Call to Action: Let’s Save My Home

I’ve donated thousands of copies of my books—and I’ve never asked anything in return. Until now.

I’ve handed out my paperback books to friends and neighbors, coworkers and fellow BART passengers, libraries, schools, shelters for abused women, waitresses who gave me excellent service, and waitresses who simply looked like they were having a rough day. I’ve also given away thousands of free downloads, especially my memoir, Sister of Silence. (In fact, until recently, it had been free for more than one year.)

I’ve helped other people, too, like John, the man who sat outside in a snowstorm this year, trying to collect enough money from passing drivers so he could replace his broken wheelchair.

Now, faced with the prospect of losing my home, I need your help. Without it, I cannot keep writing the books you want. The ones about love and loss and depression and domestic violence. The ones that portray the darker side of life, while holding out hope and showing that laughter makes everything better.

Pretend I’m Harper Lee, since her friends gave the famous author enough money to live on while she wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. You can be my sponsor, benefactor, a patron of the arts, if you will. This centuries-old practice has helped support famous artists, musicians, and sculptors such as Beethoven, Vincent van Gogh, and Picasso.

So why not me?

Wikipedia describes patronage as “the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings, popes, and the wealthy have provided to artists such as musicians, painters, and sculptors. . . .”

This practice continues today, with NPR, the BBC, and great museums and art collections around the globe. As does the practice of artists giving back to their generous patrons.

I’m asking for you to be my patron, or benefactor. But not indefinitely, just until I save my home. And I will gladly give back to you!

In today’s world, a home is a precious commodity. Not everyone has one, and many people lose theirs every day. I know this well, having driven past many tent cities in Oakland and Berkeley, California, while searching for my own daughter in 2016. I could hardly drive by without crying, because it broke my heart to see those ravages of once middle-class families. Especially since the loss was through no fault of their own. Instead, it’s due in large part, my good friends there told me, to giant tech firms like Facebook, Google and Apple, whose presence in Silicon Valley has led to skyrocketing rental prices in the Bay Area.

Not many writers, or artists of any kind, can afford a home without help from their parents, a spouse, or someone else. People who joke about writers getting a “real job” are not always joking. They may believe that we creative sorts simply don’t want to work, that they enjoy having other people pay their bills.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I was paid advances of $12,500 and $10,000, respectively, for the last two true-crime books I wrote. Many days, for months on end, I worked 18 hours a day, simply to meet my deadlines. While working on the Skylar Neese case, I even wrote all night long, for two nights in a row. My literary agent all but ordered me to stop writing and go to bed. “You’re killing yourself,” she said, when she called from 3,000 miles away to chastise me.

I don’t like not earning enough money to support myself, but as a writer, I’m far from alone. And while my husband was alive, it wasn’t a problem. His income mostly covered my expenses. I say “mostly” because toward the end of his life, our income was dramatically reduced. With his death, it evaporated completely.

A local attorney, after hearing my plight, took this case. And he’s counting on me to pay him—but I need you to help me do that. Because I can’t. Not when my book royalties are less than $100 a month. Not when every day is spent trying to fight this battle, leaving me no time to even substitute teach. That’s why I’ve begun a GoFundMe page and I’ll keep it up for as long as I need to—but not a minute longer.

There, I offered to send a free ebook to everyone who donated at least $20. For $40 or more, I will send you a signed, printed copy of one of my books. I want to show my gratitude for your patronage. But to do that, you must send me your email or mailing address. GoFundMe does not provide it. Please don’t forget!

Until then, I think Alice Brown, who donated to my campaign, said it best:

Can everyone that sees this donate JUST $5? Five meager bucks. This weekend, you’ll spend five bucks on candy, booze, flowers for your mama, whatever. Can you spend $5 on someone who is about to lose her home?! I want you all, right now, to think of The Terminator (Arnold): ‘JUST DO IT!’ Daleen only needs 3400 more people with a heart/soul to send in $5. Hell, I’ve seen you all send out cute videos of your dog being chased by a chicken with views over 50K! Can you do any less here? PLEASE! Send this link to EVERYONE on your contact list and ask them to make a $5 donation AND ask them to forward the link onto their contacts. Would you want your mom to lose her home over a legal technicality? Do what’s right, right now. Don’t wait. Send $5 lousy bucks. It’s Easter for crying out loud! Don’t make me lose faith in humanity any more than I already have. $5 stinking bucks.

Writing is my chosen form of art, but I can’t do it without your support. Please consider becoming my benefactor, so I can continue writing the books you love.

* * *

Dear Readers,

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my memoir was released May 2016. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April 2016.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Destination South: My Long and Winding Literary Trek

I’m on a long and windy literary tour, which, thanks to Hurricane Hermine, has already featured one unexpected detour. While not taking Route 66, which is what I once planned to do, years ago, I am stopping to smell the roses where I can, meeting and writing about people who inspire me along the way. Yes, this is another trip altogether. An entirely different journey.

It felt as hot and muggy in Morgantown, W.Va., (when I hit the road August 31) as it does now in southern Florida, where I arrived Saturday night. Having just returned from a 7 a.m. walk on the beach, I can tell you the air hangs heavy around me, as warm and wet as tepid bath water.

My first stop when leaving my beloved Almost Heaven was Coonskin Drive in Charleston, where my cousin and I made an exchange: her books, which she loaned me, for my pearl earrings, which I forgot at her place in July. My window was open as she reached inside to hand me a tiny package. “Since I wrapped them in tin foil, we don’t want anyone to think we’re doing a drug deal,” she said as we both laughed. (In southern West Virginia, drugs are no laughing matter. Just ask state officials, who sued big pharma for piping the deadly opioids into the state.)

