Make It Up or Make It Real (Part One)

The lovely Lisa (I always call her love because she is – plus, I like alliterations) asked me how I know so much about gangs and drug dealers, etc. Do I make it up or research it?

I research it.

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Sorry, guys! I don’t know where the background image is from and I certainly don’t mean to infringe on any copy rights. If you’d like me to take it down, drop me a comment. 🙂

I like my novels to have elements of believability and those elements come from research. Even The Reset (which I love dearly!), a fantasy-ish novel, had real settings.

Stone Cross Manor? It’s real.

Dave’s Ice Cream? It’s real.

Silas Vealy’s house? It’s real.

That one restaurant January and Alias ate at? It’s real. They even ate food off the real menu for the same prices you’d get were you to eat there today.

I’ve always enjoyed reading novels that take place somewhere I can go to. King Arthur legends captivated me so much because they based it off of reality (the greatest stories have some elements of truth – this is the core of all my novels) and incorporated a somewhat believable legend for the readers to fantasize over.

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So here’s a step-by-step (more or less) walk through my mental path of researching. xD It’ll be on gangs and all that good stuff.

Step 1: Figure out what it is you’re researching.

This is the biggest problem for a lot of people. You want to do something awesome, but don’t know how to start! Following my cartel/gang/mob example, I’ll start off by seeing if there’s a difference between the three. All are defined by Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, unless otherwise noted.

  • Cartel: group of businesses that agree to fix prices so they all will make more money
  • Gang:: a group of criminals: a group of young people who do illegal things together and who often fight against other gangs

    : a group of people who are friends and who do things together

  • Mob: a secret organized group of criminals

So we know that a cartel isn’t much for our purposes. So, let’s try “drug cartel.”

  • Drug Cartel (defined by The Free Dictionary): an illicit cartel formed to control the production and distribution of narcotic drugs

If I don’t know what some of those words mean, I’ll look ’em up (“define [insert word/s]” is how I search for terms).

At this point, we’ve seen that there are a few slight differences in the wording between a gang and a mob, but these people basically do the same things: illegal things. A drug cartel is something a bit different though. While a drug cartel might be a mob or a gang, a gang or a mob might not necessarily be a drug cartel.

This is where you’ll want to get your facts and terms straight.

For the sake of this exercise, I’ll choose to research more on a mob.

Step 2: Research more about what you’re researching about.

Now we know we want to research a mob. What mob do we want to go with? I like specific names and labels in my novels for personal purposes. It helps me get more specific. If I wasn’t specific, I might say something like the mafia specialized in making bombs. See what I mean? I like to know as much as I can about something before I write about it. While one mob might just hijack cars, another one might murder. Big difference.

So now I’ll Google: mob.

They say Wikipedia isn’t a great source, but believe me guys: it is. It’s statistically more accurate than Britannica. I’m not saying head to Wikipedia for school, but for general facts, it’s fantastic. Once you know the basics, then you can go to more specific sites.

For instance, I looked up water boarding on Wikipedia, and once I knew what it was and the different types, I researched for a more specific site and found one for the sole purpose of educating people on what water boarding was and how to do it and the history of it. It was fantastic.

To get back on point: there’s a box of contents on Wikipedia’s Mob page, and one says “In Criminals.” I’ll head there. Now there’s a list:

Research those (organized crime is probably your best bet for general info). Under Organized Crime, I find the Irish Mob, get excited and research it.

Step 3: Know the logistics.

You’ll find on the Irish Mob’s page the criminal activities they engage in:

  • Racketeering
  • Murder
  • Hijacking
  • Drug Trafficking

So if you’re writing a novel on human trafficking, the Irish Mob probably isn’t what you’re looking for. In that case, you’d research something like, “human trafficking mob” or something like that.

Step 4: Research the details.

Now you’ll research more on the Irish Mob if they fit the bill. Figure out where they hang out (states/cities) and plan your novel around that.

