Monday, December 30, 2013

The Problem in Decisions

There is a startling revelation to be made when you realize simple decisions about your life can have devastating consequences to seemingly uninvolved individuals. I know it seems juvenile and childish, but I was recently reminded of one such circumstance.

For a while now, I have been jokingly considering certain actions I believed only affected myself and my husband only to be painfully reminded such actions have a traumatizing impact on another close relationship. Now I am faced with a decision to continue down my path or alter course to save another such misery.

And the worst of it is others cavalier attitude toward the entire situation. Anyway, today was an uncomfortable reminder of our responsibilities towards others.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

Whoever you are, I think you may be the only one that actually reads my blog.  I remember the first time I saw the +1 on one of my posts.  I looked at it rather confused for a long time before I realized what it was.  Admittedly, earlier this morning when I wrote my last post, I had forgotten about you.  I can't imagine what about my blog has peaked your interest, but I must say thank you for taking the time to read it.

I recently discovered Pentatoxic and was listening to their youtube channel.  They have a song they cover that I hadn't heard before.  It was called "Don't you worry child."  One of the lines is "Don't you worry child, heaven's got a plan for you."  I couldn't stop laughing and crying at the same time.  The day I write about giving up hope is the day I discover that song.

Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading my blog.


For Want

I think it is pretty safe to say not very many, if any, read this blog.  I think the page views I have thus far are simply blog rating websites sending out the occasional feelers.  Not even my family reads this.  And today...I'm ok with that.

In January of this year when I was officially hired full time with my company and awarded the "less than amazing, but better than nothing" benefits package, I had an IUD removed while I was still covered by my previous insurance.  The reason I did this was I wanted to avoid having to find an OB-GYN so early on this new insurance plan.  I had the IUD removed on January 8th.  By March, I was pregnant and rather excited about it.  We hadn't planned on having a baby so quickly, but we were certainly not going to complain.  I was actually on an impromptu business trip when I got the confirmation and the first person I told was my project manager in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, early in April, I started bleeding.  At first, it was just spotting, then it became a full on period.  I was worried and I found a OB-GYN that came highly recommended by many women I know.  By April 19th, we found out we lost the baby and I had to have a D & C to effectively clean everything out and start over.  Then we waited.  And waited.  Nothing happened; I was supposed to have a normal period again and I didn't.  We went back to the doctor and he gave me a shot to jump-start the process.  He said the body sometimes forgets what it is supposed to do.  From then on, everything worked out pretty well.  Things went back to normal and we decided to actively try again.

Well, its December now.  I am late and have been suffering a bit of a head-cold/allergies.  I went to the doctor yesterday and he had me tested.  Today, I got the results back.  Not pregnant.  And now...

It's funny.  I never post this kind of thing on Facebook because I figure no one really cares.  They "like" a post and occasionally leave a witty retort, but how many people actually care about the day to day.  I have never really felt like the world gave a damn so why waste their time?  But here, in my anonymous cocoon, I have a space on the internet no one bothers to look into and I can say whatever I want.  No one will read it, no one will "like" it or leave a Hallmark greeting card response.  Here I can spell out my thoughts and not disturb a soul.

My husband is a strange sort of man.  His emotions are kept close to the vest, even from me.  He was wounded...emotionally...and now, he doesn't let anyone see his true pain.  When we lost the baby, I was angry with him for that, angry he didn't share my pain.  But then after a few months, I saw just how much it was hurting him.  He let his walls crumble slightly, forgot to keep the veneer polished.  I saw him cry more often than he would care to admit.  He is 28 now, I am 25.  He wants to have a family, to have kids.  He wants to be the amazing dad he wished he grew up with.  And it just doesn't seem to be happening.

I know it isn't my fault, that I haven't done anything to cause this, but that doesn't change how it feels.  That doesn't change the sorrow catching the breath in my throat.  I want to be a mother.  I want to have my husband's children running around the house.  I want to watch them grow and raise them to be anything they want to be.  I want to be more than I am.

Two nights ago, I had a dream and when I woke up, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was pregnant, that I wouldn't start this month.  I was excited even though I was only a few days late.  I should have known better.  Ever since I was a child, I have known disappointment.  I have learned not to get excited about things, to just let things happen as they come without expectation.  Every time I make plans and get excited for something, it never works out and I become angry and irrational.  That's why I refused to be excited about my wedding, I refused to get my hopes up or set my sights on "the perfect day."  I knew if I did, then every little thing that went wrong would by a huge disappointment and my wedding would be ruined.  Instead, I had no expectations.  I walked down the aisle with a happy-go-lucky attitude and laughed when my shoe fell off as I marched down the stairs.  I threw foam balls around, blew bubbles, and chased kids around the park at my reception.  I enjoyed the day, with all of its problems, and had a truly remarkable wedding.

I keep telling myself to do the same thing in this case, to not get my hopes up, not set any expectations.  I even tried to convince myself I couldn't be pregnant until I was rushed to the delivery room.  But how do you do that with something like a baby?  How do you refuse to be excited, to have hope, to look forward to, to plan for a baby?  How do you shield your heart against heartbreak every time you shop near the baby aisle?  And more importantly, how do you smile in your husband's face and hide away your tears of frustration, of disappointment, of loss, and of sorrow?  How do you pretend nothing is wrong when every fiber of your being is screaming for want of a baby?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Illiterate Writer

As the cost of higher education continues to increase, a growing number of Americans are finding it unaffordable to obtain a college education to say nothing of the paying off the outlandish and mismanaged federal student loans. To demonstrate this concept, I would like to tell you my story.

I am a 25-year-old, female civil engineer. When I was 2, my parents divorced and my father practically disappeared. By the time I was 6, I was diagnosed ADHD, suspected of dyslexia, and molested by a family friend. My mom worked her way up a local government job against several obstacles into management, placing her in the lower middle class, yet we only ever survived.

When I was 10 years old, shingles, ringworm, and strep throat placed me in quarantine for 21 consecutive days, during which time my mother discovered I was illiterate. Somehow, she scrapped together the money to enroll me in Sylvan Learning Center. In 6 months, my reading comprehension and writing skills increased from a 2nd grade reading level to a 12+ level. I also patched up some holes in my math skills and corrected a speech impediment. My mom told me there was nothing I could not achieve if I set my mind to it.

I never really thought about being disabled or illiterate because when I graduated high school in the top ten, I felt comfortable academically. I applied for dozens of scholarships fitting in as many essays amidst my Advanced Placement and Honors course work.  Unfortunately, given my demographic and mother's annual income, I was overlooked by numerous scholarships entering college with the Cal Grant, the 3rd place local Elk’s Lodge "Student of the Year" scholarship for $500, and the ever delightful federal subsidized and unsubsidized student loans.

