Becoming Braylee

Someone asked me why I chose a pen name. Well, there are several reasons. I thought it was a catchy name, the URL was available, and while I love detective fiction, I also write literary fiction-a much different genre-so I wanted to use a pen name for my detective fiction. All those things are correct, but there is one more fundamental reason.

Last November, my husband and I experienced the shock of our lives. Our baby girl, Lillie, was born too early. Unfortunately, the hospital we went to had no interest in trying to stop my labor when I arrived or delivering our baby. In fact, they thought my labor was nothing more than gastrointestinal issues and were discharging me when my water broke. After that, the nurses wheeled me into a room where I labored, without help from any medical professional, and our daughter, who was breech, died in my womb. They also didn’t think I needed help delivering the baby, so by the time the doctor arrived, the baby was halfway out-literally. The doctor was only there for the final push. My husband and I begged for help, but no one came. A doctor didn’t show up for an hour and fifty-five minutes. It was unbelievable. The whole thing seemed surreal, and I wanted answers.

The answers were horrifying because the death of our daughter was preventable. Unfortunately, there was nothing we could do the change what had happened, and the state we live in has a lower standard of care than others, so the hospital and the doctor won’t be held accountable for any wrongdoing. It was a terrible, unexpected tragedy, and there was a chance that both my husband and I were going to slip into absolute despair. But there was another choice. The other option was to make sure that Lillie’s life, and her untimely death, left our world forever changed. The death of our daughter could only be a beginning or an ending. We decided that Lillie’s birth was going to be a beginning.

I have always wanted to be a writer. I remember reading a Puff the Magic Dragon book, and falling in love with the idea that there was a story, a whole world, in the “crack in the stucco.” At that point, I knew I never wanted to leave the crack in the stucco. I wanted to live in a world of stories. Over the years, teachers, friends, and classmates praised my writing, but I doubted what they were saying. Even now, as people tell me, “Hey, your book is good,” I find the doubt threatening to emerge, but something has changed. I promised Lillie that her existence would change everything about my life, and I meant it. But after we lost Lillie, I was devastated. So, I needed someone else to step in and make it happen. That’s when Braylee arrived.

I had already chosen the pen name a week before I went into labor. At that time, I just wanted to see if writing under a pseudonym would make a difference. Would I actually finish books, get them edited and published if I was writing under a different name? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to find out. So I pulled out a story I’d started in 2009, and began working on it. A week later, Lillie passed away.

Needless to say, I was in no state to write. Feverish from an infection, and fighting off depression, I decided to quit my job and focus on writing. To do that, I needed more than a pen name. I needed a persona, an alter-ego if you will, to come out when Melanie was unavailable, and write. When Melanie was catatonic, Braylee would sit down at the computer and complete a chapter. She took a manuscript I began working on in 2009 and decided that it was going to be done in a month. While Melanie met with lawyers, went through several rounds of antibiotics to fight an infection her OBGYN had failed to diagnose, and combed through medical records for answers, Braylee was writing 2,000 words a day.

Of course, the journey would not have been completed without the unwavering support of my husband. When he noticed that I was sitting on the couch, staring off into space, not doing anything, he would encourage me to get on the computer and write. He celebrated my decision to quit the part-time teaching job that was sucking every ounce of my mental energy, and when I started looking for an editor, he told me to find a good one, and we would make the investment. He was not only supportive, but he was also sure that I would be successful. No doubt. Not an ounce. And that was something I didn’t have. I had concerns, but the more he told me how there was no way I was going to fail, the more I started to believe that it was possible. Maybe I could do this…

Braylee had to take over at times. There were still moments, even after the manuscript went through a few rounds of edits, and others had read it, that I would have doubts. But Braylee Parkinson was publishing this book-not Melanie. Melanie was still healing, and even now, she is still going to the doctor to make sure that all of the symptoms of the undiagnosed preeclampsia she had during pregnancy are gone. So the pen name allowed me to step outside of myself and write when my mind was blank, or throbbing with the pain of the loss of my daughter. I promised Lillie that I would publish the book in July, and I’ve done that. The book is not perfect, but it is good enough, and it is only the first in a long line of books to come. So, why did I use a pen name? Because I needed one to step outside of Doubting Melanie and make my dreams come true.

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