What You Never Saw When You Looked At Me

I grew up a Christian. I declared my belief in Jesus as my savior when I was five-years-old. I loved Jesus. I embraced faith so easily when I was little, because the faith of a child is incomparable. It’s absolute. It’s flawless. There is no room for doubt in the heart of a child. It’s only when they get older that doubt creeps in, that they start to believe the hurtful things that people say. That they let themselves believe that maybe they’re not as worthy of love as they once thought.

This is what you never saw when you looked at me.

I’ve been battling depression since I was thirteen.

It started small. I didn’t even realize what it was at first. It was like a heavy feeling, falling on my shoulders, burdening me. I let people convince me that I was just lazy. That I just needed to get out and do more things. I let people judge me and convince me that there was something wrong with me. And there was. But I couldn’t tell them. Because if I told them I was depressed, then that meant I wasn’t a good Christian.

How did I get this idea about myself? Based on religious views and the comments of others, I came to the conclusion that if someone said they were deeply depressed, it meant that there was something wrong with them SPIRITUALLY. That only made me more depressed, because apparently, there was ALREADY something wrong with me spiritually as I didn’t always agree with what others around me believed. I didn’t feel wrapped up in love, like the love Christ tells us to have for each other. I felt wrapped up in judgment and it was killing me.

Even when I would encourage others who came to me for advice, to be themselves, to believe what was in their hearts and trust it as God’s guidance, I was depressed. I would advise others, but then not take my own advice for myself. Because I had let depression convince me that I couldn’t be rescued from myself. That I was what others said I was. That there was simply something wrong with me and I had to examine myself (over-examine myself), to figure out what it was and fix it. I conformed myself to what others said I should be instead of thinking about who I was.

I thought there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t in a serious relationship by the time I was eighteen. I thought I was ugly. I was body-shamed, but not in the way you think. I was offered diets when I didn’t think I needed them. But I was happy with my body…until I wasn’t. Until I was convinced I shouldn’t be.

I was treated strangely for the curves God had given me. One moment I was told I was fearfully and wonderfully made by God; the next moment I was made to feel ashamed of the fact that I had a well-developed bust for a teenager. Like I should be ashamed of it and try to hide it. I had people coming up to me all the time, telling me to pull up my shirt. The problem? If I’d pulled up my shirt any more, it would’ve been up against my chin. I wasn’t even showing cleavage! But I was ashamed of my body. Of something about myself that others (I’ve been told by family and friends alike in more recent years) wish they had.

I remember one time, years ago now, I was sitting outside one night with my dad and a friend. He was a young man, just a couple of years older than me, and he and my dad were talking about serious stuff. I can’t even remember the subject. At some point, my dad got up and went inside, leaving me alone with this friend. I was shy and insecure, unsure of how to approach any subject, but I’d been doing research lately and I was excited to share with someone. I’d just gotten the courage to say something, when the friend stood up and started to walk away, without a word to me. In a moment of pure frustration, even anger, I called after him and said, “You don’t have to go inside. I have interesting things to say too, yah know!” In response to this, he laughed and continued on his way, leaving me all alone. He laughed. Like I had made some big joke about my own intelligence. Like it was a joke to think I might have something to contribute to the conversation; something interesting and smart to say. He probably doesn’t even remember doing that to me and most certainly didn’t mean it the way I took it. But I remember. Because it crushed me. It affirmed all my insecurities that I wasn’t interesting; that I wasn’t smart.

The influence of people who aren’t even family on the teenage mind can be damaging. Because while my family reminded me every day that I was beautiful, talented, smart, and a good Christian, it was other people who had my ear. Other people who convinced me that my family and I were wrong about me. I still struggle with these thoughts every day. I was so convinced that there was something wrong with me, that I let those ideas become me. I lost my strength. I lost my fire. I lost all desire to make myself better because I let depression convince me there was nothing I could do to change what I’d become.

Yet with all these feelings roiling inside me, I smiled. I put on a façade. I convinced everyone who knew me that I was a happy, faithful person who was trying to be what they thought I should be. My mouth smiled at you; my eyes screamed for help. I laughed with you; my heart was shattering. I sang with you; my soul was crying.

This is what you never saw when you looked at me.

You said I was shy.

I felt WORTHLESS.

You said I was quiet.

I was ASHAMED.

You said I was easy-going.

I was DEPRESSED.