From 2006-2008, I struggled like many underclassmen to register for classes in an overly impacted university when the California budget forced Cal Poly Pomona to cut nearly all of the lower division math classes.  Nevertheless, after 5 years, I graduated Magna Cum Laude with honors in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering. Despite numerous extracurricular activities including Chi Epsilon Job Fair Chair and Community Service Coordinator, I was unable to find gainful employment for 6 months and began volunteering with the City of Riverside Water Resources Department in November 2011. Unfortunately, my $25,000 student loans entered deferment until a water engineering consulting company mercifully hired me in July 2012.

Around February 2013, I decided to hone my literary skills; I wrote a short story, which very quickly became a full-length novel at 143,000 words. Now, looking back I realize the feat I accomplished. I overcame several learning and developmental disabilities to graduate top of my class in a mathematical field only to write the first book in a series in my spare time.

Despite all of my accomplishments, I received minimal scholarships. I am just a single student in the desperate middle class struggling to secure a future.  Hundreds of scholarships exist for the impoverished, but few exist for the surviving.  I am not a politician; I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of the Washington agenda, but what I do know is more of the middle class are working dead-end jobs hoping for a lucky break to continue their education.  I am now seeking publication of my novel in the hopes of starting a scholarship foundation to fill in the gap.  I will do my part to ensure all Americans can attend college.  What will you do?

Alexis Rhodes

P.S. If you would like to fact check my story, email requesting my real name and supporting documents.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Major Revisions

Now that I have two readers who have finished Silent Symphony, I have began my third major revision.  This first pass is a content revision in which, surprisingly enough, I am adding additional description in certain key areas.  My husband indicated there were several patches where the vague description actually jarred him out of the story and thus made it difficult for him to focus on the story.  I find this humorous because usually I am rather verbose in the descriptive areas and am forced to cut back, but now I am actually needing additional clarification.

I am also critically analyzing my magic system for flaws and consistency errors with Lullaby Trials.  A primary issue at the moment is the evolution of the main characters understanding of the void.  In the beginning, very little information is known and as a result, a great deal of irrelevant lore exists.  As the story progresses, various nuances unfold indicating the true complexity of the void, but it is in these nuances that I may have unintentionally contradicted myself.

Thankfully, it has been a while since I last read Silent Symphony, so now I am effectively reading it from scratch again.  I am hoping to be "done" with the content revision quickly and with any luck will get the grammatical and spelling mark-ups pretty soon.  On the plus side, one of my readers has been struggling with edits because she is getting too wrapped up in the story itself.  Personally, I am tickled pink this problem even exists.  Happy reading!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Eliciting Emotion

My husband finished Silent Symphony last week. He is usually a very detached person when it comes to book characters. He never forms an emotional attachment unless the character is an animal. For example, he cried and got very angry when Hopper, the wolf in the Wheel of Time series, died, but wouldn't give a toss when Dumbledor died. He just isn't that type of reader.

Nevertheless, while reading my book, he said "I know I am an emotional basket case because I keep wanting to cry whenever I read your book." I replied "Or I could be a good writer capable of eliciting emotions in my audience." He replied, "no, I'm just emotionally messed up at the moment." Aside from the fact he managed to revoke his own man-card and insult me at the same time, I have it on good authority that he is wrong. When I handed the first chapter to my mom to read, she cried hysterically before she finished the first paragraph. Three other readers have told me similar instances and I must confess, I am giddy with the prospect of affecting my audience so drastically.

One family member said, "usually when I read, I read the descriptions of a scene and never really get a visual, but with your book, I can actually see Ali sitting on the wall with the wind wiping her hair against her back like a banner. I have never had that happen to me before."  I know I am still a novice writer, but hearing stories like this about my book fill me with great pride and give me hope for my publishing future. If you have read any part of my story and experienced something similar, please let me know. Hope to hear from you! :D

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Today is a day of melancholy contentment. I am sprawled out on a cot near the window staring out into the boring day waiting for family to come back from shopping. Normally, I would be playing a game or reading a book, but today, I am a cat staring out at the world I want nothing to do with.

Friday, November 8, 2013

1 Reader And Counting

I am super excited; finally 1 person has finished Silent Symphony! Granted, it was my husband and I threatened serious bodily injury of he didn't read it, but let's not get hung up on the details. And to be fair, several friends and family have started out, but unfortunately many are super busy with life and such nonsense.

So this is a special thanks to all my beloved readers thus far. I will also have this list in the front of my book as well.

To my friends: Cristina, Dya, Andrea, Kevin, and Zerline, thank you so much for taking the time to give it a try. I hope you enjoy and are engaged throughout.

To my family: Lissa, Rose, Matt, Dee, and Mommy, I hope my story lives up to your wildest expectations while maintaining some assemblance of sanity. Just remember, this is far from my wildest tale told...and I did NOT steal cookies from the cookie jar... *shifty eyes*

And finally, to my darling husband: when this story began, I had nothing in particular in mind. I simply wanted to expand upon my storytelling. But now that it is finished and I see the beginnings of these relationships, I am reminded of how much I love you and of all the tiny things that have made our 7+ years together wonderful. I love you and hope you enjoyed my trip down the literary rabbit hole.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Moms are Awesome

Moms are Awesome for so many reasons, but here is my reason today.

When I was in first grade, my daycare played The Newsies frequently and as a result, and I am not kidding, I developed a New York accent. Sadly, I am from California and here professionals call that a speech impediment. My mom took me to speech therapy classes where I met my childhood bestfriend, Nicole.

In the fifth grade, I had shingles, ring-worm, and strep throat simultaneously. I was quarantined for 21 days. My mom stayed home and ensured I got all my homework the process discovering I was illiterate and suspected I was dyslexic. Add that to the "cage-sour" and ADHD and I am legitimately shocked to be alive right now.

But despite the headaches, my mom never gave up on me. She figured out how to pay for me to go to Sylvan Learning Center, where a team of awesome albeit expensive tutors helped me go from a 2nd grade reading level to a 12+ level in about 3 months. Sadly, spelling and grammar are still dodgy at best.

Nevertheless, I went on to high school and AP English where my papers routinely "bleed" and the most common tragedy was the comma. But I passed the test with a 4 and went to college to become an environmental civil engineer. I took a Science Fiction/Fantasy class my fourth year where my final project was to write a short story. Mine was 20 pages long and only needed to be 5.

I graduated Magna Cum Laude with honors and a BS in civil engineering. I have since started working with an environmental consulting engineering firm and in about 4 months, I wrote a 143,000 word book. My husband's words were, and I quote, "you're a wordy little bastard, aren't you?" referencing DBZ Abridged season 1.

