One of the perks about being a writer is that as you write you do a lot of research. I know this sounds very boring, but the fact is I love research. I am a stickler for facts and realism and so when I write I want as plausible a scenario as possible, knowing that I am going to have a reader at some point who knows more than I do about what I’m writing. Being a paramedic, I see a lot of awful EMS portrayals on TV and in movies. Mrs. Windale has the same reaction to police procedural shows and cop dramas.
The thing that comes from research though is a profound appreciation for the real-life versions of what I write as fiction. Twenty-Five at the Lip came mostly from my own experiences, but Tuesday’s Gone is a testament to research of topics I knew very little about. Most especially, animal cruelty in the circus and performer exploitation. Not knowing it at the time, I was also going to have to learn a few things about silent movies, Prohibition, and even a few things I didn’t know about the Civil War. My searches often brought me upon issues I had no idea evan existed, and the people who work towards the betterment of those issues were incredibly willing to share information with me.
There are a great many worthy charities that I would suggest you donate to. Being a Mason I would rattle off half a dozen of them from Wounded Warriors to The Shriners Hospitals to The Special Olympics as worthy of your hard earned monetary donations. There are others that I have found to be very worthy based not only on their intrinsic value, but also what they say about American culture over all. I would naturally suggest monetary donations to these groups, but simply being aware that they exist and they are worthy of vocal acknowledgement and advocacy helps their cause as well. Remember that if we fail to speak for one group, there may not be anyone left to speak for us…
The first organization I would point out is A Star for Baby Peggy, the organization that is trying to get Diana Serra Cary her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now at first glance we might ask why this is an organization worthy of notice as it doesn’t seem to benefit anyone but a single person who once had a celebrity status. If you knew this woman’s story though you might think differently. Exploited by her parents and the Hollywood machine from the time she was only 19 months old, Diana Serra Cary, formerly Baby Peggy, made millions for everyone, but seldom saw any of that money for herself. Denied the childhood many of us remember fondly, Diana’s story is one of heartbreak that turned into advocacy for exploited child performers. This isn’t so much an effort to gain recognition for a nearly forgotten movie star, but the acknowledgement of the pain and suffering we place on the “million dollar babies” whose innocence we deny for our own entertainment. I can say that as a former actor turned writer, I found a new hero in Diana, and having read her autobiography I highly recommend it.
Speaking of exploited performers, circus animals are some of the most grotesquely mistreated in the industry. With few to argue for their welfare, these lonely creatures are tourtured, humiliated, and mistreated for the enjoyment of a paying public. This also goes for organizations like Sea World, who practice a “Bread and Circuses” brand of whitewashing their own culpability in the mistreatment of the animals in their care. If you’re the sort of person who can sit through films like Blackfish, or a Sarah Mclachlan infomercial, and not feel something I might suggest you check your pulse. PETA is a bit too leftist for me, given their stance on hunting and fishing, but they were very interested in my Tuesday’s Gone piece and were appreciative of the fact that I had written a piece dealing with the mistreatment of circus animals. They offered to send me, free of charge, images of abused and neglected circus animals. I won’t share them here, but you can see them for yourself if you Google them. PETA is a lobby, and that terms tends to turn people off, but I would recommend their efforts at least on behalf of animals confined to circuses and theme parks.
Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida is a preserve that specializes in animals like lions and tigers, as well as smaller ones like bobcats, lynxes, ocelots and the like. When my editor came across some issues with Judah, the lion from Tuesday’s Gone, I emailed them asking about specific behaviors of large cats. Small preserves like Big Cat Rescue in Tampa and Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Georgia exist to maintain these often damaged, and endangered animals. They rely on donations as well as admissions to view the animals in a habitat not established by money-hungry profiteers, but actual animal naturalists who are experts in their fields. In addition to cat rescues, elephants have several of their own established rescue preserves worldwide dedicated to their welfare and survival. By 2018 Ringling Brothers Circus will actually phase out their elephant acts after continued pressure from animal rights groups.
Living history groups are a terrific way to engage your self and learn about your country’s own history. While writing Tuesday’s Gone I found that I had some questions concerning Civil War officers and so I contacted the unit that my character, Grampy Tuttle, would have served with. Speaking with Captain Kearney of the 2nd Florida Volunteer Infantry I was able to get an incredible insight into how officers were appointed or elected. This was essential for my character as realism was a factor, especially given his later in life circumstances. These groups often are supported by funds paid by members, but their passion for history can only be truly appreciated with an audience in attendance. Living history groups from the Greek and Roman Era right up to the Vietnam Era are always looking for members to join their ranks to educate the public and keep our history alive.
Last, and by no means least, PTSD in EMS and first responders is an issue that has thankfully been given its due attention. When we consider PTSD EMS, Fire, Police, and even Nursing are not thought of, but the fact of the matter is that the rates of suicide in First Responders has increased exponentially. To help combat this, groups such as the Code Green Campaign have been established to raise awareness of this troubling trend. In addition to the Code Green Campaign, Heroes Cry Too has been established through the efforts of The EMS Lounge and other EMS based Facebook pages. The EMS Lounge also has an online podcast which is both informative and insightful, covering a wide range of topics in EMS. If you’re interested in an insight into EMS that goes beyond what you’ve read in Twenty-Five at the Lip, check them out.
Words can’t express the love I have for organizations like these. Not only are they near and dear to my heart, but they so good work righting wrongs, offering assistance, and reminding us who we are and where we come from.
My EMS novel, Twenty-Five at the Lip is available now on Amazon.com
Tuesday’s Gone will be available this spring, but you can read Tuesday’s Gone, Chapter 1 here.