORROW is the DAY! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

glasses Jacqueline Tramoni

Photo Credit – Fabulous Corsican photographer Jacqueline Tramoni http://www.facebook.com/jacqueline.tramoni

NEW YEAR’S EVE TOAST ~ TO MY READERS

PHOTOS OF REAL-LIFE LOCATIONS THAT INSPIRED MY NOVELS

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For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

unknowncrew_jpg_w300h228

A photo of the Skipper and crew of the Wigeon of Fearn in Portofino in 1963. This wild adventure I took at nineteen provided the back story to MOTHER TONGUE. We were stranded by a mistral storm in Bonifacio, Corsica for 5 days and tried to sneak two Foreign Legionnaires off the island!

Harbor Bonifacio hotel on quay

My return trip to Bonifacio in 2006 as part of my visit to many of the locations in MOTHER TONGUE, some of which I had only seen in books. We had docked in this exact spot in 1963–but less people and fewer boats.

LE FLNC REVENDIQUE UNE TRENTAINE D'ATTENTATS COMMIS EN CORSE AU MOIS DE MAI

Photo found as part of my research on the Nationalist movement in Corsica, this a photo of members of the FLNC.

DSC02582

The home I discovered in Point Richmond that became the inspiration for the home of Danny Shapiro, the man whom Charlie Pederson pursues to her detriment in DEGREES OF OBSESSION

DSC02626

A corner of San Francisco Bay that became the site where Charlie is held hostage and fights for her life.

DSC02601

The old deserted winery at Point Molate and the ladder to the top of the parapet that became the focus of the final battle scene of DEGREES OF OBSESSION

2 days to GO! Countdown to New Year’s FREE PROMOTION for MOTHER TONGUE and DEGREES OF OBSESSION

free kindle ebooksWEDNESDAY APPETIZER-

FIRST CHAPTER OF MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA

(Scroll Down)

For an exciting start to 2016 and a thank you to the hundreds of fans and followers of my Doc Flamingo’s Blog, my Facebook Page, and my @docflamingo Twitter page, I am offering a FREE KINDLE PROMOTION for BOTH of my suspense novels. The Kindle versions of DEGREES OF OBSESSION and MOTHER TONGUE: LINGUA CORSA will be FREE on Amazon worldwide on January 1st through 3rd.

book trailersCan’t wait? View the heart-pounding DEGREES OF OBSESSION trailer and the suspenseful MOTHER TONGUE trailer.

mother tongue kindleMOTHER TONGUE: Lingua Corsa
Chapter One 

FRESNES

I peered down at the beacon of light flickering off the bald spot dividing Pierre Benatar’s hair into two frizzy black clumps and half-heartedly hustled to keep stride with his churning legs. The sun scorched the back of my neck as he forged ahead, as oblivious to me as to the threats against his life by collaborators of the Corsican terrorist we were about to interview. Correction. That he was about to interview. I would only translate. Lagging behind, I felt like a leashed dog refusing to be brought to heel. Recent events had reduced the aggressive legal Beagle side of me to the petulance of a disobedient spaniel.

The last of the nondescript homes in the leafy Val-de-Marne suburb south of Paris gave way to the menacing sprawl of Fresnes prison as we rounded the last corner. The sight of its ancient stone walls turned my knees to jelly and congealed my stomach contents into a nauseous lump. My legs started to buckle, but I regained my balance with an awkward stutter step, saved by the Birkenstocks that completed my prison couture outfit of loose-fitting slacks and a long-sleeved blouse buttoned up Puritan style. To add to the demure look, I had corralled my wiry brunette hair into a bun instead of letting it snake down my back in its usual thick braid. And nary a hint of make-up. Not that I wore much anyway.

Two months earlier I’d had to fight off the same queasy feeling on my way to Marin for lunch with a friend. As I rounded the last curve on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, the sight of the pale stucco walls of San Quentin caused me to slam on the brakes, veer off the road, stick my head out the window, and puke. What in hell could have prompted the Governor’s parole Commissioner to release a repeat offender from this hell-hole? A monster who had gone on to murder his ex-wife and kidnap their own daughter?

But blaming Pete Wilson’s hack did little to assuage my own guilt. Assigned by Alameda County as Kassandra Jackson’s attorney in a routine dependency hearing, I had offered a vehement and unfortunately convincing argument for returning her spunky eight-year-old daughter, Briana, to her custody. I had done my due diligence. I had ticked off each and every required duty on the list—home visit, social services for the mother, even an action plan to protect the child in case her paternal grandparents tried to bodily interfere and take Briana to visit their incarcerated son. A trusted colleague assured me that the brutal ex-husband would be denied parole. In my opinion, there was no substantial risk, per the requirements of the Welfare and Institutions Code of California, that the child would suffer serious physical harm as a result of the parent’s inability to supervise or protect her. The spanking on the buttocks reported by Briana’s teacher to Child Protective Services fell within the legal definition of age-appropriate and reasonable, although I personally opposed any form of corporal punishment. The code too closely resembled the idiotic cautions in liquor ads to drink responsibly. Spank responsibly. Right!

