On the last day of this year I had the honor to do my very first guest post on a fantastic blog. Check it out. It’s an article about dreams! And I didn’t make any of it up as usual, it’s all based on facts.
Here’s an author interview (about me!) and giveway! It’s super fun to finally talk about the books, especially since they were a big secret for so long.
So I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I used to have a memoir blog under a pseudonym. In it I shared crazy stories from my childhood. Here’s one that relates to our blog topic here: paranormal abilities. And it gives you some silly insights into my child-like brain. I’m not sure I’ve matured much there.
There’s something I wanted so badly as a child but never had: an imaginary friend. I was absolutely fascinated with the idea of having this friend named Laurel, who spoke with an Irish accent, and made balloon animals. All over Saturday morning television there were shows portraying children and their imaginary friends. They always seemed to have so much fun together and I longed to know what that friendship felt like.
I also always wanted a psychic ability. I felt that if only I could tell the future or read minds or even palms then I’d be truly happy. I began focusing the attention once dedicated to inventing an imaginary friend into cultivating this talent. However, I proved to be a failure at reading minds.
Since my options for living a weird life were running short, I decided that I’d go into the field of mind control. My very first opportunity to hone this skill came when our Nintendo malfunctioned. All of my brother’s usual tactics of pulling out the cartridge and blowing on it didn’t work. Frustrated, David reverted to hitting the side of the TV to make Mario Brothers pop up on the screen. I had been sitting quietly on the sofa waiting the hour and half before my turn to play the game. My brother had apparently played the game so long that he’d overheated the system thereby rendering it useless. This would not do at all. As David proceeded to bang on the side of the TV, I closed my eyes and focused. The Nintendo works. The Nintendo works. The Nintendo works. I kept repeating those words in my mind, while simultaneously seeing the game actually working in my mind’s eye.
“Finally!” David shouted as the game chimed signaling that it was working once again.
My eyes flew open and a smile burst across my face. I extended my hand. “Give me the controller. It’s my turn.”
“Nah, give me five more minutes.”
That wouldn’t do at all. He’d been asking for five more minutes for half an hour. I closed my eyes and started the chant in reverse. The Nintendo doesn’t work. The Nintendo doesn’t work. The Nintendo doesn’t work. A minute later I skipped gleefully out the front door to play outside while David resumed banging on the television.
One day we were headed home on a frigid February day and our Toyota station wagon stalled at the light in town. My mother instructed my brother and sister to get out of the car and start pushing while she steered the car into a parking lot. She rolled down the window so that she could give them orders and the piercing winds flew back to where I was ducking down in the back seat.
“Why doesn’t Sarah have to help?” Anne yelled as she pushed alongside David.
“Why do you think? She’s not necessarily a large and strong kid. Push harder!” Mom commanded from the front seat.
Feeling glad to be young and little, I shot a smirk through the back window at my sister who was freezing her ass off pushing the car. Fifteen minutes later my siblings managed to push the car off the road and into the parking lot of the Western Wear Store. Everyone piled back into the car, shivering and red faced. Mom turned the key in the ignition and pushed on the gas. The car reared and reared, but didn’t turn over. “Come on!” mother coerced the car.
She tried again and then again and then again.
“You’re gonna flood the engine,” David hollered from the passenger seat. “And can you roll up the window? It’s freezing in here!” he exclaimed.
Giving him a dirty look, mother shook her head. “I know that. And no I can’t roll up the window. I’m smoking.”
“Be quiet, I’m trying to think!” our mother shouted as she flicked a cigarette ash out the window.
Closing my eyes, I began a chant in my head: The car works. The car works. The car works. Simultaneously I imagined the engine starting successfully.
Then all of a sudden there was the very real sound of an engine turning over. I opened my eyes to see my mom throw her hands up in the air. “Hooray! It worked.” She patted the dash board lovingly. “That’s a good car.”
I figured this was probably my moment to come clean and get my due credit. “Ummm, that was me,” I said.
“What was you?” Anne asked beside me.
“I fixed the car. With my mind.”
David and Anne doubled over laughing as our mother pulled the little station wagon out onto the road.
“Don’t laugh,” I said. “I have a sick sense. I can make things happen with my mind.”
“You’re sick, that’s for sure,” David said.