My first week on the road included a five-year overdue stop in Raleigh, N.C., to see friends I met in 2005, who have since become family. There, I heard the most fascinating stories about 1940s North Carolina, when segregation was still a way of life, as a young black woman from the North tried to acclimate to the South, after moving there to live with her husband’s sharecropper family.

My next stopover was in Myrtle Beach, S.C., to visit a friend whose husband is very ill. I landed just ahead of Hermine, which had, by then, been downgraded to a tropical storm. We watched as the rain and wind blew in, and pools of water rose high enough for neighbor children to frolic in. While there, I was again reminded how no one can advocate for your health and welfare better than a family member. And in today’s medical minefield, they must — or risk the consequences of wrong diagnoses and other serious mistakes.

Seeing a fisherman try to reel in a stingray, only to cut the line after a lengthy battle with the giant creature so it could escape, was the highlight of my time there. Next to seeing my dear friends and chatting over ice cream cones while walking along the beach.

After a small mishap involving melted coconut oil that leaked all over my toiletries (Does anyone remember my 2009 honey-in-my-suitcase incident?), and two broken nails – one on my foot, another on my hand – I left Myrtle Beach later than planned, arriving in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday afternoon. There, I stopped to see the DuBose Heyward House, which is on the National Historic Register. Heyward wrote Porgy, the novel that later inspired George Gershwin to create Porgy and Bess, the opera. (I have yet to see it, but it is definitely on my bucket list.)

I took another detour to drive through Botany Bay, a wildlife preserve which features live oak trees lined up along the lane leading to it, stationed like bowing butlers facing. I hadn’t eaten since morning, so I drove east a few more miles, stopping at the edge of the ocean at Edisto Beach. There, I had a meal at a little place where the décor was bright and cheery, and reminded me of my sister, Lisa, who would have turned 50 that day, but for the drugs that ravaged her world.

Because I didn’t make Savannah, Ga., until 7 p.m., I missed seeing Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home. Instead, I stepped through a triple-hung window and onto the balcony, fully enjoying my “room with a view,” as day turned to dusk. Thursday morning, I took a tour of the splendid old city, and did so in a pair of slacks, a loosely woven blouse over my tank top. By 10 a.m., I had shed the blouse. By noon, I shed my pants, after buying – and donning – a sundress. Still, the temperatures were sweltering, and I was reminded of the scene from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, where Vivi Abbott Walker and her friends try to cool off in a convertible one sweltering summer night.

Looking at the gardens from my room with a view in Savannah, Georgia.

I had so much fun walking around the shops and watching the people, and winding my way down (and then back up again, nimble as a billy goat with my new knees) some very steep stairs to River Street, that I barely made the last O’Connor house tour of the day. And that would have been a shame, for there I learned that Mary Flannery and I have in common a book that surely helped formed her into the writer she became, and possibly did me, as well. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which the tour guide said Flannery performed as live readings for her friends in her bathroom as a little girl. (I also love peacocks, although I’ve never raised them, as she did.) I could not leave without purchasing a copy of the book whose title made such an impact on me as a short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find. It is sad that she died so young of lupus, but what an incredible wealth of written works she left behind.

Next time, please join me as I make my way to other points south, as this literary trek continues.

Flannery O’Connor childhood home

The bathroom where Mary Flannery entertained her friends as a little girl; “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” is in the background.

The mantle in Mary Flannery’s bedroom features family photos.

My seventh book, Shatter the Silence, a love story and the long-awaited sequel to my first memoir was released May 7. That’s on the heels of Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang, a collection of my newspaper columns from 1988-91, which came out in April. Prior to those two books, Guilt by Matrimony was released last November. It’s about the murder of Aspen socialite Nancy Pfister.

My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller) and Pretty Little Killers , released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18, 2014, issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Ms. Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

“You’re Going to Sell a Million Copies”

That’s some powerful positive thinking going on, and it’s what one reader told me in a message a couple of days ago. Oddly enough, I woke up this morning feeling the same way, that belief having taken root in my brain. I sat up in bed and realized that today is the day Shatter the Silence comes out. Yay! So today is going to be amazing. I’ve never sold a million books before, and I can’t wait to see how that feels!

Maybe it’s the power of the story that has bouyed me with that belief. When writing Sister of Silence, the first book in what is now a series, I thought of it as a book for women. But then men began writing to me, thanking me for writing it. For helping them to “be a better man,” as one man put it.

Shatter the Silence is a love story, so that places it in the romance genre, but since this book is a true love story, it’s also memoir. And guess what? Men are loving it! That’s almost unheard of, when it comes to romance. (So I’m told. Not sure if I believe it.) But this book is about a police officer who worked as a deputy sheriff, when I was a news reporter at my first job. I know we live in a time of great mistrust when it comes to law enforcement, and I understand that, but I think this true story will help restore your faith in the men and women who walk the thin blue line.

Maybe I believe this book will sell a million copies because of something Sarah Rosier Nora posted on my Facebook page this morning. “Readers, get ready to laugh, cry, and fall in love all over again. You’ll root for the real couple in SHATTER THE SILENCE!” Sarah works in a library and reads a lot of books, so she knows a good book when she sees one.