My newest novel, Homecoming, is about a girl whose parents are murdered while she’s at her homecoming dance. She’s kidnapped so the drug lord can figure out where the evidence her mom had put together to get the individual members of the mob put in jail is and destroy it.

The story is set in Boston, MA because that’s where a lot of the Irish Mob people live. This may affect the way the MC talks, lives. The weather would definitely have an impact on the story. Homecomings are normally in September or October (yes, I researched that as well). So it’d be pretty chilly.

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I hope y’all can see where I’m going with all that. xD

The next part of this will be on what information to include in your novel after having done the research. 🙂

God bless!

Rana

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Out With the Old, In With the New

As you may have noticed, I changed the way things look around here. I’m hoping you all will enjoy it a bit. 🙂

Green is supposedly the most relaxing color for people’s eyes, so I decided, “Hey, why not give the readers’ eyes a break, right?” I mean, you use ’em all the time! Plus, you read my horrid posts! 😛

And I do get bored if things look the same for too long. xD Anyway, not only have the colors changed, but I’ve also added some new features. 🙂 I’ve always enjoyed being able to rate things and like comments — it made me feel like I had a voice.

So, whether or not you’re a regular, a random commenter, or if you’ve just tripped over some Google-glitch and landed haplessly in my blog, you may now feel free to:

  • rate posts

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  • rate comments/thumbs ’em up

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  • and like the comments, though I guess rating/thumbsing ’em up are essentially the same with minor differences…

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I sure hope y’all enjoy the new features! 🙂 It’s important to me that you feel comfortable and are able to feel like you’re involved. Since I can’t respond to most comments, this is the next best thing. 🙂 Love you all! ^_^

God bless!

Rana

Dare To Live

Well, today’s started off a bit rotten.

I just seem to have been cursed with very active tear ducts which need to be emptied frequently.

-_-

I hate crying. But I do it whenever I’m overwhelmed, stressed, depressed, etc. The last few days have consisted of those feelings.

“So, is this post just for you to rant or have you got something intelligent to say?” you ask.

Believe it or not, I do.

Well, I hope I do anyway. 😛

Not being fantastic with introductions and transitions, I’m just going to say what I feel that I need to say and be done with it. Rambling may or may not happen. Ah, well, here we go.

I saw a thing yesterday. The amazing Una of Petticoats and Muckboots shared it with me and I’d like to share it with you.

I’ve realized that I’m guilty of spending too much time wishing things to go away or come faster or just for everything to stop all together.

But that’s not why I’m here.

When I was younger, I’d dream about doing amazing things, and living. I’m disappointed with the person I’ve become. I only dare to live through my writing. I don’t do much otherwise. It’s just school, research, schools, get scholarships for schools, know what you want to be so you can go to the right school, etc. etc. I’m sick of being pushed to prepare for the future now.

I want to live now. I won’t be 16 for a long time. I hate that I feel like I’m wasting so much time on just trying to pass. I don’t learn anything in school. I just get a LETTER that determines whether I’m smart or not.

That’s flipping messed up.

I encourage you all to live. Don’t just exist. Dream, do things, help others.

I had a lot more to say, but it’s all a rant. Just know that whatever you’re feeling, someone else is going through the same thing. Find them, hug them, don’t let go, and help each other out of the rut you’re in. ❤

Surviving implies getting through something with a fight. Refusing to give in. Getting through something is what I’m doing now. Just waiting for things to get better. But, quite honestly, nothing will change if I don’t make it change.

So… I need to go do stuff.

Yay.

God bless!

Rana

I Was Tagged and Shot!

Not surprising since I don’t run or work out or anything…

The lovely Lisa tagged me in her blog post and now I suppose I’m obligated to oblige and throw out the answers to the following questions. Wheeeeeeee! Here y’all go and I hope you enjoy! 😀

Following the questions are a few “awkward family photos” taken with (possibly, maybe — not sure yet. We stayed up ’till 3:00 yesterday/this morning and it’s almost 11:00 now, so we’ll see how this goes) and by my bestie, Sara! Enjoy!

