Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Fragments of love: lost and found - Model Marine by Sondra Sykes Meek

"[A] collision of past and present, real and unreal. Snapshots in time. Glimpses of war. Fragments of love: lost and found. The story unfolds through multiple perspectives, and as the negatives and positives develop, an image of the Model Marine is sharpened into focus.’
Very fine writing about a subject we all need to understand and respect and admire – the important role of women in the USMC. Highly recommended." Grady, Goodreads


Published: January 13th, 2018 

Molly Monroe had her future planned out for her. When she makes an impulsive decision to join the Marine Corps, her boyfriend breaks up with her, her brother bears the burden of guilt, and her mother feels betrayed. The people in Molly’s life have always tried to protect her, but she wants to protect herself.

As a Combat Camera Marine, Molly observes and records her environment from behind the lens, where image shapes day-to-day life. After she is wounded during a combat deployment, her dreams are frightening, and her memories are a kaleidoscope of scattered and chaotic scenes; a collision of past and present, real and unreal. Snapshots in time. Glimpses of war. Fragments of love: lost and found.

This story unfolds through multiple perspectives and as the negatives and positives develop, an image of the Model Marine is sharpened into focus.

Gemini Writer

I am Gemini, therefore I think. And think. And think!

I spent more time thinking about the characters and situations of Model Marinethan I did writing about them. I analyzed every aspect of how I should write this book. I initially tried it in first person point of view. In true Gemini fashion, I changed my mind and switched the narrative to third person. I also began this novel with only the protagonist’s point of view. However, I realized I needed multiple perspectives to show how one’s viewpoint can influence perception of reality. Often, even from multiple angles, we only see a fraction of the truth. So I switched gears again and began writing from the point of view of all of my characters, allowing their thoughts and assumptions to seep into the narrative.

I agonized over how to tell this story. My main character would suffer from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, so how would I let the reader know how that feels? By writing this story in fragments. There is a patchwork of memories and dreams woven in with the forward moving storyline. What is memory and what is dream? What really happened and what is imagined? These questions can be a challenge for wounded warriors, and so also the readers of this story.

I thought about the message I wanted to give readers about an organization that is special to me, but certainly isn’t perfect. I wanted to reveal the oddity I felt as a woman constantly surrounded by some of the biggest egos in America—men who thought the women they served with either needed to be seduced, protected, or ejected (from “their” beloved Corps).I thought about how to reveal these truths, and more, through my fiction. I didn’t want to glamorize or demonize the Marine Corps. I wanted to create characters and a setting that veterans would recognize and civilians would want to understand.

I thought so much about this book that it took me ten years to get from conception to publication. I began writing Model Marinewhile working on my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree. I had other stories I wanted to tell, but this one mattered most to me, so it was the one I cultivated throughout the program. But by the time I finished my degree, I had moved on to other career pursuits. (Need I mention yet again that I am Gemini?)

Model Marine marinated for almost five years. I woke up one morning in the spring of 2017 determined to finish this story and publish it. It became my weekend obsession. I thought about the events of the story, stared at a blinking cursor, and worried over whether I was getting it right—until I finally knew I was ready to let it go.

Several of my readers have asked for a sequel, but my Gemini self really wants to move on to the other stories in my head. Oh, the dilemma!

Feel free to make a recommendation: sondrasykesmeek@gmail.com.

About the author:
Sondra Sykes Meek is originally from Florida, but she has lived in several locations in the United States and abroad. She is a wife and mother of two, a retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant, and a Project Manager in the Defense Industry. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and has several stories in various stages of progress. She hopes to write full-time one day, but for now, she writes in the spare, quiet moments of her life.

Sondra wrote and published Model Marine: A Novel to reveal the courage and sacrifices of Marines and their families. She wanted to offer readers another kind of hero: someone who is not supernatural, immortal, or from the future. Although the events of this story are fiction, the setting and characters are influenced by her experiences as a Marine. The narrative is as authentic as it can be without excluding civilian readers. The protagonist is named after a Marine Corps icon, “Molly Marine.” This is especially relevant now, as 2018 marks 100 years since the first woman joined the United States Marine Corps.

Sondra hopes all readers enjoy this emotional journey of love, loss, and sacrifice. There are real heroes hidden within the pages of her debut novel. She invites you to meet them, love them, and remember them.

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