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.
I'm a woman, I write what I know. The struggle between holding down a job and caring for a family. The struggle between living my life and chasing after a lifelong dream.
Honestly I believe we can't have it all, at least not all in a neat little package where everything works. Usually something has to give: friendships, hobbies, travel.
I struggle with the dream. The writing of the book, marketing it, trying to do it without a full-time job. And I'm finding myself at the end of this series, putting everything that I have in me, into the book.
When I read Harry Potter, I remember J.K. Rowling explaining what the dementors meant to her. She said they were a representation of her depression. I never forgot that.
The nearer I got to the end of my fifth book in The Wizard Hall Chronicles, the more upset I was finding myself. I've been living with the characters in my head for 10 years, crafting their lives, creating their journey on the pages of the books. I decided it would be the end of the series and it left me sad. But it also became more than an end of one journey. It was as if Annie was taking on my emotions, my struggles, in a way she never had before.
Annie's struggling with changes in her life, a trip to the past and newly acquired information that smacks her hard with the truth about her life. Essentially, she's experiencing my struggles, my emotional upheaval as I witness my own changes. My kids are nearly grown, I'm debating whether or not I should stop writing and just live my life.
It's my own fears, my own lack of confidence that I'm writing into the pages of Annie's story. While I'm not writing these things in the demons she meets, she essentially is me, and she is essentially experiencing what I'm experiencing.
February has in effect been a difficult month of selling books, of writing the last book of the series, of deciding whether or not this is all worth it. But in reality, I can't give this up. It is so much of what defines me, who I am and what I do. While I get frustrated reading best sellers that are poorly written, or discover what works for some isn't working for me, I'm still finding myself obsessively working to finish Annie's story, to the completion of her journey. It is what I have been working toward my whole life, writing, a book, a story, with meaning, something relatable to others.
I had a fan send me a word of encouragement, telling me not to give up because the story of Annie resonates with people. Maybe not a lot of people now, but someday maybe. She's relatable because she's me, and I'm writing what I know. And what I know is the only way to achieve your dreams or your goals is to keep moving forward, even if forward is only one step at a time, one day at a time.
Here's to the dreamers who can't give up.
One of my favorite television series is Supernatural. Do you watch it? On that show, two brothers, Sam and Dean, spend their days keeping the world safe from demons and other supernatural beings from the beyond. A recurring theme throughout the series is legacy and destiny. See, Sam and Dean were born into a “hunting” family. Hunters devote their lives to fighting the bad things that go bump in the night – vampires, sirens, spirits, and demons. Raised by their father, they travelled from town to town, staying in lousy motels until the evil de jour was gone—only to move on to the next town and the next threat.
At the beginning of the series, Sam has found a way out of this calling. He enrolls as a law student in California. That is until Dean knocks on this door and begs for his help to find their missing father. And with that, Sam is sucked back into the hunting game. Sam finally understands that he cannot escape his legacy. He is a hunter, by training and by family destiny. No matter how many times he attempts to carve out his own path, he is still hunting 13 seasons later. Ultimately he realizes that this is his role in life – to keep saving the world.
Another one of my favorite television characters is Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She too is led by her destiny. Unlike Sam, Buffy has no idea that true evil exists before assuming her slayer powers as a teenager. Her learning (and accepting) curve is much steeper than the other protagonists who have never known life without demons. She laments that her simple high school life is gone and tries to embrace her new skill set and her destiny. As the series comes to a close, she is still committed to combating evil even though the journey has been physically and emotionally exhausting.
Our Wizard Hall heroine, Annie Pearce, also has her own legacy – one that has been passed down from her father (like Sam) and one that involves inheriting powers (like Buffy). Annie’s father worked as a Wizard Guard and now she is following in his footsteps. She was born into the magical world and has had her powers since birth. Unlike Buffy and Sam, Annie has never questioned her path.
Somehow Annie seems to be able to carry this load without losing herself to the shadows that lurk underneath. Maybe it is because Annie has the best of both worlds—the powers needed to succeed and the history to accept this responsibility. Maybe it is because Annie is a part of a greater magical community with a whole infrastructure behind her while Buffy and Sam have to fight their battles with only a few cohorts by their side. Or maybe there is something in Annie that just makes her more innately suited for the job.
