I learned from J.K. Rowling that when you write about your reality, you don't have to do it in an exact way. She wrote about her depression through her dementors, soul sucking creatures that drain you of your life.
What I discovered as I worked my way through my books, that my reality was seeping through the pages, as I placed my doubts, fears and questions squarely on my main character, Anne Elizabeth Pearce.
Annie is smart, hard working, beautiful and as she moves through her cases, some directly involving her and her life, she begins to doubt her abilities, blames herself for the fall of the black market and Princess Amelie's rise to vampire.
While she isn't responsible for these things, she feels she is. It makes her vulnerable and she doubts herself and her abilities.
How does it relate to my reality?
My youngest child went off to college this week for the first time, making me an empty nester. You wonder at that point, did I give my child the best I could, was his life good, does he have good thoughts of home and the experiences I tried to give him?
But that's not all. I also, on a constant basis, wonder if I'm a good writer, wonder if I can hack this life as I strive to move forward to achieve my life long dream.
My writing has become personal. Annie's journey has become my journey. As I work toward the end of The Wizard Hall Chronicles it feels very much like I'm entering a new phase of my life and my writing and I'm looking forward to what happens next.Continue reading
My writing reflects events in my life; cross roads, decisions, my horrible feelings of coming disasters. I've been incorporating all of these in Annie Pearce's journey. She's on a big journey this time. Full of adventure she didn't ask for, questioning her purpose, and feeling as though she's failing miserably. Much like I feel like right now.
It's the end of the school year, a time when decisions need to be made. I have an 18-year-old embarking on college next year and a 21-year-old who's struggling to finalize her major and what that means for her future. I have a writing career that feels as though it's spinning in one place and am struggling to fix the issue.
I always remembered J.K. Rowling discussing her depression and how she wrote about it through the use of dementors. It stuck with me. While I'm not creating a new demon to characterize a mental health issue, I am using the story and Annie's reaction to the events in the plot to work through my own life's situation.
Has it helped? I'm not so sure.
My life's issues might be a little unusual, but I am certainly not the only one who has events that weigh me down, that make me rethink my life's choices that make me sad and want to throw things. I'm dealing with that now.
It's not what we overcome but how we overcome that's important. Do we hide our heads in the sand or do we stand strong, carry on, make choices that get us to where we want to go.
I'm trying to overcome, I'm just not sure how much more I can do.
So what do you do when all seems lost, or you feel you lack control of the situation, or there's not enough time to do what you need to do?
We all struggle and rather than beat ourselves up about it, or troll others and shame them, we need to lift each other up. Read and author and review, comment on a post or like a picture. Share how you overcome and offer support.
I'm not alone and I know that I'm not. I have a friend who's going through something big too. All I can do is ask how she is and she asks that of me.
We can be compassionate, understanding and help each other. And most importantly, be kind to yourself.
After sending book four of The Wizard Hall Chronicles, Prophecy, to my editor for a content edit, I decided it was time to plan for book five called The Rise of the Black Market. I wasn't quite ready to start the book, I was prepping the document adding a title page, the list of the books in the series, the copyright page, an acknowledgement page, Chapter 1. As I saved the beginnings of the book, it occurred to me in a very concrete sort of way, that this would be the last book I write in The Wizard Hall Chronicles.
The Wizard Hall Chronicles was the start of my author career. I had lived with the characters in my head for almost two years, learning about them, discovering their likes and dislikes, personality traits I wanted to explore, stories I wanted to tell, until one day I had enough confidence to sit down and finally write the story.
It started with the first draft of The Day of First Sun which in the end became over 50 drafts. Because I was new at the craft of writing novels, I ended up publishing the story three times. It was a necessary evil that propelled the story in a way I hadn't expected.
When I originally started The Wizard Hall Chronicles, I first had no series name and I had intended to write the series with stand alone books. The characters would waft in and out as they took on new paranormal cases. But that's now how the series progressed.
You see, before rewriting The Day of First Sun and publishing it for the third time, I was stuck. I published book two She Wulf, and it didn't go well. I found it difficult to move the story forward. I tried two different stories. neither worked.
I realized the problem was book one and in a flash, I was rewriting, in a major rewrite sort of way, until I had something that was so much better than any other incarnation.
When that happened, the rest of the series flew from my fingers in lightning speed. And another interesting thing happened. I found myself with a theme I never intended; the death of Annie Pearce's father. He was never supposed to be anything but Annie's background. Instead, his death was her past, her present and her future.
Sometimes you can't fight the direction the series will traverse. Sometimes you have to go with it. I went with it and it led me to the series finale, The Rise of the Black Market and I wasn't expecting how it would make me feel.
The series filled out. Characters went in and out of the stories as their roles changed or grew. I filled in more background of the characters so much so that Wizard War became the continuation of The Day of First Sun while Prophecy linked the first three books and acted as a bridge to the series finale.
But as I started Chapter 1, The Rise of the Black Market, it hit me hard. This book is the last of the series. It made me sad. It made my prematurely miss the characters that I had been living with for the last 12 years. unexpectedly, it made me long for the finale so I could start a new project, something different.
I'm a mix of emotions as I work through Annie Pearce and Cham Chamsky's final case. The case that brings all the stories together, the battle that will change their lives forever. I look forward to the work on this book, I look forward to putting the series to rest, to moving on and yet I know I will miss Annie, my alter ego. As she grew, I grew.
Here's to the next stage in my writing career!Continue reading
I'm very proud to announce my third book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles series, Wizard War.
After spending the last year deep in edits, working with beta readers, and sending out books to ARC readers, I'm so excited to share this new adventure with Annie Pearce, Cham Chamsky and the rest of the Wizard Guards as they traipse through Europe in search of a vampire on a murderous streak.
Eight months ago, Annie Pearce, closed the murder investigation of Princess Amelie of Amborix and put her killer in prison. So receiving a newspaper article with a picture of the princess alive and well, walking the streets of Paris, left Annie shocked and confused.
Who sent the picture?
With the threat of exposure hanging over her, Annie and her wizard guard partner, Spencer Ray chase the wily, young, vampire across Europe attempting to stop her murderous streak. When finding the vampire seems nearly impossible, Annie seeks out an old nemesis, Sturtagaard the vampire, to help them kill the demon princess.