The gist...none of this would have been possible if not for an amazingly supportive and annoyingly persistent mom who put her entire single-mom life on hold to raise me, guide me, nurture me, and kick me in the ass occasionally. So for all you mothers out there, first, a toast to being epically mom, and second, keep up the hard work, even when you would rather curl up and cry. Your children will benefit from it and their futures will be brighter for it.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chilly Days & Temporary Insanity

The weather today is a brisk 48 degrees,  cloudy, rainy, and slightly windy out at the pilot. We are waiting for parts before we can turn on the system, but in the meantime, I am enjoying my lunch and suffering temporary insanity.

As a native Southern Californian, I have always loved the rain for a variety of reasons, primarily because it is relatively scarce in the Los Angeles area, but also because I have always been able to bundle up with a warm blanket, jacket, hot drink, etc. and go out into the rain on my terms. But now that I am a "big girl" out in the "real world," I can't just pull the blankets back over my head and snuggle in.

In LT, there is a point where one of the characters is trapped in the elements for am extended period of time, and I think I know understand exactly how this character should react. Stuck out here in the cold has made thoughts of anything but warmer things rather illusive and I would imagine hallucinations rather prevalent at a certain point. On a side note, perhaps gloves might be in order prior to the coolest winter days.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Empty Houses

As I mentioned in PTSD vs. Higher Education, we have been in search of a house.  Well, I am pleased to say, the search is over.  I am currently sitting on the floor in the front room of our brand new house in surprisingly pleasant Hemet, CA.  Truth be told, I have hated Hemet proper since I was a child riding in a painfully slow car up Florida Avenue on my way to the mountains for camping, but now that I am a Hemetite...its growing on a fungus.  I can't get over the view from our front yard.  The foothills, the riverbed, the peace.  Admittedly, I am jumping at every unfamiliar sound, but in time I think I will like it here.

Unfortunately, I am supposed to be at my day-job at the moment, but instead had to take paid time-off to babysit my house.  The previous residents had a water softener system which they elected to take with them upon leaving the house.  Unfortunately for us, they simply unhooked the piping and left the water off.  Now for those of you not in the potable water industry, potable waterlines are never supposed to be left open to the air.  Apart from contaminates, critters like dark spaces with available sources of water, hence my water pipes are the ideal roosting place for spiders and the like.  Furthermore, since none of the pipes have been sealed off, turning the water back on would result in flooding in our garage and kitchen.

As part of our registered complaints upon taking possession of the house, we requested they complete the removal of the system including proper sealing of the potable water system and the removal of the filtration system upstream of the water heater.  Our agent even took pictures of the "offending" parts, however the seller is claiming they have not received the pictures, but will be stopping by the house sometime between noon and 6 p.m. to correct their improper plumbing.  Yay for me!

So I am sitting and will likely continue to sit on the floor of our house with no available facilities for six hours with nothing but my phone to keep me company while my husband and little brother hang out playing video games in Colton.  While I enjoy the peace and quiet, the flies, lack of food, restroom inaccessibility, and the loneliness are overbearing.  At least I have time to work on my synopsis for Silent Symphony.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


I must admit the main reasons I have not blogged in a while are (1) I have suffered a small case of writer's block, (2) I have been very busy working my day job, and (3) I have been rather disheartened lately about my writing in general. In the back,quiet, more rational side of my brain, I fully understand how crazy people's lives can get, but the louder side of my brain is crying out saying "look what I did!! Be proud of me and enjoy my work."

So to appease my simple-sided self, if you are reading this, do me a favor and leave a comment. I would love to know how many actually read this and how many views are just tracking sites.

Work & Pleasure

My work has been interesting lately.  I have a new project that started up on Monday and I am in the process of getting everything fully operational.  One of the most challenging parts is being completely useless in the entire process.  A bunch of guys with a lot more experience than I possess have taken over a large portion of my tasks which works out to be exceptionally beneficial in the long run for a variety of reasons, but has left me feeling rather obsolete.

On the plus side, terrifying, new challenges are cropping up which at least pose interesting puzzlers. This entire situation gives me new perspective on how my characters should react when they feel useless. Ali especially will have a hard time with this throughout the story.

I am really looking forward to working on LT this weekend and maybe working on my synopsis as well. Ms. Jackson clarified her submission requirements, so I need to drastically reduce my synopsis to 1 or 2 pages. My little brother had been reading SS in his free time so I look forward to his comments and will likely need to make substantial revisions. I'm toying with submitting first, just to see her comments before revising, but at the same time, I wouldn't want to give her an unfinished product.

Friday, September 20, 2013


I have always taken great pride in being non-judgmental of people.  I have always found myself to be exceptionally understanding of people and their differences.  But I discovered today that I am entirely the opposite.  I am extremely judgmental, but not of the “usual” people.

Many people see someone with a disability, any disability, and don’t know how to react.  Some are outright mean and cruel, others avoid them entirely.  Me?  I see someone with a disability and I see someone who has likely been kicked, mocked, teased, and abused most of their life and I want to help them.  I want to be a friend to them, to show that not all people are cruel, to show they have worth beyond their disability.  I can quite honestly say, for people with disabilities, I make it my goal to be their best friend.

It’s everyone else I am intolerant of.  I see a blond driving and texting; my first instinct is “bobble-head bitch that is going to cut me off soon.”  I don’t know why she is texting.  I don’t know if it is an emergency and she is being pursued by mad gunman planning on selling her into slavery.  I don’t know if she is rushing to the hospital because her son cracked is skull open on the playground and is being sent for emergency surgery with limited chances of survival.  All I see is hair color, gender, and cell phone immediately assuming “bitch.”
Similarly, I see a hot guy in a classy shirt and nice fitting jeans and automatically assume he is gay.  For all I know, he is model or is on his way to a date.  Interestingly enough, I have objections to him being gay apart from not being on the menu as a hot dish.  I was thoroughly disappointed to discover Neil Patrick Harris and Matt Bomer were gay, but I didn’t think anything less of them because of it.

This entire dichotomy came to light when I was remembering a conversation I had about Peter Dinklage.  I remember hearing about a statement he made where he said something to the effect of “women don’t see me for me, they see me for my money.  When it really comes down to it, women will chase after the six foot tall guys everything time.”  I was imagining what I would say to him if I ran into him on the street (yes, I do that sometimes…very active imagination).  I would say, “You’re wrong.  You are far more than your appearance.  Any woman worth her salt would see you for what you were and fall in love with the man not the money.”  I know, a lot of girls say that, but it’s true.

I have a friend in an online game that is 28, over 6 feet tall, skinny as a rail, and has a trachea tube.  He has never had a girlfriend, and swears he has never been kissed let alone anything else.  Yet girls tell him all the time how amazing he is as a friend and will cry on his shoulder when their gorgeous boyfriends hurt them.  They friend-zone him constantly, and it makes me so angry.  I know him through a video game.  In that world, appearances don’t matter.  Personality does, actions do, words do.  There, people can be themselves and be known for who they truly are beyond their appearances.  Or alternatively, they can be their alter-ego acting out situations they would never dare to try face to face.

