Happy (Re)birthday to Me

Hello, dear readers! Today is a day that always fills me with deep thoughts and gratitude. It’s the day I’ve been calling Miracle Day for years, which my husband has re-branded cutely into “Amanda Day.” Just over a week away from my actual birthday, I realize it could also be called my rebirth day.

Fourteen years ago, I was a passenger in a near-fatal car crash that left me with a traumatic brain injury, an uphill battle of relearning absolutely everything (walking, talking, eating, seeing, balancing…etc.)–and a huge sense of purpose. Three years ago, another horrific car crash (rear-ended!) left me with another head injury and a renewed sense of purpose and love.

I beg you to consider it more the literary nerd in me rather than total egomania–but part of what’s helped me piece together the puzzle of my life is realizing that many literary heroes undergo an epic quest and ultimate rebirth to become a new, leveled-up, wiser version of their still former selves–not a transformation into a different person, but a better version of themselves. These epic heroes have traded something dear to realize their destiny. There is usually an element of loss, but for a greater gain and a greater good. They don’t give up because things have changed; they move forward, realizing they are better equipped, even if it’s difficult, and even if they must get to know themselves anew.

I reflect on this often, blessed as I am to have made a “full recovery.” I put it in quotes, because a brain injury is permanent. However, the brain is FASCINATING in its ability to rebuild new connections, new workarounds for how things used to be. Just because an area of the brain was damaged does not necessarily mean that a function/skill is lost–the brain can often accommodate, especially with great rehab like I had at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, part of Northwestern Medicine (where I proudly work!). Now, 14 years after my major trauma, I certainly think/work differently before–but I don’t (usually) think of it as a bad thing. Things that are perhaps a bit slower for me now are certainly offset by the enormous perspective, compassion, and sense of purpose I gained. I feel like I see the world completely differently now; that my unquenchable sense of carpe diem has unlocked a thousand lifetimes for me, that my equally heartbreaking and heart-filling sense of empathy is a network of a thousand souls.

I was blessed to recover as I did, in a completeness that many are not lucky enough to reach–and let me tell you, that survivor’s guilt is intense. As much as I LOVE volunteering, donating, mentoring, giving back–I will never feel equal to the love and support God, my family, friends, and strangers showed me during my recovery. Recovery for me was an enormous hug with a soft, warm blanket of love that has only grown since those hard days.

November is an interesting month for me–and again, it’s the literary nerd in me that seeks themes–but I could not think of a better series of holidays to celebrate: Rebirth Day/Miracle Day/Amanda Day; Thanksgiving (SO MUCH to be thankful for); and my actual birthday. Thank you God, family, husband, friends, coworkers, and again, strangers–for making this life so beautiful and blessed.

Today is sometimes melancholic for me, reflecting on how lucky I have been to be saved twice on November 21 and wondering what it all means. More than anything, it is a day filled with gratitude. My husband and family make sure it is also a fun day for me. Tonight, Dave and I played a word game (my favorite!) and I had pizza (also my favorite!) and am soon to partake in some dark chocolate (another favorite–see a theme?). I’m writing on my new laptop I’m already obsessed with that Dave got me as an early present for Amanda Day/birthday/Christmas (who gets presents for the anniversary of their medical events?? This lucky wife! 🙂 ) My wonderful boss made sure I was able to work from home today so I wouldn’t have to be on the roads and could stay comfortable–and she gave me many hugs and such compassion, along with several other coworkers yesterday.

I am absolutely blessed with this life. Even the dark moments led to more beauty, more growth, a deeper existence–a rebirth. 🙂

BIAIL Fashion Show + Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

Hello, dear readers! I hope you had a fabulous weekend! I had the honor and pleasure of modeling for the Brain Injury Association of Illinois’s Annual Fashion Show for the second year in a row. As a TBI survivor, disability awareness has become really important to me, and I was so happy to help with such a great cause. The organization is a special one to me, and this event–run so well by heads Philicia Deckard and Ginny Doran Lazarra–always brings together compassionate people and organizations, making it fun to network and socialize (not to mention dress up in pretty outfits). This year, I got to model three gorgeous dresses from Pink Slip Boutique.