But all is not as it seems. As Annie traipses across the jurisdiction of other wizard guard units, who blame her for the situation, tensions rise. A vulnerable Annie, must push aside her self-doubt and focus her energy on stopping the vampire. If she’s not careful, all her plans can lead to a wizard war, one that only she can stop.
Life is hard. We work full-time. We have children, friends, family, hobbies if we're lucky. We need to eat well, exercise daily. I have an adult child with severe anxiety, ADD and OCD. My youngest is a transgender male.
There's sleepless nights worrying about the extraordinary and sometimes I only have time to worry about the ordinary. You have to pick your battles.
I've always wanted to be a writer. I was seven when I started the Nancy Drew Mysteries. From that moment I not only wanted to read her adventures, I wanted to create and write my own adventures.
As life pulled me in difficult directions, writing became something more for me than just a means to make money doing something I was fairly good at. It became an escape from increasingly difficult and out of the ordinary situations. It was my inspiration.
Mystery novels have always been my first love. Taking a problem and digging one layer at a time to discover the truth. I also love the urban fantasy, epic fantasy realm. Hiding in the make-believe. It's there that I find equality lives, women can be strong leaders, justice most often prevails.
This is why I imagined Annie Pearce. Young, smart, beautiful, seemingly perfect but when you dig deeper, when you get to know her, she's flawed, she's vulnerable, she's real. She works in a highly male field as a Wizard Guard. A magical police officer who fights demons, vampires and evil wizards. She falls in love with her best friend and partner at work, Bobby “Cham” Chamsky and had to deal with the new emotions while investigating the biggest case of their careers.
Annie Pearce makes mistakes, some are small and easy to fix. Other mistakes can risk exposure or cause a wizard war. But she perseveres because that is her make up. She wants justice for the downtrodden, for the victims of crimes. Though she is young, she can be an inspiration.
I wrote Annie to be the woman I wanted to be. A strong survivor who can and will find her way through a difficult and often scary world. Joss Whedon's Buffy Summers was one of my inspirations for putting together a relatable woman.
While I stumble through my life with increasingly difficult situations that make me want to cry or hide in the sand or simply run away, I remember the alter ego that I created. I suck it in and imagine the confidence and take one step in front of the other. This is what I want and for now, Annie is my own fairy godmother and inspiration as I make my way through the world of writing to become the author I want to be.Continue reading
The greatest boost of confidence that I have ever experienced was writing my first book. The greatest loss of confidence started when I tried to sell the book.
Being confident is like riding a roller coaster. There are so many highs and lows, twists and turns, and big-ass drop that turns your stomach as you purse your lips to hold back the vomit.
Trying to sell books is that same roller coaster. There's tiny bits of good luck and lots of down turns-Much frustration and then the high when the story comes together in a way you did not predict when you first started writing the book.
I'm not the only one who struggles to remain confident. Life gets in the way, we all have problems, situations that are so overwhelming, all of this can attack our total being.
That's where I am right now. Honestly, my confidence, at this moment is low, I feel as though I'm the worst writer ever, not only as a fiction writer but as a technical writer. I sometimes feel as though I can't string words together to form a complete sentence.
I struggle to find something to change the tide of emotion, that one thing to make that upturn. Basically, I am looking for the path that leads me to a place where readers find me and read my books and get enjoyment from the story.
Though there's been some positive movement, there's been much disappointment. So much so, I've been researching options in which to find that boost, that change, a way out of this perpetual rut I find myself in.
At first I thought I'd, try some self-help books. I'm not great at self-help books. They may inspire for a moment, but I can't carry it through to a conclusion. They just don't get me.
Next I've opened myself to new experiences. This one is a work in progress. I've joined writer's groups. And as my schedule opens up, I plan on participating and trying to glean something from the experience. I hope this will finally convince me I'm actually a writer. If I keep telling myself that, maybe one day I'll believe it.
As I open to new experiences, I need to remember to acknowledge those moments. Single moments in which I feel confidence. When I feel fierce and indestructible. When I look in the mirror and confidence radiates from my face, in my clothes, in my psyche, there's no more brushing it off as if it doesn't matter. It's time to work toward the greater good. The more I tell myself I'm confident, the more I'll start to believe it.
I keep plugging along because I so believe in myself at times, regardless of the underestimation that comes my way. You can't win, if you don't play; you can't succeed, if you don't try. I can because I do. Join me on the journey, because someday is almost here.Continue reading
Cyril B. Stonewell waited patiently for the world to forget Princess Amelie Maxillian of Amborix, but it would take longer than the six weeks he allowed for it. Hundreds of stories had been written, pictures posted to millions of websites; her life story could still be accessed as if she were still living. This was in part due to the lack of closure. Though they knew who killed her, no one outside of Wizard Hall America, or the Wizard Council of America knew why she was murdered. And most importantly, no one anywhere knew what Stonewall was planning to do.
Stonewell dragged the heavy sack across the perfectly manicured lawn. It bounced, and the man stuffed inside groaned as he woke from his magical stupor.
Before reaching his destination, the body inside woke and grew restless, or scared and tugged at the canvas sack he was stuffed inside. When he couldn’t loosen the ropes, he kicked and flayed. Stonewell, not a young or healthy man, stopped, issued a hard kick to the man’s kidney and squatted beside the dirty bag.
“Keep this up and I’ll kill you now,” Stonewell hissed. The man, spoke only German, but he understood the tone of Stonewell’s words; he stiffened into a tightly wound ball and himself be dragged across the dew covered lawn owned by the royal family of Amborix.
With his destination in sight, Stonewell, short and fat, stopped again, and panted in exhaustion; the bag was heavy, even as thin and malnourished that his victim was. It was too much exertion for Stonewell.
I should have teleported!
He picked up the drawstring of the sack and hobbled his way toward the gravesite, where the royal family had buried their only daughter, far from the prying eyes of the world. But she wouldn’t be buried there for much longer.
With each labored stepped, the former high ranking member of the Wizard Council, grunted from the exertion and sweat poured down his cheeks. He wrapped the canvas handle around his hand, and took another step toward the large oak tree at the center of the open land.
Wind carried voices.
Security is here too soon!
Panic filled his gut; Stonewell hobbled as quickly as he could toward the gravesite, where the grass hadn’t fully grown back. A moist patch of dark earth, smooth yet visible lay at his feet.
Stonewell dropped the bag, wiped sweat from his forehead, leaving behind a streak of dirt and leaned against the granite headstone.
The voices, grew closer, yet they were still off in the distance, traversing the large clearing.