Mom extinguished her cigarette and then gave me a look over her shoulder. “You don’t have a sick sense.”
Oh great, now my own mother didn’t believe in me, I thought.
“It’s sixth. Sixth sense,” she explained.
“And you don’t have that either, Sarah,” Anne said.
If I couldn’t be psychic or have mind control then at least I could be weird. “I don’t care if you don’t believe me.” I fired another evil smirk at my sister. “Laurel believes me and that’s all that counts!”
The other day during a routine office visit, my doctor asked me what I was doing these days.
“Writing YA sci fi fantasy novels,” I told her.
I could tell by the blank expression on her face that this was not the answer she was expecting. I was supposed to say, “working in the accounting department at XYZ” or “managing a few accounts for XYZ.” Fessing up to being a writer makes people pause I’ve noticed.
My doctor then asked, “So did you study journalism in college?”
“Management,” I informed her.
Another pause. She actually furrowed her brow this time. “How does that happen?” she asked.
The short answer is I got bored. Bored of spreadsheets and meetings about meetings. I loved the people. The mission. The product. But the day-to-day was draining my creative vault more and more each year. I wanted to do something that was creative. Something that gave to our society in a different way. So I took down my diplomas and replaced them with a bulletin board which I quickly filled up with notes and ideas.
However, I still have a real job. One that makes me sound normal. I’m a college professor. Often I have students tell me they have no idea what they want to do with their lives. They’re in college, taking classes towards a degree, and one day they’re going to have to use it…but for what? Some of the college students aren’t young either. They have returned to school after raising kids or retiring from the job they never really liked.
These students must think that because I’m qualified to teach them how to write, that I might know something about advising them on the future. Or maybe like all those searching for answers, they’re just asking anyone who might have an answer.
These lost students of mine are thoroughly afraid that they’re going to earn a degree in something and then not like it. They’re even more afraid that they’ll end up getting a degree in one thing and do something totally different. “That would be a total waste,” they tell me.
A waste? Or is it the path to get you to where you want to be, even if it’s not where you were headed? The thing is that if you’re true to yourself then you’re going to grow up to be “you.” No matter what path you choose, it will take you there. I have a Masters in Management. Without that degree I would never have gotten to that crucial place in my life where I became unbelievably and painfully bored out of my mind. Maybe if I’d gotten my graduate degree in psychology (as I intended) then I would have been content in that profession and never become a writer. Maybe. Hard to know for certain.
So what advice do I actually give to my students when they ask me how to figure out what to do with their life? “Pick a path. Recognize you might not end up where you expected. And until you arrive, enjoy the ride.” If they don’t like this advice then I follow it up with saying, “Do something that gives people pause.”
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” This quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald is without a doubt my favorite literary quote ever.
I know, with the same certainty that I know the sun will rise tomorrow, that no quote will ever top this one. Is this because there is no other combination of words better than this?
Is it that no one can write anything more poetic?
The reason I know this will always be my favorite literary quote is it’s the one that made me fall unabashedly in love with literature. In essence, this quote was my first kiss. You never forget your first kiss. There will be other intimate moments, other ones that are more passionate, less awkward, more fulfilling. But you never forget the kiss that starts an obsession. Since these words of Fitzgerald’s passed over my lips for the first time, I’ve been an addict, seeking out novel after novel – searching for that orgiastic moment.
So what quote started your love affair with literature?
Telekinesis. Also known as Psychokinesis. It’s a paranormal ability that allows people to move and manipulate objects using their mind. In The Lucidite Series, the clever Trent has this ability. And if we could just hone this skill in ourselves then we wouldn’t have to get up to fetch the remote and we could play awful tricks on the general public. But is this a talent that can be taught? According to some, yes. Jack Houck, the founder of the PK Parties, claims that “85 percent of the attendees” to his events are successful with bending metal and plastic.
So let’s just say that you’re tired of throwing the same old holiday party. Well I’ve got a new idea for you. How about throwing a PK Party? What friend wouldn’t be intrigued with leaving your shindig with a broken spoon and a cool new party trick under their belt? So if the idea interests you then check out the format for the party and then hop off to the hardware store. And if you do throw one of these parties, please send me an invite.
