October 24, 2012

What I've learned from SUPERNATURAL and THE WALKING DEAD

I can't believe I'm about to let you in on my secret. It's a secret I keep in mind and follow through with every ms. Maybe you already know it and are holding onto it hoping no one else figures out your brilliance. But this is a place for sharing, growing, and encouraging, so I'm gonna let you in on my secret as long as you promise not to tell. Now lean in closer while I whisper all these goodies into your ear.

I have long been a die hard SUPERNATURAL fan! Since season one I can't get enough of the witty dialogue between those two brothers. At first, I'll admit it, I was a bit of a Sam fangirl. But it didn't take me long to realize where my heart belonged... Dean. Yep. I love me some Dean. Why, you ask. Oh, that's easy--because he's a jerk. Yeah, that's right. He's the one with no filter who says whatever he feels like saying, and quite often it is rude and insensitive--but it is always funny and perfect and I love him for it.

You know who else I love? Bobby. Yep. That smelly, old, drunk who's mean as hell. Why do I love him? Oh that's easy, because you always know where you stand with Bobby. He's loyal to the point of death, but even on his death bed would never be caught saying some stupid sappy, mumbo-jumbo. He's that loathable character that YOU LOVE. Just like Dean.

Now onto THE WALKING DEAD. I'll give you one guess who my favorite character is. *plays elevator music* Did you guess it? It's Daryl. 100% Daryl. Why? Because he's so mean. And unlike Dean and Bobby, I do question Daryl's motives. And with each episode I'm on the edge of my seat wondering what this bipolar character is gonna do next. He's so raw. He's not some perfect superhero. He's angry, and violent, and tough, but then he does caring things and I keep holding out hope that he's gonna stay good, even though he seems to teeter towards darkness quite often.

So, what's the secret you ask? Well it's like this. STOP writing perfect men! Please, just stop. I hate to read about them and I hate to watch them. I want the imperfect jerk. And he doesn't have to be the MC to pack a punch. In my last fantasy WIP one of my favorite characters was a supporting character. He was always rude, and down right mean. He was funny, but rude. My MC hated him and at times I kinda had a love-hate for him. And even as I wrote him I never quite knew which side he'd end up on. He was that good guy who seemed to be on the wrong side. Even my cp loved him.

Either make your likable characters hatable at the same time, or make your bad guys have a good side. OR BOTH. Keep the reader guessing and keep your characters flawed. Have one character with no filter--it always adds humor. (I LOVE no filter moments!!! I call it mouth diarrhea:) Every book should have one character who suffers from this! Have one character switch sides in a total double take, you never saw it coming. Have a character we love do something we hate!!!! Have a character we hate do something we love!! Keep it spicy. And yes, this rule should apply across the board for all genres.

You're welcome. Now. Go. Write. Be brilliant.


I was asked to write a magazine article!

Last week I sent off a few emails giving a brief description of my rape and trial and asking if I could write an article for some magazines. I wasn't sure what to expect, but yesterday I heard back from one saying they were very interested in letting me share my story. Yippee! So I cut and pasted from previous posts, my proposal, and my query and this is what I've come up with--please feel free to critique!!! There's a good chance this will be published in the December issue, since they told me to have it in by Nov. 6th to make it into the December issue. This is a Christian magazine for teenaged girls. With that in mind, I wrote towards that audience. So here it is, any critique is appreciated!!!

He drives with one hand while his other is clenched around my jaw, twisting my head—as if this is easy. My face is smothered into his stomach and with each breath I inhale his shirt, slowly suffocating. I can’t open my eyes, they aren’t something I control anymore. I don’t want to see him. I don’t want to see what he’s done to me.
There’s a professional way about his strength. He knew exactly how to subdue me, and quickly, like he’s done this before. Methodical, calculated, professional. Military crosses my mind.

I don’t know how long he’s had me in his clutches. Maybe an hour.

Time doesn’t exist.

Why am I still alive? He’s already raped me, what more—I stop myself. I won’t go there. I won’t think about how he plans to kill me. I’m certain I won’t live much longer, but there is one thing I can do, if escaping is out of the question. I’m ready. I won’t be going home to my family tonight, but I will send them my killer, my rapist—or rather his DNA buried beneath my fingernails when they find my dead body. I’m prepared to strike at the first sign he’s done with me. I know the second I claw his face off he’ll end my life. So I wait, patiently, for him to try to kill me. I’ll put up one last fight—one he won’t easily walk away from.

The car stops. This is the moment.

He lets go of my head and snarls, “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you,” then reaches across me and thrusts open the door.

I see my escape and move so quickly I topple out backwards onto the curb.

Daylight is almost gone, granting me just enough luminescence to see my surroundings. Houses dot the quiet neighborhood. Cars drive past unconcerned with me lying on the sidewalk. The world is still here, unaffected.

I’m stunned, motionless. I can’t believe he let me go. None of it seems real.

I catch his cold, black eyes on me as if he’s waiting to see what I’ll do. It snaps me back.