1. What are your top five favorite novels?

Why do you do this to me? *groans* Well… for starters: anything by Mirriam Neal (Paper Crowns, Paper Hearts, This Mortal Coil, The Shadows Fall, Accesso, Disconnect, everything!), The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Children of Hurin, also by J.R.R. Tolkien, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we’ll stop now since I named a ton of Mirriam’s stuff. xD

2. What style do you enjoy writing in the most?

Styles vary from writer to writer. I wasn’t aware there were names/categories for them…

3. Whose writing to you admire the most?

I admire many authors, and they’re all very different. I admire Mirriam’s a lot and also Sara’s.

4. What is the thing that prevents you most from writing?

Me. Me and school and people and life.

5. What is your favorite WIP?  

Well, I have a lot. I’ve kind of put everything on hiatus for a while since I’ve got he Block, but I’ve started editing The Reset. I love that novel. ❤

6. What is your nickname?

…My first name consists of four letters. But, you know, people will shorten it if they can. Some have called me “Ran (pronounced like ‘wren’).” My bestie has dubbed me “Dana (that resulted from a typo)” and “Chewy (think Chewbaca — don’t know how that started).” Random people also call me “Red” or “Ginger.” How creative.

7. How many siblings do you have?

Two. An older brother and a younger sister.

8. If you could visit anywhere, where would you visit?

If we’re choosing from this dimension and reality, then I would say the British Isles. I would be content to land anywhere in that region. <– Mirriam’s answer sums it up for me.

9. How many writing blogs do you follow?

A few.

10.  If you had to choose between Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston, who would you pick?

Don’t objectify them; however, if I had to choose, I’d probably go with Tom Hiddleston. I do admire Benedict Cumberbatch, but here are my reasons for choosing the latter of the two options.

One: Tom seems like more of a polite guy. Benedict is a classy gentleman, but Martin Freeman (oh, that King of Sass) has rubbed off on him, causing him to swear a lot. I’m not overtly sensitive to curse words, but I try to stay away from them.

Two: Tom seems like he’d respect me just because I’m a person. I’m not saying Benedict won’t, but Tom just seems more likely to give people the time of day.

Three: He seems so sweet and I’d like the opportunity to let him know I appreciate his standing up for classiness, respect for women and men alike, and just his respectable, thoughtful, humble, and hopeful outlook on life.

Well, that’s that. Now here’s some pix.

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Hey, it’s Sara and her dog, Zoe.

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I think I look like this a lot. I’m a confused person.

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Okay, so some weren’t so awkward. But those are my favorites of me. I’ll leave my bestie out. She thinks I love her dogs. I’m more of a cat person. I don’t mind dogs as long as they’re hot, don’t stink, don’t lick back, don’t make noise, and are dead. Or, you know, at a distance. I can stand dogs if they’re old and well-behaved. I don’t like them licking me and stuff. *cringes*

God bless and goodnight!

Rana

P.S.

Is it a bad idea to watch Signs before you go to sleep?

Channel Your Fears into Your Writing

For a fantastic proposition, read ’till the end! 😉

Ana/Elfie touched on something important in the comments the other day. She said, “A personal opinion on the ‘sadistic’ one is that as humans, we’ve all been through pain. Writing is a way to relieve that, look at it from another angle and heal. And I’ve read things that have been painful, but in the end have lifted me and helped me heal, making me a better person.”

They say writing can be a sort of therapy, and I completely agree.

I’ve dealt with depression before off and on since I was about 13. It’s gotten better and I’m fine now, but back then, I didn’t really have anyone to go to right then and there when I needed to talk. Communication with my best friend was limited and the friends I had in the area were/are too innocent to talk to about what I was dealing with.

Writing helped me to deal with all that immensely.

Desensitized, as many of you know, is on hiatus. But I learned so much from writing that trilogy. I was able to channel my fears, anxieties, phobias, and everything else I was feeling into those three books through the characters and they were some of my best cast. They were pretty real to me and my readers loved them as well (at least, they said they did 😛 )!

Here’s a short list of what struggles they dealt with:

Ashland = depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, family.

Cael = leadership, feelings, beliefs.

Kody = drinking, smoking, being serious.

Blade and Core = self-doubt, lack of faith in their friends.

If you can channel your emotions into your writing, you’ll have a more believable cast of characters, and a more realistic story.

Characters are the most important part of any story. If you can get your readers to relate to them, you can get your readers to love them. A plot can be shallow and crummy. A novel can have a gazillion plot holes, but those can be covered up by the characters.

I’m not saying go ahead and have a crummy story with fascinating characters and be done. Do your best. I’m just saying the characters will cover up a bunch of mistakes.

Other people have gone through the same things you have. By inserting your fears, thoughts, and emotions into your characters, your readers will have an easier time relating to them. That’s what you want.

People aren’t as happy as they act, they’re not as carefree as they seem, and they. have. problems. We all have problems. People are broken. You can’t live without getting broken.

And that’s why we read. We read to know that we’re not alone. We read to grow. We read to go on the adventures we otherwise never would have been able to. We read to be princes, princesses, heroes, villains, peasants, lords…

Make a list of all your favorite characters from any show or book. I’m 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999% sure that you’ll find something in them that you see in yourself. Whether it be that faked smile, that waning sense of hope, that utter despair, that one fear, that one struggle… it’s there. We like people we can relate to, who deal with the same things we do.

Create characters people will find truth in. Don’t beat around the bush. Just be honest. In a world that crams lies down our throats and shoves impossible expectations at us, be honest. We’re not perfect. We never will be. Show people that being imperfect is okay.

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Fantastic proposition: Ciera is a talented, lovely young lady who has achieved so many goals and done so many amazing things that all I can do is sit here and be jealous. 😛 She would like to collaborate with other writers and start a young writers community, which she would like to release this summer!  It will be a place to submit and share your work!

For more information, visit her blog, The Write Things.

God bless!

Rana

Miscellaneous Writing Observations

‘Ello, you lovely people!

Sorry I’ve been absent. I’m tired. Excuses, excuses, I know. 😛

I’ve been busy with school, editing The Reset, and sleep, as well as other things. I really don’t think God intended people to play with time. I mean, honestly. Who gave us the authority to turn the clock back an hour? Ridiculous.

Anywho. Onto the writing observations or whatever you want to call whatever follows.

1) If you write consistently, you won’t need to force yourself to write.

Now, I realize that sometimes you have writers block. When you do… try to get over it. I know, I know. Brilliant advice. There are tons of posts all over the internet on how to overcome writers block. Just Google it. 😉 So, before I was really into it, it was hard to write. I’d have to force myself to write and even then, it was difficult to make the words flow.

But, if you write consistently every day and set a minimum word count for yourself, writing becomes much easier and fluid. I used to use a novel log (which is very helpful!) and track how many words I added every day until it became more of a hindrance than a help. I couldn’t get as much school done (hah! I really don’t know how I do now…), I’d freak if I didn’t write, etc. And then I realized I didn’t need it. I was writing every day, I didn’t need to force myself, and I was more relaxed. That’s where you want to be in your writing.

2) Doubt is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Okay, okay. I know it’s a spin-off of George Washington’s fire/government quote. But really. It’s true. If you don’t doubt your work, you’re doing something wrong. But if you doubt so much that you’re constantly putting yourself down about it, you’re on the other end of the spectrum. Find the happy (I use the term loosely) medium and continue to try and improve yourself.

Always push yourself to the limit. Always strive to learn more. Get critiques if you can, read other people’s writing, critique other people’s writing, join a beta group, start one. Writers, I find, are very supportive of each other. We’re like the unicorns of the world – but we really do exist. 😉

3) Be weird.

A while back, I wrote a post concerning the question “why are writers weird?” Basically, it’s because we have much more going on in our heads than most people do. Embrace the weird. Be your real-life unicorn. It’s okay. 😉

4) We’re not sadists. We’re writers. There is a difference.

I’ve noticed that I have an attraction to morbid things, awful stories, and pain. It’s not because I enjoy it, but because I’m a writer. As Julie Write once said, “What doesn’t kill us, gives us something to write about.” Bad decisions make great stories. But that doesn’t mean you should go around making bad decisions. That would be dumb. Just learn from yours and other’s mistakes. And, by using those, you can create epic, believable tales.

5) Advice isn’t absolute.

“Remember when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they’re almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” Neil Gaiman hit the nail on the head right there. Take people’s advice, try it out. It might be something that works for them and not for you or it could be a brilliant piece of wisdom that will work in all situations no matter what. It really depends on the person.

There are no set-in-stone rules for writing. It’s a beautiful art – a relationship with words. No relationship with a person is the same, ever. Why should it be different with writing? Bond, get to know your style, make mistakes, learn from them, be awesome.

God bless!

Rana

Babysitting on the Beach

So, I was invited to babysit my dad’s college buddy’s kid, who is 8 years old.

I accepted.

I mean, the lovely Mrs. A had business to do and Mr. A would tag along, but for the most part, it’d be a mini-vacation. Also, it would be at a ritzy kind of place. 😉 So, hey, why not, right?

Anyway, here are the pictures. ^_^

No, I don’t know who these people are.

Yes, I took a picture anyway.

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View from the room.

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More view from the room. We’ll be seeing a lot of these. 😉

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Look what I got to fall asleep to!

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Le water taxi.

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So we had a quickie storm…

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Not sure if this was a hallway or a ballroom…

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Lovely entrance/exits though!

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Guess whose first time it was to Serendipity’s!

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While Florida may be a hot, humid, unclassy (it’s only classy in movies, guys – for real), and mosquito-infested swamp,

it does have some pretty sweet beaches.

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Guess who’s brilliant. Uh huh. That’s right.

Sherlock.

I bet you thought I was going to say “me.” Honestly, guys. I’m a pretty humble person.

Just ask me. *eyeroll* 😛

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Once again, I do not know these people. They just got in the way of the camera.

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Hey, there they are again!

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Mine, mine, mine…

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The little guy taking surfing lessons…

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Why is the piece of printer paper on the beach?

It’s not going to tan.

It’ll just… burn.

But this piece of printer paper has nice feet. Just sayin’.

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I’ve got nice toenails too… Black. 😉

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The back of the beautiful Mrs. A.

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I think everyone should see these strawberries.

Honestly. They’re better dressed than most of the people I come into contact with.

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And thus endeth the photo dump. 😛

God bless!

Rana

Then Vs. Now

Disclaimer: This is a tangent on my musings. Feel free to disregard.

Growing up stinks.

Metaphorically, of course.

Though, if you grew up without bathing, then it could stink quite literally.

But the topic of my food for thought for the day is: growing up. Obviously. Not like I started off with bashing the inevitable thing.

When I was younger, I always day dreamed. I’d doodle in my math pages (homeschoolers rock), spend all the time in the car imagining myself as the main character of whatever book I was reading, develop story ideas that would never be written down. For as long as I can remember, I was a dreamer. I’ve always been the one to ask the impossible questions, think the random stuff.

I mean, when I was 8, I remember wondering if outer space ended somewhere. Like, did it ever end? Or was it an infinite space of stars, galaxies, supernovae, planets…? If I could go forever in a space ship, would I hit a wall? If so, what was beyond that wall?

I’d keep myself up at night with these questions.

As I grew older, my fantasies matured a bit. When I was 13, I knew I wanted to get married, have a family, live happy, glorify God, die. The end. Then 15ish hit and all of that died.

This world isn’t for good people. It’s so full of trash. We were never meant to live here, suffer everything we do.

But now we’re bogged down with all the grime of every day living and life is just something we need to survive until death do us part. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. That’s far from how it’s supposed to be.

I don’t day dream anymore. I can’t imagine myself in a book like I used to. And I’m not an open person, so my family still thinks that’s how I process life. They think I live in a fantasy world.

But I don’t.

And I can’t open up enough to tell them that. C’est la vie.

Una and I have been emailing a lot today. And I love the girl to death. We’re kind of at the same point in life now. No fantasies. Can’t even pretend anymore. Let’s just be realistic and cut the crap. I can’t see any bright future in this dark world. God is good. He’s got this all under control and we need to trust that.

But because we’re fallen, bad things happen to good people. (If you’re confused as to how this could happen if there’s a loving God, let me know in the comments and I’ll explain 😉 ). And there’s something scary about that. I mean, look around. How could anything good happen to you in a world like this? That’s the devil talking. People listen to him and that’s why this world is so messed up. We have to be different, we have to not be afraid to live our lives because, no matter what, people will be watching and we’ve got to make sure we’re showing them something better than what they’d get from the media.

Una said something that summarizes my point: “I don’t daydream. I think.”

Thinking replaces day dreaming when you get older. At least that’s the case for us. The older you get, the more you realize material things don’t make up for the yearnings of the heart. They don’t satisfy our craving for true joy.

Now, I’ve always been the kind of person who would be happy if you gave me a lollipop. And I still am. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. So I’d be perfectly content to suck the lollipop ’till I got so absorbed in a daydream that I choked. Now, I’m much more down to earth even if my musings are a lot deeper than the average teenage girls’.

Not that I have much experience with the normal kind. I’m pretty sure they just fangirl over Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. I go for philosophy, deep questions, debates — the deeper stuff.

I’m not huge on romance anymore. I used to be. Now, I need a little bit in a movie or book (it doesn’t seem complete without somehow) but if you overdo it, it’s just like, “this crap isn’t realistic. I’m done.”

But you know what? It’s going to be okay.

I have no doubt about it.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

Anyway, there’s my little stream of a thought run into an ocean.

So how about you? Do you feel the same way? Have you changed as you’ve gotten older?

God bless!

Rana

Chatterbox: Mirrors

To find out more about these monthly chatterboxes, head on over to Rachel’s Inkpen Authoress! 🙂

And now… for the chatterbox. 😉

“Oh, I wish you’d just go die,” I hissed. My fingers scraped against the skin over my heart. The organ wanted to stop its never-ending job of just beating. Its incessant bah-bump, bah-bump was keeping me alive and if even the organ created for the sole purpose of maintaining my existence wanted out, so did I.

I lifted my eyes to meet those of my reflection. The blue irises rimmed in red and black lashes with the mascara running as freely as the tears tracked black traces of the struggle down my cheeks.

“You really don’t want to give up, you know.”

I looked at the young man’s face over my reflection’s shoulder. He was leaning against the wall behind me. I whirled around to see him directly. How did he get in here? I hadn’t heard him. I’d never seen him before. Why was he in my house?

But no one was there. I turned back to face the mirror. He was right behind me.

“What the-” I started, but he held a finger to his pale lips. The man’s eyes were shaded by the darkness that consumed me.

“You don’t want to give up because someone out there needs you,” he explained.

I shook my head. “No one needs me.”

“Yes, they do,” was the insistent response. “You don’t know it. How could you possibly know it? You’re not the one who needs you.”

“How could I help anyone?” I snarled. “And how did you get in my house?” I turned to see him, but invisible hands gripped my shoulders and turned me back around. I glowered at him in the mirror. “Who the heck are you?”

“I’m the little voice in the back of your mind that whispers…

“Hold on. Something better is coming.”

~*~

“The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

-Romans 8:18-

God bless!

Rana