Regardless, I thought I was above the judgmental assumptions, but in truth, I only assume the worst about the average person…or the exceptionally wealthy (that probably stems from being lower middle class and hearing about millionaires complain about billionaires doing whatever they want).  Today, I realized that in my attempts at being completely tolerant, I became exceptionally judgmental of many people.  Maybe now that I realize my habits, I can finally find a way to break the cycle and become truly accepting of people and their individuality.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Been a While

Like Lullaby Trial, I have been struggling with what to say. I know what I want to say and where I want to go but not how to say it nor where to step on my path. I am working on chapter 3 and am trying to determine how broken, how fragile to make my characters. I know this writer's block of mine stems from my own emotional struggles at the moment. I know I am hurt by the constant reminder of my miscarriage and the ever ticking timepiece reminding me of the family I seek to start.

But I also know my time we come and patience is required. I know I will have my family soon enough and I know the timing of everything could not really be better. I know I will be published and I know I will continue to write. And in the same sense I know what to do with my characters. I must simply be patient and everything will come together.

My grandmother has been reading my book as well. She called me yesterday to let me know she started it and is about 40 nook pages in. She really encouraged me.  For a while I was hesitant about sending it to her because I was afraid she wouldn't like it and be disappointed, but yesterday she said she found it very engaging and had no trouble visualizing my scenes. She said once she read the first page she couldn't put it down until the benadryl kicked in.

I was very encouraged by the entire phone call and admittedly had a hard time sleeping last night. I am still thinking about the animation and various different plot points. I am hoping to get my submittal checked for spelling and grammar soon so I can submit it. With any luck I can get some of my college friends to help me out on that.

As always, I will keep you posted.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Character Complexity: Contradiction

The most difficult thing in the world I have found is not calculus, or stoichiometric formulas, or astrophysics.  The most difficult thing in the world I have found are people.  People are complex, ever evolving (or in some cases devolving), and nonsensical.  People are probably the last great mystery in that we will likely discover all there is to know about the universe before we fully understand people.  There is a book with the title “Everything Men Know About Women” that is completely blank.  It is meant as a gag gift and a statement on the confounding intricacies of the female gender, but I wonder how much we truly know about anyone.  Sociologists, psychologists, and a bunch of other –ologists have concocted numerous bits of “facts” regarding behaviors, psychology, brain chemistry, etc. but I would argue most of that is simply hypothesis parading as fact.

The entire concept of Freud’s “penis envy” basically states the root of women’s issues is their desire to possess penises and the scientific community at the time gobbled it up.  While I firmly believe this theory is ludicrous at best, I would argue the overall premise may be accurate.  Women in today’s society may not want the organ, but many certainly want the equality.  Or do they?

Women today want to be viewed in the same light as men in their professions.  As a female engineer, I would be insulted if I was excluded from a project solely on the bases of being female.  However, there are numerous types of projects I would hope to get out of on the same basis.  As a female, I have the potential to become pregnant while serving an engineer.  There are numerous types of projects such as construction management or chemicals testing that I feel could potentially be too dangerous for my baby.  As a result, I would avoid these projects while pregnant.  However, in the same light, what would an employer do if a man walked in and said, “My wife and I are trying to have a baby, therefore I can’t oversee this construction project?”

Women want equality when it comes to pay and treatment, but we also want the additional privilege of avoiding unpleasant or potentially dangerous circumstances.  Today, I read a Tweet arguing that an article about “Diversity” included only male authors’ opinions.  While I am under no illusions of Twitter being a certifiable source, the concept is still well demonstrated.  Women wish to be included in the narrative.  I can understand that.

Here is a concept I have a hard time understanding.  My college had a cultural center featuring suites for each major ethnicity included in campus life.  I thought it was a wonderful concept.  They had this cultural day where each suite prepared culture specific food and sold it in the quad as kind of a “Tastes of the World.”  I thought it was brilliant.  Then I noticed something.  There was an entire pseudo-continent excluded.  There were no European nations represented.  No French, no Irish, no German, no Swedish, no New Zealanders, no Ice Lander, etc.  Basically, no caucasian of any kind were represented.

Now, if you think about it, celebrating diversity means celebrating anything different.  While I am in no way claiming discrimination does not happen, I would like to point out the simple sampling conducted at the cultural center demonstrated a clearly lacking populace.  For everyone out there that would like to trumpet the causes of diversity, please take into consideration the whole picture.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, he hoped for a day when we“…will not be judged by the color of [our] skin, but by the content of [our] character.”  This is critical.  Color is entirely irrelevant.  Actions matter, people matter, words matter, appearance does not.

And yet despite this call for universal acceptance, humanity also wishes to proclaim their differences.  As an example, members of the homosexual community want the world to know they are homosexual.  There is nothing wrong with that.  It is an individual’s prerogative and in no way am I in a position to judge.  My only question is why is that relevant in the first place?  Because people like to be different.  We want to be known as an individual, not by a stereotype, not by a label.  We want to be known as who we are and not be lumped into some broader category so some proclaim a label.  In my example, the label was “homosexual.”  They have chosen to identify with this particular label in order to individualize themselves from a broader category.

Do you see where I am going with this?  People are so complex, so contradictory.  By declaring a label, you jump from one large pool of people into a smaller one thus becoming more of an individual recognized on a different scale.  Yet at the same time, people scream for equality wanting to be treated just like everyone else.  Equality and Diversity.  Two completely contradictory mentalities effectively saying, “I want to be treated exactly the same, but you must acknowledge my differences.”  People are so complex like that.

It is this complexity that I strive to bring forward in my characters.  It is this contradictory nature that is so critical in making a character realistic.  I know my writing ability is not there yet.  I know my characters lack this inherent complexity.  But I am young.  I have time to work on it.  And in the end, I hope to create a character that is so complex, it could pass as human.  I wonder if we will ever truly understand people.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Press Enterprise

I submitted PTSD vs. Higher Education to the Press Enterprise Opinion Editor today. I doubt very seriously she will publish it, but on the off chance she does, I hope to open a dialogue with readers. With luck, maybe the financial aid system can finally be changed. I will keep everyone posted.

Friday, August 30, 2013

PTSD vs Higher Education

It is impossible for me to imagine what post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) feels like.  To me, the entire concept is nonsensical.  I do not understand the lack of emotional control, the social anxiety, the gut-wrenching fear of everyday activities.  As a child, I was abused by my step-mother and molested by a family friend, but looking back I do not remember feelings of stress, anxiety, or fear.  I only remember acknowledgment.  I remember accepting the fact that it happened and moving on.  I do not know how I came to simply accept it, and to my knowledge, those events do not traumatize me.  I have no concept of a life-altering traumatic event, and to be honest, I hope I never do.