I need to move!
Not relishing the thought of being discovered, Stonewell glanced around the clearing searching for shadows of the security officers against their flashlights. When he saw none coming, he waved his palms across the first layer of loose dirt, pushing it to the side of the grave. He worked alone to remove several cubic feet of the heavy earth, and with each sound in the darkness, he’d spin around, anxious security would find him messing with the gravesite. He removed a second layer of dirt, the pile growing enough to draw suspicion.
Flashlights illuminated the thick, dense trees, that circled this open lawn. The harshness of the German grew louder, stronger.
They’re angry. Damn!
Stonewell ducked behind the large oak tree as Amelie’s headstone lit up with streams of light.
“There!” Footsteps sloshed across the wet grass. Stonewell, nearly caught, waved his arm around the edge of the thick trunk, and swiped his palm in the direction of two security guards heading to the mysterious bag. Little did they know it contained a half drugged street urchin.
“Help me!” the man shouted. The security officers gained speed seeing the bag move and the pile of dirt beside the grave of Princess Amelie.
Stonewell’s jinx hit both men, they stopped mid step, frozen as living statues. He swished his palm again, knocking the men over; they landed with thuds against the grass.
Poking his head around the tree trunk, Stonewell surveyed the scene, wiped his brow of sweat, slid out from his hiding spot. His first order was a swift kick to the bag, he heard a crack in the man’s ribs. “They’re gone. You won’t be saved,” Stonewell sneered and began to remove the dirt before the security guards woke from their forced nap.
The earth from the grave loosened and floated to the pile easily but the exhaustion seeped through Stonewell’s body as he expended a lot of magical energy to unearth so much dirt and locate the coffin.
I must be close!
Three hours after he began, the cement tomb was finally visible. He wiped sweat and dirt from his face, wiped it on his expensive suit, already covered in mud. He swiped away the final layer of earth revealing the bronze plaque on the cement lid read that read, Amelie Victoria Maxillian, Rest In Peace.
As if he knew what was to come, the victim, struggled inside the canvas bag, closed tightly with a sticking spell and other magical jinxes used to prevent his escape. His moans, grew fearful as he screamed obscenities through the thick fabric.
His legs kicked out as if he could rip through the heavy fabric. Stonewell glanced at the indigent and threw a jinx at the moving mass, immobilizing him.
Standing at the edge of the hole, Stonewell held his palms upward and raised the heavy cement lid, floating it up through the grave and landing it on a clear patch of grass. Shining his light inside, he examined the coffin—still polished, nearly pristine—it lay untouched by air or time. He jumped down, tightly enclosed inside the hole. Adrenaline coursed through him as he raised the lid, unsure of what he’d find.
he silk lining ripped to shreds and covered in streaks of blood.
The newly risen vampire lay still, her expensive silk lining, ripped to shreds, covered in blood. He flashed his light inside, her angry eyes were black holes. She blinked rapidly as she stared at her savior hovering above her.
“What took so long?” she sneered.
“I know, love. It couldn’t be helped.” He smiled and reached for her hand, but the agile, young vampire rejected his assistance. She easily stood and leaped from the coffin, without breaking a sweat or dirtying her emerald green, silk dress.
Stonewell hoisted himself from the hole, slipping in the wet earth, landing in the coffin. Amelie sneered as she watched him struggle from her former prison. He glanced up at the lovely princess, and grimaced. Rather than embarrassing himself further, he teleported to the grass, bent over and sucked in a deep breath.
“I’m famished,” Amelie cooed through purple, pouted lips. Her hair fell wild around her face; her dress slipped from her shoulder. Her fingertips, raw and bloody from attempting to escape had marked up her silk dress. Smudges covered her neck, her cheek, her lips.
A breeze wafted across the clearing, Amelie closed her eyes, felt the wind across her bare skin. Though she no longer felt hot or cold, the breeze still tickled her skin.
Stonewell wanted to run a brush through the golden locks, dress her in the finest of clothes like the princess she was.
With a bath she’d be perfect.
“I’ve brought your first blood, your highness.” He bowed low to the princess as he showed her the bag with the victim squirming inside.
“Don’t call me that!” she shouted. Her voice rolled through the trees.
“Yes. Amelie. Here. Here’s the food I promised.”
Stonewell, once a high official of the Wizard Council, now succumbed to being Amelie’s slave, he untied the strings that held her first victim inside.
As a young vampire she knew nothing about the art of the sensual kill. She pounced on her prey, ripped opened the bag and held the victim to the wet grass. She sniffed him and licked his tender neck. He struggled against her vampire strength; she held him tighter, bound his hands behind his back in one of her delicate hands and pulled his neck backward, giving her room to sink her fangs into the artery. Warm blood passed her lips, she sucked deeply. Her first taste of blood was all she needed to understand the ecstasy in that moment. A slow groan of pleasure escaped her as she writhed against her first victim. As he was drained of life, he no longer struggled against her grasp, she loosened her hold on him until he finally went limp.
She held him in her arms until there was nothing left inside of him and pulled her sharp teeth from his neck. Amelie licked the last drops of blood from his neck, licked her lips of whatever she hadn’t sucked and then tossed the corpse to the ground. She stepped over him, sashaying to the man who saved her from her confines.
“My master,” the vampire cooed. She smiled coyly, averting her eyes from his lecherous stare.
The princess is happy!
Stonewell smirked to himself as he reached for her hand. He shivered at the icy chill that emanated from her skin.
“Did they notice, my dear?”
Amelie shrugged. “I have no idea what happened to me after I died,” she hissed.
It’s unlikely they found the vampire tracks beneath that thick, golden hair at the back of her head.
“They did a fine job. Fine job, indeed.” Stonewell glanced at the mess he created, reached down for the dead homeless man and pulled him toward the coffin. He was still very heavy.
“I’m so hungry,” Amelie whined. She pressed her lithe body against his squat fat bottom.
“I need to clean up this mess. We can’t give anyone a reason to investigate this grave. They will know you aren’t here,” he said as he dumped the body inside the coffin.
“Now,” Amelie said as her breasts and hips curved against him. Heat rushed through him as her every touch aroused him, even the cold chill from her skin felt alive.
“I will find you someone to eat. Now let me finish,” he ordered and lowered the coffin lid on the dead man.
“Now!” she screamed.
Amelie grabbed Stonewell’s fat wrist and twirled him around to face her. Confusion and fear lined his face.