I also believe selling a million copies can happen, though, because in less than one hour—at 10 a.m. (EDT)—almost one-half million people will be talking about this book. That’s when my Thunderclap campaign for my newest baby goes live—thanks to you. All of you, on Facebook and Twitter, who shared and asked your friends to support it. All I had to do was ask for your help, and you gave it. Not only did we meet our minimum goal, we exceeded it! Thank you so very much. YOU are spectacular! And I am so grateful. I truly do love my readers, because you give me something to strive for—that next story. Which I write for you. With much love!

I also love everyone who helped me get this book out the door. And cannot thank you all enough. I hope I remembered you all in the acknowledgements section. If I didn’t, please let me know and I’ll do that in the next book. You’ll be joining a long, long list of folks, too, because I’m thanking everyone by name who took part in the Thunderclap campaign.

It’s a beautiful day here in Morgantown, West Virginia. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the weatherman promises it’s going to be semi-warm (What can I say? This is WV, where it could snow tomorrow.) If you want to read a good love story, I’ve been told this is it. Get your copy today!

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══ SYNOPSIS ══

Shatter the Silence is the romantic and long-awaited sequel by New York Times Best-Selling Author Daleen Berry. The sequel to Sister of Silence, Ms. Berry’s 2011 breakout memoir about surviving abuse, Shatter the Silence is set in 1990s Appalachia.

This romantic memoir weaves accounts of the true crimes Ms. Berry covered while working as a news reporter with details of her divorce, her ex-husband’s ongoing harassment following their divorce, and finally, her love affair with the police detective who became first, a colleague, then a friend, and ultimately, the man who helped save her life.

══ CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR ══

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Shatter the Silence Book Cover Arrives!

Drum roll, please, for my newest book cover!

If you’ve read Sister of Silence, you might recall that I ended my memoir on a cliffhanger. I promise, it was not intentional. Many readers later wrote, asking what happened after I left “Eddie”—because I simply didn’t say. I was so focused on the positive outcome of having escaped that I failed to outline what happened next. (And since, as statistics show, many women who leave abusive men often later return again, no doubt readers wondered if I did that. Suffice to say, I did not. #WhyILeft)

Shatter begins in 1990 where SOS ends, after I took my children and left Eddie. I hope it answers all your questions. Here’s a synopsis of what promises to be a great departure from the normally dark themes I write about:

Shatter the Silence is the romantic and long-awaited sequel by New York Times Best-Selling Author Daleen Berry. The sequel to Sister of Silence, Ms. Berry’s 2011 breakout memoir about surviving abuse, Shatter the Silence takes place in Preston County, West Virginia.

This romantic memoir weaves accounts of the true crimes Ms. Berry covered while working as a news reporter with details of her divorce, her ex-husband’s ongoing harassment following their divorce, and finally, her love affair with the police detective who became first, a colleague, then a friend, and ultimately, the man who helped save her life.

Readers will weep as they learn about the collateral damage Ms. Berry and her four children sustained, following ten years trapped in a violent marriage. They will cheer when they see her refusal to live the rest of her life as a victim, and will be overjoyed when Ms. Berry realizes she has, as a single mother of four at the age of twenty-seven, fallen in love for the very first time. Finally, Ms. Berry’s loyal fans will be moved by the tender, intimate moments she shares, as they join this award-winning author on her journey to love and healing.”

You can pre-order Shatter the Silence through Smashwords, which distributes books to places like Apple iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and elsewhere. (Sister of Silence is also available at these locations.)

And if you order now, Shatter is only $2.99. But right after its May 7 release, the price goes up to $3.99.

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Cruising the Caribbean: Danger Finds Daleen On the High Seas

***CONTINUED FROM LAST MONDAY . . .

Most of the time aboard the Grandeur of the Seas, I was either walking the track on the upper deck or immersed in a good book somewhere, hidden away in a quiet corner of the ship. After all, I had all those calories to walk off—and the sun to watch, as it painted the horizon with its bright orange glow each morning. And then again each night. With book in hand, I watched the tossing seas, or enjoyed the gentle rocking which accompanied my reading. Sapphire colored, the endless waves were as soothing as a massage. I felt healthier than I have in years.

And my top “meeting a tall, dark stranger” experience came the morning I woke before 5 a.m. and stumbled up to deck ten to get some reading in before breakfast. Warm ocean breezes kept me company as I read the Pulitzer Prize winning book, All the Light We Cannot See on my iPad, while curled up on a chaise lounge. Then suddenly, an interruption.

“Is there anywhere to get coffee?” an older man with silver hair asked, as he ambled by.

“It was so early I didn’t look, but if you find some and come back by here, let me know,” I said.

A few minutes later, still absorbed in my book, the same fellow returned. He bore a gift: coffee, creamers, sugar and even pretend sugar, and a stirrer. “I brought you some of both,” he said. It was the most romantic moment of my entire cruise, on land or water, and I was touched by his kindness. I never saw him again.

Night comes to downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico.

An aside: I, and perhaps every woman who waited in the long lines outside movie theatres in 1997 to see Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titantic, have always wondered how it felt to be those people, the ones on that ship, those who perished, those who survived. Jack and Rose. I could only imagine, but strains from Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” wafting through the ship lent a helpful air in that department.

Speaking of which, did you know Titantic had its own newspaper, The Atlantic Daily Bulletin? Neither did I. But how fascinating!

A beach scene near Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or “El Morro,” built in San Juan during the early 1500s.