About two years ago now, my mother was sexually assaulted at work.  At first, I did not understand why she did not just accept it and move on.  To me, it seemed like such a little thing.  Then I found out what her childhood was like.  My mother had been molested by my family throughout her childhood.  Couple this abuse with the bullying and torment at school and it’s a wonder my mother survived long enough to have me at all.  I remember as a child, she told me she contemplated suicide when she was 16.  She said the only thing keeping her alive was that she could not figure out how to tell God he screwed up, that her life was terrible, and nothing good could ever come from living on.

I do not want to say I blew her off or did not believe her, but I guess I never fully understood what she went through or everything she did to protect me.  When I was born, she set down ground rules with my grandparents.  They are both dead now so I cannot begin to tell you what those rules were.  I know the gist was “abuse my daughter in any way, either physically or psychologically, and you will never see her again.”  There were others, I’m sure, but this one laid the foundation for my relationship with my grandparents.

I won’t deny my family has its issues.  I think all families do, but growing up, I loved my grandparents.  My grandmother and I had our fair share of differences, but I loved them both very much and neither ever abused me.  So when my mother told me about the horrors befalling her childhood, it was impossible for me to rationalize the nightmare she described with the loving, compassionate people I knew.

When she was sexually assaulted, at first she tried to move past it herself.  But she could not.  She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t keep anything down, struggled to focus, and began having severe anxiety attacks doing simple tasks like going to the store.  Her counselor connected the dots between her past and present trauma diagnosing her as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  It’s been about two years now.  Nothing has changed.

She cannot go anywhere alone.  She carries anti-anxiety medication in her purse and is in constant fear of being attacked again.  Shopping is a nightmare and Black Friday?  That’s a “barricade the front door, pull the curtains, and hide in the tub” type event.  To be honest, I truly thought I was losing her.  Hope seemed a distant memory; laughter forgotten entirely.  I watched my mom sink into a deep depression.

Then suddenly…there was a glimmer of hope.  A program gained notoriety; it trained service dogs for veterans suffering PTSD after returning from war-zones.  My mom caught wind of the program and wanted to look into it once we moved out of our 900 square foot apartment.  Well, she is in the process of buying a house, her very first house, and now its time to research PTSD dogs.

She found a website called Dog Wish which trains service dogs for both psychological service and passive protection.  They research the applicant, find a suitable dog based on the applicant’s psychological needs, and train the animal for service and protection.  It sounds like an amazing program and as such, it is extraordinarily expensive.  Dogs typically range from $15,000 to $25,000 with a minimum of $5,000 down, ideally half.  Fundraising options are available, but $5,000 down is still a daunting amount.  Training takes about 6 months and additional costs apply such as travel and expenses.

While my mom is the one buying the house, it takes four adults to be able to afford it.  All of our collective savings are going into buying this house.  There is no extra money.  My mom needs a service dog, there is no question about that.  But how can I help her get one?  I am barely able to pay my bills as it is.  I have no savings, no extra income.  All I have is my book and the vague hope that I can publish.  But I already had a cause in mind for publishing proceeds.

My plan was to publish, hopefully earn enough to send my brother and husband through college, and then use left over proceeds to help Middle-Class Americans afford college.  That was my goal, my dream: to make higher education more affordable for those that slip through the cracks.  But now, I want to help my mother afford her PTSD dog too.  On the one hand, I know she needs the animal.  I know she needs to feel safe again, but on the other…I have a responsibility to help society, to do my part for a better future.

I have heard the “good of the many outweighs the good of the few” speech through history, politics, and literature, but now that it is my choice, now that I stand at the precipice…which way do I jump?  In Fable 2, when it came down to a choice between my family and my dog, I chose my family despite being more attached to my dog because I felt I had a responsibility towards a digital collection of people-shaped pixels.  But now…they are more than just pixels.  And now, it’s a choice between people I know and love, and people I share a tax-bracket with.  Am I crazy for losing sleep over this?  What would you choose?

An Inch

I don’t know why, but I have V for Vendetta stuck in my head.  I have heard several controversial things about the movie and quite frankly, I don’t care.  My favorite part, or perhaps its best to say my least favorite part, is Valerie’s letter.  Sometimes I can relate to it in ways I hardly want to admit, but the following is what I am reminded of today.

“I shall die here.  Every inch of me shall perish.  Every inch.  But one.  An inch.

“It is small and it is fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having.  We must never lose it or give it away.  We must never let them take it from us.

“I hope that – whoever you are – you escape this place.  I hope that the world turns, and that things get better.

“But what I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may not meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you: I love you.

“With all my heart.  I love you.  – Valerie.”

Valerie chronicles her life, describing both love and hardship, and shares in a misery so horrific I cannot properly articulate it.  And in the end, with her dying will, all she has to say is “I love you.”

Apart from that devastatingly powerful conclusion, my mind is set on the first paragraph today.

“I shall die here.  Every inch of me shall perish.  Every inch.  But one.  An inch.”

Valerie is speaking of her integrity, mentioned earlier in her letter, but I believe it is more than that.  I believe her inch is also her voice.  “It is small and it is fragile, and it is the only thing in the world worth having.”  Her voice is powerful.  It is compelling.  It is compassionate.  It is sincere.  And it is on toilet paper.  No one else will hear it.  Those that did expected to share her fate.

What draws me most to this letter is the terror that I will be like Valerie; that my inch will be as soft, as silent, as fragile as a sheet of toilet paper.  With every fiber of my being, I pray for the Valeries of the world.  I pray such a voice will not be silenced, that such an inch will not be lost.  I pray the words “I love you” will reverberate throughout the very fabric of society and that maybe her inch will remain.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Devil's Advocate Update

Devil's Advocate is my second unrelated novel featuring a pre-apocalyptic modern age. The main character is an ass in  nearly every sense of the word and is named after Lucci, a villain in the Japanese Manga/anime called One Piece. Credit is given in the text to the Manga as one character specifically names the ass after the villain. This may prove to be a problem in the future, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

So far, I am at 29,000 words and have tentatively finished the first 8 chapters. The story is intended to be fully standalone, but could easily become a franchise style series.

This story, unlike Silent Symphony, is told from a male perspective and is shaping up to be far more sarcastic than I originally intended. One character dresses like a naughty nun with Gothic makeup and runs the homeless shelter and community center. She is an actual angel, tutors kids after school, kicks their asses at video games to keep them off the streets, and is your typical do-gooder... Oh, and she is also the primary drug dealer and supplier for 2/3rds of the city population. The catch? The drugs are secretly placebos and she had been slowly weaning the city off drugs while accepting local criticism.