I’m infinitely grateful I’ve chosen to be an indie author. The path that led me here was frustrating and downright disparaging at times. But I’m thoroughly glad at where I arrived. I like control. I like knowing things are being done to my specs. And as an indie I can do that. A traditionally published author, as I’ve heard from numerous sources, doesn’t have these freedoms. Usually the publisher dictates the content of the book, gives a couple of options for a final cover, and handles all of production. So I’m glad to here, but my past self DID NOT like the idea of indie publishing. That girl, she wanted the biggest and best agent representing The Lucidites Series. Let me take you back.
*Flash back music
I’d just completed the first draft of the first book in the series, Awoken. And I knew as I was writing the book who I was going to send it to first: Jodi Reamer. She’s one the biggest literary agents out there and represents Stephanie Meyer, John Green and Ally Condie, just to name a few. She’s a big deal. And we had history together. She asked for and read one of my previous manuscripts (from a book that I had adapted from a blog). And she liked it…but didn’t love it. She eventually passed on the manuscript, but asked if I’d send her future work.
Yes, I will.
So I’m writing Awoken, daydreaming about how much Jodi is going to love it. The book was so solid in my mind I didn’t even proof it when it was done. Yep, that’s right. No proofing. The only thing I did when the book was done was send a query to the biggest agent in the business.
And I waited.
And then she finally responded! Well her assistant did. And he said, “Jodi’s intrigued. Please send full manuscript.”
Well I screamed. Woke up my infant. Did the happy dance and hit “send.”
I had no idea how much work that book needed. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know that books need multiple rounds of revisions, beta readers, editors. That books need to be left alone and then picked up with a fresh editorial mind. But my reality check was in the mail, so to speak.
Did Jodi tell me to take a hike? Nope. Did she write back and pass on this book but invite me to send others. Nope. She did what most agents who come in contact with amateur writers do. She ignored me. Never responded. And that’s okay, because her silence finally sunk into my dense brain and I went and figured out what I didn’t know I didn’t know. And I learned it. I took my books on a revision retreat, where I woke them up every morning, made them run laps until they were as toned and strong as they could be. In the afternoon we meditated together, became connected. And in the evening I had them meet with bright minds who offered feedback on how my books could improve themselves (my beta readers).
Well I hope you enjoyed that analogy. The truth of it is that I was ignorant. Then I became educated. And then I whipped my books into shape. And when I was done with that journey I realized I’d come so far that I didn’t want Jodi or any other agent’s help. I had proven that I had the fortitude and awesome support system to do this myself. And so I became what I never expected: an indie author.
So let’s raise our glasses to failure. Let’s toast to all our screw ups, because without them we may not become a better version of ourselves.
Most people were pretty surprised recently when I came out of the writer’s closet.
“Why keep it a secret?” “What else are you hiding?” “Now I’m not sure who you are anymore.”
These are some of the comments I’ve gotten. Ninety-nine percent of the people in my life had no idea that I declined social invites and perfected a hermit lifestyle because I’m a writer. And so when I dropped the news with also the details that I’d finished a three book series during this stint, I surprised a lot of folks.
Here’s the first reason for my secrecy: First of all, saying you’re writing a book is like saying you’re going to New York to get a job on Broadway. Most people smile politely and then shake their head and say “good for you.” However, when you come out of the writer’s closet after the books are completed, people are impressed. You’re not aspiring to write anymore, you’ve written. Secondly, I love my friends and family, but writing is a very personal and intimate affair. Instinctively I knew I had to keep people out of my head. The first question people have when you say you’re writing is, “What’s it about?” And then people have suggestions or comments and then you’re no longer alone writing this book. Aunt Mary tells you to put a character in your book who resembles Grandpa Bob. Tell people after the books are done and they only have encouragement to offer (I’ve found), no input or advice on settings and plot line.
So that’s why I lived this secret life. Just suited me better. And while I’m at it, divulging secrets, I’ll tell you that I also had a fairly successful blog for a few years. It was under a pseudonym. Again me with the secrets. The reason this time is it was a memoir and I didn’t want to publicly air all the family secrets. But I’ve got a story or two from that blog that would fit perfect here (paranormal stuff), so be on the lookout.
I really couldn’t resist. As a Southern, I find the best days are the ones I start off with a bowl of grits. These cheesy grits are truly delicious. Don’t ask for the recipe. It’s not that type of blog. And I’m only posting this to be ironic, something I do all too often.