CHRIS RICE COOPER is a newspaper writer, feature stories writer, poet, fiction writer, photographer, and painter. She maintains a blog at https://chrisricecooper.blogspot.com. She has a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice and completed all of her poetry and fiction workshops required for her Master’s in Creative Writing with a focus on poetry. She, her husband Wayne, sons Nicholas and Caleb, cats Nation and Alaska reside in the St. Louis area.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
the memoir FIRE SEASON by Hollye Dexter is not a book about defeat but VICTORY !
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Watch the FIRE SEASON book trailer by clicking on the link below in blue :
the realization that she had been living a depressed and defeated life since
November 18, 1994.
In a Facebook interview with Chris
Rice Cooper Hollye said: “Until the night my house burned down in 1994,
I was a strong, independent woman, but after the fire, as one catastrophe after
the next hit — bankruptcy, cars blowing up and a child in need of surgery — I
unraveled. I became clinically depressed, struggling with persistent suicidal
thoughts. I didn’t know it then, but I was in the grip of post-traumatic stress
disorder from both our fire and events in my childhood. I was a complete mess.
I couldn’t talk about the fire. I couldn’t allow myself to look back at how I
came so close to losing my children. I also didn’t want to remember how I came
so close to losing my mind. But it was a grey cloud following me through life,
never letting me sleep through the night, never letting me go.”
Then the year 2010
came to pass and she found herself in so much despair that she finally confided
in her writer friend Amy Friedman http://www.
amyfriedman.netright who gave
Hollye a sound piece of advice: Hollye’s
only escape and only effective therapy was to write about her deep painful
experiences and memories; and so Hollye Dexter began writing Fire
“What I learned in the grueling process
of writing and reflecting was that though yes, I was an emotional disaster, I
also fought harder than I ever knew I could to find something to believe in
again. Faith is hard earned and, like a beating heart, is a muscle that must be
worked. I worked to find mine so that my children would not grow up in a
focusing on the loss, I focused on the hope that can be found in the most
disastrous of circumstances — like the kindness of others who came to lift us
back on our feet.Above right. I found, while bankrupt and destitute, we still had our
ability to dream, to love, to create, to hope and to remember. And in writing,
I discovered that though we had lost everything, on a deeper level we really
hadn’t lost anything. These are the jewels we unearth when excavating our
For the next three
years from 2010 to 2013 Hollye wrote Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2
p.m. surrounded by pets, piles of laundry and an unanswered phone.
wrote while my youngest was in school.I
was very disciplined about it.”
And discipline in writing was something Hollye practiced since
she was a little girl:“I’ve kept a diary since I was in the second
In 2013 Fire
Season was completed and the next step was the publishing process,
which proved to be almost as arduous as writing the book itself.
three years it took me to write the first draft of Fire Season, the publishing industry had completely changed. So I
sat on the book, and hemmed and hawed for over a year, deciding what direction
to take. I attended conferences, lectures, read books about it, asked the
counsel of my friends. I did send it out to about a dozen or so agents and
publishers and though I got good feedback and had a good track record with my
first book Dancing At the Shame Prom
with Seal Press, I kept getting the response that they just couldn't take the
financial risk with an “unknown” memoirist.
stories are the only thing of true value that I own, I decided I had to move
forward in a way that felt right to me, and that meant having more control over
this book’s destiny. Time and again, friends had recommended Brooke Warner’s http://brookewarner.comabove right new hybrid publishing option, She Writes
Press, and because I have deep respect for and trust in Brooke after publishing
Dancing At the Shame Prom with her
at Seal, I finally committed. She Writes gave me all the perks of traditional
publishing, but more creative and financial control.”
Hollye Dexter is on her second marriage with the
love of her life Troy Dexter.At the
time the couple shares two children – Cissy, age 8, Hollye’s daughter from her
first marriage, and their son Taylor, age 4.
Hollye and Troy each have their own business
they are passionate about:Hollye owns
her own child clothing business out of her home and Troy http://www.
music.com is a successful Los
Angeles based musician.Along with their
variety of pets, the family of four are happy and joyful in their beloved
rented home partially situation in a Los Angeles cliff. Above right Troy and Hollye a few weeks before the fire.
On November 18, 1994 there is a sense of smoky
shadowing in Hollye’s soul – she doesn’t know why she is feeling this or
where it’s coming from so she pushes it aside.
She drops her daughter Cissy off at her biological father’s house for
the weekend and then heads back home. The foreshadowing continues and in the middle of
the night she senses a voice telling her to go check on the baby; and gets up
from her own bed and lays in bed with her four year old son Taylor.She awakens to her Troy’s panicked voice and
to the blazes of fire.
A guttural, instinctual wailing fills the
air – a voice I’ve never heard before.It’s my voice.
Fire behind me, a thirty-foot drop to
Troy shouts from our bedroom window,“Hold on!I’m coming – I’m gonna jump.”Following his words is the loud thwack of his body, the sickening sound
of bones against cement.I scream his
name over and over but he doesn’t respond.I start to cry but there is no time for panic.