And then there was the clincher. The mother, unlike most of my clients at dependency hearings, had brought a snack of gummy bears for Briana and cuddled her as we sat in the hall awaiting her hearing. Most of these derelict parents could care less about whether their child is either fed or comforted, even under these stressful circumstances.

I should have double-checked on the outcome of the father’s parole board hearing but had been swallowed up by my caseload of over three hundred other parents fighting to keep or regain custody of their children in Alameda County. Within two days of the ex-husband’s release, Kassandra lay dead in a pool of blood and Briana was nowhere to be seen. A week later her tiny body, bloated beyond recognition, washed up on the muddy banks of the Oakland estuary. I’d only seen the crime photos, thank God, but even those had quite literally brought me to my knees and eventually to this self-imposed exile in France.

Weeks of knocking back more Jack Daniels than usual had done jack shit to eradicate the memory of Briana’s sweet black face, framed in bead-dressed pigtails and cushioned, not against her favorite Disney princess pillow that she clutched during our visits, but against the cruel white satin of a coffin. I’d made a valiant effort to return to my duties but found myself stammering in front of the judges as I second guessed myself on every word, court documents spilling from my tremulous hands onto the floor. Given the level of understaffing in the Public Defender’s office, I must have appeared a bloody mess to warrant being put off on an indeterminate personal leave of absence instead of fired.

I tried to push the memories away as I trundled after Benatar in silence. Friends and foes both in and out of court had always found it hard to shut me up. But it was almost as if a mute button had been pushed in my brain as I sat that dreary Saturday afternoon in the last pew of Allen Temple Baptist Church eyeing the throng of mourners celebrating two lives taken too way too soon.

Feeling ill-prepared only reinforced my reluctance to speak. Benatar had dropped the assignment on my desk less than 24 hours before, along with a foot-thick stack of reports he had filed on the Corsican situation. I had stayed up after midnight skimming through the materials. But time enough to confirm that his no-holds-barred reporting style jibed with the newsroom gossip I’d heard about this diminutive Moroccan Jew who had been targeted by just about every faction of Corsica’s Nationalist movement.

As we passed through the metal detectors at the prison’s entrance, I wondered how much Benatar knew about me beyond the fact that I was the rare American who spoke fluent French and certainly the only one who spoke lingua corsa. When his regular translator’s heart healed, would I be shuttled off to Charles De Gaulle airport with a one-way ticket back to San Francisco? I felt a nagging urge to explain that back in the States, before I’d gone bonkers and got sent off to a shrink’s office and eventually urged by my mother to take this hiatus to France, my investigatory skills as a child advocate attorney may well have outshone his as a journalist.

My ruminations came to an abrupt halt when a paunchy guard, sweat staining the underarms of his starched blue shirt, snatched the Liberation staff credentials out of my hand with the insolence bred into French functionaries. “Lisabetta Falcucci. Ce n’est pas un nom américain. Corse, n’est-ce pas?

A denial was pointless. My decision to officially revert to my Corsican birth name was there in black and white, although I’d almost forgotten the shrewd tactic I’d used to nab a translator position on France’s most radical newspaper. It hadn’t taken long after my arrival for me to insist that everyone use my Americanized name, Liz Fallon. But now my ploy felt like a curse. Benatar glowered up at me above his rimless glasses. I felt thirty-two going on a doddering ninety-three with my life swirling down a French toilette. Benatar’s probably wondering how the fuck I can translate for him if I can barely remember my own name.

fresnes interiorI had little patience for lapses, particularly my own. Annoyed that I even cared about Benatar’s opinion, I rattled off a few rapid-fire phrases in French, adding a healthy dose of the vernacular, which worked as well on Benatar and the smug guard as it did on sneering Parisian waiters. But as we passed through the first set of iron gates, my bravado ebbed, smothered by the odor of corroded iron bars and the sickly fumes of disinfectant rising from the green-speckled linoleum underfoot.

* * *

The subject of Benatar’s interview, with the exception of his skin color and accent, looked no different than the dozens of other criminals I had had the misfortune to meet in the line of duty. I found myself running through my usual assessment, looking for tells, those small unconscious movements that exposed the vulnerabilities of men who don’t think they have any. Signs that would give me ammunition to bar them from their children’s lives forever.