Many people I met onboard tell me that cruising is the perfect antidote to the winter doldrums. One such woman said that before her first cruise, the approaching winter would leave her depressed. Now, twenty years later, she is cured. Apparently, sailing 28 days out of the year in a series of three back-to-back cruises can do that for you, and several people I met do just that.

Meeting new people was the highlight of my cruise. Which is how I learned quite a few of my fellow seafarers had been on that same ship last year when it became the SS Norovirus. They said that 2015 experience was far worse than our second day at sea. That’s when the waves were so tumultuous they held many of us captive inside our cabins, until our collective nausea passed. Alas, it was my first and only negative experience onboard.

Well, except for my near misadventure on the high seas, a week later. It happened the night before we reached the Port of Baltimore, where our cruise ended. I was inside the Palladium Theater with friends who had crowded into nearby balcony seats. I was standing and talking, telling one of them about my bilateral knee surgery. He wanted the phone number for my fabulous surgeon, and I wanted him to have it. I went to retrieve it from my cabin. Turning and twisting and trying to walk at the same time, I missed one very large step. Instead, I pitched forward, but somehow managed to catch myself with both hands. My full weight pushed against a plexiglass barrier of sorts, which had been installed above the copper banister for probably that very reason, causing it to burst apart at two seams. The entire episode took mere seconds. My friends watched in horror, and said I came quite close to taking a tumble over the rail.

Well, shiver me timbers!

I say all that fancy footwork and the adept twisting of body parts, albeit without a sword, goes to show what a good pirate I’d make. Captain Jack Sparrow would be proud. So no, I don’t think I’ll wait 21 years for my next cruise.

* * * *

My fifth book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, was released November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

“American Pain” a Fascinating True Tale of Greed, Addiction, and Pill Mills

If you don’t know anyone who’s been addicted to narcotic painkillers, you’re fortunate. Sadly, most of us do, or did, in the case of an addict whose addiction ended in death. It’s not a pretty topic—but it certainly is a crucial one.

Last fall I joined a local writer’s group made up largely of WVU professors. We email each other pages of our current project and meet once a month to provide feedback. It’s probably the best writer’s group I’ve ever been involved with, and I enjoy it immensely. One of the members, John Temple, was working on a nonfiction project he was under contract to finish. The early drafts of American Pain: How A Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic really grabbed my attention. In part because I lost a sister to drug abuse, after she got hooked on those nasty painkillers, and also because I’ve had several surgeries myself and almost every single time I was sent home with a prescription for an opioid—which is a synthetic form of opium. Most of the time, I didn’t even need to fill the script. Other times, if I did, I rarely finished the pills, and flushed those that remained down the toilet.

John Temple, a WVU journalism professor, signs copies of his new book, American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed American’s Deadliest Drug Epidemic at his August 31 book launch. [Photo by Benyamin Cohen]

Then, on Monday, August 31, 2015, I attended Temple’s book launch at the WVU Law School. There, a three-member panel composed of a psychologist, an attorney, and Temple, discussed the painkiller epidemic. I thought I knew how addiction worked, but I learned even more that night. For instance, the more painkillers you take, the more pain you have. That’s the word from Dr. Carl Sullivan, director of the West Virginia Addiction Training Institute for the last 25 years. Once the brain becomes accustomed to painkillers, any real or perceived pain seems even worse, which prompts the user to feel like he needs more pills at higher doses. It’s a vicious cycle that turns many people into addicts and eventually leads them to heroin.

Sullivan knows addicts. Prior to 1985, most of his patients were alcoholics. But in the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies began pushing drugs like OxyContin, saying that opioids were safe. They pushed them right into West Virginia, which has a large worker’s compensation population, due to such dangerous jobs as cutting timber and mining coal. At the same time, pain became the fifth vital sign doctors would check when examining patients. Because pain isn’t easy to quantify, and it’s impossible for doctors to confirm if a patient doesn’t have any, “doctors felt compelled to treat it,” Sullivan said. The result was a perfect storm here in Appalachia and elsewhere. “Opioids in West Virginia were just flowing like water,” he added.

We can thank Purdue Pharma for this change in the medical community. In the early 1990s, Purdue developed OxyContin, a controlled-release pill. It would replace MS Contin, one of their other drugs, used only to treat cancer patients. As Temple writes in American Pain, “Purdue wanted OxyContin to be prescribed to a much broader array of patients and for a longer period of time.” So Purdue began a major marketing campaign: first, they educated the American public about the problem of untreated pain. Then, they provided the solution—their new drug!

When West Virginia figured out what was going on with pill mills, Temple said, it became one of the first states to clamp down on the problem, which included patients who would doctor shop and buy far more painkillers than they needed. “The drugs may go away but not the addiction, so you go where the drugs are,” Temple said. Thus the reason West Virginia residents, like many people in southern states, began driving to Florida to get their fix.

The morning of the book launch, Sullivan treated 23 patients. All of them were addicted to opioids. These and other addicts have symptoms that include an intense craving for painkillers, being restless, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and thinking only about one thing: getting more drugs. “Without treatment, nothing good happens,” Sullivan said, “squalor, death.”

Not long ago he felt hopeless. Since then, new treatment programs are helping people addicted to painkillers. The clinical psychologist said he “feels more optimistic in 2015 than in a long time.”

Who would believe that this painkiller epidemic started, in large part, because of a construction worker–and felon–in Florida? The story of their American Pain clinics and the drug-dealing doctors who worked for them is amazing! Temple spent three years writing his book while on sabbatical from WVU, where he teaches journalism.

