When you start the book and you’re the kind of reader who actually reads a book’s dedication, you’ll find a very special one in this book. It goes like this:
This one’s for Karen Sprague (a.k.a. Bonus Mom). A lifelong mystery finally solved. A new relationship finally formed. I’m so glad we finally met.
Karen gets the Bonus Mom title because I was lucky enough to have two moms.
I was adopted at birth by a loving family I miss very much (both of my parents have passed away–too damn soon). Growing up, I always wondered about my biological parents. I’m sure every adopted kid does. But it would take me thirty-nine years before I finally decided to solve this lifelong mystery. Through the help of a wonderful woman at the agency that handled my adoption and a Facebook friend who moonlights as a private detective, I was able to track down my birth mom.
We both wrote letters of introduction, forwarded through the adoption agency. Reading her letter changed my life in a single gasp. I learned all about another family (a bonus family). Grandparents, an uncle, an aunt, a brother and sister, and even (holy wow!) a nephew and two nieces. Overnight, I had become Uncle Rob.
After the letters, we started trading emails. I got pictures, old and new. One of them was of my grandfather as a young man. I saw my own face looking back at me. I learned more about my birth family, and discovered so many of them had creative inclinations like myself. Dancers, singers, artists, writers, filmmakers. I finally saw where my own creative impulses came from. Genetics is a powerful force. Simply amazing.
But email can only take you so far. The true test would come from a face-to-face meeting.
I had to wait a year before that could happen.
See, the good news was I had found my birth mom. The bad news was that she lived in Australia. Half the freakin’ world stretched between us.
Thankfully, this last April, smack dab on my 40th birthday, I got to meet her in person as she was visiting the US. I won’t even try to describe what that was like. It would take too many words and most of them would fall short. The moment I saw her, though, I knew my life had changed forever.
She had ten days in Michigan before she had to fly down to Texas to be with her (other) son, daughter, and grandkids. We got together several times during those ten days. I introduced Karen to her (other) grandkids and my wife. I had her and her mother over to the house. The kids took to both of them as if they had know each other forever. Uncanny and wonderful.
When my wife and I explained to our kids how Karen fit in with our lives, we began referring to her as Bonus Grandma. How cool is that? A brand new grandma, pre-packaged and ready to love on them. From there it was an easy leap for me to call her Bonus Mom. How cool is that?
That’s the story behind Branded‘s dedication. It’s the only part of the book I’ll spoil for you. But I’ll tell you this one last bit: Every story I write has piece of me threaded through it. In light of this new information about myself, you could probably go back through the Lockman Chronicles and (especially) the Ridley Brone mysteries, and see the influence my being adopted has had on them.
Branded is the first book I’ve written since meeting my birth mom. I’m a different person now, so the pieces of myself I put into my stories are probably different too. I don’t do any of this consciously. I don’t work out Big Themes and Important Messages when I plan my stories. In fact, you won’t find any of that Lit class stuff in my books as far as I can tell.
Still, every story reflects its teller.
That’s why I dedicated Branded to Karen Sprague (a.k.a. Bonus Mom). I know my new reflection is in there. How could it not be?
That said, I’m pretty sure there’s a good story in there too. Hopefully, you’ll agree.