Depression is real. In many people. In all religions. In all aspects of life, depression is real and no one—NO ONE—should feel ashamed to say they’re depressed. No one should be made to feel that there was something WRONG with them, because they’re depressed. No one should ever feel that they aren’t a good Christian because they’re suffering from depression. I suffered for years and kept my mouth shut, because I was so afraid of being judged by people who said they cared about me.

Maybe, to some, this sounds harsh. Maybe you’ll even take offense; feel defensive. But my thinking, in the depths of depression, was based on things I was being told. On things that people said, sometimes directly to me. So, I kept quiet. I suffered in silence. I endured. But it was painful. I was devastated. I couldn’t drag myself out for a long time. I can’t undo my past, but I can move forward.

Because I’m pulling myself out now. I’m overcoming. I’m conquering and for the first time in my life, I’m happy with myself for WHO I AM.

God is my JUDGE.

The Holy Spirit is my GUIDE.

Jesus Christ is my SAVIOR.

This mighty Trinity is all I need to move forward. To keep going. My story isn’t over. It’s just beginning. So I ask only one thing of you.

Look at ME.

SEE ME.

See me for who I am. Not what you want me to be. Not what you think I should be. My name is Erica Marie Hogan. I love to write dramas and romances. I like vanilla lattes and chocolate. I change my hair color twice a year, just because. I think that if a tattoo is pretty and tasteful, there’s nothing wrong with it. I think nose piercings are pretty (I got one last October). If I could, I’d have a whole farm of cats and dogs, all mixed breeds, rescued and loved. I watch old movies, I love I Love Lucy, and I have ten-thousand books 😉 (half of which I haven’t even read yet and half of which aren’t Christian Fiction or religious based). I’m 24-years-old and in no rush to be in a serious relationship with anyone; I’m happy being single for now. I’m the best introvert I know, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends and family. It just means that crowds make me nervous, I’m more comfortable one-on-one with a friend, and I prefer being at home. I’m a bit claustrophobic.

I believe that, no matter what I do, no matter how bad things get, God is on my side and Jesus is here to save me.

This is me without my makeup on. This is me, vulnerable and exposed. This is me, unashamed to say that this is who I am and if you think I’m weird or in sin, then it’s your loss. I’m not going to be ashamed of who I am anymore. I’m not going to pretend to be like you, just so you’ll like me. I’m not going to let myself fall into that pit again.

Being depressed didn’t make me a bad Christian. What made me a bad Christian, was letting others whisper in my ear what was wrong with me instead of listening to the other Voice that told me what was RIGHT with me. God was always with me, I just forgot how to look for Him. The voice of depression told me I wasn’t worth it. It told me I wasn’t worthy of love or friendship. It told me to run away from someone who wanted to help me. From the first person I confided my years of battling depression to. I ran, because I didn’t think I was worthy of his help. I ran, because I didn’t think anything would actually help. I ran because I was afraid of being judged again. If that person is reading this, then he knows who he is and I hope he can forgive me. For cutting myself off. For going my own way.

The voice of depression told me that people who said they were my friends, didn’t really want to be my friends. That they tolerated me, instead of actually liking me. It told me I was annoying, ugly, full of sin, completely unworthy of God’s love.

But that’s not true. None of it. Not for anyone. The truth is, if we were all faultless, then we wouldn’t need God’s mercy. We wouldn’t need His forgiveness. I was led to believe that because I didn’t think the way others did, because I didn’t do things the way others did, it made me a bad Christian. I was convinced that I needed to change who I was in order to have a place in God’s heart and house. I didn’t believe that God—or anyone else for that matter—could love me for just being ME. I thought I had to be better than myself to be loved and have friends. But what’s the point in having that kind of love and friendship if you’re miserable? It isn’t real, none of it.

I thought things you’d never imagine I would think. I considered actions you never thought I’d consider. I kept secrets. I fell far. I was told that there were a lot of people far worse off than me and I should be grateful.

No one should have their feelings belittled. No one should be made to feel guilty for feeling. If you make a depressed person feel guilty, that just makes their depression worse. Trust me, I know. Guilt & Depression are old friends of mine. They work together like a poison, wrapping themselves around you like a snake, trying to squeeze the life from you. I felt guilty for being depressed. But no matter what a person is going through, no matter how small you think their troubles are, depression is still depression. It doesn’t matter if you think that person shouldn’t feel depressed. It doesn’t matter if you think they have nothing to really be depressed about. You don’t know what’s really going on inside. You don’t know what they’re thinking. You don’t know about their health. You don’t know about what happens behind closed doors.