Models on the runway

I loved getting to see and chat with Alicia Roman again this year. (I am unashamedly name-and-photo-dropping.) She is a meteorologist for NBC5, and she was the emcee again for the event. She does a great job of being warm to the crowd and models (even asking me over the mic if I was OK when my shoe got stuck in the runway–yes, graceful me) as well as being impassioned about the cause.

Alicia and me after the show


This weekend was also important to me for another reason:

It marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of my blog! In some ways, I can’t believe it’s already been a year. However, when I look back at my entries over the past year, I realize I’ve put a lot of work and pride into my blog. I am so grateful to all of you, dear readers, for impelling me onward to continue posting. Every comment and view is a validation of my work–so thank you for making it worthwhile. ❤

As happy nostalgia washed over me, I realized this would make for a great Top 10 for this week (my last Top 10 till May!). Below, please enjoy my Top 10 favorite bloggy things. 🙂 Tomorrow marks the beginning of my double-challenge for April: NaPoWriMo + A-to-Z, which means a poem each day (except Sunday), focusing on consecutive alphabetic topics (or forms). I will do my best to complete all 26, but I’m also working on my novel plus my memoir plus, you know, life–but I look forward to the challenge. It was a productive blast for me last year. 🙂

Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

1. Making new friends

One of the most unexpected perks of having my blog has been meeting fellow bloggers (or commentators) who have become my friends. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with so many of you, whether it be through writing about similar topics, participating on blog tours together, comments, etc.

2. Keeps me writing

Having to keep up with my blog keeps my writing sharp, and it’s really helped me to develop my voice. My “blogging voice” has settled somewhere in the intersection of the tones of my critical essay, memoir, and conversational writing. My readers’ responses have helped me to nail that down–so again, thank you. ❤

3. Free writing workshops!

It is beyond awesome to receive feedback on my writing from readers who are actually interested in my work. Getting different viewpoints and constructive criticism helps me to tighten my work (often helping me to eliminate those flowery-sappy holes I can fall into and not notice on my own 😉 ). Similarly, I also enjoy offering feedback to other writers. It’s like an online version of a classroom workshop.

4. Opens up my perspective on memoir, etc.

I’ve discovered I often find news or literary items I have an emotional response to that I want to write about on my blog. In the past, I might have an emotional response and not explore the depths of it like I have here. That exploration has deepened my own understanding of how my life or societal events have shaped me, which is very helpful, indeed, for writing my memoir.

5. Online portfolio

I love having a collection of my work all housed on my URL, where I can point people who want to see my work. The site is all mine, and the work I show is how I wish to represent myself as a writer. If, a few years later, I look back and wonder how I could ever have been so SAPPY, for instance, I can simply take it down–it’s a comfort granted when you choose to bare yourself to the world (lending us bloggers a bit of courage). 🙂

6. Experience as a book blogger

When I began my blog, I thought I’d write a little about my opinions on books, but I didn’t imagine I’d be an official Book Blogger. I’ve had the wonderful experience of being an official book reviewer for Novel Publicity & Co., which has been terrific. In addition to being able to use my blog as an official reviewing platform, I’ve also been exposed to books I never would have picked up on my own, broadening my perspective and taste. Receiving free books and publicity have been great perks, too. 😉

7. Challenges

Blog challenges (like NaPoWriMo) have pushed me outside of my comfort zone as both a writer and a reader, which invariably leads to my growth. Having a network of people doing the same thing gives us inspiration and encouragement to persevere, even when it’s tough!

8. Organization of my life’s events and writings–and how they intertwine

In reviewing my last year of entries, I realized another unexpected benefit of having my blog was seeing how my life’s events, writings, and cultural responses (like reviews I wrote) all intertwined and influenced each other. It’s kind of like a personal version of that introduction section in book anthologies that explain what was going on in society when an author wrote a work–“No man is an island,” and it’s neat to see where my inspirations have come from.

9. Able to share (give and get!) advice as TBI survivor & writer

I’ve always hoped to be a disability advocate, especially since my own Traumatic Brain Injury. Happily, I get to do that at my job at Marianjoy when I write patient stories and other articles. However, I’ve also enjoyed doing it right here on my blog. It’s nice to be able to write about issues that are important to me–even more so when I get a response that my writing has touched someone in some way. I’ve learned in addition to teaching, too–I really appreciate when people respond with their own life experiences, lending their perspective. The community broadens me as a person.