Rocketing up, I bolt in the opposite direction of the car like my feet are on fire. Not once do I look back. I have no idea if he’s driven off or if he’s pursuing me. All I know is this isn’t the movies and I’m not going to be that stupid girl who looks back and trips. I just run. Running is one thing I do well. There’s no way he’s catching me.

I don’t know if I’m bleeding or if bones are broken. Everything is numb. It’s probably for the best. I can’t even feel my feet hitting the sidewalk, but I see the world flying past so I know my legs must be working.

I have no clue where I am. I don’t recognize anything. The closest house is a small sky-blue ranch with concrete steps. I barrel up the stairs like my life depends on it and pound my fists into the door. “Please—” I whimper, my eyes flooding. Seconds feel like hours. Why isn’t anyone opening the door?

Terrified to be still and so vulnerable, and needing to know where he is, I dare a glance. I just know he’s gotten out to chase me and I’ll have to abandon this attempt at a rescue and flee to the next house.

The road is empty.

Oxygen floods my lungs. I gasp, allowing myself to suck in rapid gulps of relief. He’s gone. It’s over.


*                 *                 *

I was fifteen when I was kidnapped and raped by a stranger. To say my life changed forever would be an understatement. It was more like an atomic bomb went off inside my soul, destroying everything.

That night I spent hours at the police station being interrogated like I was the criminal, then more hours at the hospital being poked and prodded like a lab rat, and yes, in that order. Why they thought it was okay to harass me for hours before getting me medical treatment I’ll never know.

By the time I finally got home it was in the early hours of the next morning. Though I hadn’t been living like one, I was a Christian, and the second I was alone I fell to my knees and prayed. I sobbed out loud, “I know there is a reason why you chose me for this, but please show me why. I’m not sure I can ever heal if I don’t know why.” I knew it was wrong to ask for such things. Who was I to question God? But He knew my heart, and my pain, and I hoped that was enough to forgive such a demand.

The next three days were a living hell—nausea, nightmares, disabling-fear anytime I attempted to go into public. I thought since I’d gone to the police that man would come back and finish me off, like he said he would.

It was on the third day my living nightmare came to an end. One of the officers assigned to my case came to see me and showed me a line-up of six pictures. I didn’t need to look at them all. The man who’d raped me was the fourth one. They had caught that monster and I could finally stop looking over my shoulder. But now what was I supposed to do with this pain inside? Life had chipped away at me, and finally I had crumbled to dust.

Over the next weeks two other women came forward to say they were his victims too. They were raped before me, but had waited to report it. I don’t know if it was fear or shame that kept them from reporting it for so long. Maybe a combination of both. Shame: a horrible and unjustified emotion that seems to plague so many sexual assault victims. Like it was some how our fault, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. My heart broke for those other women. I understood the pain they were feeling.

Still, I couldn’t help but wonder—if they had come forward right away, could my rape have been avoided?

There’s no way I’ll ever know the answer to that question, but it set a passion burning inside me. I couldn’t change what happened, but I could do everything in my power to keep it from happening again to someone else.

While preparing for trial, I struggled to deal with the damage left behind. I put on a brave face for the world, but inside I teeter-tottered between fear and rage.

Every adult was clueless as to how to deal with me. I could feel their eyes boring into the back of my head in church, judging eyes that darted away from my glance. I swear I could hear all of their thoughts and whispers.

‘Did you hear what happened to Amber? So sad and so young.’

‘Yeah, but you know she was always the wild one of the bunch. It’s lucky she didn’t go and get herself killed.’

 I guess that was one problem with the church I was being raised in—everyone seemed to know my problems, but no one knew how to fix me.

My youth pastor was different. His eyes didn’t hold pity or judgment. One day after youth group he asked how I was dealing with the situation. I told him I wasn’t. Then he told me the smartest thing an adult had ever said to me, and why in my fifteen years I hadn’t heard this I do not know. I live by those very words still today.

He said, “I wish I could give you the answers as to why God allowed this to happen to you, but I have none. All I can tell you is the answers are in here.” And he placed his hand on the bible. Being a ‘Sunday only’ Christian, the bible was not something I read outside of church, but he’d peaked my interest. He sent me home with the task of reading the book of JOB. He said I’d tackle the rest of the bible later, but for now he thought JOB would be a good place for me to start.

I devoured every word of JOB, and for good measure I read it again. Still questions plagued me, like ‘Why would God put Job through such a harsh test if he was a good man?’

So I’d sit and talk to my youth leader and in doing so, I found my first Christian mentor. I learned that the bible was full of amazing stories of suffering and redemption, tragedies and triumphs. God never promised life would be easy, he only promised we’d never have to walk through the fire alone.

I knew I needed Jesus front and center if I was ever going to be strong enough to face my rapist in court. I talked with Him through prayer, and He spoke back to me through His word. Slowly but surely, I began to walk with Christ. A fire grew inside my soul, a strength that had never been there. Not only was God mending my pieces together, he was building me stronger than I’d ever been before.

