Once upon a time I loved books. Don't get me wrong, I still do. Very much. Books are an essential part of my life. But I was someone who loved books and spent a lot of time, consciously or not, making up stories and "what ifs" in my head.
"Where does that road go?" or "Those two people holding hands. How'd they meet?" I even researched, finding topics that interested me and striving to learn all I could to the point of a friend calling these information gathering jaunts my "latest obsession." Yes, I heard those words in Dr. Frank-N-Furter's voice.
Anyway, while surrounding myself with books, I thought of writing my own. The people in my life at the time, who should have been supportive, laughed and told me I couldn't write because I wasn't smart enough, didn't hold a college degree, ecetera, ecetera. Trusting soul that I was, I believed them.
I made up stories for my children, some that are soon to see the light of day as kids' books, but otherwise I kept the stories in my head to myself.
The road to my writing destiny led me to a fanfiction site, and when I praised the work of a few of the authors, one asked why I didn't write. I explained that I was a reader, not a writer.
I started writing, dabbling on the site a bit. Due to my desire to help others, the administrators asked if I'd like to help moderate the site. I also became a beta reader and crit partner to the masses.
One of those administrators became the best friend I could ever hope to have. She told me the story of the lodgepole pine. The cones are sealed with resin. The only way to release the seeds is to apply heat. I mean serious heat. As in forest fires. Now, forest fires are deadly and destructive, but without them, there would be no new lodgepole pines. The newly released seeds quickly take root and repopulate burned areas. She even gave me a sprig of lodgepole pine dipped in silver, that became a symbol of some trying times.
You see, my life burned to the ground, leaving me shaking and crying, wondering what happened, how I'd ever move forward--or if I even could. I've lived a lot of years and those were the darkest days of my life.
This same friend urged me to write, to get all those negative feelings out. I didn't so much write The Telling as cut myself open and bleed on the pages. Every self-doubt, every fear, every insecurity is in that book for all to see. I poured all my flaws into the characters, and each character but one is my attempt to evaluate where I've been and how to move forward.
A strange thing happened. As I wrote these imperfect characters, they began to show strengths, and I came to realize that, like the flaws, those were mine too. I learned to live again through the writing of that book.
Folks said to me of that time, "You always land on your feet." They couldn't be farther from the truth. But I've discovered that, no matter how far or fast you fall, if you get up quick enough only you'll know the true extent.
The Telling was too personal to sell. I published it chapter by chapter on different websites, and when I finally put it on Amazon, I tried to mark it free but for some reason they never did. Right now it makes .99 cents per copy, and I give the proceeds to PFLAG.
Anyway, I said all those characters were me but one: Jay. He was the steadfast person I wanted to be, who always knew what to do or say in any situation, the rock other people could always depend upon, and confident in himself. I was surprised when a reviewer called him "too perfect." However, they were right. I'd set unattainable goals for myself.
Still, like young pine trees, I thrived. One book turned into two, then three and four...
My work has won Rainbow Awards, and was a finalist in the 2012 Lambda Awards. Most importantly, I met people through The Telling, wonderful people, people who are fast friends to this day. I've chatted online with folks who said the story touched them, gave them hope...
I can't ask for a more important calling in life than to give other people hope.
It's been ten years since I wrote about that young soldier returning home, wounded and keeping secrets, and on January 5 I'll release my 20th novel, Suspicion (Diversion Book 7). I'm no longer surrounded by negative people and I'm content. I've even had the great privilege of helping others obtain their writing dreams.
So to all of you out there who've been told you can't do or be what you want to, simply say, "Watch me."
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