Open Book Blog hop – Write what you know

Photo of Jo Ellen Dempsey

Picture taken by my cousin in Phoenix, Arizona.

The topic of this weeks Open Book Blog hop is:   Write what you know.

I write what I know — when it comes to characters.  I have absolutely no idea how a space ship works, and if there are really dimensions.  That’s why it’s called Science Fiction instead of science fact.




Thyroid, Tourette’s, and coping mechanisms.

I know what it’s like to be an outcast, to climb up from the depths of self-loathing and find your inner warrior.  Alma Ryatto, a main character in Atto Run pulls no punches when she lands a verbal right hook.  That was me during high school:  Make fun of my tics and you were going to regret it.

Unfortunately, I still cry when I see pictures of puppies and kitties posted by animal organizations begging for donations.  That’s why, in Book 3 of my “First Level of Hell” series, I write about Alma’s regret over the time she had to euthanize a dog she loved.  And, yes, I cried when I wrote that chapter.

There are days I believe that my mom dragged me to every quack in South Florida.  She did her best trying to find answers, but she had a knack for finding scum-of-the-earth doctors.  Somehow, I don’t think that “hit her when she does it” or “make her look in the mirror to see how ugly it looks” would be considered appropriate medical advice in 2020.  Then again, had they been real doctors, they would have known about Tourette’s, considering the fact the diagnosis had been available since the 1800’s.

Later in life, when Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis reared it’s ugly head, it was first thought to be a mental problem.  Fortunately, I was able to get the right thyroid medication at the right dosage provided by an excellent doctor with a brain.  The moral of that story is; Have your T4, T3 & TSH checked out first before allowing anyone to give you psychotropic medications.

Having been endowed with poor eyesight until the age of 13, color is the first thing I look for.  The ability to see shapes instead of blobs comes second.  My children think it’s funny that they can walk into a room and I don’t know it’s them until they speak.  However, if I’m able to see them when they’re not in a crowd, I’d probably recognize the way they walk.  Oddly enough, I can read road signs.

In my books, I like to delve inside people no one understands.  It has helped me to understand my inner child better.

If you’ve read my first 3 books, you know that I have a soft spot for strong but vulnerable women.

Allergies: The weather

When my allergies flared up, I was tested for everything from obscure fungus to milk products.  While I showed a reaction to the obscure fungus, nothing else seemed to be a problem.  After getting the initial results, I was scheduled for a consult 2 hours later — after all, doctors eat lunch, too.

I had started sneezing after leaving the office and when I arrived back after lunch, I left the 95F hot-and-humid outdoors to enter into a 70F climate controlled office.  That’s when the runny nose and sneezing into one tissue after another began. As a true Floridian (who doesn’t use A/C) it appears that I’m allergic to sudden changes in the weather.  It’s a rare allergy and it shocked the allergist just as much as it shocked me.

One of the fun things about writing SciFi is the ability to create rare disorders in hybrids that are destined to replace humans.  Better to be allergic to the weather than to have your genome unravel.

Countries of origin

After a DNA test, I was surprised to find that I’m 1% Cameroon/Bantu people and 1% Native American from Canada.  Since the Irish were slaves and often paired with Black slaves, it came as no surprise that the African origins were on the Irish side of my family.  I verified it was the Irish side when a first cousin had similar DNA, and 1% Cameroon/Bantu people.  The Native American is from my French Canadian grandfather whose grandfather was a fur trapper married to an Indian woman.

My ancestors must have been wanderers, since there is everything from Viking to most of continental Europe in my DNA.  The one place in Europe my ancestors didn’t seem to procreate was Switzerland.

My books have Florida origins, since it’s easier to write about places you know.  But one of the characters had a father from Mürren.  I’ve only been there once, but it’s a place in Switzerland I’d like to visit again.   It plays an important part in the last 6 books of the “First Level of Hell Series.”  The cows are hiding a well-guarded secret.


I have a day job that I love.  I try to help people who are unable to ask the questions obvious to me that doctors won’t look into without insistence.  Although it is indirect assistance, my questions to staff have helped a vulnerable person more than once.  Since confidentiality is paramount, I can’t go into details.

The irony of it is that I have mild dyslexia, and yet my job is typing reports.  If I try to write with a pen, I have to slow down or the letters get mixed up.  If you want to know what my writing looks like, here’s an example:

However, I type 90 words per minute.  For some reason, nature has deemed it a necessary evil that my fingers turn a bunch of mixed up letters into words people don’t have to decipher.

The greatest invention of all time was the red line that shows up under misspelled words.  It has saved me more than a little embarrassment.

People who provided inspiration.

James, in most of my “First Level of Hell” books, was patterned after my father, although dad wasn’t psychic, nor was he 6 feet tall.  He was a boxer, a fighter, and a fierce protector of family.  Annie has the personality that Vivian Leigh chose to portray when she played Scarlett O’Hara.  It takes a woman full of spitfire to run a multi-trillion dollar company at 17.


I don’t know much about this “party,” and have no idea if I’m doing it right. It’s the first time I’ve joined in. If you want to participate, the link is below the rules.

1. Link your blog to this hop.
2. Notify your following that you are participating in this blog hop.
3. Promise to visit/leave a comment on all participants’ blogs.
4. Tweet/or share each person’s blog post. Use #OpenBook when tweeting.
5. Put a banner on your blog that you are participating.