Not only is his writing crisp and clear, but Temple also cites fascinating numbers that help tell the story of this American epidemic. For instance, Temple says that during one period, Florida doctors bought nine times more oxycodone (the main ingredient in OxyContin and other painkillers) than doctors in other states. “That’s nine times more than the other forty-nine states combined,” he says. Records from the Drug Enforcement Agency show that in “one six-month period,” Temple says, “Florida doctors bought 41.2 million doses while every other physician in the country collectively purchased 4.8 million doses.” In fact, he says “four of [American Pain’s] clinic’s full-time doctors ranked among the top nine physician purchasers of oxycodone in the country.”

American Pain got its start, in part, from a health care industry that comprises 18-percent of the U.S. economy, according to Valerie Blake, a WVU associate law professor. That’s huge, and it’s climbing. When the pill mills were pumping out pills so fast almost no one could keep count, Florida then had virtually no laws regulating health care, Blake said. And the state certainly had no database to help track patients who were “doctor shopping.” Nor did it have any laws that stipulated who could or couldn’t own a medical clinic, she added.

Enter the George brothers, Chris and Jeff, and their construction worker buddy, Derik Nolan. Not even knowing what they were doing, they ran their little operation haphazardly, but over time they learned what the DEA looked for, when determining if a clinic could be busted for dispensing too many drugs. And they began implementing changes accordingly, until their company became a major player in the narcotic painkiller industry.

Astonishingly, though, when Chris George checked out the DEA’s own 2006 policy, he found that the federal agency would consider suspicious any doctor who “prescribes 1,600 [sixteen hundred] tablets per day of a schedule II opioid to a single patient,” Temple wrote. With numbers that high, it’s clear to see why the George brothers and Nolan thought they could get away with what they were doing.

American Pain is an important book about an epidemic that is far from over. Not only did Temple dig into the DEA’s own puzzling actions of allowing pharmaceutical firms to manufacture more pills than ever, but he did so while weaving together a powerful and sometimes even funny story about the three Florida construction workers who became so wealthy and powerful they were mafia bosses in their own right. Bosses the FBI brought down, when a female agent named Jennifer Turner took an interest in the construction workers’ clinics. Turner and her fellow agent, Kurt McKenzie, worked for more than a year to bring the case to trial. According to Temple, McKenzie says the only “other investigation that took the same toll on him . . . was the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.”

There is one other important thread Temple wove throughout his book: the victims of American Pain’s pill mill practices, many of whom died. Like the Racine, W.Va., man, who smashed his Camaro into a pickup truck while high on oxy. Or the Tennessee man who died in a Boca Raton motel, two days after being treated at one of American Pain’s clinic.

But Temple’s story about Stacy Mason, a young concrete worker from Kentucky who drove to Florida to get oxy so he could cope with back pain from a serious vehicle accident that made it impossible for him to work, will leave you longing for justice for all the victims of this terrible epidemic.

Many times, Temple got in his own car and drove up hollers in backwoods Kentucky to interview the Mason family for this book. Their story, like those of the other addicts Temple writes about, will make you angry that so many senseless deaths have occurred because of greedy pharmaceutical companies. Be prepared to settle in for a long read, because American Pain is an addictive read. And it will captivate you, making it almost impossible to put down.

* * * *

In November, I will have five books, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Mental Illness and Police Incompetence Lead to Murder, Suicide, in Aspen

Years ago when I published The Deputy for West Virginia police officers, a question arose about what would be considered newsworthy. At the time, the board of directors chose to let me have the final say over editorial content. When a fellow officer was later charged with DUI, I chose to put that information into the periodical. It wasn’t to make the officer look bad; it was to show that the group was transparent. That it wasn’t going to hide bad behavior or look the other way when it happened. That the members would be in the spotlight if they did bad, the same as if they did good.

Transparency–we need more of that now. I believe most American police officers are of high-caliber character: they won’t intentionally break the law, nor tacitly condone fellow officers who do. That said, we have a national problem: police officers who believe a badge gives them the power to use needless violence against others, prestige that places them above the law, and a position that renders them untouchable by fellow officers on the “thin blue line.”

In 1993, West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis said an officer’s conduct is not just about transparency—it’s about appearances. Davis, then in private practice, was legal counsel for the West Virginia Deputy Sheriffs’ Association. During a board meeting I attended, she warned officers that their conduct better be spotless both in and out of uniform. Because people are watching.

Her comments occurred after a deputy sheriff in Kanawha County was fired for domestic violence. In the August 1993 issue of The Deputy, Davis said the fired deputy “inflicted minor injuries upon (his ex-girlfriend) and also damaged her vehicle,” when the woman repeatedly harassed his family.

This is a good time to consider Justice Davis’ words, in light of the recent incidents of excessive police violence—and officers who simply overstep their bounds or fudge the facts. It isn’t about race. It’s about doing the right thing, even when it’s not what you want to do.

My next book looks at a case of police incompetence that borders on criminal behavior. You won’t have heard about it, even though it’s been in the news repeatedly. Of course, the media got the story wrong. Hopefully next time, they’ll think twice about accepting as fact the statements they get from someone wearing a badge. Even if a person wearing a black robe has signed off on those statements.

This police misconduct may stem more from inexperience than malice, but the jury’s still out on that. I’ll let you readers decide. Regardless, people lost their freedom as a result, and lives were ruined. That’s not something that can be undone.

Two weeks ago, the man at the center of this case died. We had only met once. I spent eight hours with him inside Arrowhead Correctional Center in April, but I wish it had been longer. That I had known him longer. I wish I had met Dr. William “Trey” Styler before his depression changed him forever. In February 2014, not long after her body was found, Pitkin County police pegged Styler, his wife, and one other woman as the murdering trio who schemed to kill Aspen resident Nancy Pfister. They were arrested within days and spent more than three months in jail—until Trey Styler confessed.

Guilt by Matrimony: A Memoir of Love, Madness, and the Murder of Nancy Pfister was in its final stages when Styler hung himself in his jail cell on August 6, 2015. He was depressed and had been suicidal for years. His widow and I have slaved over this book, trying to be accurate and fair to both Styler and his victim. It’s been a balancing act of the most challenging kind. Two very sick people, both at risk, who ultimately harmed themselves far more than they hurt others.

I don’t write books about breezy topics that make for light reading. I write about real people with real problems; serious, even life-threatening problems. I’m fortunate that Trey’s widow, Nancy Styler, chose me to help write it–and then agreed to let me tell this story candidly. Of course, if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have written it.

This book isn’t what either of us thought it would be at the outset. After my trip to Aspen in April, it morphed into something entirely different. I won’t give away all the details—but I’ll tell you that Aspen is no stranger to suicide. Which should have boded well for Trey and his wife, as well as Pfister. Instead, the people in Pitkin County, Colorado, ignored it, leading to two needless deaths. Not just one. And now we have a new ending, one that will surprise you. Then again, the entire book should, because it’s a far cry from the malarkey that’s been written about this crime.

I’ve given my full support to “the thin blue line” since I began reporting on cops and courts in 1988. Much to my regret, this book also reveals some pretty bad police and prosecutorial incompetence. Guilt by Matrimony reveals how the two, mental illness and police incompetence, played out in Pfister’s murder. It’s an important book. I hope you read it.

* * * *

In November, I will have five books, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella Books, Nellie Bly Books, Amazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

Skip Black Friday—But Do Support Small Business Saturday and Your Local Merchants

While writing two books in one year and starting on two other books—yes, the sequel to Sister of Silence and another true-crime book—I’m afraid I’ve neglected my blog. But with the holiday shopping season upon us, and Black Friday 10 days away, I’d like to suggest you shop small this year. In a big way, by supporting your local merchants on Small Business Saturday.

Unlike the average American woman, I hate shopping. I will never be a fashionista, so I rarely know what style looks good on me. In fact, I consider myself fashion-challenged. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I really dislike seeing my distorted reflection in a dressing room mirror. It’s rare that I even find something I like well enough to buy, which makes the entire shopping experience frustrating—not to mention a total waste of my time and energy. So don’t expect to pass me in the mall.

Connie Merandi, co-owner of Coni and Franc, and I pose with the book that took me to her High Street shop.

However, like many working women, I realize that image is important. Dress for success and all that, right? I know the right clothes can speak volumes about your image. And if you don the wrong outfit, you won’t project the image you need to. (Imagine Katie Couric going on set wearing a plunging neckline and a miniskirt. Or Jennifer Aniston suited up like Barbara Walters.) Add to that the fact that any woman who has to be seen in public but who carries more than five extra pounds, knows that the camera is going to play havoc with that image and her weight—especially if she can’t fit into anything in her closet.

That was my situation last winter, in late February. To say I was a tad nervous about appearing on the Dr. Phil Show to promote my book would be a huge understatement. But that all changed after I went to Coni and Franc to find an outfit for that unique media opportunity. Not only did I leave feeling a few inches taller, but I looked slimmer, too—and I knew it. More important, I felt elegant, and full of poise. During a time I was under so much stress that I was having chest pains, Connie Merandi and her staff pampered me and reassured me and gave me the confidence to pull off such an important feat.

This is how they did it: they took a personal interest in me, and in my wardrobe needs. Connie, who knows how to take a woman’s lumps and bumps and make them invisible with just the right jacket, slacks or—equally important—undergarment, knew what would look good on my particular body style. She also knew what I should avoid wearing. And what would help me represent West Virginia (whose residents don’t always appear in the media wearing the most fashionable clothing) in a way that reflected well on the state.

Now here’s the thing about small-town, upscale boutiques like Coni and Franc: we look at their window displays and often think they are way out of our price range. I know I did. For years, I never went inside. Too much money, I thought.

And then I went inside. Because by then I was so pressed for time, I could not afford to fight traffic and drive across town to the mall or other clothing stores. I also knew I would be hard-pressed to find slacks that weren’t too long, meaning I would have to alter them myself—or find someone else to. That wasn’t an option, either. At that point I had more money than I had time.

What I learned once I was there, though, was quite valuable, and it’s something you won’t see happen in a franchise department store or chain dress shop. The first thing was this: Connie gave me several style tips that helped me look not just professional, but better than I ever had before. I will take Connie’s fashion tips with me wherever I go, every time I dress for success in the workplace. She also put me at ease, and every staffer there made me feel like I was the most important person in the shop. During a time that was extremely stressful for me personally and professionally, I needed that very much.

The second thing I learned at Coni and Franc’s was about price tags. Most chain stores have rigid prices that won’t change. However, when you shop at a boutique like Coni and Franc, the clothing comes in a wide range of prices. Business owners like Connie can and will work within your budget, to make sure you leave with something that works well for your special occasion. (Another bonus: the store has daily secret specials that you won’t know about unless you drop by.)

I clown around with a mannequin between fittings.

This was my personal experience, and when I saw the same thing happen to a single mother and her daughter, I was sold on Coni and Franc permanently. It was late in the day when the woman came into the store, saying she had been everywhere but couldn’t find her daughter a gown for a school dance. She told Connie how much she had to spend and in short order, Connie’s sales staff found the preteen not just a dress that turned her into Cinderella, but matching slippers, too—all within the mom’s budget.

You see, every customer who comes through Connie’s doors matters. Unlike big box stores like Wal-Mart, where I recently went to buy a box of tissues. Which I found in the cleaning supply aisle, the worst possible place for anything I put near my nose. That was when it dawned on me: many times I would go to use a tissue and begin sneezing from its smell. After a time, the odors from cleaning products apparently waft over and into the tissue boxes. I left the store without tissues but when I checked out, I suggested to a store manager that they might want to relocate those and other paper products to another aisle. Ironically, she said she has the same problem—and she had already suggested the same move to corporate headquarters. “But they never listen to me,” she said.

I came away feeling annoyed, and wanted to never shop there again. For if a company won’t listen to its own employees—especially management personnel—how on earth can we expect it to take our needs into consideration? In short, we can’t, which is why I prefer shopping at family-owned stores like Tanner’s Alley or Sunflowers.

And for all my clothing needs, Coni and Franc. I may spend a little more on a garment, but it’s a quality garment that will hold up well, with beautifully constructed seams that won’t come apart after the first wash. Each piece is destined to become a wardrobe staple for me, perhaps for years. So in the end I’ve saved a ton. Even better, I haven’t bought something that I will never wear once I get it home and realize it won’t work for me. I invite you to join me at Small Business Saturday, Nov. 29, and support your local merchants, too. I promise you won’t regret it.

* * *

I have four books, and will be selling them at the Berkeley Springs Book Festival at The Ice House in Berkeley Springs, WV, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on November 29. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about overcoming depression from domestic violence; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella BooksNellie Bly BooksAmazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

West Virginia Writers: We Came, We Saw, We Wore Red (And Won Contests!)

We live at a time where one might wonder if books are going the way of the dinosaur. Not because there’s a shortage—I can’t imagine when there was ever more of a book glut than now—but because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to eek out a living writing them.

That’s me, speaking at the panel session about “Pretty Little Killers,”
at the 2014 West Virginia Writers’ Conference.
I’ve heard story after story of even well-known writers whose success has been measured by the number of books they sold on the New York Times, USA Today and other best-selling lists, facing publishers who can’t or won’t pay these authors enough money to write their books.

The writing occupation has always been a bit of a gamble, so the phrase “starving writer” is apropos. In the 26 years I’ve written for a living, I only made what was truly a middle-class income for 11 of them. The rest of the time, I qualified for some form of government assistance, whether it was food stamps (now called SNAP) to feed my growing family or a medical card for my children’s health-care needs.

Writing is a solitary profession, which I enjoy, but it can also be a discouraging one. Especially in today’s economy, where companies like Amazon have both helped level the playing field and changed the book publishing rules. If you’re a professional writer, or hope to become one, it’s important to rub shoulders with people like me who have done it for decades. Who haven’t given up on this intrinsically rewarding way to earn a living.

I’ve gone to conferences and other literary events most of my adult life and can confirm they are essential for professional development. Not only do you learn basic writing skills, or how to hone the natural ones you were born with, you meet people who are rooting for you to succeed. Like Pam and Ralph Hanson, former beloved WVU journalism professors and, in Pam’s case, an author with more than 40 published books to her name.

West Virginia Writers’ Conference was probably the first such conference I attended, somewhere in the late 1980s or early ‘90s. Held the second weekend in June at Cedar Lakes in Ripley, it boasts a peaceful, picturesque setting, but it also offers interaction with some top-notch professional writers who love paying it forward.

All I had to do was say I was trying to finish the sequel to my memoir, which my writing friends tell me is a romance (I know, imagine that!), for one such veteran, multi-published author to pipe up: “I’ll help you!” All I had to do was walk into Karin Tauscher Fuller’s hotel room at the conference, for her to insist on giving me the cutest red dress to wear to the awards banquet.

We are woman, hear us roar . . . in red, or black and white polka dots.
All I needed to hear was that another author had no ride to the airport, and I volunteered to play chauffeur. These were just three examples, but I know other writers displayed such generosity of time and spirit throughout the weekend.

Writers are some of the best people in the world to pay it forward. Kambri Crews, a publicist and comedian whose own book about her deaf father, incarcerated for trying to kill his ex-girlfriend, spoke about this during her workshop. Kambri encouraged aspiring authors to never be afraid to ask other successful, even—dare I say it—New York Times best-selling authors, for book endorsements. That’s because Kambri learned firsthand how willing most of us are to help newbie writers break into this elite, albeit not necessarily financially lucrative, business when she began asking for book blurbs herself.

So did I, when I reached out to Asra Nomani (formerly of the Wall Street Journal), Jacqueline Campbell (of Johns Hopkins University), and Bob Edwards (of NPR and Sirius Radio fame). In addition to some pretty amazing blurbs, they actually also offered helpful feedback I haven’t forgotten. Most important, their help instilled within me a sense of accomplishment that kept me writing.

With that I’d like to follow suit, and give a shout-out to Jessica Nelson and Anastasia Knudsen, two award-winning teen writers. Jessica, from Morgantown, W.Va., was 14 when she garnered her first West Virginia Writers’ award. Last year she carted off four. Now 18, it’s obvious Jessica’s future has writing in it. Most immediately, it has West Virginia Wesleyan in it, since Jessica won a scholarship to attend the private college.

Ana is 14, homeschooled, and also from Morgantown. Saturday night she set a record for West Virginia Writers. When she first entered, Contest Coordinator Eric Fritzius told me Ana was nervous about submitting in what is normally considered an adult category. “She said, ‘I probably won’t even win,'” Eric said.

She has a right to be happy; at 14, Anastasia Knudsen is the youngest person to win in the book-length prose category. She’s shown here, left to right, with Mary Lucille DeBerry, a veteran of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Sarah Robinson, whose memoir is soon to be published. All three women took home awards from Saturday’s banquet.

Then Ana—who has won some other writing contests but does not have a cell phone, which I think might just account for her award-winning writing—went on to do what many adult entrants have never done: she floored everyone at the awards banquet when she walked away with second place. For what looks like a very intriguing book about time travel. That was judged blind, from among 32 entries, by none other than the Pinckney Benedict. Wow!

Even though some of us didn’t win this year—Marie Manilla, whose book, The Patron Saint of Ugly, was just published by Mifflin Harcourt; Diane Tarantini, nominated for a Pushcart Prize; Karin, whose weekly newspaper column consistently offers fine reading; Sheila Redling, a best-selling Amazon author, Carter Seaton Taylor, who’s on tour for her newest book about West Virginia artisans, Hippie Homesteaders; and me, who hit the New York Times list in March—it’s because we were simply so busy with our writing careers we didn’t have time to submit an entry.

Which just goes back to paying it forward to teen writers like Ana and Jessica. We’re here because someone helped us. And because we’ve sharpened our skills at one of the best annual writer’s conference you’ll ever find.

At a conference that is sure to turn out even more great authors, who are destined to ensure that books never become dinosaurs.

 

* * *

I have three books, soon to be four. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is being used in colleges and some high schools; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), due out July 8, 2014.

You can find these books either online or in print at a bookstore near you, at BenBella BooksNellie Bly BooksAmazon, on iTunes and Barnes and Noble.

For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.

Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!

~Daleen

 

Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and Sister of Silence placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”

 

When Chronic Pain Hurts Your Performance

After promising my readers not one but two books—Lethal Silence and To Shatter the Silence—by February 2013, and failing to deliver either book, I fear I’ve lost my credibility. So it’s time to come clean.

I should confess: I did just finish one book, but it wasn’t either of those titles. It was Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, a memoir about the life of Eloise Morgan Milne. I was under contract to write this book, so it had to take precedence over my own books, including those already in the pipeline.

I hate not keeping my word. After all, a promise made is a debt unpaid. I grew up with that belief, and still live by it. Of course, I also issue far fewer promises these days.

Like all good surgeons these days, he marked the correct arm prior to surgery. In this case, it’s my left one.

Having cut my writing teeth doing deadline work, it isn’t about missing my own deadlines. No, the problem has been from chronic pain, something I’ve been living with for the last two years. Until 12 days ago, when I finally bit the bullet and had carpal tunnel surgery. I feel like I’ve been given my writing life back. Thanks to Dr. Glen Buterbaugh, at the Hand and UpperEx Center, in Wexford, Pa. Dr. Buterbaugh has worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and Pirates—which should tell you how good he is. I gave him a big hug and a sincere thank you yesterday, when I saw him for my first post-op visit. Because, for me, he performed a miracle.

In the interim, though, while living with pain that forced me to put down my pen or stop typing long before I was ready, I’ve missed posting a lot of news here, too.

Not for the faint of heart, this is the incision site, 10 days out.

Like the final story about Shannon Stafford’s murder. (The one that blasts government agencies for leaving Shannon’s toddler daughter, Faith, in danger for more than a year.) That story’s been on the back burner now for many months. Much to my—as well as other people’s—chagrin. Recently, I received some information that will allow me to publish that piece—but first I must update it. That’s because Faith went missing recently.

Nor have I written as much about the Steubenville rape case as I would have liked. But the story I stayed silent about is the one that’s in my own backyard. Literally. Skylar Neese, then 15, went missing last July. Police said they couldn’t issue an Amber Alert because they believed the Star City teen had run away. In the meantime, Skylar’s parents, Dave and Mary Neese, have fought for passage of Skylar’s Law.

That bill now awaits Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s signature. As reported in the Beckley Register-Herald recently, “Under the bill, State Police would have discretion in deciding to add a missing child to Amber Alert, regardless of whether an abduction is suspected.” Legislators are questioning why Gov. Tombin has not yet taken action, especially in view of new developments in this case.

Dr. Buterbaugh and me. He wore a blazer during patient rounds before surgery. Looked really spiffy, too.

In January, Skylar’s remains were found in Pennsylvania. By March, authorities announced the University High student had been murdered. Last week, two of Skylar’s friends were charged with her fatal stabbing. One girl, Rachel Shoaf, 16, pled guilty to second-degree murder. She awaits sentencing.

Normally the names of underage defendants in criminal cases are not released to the public. But Shoaf agreed to be charged as an adult. The name of the other teen, already in custody, hasn’t been released.

Editor’s note: Berry is the executive director of Samantha’s Sanctuary, Inc., a new 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping empower abused women and their children. Berry’s TEDx talk, given April 13 at Connecticut College, will be live any day.

Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read an excerpt, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout”.