Do you love Christmas enough to celebrate it year round?

A good and dear friend of mine has a blog entitled Yuletide Blessings, which aims to do so. Discussions and blog posts are about traditions, recipes, crafts, books, and more. Please visit the link below to read her review of a Christmas-themed novel and view the website further. My thoughts on Christmas books are also below:

I tend to read Richard Paul Evans’s annual Christmas novels. He has been pretty regular about putting one out every year for several years now. While I have read other novels centered about this time of year, his dominate my reading repertoire. I would have to say that most of his books and other Christmas novels I’ve read rely more on the timeline of Christmas. The decorations are up, the baking is happening, the shopping is going on, the parties are in full-swing, but that is the extent of the holiday backdrop. As for Christmas as a setting, the only real story I’ve read (and many times, mind you) that follows this is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Maybe it’s because that story has survived the test of time and has become a staple in holiday history and meaning, but that whole story revolves around the deeper meaning of Christmas and keeping it in our hearts year round, so much so that it changes a man’s life. Few stories have that effect, I feel.

Visit Yuletide Blessings

Why Perseverance Matters

It’s a new year. While the topic of this blog may have the feel of a resolution, I believe we can choose to start a new habit anytime.

But really, what better time to speak about perseverance? The gym is packed with people who will fade away before the month is over. I will still be trekking away on the elliptical at least three days a week like I have for six years. People will try the latest diet fad. I will just continue to eat modestly and mostly healthy and not calorie-count or deny myself a glass of wine or a bit of chocolate. I will keep plugging away at my writing, doing it every day for at least thirty minutes like I have for three years.

Sound magical?

It’s not. I promise you, I am not some sort of disciplined guru. I suck at time management. I try to squeeze too much into a short period of time and grow upset when I fail to accomplish everything I set out to do in a day. I am always ten minutes late, despite my good intentions otherwise. I slack in making myself look decent most days, choosing the easy I-am-a stay-at-home-mom look of yoga pants, a T-shirt, no makeup, and hair in a ponytail.

So I ride the struggle bus, too, folks. I get overwhelmed by committing to too much and then go into hibernation mode. Hint: This just happened this month.

But I am back to blogging weekly. Yep, I took a break from it during the insane month of Christmas, um, December. Part of perseverance, I believe, is balance–knowing when too much is too much, when enough is enough.

To many of us, we will picture persevering as plowing on through the storm, despite all odds, that somehow giving up or giving in is cheating, taking the easy way out, or being a wimp.  Now, let me ask you something: Do you honestly think it’s taking the easy way out to admit you are overwhelmed and need help, need to take a breather, to relax and then get back on the bandwagon? I don’t think it’s being cowardly to be sensible. Keeping the balance and perspective keeps a person on the path of perseverance.

Anyone who has been in a committed relationship long enough knows that perseverance takes a lot of time, effort, willingness, and energy. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. People who are married for fifty years didn’t have sunshine and rainbows every day, but they learned to appreciate the sunshine after the rain.

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So, I ask you: What’s holding you back from embracing perseverance for the companion it is? Fear? Failure? You can only fail by not trying in the first place. You can find a thousand ridiculous things to fear every day and forget to live. Life is not meant to be a race or an emergency. It’s meant to be enjoyed.

We reap that joy fully by persevering through life. If you want to try something new, if you want to lose weight, if you want to write a book, if you want to travel more, then DO IT! Laziness is no excuse for stopping you. Failures or setbacks will happen, but you need to see them as stepping stones paving your way, not stumbling blocks.

I didn’t establish my gym routine or writing routine by sitting on my sorry ass. (Sorry–no, not really.) I worked at it every day, little by little.

I leave you with a quote by the less-than-formidable president Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Happy New Year, folks. Make it a goodie. Persevere.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday, including book reviews.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Year in Review…and Looking Forward

In 2017, I…

  • finished two manuscripts (third and fourth)
  • began working on my fifth manuscript
  • edited my second manuscript with the help of my writers group
  • published my second book
  • attended a writers conference
  • got feedback from an agent on 10 pages of my writing
  • wrote my first short story in a new genre for me: horror
  • educated myself on branding and marketing
  • began blogging weekly
  • created a weekly plan for my website of posting a poem, a blog, and an excerpt from one of my stories
  • created accounts across social media for author branding
  • followed other bloggers
  • created my author site (www.cynthiahilston.com)
  • used buffer.com for active posting on my social media sites
  • became friends with several people from my writers group
  • contributed guest posts to Writer’s Path
  • entered a few online writing contests
  • began reviewing indie author’s books on my blog
  • read 52 books

