From Trauma to Tragedy…to Redemption

“I am not what has happened to me.  I am what I choose to become.”

These words of noted Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Dr. Carl Jung, are the foundation of modern psychology.  They are life-saving words.  I know and embrace them, because they saved mine.


David J. Morris, former Marine and infantry officer, in his groundbreaking memoir, The Evil Hours, recounting his time as a journalist and war correspondent in Iraq, says of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

We are born in debt, owing the world a death. This is the shadow that darkens every cradle. Trauma is what happens when you catch a surprise glimpse of that darkness, the coming annihilation not only of the body and the mind but also, seemingly, of the world… almost as if it were a virus, a pathogen content to do nothing besides replicate itself in the world, over and over, until only it remains.

Not a particularly pretty picture.  It never is.  Riding with his platoon on a deserted stretch of road one day, Morris’ vehicle struck an IED.  Thus began, for real, his introduction to all the ways that trauma can enter the body, stay there, replicate itself, and – quite literally – alter one’s genetic coding…his DNA.  Sounds preposterous, right?

You’ve just made the first mistake in trying to understand the sweeping destruction of PTSD on the body:  first, the mind; then, the stressors and conditioned responses to external stimuli.  Eventually, without proper psychoanalytical treatment, one begins to see, think and act with only one certainty:  annihilation of mind, body and spirit.

Welcome to Charlie’s Ladder

These past six months, you’ve heard little from me.  That’s because I’ve buried myself in the final edit and rewrite phases of a two-novel series begun eight years ago.  The first of those two, full-length novels – Charlie’s Ladder – will soon become reality, with a projected publication date of November 2023.  It’s sequel, The Last Altar Boy, will follow in Q3 or Q4 of 2024.

(Cover concept:  HJ McEnroe)

 Charlie – now a middle-aged man – harbors both PTSD, and the demons it creates.  Exorcising them from himself, and those he loves, requires both a psychological journey, and a spiritual road trip into hell.  Eventually, he comes to realize that not all demons reside within in his head.  Charlie was not what happened to him, but choosing to become someone else comes at a price.

The act of laying bare oneself in order to save others may sound altruistic.  For me, however, it feels very risky.  So, trust me when I say, I didn’t ask for this. 

Saint Paul wrote:

“For we walk by faith and not by sight.”

        -  2 Corinthians 5:7 NKJV

The ‘Charlie series’ is a redemption story, at its core…however, not the kind of redemption anyone in their right mind would want to undergo.   Ahh, but Charlie isn’t in his ‘right mind’…or IS he?  His path to redemption requires of him walking by faith.  Along that path are saints and sinners, angels and demons -- posing this existential question:  How far would you go to save loved ones from hell? 


Charlie’s Ladder:   Coming in Q4.

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Well Cindy, your comment matches what Heather counseled me against some time ago…she had other, more mature renditions, and also thought that this image is too childlike. So, seems the two of you agree…which proves, once again, why authors should always leave such decisions to the artist!

Carl Reinelt

Can’t wait to read the book. Not a fan of the cover picture tho. It’s too elementary and looks like a children’s story. Just my opinion. Gotta catch readers attention with a good cover

Cindy Smith

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