“Now, my dear. I’ll fetch you someone new. Le-let’s go. We’ll go, now,” he muttered as he glanced at the frozen security team feet from where Amelie held his wrist.
But Amelie was no longer interested in the man who freed her from her prison. Pulling him to her like a rag doll, she yanked on his chin pulling his head back, exposing his neck. She could no longer wait for the taste of iron and sank her fangs deep into his neck and let the blood flow.
He cried out, “No! My love, no!”
Stonewell struggled as all victims did when they realized they were about to die. She felt the life slip from him, his muscles went slack, the life faded from his eyes. Cyril B. Stonewell’s body slumped against Amelie as she sucked from him all that he had.
The minute Annie returned home from the Cave of Ages, she went on medical leave. Two injuries in one week was enough to claim compensation time; she gladly stayed in bed past eight in the morning when the sun burst through the curtains, blinding her.
I should find dad’s missing file.
Her mind raced with thoughts of her father, of his missing file, of the Fraternitatem of Solomon who got away with murder. She sighed and felt Cham’s warm body in deep sleep beside her. Not wanting to wake him, she climbed from the bed, threw on a thick sweatshirt and headed for her kitchen.
Zola, always protective, always there for Annie, busied herself in the kitchen, even as she too was recovering from several injuries, to her wrists, ankles and her ripped fairy wings that hung limply behind her.
“Go rest,” Annie said as she took the cleaning rag from Zola.
“I need to stay busy. You know that’s what you’ll be doing too,” Zola remarked and though Zola attempt to show strength, she was glad when Annie shooed her away. “You rest. I’ll know if you don’t.” Zola smiled before teleporting herself to the guest room for much needed sleep.
Annie poured herself hot water from kettle on the stove and dunked a tea bag inside and sat at the table.
So, where would dad hide a file?
Annie fiddled with the warm mug, the tea seeped and the water grew dark brown. She twirled the tea bag.
She glanced at the open door, left her steaming mug of tea on the table and headed into the damp, cold basement.
Annie zipped up her warm hoodie and glanced around the crowded room, surveying possible locations for a file.
Maybe in the walls or under the floor or maybe the air return vents?
Annie started with the laundry room, a long thin room at the back end of the basement. It was completely unfinished, contained a washer and dryer as well as the other mechanical units for the house.
Immediately, Annie noticed the metal chair leaning against the wall and a single iron shackle that had been left behind when the clean-up team had dealt with the evidence and mess of Zola’s abduction a few days prior.
Why is that still here?
Annie pulled the shackle from the floor, noticed the blood and hair and summoned an evidence bag. With the iron bracelet secure, she began to thump against the walls, assessing the sound for possible voids in the wall. When she found nothing, Annie did a quick search of the area behind the water heater and furnace, but there was no sign of a file or a container to store a file.
With the evidence bag secure, Annie stepped back into the main basement room and scanned the walls, the floor, the boxes, filled with junk.
What was here when dad was alive?
Weary and not wanting to tackle the boxes of junk Annie decided to head upstairs for breakfast, until she noticed the small door to the crawl space, an open area beneath the staircase to the second floor.
Would he hide it in such an obvious location?
Annie had never been in the crawl space, let alone seen what was stored inside, if there was anything at all.
Sitting on the cold floor, Annie pushed against the panel that should have slid open manually. But it wouldn’t budge and use of magic did nothing to dislodge The opening. Annie sighed and summoned a crystal. Holding it over the door, she maneuvered the crystal scanning for magic. It didn’t take long for the rock to glow brightly with white magic.
The magic floated around the crystal, she stared at the old magic.
Eight years old maybe?
“Hey.” Cham rubbed his eyes of the last bits of sleep as he climbed down the staircase. “Whatcha doing?”
“I think I found the hiding spot.” She tossed him the crystal; he stared inside, reading the magic.
“Ah … that’s a really simple spell,” he noted.
Maybe dad assumed no one would ever look here.
“You really think it’s as easy as that?” Annie asked. It surprised her how simple a spell her father used.
“Yeah. I do.” The doorbell rang. Annie and Cham glanced at each other, Annie shrugged. “I’ll get it. You open,” he offered and headed back upstairs.
Annie scooted closer to the crawl space door, casting a reversal spell against the thin panel. It creaked and popped and slid open with an easy touch.
“Really dad?” Annie chuckled. With her flashlight, she stuck her head inside the space. Musty, dusty scents wafted to her; the dirt floor, the cobwebs, a possible nest in the corner. She cringed as the light roamed the small space stopping on the box in the corner.
The box had been there for years, covered in dust, and water stains. She backed away not wanting to crawl through the bugs, or snakes or mice that might be living in here.
Annie summoned the box, the same that stored the printer paper at Wizard Hall. It easily floated to her. She lay it on the cement beside her, almost frightened to see what was inside.
“You got an unmarked package,” Cham said, handing her an envelope addressed Annie Pearce; it had no return address.
She glanced at the scribbled handwriting, barely legible and felt the package; light and pliable.
“Odd. But guess what I found,” she announced proudly and showed him the box.
“So Jason did hide the file. You okay to look inside?”
I wonder if I am?
Ryan gave Annie his full support to investigate her father’s death. She lifted the box and floated it beside her as she walked the stairs with her unmarked package.
“I don’t recognize the handwriting. I wonder if I should take it to work.” Annie said as she tossed the package on the table beside the box.
“Or you could look for wayward magic,” Cham suggested with half a grin.
“Already there,” she announced as she moved her crystal over the mystery package. The rock didn’t glow.
Annie squished the package between her fingers.
She held the mail to the light, but the envelope was thick and opaque offering her no clue as to the contents. Curious, she ripped open the seal and peered inside.
Well that’s not what I expected? She thought as she slipped the contents on the table.
“What the hell? It’s a… a French newspaper?”
The paper was well read, and folded with purpose. The picture attached to the article was clearly visible. Black and white, the red circle was hard to mistake. Annie summoned a magnifying glass and examined the picture as Cham looked on from over her shoulder.
“Oh crap,” she held the glass and stared into the picture.
“That can’t be.” Annie was stunned as they stared at a picture of Princess Amelie, alive and walking among the crowd.Continue reading
Defining my life fell into two separate and distinct periods of time; life before my daughter was born with a terminal disease and the path life took after. The single defining moment for me, was that second, that single moment before she was born (via C-section) and that long moment when I realized she wasn't crying, that something was very wrong.
