I came to a crossroads a little over a year ago. And I wasn’t sure I could finish Dark Secrets then. But I always knew in my heart that I would never let it go. I never leave anything unfinished (I’m an Aries. We love projects). Especially not when people are relying on me.
In my last post I expressed my extreme struggle with this and the fact that I was battling with the need to finish against the absent desire. I will never lose my need to finish it, so don’t worry. And I will take many journeys within myself to find the desire again. But something you have to understand about me is that I never do things by halves. I would never release it unless it was perfect.
The crossroads I came to last year (above mentioned) turned out to be an overemotional period brought on by a baby I didn’t know I was carrying. This time, there’s a strong likelihood it’s a slight case of Post Natal Depression. I’ve made an appointment with my doctor to make sure and to see if I need medication or maybe just some rest and a bit more help. In any case, depression or not, as anyone that’s read Dark Secrets would know, I am a highly emotive person at the best of times. Add some chemical imbalance or overwhelm me a little and you get a disaster zone.
I’m going to share with you the journey I’ve been on over the last week while I’ve been absent from social media, and tell you something I have been taught recently—something taught by fictional characters: in truth, even they get sick of being dealt a shitty hand.
Let me take a moment to explain it in depth.
We don’t really know where the magic of a story comes from. We cannot say these characters we love either exist on another plane or that they don’t, all we know, as writers and as readers, is that some characters stick with you, cut you deeper, or make you fall for them harder than others. As a writer, (and this will make me sound insane, I know, but just don’t take it too literally) I have to believe that maybe, somewhere out there, they do exist and writers are their ‘gods’, so to speak. We decide their fate, or perhaps we just tell their story as it once happened. Who knows? But what I do know is that, if I can shake my fist at God and ask why he keeps testing me, so can my characters. I am their evil overlord. I put them through many trials and tests because I want them to be strong, so that, in the end, they deserve their happy ever after. So, is it any surprise that, as soon as I give them some happiness, right before taking it all away again, they check out? They get up and leave. No note. No goodbye, just gone. David and Ara have left the building!
But they just needed me to understand something—needed me to see their side.
For years I’ve known how this story will end. Who will live. Who will die. Who will win in love and who will end up alone. But the pathway to the end has changed over time. Changed many times. And each change has been better than the last. But never has one of them felt right.
I had a revelation last night. I’m writing this post on Thursday September 4th, but I won’t post it until Saturday (although it's Friday) because I have an agreement with myself to stay away from social media until then. Anyway, I was lying in bed trying to sleep, my mind racing and full of woes and problems. My son’s operation that we waited months for just got cancelled and I had a really bad day. Safe to say I was very down yesterday. I also ate an entire bag of M & Ms while I watched Twilight. It was good to see Edward again. See? Positives in every negative. **smiley face**
In all this misery and uncertainty, I’ve been searching and searching for an answer to a question I didn’t really have. Perhaps the question was, ‘Why can’t I finish this series?’ or ‘Will this last book be good enough?’ or ‘How am I going to get through this last book? It’s so huge!’. I’m not sure what my question was. But whatever ailed me stopped me from writing. So I went back to read book one in the hopes I might find the answer to the unknown question there. I’ve also tried walking to the places I used to go when I was first writing these books. And I realised that I didn’t need to go back to move forward. Their [Ara & David] past is dead and the future is all that matters now. Ara has changed. David has changed. I have changed. Nothing about what they were will give me clues to what I need.
So if I couldn't go back to find the answer what could I do?
I needed to feel a connection to them again. But to feel a connection I needed to be able to feel anything other than misery (the misery wasn’t all day every day, but surfaced a LOT when I’d sit to write—perhaps a case of self-loathing). So I played the piano. I was so rusty at first. I haven't played since before I fell pregnant and I had forgotten most of it. I played just one song: “Fur Elise”. I played it over and over until it flowed smoothly, like it used to. I felt the notes, the flow move through my arms and pick up my soul. Felt it rewire the connections that had been lost. But most importantly, I felt.
I went to bed that night (last night) and I let it all go, whatever IT was. I found myself then thinking about why I wasn't happy with this story. What was bothering me about it. I knew all along that it had a lot to do with Drake’s castle—that the next ‘not-sure-how-many’ chapters were to be set there. Without David. And I just didn’t want to write that much of the story without him. But to have them both at the castle doesn't fit the story. I need Ara on her own.
But then…. ah ha! I need her on her own later. Not right now. So, in walks David after being missing for weeks and says to me, “Well, why can’t we leave the castle and hide for the next few months? I’ll protect her and the baby, I swear.”