In 2018, I plan to…

  • finish my fifth manuscript in January
  • focus on marketing and branding for a while
  • promote my published books
  • edit my third manuscript
  • publish my third book
  • begin editing my fourth manuscript
  • begin writing my sixth (and possibly seventh) book
  • work on more short stories
  • enter more online contests
  • continue to actively engage on social media
  • continue to make guest posts
  • continue to find new bloggers to follow
  • continue book-blogging
  • enrich my friendship with fellow writers and authors
  • keep readingpablo (16)

Happy New Year! Here’s to a productive 2018! Thanks for your support in 2017.

Pay It Forward…A Reminder

‘Tis the season…

To be jolly?

To go into debt?

To give.

Because God first gave to us His son, Jesus.

In the midst of the craziness of shopping, stressing, overspending, and stressing some more, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters.  Whether you’re Christian or not, whatever reason you celebrate Christmas–whether religious, secular, or both–I believe that this season can bring out the very best in people.

Goodwill toward men, indeed.

I went into this holiday season trying to not overspend on gifts.  Having three young kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying them things they just don’t need, especially when they’re inundated with commercials for the latest hot toys.  What five-year-old doesn’t tell their mom at least once an hour, “I want that, Mom?”

It’s a trap.

Seriously.

No joke.

I kid you not.

Kid.  Ha, I was talking about kids and wanting stuff.  Anyway, pardon my bad sense of humor.  I digress…

I fell into the same money pit this year by spending too much on my family, and I was torn between wanting to give, give, give and wanting to take some of the things back.  In the end, a mom’s desire to see her kids’ excitement on Christmas morning when it came time to open the gifts won out.

However, I am vowing to go about this insanity differently next year.  I want to donate or give to charity the same amount that I spend in gifts on my family.  That’s not an original idea, but I heard it somewhere, and it stuck with me.  I’m up for the challenge, and I’m not all talk. (Update: This was written in 2016. Now it’s 2017, and I am happy to say I lived up to this challenge of giving equally to charity what I spent on gifts.)

See, when I put my mind and heart to something, I can accomplish it.  Case in point: Almost two years ago, I sat down and said I was serious about writing an original story.  I would write at least fifteen minutes a day.  If I missed a day, okay, but I wouldn’t let more than two days pass without writing.  Ten months later, I had my first draft completed.  That was almost a year ago.  Now, I have the first draft of a second novel completed that’s currently being read and edited by a writers group at the library.  I have self-published my first novel after going through the arduous process of querying a hundred literary agents and getting many rejections, but I kept at it.  I am well into writing my third novel.  I have the first chapter written of my fourth and have an idea for a fifth. (2017 update: I have finished drafts of novels three and four.  I am well into my fifth.  I self-published novel number two.  I have ideas for six and seven.)

pablo (13)So, if I can write and be dedicated to it, I can be more generous next Christmas.  I can give more to those who really are in need and give less to my own family, who already has plenty of things.  We don’t need more stuff.

You might think, “Okay, that’s all well and good to make plans about what you’re going to do next year, but what are you doing about it right now?”

I do regularly give to charity.  I sponsor two children through Children International, but for me, that wasn’t enough this Christmas.  I became aware of a family in need.  The father had just lost his job, and having a kid to support, you can understand why I wanted to help out.  Also, this family is close to heart, so if there was something I could do to help them, it would be all the more important to me.

I didn’t have the means to personally give them much as far as money goes, so I organized a Go Fund Me campaign and rallied my friends and family for several days to give to this family.  It was a beautiful thing to see the response.  Many gave, and it’s not a matter of how much you give, but giving what you can.  In the end, I was so happy to be able to give them a sizable amount of money to help them pay their bills and put food on the table, and while I was a part of that, I cannot and do not take full credit.  So many people stepped up, and I love that.

Another friend told me about the local Elk’s Club wanting to give a large box of food and gifts to local families in need, and she thought of the family I was supporting.  Needless to say, I got in touch with the Elk’s Club, and they were so generous and kind to deliver such a box to this family. (2017 update: This family is doing well this Christmas, although her sister lost a child and doesn’t have the money to pay for much of a Christmas for her other kids because of funeral costs. Not only did the family I helped last year help this devastated family, but I was also moved to send them some gifts. There is always someone in need who you can bless.)