It sticks with you, these defining moments. Sometimes you can find yourself as a victim of the moment and let it drag you under, or you can use the moment to step forward and redefine your life and your dreams.
I fell somewhere in between. I found a way to move on, to raise my other daughter, have another child. While moving on, I seemingly found myself a victim of my circumstance, stagnating and letting that single moment define who I was.
I read Harry Potter. I loved Harry Potter. It did more than entertain; it woke up a passion in me that I hadn't realized was there.
That, coupled with a meeting of a former classmate at a twentieth class reunion, forced me to look at my life and the choices I made and something inside of me changed. I no longer wanted to let life and the bad things define how I lived my life. It was time for me to take control.
I remembered for the first time in years, that I had a dream. One that I cultivated since I was seven years old. I wanted to be a writer.
I tried over the years to write a book. I stopped at chapter 1 or paragraph 1, never completely understanding how to craft that story. Never really understanding what it was that I even wanted to say.
But this time, the jealously that my classmate was a published author and my sadness that had accumulated over a lifetime, forced me to open the book and really think about what story I wanted to tell.
It wasn't very good or very long and it took many attempts to reach the published versions I have online. I look back at the first time I typed “The End” on that very first draft and I can't help but be proud, I can't help but realize my life is no longer defined by one single event.
Now I'm a writer, who is a mother, one who lost a child. I write about the loss and how it affects me, but not as a single defining moment. It happened and it makes me sad and it always will. But it won't always make a victim of that circumstance. I finally found the confidence to truly move on and I now weave those emotions and memories into my writing to give it depth and meaning. I'm no longer defined by it, I define how I use it to motivate and move on.
So why do I write? It's an intriguing question; to ask someone why they do what they do. What brought them to their profession, hobby, fandom? I took to reading early, ravenously read through entire series. It didn't matter if it was Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, Stephen King or Harry Potter. Always with each book, as I experienced all these adventures between the pages, what I really wanted to do was write my own story.
I am a self-proclaimed introvert, perfect personality trait to write. Being the center of attention is uncomfortable, confining. But when I write, I am free of anxiety, of fear. It is on the paper that I can write and re-write to craft the words that express my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions.
To be a writer, is what I have wanted to do since I was seven years old. I have never wavered from my desire to create my own worlds, my own stories and characters. To create something lasting. When I can't form the words with my mouth, I can always type them with my fingers.
I've always been able to write about anything. Though sometimes, I just don't know what to write. But when I do, it gives me power, it gives me confidence.
I love finishing that first book, letting the story pour out of me. It gives me a great sense of pride with each draft when I see the story fill itself out, when I link each book to the other as I tell a complete story. I don't feel as confident with anything else in my life as I do when I write.
And through the highs and lows in my life, to write it was keeps me sane. When I don't write, heavy emotions can wear my down. Writing is my therapy. It is my strength.
I write because simply, writing is a part of me. When darkness gathers and envelopes me, writing is my light. It is my fire. I was born to do nothing else.
I read a blog Tara M. Martin . It was there she answered the same question; why does she write? So I had this idea to share why I wrote. And then it occurred to me. I'm going to pass the question on. To all my writer friends, why do you write? To all my non-writer friends, what is your passion.
Life should not be passionless. We should dance, sing, write exercise, mediate; do something we are passionate about every day. Every day.
Even though Mom and Dad no longer live in the same house or even the same state, they still can’t communicate with each other. Mom screams through the phone; her shrill voice vibrates through the vents. I don’t know if she realizes that even as she hides herself in the bathroom, cocooned by the shower and the walls and the doors, we can still hear her half of their latest argument. I can only imagine what Dad’s voice sounds like through the phone.
I take a deep breath and text my best friend, Molly Malone, even though it’s 10:30 p.m.
Dad must be mad and shouting back at Mom, because now I hear her sobbing. Screaming and sobbing. It’s not so different than when they were married. Only now we hear the one side, and the aftermath is cold and lonely.
When Mom and Dad divorced, Dad took a job in another state, found a new girlfriend, and moved in with her and her kids, leaving us behind to deal with his mess. I know it’s hard for Mom to raise us by herself; she’s often too exhausted to deal with us, with me. Much of her time she spends hiding in her room.
I hate when they do this.
Molly texts me back.
I’m so sorry sweetie, she writes.
My ten-year-old sister, Shay, is huddled in her room, rocking herself on her bed. The squeaky coils on her mattress are loud. I should go and see her, but I have my own way of dealing with Mom and Dad’s fights. And right now, I’m hiding under my covers behind my closed door, wishing the fight would just stop.
You can call me if you want, Molly writes without waiting for me to reply. I can barely speak; this fight is one of my parents’ most intense. At least it seems to be going on longer than normal.
Though these arguments and the tension never seem to bother my brother Jake, he’s up. Maybe he’s listening to music to drown out the phone call. I hear the pleather of his beanbag chair squish when he adjusts himself in his seat. He normally appears as though he can easily slip inside his oasis of dirty socks and wadded up garbage that never seems to make the waste basket when he takes a shot. He never seems to emerge from his room tired or even affected at all by the fight or the rant or a punishment.
I click on Molly’s phone number and listen to the phone ring and ring.
Maybe she fell asleep.
Whatever they were fighting about is nothing more than hiccoughs, sighs, and whispers through the wall right now. Anxious, I wait for the other shoe to fall. The finale of their fight always comes, and Mom is always frustrated in the morning, yelling at us as if this is our fault.
It probably is.
It comes in waves, the arguments they have. Mom complains and whines about something; Dad makes quips that piss her off. They push each other’s buttons. I have no idea why they even married or what drew them to each other in the first place. I can barely remember what it was like before the fighting.
“Hi,” Molly says when she finally answers the phone.
She’s groggy, I just woke her up, and now I feel guilty for bothering her.
“Sorry. I shouldn’t have called,” I whisper.
Mom is quiet before the big finale, and my stomach roils in pain at the stress of it. I pull the covers up around my head. It’s hot and stuffy under the blankets, but at least I hear only whispers of the argument.
“No, Gracie. You can always call. I’m so sorry.”
Molly Malone, my best friend since second grade, always finds a way to be there, even when we should be sleeping. Sometimes her overbearing personality is annoying, but sometimes, I just need to reach out to her because she cares—and it sometimes feels that no one else does.