10. Pushes my creativity

This blog constantly pushes my creativity, impelling me to expand the way I think about writing. The nature of blogging has caused me to think in a much more “multimedia” fashion, once I realized how graphics can enhance a blog’s message. Also, I’m always having to think about writing new things in new ways to maintain–hopefully, increase–reader interest (I hope I’m doing a good job!) 🙂


I hope you enjoyed my list as much as I enjoyed everything on it, dear readers–and you’ve made it all possible. Thank you.

Please join me tomorrow–and throughout April–for my A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo writings!

National Disability Employment Awareness Month & AbilityLinks

Hello, readers! I hope you are enjoying your October. There are so many fun holidays this month–but there are some more serious ones, too.

Clipart Cemetery With A Jackolantern Tombstones And Ghosts Under A Full Moon With Bats Royalty Free Vector Illustration by visekart

No, I’m not talking about haunted graveyards. I’m talking about National Disability Employment Month (NDEAM), and although it lasts all of October, it’s something that can (and should!) be celebrated all year long. It’s an important one, considering the unemployment rate for job-seekers with disabilities is double the national average. However, with the recent passing of some new federal rules about hiring people with disabilities, that number will hopefully go way down.

I’d like to share a blog post I did for AbilityLinks last year about NDEAM, accompanied by some new information below.

The 2013 NDEAM poster consists of four circles—each depicting a successfully employed worker with a disability, and each worker equal to the task they are performing.  Poster background colors range from bright green at the bottom to light blue at the top.  Centered at the top is DOL’s logo with the Office of Disability Employment Policy, United States Department of Labor next to it. Below this header are the words of the theme:  Because We Are EQUAL to the Task.  The words at the bottom include National Disability Employment Awareness Month, What Can YOU Do? and ODEP’s website: www.dol.gov/odep/

NDEAM Poster for 2013

By Amanda Fowler 24. October 2012 07:44

October is one of our favorite months here at Marianjoy’s AbilityLinks: the leaves are changing colors; autumn festivals are in full swing; pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING has entered cafés and restaurants; two favorite holidays are celebrated—Sweetest Day and Halloween. Our most favorite reason to celebrate, though, is that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

The idea for NDEAM began almost seventy years ago, in 1945, in an effort by Congress to employ more people with physical disabilities. (One likely reason for this historical timing was the large number of returning veterans who had acquired new physical disabilities during their service.) As the understanding of disability expanded, so, too, did awareness. In 1962, the program broadened to include people with all types of disabilities, not just physical. In 1988, the observance received its current name and expanded from a week to a month.

NDEAM is officially under the direction of the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). The organization offers many resources for companies to participate in the campaign, including posters, articles, and more. Its theme this year: “A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?” certainly is a call to action. Does your company participate?

One way in which AbilityLinks celebrated this event was by hosting its triannual online job fair in the beginning of the month, from October 1–5. A record number of people participated on all fronts, including 180 job-seekers and 21 employers. Both job-seekers and employers were from all around the country—a reminder that you don’t have to be in the Chicagoland area to use AbilityLinks.

The companies that participated were: Space Telescope Science Institute; Convergys Recruiting; Convergys Corporation; State of Illinois Disabled Workers Program; Domino Printing; ECRI Institute; Internal Revenue Service; Employment Options; AGB Investigative Services, Inc.; Balfour Beatty Construction; GC Services; Farmland Foods, Inc.; G.C. Services LP; J. Craig Venter Institute; Océ North America—A Canon Group Company; Advocate Health Care; FishNet Security; Big Tent Jobs, LLC; Nicor Gas, an AGL Resources Company; Fenwal Inc.; and, of course, Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. Congratulations to Ken Skord, Janice Duvall, and Bill O’Connor for a well-run job fair. Those who participated said they found it very useful.

Make sure to watch for next year’s AbilityLinks online job fair—but you don’t have to wait until then to attend an AbilityLinks event. Check out our event calendar for more information. [Note: the next AbilityLinks.org job fair will be February 18–20, 2014; the last one was earlier this month, October 8–10, 2013].