My characters are rapidly evolving and becoming far more dynamic than I intended. Writing is so much more than a tedious endeavor. It is an extension of our creativity manifested in physical form. The simple act of telling the story forces one to critically analyze realistic situations, even if only on a metaphysical level. I strongly encourage everyone to write a story. Even if it is never published, the journey, both for your characters and for yourself, is an extraordinary adventure into your imagination.

Cheers everyone and may you write a story all your own!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blogging What? LFMF...

I have always wondered what people find to blog about or important enough to post on Facebook. Now that I am a blogger, I find lots of little things to say.

I use this time to reflect on my perspectives and maybe think of various plot points I might like.

I remember saying some of the most ridiculously bold and provocative things mostly because I never thought about the ramifications. I would say something like "I hate female drivers" even though I am one, when what I really mean is "I hate inconsiderate drivers" and it just so happens the latest inconsiderate driver was female.

I never quite realized how judgemental and idiotic I was acting just by not considering the full consequences of my statements. Now that I am free writing, everything a character does must be thought out and consequences must be identified even if it takes 20 pages to be realized. I never considered how writing might affect my behavior as well.

As for various "eat my words" statements over the years...well I'll leave those undisclosed. Suffice it to say some where really judgemental and should never have been said. Consider this a long in coming "learn from my fail" moment.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lullaby Trial & Silent Symphony Update

So far, so good. Lullaby Trial is off to a great start. Everything is flowing just as before and the story is unfolding in unexpected ways. I love free writing! It just feels so natural, like I am a storyteller on a very quiet stage. Every once in a while something doesn't quite work and it gets added to the Deleted Scenes file, but so far, I am delighted with where it is heading. I seriously would never have guessed I could be a writer, but I am really enjoying my new hobby.

Hmm, can it still be considered a hobby if I have actually written a book? In Silent Symphony news, family editor #1 is about to reach new material and my personal favorite chapter, Conductor's Crescendo. I cannot wait to find out what she thinks. I am looking forward to hearing from my other 2 editors when they get through.

Gah, I am so excited. I can't wait to finish my query and get started already. I want to publish. I want to get the ball rolling and I want to make a difference. Too many people are having difficulty paying for their educations and if I can help even if only a little, I want to.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Own Editor

I never would have thought reading an entire book backwards would be difficult, but as it turns out after 5 revisions my brain doesn't like reading familiar words out of order.  At this point, finding an editor might be quicker and easier. Unfortunately, I am running a fever and can't really think at the moment. On the plus side, some family has decided to read it and review for me. My mother came home from work yesterday and said "if you make me cry at work again..." <insert obligatory threat here>, so I must be doing something right.

Yesterday, I read a review for Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano and decided I must read. I also checked out Whither and decided there is a reason DeStefano is so highly regarded at the moment. She sounds like an exceptional author and I look forward to reading some of her work.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Chapter 1 Song Bird Teaser

The heat of the flames burned my skin.  I could feel the sweat beading on my brow.  How could this happen?  How could we have failed?  Alyra, little one…  Everything hurt.  The song was like hissing snakes in my head; no rhythm, no melody.  I could see him…off in the distance, Discord beating on his back.  The sound was sickly, like the beating of a torn drum and the breaking of twigs.  If only I could find the melody, if only I could remember the tune.  Gasping for air through clenched teeth, I pushed myself to my feet.  A warm, dark syrup tricked down my shoulder.  Just then, the wind pounded against my back chilling me to the bone.  Promise me, Ali.  Promise me you will not search for the song, you will not search for revenge.  Promise me my dearest little one.  There was nothing left to do, no other choice.  I rushed the creature knowing I would fail, but mayhaps I might drive it back into the void.  Goodbye, little one.

Ali nearly shrieked as she jolted forward drenched in a cold sweat.  This is the third time this week.  Shaking as if she had run the night away, she quietly climbed down from her bunk and limped over to her trunk.  It was still dark out; not even the morning birds were out of bed yet.  Gathering a fresh change of clothes, her towel, and her toiletries, she headed off for the showers.  The water was ice cold.  Great, the boiler went out again.  I will need to fix that before the others wake up.  Shivering under the water, she quickly scrubbed the dirt from her skin and studied the shampoo bottle.  She only had about a tablespoon left and would not be able to get more until her vegetables were ready to harvest.  Hmm, today is Damien’s special day.  She smiled broadly and dabbed a bit of shampoo onto her wet hand.  I want to look my best for him today.  Finishing quickly, she was rather rough with the towel hoping the friction would warm and ease her cold, aching muscles.  She reached for her shirt and regretted her attire.  She had grabbed her Sunday best, but they were still worn and tattered cutoff jeans and a ratty T-shirt that was four sizes too big.  She tied off the extra length around her waist and pulled her boots on over what was left of her socks.  She then set about attempting to comb her hair.  Her hair was naturally curly, but tangled easily leading to a common nickname growing up, Rats-nest Lyra.  The childish taunt came back in her ears and she laughed at the little diddy; “Ratty, ratty, rat’s nest, ratty, ratty, rat’s nest…” over and over again with barely the hint of a respectable rhyme.

Letting her mind wander, she finished detangling and braiding her hair before gathering her things and creeping back to her trunk.  The light from the bathroom blinded her in the blackness, but she had made this walk countless times and knew the steps by count.  Quietly stowing her belongings, she grabbed her jacket, and work gloves heading for the door.  “And where are you headed this early in the morning, little toad?” Bud’s voice whispered from the table near the door.  His voice was smooth as silk, but had the bite of a viper when he called her “little toad.”  She winced at the nickname.  It was a constant barb, a thorny reminder that whenever she tried to sing, she sounded like a croaking toad.  Once, after a particularly hard day for Bud, he caught her humming to herself and said, “Ali, if toads could ever harmonize at the symphony, you would be their lead soprano.”  Startled by the intrusion to her thoughts, she quickly turned and nearly tripped when the rug coiled around her boot.  Bud caught her arm before she fell and woke the others.  “You are as graceful as a fish flopping on the shoreline.  Where are you sneaking off to?” he growled at her.  “I’m not sneaking.  I am just heading to the boilers.  The pilot burnt out again and there is no hot water,” she squeaked in response.  Shuddering at her pitch, he let go and shooed her out the door, “Well, go on then.  The others will be waking up soon.”  She quietly obliged scuttling for the door.