“Are you okay?” she yawns into the phone.
I shouldn’t have called.
“They’re fighting again.” I sniffle and choke. I didn’t want to cry in front of her. I can’t help it. This time is just too much, and lately this seems to be the only thing I can talk about.
Molly must hate when I bring it up.
A new wave of the argument starts. Mom is loud, confident, angry.
“I’m so sorry they do this to you. Doesn’t she know you can hear it when she hides in the bathroom? They’re not being good . . .” Molly’s now awake and indignant, but she refrains from finishing that sentence.
They’re not good parents.
She doesn’t want to say it, to make me feel worse then I already do. I can always count on her to be on my side.
“I should just tell her we hear everything.” I cry out. Across the hallway, Shay climbs off her bed.
“You need to speak up for yourself. Parents just don’t get it,” Molly says. I find it funny because Molly and her mom are close and always have been. Molly sometimes doesn’t get it. Tonight I don’t care.
“I try, but they don’t hear me. I have to do all this stuff, and they don’t listen. It’s not fair. I’m only fourteen. I shouldn’t have to do the dishes, cook dinner, do my homework—and when I’m trying to sleep, I get this!” My voice is whiny. I’m so tired. I’m so angry.
“Gracie. I’m so sorry. This really sucks,” she says. “We need to do a sleepover. You need to get out of there.” Molly’s voice is reassuring. Before the divorce, when it was still tense in the house, I would hide at her house whenever I could. Whenever I didn’t have to babysit. It was safe at Molly’s house.
My bedroom door squeaks open. I poke my head out of the blankets; my bedroom light blinds me. Moving over, I hold the blankets up and make room for my sister, who snuggles in beside me.
“Thanks, Molly, but I’ve gotta go. It’s late, and I’m so sorry for calling.”
“Call me any time. And get out of there. Come over this weekend.”
When we hang up, I toss my phone on the bedside table, switch off the light, and let Shay sleep beside me.
Sometimes I wish I were her age so I had someone that I could nestle up to when it got really bad. And I feel badly for her because all she has is me.
“Why do they fight?” Shay asks in her little-girl voice.
“They don’t live together anymore and don’t see each other, so I don’t know why,” I say because I really don’t have an answer. I used to think Dad hated Mom so much and that it was why he abandoned us. I never really connected with Mom.
She grew up pretty and popular, a cheerleader and good student. I’m just me, with no special interests or skills; we really have nothing in common. Dad always understood me, and he would talk to me. But now he’s no longer interested or he’s too busy with his new family. I no longer blame Mom.
“He doesn’t love us anymore,” she sighs. I wish I could tell her that isn’t true.
When I look up, Jake leans against my doorway, his shadow accentuated by the streetlamp outside my bedroom window. This time the fight affects him greatly; he too doesn’t want to be alone.
“You can sit here with us,” I say to him. I feel his skinny little thirteen-year-old-boy frame sit beside us; the mattress barely moves. All three of us haven’t been close in a very long time, but tonight we are equally paralyzed, sad, unable to do anything to make this fight stop. I recognize the look in his eyes. They’re the same as mine and as Shay’s. We do nothing more than stare at each other as the last of the fight rolls through the house.
EH . . . EH . . . EH . . .
The alarm clock buzzes, cutting through the darkness; I tremble from the intrusive noise waking me from a dream. My fist slams the off button, and I stay under the covers enjoying the last bit of silence before I realize that Shay must have left my room long ago.
Her footsteps pound down the hallway and the stairs, through the kitchen until I hear whistles blowing from the television in the den. The nautical tune wafts up to my bedroom through the air ducts—and just like that, Shay has started her day as if nothing had happened the night before.
Like clockwork, Mom enters her bathroom, and within minutes, the shower springs to life. Water crackles softly against the stone floor like a spring rain does against the roof. My eyes flutter closed. I have to force them awake as the shower shuts off.
Knowing that I’m running late now, I throw off my blankets. Cold morning air nips at my exposed skin. Once I click on my bedside lamp, I jolt awake before I hide myself back under the covers and pretend this day hasn’t started yet.
I shuffle to my dresser and pull on the fake crystal handle, which comes off in my hand, when it pulls apart from the screw. Not in the mood to deal with the fourth broken handle this month, I toss the plastic bauble on my bed and shove my hand into the completely filled drawer.
I need to clean this out!
I tug and pull, loosening the items in the drawer and whipping them out until half of my belongings are strewn across the floor and bed. The jeans I want aren’t here.
They must be in the laundry!
I glance at the clock and panic. Running out of time, I throw on the next clean pair of jeans, a skinny pair that slips down around my hips. As I see myself in the mirror, I sigh. I hate this body. It’s too thin and bony, though according to Molly that’s a good problem to have, and I should be a model.
In another drawer, I find a clean yet slightly wrinkled T-shirt and stretch it over my head. My eye spies a stray thread, and of course I yank on it until most of the hem is gone.
“Crap!” I toss the string on the dresser, grab my favorite hoodie, and run to the bathroom.
My hand shakes as I pull the brush through my frizzy, unmanageable hair and frown at my pale, make-up-less face wishing I knew how to fix myself up. Even if I did, there’s no time this morning. Barely brushing my teeth, I find myself with just enough time to pull my mop into a ponytail. I grimace in my mirror; overnight, a new pimple broke out on the tip of my nose, and my hair is still a mess.
A model, right . . .
I sprint down the stairs.
“Hurry up!” Mom shouts from the kitchen, probably impatient from her lack of sleep. Sliding across the wood floor, I grab the breakfast bar she holds for me. She grimaces and sighs. The dark circles under her eyes make me think she didn’t sleep at all last night.
When her phone rings Mom glances at it and runs off to take the call. Her response is terse, the conversation quick. It’s probably the boss she hates, or maybe Dad is calling for a second round.
With breakfast hanging between my lips, I thrust books and last night’s homework into my backpack and zip it shut.
“I’m going to be late tonight,” Mom prattles on behind me. “You’ll need to make dinner.”
I always do! I scream in my head as Jake saunters in, his hair mussed perfectly, his white shirt untucked and slightly wrinkled, looking casual and easy.
“Why are you wearing that?” Mom asks.
“It’s clean.” He shrugs as the bus honks.
“Gracie, don’t forget dinner!” Mom calls after me as the three Madison children run for the school buses.