They are not yours to judge. As Christians, we are to love each other. Forget about the splinter in their eye and look at the plank in your own.

God is their judge. God is my judge. He did not appoint you to judge me. He did not give you the authority to tell me what you think is wrong with me.

Jesus said:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Nothing I say here, is said in bitterness or anger. Writing like this is how I heal. This is how I move forward. Some would say they told me the things that they did because they love me. But I can’t believe that. Telling someone over and over again how they’ve failed, how they’re sinning, how they should be more like you, isn’t being loving. Loving someone is helping them; telling them that you think they’re a beautiful person, no matter who they are or what they look like. Telling them they aren’t in sin just because their opinion differs from yours; their choice of dress differs from yours; their choice of living differs from yours.

Yesterday I did something I never thought I’d do. I got a tattoo. But not just any tattoo. I went out and got a semicolon on my wrist. It’s small and barely noticeable, but it means everything. It’s quirky, because I’m a writer ;). But it means something, too (if you don’t know what I mean, Google ‘Project Semicolon’). That’s why I chose it. Because you know what? My story isn’t over. Far from it. I’m moving forward now, with a new sentence. A new chapter. A new life. I’m pulling myself out piece by piece, with God’s help, a loving family, and friends.

For the first time in a long time, I like myself.

I am not ashamed. I do not feel guilty.

I’m me, exactly as God made me.

And it’s the best feeling in the world.

If you were at all offended by this post, then I am sorry. But this is me. I am finally saying what I’ve been screaming inside for years. Forgiveness is a powerful thing, and that’s what this post is about. I am moving forward now, which means—in simple terms—I am ‘over’ the past. If you decide to remove my friendship on your social media because of this, then I am sorry. That is your choice, not mine. If you wish to leave a comment, then please leave something positive. This post is not meant to start debates or arguments. Any negative or defensive comments will be deleted. This post is meant to encourage any and all who have suffered with depression; to show that you can conquer this. That this point of your life shall pass. That you are loved and cherished, no matter what the world tells you. God is always with you, even in your darkest hour. Even if you don’t believe it.

I am LIVING proof of that.

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Read, Write, Read Again

Read, write and then read again. That’s been me these last couple of weeks. Sometimes, reading is the only way I can break through when writing slows down. When my mind just can’t get past that block that won’t let me continue. Or when my book seems to be slowing down, getting boring and I can’t figure out a way to bring it back to life. Sometimes, just reading a little bit gets my head spinning and I can write. Sometimes, it takes reading a whole bunch of books before I break through.

As a person with OCD, editing my book has also been a slow process. I need to check it again and again, until I’m certain that I covered that bit. Until I’m certain that everything is the best it can be. Sometimes it’s not, and getting through that is hard. No one wants to hear that their book needs work (especially if it’s more work than you expected) but that’s all part of making it the story you envisioned. Rewriting, adding, and correcting the book is all a part of turning the book into the story you wanted it to be in the first place. It’s a slow process, but the best part? It gives me a chance to relive my story, to go through and correct things I was going to correct in the first place. To add new moments that bring more life and individualism to the characters. Edits are hard to handle at times. That tightness in your heart that threatens to break it until you calm yourself and say, “It’s okay. This is good. This is the best thing for your book and you can do this.” Sounds dramatic, huh? But when you put your whole heart into a story, when you love your characters like they were your friends, it can be dramatic.

I think reading as much as I have these last couple of weeks has really helped me. Reading, in the past, always helped me with my writing. But now that my book is being edited, and I’m working through all the wrinkles in it, reading as like a whole new experience for me. I wondered what it was like for the author when they had to change things in their books. I wondered how they handled it. I’ve always heard authors say they were anxious about getting the edits back from their editor. I understand that now. Knowing that it made authors anxious, I thought I was prepared for it. I wasn’t as prepared as I thought, but it’s having an open mind and heart that makes the difference. It’s rocky road, but it’s getting better. I am opening up to needed changes and I’m learning! That’s the best part! I love learning. Reading and writing all the years that I have has been a learning process itself. This is like moving up to the next level of learning. It’s the best.