Outside, the biting wind cut through her jacket quickly chilling her.  Pulling it close, she sprinted to the boiler room.  The door had blown open in the night; the entire room had grown cold.  She closed the door and pulled her matchbox out.  Not many matches left.  I will have to find a stick to light the furnace from the lantern.  Striking the match, she lit the lantern sheltering the flame from the draft.  The smoke window at the top of the boiler room had been left open.  After heaping coal in the furnace, she lit the stick and set about starting the coal.  What seemed like an eternity passed before one finally caught.  She guarded and nurtured the flame until it slowly spread to the others.  And soon, the furnace was ablaze again.   She sat for a moment, warming herself before closing the furnace door and climbing the stairs to the open window.   The sun was just coming over the tree tops of her garden.  It was going to be a beautiful day, the perfect day for Damien to take his test.  Damien!!! Oh man, I forgot.  I was going to give him one of my oranges.  She leapt from the top of the stairs to the boiler room door.  Crossing the green at a dead run, she pushed her way through the dense foliage to the garden shed.  Snatching up her shoulder bag, she toppled one of the potted peppermints as she bolted for the grove.  Most of the harvest was not ready yet, but she was sure she had seen an orange towards the top of one of the trees that was ripe.

The wind blew through the grove, calling to her as it bellowed past her head.  Not today.  Today, Damien takes his last test.  Today, he will be joining the Wandering Bards or maybe even the Mockingbirds.  Damien was not exactly her friend mind you.  At least he did not see himself as such.  More like the tutor no one wants to admit they need.  Everyone knew Ali could not sing to save her soul, but no one questioned her ability to write a song.  Damien had been trying, unsuccessfully to be accepted into the Wandering Bards, but every tune he came up with was flat and emotionless.  Rather begrudgingly, he worked up the nerve to go to Ali’s garden one day.  Stop it.  Focus.  You need to find that orange.  Damien is counting on you.  Frantically searching, she began leaping from branch to branch, careful to distribute her weight evenly.  Finally, she spotted one; a perfect orange lay nestled at the top of one of the taller trees two rows up.  The wind called to her again.  This time she accepted its offer.  Launching into the gust, she spread her jacket like a sail pushing her towards the tree.  Touching down briefly, she sprung back into the wind twirling and spinning through the grove until she stood before the tree.  She climbed the branches with the skill and grace she imaged the elves from children’s stories had.  Clutching at Damien’s orange, she pushed off the tree and let the wind carry her to the ground gently.  Glancing at the sky, she knew she was running late.  The wind was against her on the way back, making her work to return to the garden shed.  Panting and heaving from the effort, she whipped the sweat from her brow as she threw the shoulder bag into the shed.  She heard the meeting bell toll and broke into an open sprint when she was clear of the trees.

Gasping, she finally made it to the hall.  Everyone had already gathered when she threw the doors open.  The whispers and snickering began almost immediately.  “Oh how cute, the blackened toad has finally made it,” she heard someone say.  “Did she even bother to shower?” another asked incredulously.  Ignoring the comments, she pushed her way to the stage and called out for Damien.  He paled at the sight of her and then blushed as he went for her.  “Gee, thanks for looking your best for me Ali.  I greatly appreciate the effort.  The twigs in your hair and soot all over your face really add to your usual appeal.”  Shocked, Ali reached for her face and hair.  Pulling a leaf from her braid, she blushed furiously and meekly handed Damien the orange.  “I’m sorry Damien, I did try.  I just knew you liked the oranges and…”  “Look, its fine.  Whatever, thanks for your help and everything, but I kinda’ need to get ready.  Bud has been breathing down my neck all morning,” he interrupted.  “Oh, right. Of course.  I’m sorry.  Good luck!” she called after him as he stalked away.  Embarrassed, Ali hurried to the back of the hall, careful to avoid looking at anyone.  “What did she think was going to happen?  Was she expecting him to ask her for a duet? Hahaha!”  She buried her head in her hands as she slumped against the wall.  “What are you doing?  You’re getting soot all over the freshly painted walls! Get off, go stand outside by the window if you really want to hear him,” said Bud as he pulled her to her feet.  Outside, the wind pulled at her as she sat beneath the window ledge, tears streaking down her soot stained cheeks.  She angrily whipped them away smudging the soot with her hand.

The ceremony began.  Bud gave the usual words of inspiration and sang a small ballad for each of the Bards; he sang of their bravery and various achievements as was customary before the trial of another.  When all were introduced, with cheers erupting for each, Damien was brought out.  Ali could not bring herself to look in through the window.  The hall grew quiet and the lights were turned low leaving just the spotlight on the stage.  His chair squeaked as he sat making everyone lean forward in anticipation.  Damien began strumming the lute in the melody Ali had written for him.  Humming to himself as he drew the courage, he began playing louder and louder until the opening words.  “Dreaming of the time, when I could spread my wings…flying through the doorway, out before the springs…”  Ali knew the words and nearly sang along before she caught herself.  The song was her hearts greatest desire, to fly like the song bird her mother used to be; to fight and defend her home and family.  Although she was an orphan that no one seemed to want, she loved them all and wanted to protect them.  The tears flowed like rivers as the song went on; the harmony was perfect.  Damien was sure to be accepted.  She stood as the song ended and clapped with the rest of them.  The bards all stood and cast their votes.  Bud came forward to congratulate Damien on an excellent performance.

Ali had heard enough, she knew her friend had done well.  And the wind was calling to her, always wanting to dance.  As she again crossed the field, heading back to her garden, the wind blew strongly.  She let it sweep her off her feet and danced with it, spinning and twirling as if a leaf on the wind.  Drifting higher and higher, she spun until she was dizzy before pulling in her sail and touching down again.  Not looking back, she ran to her garden, content that her friend had achieved his dream.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Story Arch Plotted, Course Laid In

I identified the main plot points for the rest of the Silent Symphony Chronicles and I have to say I am looking forward to the next three books. Lullaby Trial, book 2, delves into the aftermath of Silent Symphony. Book 3 hasn't been named yet but will compare magic vs technology. And finally book 4 will complete the saga and come full circle.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Publishing Diaries

Now that I have shared my story, it's time for Publishing Diaries, a blog about seeking a publisher.

I am an engineer.  I do not have an English degree and cannot spell to save my soul.  I have written my story, finished the second full content revision, and am currently in the process of reading the entire 143,000 words backward.  That's right...backward.  Since engineers are known for our poor communication skills, a professor taught me a fantastic proof-reading skill.  By reading the document backward, you remove your brain's natural inclination to auto-correct common mistakes.  The technique forces your mind to re-evaluate the individual words and helps identify mistakes traditional reading techniques overlook.  Basically, it allows me to be my own editor, although I am still seeking outside review.