How do you feel about NDEAM? Does your company participate—do you wish it did? (Here is a guide from the Department of Labor with tips on how to be more inclusive.) Are there other ways you think that AbilityLinks can participate? Please leave any comments here—we’d love to hear from you!

Enjoy the rest of our favorite month—maybe you could post an NDEAM flyer on your way to get your pumpkin latte.


Now, for a bit of an update on my last post about legal initiatives for disability. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, and it did make a lot of improvements for people with disabilities, the unemployment level (14.1%) and poverty level (29%) for people with disabilities are still way too high. Those aforementioned legal initiatives were just part of a bigger plan, a huge wave of social activism to improve opportunities for people with disabilities. In August, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) of the U.S. Department of Labor released two final rules requiring at least 7 percent of the workforces for federal contractors to be people with disabilities. And with federal contractors (and subcontractors) comprising 10% of the national workforce, that means a LOT of people! Woohoo! I am so excited people with disabilities will be getting more of a chance to work. As someone with a disability myself, I value being able to work, contributing my skills and passions in helping create great end results for Marianjoy. I wish the same opportunity for everyone.

3d white disabled business person with a laptop on his legs, working with a workmate  . 3d image. Isolated white background. - stock photo

New Initiative Promotes Employing More People with Disabilities: Studies Show They Are Top Employees

Happy Monday, readers! Today, I’d like to share with you a recent blog post I wrote for AbilityLinks, Marianjoy’s job network for inclusive employers and job-seekers with disabilities. It’s about new legal initiatives to get more people with disabilities employed. I’m excited about it, because it’s an issue that really needs addressing, and these imperatives look like they will really work. Let’s hope so!  It also shows that, contrary to previous stigma, people with disabilities may actually be better workers in general. It’s not that surprising, considering a disability forces someone to work  harder just to achieve the same goals as someone without a disability. I think this must teach a good life-long work ethic! I hope you enjoy and learn something from this post. 🙂

“Today, Americans with disabilities are facing disproportionately high rates of unemployment compared to Americans without disabilities,” said Jack Markell, National Governors Association Chair, in his letter from 2012 announcing the initiative “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.” The initiative began last year, and this month, the NGA published a follow-up report in the form of a blueprint for companies. The intent of the format was to encourage businesses and government to apply it as a model for inclusive employment efforts, also adding statistics and testimonials of why this method works.

In an interview this month with PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff, Markell explained why the NGA blueprint includes both businesses and the government. He said the way they’ve been doing it till now is ineffective: “I think for too long states have approached businesses asking businesses as a favor to provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities really as a charity. That’s not what this is about. We have to change our mind-set. We have to recognize that we’re business partners.” The NGA’s recommendations for the government fall under five key categories, outlined in their blueprint as such:

• Make disability employment part of the state workforce development strategy.

• Find and support businesses in their efforts to employ people with disabilities.

• Be a model employer by increasing the number of people with disabilities working in state government.

• Prepare youth with disabilities for careers that use their full potential, providing employers with a pipeline of skilled workers.

• Make the best use of limited resources to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities

But the responsibility isn’t entirely legislative. Markell speculated as to why more people with disabilities aren’t currently employed: “I think not enough businesses are hearing this message. They don’t know that there are so many successful examples of companies that are providing these employment opportunities to people with disabilities and how well it’s working out.”

The initiative sought to change that. Markell said discussions with businesspeople throughout the campaign affirmed they care about an employee’s ability, not his or her disability. “We have seen so many companies around the country benefit when they give people with disabilities a shot at employment.”

In fact, a new study published this month stated that people with disabilities may actually be better workers than those without. According to this article (posted on AbilityLinks’s Facebook Page), “Studies of Walgreens’s experience at a few distribution centers show disabled workers are more efficient and loyal than nondisabled workers. Absenteeism has gone down, turnover is less, and safety statistics are up. And the cost of accommodating such workers with new technologies and education is minimal.” A lot of businesses are startled by this report, but perhaps they shouldn’t be.

It comes as no surprise that, in general, people with disabilities have had to work harder than their non-disabled peers to achieve the same goals. Now, this ingenuity and dedication is being recognized by employers as an asset–almost to an extreme opposite. While historically, stereotyping people with disabilities has been detrimental, now it’s being flipped around to celebrate them. Markell gave an example in his interview: “A regional company, with thousands of employees, has committed over the next few years that 3 percent of their consultants will be people with autism because they found that many people with autism are great at data testing and software quality analysis and the like.” Personally, I find this incredible. What a fabulous turnabout that disability is now seen by some as a sort of superpower–not a lack of skill, but an amplification.