Read, write, read again. That’s me, doing what I love. These two weeks have been full of that. Some of the best advice I was ever given about writing was to read as much as possible. That’s why my room is currently overflowing with books. Because once I started, I couldn’t stop. 🙂

Questions

Ah, the questions one gets asked when you become a new author. What’s your book about? What genre is it? What do you like to write? How long have you been writing? All of these are common, especially when people find out how old I am. Then the questions turn to. Really? You’re only 23? That’s so young! And wouldn’t you know I just love hearing that? (Not really) 😉 I think the most interesting thing is that, more than asking me what my book is about, or how this happened, people are simply surprised that one of my books is being published. I get that wide eyed look, the two hesitant blinks that say they’re processing what I said while carefully observing me. I’m not sure what they expect to see, but I find it amusing that people believe I should be older.

Because you see, the thing is, for me I’ve been writing for thirteen years. Of course, no one considered my ten year old story writing as serious writing. But that’s how long I’ve been working towards this goal, that’s how long I’ve been writing, learning and developing. Thirteen years I’ve dedicated my heart to this, to putting stories on paper, to creating characters. Yes, I’m an introvert. Probably the best introvert I know, not sure any of my current friends could beat me at it. My characters become my friends, because my heart and soul, my thoughts, belong to them. I always joke that I write so I don’t have to speak. Well, in some ways it’s very true. I don’t speak very well, but when I write, what I want to say comes out so clearly, just the way I wanted.

But what I’ve struggled with lately is the questions. Some of them, not always so flattering.  I wish I could say that, when I say my book is being published, people turned around with wide eyes and said, “Oh my! Congrats! What’s it about?” Not that I haven’t gotten that, of course I have. But here are the questions that have bugged me the most.

  1. What? Really? How did that happen?
  2. Wait, how old are you again?
  3. Don’t you need to have gone to college to get something published?
  4. You were homeschooled right?
  5. Have you been taking classes on the side or something?

Maybe it’s just the curse of being an introvert, of being shy and quiet. But I suppose a lot of people never really took what I was doing seriously, or maybe they thought it was just a side thing of mine, a hobby that wouldn’t go anywhere. At least, not until I was older and more experienced. It took awhile, but now when I think about these questions, I laugh a little. It kind of amazes me that people practically turn around and say to me I thought you had to work really hard to get published! when that’s exactly what I’ve been doing all these years. All those years I carried a journal, taking down ideas that popped into my head, everyone just disregarded it. I swear, everyone thought I was just doing it for fun. No one actually believed I was already trying to build something that would become my career.

You remember that compassionate smile I talked about in my blog post Dreams DO Come True? It still haunts me. I don’t think anyone outside my family actually believed that I would get this far (at least not this soon). But I learned that as long as I believe in myself, I can do anything. Literally, anything. I don’t think a lot of people believe that, but if writing stories of faith, hope and love have taught me anything, it’s taught me that what once seemed impossible, can become possible in just one moment. All you have to do is have faith, no matter what judgment might come your way.

And as for the questions…ask away! Because I’ve come to realize that I LOVE answering! Not that I wouldn’t prefer your questions be about my book, but as an author, I want you to get to know me! I want to share my journey! So ask me anything you want! And thanks for reading. 🙂

The Review

More than anything, I think an author wants reviews. We want to know what the reader thinks, we want to see their praise and love for the stories that mean so much to us. But at the same time, we dread seeing reviews. We dread seeking them out, nervously asking someone if they’d be willing to review it. What if they don’t like it? What if they give it 1 star? What if asking that person for a review turns out to be the biggest mistake ever? It’s a risk that we all have to take for the sake of getting our stories out there, getting them into the hands of people who will like it, who will enjoy it and see the message in it.

I have heard mixed feelings about reviews. Some authors like to read them, even the bad ones. Others won’t look at ANY, not even the five star reviews. I have thought a long time about which author I’m going to be. Will I or will I not look at that first review? Will I overcome my nerves and see what my readers have to say? Or will I do what that favorite author of mine did? Will I avoid them and push on with my writing, refusing to let negative reviews get to me? It’s a difficult decision to make, because some reviews are good ones and you want to see that, you want to see that people enjoyed your book, that they recommended it to others by their kind review.