My appraisal started with the rash of gray stubble on his chin and moved up to the matching shorn growth on his head which was split asunder by a quarter inch swath of bare scalp at the hairline, the telltale signature of a grazing bullet. His slouch and up-yours stare had as much swag as any member of the Imperial Gangsta Thuggz back in Oakland. The only surprise came when he started to speak.

Lingua corsa, with its elisions and muted consonants had always seemed soft and seductive to me, regardless of my complaints about always having to be my mother’s translator, but out of Yves Gordi’s mouth, it came across smart-ass and strident, with that cocky defensiveness of the guilty pleading innocent. With no time to fret about whether my facility with the language was up to snuff, I fell into the rhythmic cadence of my mother’s tongue as Benatar started firing questions.

“If you were simply buying groceries,” Benatar asked, “why did you have a mini Uzi submachine gun with bullets in the barrel as well as several ammo magazines in the trunk of your car?”

Gordi was quick to retort. “So you think we should be killed like rabbits? Yes, we hide. Yes, we wear bulletproof vests. Yes, we are armed. We are under surveillance for weeks. We are not arrested for robbing the place, only getting food to eat. Who knows where the gendarmes found those weapons? They say what they please.”

The louder and more aggressive Gordi became, the more Benatar leaned into him. At first I found myself intimidated. I desperately wanted to become the proverbial fly on the wall, existing unnoticed among the splatters of jailhouse graffiti. But as I relaxed and eased into the tempo of the exchange, questions began clicking into place in my own brain, ones I would have asked had this man been the incarcerated father of one of my charges. When Benatar paused to jot down a note, a rush of adrenaline loosened my tongue. “What do you make of the fact that the police didn’t believe you?” I asked.

The prisoner and Benatar snapped their heads in my direction. Benatar nodded to Gordi to answer but not before shooting a scathing look of disapproval my way. A hot flush rose up the back of my neck and sweat dampened the armpits of my blouse. I felt like I had been whacked by a giant flyswatter. I gave Benatar a sidewise glance that was as close to saying sorry as I could manage. Admission of guilt was never my strong suit.

“You are like all the rest,” Gordi said, aiming his accusation at Benatar. “Your stories are filled with lies. You forget the past murders by the FLNC. You report mainly what harm their opponents do. In the meantime, the Cuncolta, their supposed legal arm, sucks up to the government, puts on some phony act about peace agreements, and you fall over backward making them into some kind of heroes. The price of your mistake will be more blood, more bombings like the three in Haute Corse today and the one in Corse Sud two days ago.”

His words struck home. I knew how important it was to assess a situation correctly, regardless of appearances. A child’s life could be at stake. I pushed away the sickening image of a quilted lid being lowered on a child-size coffin.

* * *

An hour later, I twitched under Benatar’s harsh silence as he drove the fifteen kilometers back to Libé, as the newspaper Liberation was affectionately called. I had overstepped my bounds and derailed his interview, spurring the prisoner to spout more rhetoric than revelation. I felt damn sure Libé’s founder, Jean Paul Sartre, would have offered up a few choice words about my freedom to be an idiot. But embarrassment aside, the thoroughbred attorney in me stomped with impatience as we arrived at our rue Beranger headquarters. Accepting this temporary assignment as a translator, safe as it might be, felt like being relegated to the barn. The nightmares might never end. My hands might keep trembling for the rest of my life. What guarantee was there that a couple of months in Paris would settle my nerves and give me the courage to get back in the game? Wait too long and I might be in worse straits.

Does rejection really hurt?

broken heartWe talk about having a “broken” heart or “wounded” spirit or “hurt” feelings when we experience a significant rejection in love. Why do we use words that are the same as those that describe physical pain or injury? Is looking at Facebook photos of your ex with his new love equivalent to spilling a scalding hot cup of coffee on your lap?

My inquiring psychologist side decided to research this question, and I came across a study published in 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. A group of investigators compared brain activity generated by intense personal rejection with brain activity caused by intense physical pain.

First they explained that pain is registered in two different areas of the brain. The affective quality of pain (“That’s unpleasant!) is registered in the dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC) and the anterior insula (AI). This area also is activated by a feeling of social rejection. But the real bodily or somatic perception of pain (“Ouch!”—the brain part that makes you wince and reach for the vicodin when you are physically injured) is registered in the secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) and the dorsal posterior insula (dpINS), which we wouldn’t expect to be affected by purely emotional experiences.

Their research method was simple. Take 40 people who felt intensely rejected as a result of recently experiencing an unwanted romantic relationship break-up and give them two tasks. The Social Rejection task was to look at either a head-shot of the ex-lover and think about their specific rejection experience or a head-shot of a friend of the same sex as the lover and think of a recent positive experience with him or her. The Physical Pain task was a Hot trial with a noxious thermal stimulation delivered to their arm or a Warm trial with a non-noxious thermal stimulation on their arm. The subjects rated their “feeling” experience on each task on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most painful. Their brains responses were studied with a functional MRI to see what brain areas were activated during each of these four trials.