Markell emphasized that the NGA’s initiative is not a legal imperative, but rather an appeal. “The beauty of this is if you talk to these businesses, once they give some of these folks a shot at employment, they find out it’s actually in the best interest of their own shareholders,” he said. “So this is not a requirement. We do believe that we as states have to do a better job of walking the walk and being a model employer of people with disabilities, but businesses will choose to do it.”

The initiative said that one challenge businesses faced was finding those qualified job-seekers with disabilities. That’s why specialized networks like AbilityLinks are so important, because they bridge that gap. It makes the link easy and efficient on a national scale, filling necessary jobs with specially qualified candidates who just so happen to have a disability–or perhaps a super-ability. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s the best thing to do, says the initiative. We couldn’t agree more.

EveryBody: The Smithsonian’s New Artifact History of Disability in America

Good morning, readers! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. I am a bit tired this morning from mine, which may mean that it was awesome enough to make me tired, that I’m still not a morning person, or that weekends need to be longer. I think it means all three. 😉

I wanted to share a blog post I wrote recently for AbilityLinks, Marianjoy’s job-networking program that connects inclusive employers with job-seekers who have disabilities. Part of my job is to post on the AbilityLinks blog from time to time, and I thought you might find this one interesting.

EveryBody: The Smithsonian’s New Artifact History of Disability in America

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has “everybody” talking: EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America. With a considerate nod to the subject content, the museum has chosen to make the exhibit accessible online, enabling people with disabilities to view it at their convenience. It’s available in both English and Spanish, broadening the access even more.

On the museum’s blog, curator Katherine Ott observes: “People with disabilities have been present throughout American history, but rarely appear in textbooks or shared public memories.” It’s a problem people with disabilities have faced throughout history: the tendency to become, if not ostracized, ignored.

The Smithsonian wanted to address this problem by making a statement in the most direct way a museum can: In their continued effort to showcase all facets of American history, they have compiled images from their collections with accompanying facts about the sometimes weird, sometimes heartbreaking, and always fascinating history of disability in America. The introduction to the online exhibition illuminates the Smithsonian’s choice of multimedia presentation: “When history comes through artifacts, distinct themes emerge—for example, the significance of place, relationships, and technology—that are less apparent when only books and words are used.” It’s a choice that makes sense for a museum—a choice that, interestingly, bonds people with disabilities across distance and time. The same could be said about any exhibition at any museum, but the statement holds special meaning for a group that has, historically, experienced a distance from society that could feel insurmountable.

“To broaden the familiar narratives of American history and give presence to some of the ‘disappeared’ in American history, we created an online exhibition about disability drawn from the museum’s collections,” Ott explains. For all those who have been voiceless over the centuries, this exhibit certainly speaks for their history. “Being anonymous or forgotten does not mean that you are invisible,” says Ott.

One item of note, which may be a good starting point for viewing, is the timeline of disability history the museum links to; you can see the 1990 ADA event in bold that Janice talked about in her most recent blog post.

A display that is particularly disturbing to me is the one entitled “Appearance.” As someone who has experienced disability personally, I recall feeling extremely uncomfortable when people would stare at my injury, especially when it first happened. (Refer to my welcome post if you’d like to know more about my personal story.) However, I was downright horrified when I read that “Ugly Laws” in the mid-1800s forbade people with physical deformities from being in public.
This “no wheelchairs allowed” photograph is also chilling, especially since it is from the 1970s, when there was an increase of disability for Vietnam War veterans. Seeing how things used to be really puts it in perspective. Not that staring is acceptable, but I’d rather have that than being banned from going where I’d like.

Going where we’d like—that’s really the point this kind of examination, isn’t it? Yes, we have a lot to be proud of, and we should applaud ourselves as a country for how far we’ve come. But let’s not forget our goals for the future, and that we’re still on that journey. What do you think, readers? What kind of legal and social advances for people with disabilities would you like to see? And what do you think of this exhibit? Perhaps with more accessible education to all people about disabilities, like the Smithsonian’s new exhibit, we can continue to become a more considerate, informed, and helpful community.

