Category Archives: The Things They Didn’t Bury

Re-read The Boy In Her Dreams Chapters 11-15

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BD11-15

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*And this is where the clock officially starts ticking. One of the most valuable pieces of feedback I received during early drafts of this series was to drop a ticking time bomb early on in order to drive the story forward while simultaneously driving the reader mad with worry. Much of my previous work had a tendency to be very episodic–this happened and then this happened and so on. I was used to writing literary fiction where the plot is mostly driven by the emotional development of the characters rather than external factors. But genre fiction is different. It’s much faster paced and every single word on every single page has to force the reader forward. Finding that momentum forced me to break old habits and think about stories in an entirely new way. Now I measure the potency of new ideas in terms of speed and friction. My characters don’t just need motivation but they also need a genuine fear–something that terrifies them into paralysis or motion. For Bryn that fear is never truly living, either because she’s dead, or helpless, or because her soulmate has no memory of who she is.

*Bryn doesn’t have many diving head first into a black hole of rage and hopelessness moments but the destruction of her sculpture provided an essential turning point in her story. She’s angry; she’s scared but her physical reaction is also incredibly defiant. Her body may be weak but she still has the power to destroy something, even if it’s her own dreams. Even if it’s the future she thought she wanted. Bryn may lose control in this moment but she also gains something valuable–acceptance. She doesn’t give up or accept her disease or Roman’s memory loss as a failure. Instead, she accepts the fight. There’s a war going on inside her, one that will manifest itself in the real world, and as she destroys this symbol of her past hopes and dreams she also resolves herself to fighting for new ones…even if she doesn’t know what they are yet.

BD-6-10Q2*Bryn and Dani have a special connection, one I’ve mirrored in Orphans of Paradise and The Things They Didn’t Bury. They’re more than family, which means that their friendship is forged by a kind of unbreakable bond. I don’t know what it’s like to have a sibling or even a cousin who you consider a best friend. I have childhood friendships that are familiar and comfortable and true but I’ve always been somewhat of a recluse, which is why writing about best friends has always been a fascination of mine. Like most introverts, I’ve fantasized about what it would be like to have an inseparable group of friends or a sister to share a bedroom with. I’ve always secretly wanted those things and during various phases of my life have tried to forge those bonds but the truth is I can’t function in those kinds of relationships. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost eight years and we’ve lived together for almost six and I have no idea why it’s different; why it’s easy. But for me, female friendships are just different. They’re much more mysterious and powerful and who wants to read a story about an eccentric writer with no friends? Great stories have great characters, which means giving your MC people to interact with who aren’t just foils or plot elements. For Bryn, Dani is much more than that. She’s her soulmate.

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*Roman’s grandparents are based on my own grandparents, although his get along much better than mine actually do. My grandmother used to make me eat so much I’d puke and my grandfather would sit with me while I cried for my mom, crying for his mom too. He is very sentimental and cries every time I see him while my grandmother always greets me with a status update on my weight.

*Bryn’s vision of her father being attacked was also a very last minute addition. Book 2 was really quite a mess until the third installment gave the paranormal aspects a more definitive direction. I wrote the majority of the first draft of book 2 totally not expecting Bryn’s father to have anything to do with the paranormal part of the story but it was definitely a fun surprise.

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The Indie Experiment-The Truth

My Indie Journey From Start to Finish:
The Indie Experiment:The Beginning
The Indie Experiment:The Decision
The Indie Experiment:The Teacher

The Indie Experiment: The Truth

 …the thing about hiding, even if it’s just one small part of who we are, is that it doesn’t hurt anyone but us–I’ve been re-reading this line for the past half hour, trying to figure out a way to frame this part of my journey. It’s a scary part and a sad part and something I don’t know how to talk about because I never really have before. Not like this where anyone and everyone can hear me, not without ducking or dodging or hiding or making myself sick. I don’t want to talk about it but I have to. I know that. Because this is how it all began, how I wrote something down and it changed my life, how it changed me.

The Things They Didn’t Bury isn’t a story about a girl looking for her mother or a girl falling in love for the first time or a girl growing up and coming into her own. It’s about me and I didn’t even realize it until I was over 70,000 words and four drafts in. When I was sixteen I found out the man who’d raised me wasn’t my biological father. One moment I was whole and happy and safe and the next I was empty and full of cracks, pieces of me scattered in people and places and memories I’d never known. For a year I didn’t try to fill them or fix them; I didn’t acknowledge them at all. Instead, I did what my family did best, I buried that secret so far down that pretending it had never happened was almost as easy as breathing. But the thing about cracks, about pain, is that even when you can’t feel them there, even when you’ve convinced yourself that they never existed at all they still do. They are invisible and when they are invisible they are dangerous. Because when you can’t see the cracks you have no idea when they’ll split you in two.

A year after I found out that I was the family secret the man who’d raised me got sick. My father was dying and we didn’t even know it and suddenly that year of pretending was all waste. Because it only made losing him that much harder. I hadn’t dealt with things because I hadn’t known how and even when I started writing it wasn’t to pull me out of anything, it wasn’t to work through my feelings, or to serve as some kind of cure. I was writing for escape. And yet, I hadn’t escaped a thing. Because after finishing The Things They Didn’t Bury, after reading the final version of something that had been in a constant state of evolution for three years, I was faced with all of it. Everything that I’d felt, everything I didn’t want to feel, everything I thought and believed and worried about. I was faced with the truth of me. My truth. And I finally realized why I hadn’t broken down, why I hadn’t given up after being abandoned by one father and burying another. Because those things that were inside me weren’t strangling me anymore. They weren’t stewing and they weren’t ruining and they weren’t hurting me. Not like before. Because they were trapped somewhere else, in that story, in those words.

