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PTSD-What is it? by Sara Walter Elwood (Guest Post/Giveaway)

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PTSD-What Is It?

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, plays heavily in the characterizations of my hero and heroine of my debut contemporary Western romantic suspense, Gambling On A Secret book 1 of The Colton Gamblers. 

So what is it? The textbook definition is a debilitating anxiety disorder that occurs after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event that involves either a real or perceived threat of injury or death. This can include a natural disaster, combat, an assault, physical or sexual abuse, or other trauma. (Yahoo Health)

As this disorder has done to thousands of returning veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has turn Dylan Quinn, the hero in Gambling On A Secret, into a shell of the person he had once been. Special Forces Captain Dylan Quinn proudly served in the US Army for thirteen years, until his Delta Team walked into an ambush during the final days of the hunt for Bin Laden. As the commander of the team, he blames himself for the deaths of four of his men, and the disastrous wounds the other eight members, including himself, have sustained. 
Soldiers aren’t the only people PTSD affects. Charli Monroe seems to have it all. She’s smart, beautiful, and rich, but she harbors a past that most wouldn’t have lived through. A past she still carries with her.

How can both an elite soldier and a teenage runaway have the same disorder? Let’s discuss some of the symptoms and how I used them in Charli’s and Dylan’s characterizations. According to the Mayo Clinic, PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event.

For Dylan, this event is a combination of things. Two days before the mission to flush out Bin Laden for SEAL Team 6 and the other Special Forces Teams hunting for him, Dylan receives a Dear John letter from his wife of eleven years—she was in love with another man and wants a divorce because she’s pregnant with his baby. However, instead of going to his commander and explaining he wasn’t emotionally fit for duty, Dylan buries the pain and puts his mission first. Until he follows some intel that may have led them into a trap. His team is ambushed and targeted by a car bomb. Dylan will forever blame himself for his team’s loses.

For Charli, her terrifying event happened while she was working as a prostitute in Las Vegas. An event that led her to being tried as an adult and serving a year in prison while still under the age of eighteen. It’s the event she dreams about and will do anything to hide from her friends and neighbors in her new town. But her trauma actually began years before when she was just fifteen and her mother was killed in a car accident and she’s left in the care of her verbally abusive billionaire grandfather.

Charli and Dylan share many of the same classic symptoms of PTSD. Dylan is a current alcoholic, while Charli is a recovering addict and alcoholic. They both experience nightmares; however in the story, I only show Charli’s. She also exhibits more anxiety than Dylan, but he has it, too. They both are emotionally numb, wanting to hide from relationships that could hurt them.

Although Charli has done most of her healing before Gambling On A Secret opens, she still has a long way to go. When she meets Dylan, they immediately see each other’s tortured soul, and in it, the same desire to heal. But can they crack themselves open to all the pain and shed it like a cocoon to finally feel whole again?

Have you or anyone you’ve known suffered from PTSD?


When Charli bets everything on a secret, will she find the deck stacked against her?

Former runaway-turned heiress Charli Monroe is hiding her sordid past and planning a future in Colton, Texas. Attending the local college for a degree in social work, she intends to raise cattle on her newly purchased ranch, which she plans to open as a home for troubled teens. Only a few glitches—the Victorian mansion is crumbling, the barn needs a roof, and her oilman neighbor wants more than friendship. When she meets Dylan Quinn, Charli is willing to take a chance on the town drunk to help her rebuild the rundown ranch.

Dylan has his demons, too. The former Special Forces commander can’t get past his ex-wife’s betrayal and the botched mission that left him with much more than a bad limp. Certain the greedy oilman next door to Charli wants much more than just her heart, Dylan’s even willing to stop drinking in order to protect her.

When things get dangerous and secrets of the past are revealed, is he only looking out for his new employer, or is she the new start he so desperately needs?

CONTENT WARNING: Details abuse of a minor, drug abuse, alcoholism, swearing, spicy sex, murder.

COVER QUOTE: “Full of intrigue, tangled pasts, and raw emotions, this one is guaranteed to keep you turning pages from start to finish and then wishing for one more chapter!”
Carolyn Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Just a Cowboy and His Baby.
Ms. Brown also named Gambling On A Secret as one of her favorite romance reads in 2012 in the Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today.


“Ferguson, what are you doing here?” Dylan barked.

Leon ambled toward them on the stone path. “I’m saving a young maiden from torment. What are you doing here, playing the part of the devil?”

“I’m Miss Monroe’s new manager.” The deadly edge of his voice matched the flintiness of his eyes. “If there’s anyone to save the young maiden from, it’s you.”