In closing, what impresses me most about this museum is how well it shows the perseverance of people with disabilities throughout history. “Many people with a disability must be pioneers,” the exhibit says. I’d like to point out two images that really inspired me: two people following their passions, in spite of how challenging it must have been. They engineered adaptations to allow them to pursue activities that even people without disabilities might find difficult: playing the violin (1860s) and skiing (1940s)!

I am in awe–and what a nice reminder to us all that with some simple adaptations, people with disabilities can shine brightly, not just as a representation of disability, but as a testament to the beauty and talent of humankind.

Royal Baby Update + David Litwack Novel Publicity Blog Tour Day 2–Author Guest Post

Hello all! My blog has gotten a big increase in traffic lately, and I couldn’t be happier; thanks for reading! To all my new followers, welcome! To all my old, welcome back. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s two posts–one on the royal birth, and the other as the first of David Litwack’s blog tour posts. Here is a mini-update on the happy royal family:

Kate and Will leave the hospital today with the as-yet-unnamed newborn prince. Doesn’t Kate look gorgeous, especially considering she just gave birth yesterday? Love how happy the couple looks. ❤ People are saying the baby looks like he is already giving a royal wave in this picture. 😉 (Photo from ABC News; click image for full story and video.)

I’ve heard some people grousing about the over-saturation of this event being on the news, but I’m not one of them. 😉 I think it’s high time we focus on more positive stories in the news. I also love Kate, Will, and Kate + Will, so I’m very happy to hear lots about the third member of their little family. 🙂

It’s Day Two of David Litwack’s whirlwind blog tour, and there’s been a lot of good conversation about him and his work. In fact, he had an interview on Twitter (a “Twitterview”) today with Novel Publicity, and at the end, he answered questions by fans. Click here for the whole transcript, including lots of writing tips and insight on Litwack’s work.

Today, let’s get to know the author a little better. I’m going to share a guest post by David Litwack, himself. I’ve actually read this post a few times, and it moves me with each read. If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know how important disability awareness is to me. For my new followers, in a nutshell, I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury in 2005. I am lucky and blessed to have survived, recovered, and flourished so well. But, sadly, not everyone does, and Litwack explores the psychology of it in his book, Along the Watchtower.

Along the Watchtower, Litwack’s latest novel about a war veteran suffering from PTSD, escaping reality with World of Warcraft, and making sense of it all

I actually haven’t gotten a chance to read this book, myself, yet; I’ve been focused on his other, There Comes a Prophet, which I’ll be reviewing on Friday. After reading the interview, this guest post, and an excerpt (which I’ll be posting tomorrow!), I can’t wait to start.

I admire how important this topic is to Litwack, as well as the depth of research he did. He saw an international problem that is largely ignored, and he addressed it through fiction. I think it’s something all writers strive to do, and I’m in awe of this combination. In the story, Litwack’s main character is having a tough time facing reality and unwittingly starts to recognize the world of World of Warcraft, Azeroth, as his own. I think it’s a common and natural tendency for anyone who’s been through trauma to try to find an escape, albeit temporary. It’s actually pretty natural for anyone, isn’t it–isn’t that what we do every time we watch a television show, play a video game, or read a book?

Another reason this material hits home for me is because I realize, from personal experience, how blurry that line can be between reality and dreams/nightmares. When I first woke up from my coma, I kept thinking I was in a dream. It finally sunk in when my mom said something after a few weeks; it’s something none of us can remember because it was so trivial and small, but it was in its commonness that I recognized reality. It’s not always the big things that make us feel alive, it’s the small, too, which anchor us to this everyday world. It’s a strange feeling to explain, and I look forward to reading how Litwack has illustrated it.

As to the video game,  I haven’t played it, personally, beyond commandeering Jeremiah’s game he sometimes leaves unattended, and flying his character (via dragon, of course) as high as possible, into the most obscure location I can find. Sometimes, his character will take unfortunately long swims. For some reason, he hasn’t been leaving his computer unattended anymore, and I can’t imagine why. 😉 But I do think the world is complex and fascinating, and I’m interested to see how Litwack translates it into literature.

Without further ado, please enjoy what I think is a very honest and important guest post by David Litwack.

