The year is 1970, and Stella Kellar has just returned home, traumatized, from Kent State. She wants that sense of peace that comes from being “home,” but finds that no one escapes the war. Her parents barely notice her; her father, Luke, a traumatized veteran, struggles with a whopping case of PTSD. Her mother, Ruth, spends most of her time trying to help him and has no energy left for anyone else. A charismatic stranger will come between mother and daughter, both vulnerable and weary from the effects of war. A loving grandmother, the only stable individual in the lives of this battered family, tries to hold the family together while facing the possible loss of her farm. This is Blood and Loam, a dark tale of war, love, trauma, betrayal, and…corn.
As a writer, I have to allow my characters to get into difficult situations, but I have struggled with this story, as I have written previously on several occasions. I can no longer tell if it’s good or bad. I suspect I’m having problems with it because it’s not a “nice” story. My women’s fiction has drama, but it doesn’t take the reader to such difficult, dark places. Blood and Loam, no matter how I write it, is, well, bloody. Horrible things happen to people, including situations that I find personally repugnant. This book has, to a large degree, exceeded my “eewww” factor, and I don’t know what to make of that. Does it mean I pull back, or do I jump in and challenge myself?
This morning I decided on the latter. I took a deep breath and posted it to my She Writes critique group. They’re a competent bunch, honest but kind, and I’m impressed with many of them as writers. My cover note was perhaps a bit too apologetic as I asked for someone willing to look at my “twisted little story.” Part of me says to let this story go and to focus on the new work that has been fun and much easier to write. Heck, in those I’m only dealing with suicide, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s, internet stalkers, and the like. Another part of me says this could be my best writing ever, and that it’s time to show some courage. So, we’ll see what the gang says!