In the midst of all this, I have my own troubles, but to help others lifts the burden of my problems.  I firmly believe that reaching out and helping others is one of the best ways to help yourself.  Everyone benefits.  There is nothing lost, for, you see, love has no end.  It’s funny how the more love you give, the more love grows.  The more love you receive.

So, I did my little part in paying it forward.  I had no expectation of getting anything in return from those I helped, so you can imagine how moved I was to be on the receiving end of the generosity of others who felt they wished to help my family.  I never asked for it, nor expected it.

A Christmas card arrived from my church a couple of weeks ago with a hundred dollars in gift cards to a grocery store!  The card was simply signed “From your friends at church.”  I have recently expressed my heartache to some friends at church about the struggles my autistic son and my family are going through, so I can only guess that someone did this kind deed because of that.  I cannot be sure.

As if that weren’t enough, on Christmas Eve, my husband and I dressed to play Mary and Joseph and were waiting in a classroom for our entrance into the sanctuary when a friend approached me and handed me an envelope.  “It’s not really a Christmas gift,” she said, “but a couple of us from our ChristCare group (a Bible study group of sorts) wanted to help you out.”  I smiled, thanked her, and tucked the envelope in my purse.  Hours later, after the service was over, the kids were in bed, and the presents were under the tree, I opened the envelope to find three hundred dollars inside and a note that said, “For your son’s therapies.”  Tears streamed down my face for the second time this Christmas season because of the kindness of others.

So, as another year winds down, I am thankful.  It started around Thanksgiving with the extra intention of choosing kindness.  As Christmas came upon us, I made the extra effort to pay it forward in terms of generosity, just one form of kindness.  And it certainly came back around to touch me.

If you don’t believe that what goes around comes around, maybe you’ll think my story is just that–a nice little story.  To me and many others, it’s more.  Much more.  May we all go into the New Year with a sense of wanting to reach outside ourselves, and you’ll see.  It will come back to you.

Merry Christmas!

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday, including book reviews, which will resume in January 2018!

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Ugh, do I have to wake up?

Waking up is vastly overrated.  The pillows, the blankets, the soft curve of the mattress against my body, these are calling my name, beckoning me like a lullaby.

But if I’m honest with myself, I’m lucky today.  I actually didn’t wake before my alarm on my phone.  My kids didn’t wake me up.

Hey, I can get dressed, wash my face, and brush my hair in five minutes of silence!

Small blessings…

If I sound sarcastic, I don’t mean to be.  There are those sunny people who would tell me to be happy for another sunrise, and while part of me wants to show them where they can shove their bright remarks, the better part of me knows they’re right.

Besides, you can’t hold too much against me right now.  I haven’t had my coffee yet.

So, it’s the start of another day.  In the hour or so before getting out of the house, I need to feed three young kids breakfast and get them dressed and ready for school (with the exception of my daughter, who is only one).  Oh, and I also need to feed myself somewhere in there.  You’d think this wouldn’t be so hard, but that’s a lie many young moms tell themselves to feel better.  Kids are disagreeable by nature, little people designed to push Mommy’s buttons.  I admit I am not the most patient person on the planet, but after several mishaps in less than an hour, sometimes I’m ready for the clock to read 8:00 PM and not 8:00 AM.

But I push through my little aggravations…usually.  I get the boys off to school, and it’s to the Y to work out.  Working out is a great stress-reliever, but you know what comes to mind about the Y for me?  There is an older gentleman who works at the Y I go to.  He’s a custodian.  It’s his job to clean toilets, to scrub floors, and to unclog drains.  Yet he always, always smiles at me (and everyone he passes) and says, “Hello, how you doing?”  He’s the type of guy you can’t help but smile back at and say hello, even on the tough days.

So, what’s he got that a lot of us don’t?  Can I have your seeds of happiness and plant them inside of me, sir?  I don’t like being miserable…and yet, I do it to myself.  I choose to complain many, many times throughout every day about mostly trivial things: red lights, running late, being behind a slow driver, my son arguing with me, having to turn around and change a poopy diaper after just doing so…

Yet there are bigger things that lie just under the surface.  Am I a good mom?  Am I doing enough for my kids?  I don’t feel equipped to be the mom of an autistic son.  Who thought I could handle this?  What about my dreams, my ambitions, my identity?  I’m a writer.  Is my stuff any good?  Are people just humoring me by being nice?  Do people really want to be my friends?  Who could possibly love me?