As my book is being edited for publication, I have had this anxious feeling in my heart. Mostly about getting my book out there to hopefully gain peoples’ interests. But then there is a reluctance in me to see reviews. I want people to review it, but it’s a scary thing. When you spend so much time developing your characters, falling in love with them yourself, it’s hard when people criticize. I’ve always fought for authors who have received bad reviews, because sometimes there are people out there who aren’t nice about it. They’re brutal. I’ve tried to live by the phrase ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,’ but not everyone follows that advice. I’ve stood up to some people, who have been harsh, cruel even, to an author. Especially a new author. But in the end, the question I ask myself is did it do any good? Perhaps if they author saw it, they appreciated it, but the fact is the review doesn’t come down. It stays there and someone comes along and sees it and follows the advice of one person.

Reading reviews was the reason I decided I was going to read books for myself, to draw my own conclusions. I kept seeing people who read bad reviews and at the end said ‘Thanks! I won’t read this now!’ It made me sad to see. I’m a true believer in forming your own opinion, not going off what another person said, especially if that person was intentionally cruel. I probably sound defensive, but hey when you’re a writer you probably can’t help but be. It’s scary, putting yourself out there to the public, but it’s exciting at the same time. I can’t wait for it! Will I read the reviews? Probably not. Will I be curious enough to take a peek at my ratings? I probably will. 😉

100 Pages

So, last night I reached 100 pages in my current WIP! Whenever I reach 100 pages in my book, I celebrate a little. It’s an accomplishment to me, to reach 100 pages and to still not have the ending of the book anywhere in sight. I feel exhilarated, full of excitement because I know that the book will be long, most likely nearly 400 pages. That’s the most exciting part of all, watching the book grow longer, keeping an eye on that word count as it climbs from 20,000 words to 50,000 to 80,000.

What makes this moment so amazing, is all those times you weren’t sure you had it in you.  You start with a basic idea, and you know that you can turn it into a story. But will it be long enough for a novel? Will there be enough detail, enough character development, enough drama to fill up the pages? It’s a worry that plagues you, because more than anything you want to see your story in print! You want to share the story of your characters with others, and you want them to enjoy it, just as much as you enjoyed writing about it. When doubts creep in, that’s the hardest time. There are many things out there that could make you doubt yourself.

I’ve been writing for a long time. I was told that I had a gift for it, that I should keep going. So I learned and developed. When I was old enough I joined an online writing group. One of the first things I did was enter one of their writing contests, their big one that they do every year at the beginning of the year. Entering contests is definitely a good thing! But what I learned is that you need to guard your heart, because sometimes judges comments isn’t always what we want to hear. That’s why it’s terrifying to any writer to present their work to another. Because all it takes is one person, even someone you don’t know, can bring you down and make you question yourself. That happened to me, and it was very difficult for me to write again after that. But after the fog of my hurt feelings cleared and I did start writing again, I became determined to enter the contest again next year, and the year after that. I knew I might never win, but deciding to take the helpful tips from kind judges and apply them to my writing, saved me from giving up the thing I love to do most. In the end, entering those contests help me to greatly improve my writing, leading me to the point I’m at today.

Reaching 100 pages is huge to me. That’s when I determine that a story isn’t going to die. When I reach a slump, in any story, and it’s before the 100 page mark, I always begin to wonder if maybe it wasn’t meant to be. If my inspiration for the book can’t last to 100 pages, maybe it’s time to move on to another idea that will. But, I suppose, that’s what pushing forward is all about. If you have a good idea, if you love your characters and you know that you can bring it to a satisfying conclusion, then push on. No matter what anyone says, no matter how difficult it is to hear, apply their knowledge and continue to learn. I’m still learning, even now. I think that’s one of the most exciting parts. The learning never ends.

Reading & Writing Historical Fiction

I love reading. Ever since I picked up my first book, I’ve loved reading. I discovered that warm and fuzzy feeling when a good romance ends. I discovered the edge-of-your-seat feeling when reading a suspense novel. I discovered that I could cry, when moved by a character’s faith and struggle. Reading was the best feeling in the world. Then I discovered that I could write and that opened up a whole new world. The thing about these books (another discovery I made) is that they were all Historical Fiction. I’ve read a variety of genres, but Historical Fiction has always called out to me. I love research, I love looking for facts and finding the truth. Putting it down on paper is a very satisfying feeling, making sure that what I’ve written is as accurate as I can make it while mixing with my character’s story is important to me. This was important to me while writing my book, the first one that will be published. When you write a novel based in the World War I era, you want to be accurate. But writing about The Somme was difficult. Writing about the devastation of the war that took nearly an entire generation of men from the world, was heartbreaking for me.

