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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Adventure on the horizon

Hi everyone! I’m Kate Pavelle, and I’ll spill some beans about doing book research for “Breakfall,” Book 1 of the Fall Trilogy with Dreamspinner Press. It’s a cross-genre book with a lot of romance, crime, and martial arts. This makes it a book that stirred a bit of controversy, which is fine. I understand it’s not for everyone.
I was told, “Write to Passion!” So I did. If a book is to be any good, it must extract its pound of flesh from the writer. Sometimes this entails reaching deep, well into places I’d rather not go. “Breakfall” was one of those books – I researched most of it in person.
Surprised? Well… I did teach aikido club in college, just like Sean. I’m a 4th dan karate black belt, just like Asbjorn. And, I did get attacked in my sleep and subsequently played bait to help the police catch this dangerous criminal – just like Sean. Life happens, and we have a choice: give up, or grow up.
I grew, albeit within the limits of my physical ability. Just between you and me, I’m not a very talented martial artist – merely a persistent one. My sensei is a man of extraordinary patience and tact. When I fail to grasp something over and over, he’ll explain and rephrase. Once a year or so, he slips into a slight Southern accent and drawls, “Well, darling…” Being called that is a sign of his ultimate frustration.

Three years after I put the bad guy in jail, I started to study at Shorin No Tora karate dojo. It’s a small Pittsburgh school, located in the house where sensei lives, tucked into a hill and surrounded by trees and real live deer and a Japanese garden full of lanterns. It’s for serious adults only, and it’s my safe place – a place of healing and self-invention. After my former aikido teachers didn’t know what to do with a failure like me, I was relieved to find that not everyone considers my past a total bust.
I’ve learned that survival counts as a major success. It took me a while, but I figured out how to parlay a negative experience into personal growth.
I’ll level with you right now and reveal that “Breakfall” ends in a cliff-hanger, and this cliff-hanger represents what used to be my worst-ever fear. This fear, together with my interest in bow hunting, led my sensei to offer to teach me how to shoot. Shooting guns is fairly normal in America, and you don’t even have to be a Republican to do it.
I was scared to try at first. “It’s just a machine,” he’d said. “You learn how to use it. A tool, like a hammer. Or a power drill.”
I can use a hammer, and I can use a power drill. So I tried, and all of a sudden, making little holes in a paper target became tremendously exciting.

Years passed. A fellow black belt, who’s a police officer, sold me one of his pistols and I knew that if the bad guy ever showed up, well… I know my limits at karate, especially outside my gender and weight class, but a weapon is a great equalizer. I had a gun, and I figured it would keep me safe.
Few years back we had a snowstorm. My husband was out of town for the weekend, and old, bad thoughts began to haunt my mind. As much as I tried to suppress them, the old fear of promised retribution kept creeping back.
The kids were watching a movie. I was making popcorn in the kitchen when I heard a crash against the garden door.
I jumped. The dog barked.
Once she settled down, only the movie soundtrack broke the silence. I stood in the kitchen, as still as a statue, straining my senses to detect what was going on outside. The house smelled like popcorn and hot chocolate and fear.
I gave the kids the popcorn bowl. “Stay here, don’t go anywhere,” I said. They nodded, totally oblivious, eyes fixed to Legolas and Aragorn chasing the orcs.
It seemed quiet outside, yet… the devil never sleeps, and better safe than sorry. I tiptoed upstairs as quickly and as quietly as I could.
The gun. In the locker. Combination… there. I was kneeling in the dark. Only the snow on the hillside behind the house bounced what light there was into the bedroom, and that light was amplified by the mirrors that line the closet doors.
Yet it was still dark.
I didn’t dare turn the light on. Suppose it really had been that guy, and suppose he was outside – I didn’t want him to see me upstairs.
Had you ever tried to do a task in the dark that you usually do in full daylight? Such as, oh, loading a magazine? It looks so easy in the movies.
Going by feel alone, I shoved the rounds into the magazine, one my one. I wanted five, yet they didn’t – want – to – go – in! I slapped the loaded mag against my palm to settle the rounds, the way I always do, and the damn magazine spring ejected the cartridges straight into my face!
Because that’s what happens when you’re so stressed, you try to shove the ammo in backward.

I caved in and turned on my little reading light. Swift now, I loaded my five rounds, slipped the mag into the gun, and rushed downstairs.
Nothing happened – nothing at all.
The movie had run its course, the girls had gone to sleep, yet I sat on the sofa like a sentinel, waiting for the locked door to burst open. Some nameless show droned on TV. Just white noise keeping me company as I sat there, waiting.
Just waiting.
The loaded gun felt heavy in my pocket, and my eyelids were feeling heavier still. It must have been three o’clock when I finally decided to turn in. The dog seemed bored, the snow kept falling outside, the children were sound asleep.
I went to bed fully dressed and with shoes on, with a gun under my pillow, flashlight in hand, the bedroom door open. The dog was welcome to join me that night – yet she didn’t. Nothing seemed to have bothered her, and her comfort level allowed me to finally drift asleep.

I had a dream that night. I dreamt that the bad guy walked in through the front door, and I grabbed my loaded Sig Sauer 228 from the top of the refrigerator. (REALLY??)
He kept advancing, and I aimed, and said “Stop, or I’ll shoot!”
He didn’t stop. (JUST LIKE ALWAYS.)
I slid the slide back to chamber the round. I aimed, center mass. I pulled the trigger.
The round stovepiped! (NO WAY!!!)
And he kept advancing, arms outstretched and menacing, like a very fast zombie from some B-flick horror film.
He was upon me.
So I hit him with the gun in the face, over and over, until he fell. He got blood on my carpet, and that irritated me even in the dream (BLUNT WEAPONS ONLY, PLEASE…)
I had police on the phone when it had occurred to me to unjam the gun. The gun fired while the police was still on the line – I heard sirens soon after that. A slug was buried in a piece of firewood, and a dead guy sprawled by my feet. In my dream I was mortified, hoping I could explain that this had been a case of self-defense.

I woke up and took stock of myself, surprised that I felt so fresh and rested. My first thought was, “I killed him, and I didn’t need a gun to do it.” It was the first dream of this sort when I had actually won.
My second thought was, “As I hit him, my technique was spot on! I must be getting better after all!”
I locked the gun away and took a shower and set out to make pancakes. Upon further inspection, the sound of “someone trying to kick the door in” had been just a giant icicle that fell onto our air conditioning unit.

All this, my friends, is book research. Bits and pieces of this embarrassing episode will find their way into one of my books. There might be a romantic element involved – or not - but there will be comedy and pathos. The main character will feel like a ridiculous fool.
Given a chance between crying and laughing at myself, I choose to laugh, and I welcome you to hop on the rollercoaster and laugh with me!

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