“Here.” Molly hands me a muffin. It’s misshapen, not like the ones you get at the grocery store all nice and packaged. This is homemade.
“Thanks,” I say and place it neatly in my backpack. We’re not allowed to eat in class. Molly sits beside me. Her mouth is tightly shut, and her jaw is clenched.
As Mrs. Fowler, our math teacher, writes out a new formula for us to remember and soon forget, Molly turns to me.
“Can you come tonight for dinner?” she whispers before she pulls away to take notes.
“I have to make dinner,” I say. I start to copy the new formula, but it’s confusing and fuzzy, so I take to doodling pictures instead.
She starts to say something. I know she wants to say, “What, again?” but she doesn’t because Mrs. Fowler turns around to watch the class—as if by studying our faces she can tell if we understand what she just said. Molly means well by offering support. She just doesn’t understand because her parents are married, and her mom works part time. I sigh and force my attention on Mrs. Fowler whose eyes meet mine. They warn me to pay attention. This material is important and on the test. When she turns back to the board, I glance at Molly. Her worry is palpable, especially around her mouth, which purses shut. I offer a wan smile before digging into the newest math.
Normally Molly and I eat lunch together, but today as I leave math class, Mrs. Fowler hands me a note strongly recommending I see her at lunch. My math grade is so bad that I’m not even failing math. I have something lower than an “F”—a “G,” maybe?
Starving, I munch on a candy bar and open the door to the math department office, a smallish space shared by six math teachers. Their desks, three in a row, face each other. It lacks privacy, it lacks intimacy, it’s a little depressing.
I’d hate to work here.
Mrs. Fowler sees me and smiles—not too big, not too small, just enough for me to see her perfectly white teeth. It’s a nice smile, and I’m less nervous when I sit down beside her.
“Hi, Gracie. Thanks for heeding my message. Is everything all right?” she asks when I place my bag at my feet.
“Yeah. Everything’s fine. Why?”
I know my teachers know about my parents’ divorce, whether they heard from me or my mom. I’ve never been asked about it before, though.
“I know it’s been hard, since . . . well, you know. I just want you to know we’re here for you. The teachers. We want to make sure you have what you need to succeed.” She pulls out the file—the real reason I’m here. I see my grade sheet. I was wrong. I have more than an “F,” but still, a “D” isn’t great either. She hands me the report. “Gracie, I know things have been rough at home. And sometimes freshman year is tough. So I recommend you come for tutoring. There’s still plenty of time to get your grade up. Sometimes it’s hard when things at home aren’t great. But you are smart. I’ve seen your other grades. They’re good grades. I know together we can do this!”
No we can’t! It sucks at home. I hate math! I don’t want to be here anymore!
I say nothing but nod my head as if I agree. I can’t handle the condescension, the pity. Parents get divorced all the time.
Isn’t it hard on all of us kids?
“I’ll study more,” I murmur and avert my eyes and I review the grade sheet. It hurts my head; my stomach tightens up.
“If you don’t, I will recommend summer school,” she says, matter of fact as if she hadn’t been so caring just five minutes ago. “You’re excused,” she finally finishes.
I trudge away, tired and hungry as I head out for my next class.
“I missed you at lunch. What did Mrs. Fowler want?” Molly asks over the phone when I am back at my house. I hear the paper wrapper of her Pop Tarts crinkle as she opens it up. Her mom bakes all the time, so I find it funny she likes the store-bought stuff. But that’s her act of rebellion, and it makes me chuckle.
“Summer school if I don’t get my grades up,” I reply and punch the temperature on the oven. At least Mom made it easy; all I have to do is heat dinner tonight.
“If you need help, get a tutor. You know, Adam’s really good at math,” she says. I hear her bite the tart, and my mouth waters. I’d love one right now.
“Ew. Ick. No,” I say. Molly and I might be best friends, but I don’t like Adam Striker. They’ve been friends longer than I’ve known Molly. We’ve been to her birthday parties together, and I’ve sulked through lunch with him, but I have never liked him. If you ask me why, I can only remember he said something to my brother Jake when Jake was six. It was just stupid, nothing that a seven-year-old should be so angry about. But it simmered and stewed for so long. Ever since that incident, all we manage to do is spar like it’s a sport. Either way, being tutored by Adam is just . . . Not. An. Option!
“Suit yourself. Summer’s school’s only six weeks long. That’s not much time.”
I grimace and shove in dinner, a frozen dish from the grocery store. “You’re very funny,” I say and close the door.
“Are you okay?” Molly asks when I sit down to start my homework.
I sigh because I’m sick of the question. It’s just easier to lie and ignore my feelings rather than to admit that I’m mad my parents are divorced and my dad doesn’t live here anymore.
“No, but I will be when I pass math,” I say. At least with Molly I can be glib. She really knows that I’m not okay. I push the math homework aside and opt for English because it’s my best subject and doesn’t hurt my head when I complete my assignment. “Call Adam,” she persists.
“No. I gotta go. We’re breaking up . . .” I pretend to make that warbled sound as if we’re driving through a tunnel. Molly starts laughing. I think that’s the only thing I offer to this friendship. Sometimes I’m funny.
“Call me. If you need to . . . you know, talk,” she offers one last time before hanging up.
I begin to read Shakespeare but stop short and glance at my math book before returning to Romeo and Juliet for some tragic fun.
Inspiration started with a book, which led to a love of mystery. But I wanted more than just to read the words, I wanted to write them.
After spending seven years in the mire that is marketing, writing, editing and parenting, I found myself stuck in the same place and it hit me, that something needed to change. Finding inspiration, I started over, with a new website, book series name, Facebook page name and Twitter handle.
Phew…And now I'm finally ready to release book two, with fear and awe.
While I reflect on the early days, back to a time when I had no idea what would become of my books or where the journey would take me, I find that inspiration and I share with you bits and pieces of that early blog. It sounds almost the same.
I was a reader; everything from Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, and Little Women. It inspired me to write my first book at seven years old. At nine, I read Beverly Clearly and Judy Blume, hiding “Forever” under my pillow at night. I graduated to Stephen King and slept with a nightlight; words had that effect. I felt something for these characters, I was engrossed in a good story. I loved to tap into the imagination. Inspiration; I wanted to be a writer.
Though life sidetracked me with a job credit card services, my time as an interior decorator. I had kids and I forgot what I wanted to be when I grew up. Until Harry Potter reminded me.