The inspiration for my novel came from another book. It wasn’t what I usually read, it wasn’t fiction. It was one of the many historical books my dad keeps on his shelves in the den. There are a mixture of books about WWI and WWII in ‘the book room’. Reading this one book in particular opened the world of WWI to me and my book, the first one to be published, was born. My heart was moved by the stories that were told in those pages, my mind coming alive the farther I went. My world opened to the historical facts surrounding that time. But the truth is, this book of mine was inspired quite a while before I read the book. It started one night a very long time ago, I don’t even remember when. One comment made by my parent opened the floodgates to the main theme of my story.

One night, while on the subject of WWI, my dad mentioned something about The Lost Generation (incidentally, the title of my book!). I heard him say this before, but until I read the book he gave me I didn’t understand it completely. He said that, eventually, people probably wouldn’t remember this tragedy. That it wouldn’t mean as much anymore. I told him that wasn’t true, that I would remember them and that I would tell my kids someday and they would tell theirs. I don’t know if my dad even remembers this, but this opened my mind to the story. A story about three couples, three families, and how this war changed them forever.

Since I’ve announced that my first book is being published, I’ve had people ask me what the book is about. Usually I start by giving them the title, ‘The Lost Generation’, and tell them that it’s a WWI era based novel about three couples from different parts of the world, (1 Canadian, 1 British, and 1 American) who end up coming together because of the war. Then I mention something that brings up questions. I mention the Pals Battalions. I’ve gotten a couple of head tilts and I’ve asked, ‘do you know what that is?’ Then I go into my explanation. This was the reason I wrote the book, the Pals Battalions. It inspired me, moved me…it broke my heart.

World War I was called The Great War. It was. But it was a Great War that became a Great Tragedy. My book, from the start, was written with the goal of giving different perspectives on the war, on men who went MIA, many of them never found. Of the women, wives and mothers, who were left behind, forced to continue with life without knowing what had happened to their men. My research opened this world to me, and my book came together in a rush. I am very excited to share it with you, and hope you are as moved by the tragedy and drama of that era as I was.

Dreams DO Come True

Since I was a little girl I wanted to write. I’ve been writing stories since I was ten, always with the dream of being published prominent in my mind. That’s thirteen years I’ve been learning about writing, actually writing and improving my writing. Sometimes it felt like being published was SO FAR AWAY. Like the times I would enter and lose writing contests. Or some of the brutal criticism I would receive from the judges of those contests. That was never easy and at times I even thought maybe I should stop, maybe this wasn’t what I was supposed to do. But then my mind would begin racing with new characters and compelling stories that I just couldn’t put aside and forget about. So I started reading, and discovered that with reading came an even deeper desire to write, to be like the authors I admired.

The thing about dreams is that the world will tell you they don’t really come true. The world sometimes looks at you with a compassionate smile that clearly says, “Aww, she’s sweet and that’s a cute dream that will probably never come true”. At one time, I let those smiles get to me and doubt would creep its way back into my mind and heart. But then my characters would draw me back into their world and I would remember that this was where life had led me and this was what my heart desired. If God didn’t want me to write, then why was I miserable when I wasn’t writing? Why was it that, when I was away from my computer, all I wanted to do was run back home and write? This was serious, this was real and I pushed through.

Writing isn’t just something I enjoy, it’s what I was meant to do. This is what I do and it’s who I am. A month ago something happened that changed my life forever. It all started with an email I almost didn’t send. But choosing to click ‘send’ set in motion a whirlwind of events that felt like a dream. It proved to me that you never know how the people in your life–even those who have been right under your nose but you didn’t know they were there–can hold the key to the door of your dreams. Thanks to that email, I set foot on the path to publication. I had no idea that sending that email, which I viewed as simple, just a few words of encouragement to a fellow writer, would get me where I am today.

I have signed a publishing contract! Saying that out loud takes my breath away. I have been in love with writing for so many years and I’m looking forward to falling even deeper in love with what I do as I continue on this road of publication. I also look forward to getting to know my future readers and I hope they love my stories and characters as much as I do! My life changed in a matter of minutes one hot afternoon in June, and I have never been more grateful to learn that dreams really DO come true!!