Regardless, these characters constantly succeed and beat the malevolent forces they encounter. They are all fierce fighters because of who they are and because it is their legacy. I find them each inspiring in their own way. Share some of your favorite characters with me on my Facebook page.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.
I didn't embrace myself when I started to write. I assumed I was doing something wrong until I met other authors. As I quickly found out, there are two types of authors. One like JK Rowling who meticulously plans out the story. I'm sure if you're a fan you've seen the notes and graphs of her outlines. She is what's known as a plotter.
The other side of this is the writer who starts with an idea, a beginning, middle and end and sits in front of the computer screen and just writes. That would be Stephen King, He approaches his stories as if he's discovered an artifact and as he writes, he carefully unearths the story. This is called a pantser.
And that is me.
For the longest time I thought I was doing it wrong. The crafting of the story I thought might go smoother, easier if I could plan it out. Unfortunately for me, planning always goes off the rails and I end up writing by the seat of my pants anyway.
After reading On Writing, by Stephen King, I realized other authors write like me and I stopped fretting and worrying, and finally embraced my style, learned to work with the quirks rather than fitting my style into someone else's.
Hell yes! As I write, I become kinda like the reader. I might have a direction in which I'm heading, but the story is slowly revealed to me and that includes twists and surprises. There have been times that the story unfolds and I will stare at the computer screen and think, “What the hell? I wasn't expecting that!”
I enjoy the surprises, not knowing exactly what's coming up for my characters. Though I must say, it can take more draft before the story is crafted the way that I like. But it is so worth the extra time. And I enjoy the surprises now that I embrace my process.
Lesson in the first: Embrace yourself. Why fight your true nature. Learn to work within your quirks.
Lesson in the second: Know your limitations and find a work around. I know it will take me more than two drafts before I have a well crafted story. It's just the way it is. I couldn't be happier with how The Wizard Hall Chronicles are shaping up. It wouldn't have been this good if I planned it.
Lesson in the third: Embrace who you are. When I stopped worrying about doing it like other authors and really looked at how I worked, whether it's writing as a pantser or writing best between 1 and 7 in the afternoon, I worked better not harder.
Lesson in the fourth: I'm not a bad story teller and I have a good product. Be proud of your work, put the effort in and people will notice. I've been fortunate to have found some amazing fans. Now if I can only clone them and find more like them, it'll be gravy.
So here's to the writers who plan and plot and those of us who sit down and write and let the story unfold. We are who we are however we get there.
The thing about writing urban fantasy stories, you get to make shit up. I like to base stories on traditional folk tales, stories that are familiar. I enjoy resonating with our collective past. Really, some of these tales are just too fascinating to pass up.
However, sometimes there just isn't an appropriate existing story that fits well with my plot and that's when I make shit up. Unfortunately or fortunately for me depending on how you look at it, I'm a pantser, meaning I write my stories with a rough idea of what the story is about, sometimes I have the beginning and the ending, oftentimes they don't present themselves until a later point in time. What's great about that is, I get surprised much like my readers would be surprised by plot twists. The downside, I come up with the idea and have to back track, research while in the grips of a great writing session. And that's where making up stuff comes in really handy. If you think it's a bad way to write, read Stephen King. He's one of us too.
I find that with enough careful editing, my stories tend to fall in to place better than if I could actually plot them out. I've tried, I just can't stick to the plan and for those of you who could, you're known as a plotter, much like JK Rowling. The point though that I'm trying to make is, regardless of your personal style, we get to make stuff up to fit our story the best way we can, whether it's beforehand or while writing. And in that process, the magical holiday of The Day of First Sun was born.
Excerpt from The Day of First Sun
Magic came to the world with the birth of the first magical child in a mystical clearing of land around 3500 BCE. To this day, that clearing was considered holy land for all magicals born thereafter, both good and evil. Over a millennium later, a battle was fought on the sacred land with devastating consequences.
A portal between Earth and other realms opened, giving vampires, werewolves, and other demons access to Earth. Myths told of a time when the sun did not come out and the beasts freely roamed the planet.
Centuries later, a brave witch fought a second battle on the sacred land, closing the portal forever. The battle, which took place on the first of September, became known as the Day of First Sun. Once the threshold closed, the sun emerged again, but it was too late. The Earth was overrun with supernatural evil.