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Wow.

Tough questions that stab at the heart.  Those are seeds of discontent, of lies, of hatred, of fear.  Plant those and they will choke out anything good, honest, loving, and hopeful.

I’m throwing out this obvious disclaimer before I go any further: I am not an expert on the topic I’m going to attempt to write about here–gratitude.  My guess is you probably struggle with feeling grateful most days as well.  It seems to be human nature to focus on the negatives.  So, let’s take this journey together.  Let’s foray into the muck of lies we tell ourselves (that we’re no good) and try to come out on the other end into something better (that we’re worthy).

I have done some book studies in a small group I’m in at church on this topic–gratitude.  Some people call it counting your blessings.  It’s not always easy, especially when emotions take hold and force us to take an ugly turn.  As I’ve gotten older (and maybe a bit wiser), I have heard that little voice in the back of my head more–yes, even when I’m super-hormonal and slightly crazy!

When things are spiraling out of control, I can often see it unraveling.  I know I am only going to make things worse for me and everyone else who has the unfortunate habit of crossing my path miserable.  Often, I am focusing on one bad thing and ignoring many good things.  There’s that one person who has let me down (or so I think), has pissed me off, or is just seeming to not live up to my expectations.  Ah, expectations.  Those nasty, petty things we want others to do, because, you know, we (read: I) know best.  Um, right…

Stop right there.  This is where we (yes, you and I) take a deep breath and think.  Yes, think.  Not react.  Think about what’s going right in life.  There are plenty of people who love me, who support me, who are there for me.  I am breathing, aren’t I?  I am alive.  Sometimes it’s raining, and I long for sunshine.  Sometimes it’s sunny, and I want a rainy day to cuddle inside and read a good book.  But every day is truly a blessing when you think about it.

If you’re like most Americans, you have a roof over your head, food on the table, and clothes on your back.  You don’t even have to think about these things, these bare necessities, but they are blessings.  Often, I find that when I am taking my blessings for granted, when I stop and think about it, I know I have been blessed to be a blessing to others.

That’s gratitude–being thankful for what you do have without expecting more.  A wise woman I know who has been through hell and back has a mantra: What are you doing with what you already got?

So, plant those seeds of the good stuff and water them often.  That’s how you start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  You make the conscious effort (a choice, yes) to be grateful every day and count those blessings.  I started writing my blessings down, with the goal of reaching 1000.  I think I stopped somewhere in the 800s, but I got pretty far!  I didn’t write them all in one day…a few a day, sometimes with several weeks in between writing them down.  When you see those blessings written down, it can make them more concrete.

It takes a lot of practice and a constant, conscious effort to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  Do it enough, and that little voice starts to speak with more authority.  You are more than the sum of your fears and little hates.  You are someone whose life has a purpose.  For me, I believe God sees the beauty in us even when we don’t see it in ourselves.

Those seeds can grow into something beautiful, something life-sustaining and worth sharing with others.  So, I invite you to think about it.  Plant some good seeds with me, make a choice, and watch them grow.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday and a book review the second Friday.

My new novel, Lorna versus Laura, is being released on Sept. 2 and is available for pre-order (only $2.99) here.

My first novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful,  is available for $3.99 here.

Keeping the Perspective

It’s hard sometimes when in the midst of a problem to see past it.  Everything looks blurry.  The road ahead is unclear.

It’s easy to let emotions take control during these trying times, and next thing you know, you’re blowing up a balloon meant for a birthday party into a hot air balloon — yes, lots of hot air and a balloon not meant for flying, so it pops.

This is when you and I need to stop.  Just stop.  Seriously.

Take a deep breath.  Several if you must.  Close your eyes.  Count to ten.  Or one hundred.  Whatever it takes to calm down.

My latest frustration — well, one of them — has been educating myself on how to market better.  I am a writer, not a marketer.  I do not have a business degree in marketing.  I am no expert.  Neither am I foolish enough to think that the stuff I write is just going to sell itself.  Something like 1000 books are published every day.  That’s 30,000 books a month!  

It doesn’t take long to get up to my eyeballs in terms like “author platform,” “branding,” and “target audience.”  Say what?