“Mr. Quinn, please.” She turned to Leon. “Leon, is there something I can do for you?”

He smiled, showing off perfect white teeth in a face handsome enough to belong to an actor. “I was just passing by on my way home and decided to stop. How are the boys working out?”

Dylan’s stance widened and his hands flexed at his slides. “What boys?”

“Charli and I have entered into a business arrangement.”

She lost the battle with the urge to wrap her arms around herself. As much as she appreciated Leon’s kindness, respected him, and was even a little attracted to him, something about him didn’t sit right with her. He represented her peers in the community. According to Mrs. Pratt, besides the Cartwrights, she and Leon were undoubtedly the wealthiest residents in the county. No one in Colton could learn about her past. It would ruin her, and Leon, no doubt, had the means to dig up the dirt.

“Really?” Dylan stepped closer to her in a protective manner. Whiskey tainted his breath as the warmth of the exhalations tickled her cheek. “What kind of business arrangement?”

She could protect herself. Dylan Quinn wasn’t any safer than Leon Ferguson. Stepping away from him, she forced her arms to her sides. “Mr. Quinn, I can handle this.”

She faced Leon. “I’m amazed by how much the men got done since starting on Monday. The foreman told me last evening they’d be reseeding another fifty acres for hay this morning. And they have the corrals fixed and started on the fencing in the north pasture.”

“Good, good.” He glanced at Dylan. “I’ll be going, unless you need a more reliable exterminator. I couldn’t help but overhear about your snake infestation. I can give you the name of the company that has gotten rid of the snakes in our lakes over on Oak Springs for years.”

Although he presented the perfect solution, she didn’t the like way Leon had looked at Dylan as he said the word exterminator. “No, Mr. Quinn is quite capable of getting rid of the snake.”

“Oh, I’m sure he is.” Leon tipped his hat. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you, Charli.” Dylan’s jaw tightened as his uncle glanced at him. “It’s good to see you up among the living again.”

Leon headed back to his Porsche. With no pretense of lowering his voice, Dylan said, “Now, there’s a snake no one wants in their garden.”

Upon hearing the jibe, Leon’s shoulders jerked in mid-stride.

Rattled by Leon’s attention and the snake fiasco, she turned on Dylan. “You aren’t off the hook. I want those snakes gone.”

“We’ll see.”

“I hate snakes.” She shuddered and put her hands on her hips. “Maybe I should have asked him who the exterminator is.”

Sara Walter Ellwood is an award winning author whose novel Gambling On A Secret was named by bestselling author Carolyn Brown in the Happy Ever After Blog on USA Today as one of her favorite romances of 2012. Although Sara has long ago left the farm for the glamour of the big town, she draws on her experiences growing up on a small hobby farm in West Central Pennsylvania to write her stories. She’s been married to her college sweetheart for nearly 20 years, and they have two teenagers and one very spoiled rescue cat named Penny. She longs to visit the places she writes about and jokes she’s a cowgirl at heart stuck in Pennsylvania suburbia.

She also writes paranormal romantic suspense under the pen name Cera duBois.

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~One poster from every stop will win a Gambling On A Secret ebook
~One commenter from each stop will win a piece of custom jewelry. 
(The winners of these two prizes will be announced the day after the tour stop.)

I also have 2 Grand Prizes! (Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to be entered.

~First Grand Prize is a SWAG PACK, including a signed copy of Carolyn Brown’s Just a Cowboy and His Baby. Also included is a copy of D’Ann Lindun’s Shot Through the Heart, a pen, a notebook, a horse themed mini calendar, a patriotic themed day planner, and more all tucked away in a reusable tote bag at the end of my blog tour. 

~Second Grand Prize is a $10 Gift Card to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you follow the tour and comment as often as possible, you increase your chances of winning!
(The winners of the Swag Pack and Gift Card will be announced on March 1, 2013.)
(Swag Pack is only eligible for US residents to win. The jewelry and gift card are eligible to US and Canada residents only. The ebook is eligible to anyone, unless prohibited by law.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great interview, Sara and I love the way you've handled this disorder so sensitively in Gambling on a Secret. I'm about half way through and already dreading finishing it, Dylan and Charli have become my friends and I don't want to say goodbye to them. As ever, wishing you many kerchings of the virtual cash tills :)

  2. Wonderful post Sara. I have my copy of Gambling on a Secret and am looking forward to reading it.

  3. Great post, Sara and congrats on the release!

  4. Thank you all for coming by.... And reading Secret...THANK YOU!!!!

  5. Excellent post. Your explanation of PTSD was great.

  6. Thanks for the info. No, I don't.


  7. Thanks for the great post and the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com