Once I have finished the final review phase, I will submit my very first query.  I have already picked out an agent I really like and am studiously tailoring my query letter and synopsis per her stated requirements.  I have checked out her blog and am following her Twitter page in the hopes of finding a "Call for Queries," not that she has ever done so before as far as I can tell.  But, it's a start.  The agent's name is Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Every couple of months, she posts her latest "Letters from the Query Wars."  At first, I was disheartened.  She receives and responds to over 100 queries a week and only asks for a manuscript from 1 or 2.  But then, she posts a "of the last 10 I reviewed in X week" including the statistics.  I was shocked at how few were actually applicable to her requirements.  In some cases, the author never included their own name or their co-author's name.  Sometimes, the queries were for genres she doesn't represent.  Some do not follow her requirements.  A flicker of hope was born.

Ms. Jackson receives hundreds of queries a week, but how many of them are actually valid?  How many meet the standards?  When I submit my query, how many other valid queries will be submitted?  While I would be shocked with anything other than a polite rejection, I will certainly do everything in my power to ensure I meet her requirements and do not waste her time.  Wish me luck!

Why Publish

I wrote Silent Symphony because I am a storyteller.  I am publishing because I have a dream.

I graduated after five years of engineering classes with a grand total of less than $1000 in scholarships.  The rest of my education was graciously funded by student loans.  Needless to say, money is not in abundance after struggling for a year  to find a job in a difficult California economy after graduation.  But, I have a job now and I can pay my bills.

My little brother is starting his college career in September going to my alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona, and majoring in my major.  Don't ask me why, I had nothing, literally nothing, to do with his decision making process.  Also like me, he is receiving 0 financial aid relying entirely on student loans.  I know how hard it is to pay the bills fresh out of college and I want something better for my little brother.

My husband is a brilliant man, truly.  He taught himself computer programming and has over 15 years of experience.  He knows at least 13 programming languages and has spent the last God only knows how many years working on a complex encryption program in his spare time.  He works at Staples.  Due to family pressures and conditions, he barely graduated high school and joined the Air Force Reserve fresh out of school as a Aerospace Ground Equipment technician.  Basically, he became a mechanic.  For a while, he worked at Home Depot to pay the bills and then got an amazing job at Union Pacific Railroad.  Unfortunately, after drama too annoying to blog about, he lost his $21/hr job at the age of 21 and became practically unemployable.  He tried going to college several times, but due to financial constraints and a difficult learning style, he never caught a break.

My goal in publishing my book is to be able to finance their college educations.  They are both brilliant men struggling to fulfill their dreams and I want to help.  I want to share my success and give them the chance they never had.  I want them to have a better life than I have and give them the opportunity to succeed when they fell through the educational cracks.

If my book becomes enough of a success, I hope to start a foundation providing scholarship opportunities for middle income families.  I want to help people who don't qualify for scholarships because they make just enough money to survive, but not enough to thrive.  I want to help the people who can just barely pay their bills, but can't possibly hope to do anything else.  I want to change the financial aid system, even if in a minuscule way and help people go to college.

How it came to be

One night, I had a very vivid dream.  I am pretty sure most authors say that.  At least, that's what Stephanie Meyer said when she came up with Twilight.  I had tried writing stories before, but never really got into it.  At first, I thought this was going to be the same, so I decided instead of writing a book, I would tell a story.  I sat down with no particular goal in mind, no grand story line, no idea what the world or the people looked like.  I just sat down and started typing.

Song Bird was born.  I intended it to be a standalone short story and when I shared it with my mother, she asked where the rest was.  I laughed and said, "That's it.  It's a short story, nothing more."  I am not kidding, she glared at me for twenty minutes demanding the rest of the story and a box of Kleenex.  Apparently, I had mastered the art of making her cry.  So at first, I resisted the urge to continue fearful I would never finish.

Day after day, it nagged at me.  I practically heard a voice in the back of my mind telling me it was unfinished, prompting me to go on.  Now, as many people who know me will say, I am addicted to stories.  I cannot watch a television show unless we have an entire season because I do not handle waiting for the story to go on.  I watch 50 shows in a weekend because I cannot wait for the rest.  So when the story demanded I finished it, my resolve snapped like a brittle twig in the dead of winter.

I became entirely enthralled literally typing away any chance I found.  The story just spilled out.  I did not plan, I did not brainstorm, I simply free-wrote.  I cannot tell you how surprised I was at every turn.  I cannot possibly express the sorrow I felt as I realized the fate of my characters.  I was merely a vessel, a storyteller of the Silent Symphony.

Silent Symphony

In a world divided by dissonance and the endless expanse of the void, Alyra (Ali) is the desolate and dejected orphan prodigy of two of history’s greatest Night Owls.  Faced by death, she casts off her shroud revealing her true harmony to save a Wandering Bard and sing a Silent Symphony long forgotten.

Despite the villagers’ cruelty, Ali’s greatest wish is to sing and protect.  She is willing to sacrifice her life just as her parents did nearly fifteen years ago to repel a terrible evil.  But she is called toad; no one will listen to her sing.  In solitude she waits, only the wind to keep her company.  When a voidbeast threatens the life of a forgotten Bard, Ali breaks her promise to save him, nearly dying in the process as she discovers a magic all her own dancing with a harmony of fire and wind.  She soon develops the ability to hear and understand all harmonies, even the mysterious void.  Vowing to correct its shattered harmony, she sets out to free thousands trapped within.  But she cannot do it alone.

Its a Pen Name

I knew from the beginning I wanted to publish under a pen name.  I am not embarrassed by my work, but as a young, female engineer, I didn't want my career to be adversely affected by my hobbies.  So, I choose a pseudonym.

Alexis:  I have often loved the sound of "Alexis," even as a child.  But then Castle aired and I fell in love with it.  For those of you who have never seen the show, first off, you should try it.  It is hysterical.  Secondly, Alexis is the main character's daughter, played by Molly Quinn.  She is a well-grounded, logical, compassionate, multi-faceted, dynamic, and intelligent daughter of a crime novel writer named Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion).  In one episode, Alexis and another girl are kidnapped.  Don't worry, no spoilers if you are behind the times.  Alexis is calm, cool, collected.  She is obviously freaked out, but she maintains her demeanor and figures out how to escape using the eclectic skills her father taught her while researching his numerous best selling crime novels.  Alexis became a sort of idol for me.  She personifies everything I hope to be.  Thank you, Ms. Molly Quinn, for bringing such an amazing character to life with your upbeat and charismatic performance.

Rhodes:  As I said in my profile, my mother discovered I was illiterate when I was 10.  Learning to read required me to find a venue I enjoyed.  A friend introduced me to a child author by the name of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.  She wrote a series of young-adult vampire novels and published her first book when she was 16.  She helped me find reading enjoyable.  Now that I have written my first book, I find her more of an inspiration considering her publication at such a young age.  Thank you, Ms. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes for your amazing stories and inspirational history.

These two women have been a powerful inspiration and I look forward to many, many more delights from them.  Thank you so much, Ms. Molly Quinn and Ms. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, for just being incredible.