Okay, so I’m a newbie at this marketing stuff.  I don’t know heads from tails, really.  I’ve been reading daily for two meager weeks about marketing, but I am learning.  I highly recommend Rachel Thompson’s book, BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month.  It’s somewhere to start.  I’ve learned to use Twitter more.  I’m creating simple, hopefully eye-catching graphics using Pablo at Buffer.com — free and easy to use.  I’m using Buffer.com to regularly post things daily across my social media platforms.

The posting has been going for about a month, and I have to be honest — it’s not generating the “likes” I was hoping for.  Then again, what did I honestly expect?  These things don’t just happen overnight.

So, this whole marketing thing has gotten to me.  It’s easy and tempting to want to whine about it and think that I’m just being ignored.  Oh, poor me.  Pity party city.

To which the grown up side of me says, “Grow a pair, Cynthia.”  Seriously.

This is where I need to stop.  Take a deep breath.  

Let’s talk about keeping the perspective.pablo (12)

I’ve only been writing original works of fiction for a little over two years.  In the sea of authors, that’s dipping a toe in the Pacific Ocean.  I have self-published one book to little success, but I have gotten a handful of reviews.  I have gotten people outside of my circle of family and friends to read it.  That’s a start.

Three years ago: I wasn’t writing anything original.  My first book idea was stuck at four chapters I’d written more than five years earlier.

Two years ago: I was just starting out on my journey as a writer of original stories.  I had no idea if I was even going to finish my first book, but for the first time in my life, I was committed to sitting down every day and writing, even if it was only for ten minutes.

One year ago: I had finished my first draft in ten months.  It had subsequently gone through four months of edits by friends.  I was querying agents, not really having any idea what I was doing.  I had just started (and I mean just) writing my second and third stories.

Now: I have finished books two and three in their first drafts.  Book two is nearly done going through edits.  Book three is about to enter the editing phase.  I am writing books four and five.  I have ideas for six and seven.  I am blogging regularly on a site that has a domain name.  I am active on social media.  I am beginning to market.

Whoa.

And that’s not even to mention all the amazing people I’ve met along the way!  If it hadn’t been for writing, I would have never met most of my online friends years and years ago.  Long before writing original stuff, I was hanging out in the realm of fan fiction.  I made lots of good friends and have years of fond memories because of it.  I have met many of these folks in person.  I have hugged them.  We’ve laughed and cried together.

More recently, I have met and become friends with several people from a writers group that meets regularly at my local library.  We have the commonality of being writers, but when we meet, we bare our hearts and souls at times.  After all, as writers, we often pour our deepest selves into our writing.

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It’s the people who are the greatest blessing from all of this.  And I’m writing, doing what I love.  Yes, even in the midst of learning how to market.

One step at a time.  

When you’re overwhelmed by whatever problem is trying to eat you, eat it instead by remembering how far you’ve already come.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  That only brings misery.  The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.  

You got this.  Keep going.  It’s worth it.

Like what you’ve read?  Thanks for reading my mini-blog!  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog at the end of every month and a book review blog the 15th of every month.

Please note: I’m posting this in place of my usual character profile on Friday.

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Why I Write What I Write

“Where some might see ugliness, I see beauty, at least the potential of it.”

A question many writers and authors get asked is why they write what they write.

You have probably also heard it said that you should write what you know.

I’ll admit, much of the details of what I write isn’t what I know directly — that is, I haven’t experienced it firsthand.  But I can tell you that I know what it is to feel suffering, pain, pleasure, sadness, anger, or any number of emotions.  This is part of the human condition.

Someone once suggested I write about my experience of raising an autistic son.  While I write about this in my blogs, I do not do so in fiction.  Why?  Because it’s too close to home.  I live this reality every day.   When I write, that is my escape.  Why would I want to bring something that has caused me tremendous emotional pain at times into my fiction?  For some writers, this works.  This is therapeutic for them.  It’s not for me, so I’ll stop right here and not address that issue further.

However, what I can say is that I can take my anguish from my own experiences and pour it into my characters.  When I am describing a character whose sadness is so overwhelming that she cannot even find the words, I know this.  She has dropped to the floor like a rag doll, her head flopped forward as tears stream uncontrollably down her face.  Her nose drains.  Her throat is closed up.  She’s shaking, almost convulsing.  This pain runs so deep, her body shudders.