I decided that was fine and agreed, with a simple nod. But now we needed somewhere to hide.
Her dad’s house?
Australia with Mike?
No. Too far away.
Where? Where? Where?….
Brilliant! I like it! But how? It’s outdoors. Will they camp?
No. David can build a small log cabin on the island.
What about plumbing?
Ara can pee on a tree, says David.
She doesn’t have a dick, you idiot!
She doesn’t need one. She can…
Let’s not get into the logistics of how I can pee on a tree, says Ara.
David shuts up and I realise that none of this will work.
Okay…wait…I got it….
My mind is ticking and thoughts are sparking and BAM!
His uncle’s old lake house. So old that no one even knows it exists. Not even me until just now!
It’s right down the old overgrown tyre/tire tracks Ara followed that day she had a fight with David at the lake.
And as Ara and David drove up to the house in my mind, and I mapped out its weathered clad and bowing roof, a very significant and very scary dream I had years ago suddenly popped to life in my head. My heart did a literal flip right there in my chest, while my baby slept a few meters away in his room, my husband breathed deeply and soundly beside me and nothing but darkness surrounded me. I was here, in my world, but miles away into the past. I saw the house, remembered telling my husband the morning after the dream that something about that house felt significant. And I suddenly knew as it came to mind last night, as if the clues had always been there, that it was Ara and David’s lake house—the place they would hide from the world until everything needed to go sour again. I knew it was meant to be.
440 people pre-ordered Echoes on Amazon last time I checked. 440 isn’t much (but if my mind was in a better state I would have told myself that a lot of people don’t pre-order, but sales on the day will increase, and then I’d tell myself not to be such a negative self-loathing nelly). When a project is not profitable, it’s very hard to make yourself continue (even if it is all in your imagination). But there is something supernaturally special about Ara and David, and Fate has always played a part in seeing their story through (in ways you can’t even imagine; freaky stuff happening). And I am just the tool being used to deliver it. 440 might not be much, but they have always been important to me—kept me going this far. I just didn’t want to deliver a crap story to them. It had to be all or nothing, for the sake of David and Ara, for the sake of all that has led me here. For the sake of those 440 people waiting for the climactic and epic ending to this journey.
And today, Fate delivered. This nightmare I’ve been in lately was my final test; the events after the lake house for Ara and David will be their final test, and if we come through it all, there’s a HEA waiting for us all. I hope.
I’m not sure how long it will take to finish this book, but at last, by letting them go for a while, Ara and David have come back to me, and the deadness in my chest is suddenly gone, leaving behind that magical old flame.
I would like to take a moment to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all your love, support and endless streams of messages, comments and posts. At a time of great need, who would have thought I could turn to my fans, and as I continue this amazing journey, it warms my heart and lifts my spirit to know I have you all right beside me.
I have read a lot of the messages and I will take a few days to slowly read through them all. I may not have the time to respond to every one of them, but so far, from what I’ve read, I have laughed and even cried. And I can say that they have definitely helped me to come out of this darkness and to step back and realise that perhaps the cloud is actually depression. Thank you all again. And I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Echoes when it's released.
And just a quick message about reviews:
This really needs to be another blog post, because it's a major issue that needs changing. Not the issue of reviews being nasty or even low ratings, but that it is considered 'unfashionable' or 'bad behaviour' for authors to say something back. It might be the reviewer's own 'opinion' and then there's the whole 'free speech' thing, and that's fine. Have your opinion. Have your say. But if you walked up to someone in the street and called them fat, you'd get punched. It's still free speech, but what about my rights to defend myself or even my work. I should be allowed to tell a reviewer when they have gotten something wrong in a review, for example, saying that I got things wrong in my book because "school does not start back in July." Ara doesn't go to school in JULY. She goes at the end of AUGUST! And she only misses ONE WEEK of the beginning. The reviewer in question got that wrong, among other things, and if this sways other readers, I feel that's not fair. Why should I lose readers because the reviewer is an idiot and doesn't read books properly? He/she also complained that we don't get enough backstory on Ara's dad. Who cares? He is not important to the story. And you get enough if you actually READ the damn book. What? Do you want me to SPOON FEED you!?
Anyway, they can 'frown' upon me for putting this on Amazon, but I can do whatever I want in my own blog. So there! That's my stand on things, and I think authors need to unite! It should not be 'unfashionable' for us to put nasty reviewers in their place. If you hate the book, fine. I don't actually care. But when you leave lengthy or nasty reviews that are either wrong or personal attacks, it should be MY RIGHT to have FREE SPEECH and say my piece.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?