So here is the surprising outcome. The ratings for both the Social Rejection and the Physical Pain tasks were equivalent with severe physical pain and intense rejection rated exactly the same. And, as expected, both the head shot of the ex-lover and the Hot trial produced activity in the affective or “That’s unpleasant!” part of the brain. But, both also produced activity in the “Ouch!” part of the brain. Conclusion: intense rejection is actually perceived as physical pain by our brains.

It is interesting that the “Ouch!” part of the brain is also activated if we observe another person experiencing physical pain. The researchers thought it would be interesting to explore if, for example, a parent watches their child experience rejection if this would also register in the “Ouch!” part of the brain.

So, what does this mean in terms of recovery from a “broken heart”? First, we need to be kind to ourselves and know that our experience is real and, in fact, is equivalent in terms of our brain’s response to a very severe physical injury. And, as the study showed, we can re-experience that level of pain by simply looking at a photo of the ex-lover or thinking about the rejection experience. Intense ongoing physical pain can interrupt sleep, create or worsen depression, and even lead to suicidal thoughts and plans. It can disrupt our relations with our family and co-workers. Chronic pain sufferers tend to reach for the alcoholic drink, the vicodin bottle, illicit drugs, or gallons of ice cream to take the edge off their pain. So do those experiencing intense rejection.

What are the solutions? We can look to how we help chronic pain patients. Part of my current job as the Mental Health Clinical Director for a large health plan is to develop strategies to help our members manage pain safely. We recommend therapists who can teach them how to look at their pain differently. How to think about “managing” their pain instead of getting rid of it. We offer them relaxation and meditation skills to lessen the pain without turning to addictive drugs, even the prescribed ones. Did you know that there is a opioid epidemic in our country—that the death rate from opioid overdoses is skyrocketing even when people are taking correctly prescribed doses? I recently put two and two together and figured out why I headed for the codeine bottle (prescribed to me as a teen for menstrual pain) when I didn’t get asked to a school dance. It actually worked to soften the pain of rejection.

A recent WordPress blog that I follow at thefallingthoughts.com entitled BREAKUP 2 MAKE-UP included many other helpful reframes for those suffering the pain of rejection. I particularly liked the bit about crying your eyes out but the next day don’t repeat the same thing—after all, we don’t laugh at the same joke twice. I also enjoyed the advice that everything has an expiration date—even relationships. I wouldn’t eat a can of spoiled tuna. I look at the expiration date and throw it into the garbage. When life reminds me of a long-expired relationship, why in the world would I want to dig in, thinking it will taste okay? It’s actually going to turn out about the same as holding on to resentments. It’s like taking poison and hoping the other person will die.

Ethan Kross, March G. Berman, Walter Mischel, Edward E. Smith, and Tor D. Wager. Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2011, April 12, Volume 108(15), pps. 6270-6275

The garden path

garden pathshe tippy toes down garden path
mid fragrant hedge of self-deceit
his idle words writ on the net
form stepping stones beneath her feet

she stops to browse a wall not hers
photos of his other life
a stunning bit of azure silk
the glint of diamonds on a ring
shout wedding day
in deafened ears

a look content upon his face
at family table fed with smiles
slows her merry made-up pace
turns hopeful moments into miles
of unfulfilled and foolish chase

she grabs the dagger by the hilt
and draws it from her broken heart
her wound will heal if given time
and a willingness to part
with journeys down that garden path
that leads to nowhere from the start

Beware BAD THINKING AHEAD…

♥ ♥ ♥ BEFORE YOU LOOK UP THAT OLD COLLEGE FLAME ♥ ♥ ♥

bad thinkingPAY HEED TO THIS TRAILER for DEGREES OF OBSESSION 

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Longtime therapist Dr. Charlene “Charlie” Pederson admits that her fixation with college sweetheart Danny Shapiro has reached the unsettling stage of obsession.  Jolted by turning fifty and struggling with a condescending husband, Charlie crafts a harebrained scheme to find Danny and recapture his heart.  Her delight at reuniting  with her old flame soon turns to indignation when he accuses her of stalking him. Danny’s fears about being stalked are well-founded.

Degrees New Front CoverCharlie plays on her professional expertise about stalking to worm her way back into Danny’s life…all the while jeopardizing her marriage, tarnishing her reputation, and alienating her best friend.  After her darkest secret is revealed, Charlie plunges into unfamiliar depths of pain and mortal danger and must rely on every psychological trick in her book to survive. DEGREES OF OBSESSION will take you on a riveting journey from risky infatuation to personal fulfillment and forgiveness.