Words. That’s what saved me. Even when I wasn’t paying attention. Even when I was just trying to escape. They saved me anyway and they keep saving me. When I’m afraid of failing or I’m afraid of being rejected or I’m afraid of feeling. Writing lets me feel things without being cut open, without being destroyed. Writing lets me say anything and be anything. Writing lets me share and connect and discover. That’s why I write and why I can’t stop. Because writing frees me from the shame of secrets. Writing lets me tell the truth.

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Introducing The Indie Experiment

I’ve blogged a lot about self-publishing, about how to know if it’s right for you, about how to keep your expectations in check, about how to make sure you’re absolutely ready to go indie. Because it’s tough out there. My first year as a self-published author has come and gone and the truth is I don’t have much to show for it except a bunch of real-life examples of what not to do and an insatiable, although some would say insane, desire to share those with all of you. So I shall. From beginning to end, every wrong turn and accidental success, every embarrassment and every dream come true. Because even though I’m not rich and famous that’s still exactly what happened. My dream of becoming an author came true and if that’s not a story worth telling then I don’t know what is.

The Indie Experiment:The Beginning

I wrote my first novel when I was in middle school and it was called “Screwed”, no sexual innuendo intended (Come on, I was twelve). I remember spending half an hour just picking out the right font–probably something swirly, probably something lime green. It was about a middle school, of course, and the main character just could not catch a break. I seem to recall something about a swirly and her losing her retainer in the cafeteria garbage. I spent all afternoon typing it up and at the end I was so proud that I did something that I’ve been reluctant to do since. I asked someone to read it. It was my mother. I think she’d been vacuuming and her clothes smelled like pine-sol, something I noticed because I was hovering over her shoulder as she read. I don’t remember what she said afterward. Something good, I’m sure. Something encouraging. Even though it was terrible. The next day I deleted it.

Eighth grade I thought I’d try my hand at poetry. Well, more like I was forced by my English teacher. I think I was just relieved that we were finally going to take a break from grammar. I hated grammar. But luckily for me the school was having some kind of contest and everyone was asked to participate, the best poems from each grade being printed and bound in a collection that our parents could then purchase, because you know, schools don’t sell enough useless shit in the name of school spirit. I wrote two poems about dying and one about patriotism (that last one was required) and miraculously they were chosen to be included in the anthology. I thought I was the shit. Until we got back to learning grammar.

I wrote sporadically, usually just when it was required for class, but fast forward to my senior year of high school (because I really don’t remember much in between) and that’s when I really started to get the “itch”. No, not that “itch.” The writing “itch.” I can’t really pinpoint the first story or the first moment when I started thinking about writing again but we were getting assigned to read a lot more contemporary fiction and I really loved my teacher and I guess I was just thinking about my future a lot more and what I really wanted to do with it. My high school years had been mostly devoted to volunteering with the National Honor Society and I’d even gotten a scholarship for having the most community service hours. I was getting ready to apply for an internship at a local non-profit, expecting to work in some field where I could go to work every day and try to save the world. But then something happened. It crept up on me, I guess, and I’m not sure what to call it except the truth. Of who I was and who I wanted to be. And I wanted to be a writer.

I’d always loved to read more than anything. More than playing sports, more than socializing, more than…math. Okay I love everything more than math I just couldn’t think of another example that wasn’t already summed up by everything. But you get the picture. Reading is definitely to blame for my current affliction and I remember having an especially revelatory moment during my senior year while reading The Kite Runner. The book literally took my breath away. It was perfect in every way, in every way that I wanted to write and think and be. I wanted to write stories like that. Sweeping emotional stories about family and culture and love. And then, in the midst of me grappling with the decision between pursuing writing and social work I got an idea. It started with just two people, a boy and a girl, and that was all it took.

The Things They Didn’t Bury changed so drastically from those first scribbled notes I made when I was seventeen. It changed countries and even changed wars. But what remained the same was the love story and now whenever I get an idea for a story that’s always what comes to me first–the people, that central relationship around which everything else in the story orbits.

I spent a lot of my senior year in the library doing research and taking notes. But even though I’d always been a good English student and had always gotten good grades on everything I’d ever written, I still wasn’t sure that I could write a book. Sometimes, even after writing five, I’m still not sure. But so began my volatile relationship with self-doubt. It also didn’t help that during my last semester of high school they finally decided to add a Creative Writing class to the schedule, except it was “invitation only” and I wasn’t invited. I was secretly devastated. And secretly I still am. But I like to look at it as my first real moment of defiance. Because who cared if I wasn’t invited into their stupid little writing class? I was still going to write and more importantly I wasn’t going to stop. Not then. Not ever. And once I had that realization, that not writing was not an option for me, the decision was easy. So easy that I waited until the day of the deadline to turn in my declaration as an English major. And even though I’m sort of living proof at the moment (although I partly blame this damn recession) that what people say about majoring in the arts is true, I also wouldn’t change a thing. Not one second. Not one day. Not one word. Because when I’m off the clock and not busy making someone else money, that time is all mine, and without everything I’ve learned there’s no way I’d be able to spend it becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.

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Merry Christmas Eve!

In honor of the holidays as well as the publishing anniversary of my first book, The Things They Didn’t Bury, my ENTIRE BACKLIST is NOW ON SALE for just 99 cents through the end of the year! This past year has been full of so many firsts. I moved out of state for the first time. I published my first novel. And even though it’s been an emotional roller coaster sharing my work with the world, slowly but surely, I’ve reached more readers than I could have imagined and I’ve developed so many special relationships with those readers. That’s truly been my greatest joy this year and I just want each and every one of them to know how much they are appreciated! Here’s to an even more amazing 2014! Merry Christmas!

TTTDB-blog

BG-COVEROprhans of Paradise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Get your copies for NOOK and KINDLE today!*

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