It's really not the end of the journey, now that The Day of First Sun eBook is published. I think I'm now just beginning. Book two Black Market is well on its way, and I'm looking forward to all the possibilities. Thanks to everyone for their messages, for their support and questions and if you purchased the book, thank you, thank you, thank you!Continue reading
Cold air, chills me, I reach for my blanket but I’m not on my bed.
Where am I?
I know where I am.
Cautious and careful, I take a step across the rough stone floor, my bare feet scrape against the uneven stones. I clip and cut my big toe on a sliver of rock.
“Damn it!” Sticky and wet, I leave a trail of blood behind me as I take another step in the darkness, darkness that envelopes me. It’s not wonderful in this nothingness. I’m afraid of the unknown.
A breeze through my hair, a creak, a groan. I hear each and every sound, feel the fluctuation of the air as it moves. I jump.
Footsteps, distant off in the never where, click against the stone, slow and deliberate. They follow me, the owner of those footsteps observes me, even as I hide in the shadows. I quicken my pace, my toe stings, I stumble against the stone wall.
Curiosity steels through me. I glance in the darkness behind me, the urge is too strong to not know who’s chasing me. My eyes play tricks on me because I think I see a figure floating between the dark spaces.
What is that?
Whatever it is it observes me without hiding from me. His gaze bores through me leaving me empty.
My fingers find the wall and graze the uneven, chipped stones. It’s how I see in the penetrating darkness when my eyes fail me. I feel the edge of the wall and turn right like I’ve done before. I know this hallway.
I feel for the door, for the cool steel against my fingers. It’s closer than it was before. I found the door.
“Gracie, you’re an empath,” Alden sneers.
A white mist drifts up covering me, smothering me. “You’re special, Gracie. Your mom will be so proud. Jake and Shay will have to respect you…” the voice hisses in my ear.
The fog undulates and dances, twirling around me. He knows about Jake and Shay. He knows when mom gets home. I drown in his mist and my head spins as it wraps and squeezes me. I need to get away from him, before he hurts me.
“Gracie help me!” The girl’s scream pierces the darkness; I feel her fear, her stress and her pain. The mist constricts me; I can’t breathe. “Gracie, please help me!” Her small scared voice sears my brain, but I have to get away from him.
“NO!” I scream and wiggle from the mist, before it swallows me. I run! I run as though I’m running forever, before I jump into nothingness. But I don’t fall. I’m not sucked into oblivion. I fly.
Excerpt from Gracie Madison Feels the World by Sheryl Steines, coming Summer, 2016
Art imitates life, at least I can find inspiration in the stories I see. As I work towards obtaining my goal of writing for a living, publishing and selling my books, I found myself flocking to television shows that reflected my current journey.
I've been obsessed with shows before. It started with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I probably watched the entire show from pilot to finale three times, before I could no longer watch anymore. Leaving me to watch only the episodes that I truly love. I did it with Charmed and Supernatural too.
So as I searched for my newest obsession, I rediscovered Gilmore Girls. I'd already seen the entire series, but this time, there was something else. Lorelei Gilmore was opening her dream, The Dragonfly Inn.
I know this is only a television show. I know she's not real and The Dragonfly Inn is a fake set in California, but I relate to the sentiment.
I've said it here many times. I knew at the age of 7, I wanted to be a writer. I started crafting my own stories, modeled after the Nancy Drew book series. I created characters, dropped them into adventures and most importantly turned my day dreams into living, breathing stories.
And then life comes in and drags you down several paths, some your choice, others outside forces pull you somewhere else. After many years, I finally got a chance to go back to my dream, much like Lorelei. We both stepped off that cliff, took a chance. She opened her own inn, I published a book. I re-watch the episodes with a new point of view. I get emotional, it inspires me, I dream big. I can do this too. Yes I can.
My brain never shuts down. Stories and characters scream in my head, begging to be let out. I can't write fast enough to get all the ideas out on paper. I get anxious the closer I move toward publishing my book, to selling at Comic Con, to finding a publisher. And watching this amazing, strong, ambitious, character in Lorelei, achieve her dream, makes me laugh and cry, sometimes in that ugly cry sorta way.
Go get 'em Lorelei Gilmore, because if there's a dream, there's a way.
To order my dream, The Day of First Sun check out Amazon.com.
Twenty-five years ago, I submitted hundreds, of hundreds of hundreds of resumes (I'm not kidding) to companies hiring writers, copywriters, editors, and proofreaders. I didn't have hundreds of interviews.
I ended up getting a job as a customer service rep, probably the worse job in the world. Plan B was to work as a technical/business writer until I wrote THAT book.
As always, life got away from me and twenty years of struggle to work as a writer, I found myself at my 20th class reunion not where I expected to be.
It's where I sat at Joy's table with her and her friends. Not really friends but we knew each other and it was fun to catch up. Until…
Until I learned that Joy was a published author. I was jealous. Green with envy, so much so it hurt. So much so it made me rethink that goal I had at seven years old, I wanted to be a published author.
And this is where Gracie Madison comes into play. I retold that story to Joy through Facebook several years ago. She joked that I should name a character after her.
I could have done the easiest thing and named my main character Joy. I could have, but I didn't. I thought about the type of book I wanted to write and Gracie Madison was born. I know I didn't name her after Joy but I did…hehe…
Gracie Madison Feels the World, a story about a teenager with exceptional powers, the powers of empathy, specifically, she's the Empath of Joy.
So thank you Joy Meredith for living out your dreams and making me so jealous, I had no choice but to work on mine.
Gracie Madison out, Summer 2016.
Thanks for the gorgeous cover art by: Mallory Rock. Malloryrock.com
Not that I'm not proud of the story, it was deeply personal, there were other things that I needed to accomplish.
On the day I planned to take the book down, I received an email from a reviewer, advising me she just put a review on Amazon, and hoped she wasn't too early. With a weird twist of fate she received a request sent last August.
It was a nice review, much appreciated, and it made me think maybe I was too hasty to remove it. My goal with the book, share my experiences as an introvert and how difficult it can be to work outside your comfort zone.
All I've ever wanted to be was a writer and yet it's been difficult to find my voice. Introvert to Sales Goddess is a small step as I discover what I'm capable of doing and the voice that's been buried for years. If it helps anyone find themselves it's worth the effort.
Sometimes we have to put faith in ourselves and trust that our instincts are good. Good things will come when we do.