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You Don’t Have to Kick Tush to Be Strong

The women I know deal with problems and challenges that they can’t karate kick away.

promo imageFor the most part, the women I know are strong. They don’t flip bad guys or know killer moves. They are strong inside. The kind of hits they take, the gut punches, are things like loss, rejection, setbacks—both financial and personal, disappointments, illness, failed expectations—real-life challenges. 

I have this image in my head of them standing strong in this huge storm, the waves and the wind hitting them. They stagger and then dig in their feet and face it. They might get knocked to their knees. But they get up. Again, and again. 

My mother’s mother lost a three-day-old baby, her husband at thirty-eight, and her nineteen-year-old son in World War II. And yet my memory of her is of a halo of white hair around kind eyes and the sweetest smile that ever welcomed a kid. My dad’s mother lived in a log cabin for most of her life and lost her husband to Alzheimer’s. She suffered other losses, the kind that takes your breath when they hit. But my memory of her is another sweet sweet smile and her generosity. No one left her house without something: a loaf of bread, a haircut, a quilt, a hug.

The women I know deal with problems and challenges that they can’t karate kick away. They lift others when they are down themselves. They are so brave. When I spend time with them and I go home with a desire to be a better person.

When I started my second novel, The Last Enemy, I wanted my heroine to be that kind of strong. I wanted to write about a woman who’d taken body blows, got up, and kept going. 

Dani, my main character is for and about all of the strong women I’ve known. 

She’s not powerful on the outside, but she’s smart and resourceful and yes, brave. She keeps going even when she’s not sure why she does, when it would be easier to give up. She smiles and cracks a joke when her heart is breaking. She puts on a red dress when she should hide. 

I loved writing her and even now, I smile and remember all the women who have taught me, hugged me, cried with me, lifted me, and inspired me. Even though she is just a character in a novel, she does what all the inspiring women in my life have done.

Survived. Kept going. 

Read on for an excerpt from The Last Enemy, and tell me about the amazing women in your life.

Perilously yours,

Pauline

And now an excerpt from The Last Enemy:

The sun climbed slowly at first, finally springing free of the mountains to throw warm light across the park bench Dani had been sitting on since the first rush of adrenaline gave out. Dry air felt cool against her face, the polar opposite of New Orleans in August. It was pleasant to be dry instead of soggy, to sit gazing at a spare aspect rather than a lush one.

She wasn’t afraid. She had seen the Dark Lord leave, chillingly confidant that he’d completed his bloody task. No, this was shock. She should know. She’d been here, done this when her baby died—

In a tree above her head, a bird trilled a cheerful morning song. Startled by the sound, Dani looked up at the tree and got blinded by the painful yellow halo of sun behind it. 

It shouldn’t be there, not after what happened.

“Dismantle the sun, pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods: For nothing now can ever come to any good . . .” 

The poem by Auden emerged from the past. Right for the moment, right to remember it now when she was once more a surprised survivor in life’s lottery. Richard had read it at Megan’s funeral ten years ago. There seemed a perverse symmetry in linking the poignant past to the painful present. Richard was such an important part of both, more so even than Steven, his brother, who was Meggie’s father and Dani’s ex-husband. Odd to know now, when it was too late, who was important and who wasn’t.

Odder to be alive when she should be dead. Three times should be out. Sure wasn’t a charm to find herself once again upright and looking at death. The three deaths swirled through her mind on the other side of shock’s cushion, beckoning her to join them where fear and pain no longer ruled. Soon . . .

She heard a muted roar as a fire engine trundled the length of the park across from her, then turned ponderously into the flow of traffic. She had watched it arrive. Now it was leaving, followed by the ambulance carrying the bodies of the men and woman who had died to keep her alive. 

When it was out of sight, she picked up her backpack from the park bench with the same automatic reflex that made her grab it from the closet floor and added it to the weight of their deaths on her shoulders. 

Glad to still be in shock, she turned east, toward the rising sun and the cluster of skyscrapers that was downtown Denver.

* * * * *

To find out more about The Last Enemy click here. 

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