Or the opposite: such elation, such euphoria that she feels like she might very well burst out of her physical body.  The body can’t contain the soul!  It’s the closest thing to flying without feet actually leaving the ground.

The cool thing about writing my experiences with different emotions is that I can show, rather than simply tell, my readers what the character is feeling.  That alone is huge, so what I choose to write about translates into how I write and how I feel I am supposed to write…if that makes sense.

I write what I write mostly based on what I love to read.  Most of the books I read are based in reality.  They take place in this world, not in some fantasy world like Middle Earth or Narnia.  I have read The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and I love those stories, but it isn’t the fantasy aspect that spoke to me in them.  It was the hardships the characters went through.  Like anything I read, I am attracted to highly-flawed, even broken, protagonists.  The underdog or even the anti-hero is who I root for.

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I love seeing how these smashed vessels are made whole again, even with pieces missing.  If romance is involved, I adore seeing two such characters come together to create something beautiful by the end of the book.  Again, their love story isn’t perfect.  They won’t live happily ever after, but they will have each other.

I was never the popular girl growing up, although I wouldn’t make the assumption that just because someone is gorgeous, wealthy, and well-known that they are happy.  My experiences in my youth as someone who was ridiculed incessantly for any number of reasons (take your pick — I was too skinny; my parents wouldn’t buy me the “cool” clothes; my dad liked to garbage-pick; I was a nerd; I wore glasses; I didn’t stand up for myself and other reasons I won’t get into) made me drawn toward the characters who were ugly.  Maybe not physically ugly, but they could be.  And I don’t mean so ugly personality-wise that they have no redeeming qualities.  A male character who is simply a jerk and treats women like pieces of meat isn’t someone I am going to root for or write about.  A female character who is a bitch toward everyone just for the fact of being so isn’t someone I’d want to read about, let alone write about.

Where some might see ugliness, I see beauty, at least the potential of it.

I write for my characters.  My characters, in turn, drive the plot.  Flimsy characters that are as flat as a sheet of paper won’t stand up to the trials I will put them through in the story.  My characters need to be believable.  It’s like stepping into another body for a time, learning how that soul operates differently from mine, and listening to the voice that inhabits it.  I am merely a visitor who’s holding a notepad, writing down that character’s story.  The character’s voice is strong enough to tell me what to do, not the other way around.

The stories I love to read are character-driven.  My writing is character-driven.

A part of writing character-driven stories comes with having to do things to characters that hurt me deeply.  I have had to kill off several characters, for example.  It’s heartbreaking every time.  I think one of the saddest character deaths I wrote was a man who was a father-figure to the protagonist in the story.  This guy had given the protagonist, a young man who had made many foolish choices and was trying to rebuild his life, a leg up.  He loved this young man like his own son.  The protagonist adored this older man, and then I killed him.  It’s something that happens often in stories — the mentor figure must die so that the hero can rise to the occasion.

I kind of hated myself for a few days after doing that, but if I can convince my reader to feel the heartbreak of that character’s death, then I have done my job as a writer.

My first story evolved around my late grandma’s life.  I told the story of Hannah, a character loosely based off my grandma, from her birth to her death.  Writing her death was the most realistic thing I’ve written, as that part of the story was based very much on my experience.  From that story, I branched out to exploring other tough topics, like alcoholism, car accidents, illnesses, miscarriages, and simply the inner conflict of the character struggling to figure out who they are.

When someone reads one of my stories and says it made them cry, I know I’m doing an effective job at creating believable characters.  When I read a story, if I don’t care about the characters, I don’t care about the story.

Sometimes I still take a step back and wonder how I can create characters and the worlds they inhabit.  I guess it’s just practice, time, effort, and perseverance.  And listening to what others tell me.  The feedback I get, especially the constructive criticism that tells me what I’m screwing up, is invaluable.  This sort of criticism only serves to improve my writing, so long as I am willing to listen and put it into practice.  And I am.  I do.  I take my writing seriously.

For me, writing is part of my soul, as much a part of me as my children or my husband.  It’s like breathing.  To not write, to me, would be to die a little every day.

At the end of the day, I write because I must.  As for why I write what I write, I will show you rather than tell you with this excerpt from one of my stories:

“We were, neither one of us, one persona or the other, but rather some beautiful, messy, complicated version splattered on a canvas, but a masterpiece painting nonetheless.”


 

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Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful