One Word at a Time.


“To write means more than putting pretty words on a page; the act of writing is to share a part of your soul with the world.”
~Anonymous

I don’t frequently participate in blog hops, but I really enjoyed these posts from Kristan, Julie, and Heather, so I decided to jump in with one of my own. Added bonus: I’ve been missing my book-babies something fierce during this writing break, so this is a really fun way to (sort of) hang out with them again.

What are you working on?

I just finished the first draft of WATERCOLORS, a story about a songwriter whose life goes up in smoke. Eden loses everything in the fire: her home, her belongings, her muse, and herself. It isn’t until she overhears someone wishing on a penny – and makes the wish come true – that she begins to find a glimmer of light in the darkness. For the first time in a long time, she feels like she matters, like she has the ability to leave a handprint on people’s hearts … and so she keeps granting wishes. Sometimes the results are beautiful. Sometimes they’re not. And when one wish goes wrong in the worst possible way? It’s for Wilson, the man she’s fallen head-over-heels in love with, the man she wants to build a life with … and, now, the man whose world she may just have totally destroyed.

I so loved writing about Eden’s relationships with her grandmother, her parents, her boyfriend and his daughter, her old friends and new. Some are strong and unconditional. Others are delicate and tenuous. Each is an important thread in the tapestry of her existence. I’m so excited to jump into revisions soon and tighten up the melody of Eden’s heart song.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Hmm … well, honestly, I think every writer’s work will differ from the rest simply because of who’s writing it. We all have our own perspectives, our own tales to tell, our own way of looking at and depicting the world. Give two writers the same premise and their stories will still be dramatically different. Isn’t that the coolest thing? On a more technical level, I’ll add that I often like to switch up the traditional format – sometimes I alternate chapters with dual POVs, sometimes I write in a diary style, sometimes I include an interlude before each chapter (not all in the same book, of course … wouldn’t that be unique, ha!).

Why do you write what you do?

I write women’s fiction because it’s what I love to read and because it tells the stories of people I’d like to know. With each individual book, I write because my characters’ journeys keep me up at night. Because they plant themselves in my head and refuse to leave. Because they fill my heart with joy and my soul with hope. Because they become a part of me, and because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How does your writing process work?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been one of those organized, likes-to-color-code, Type A people. The same is true for my writing. I always start a new journal for each project, I always spend several weeks researching, brainstorming, and writing character sketches (and yes, each character gets a different color pen), and I always have a clear sense of beginning/middle/end before diving into a draft. But I also believe in letting the characters lead the way. I believe in following their example, listening to their opinions, and taking my cues from them. I believe it’s okay to write even if every piece of the puzzle hasn’t fallen into place yet, because sometimes that can only come once the story has evolved. I believe it’s fine to change course midway through a draft, and – this happened with both SANDS OF TIME and WATERCOLORS – to run with an alternate ending when it lights up your brain with adrenaline on the very morning you’re due to finish the last chapter. I believe writing is work – hard work – but I also believe it’s joy, love, and beauty personified. For me, there is truly nothing like getting lost in the story. Whether it’s drafting, rewriting, or editing, I take it one day at a time. One step at a time. One word at a time.

A Confessionary Tale.


“People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I confess that: although I’ve been working feverishly on WATERCOLORS and have been looking forward to some downtime for the past few weeks, now that the first draft is officially finished (!) and I’m not at my writing desk this morning, I already miss my characters.

I confess that: I didn’t think I’d be much of an audiobook person, but thanks to an awesome app for the iPod, I’ve become a huge fan and now love listening to books as much as reading them.

I confess that: I’m super disappointed today, because instead of visiting my friend and her sweet daughters, I’m stuck at home with what seems to be the beginning of a sinus infection. Really bad timing, body.

I confess that: I’ve become totally addicted to Shark Tank this season and would happily watch it all day if possible.

I confess that: everything else fell by the wayside when I was in my must-finish-this-draft frenzy, so now my non-writing to-do list is about seventeen miles long.

I confess that: I check the long-range weather forecast every morning, hoping to finally see some 70s, and am crossing my fingers because it looks like Friday might be the time.

I confess that: I click on over to my inbox way too many times per day.

I confess that: Rita’s Water Ice has only been open for a month and a half and I’ve already been there five times. Oops?

I confess that: I recently bought myself a new beaded bracelet from Emme Rylan’s etsy shop and an awesome purple purse. Because sometimes we have to treat ourselves, right?

I confess that: I’m jealous of everyone going to Washington DC this week, since last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival didn’t actually have many blossoms.

Your turn! What do you confess?

Heart Song.


“First you set out to write a book. Then, very quickly, you realize the book was set out to write you.”
~Brandon A. Trean

6 days. 22 hours. 3 chapters. 32 pages. 10,890 words.

This has been, hands down, my absolute favorite writing week for WATERCOLORS. It was one of those weeks where the words flowed freely instead of hiding behind brick walls, where I would have to go running for my journal as ideas exploded in my brain, where the characters talked openly and let me inside their heads, inside their hearts. One day, I wrote an entire page in ten minutes. Another, I lost myself so completely in the story that I forgot to eat breakfast. A third, I wrote seven pages straight and only stopped because my back was screaming at me, too achy from sitting at my desk for so long to stay there even a minute more. In short, this was the kind of week writers live for. It was ebullience and adrenaline and inspiration. It was magic.

And, though I hate to admit it, that hasn’t always been the case with this book. I’ve loved it from the beginning, have believed in the characters and their journeys, but it’s been a different experience this time. I’m writing about places and situations that are foreign to me, and sometimes, no matter how much research you do, there’s still more to learn. The list of changes I have to make in revisions is probably as long as my arm. There are scenes to add, details to tweak, storylines to shift. I won’t lie – for quite awhile, that was discouraging. I still wrote religiously every morning, I still made sure to stick to my half-a-chapter-per-day quota, but for some reason I couldn’t let the wave of the story carry me along at full throttle. Maybe it was because I’m querying SANDS OF TIME simultaneously and still feel such a pull towards those characters. Maybe it was because it’s challenging, and sometimes frustrating, to tap into the emotions of someone who’s homeless and a songwriter when I’m neither. Or maybe it’s because I have a hard time letting go of perfectionism when it comes to writing. Know what, though? That only made it more special when the story wrapped me in its embrace this week.

I got to write a series of scenes I’ve been looking forward to since the planning stages – scenes between Eden, her mom, and grandmother, scenes that honored her grandpa, scenes that lifted them a little higher. Scenes that lifted me a little higher. One of my favorite parts about working on this book has been the relationship between Eden and Lillian, because it’s given me a chance to weave my own grandmothers’ threads into the pages. Eden views life in music and melodies, and this allowed me to share part of my own heart song. Eden is not me and Lillian is not my Gram, but with these scenes in particular I could see her smile. Hear her voice. Imagine her hand atop mine. It was like she was standing behind me as I wrote – along with Grandmom Dot, Pop Joe, and Granddaddy – smiling peacefully. Proudly. I will always regret that my grandparents didn’t get a chance to read my books. With this, though, it kind of feels like they can. Like their love still lives on. Like they’re reminding me, as Lillian reminded Eden, that the people we’ve lost are never truly gone. They are always inside us, and when we can crack open our hearts and let their love burst onto the page … it is the best.

Endings have always been my favorite part of a book to write. There is something uniquely special about watching the story tie together. It is satisfying, and fulfilling, and, I think, the closest a writer can get to experiencing real, tingly, out-of-this-world magic. Writing the last few chapters of a book makes me feel like I’m flying. Soaring. Reaching up for the stars and actually holding those pinpricks of light in my palms. With only three chapters to go in this draft, I have never been more excited about the story. I would plunk myself in that desk chair and write for twenty-four hours straight if I could. I am forcing myself to take a day off tomorrow, but my fingers, they’re already itching to find the keys again. And you know, in retrospect, maybe it’s a good thing that this book didn’t come as easily. Nothing worth having ever does, and now I truly mean it when I say I can’t wait to jump into revisions. I am giddy with the thought of where this book could go. Where it could take me.

Where it already has.

Wordless Wednesday: Hodgepodge.


“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
~John F. Kennedy

Report from the post-MRI appointment with my ENT.  So, so grateful.

Report from the post-MRI appointment with my ENT. So, so grateful.

Free fudge brownie cream ice to celebrate the first day of spring?  Don't mind if I do.

Free fudge brownie cream ice to celebrate the first day of spring? Don’t mind if I do.

And more snow to celebrate the sixth day of spring?  Hey, at this point, why not?  Let's go for the record books!

And more snow to celebrate the sixth day of spring? Hey, at this point, why not? Let’s go for the record books!

This is what it looks like when I plan out the final ten chapters of my WIP ahead of time ...

This is what it looks like when I plan out the final ten chapters of my WIP ahead of time …

... and this is what it looks like when ideas explode into starbursts in the moment.

… and this is what it looks like when ideas explode into starbursts in the moment. Four and a half chapters to go!

Why I’ve Been MIA:


“The greatest wealth is health.”
~Virgil

Well … hi. Long time, no talk, huh? My apologies for the disappearing act. I certainly didn’t intend to go nearly three weeks without posting. Sometimes life has other plans, though. Remember when I mentioned my tinnitus back in October? Since it hasn’t gone away, I went for two follow-up tests at the beginning of this month, one to check the auditory nerve and the other to check my balance nerve. It seemed like they went well, but when I met with my ENT to discuss the results last Monday, I found out that, although the auditory nerve checked out fine, there was an unusual finding with the balance nerve. Couple that with the fact that my hearing is still good and you have an even more out of the ordinary result. The next step? An MRI. On my brain. With and without contrast. It didn’t matter that it was more of a precautionary measure than a blazing red danger flag, I was terrified – sick-to-my-stomach, nerves-twisted-into-knots, unable-to-focus-on anything-else terrified. I know there’s a really serious medical condition that can cause tinnitus and I was petrified I had it. When you hear “brain MRI” how can you not be afraid, right? Add the fear to my anxiety over the MRI itself – for someone who gets claustrophobic in elevators, the idea of having to stay completely still in such a confined place was, to put it mildly, unpleasant – and you can probably tell why I had such a miserable week leading up to the MRI this past Monday.

Thank goodness for Open MRI technology that provides a little more room. For kind technicians who explain the whole process beforehand. For Kelly Clarkson, whose music helped immensely when they played it for me during the procedure. For my mom, who came back with me, because sometimes even thirty-year-olds need to hold their mom’s hand. For an amazing family and friends who supported me, loved me, and tried so hard to ease my worries when all I felt like doing was crying. And for a wonderful, compassionate doctor who had all my best interests at heart and who celebrated right alongside me when the scans came back “perfectly normal.” I cannot even begin to explain the relief and gratitude I felt as I sat in her office yesterday, hearing what she’d been checking for and knowing I got the all-clear. For the first time in over a week, it felt like I could breathe again.

I can’t even tell you guys how great it was to sit back down at my writing desk this morning with a clear mind. Yes, I’d planned out a day-by-day schedule for drafting the rest of this novel and have to tweak it now. Yes, it took a couple pages to get back into the swing of things, because even when I was writing over the past week, it was incredibly difficult to concentrate. Yes, I know this book is going to need a lot of revisions down the line, much more than previous ones. But that’s okay. All of it is okay. I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember, a total Type A personality who struggles with flexibility and gets frustrated with myself so easily, but this whole experience has been such a good reminder: don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t even sweat the big stuff. As long as we’re healthy, as long as we have a support system of fabulous people who will link arms to offer a safety net when we feel like we’re falling … the rest will come together.

A long, panicky, stressful, frightening week? Absolutely. But an important lesson learned and an overwhelming sense of gratitude? Also … absolutely.

Porcelain Keys.


“You need to cut yourself open and hand over your heart. You’re not just displaying talent, you’re showcasing your soul.”
~Nathaniel Borough, via Sarah Beard in Porcelain Keys

porcelainkeys

Can I tell you guys how excited I was to receive an ARC of this fabulous novel by Sarah Beard? It’s a story I’ve been looking forward to reading for quite awhile, and oh my gosh, it didn’t disappoint. It did, however, do many other things: it warmed my heart, it made me cry, it reached into my soul and tugged at every emotion possible. There is something very special about this book and its characters. When I wasn’t reading about them? I was thinking about their lives, about their brightest dreams and rawest fears, about their unbelievable tenacity and inspiring strength. Even now, after I’ve finished the book, I still find myself going back to Aria, Thomas, and the whole cast. This is a story that truly resonates well beyond its pages.

When Aria lost her mother, she lost a part of her heart. And when the grief turned her father into someone she didn’t recognize? Aria lost a whole lot more. Shut out from the world she once loved, a world where music flowed freely and her passion for playing the piano was both understood and nurtured, the notes in Aria’s life have dimmed. It isn’t until she meets Thomas, the grandson of the man who once lived next door, that a new melody starts to hum. In Thomas, Aria finds an escape, a light, a faith for the future. From the very first scene they share, their connection is palpable. It’s a love story that draws you in from the beginning, the kind that pulls you into the pages and has you rooting for the characters a hundred and ten percent. But this book is more than a love story. It’s one of happiness and heartbreak, of grief and healing, of forgiveness and redemption, of falling down and finding the courage inside yourself to stand back up.

With a musical backdrop – like her mother, Aria is an accomplished pianist who dreams of attending Julliard – it’s almost as though the reader can actually hear the tale unfolding. Sarah paints a beautiful, three-dimensional picture with her words that made me feel like I was right there with Aria, whether she was fleeing through an orchard in Colorado, performing on a vast stage in Europe, or seeking shelter in a treehouse that, both literally and figuratively, gave her a glimpse of the most glittering stars. And it didn’t stop there, because the supporting cast is just as dynamic. Aria’s piano teacher Nathaniel, her neighbor Vivian, her college boyfriend Devin – they are all wonderful in their own way, and it was fascinating to see how each played an important role in shaping her life. Then, of course, there’s Thomas. Thomas, who seals the cracks in Aria’s heart, but also chips some new ones at the same time. Thomas, who has haunting secrets of his own. Thomas and Aria both, who remind us that it’s okay to have scars – because maybe, just maybe, they’re proof of how far we’ve come and how far we can go.

And now … I’m really excited to be able to offer a giveaway for an eBook copy (via Amazon) of PORCELAIN KEYS. To enter, leave a comment – by Tuesday March 4th – telling me: if you could play any musical instrument, what would it be? Good luck!

Pinteresting.


“A dream collage is pictures of your goals. It is like your future photo album.”
~Bo Bennett

Hello. My name is Shari, and I’m addicted to Pinterest.

Somehow I’ve managed to resist the pull of that wonderful, time-stealing vortex until recently, but last week I decided I really, really wanted to create boards for my books. I’ve always been a very visual person – when I write, the scenes kind of play out like movie reels in my head – and bringing the stories to life in another way sounded like such fun. Characters, settings, details and nuances that are woven into the fabric of their worlds … it is seriously such a blast to add them all. Does it serve a purpose? Maybe not. But maybe so. Just looking at the pictures deepens my connection with the characters. It takes the two-dimensional page and ups it a notch. It lets my imagination grow wings and fly free. I’ve found it to be especially helpful with my WIP. Each morning now, before I start writing for the day, I take a few minutes to look at the pictures, to close my eyes and see my characters living and breathing their Nashville love, and it does wonders to transport me from Pennsylvania to Tennessee and also to Portsmouth, Eden’s hometown. Yes, I am spending way more time on Pinterest than I should in the evenings. Yes, I am falling down that rabbit hole along with everyone else who’s a member of the site. But also, yes, it is such a joy to picture these worlds that, in ways, only live in my head. Some people might think it’s goofy. I think it’s fabulous.

Here are some snapshots into my characters’ lives:

Reflections of Me, Dear Ellie, and Mine to Love:

ROM/DE/MTL

Sands of Time:

SOT

Watercolors:

Watercolors

Fellow writers, anyone else create boards for your books? And who else is addicted to Pinterest?

What’s Up?


“I will not fall
I will stand tall through it all
Just so you can see
The strongest parts of me.”
~Elise Testone, “I Will Not Break”

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these, so I figured I’d pop in with another.

What I’m listening to: Elise Testone released her debut album, In This Life, last week, and I’m so enjoying it. She was my pick from American Idol in 2012 – there’s something very textured and unique to her voice, like it’s telling a story – and I’ve been looking forward to hearing new music from her ever since. Favorite songs include: Still We Try, Never Gave Me Butterflies, Save Me, and I Will Not Break. Also: Kristin Chenoweth’s Taylor the Latte Boy. She sang it at her concert on the fifth and I seriously have not been able to get it out of my head for the past twelve days. So fun and catchy.

What I’m watching: Olympics, Olympics, OLYMPICS. If there’s coverage airing, my television is on. I love everything about the games: the spirit, the dedication, the joy, the diligence, the hope, the faith, the pride. There’s just nothing like getting to watch someone’s dream come true. And how inspiring is it to know that, with years of determination and hard work, the training can pay off? Obviously writing is a far cry from figure skating or skiing, but seeing those athletes achieve their goals makes me want to jump into my desk chair and keep working on my own.

What I’m reading: Sarah Beard’s PORCELAIN KEYS. I’ll have a full review (and giveaway!) up on the 28th, so I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll just say this: it’s a book that stays with you. When I’m not hanging out with the characters, I want to be. They resonate like the music that runs through their souls, and I can’t wait to see what happens next in their story. If only I could just sit and read all day …

What I’m writing: Still hard at work on WATERCOLORS! I’m 64,000(ish) words in and enjoying it more and more with every day. Eden’s life is starting to turn around in wonderful ways, and even though I want to shake her for making choices that will bring it all to a screeching halt down the line, I must admit, it’s such fun to write this part of the book. I really feel like I’m getting to know her well now, and the supporting cast, too. Today’s writing session featured a diary entry from Eden’s mother Mariah and it made me super excited to flesh out her part of the story more. It’s amazing how characters’ lives, how all of our lives, are so interconnected like sentences on a page. Getting to weave their threads together is such an exhilarating process.

What I’m smiling about: a countdown to spring (thirty days, thirty days, thirty days!), this video of a precious polar bear cub making his debut in Toronto, irises that fill the house with their sweet scent, and new nail polish that adds a splash of color to the day.

What are you listening to / watching / reading / writing / smiling about this week?

Kristin’s Concert!


“I wanna do something that matters
Say something different
Something that sets the whole world on its ear.”
~Kristin Chenoweth, “I Was Here”

The first time I saw Kristin Chenoweth in concert, there was torrential rain and a tornado warning. This time? An ice storm that coated everything, sending trees and power lines crashing to the ground, and left something like 700,000 homes in the dark. Any of you who have seen my Twitter posts within the past week probably know how nervous I was about this. I’ve been looking forward to this for four months and was so worried Mother Nature would mess it up. When I was woken up at 4:00AM yesterday by buzzing transformers, crackling tree limbs, and freezing ice pellets hitting the house, I figured that was it. The concert would be cancelled. But it wasn’t. Kristin had gotten into town the night before, and once the ice finally stopped falling, temperatures crawled to a couple degrees above freezing and the road crews were able to really get to work on the roads. To say I was nervous about the drive there was an understatement – the venue is an hour and a half away on a good day – thankfully, though, with the exception of the roads in my township, which was hit really hard, most of the streets were dry by the time we set off. There were traffic lights out along the way and downed trees on the sides of several roads, but we got there safely (thanks to the awesome driving of my friend, because I probably would’ve had a panic attack if I had to navigate in such unknown conditions).

DSC04803

Know what, though? It would have been worth it. The show was fabulous – partially the same as the one I saw in 2012, partially new material – and I loved every minute. From Broadway to country to everything in between, she sang with a voice that filled the entire 1600-seat theater. Her anecdotes had everyone laughing out loud and her heartfelt thank you and inspirational messages had us all smiling from ear-to-ear. My favorite songs were “For Good” and “Popular” (which she sang in three different languages!) from Wicked and “I Was Here” from her most recent album. That’s my favorite song of hers, period — both Remi’s anthem in SOT and one of my own in this writing journey, and it was so special to hear it live as the finale song, especially knowing I was going to be meeting her (!) in just a few short minutes.

DSC04802

And speaking of meeting her … wow, where do I even begin? They took us backstage (literally – we got to walk across the stage and everything!) right after the show and Kristin bounced into the room almost immediately, talking about how excited she was to meet everyone. My friend and I were at the end of the M&G line, thankfully, which gave me time to (sort of) calm down and rehearse what I wanted to say. I was super nervous, but also so very excited – it reminded me a bit of the first time I met Kelly, when the whole thing just felt completely surreal. Standing two feet in front of her and finally getting to thank her for “Borrowed Angels,” which is the only thing that brought me comfort and peace after Gram passed away … honestly, there are no words for it. I started to explain and managed not to get choked up – until she interrupted in the middle of it to give me a hug. Then that was pretty much it. It’s a moment I’ll never forget, her hugging me and then standing there with her hand over her heart and talking about the power of music to heal. I said something about not being able to find the words to thank her and she said “You did. You just did.” Something about her tone, how touched she sounded, made it even more special. Then she offered to sign the CD I’d brought, even though she’d pre-signed sheet music for all of us, and after taking a picture, I had a little more time to chat with her about “I Was Here.” I told her a bit about how it’s so inspiring for me during my writing journey, how it helps me keep my head up and keep going, and again, she looked me intently in the eyes and said “If I can do it, you can do it. Keep going. Don’t stop.” I will always keep that in mind — not that I was planning to stop, of course, but hey, when Kristin Chenoweth tells you to persevere, you persevere. :)

DSC04805

It’s always lovely to hear about celebrities who go above and beyond for their fans. Kristin thanked us all multiple times for “risking your lives to come see me,” and she even signed autographs for the people waiting by the stage door after the show and the scheduled meet and greets, even though it was frigid and icy out. Her songs are the kind that tell a story, that speak to you and move you, and I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to talk with her and realize, all over again, that Kristin as a person does those same things. She is kind, gracious, down-to-earth, and genuine. She’s the kind of person who truly does change lives for good.

A Different Route.


“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was in college, the constant construction and detours along my route became fodder for endless jokes. I’m not exaggerating when I say that, over the course of five years, every single road I took was closed at some point. Some were blocked multiple times. Roadwork. Utility work. Tree work. You name it, I encountered it. A sergeant from one of the local police stations even said he was going to attend my graduation with a bright orange construction cone so I’d know it was him, that’s how many times we called to ask about alternate routes. It unnerved me at first, a lot. I’d only gotten my license a month before starting school (a car accident three months before my sixteenth birthday, where we were rear-ended at 65mph and pushed into a traffic light pole, had freaked me out to the point of not wanting to get behind the wheel), and it was nerve-wracking enough to travel the streets I knew. When I was forced into switching it up? Let’s just say I wasn’t a happy camper. But the more I drove on those roads, the more normal they became. And the more I drove in general, the less flustered I became when I saw a familiar neon orange sign announcing a change of plans.

There may not be any visual warnings like that when it comes to writing, but the more I immerse myself in the craft, the more I realize just how many detours we end up taking. We’ve all heard that each project is a different experience, right? I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever read about this crazy writing life. No matter how many books you work on, no matter how many blank pages you start with and how many “The End”s you type, no two journeys will ever be the same. They can’t be. The characters are different, the lessons – for them and us – are different, the process is different. My first two manuscripts I wrote in less than three months apiece. It was a frenzied pace, where I was driven by this compulsion to keep going, going, going. My third one? Took quite a bit longer and required even more in edits/deletions. Writing too much became a theme of mine that continued for my next two books. I am just a wordy person when it comes to first drafts. I’ve accepted that and even embraced it. So as I work on WATERCOLORS now, and see it taking shape in a whole other way … well, I was most surprised at first.

I’m dealing with a lot of unfamiliar subjects in this story. Homelessness. Shelters. Songwriting. The recording industry. Meteorology. These are just a few of the things I spent a long time researching before even beginning to type away. I want to do justice to these topics that I feel are so important, so worth having a dialogue about, and sometimes it’s difficult, because I haven’t lived them myself. And what about my characters? I do love them. They’ve been the bread and butter of this project, so to speak. On many levels, I understand what makes them tick, what makes them sing. With Eden in particular, I’ve been able to see a lot of myself in parts of her, even though our situations have almost nothing in common. But that doesn’t make this path we’re traveling together a straight one. There are bends in this road, curves that throw me off-course and detours I’m forced into taking. For the first time … well, ever … I already have a list of scenes to change and add, and I’m only halfway through this draft. For someone whose revisions usually focus primarily on cutting, this is exciting as much as it is intimidating. And for someone who’s a perfectionist, this has been a lesson in restraint, to keep writing on instead of going back to fix everything right away. It’s also taught me something else: sometimes we can’t fully see where we came from until we know exactly where we’re heading. I needed to watch Eden grow before I could see all the aspects of where she started. I’m not gonna lie, that upset me at first. I’m used to understanding my characters from the get-go. This was especially true for Remi and Charlotte in SOT, and I think that’s what made this current book so tough for me at the beginning. Coming off a writing experience that was so joyful, so special, so infused with love and hope and light … it would’ve been hard for anything to measure up. But Eden is not Remi. She’s not Charlotte. With her, the revelations have come step-by-step, piece-by-piece. And, I understand now, that’s not a bad thing. It’s just different. It’s unique. It’s special in its own way.

We take alternate routes with each story we write. Some will be paved highways. Others will be rocky, white gravel roads like the one a GPS once took my friends and I on during our road trip in the South. But, when all is said and done, they’ll all get us to the same place. They’ll carry us to “The End” … which is really just the beginning.