Taylor and I hang out the window,
engulfed in smoke, suffocating.I lower
him as far as my arms will stretch so he can breathe.I hold only his tiny hands, his body dangling
midair.I am in the center of the
firestorm. Above right a thank you card Taylor wrote to his mom Hollye.
The fire completely destroys everything
except for their very own lives and very tiny burnt pieces of mementoes, which
are discovered by Troy and his father Dennis.
husband, wearing thigh-high fishing boots, dug through piles of rubble
four-feet deep and pulled out small blackened squares. They looked like
charcoal briquets, but they turned out to be my childhood diaries – one of them
used to have a Holly Hobbie cover and a little gold key attached.”
mementoes are discovered which gives Troy and Hollye reason to feel hopeful. There, in vivid color, is a photo of me and Troy on
our wedding day.The edges are singed,
the colors running together.Like us,
our wedding album is damaged, but it survived.I smile and wrap my arms around him happy tears in my eyes.Of all the things to be saved from the
ashes.Is this a random
coincidence?I take it as a sign.
Soon Hollye realizes it is more than just one
fire but many fires that traumatized her throughout her life.The physical fire that November night was
just the tip of the ice burg.And the
ice burg is massive in titanic proportions.
Hollye has to deal with the traumatic
events in her childhood concerning her mother, her suicidal brother, the
disturbing truth about her father whom she was led to believe was dead,
incidences of violence that happened to her as a child and that she witnessed
as a child, and the rejection from Troy’s family. The two pictures above are of Hollye and Troy inside their burnt home. December of 1994
Hollye goes through intense PTSD about all
the fires in her life that results in flashbacks, intense weeping, nightmares,
insomnia, depression, suicidal thoughts, a sense of helplessness and
May 13, 1995
I tried to throw myself from the car today.I didn’t care anymore what happened to
me.I wanted to hurt myself.Troy grabbed me by the hair and yanked me back.I lost a lot of hair, but now I see how
drastic a situation this is.I called
the psychologist who helped me after the fire.I am going to see him tomorrow.
New fires are started when they are conned by a supposedly
reputable man in the music business, betrayed by close friends, and betrayed by
Hollye’s business partner.The couple is
forced to lose the next two homes they reside in – one due to the owners going
through a nasty divorce and not placing the rent money toward the mortgage; the
other due to the owner not abiding by the rent-to-own legal contract between
them.As a result they lose thousands
and thousands of dollars and have no choice but to file for bankruptcy.
Everything I once felt certain of is shaken loose like soil from the roots
of an upturned tree, leaving me raw, exposed.I have to find a way of taking root within myself.
The fires of not knowing who to trust, of
deep depression, of emotional hurts within Troy and Hollye continue to grow
stronger making the PTSD incidences almost intolerable.Hollye begins to question the existence of
God and why all of these bad things are happening to their family.
I pace the house for hours like the night watchman,
my anxiety never letting me rest.I lie
awake thinking about our dogs and cats – trying to remember how their fur felt
the last time they slept with me in bed.I wonder if I made the right decision in letting my business go.I pray that if I dare fall asleep, God will
protect my children.But I don’t trust
God. Above right is an image Taylor drew about the fire; and Taylor himself in December of 1994.
There are moments of respite – Hollye managed to reach inside herself and find her own art which proved to be therapeutic and her next business venture called One of a Kind; Troy and Hollye create memories drinking red wine as they sit conversing in their backyard; romantic evenings the couple shared in their famous 12-seater Jacuzzi above top left; and numerous times the family as a whole turns what should have been a bad day into a day of good memories; like when they were so broke the electric company turned off their electricity. Hollye and Cissy go to their regular art class and return home to a something magical.
Troy and Taylor sit in camping chairs on our back
lawn our tent behind them, sleeping bags rolled out on the grass.Taylor is roasting marshmallows over the
hibachi.Troy plucks at his acoustic
guitar.Peering through that window, I
marvel at how Troy is able to turn this disaster into a tiny miracle, and my heart
swells with love for him.
But these are only happy little breadcrumbs
in a life of many fires and soon their marriage is tested; and Holly finds
herself at her breaking point in a field of mustard flowers, praying to a God
she doesn’t even know exists.
I wander into a wide-open field, with yellow
mustard flowers growing waist high.At
the center of it I plunk down, where no one can see or hear me, and I wail with
grief.. . .
I feel all the color drain from my face
and from my life as I come to the realization that my marriage is failing.Since I’m already on my knees, with nothing
else to lose, I pray . .
Fire Season is more than a memoir about
the Dexter home being destroyed by fire, Holly overcoming her PTSD, but it is
also a memoir about the power of love so strong it conquered all. And remains victorious. Right Hollye and Troy with their son Taylor (middle) and son Evan bottom left and their daughter Cissy bottom right.