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.