Tag Archives: Realistic Fiction

Writing What I Know

My character brainstorming and how each one relates to Sara.

My character brainstorming and how each one relates to Sara.

The question I’m asked most often from readers is this: Is Family Ties based on personal experience?


I’m not Sara. My parents aren’t Simon and Tibby. The Jerichos and Jason are completely made up.

“But it feels so real.”

Have you heard the saying, write what you know? Robin Cook was a doctor. He knows medicine and writes medical thrillers.

I worked in the mental health field for twelve and a half years. I spent ten and a half years working with boys, mostly teenagers, but some as young as three. Most of them were physically/sexually/emotionally abused/neglected by one or more family members. I did direct care work at first. I was with them from after school until bedtime and on weekends. I knew their histories and their pain, was forced to physically restrain them when they were in danger of hurting themselves or others, and sat with them as they cried and cried about how unfair life was.

I started the first draft of Family Ties while doing direct care work, because I needed somewhere to put their stories and the stress of carrying them with me.

While my roles and worked evolved through the years, one fact remained: I worked with many of the boys from the time they stepped through the doors to the time they left. In some cases, that was years.

I worked with parents who could fit the Simon and Tibby bill. I knew social workers like Shannon and school administrators like Mr. Croft. I’ve seen kids fall through the cracks and poor decisions made on their behalf. I’ve seen what precedes events that become headline news and had to bite my tongue. I remain tight-lipped on so many news events, because it is never as black and white as the media portrays it and people think when making hurtful comments on articles and social media.

The work is difficult. It is emotional. It is exhausting. But it is worth it when you witness true change happening before you. When you see everything click into place. When they return several years later, young men and in college or working full-time, or they call you on the phone because they want to hear a voice they know that truly cares for them.

I’m not Sara. My boys are.


Posted by on August 21, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Family Ties Excerpt


Amazon Kindle Pre-order | Paperback forthcoming

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Family Ties.

The roar of a moving van pulling into the house across the street averts my attention from the cherry popsicle in my hand. A sky blue Cadillac convertible, top down, with a family of three seated on white leather interior pulls over to the curb in front of the house.

The tall man’s biceps peek through the end of his t-shirt sleeves as he climbs out of the car. His brown hair reflects the midday sun.

The woman in the passenger seat gets out, taking off her wide-brimmed straw hat. Her long, red hair tumbles over an old t-shirt and khaki shorts that fit close to her body. Her smile is full of comfort.

A girl in a bright blue shirt, black shorts, and dark red hair plaited in a French braid scrambles out of the back seat.

As hot as it is today, I know it’s cooler here than inland. A perk of living in the coastal city of Encinitas, California.

Maybe I should take the girl a cherry popsicle to welcome her to the neighborhood.

But the rules are clear:

1. Do not leave without permission

2. No one is allowed inside without permission.

3. Chores first. Homework second.

4. Do not talk about the family.

5. Do not make friends.

6. Do not argue.

The punishment is stiff for rule breaking and I want to stay out of trouble.

I toss my popsicle stick and return to the lawn mower out front, yanking on the starter until it fires up with a loud rumble. By the time I make my way across the yard and back once, the girl is standing in my driveway. I kill the motor.

Her sapphire eyes gleam. “Hi. I’m Arissa.”

“Sara,” I return hesitantly.

“How old are you?” she asks.


“I’ll be fourteen in October!”

“Arissa!” the woman shouts from their doorway.

Arissa flashes a beaming smile at me. “Come on!” She takes off for her house but I remain rooted in place.

Do not leave without permission. Chores first. Do not make friends.

She stops and turns, gesturing for me to follow.

©Debi V. Smith, LLC 2015

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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Family Ties Available for Pre-order


If you haven’t seen the Facebook posts or the tweets, Family Ties is now available for Kindle pre-order here. It will release 6/26/15. A paperback version is forthcoming.


Sara Allison Parker spent the first fourteen years of her life living by strict rules and keeping her family’s secrets. Simon and Tibby, her parents, and her younger sister, Victoria, treat Sara as an outcast, leaving her lonely within the family. The elder Parkers maintain control over Sara’s life with rules, one of which is she is not allowed to make friends.

When Arissa Jericho moves in across the street and introduces herself to Sara, then Jason Waters befriends Sara at school, the carefully constructed world of the Parker household is threatened. As Simon and Tibby are forced to loosen their control to keep up appearances, Simon finds a way to assert a different type of power. Sara is convinced she will lose her friends if her secrets ever come to light because of her father. In a rare moment of daring, Sara stands up for herself. The next day, Simon’s recklessness reveals one of the secrets in an ugly, public display.

Sara learns the true meaning of family, bravery, and love when Arissa and Jason stand by her after witnessing Simon’s actions. Once Sara becomes comfortable, she lets her last secret slip out on accident, setting off a series of events that spins out of everyone’s control.

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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Uncategorized


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