Guest Post by David Litwack

Please enjoy this guest post by David Litwack, author of the gripping contemporary novel, Along the Watchtower, and the deep, dark dystopia, There Comes a Prophet. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

Gaming and war would seem to be as far apart from each other as you can get. But while you’re in the midst of them, they share one thing in common—a sense of being in an alternate reality.

I’ve always been fascinated by how much of what we consider to be reality is subjective, how each of us bring our own experiences and biases into play. But when we’re ripped from our normal lives and placed in extreme circumstances, our reality becomes totally fragmented. Such is the case with hospitals and war.

A couple of years ago, I became engrossed in the online game, World of Warcraft, thanks to my son. I’m on the east coast and he’s on the west, so we’d meet every Wednesday evening in the virtual world of Azeroth, where our avatars would go on quests together. I was struck by how immersed I became in the mood of the game as we wandered through castles and crypts, solving riddles and vanquishing demons, how for a short period of time, I could totally buy in to the alternate reality.

The fantasy gaming experience has a dream-like quality to it, which led me to wonder: how would this experience affect the dreams of someone whose reality has been fragmented by the trauma of war? These concepts—war, hospitals, and the fantasy world of online gaming—came together in Along the Watchtower.

I began to research the effects of war on returning veterans. I learned that 30% are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress. That means after six months they’re still dealing with flashbacks, disturbing dreams, depression and difficulty re-assimilating into their former lives. And that doesn’t account for the many others who are seemingly able to adjust but continue to deal with inner turmoil. The war experience changes all forever. Many have suicidal thoughts (the suicide rate among veterans is triple that of the general population. More soldiers have died by their own hand than in the war itself). Many struggle with dark thoughts and have difficulty forming relationships, unable to “turn off” the normal flight or fight syndrome, leaving them suspicious in crowds and always on alert.

And then, there are the physical injuries. One of the ironic successes of these recent wars is the advance in battlefield medicine. The result is that far fewer die of wounds than in prior wars. The ratio of wounded to dead in WWII was 1.1/1, in Vietnam 1.7/1. In Iraq, it’s 7/1. More are saved, but more come home with debilitating, lifelong injuries. And 68% of the wounded have some form or brain trauma, penetrating injuries from shrapnel or non-penetrating concussions from the blasts of IEDs.

To learn more about brain injuries, I read In an Instant, the story of Bob Woodruff. The brilliant Woodruff had just been named co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight. Then, while embedded with the military in Iraq, an improvised explosive device went off near the tank he was riding in. Bob suffered a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him. The book describes his recovery and recounts how fragile the human brain can be. At one point, the erudite Woodruff could rattle off the names of all prior U.S. presidents but couldn’t remember the names of his own children.

And I read about post traumatic stress. One of the best books is Achilles in Vietnam. Written by Jonathan Shay, a Vietnam War era PTSD counselor, it compares his clinical notes from patients to the text from Homer’s Odyssey, showing how we as human beings have dealt with war trauma across the millennia. He shows how war disrupts our moral compass, leaving re-entry into normal life as a brutal and agonizing experience.

Playing a make-believe fantasy game and going to war both have a surreal quality that takes us out of our normal reality. But for war veterans, the sense of normality doesn’t return without a struggle.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a wonderful organization, dedicated to helping veterans adjust. Their stated mission is: “To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.” How successful we’ll be at achieving that goal will tell a lot about who we are. It’s one of the most important stories of our time.

Watchtower Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, both Along the Watchtower and There Comes a Prophet by David Litwack are on sale this week. What’s more, by purchasing either or both of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $650 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of each book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes isRIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Pick up Along the Watchtower at its discounted price of $2.99 on Amazon
  2. Get There Comes a Prophet at its discounted price of 99 cents
  3. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
  4. Visit the featured social media events
  5. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.

Along the Watchtower tells of a tragic warrior lost in two worlds; a woman who may be his only way back from Hell. Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

There Comes a Prophet A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a time of violence and social collapse. Nathaniel has grown up in their world of limits, longing for something more. For what are we without dreams? Get it on AmazonBarnes & Noble, or iTunes.

David Litwack, the once and future writer, explores the blurry line between reality and the fantastic. Visit David on his websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.