Curious how the Day of First Sun affects the modern-day witch? Join the celebration. To order The Day of First Sun
I'm writing my memoir, sort of. It's not an exact retelling of my life and the low, very low experiences that have eventually brought me to this point. It's a lot of poetry, a lot of essays and a lot of imagery.
That's not so remarkable. JK Rowling wrote about her depression. She made it a character in her books. Remember the dementors? They were an embodiment of the depression she experienced after her divorce. Mine is an image, its water. Water, something that I bathe in everyday, that I drink all day and use to prepare meals. And yet, since I was about six years old, I've been terrified of the water.
I learned to swim in a lake. Dark and dirty, I couldn't see the bottom. I had a loss of control during one class, the day we jumped off the dock and the instructors kept us under water for what seemed like an eternity. I can still see the sun through the greenish water, a dull ball in the sky. I remember the panic waiting for the teacher to lift me out of the water. From that day on, I never liked being in the water.
I tried to learn over the years. I took the classes in high school, but my fear was so gripping that my teacher, while holding me in the deep end, told me, you are too afraid, I can't teach you here.” She proceeded to swim me to the shallow end, where I spent the rest of the two-week unit, walking. As if that's not a waste of time.
As I write about my life, about the death of my daughter, I find myself using water as a representation of that horrible time.
“it beats roughly against the rocky coast.”
“The water churns, and undulates, alive with pain, anger, love and loss. Each harsh wave erodes the rocks, removing a piece forever.”
“I can no longer breathe as the water pummels me, suppresses me, I try to scream but my voice can no longer be heard amidst the roar.”
I found myself writing the second entry and the images waters contained my sorrow, my heart-felt apologies, my fear and anger.
The water doesn't just scare me. It terrifies me. White knuckle terror. When I took swimming lessons after the birth of my second child, I remember swimming in the deep end of pool. I climbed out still wearing my life jacket and stood above the pool. My teacher told me to jump in. My head understood the command, but my legs were grounded to the pool deck. I couldn't move. I was paralyzed.
This is the imagery that describes the ups and downs. The white water rapids that describe my life. the way I can deliver my message and have others understand how I view my life.
Water terrifies.Continue reading
Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday. I have memories of both sides of my family coming to our house. I always have a sense of warmth. Even as I remember fighting my dad and brother for crispy turkey skin or making stuffing in my pajamas. I have to admit, I don't enjoy the holiday as much now that I'm an adult. It's a lot of work and it's exhausting. But I do hope that when I host it at my house, my children will take away their own special memories of Thanksgiving to pass on to their own children.
I've seen people this year expressing gratitude on Facebook. I didn't participate because some of my things I'm grateful for might not seem as normal as others. But we're all different and we all have different experiences that make us happy and thankful.
I'm always grateful for my children. They are amazing kids, fairly well-behaved, good students and constant reminders that I should be present in my life, take a little time to stop and enjoy and spent some quality time with them. Sometimes it's not always easy, sometimes I just have to turn off the computer. Annie and Cham will just have to wait.
I'm thankful for the people in my life. Some you get stuck with, some you let in because you like them. It's not always easy but they and the experiences you have with them make you who you are whether you like it or not.
I'm thankful for two amazing editors, Kira and Ashley. Not because they edited my books, but because they offered me a level of support beyond what was required and it was that support which kept me writing. For whatever reason they chose to give more of themselves and for that I will always be grateful and thankful.
I may never meet the next in my list but they influenced me in ways that truly shaped me as a writer. I'm thankful all of the writers of Nancy Drew who wrote under the name Carolyn Keene. It was my first time reading mysteries. I loved them and have ever since. To Judy Blume I'm thankful for the lesson in writing about characters you care for. I might not always hit the mark, but it's always in the back of my head as I try to draw a complete picture of who they are. To Stephen King, I'm thankful for the lesson in imagination, and thinking outside the box. I'm writing fantasy, anything can go, so let it flow. And lastly I'm thankful to JK Rowling for simply writing books that made me happy, but most importantly, reminded me that I wanted to be a writer. Without that little push, I might not have written my own books.
Lastly, I'm thankful for being me. For learning something from all of my setbacks and realizing that with a little belief in myself I might be able to get somewhere good.
It's always nice around this time to remember what we're thankful for. I can add so many other things and people and expand beyond my books or career but for now I'll leave the list where it is. It's a fluid and ever-changing thing as life moves about.
So what are you thankful for? Happy Thanksgiving!