All of us victims had the same state-appointed lawyer. I was never allowed to meet the others. Because our testimonies were so similar, about how he had pinned us down, my lawyer couldn’t risk the defender saying we had coerced our stories. So I did as she asked. I knew she was counting on my case to put that serial rapist away for good. Since I had the rape kit done within hours, I had all the physical evidence anyone could hope for.

One day she asked me, “How are you so strong? How do you keep it together?”

She told me the other women could barely get out a word without crying. And here I was, now sixteen, and so strong-hearted.

I didn’t know how to answer her. It caught me off guard because no one had ever called me 'strong' before, but the truth was—God had given me peace through prayer and study and I wasn’t broken anymore. I no longer felt like a victim. I felt like a warrior.

EPHESIANS 6:11- “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

PSALM 25:2- “Oh my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.”

My case went to court first, one year after the rape, and he was found guilty by a jury on all accounts and sentenced to 66 years in prison for the crimes he committed against me! (That doesn’t include the 30+ years he got in a later trial for the other women). He got 1 year for larceny (he stole a chain from around my neck), 25 years for the abduction, and 40 years for the rape—that was the maximum for rape in 1998 if you didn’t know.

Now I’m not going to say there aren't still scars from the rape, like—if someone sneaks up on me while I’m walking to my car they will get seriously jacked up. And yes, that is a blade on my key ring, so if they value their jugular they won’t attack me.

The church I attend now is an amazing, biblical church. The bible is taught in depth there and I know that is exactly where I am supposed to be. I have a wonderful son who is four and looks just like me, and an amazing daughter who is two and is the spitting image of her daddy. My husband is kind-hearted and patient and he loves the Lord.

On Sundays when the pastor tells us the message and says things like—“I don’t have all the answers, but I promise they are in this book.”—and he holds up the bible, I am reminded of that time so many years ago when I was guided toward THE ONLY TRUTH in life. I smile because I know God is still there, holding my hand.

Thank you so much for reading my story.

PSALM 34:4- “I sought the Lord, and he heard me and delivered me from my fears.”

October 19, 2012

what's this in my inbox? Something I've never seen before....

 Nope, it' not a "Can we talk?" email, but it's close.

I got a wonderful, very detailed R&R. This is the same agent who gave me all the wonderful advice on building my platform, just a few days ago. She seems like she's really interested in my memoir!

Oh and I posted my first 2 chapters up above in the comments


October 18, 2012

Taking the next step with one eye open

So I've written a memoir, what's next?

Well, have you had it critiqued and then edited it until it's all spit polished and shiny?


Is it something people will want to read? Because a lot of people write memoirs that are really kinda, well, you know, boring.

Not mine. It has intensity, kidnapping and rape, police interrogations, school fights, roller coaster of highs and lows that any teenager will relate to, traveling to a foreign country, climbing castle walls, best friends, falling crazy in love and then having to make a single decision that will change the rest of your life? Oh and above all else, it has faith. A broken girl with nothing and no one to turn to except Christ. So yeah, I truly believe people will want to read it.

Okay then, now it's time to build your platform.

My plat-what?

Your platform. Are you famous?

Well no.

Okay then, you have to in a sense, become famous.

What? Why?

Because even if you have a wicked awesome memoir, nobody knows who you are. So nobody will read it. You've gotta put yourself out there. Write articles for magazines, contact organizations, become a volunteer, blog, tweet, vlog. Oh and, purchase the book HOW TO WRITE A BOOK PROPOSAL by Michael Larsen.

But, but, but... I don't wanna. I don't want to do anything. I just want to write my memoir and tomorrow it be on the Best Seller's list. Cause that's how it happens, right? RIGHT? Well, fine then--if I have to.

This wasn't exactly how the conversation went with an ubber awesome, could only dream of agent, but you get the gist of it. So Tuesday I purchased HOW TO WRITE A PROPOSAL along with several women's magazines that I might be able to interest in some articles from me regarding my rape and the steps I took to put that man behind bars. Yesterday I emailed the Norfolk police station to figure out what I needed to do to get my old police records. Then I went on the RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) website and got the forms needed to get the ball rolling on becoming a RAINN speaker/activist. So slowly but surely I'm getting out there and trying to make this happen.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't deathly afraid of these things. Getting up in front of strangers and telling them what happened to me is TERRIFYING! Like please, can I swim with sharks, or dive in a pit of spiders instead? Please? But seriously, I believe more than anything that other girls need to hear my story. Maybe it will help them to better understand the dangers out there so they don't have to go through what I went through. Maybe they have been abused and need to know they aren't alone. Maybe they've been assaulted and need some encouragement to come forward and report what's happened. I don't know where God will use my story, or who it will touch. All I know is it's my job to step out ON FAITH and let him do the rest.

So here I go, taking the next step. One eye is eagerly open; the other is protectively closed. Both arms are defensively in front of me to brace for impact. My heart beats against my chest as if to demand off of this roller coaster. My stomach spins nonstop, churning my food into bile and threatening to send it back up. Yet, despite the rebellion of my flesh, in my mind I hear a small, steady voice saying, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

1 PETER 4:14-15
"But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:"