Thursday, August 2, 2012

Caution: Contents Pot

As I was recounting a story this morning about rolling my parent’s joints at 4 years old (this is another blog completely), I was met with some blank stares, some wide-eyed wonderment and no shortage of chuckles. Forget for a second, that when under the influence, normal, rational thought goes right out the window and focus on the reaction to the tale. It reminded me that every day we walk out the door and open ourselves up to the world’s opinion. Of our clothes, our hair, our conversation, everything about us is up for judgment.

Not everyone is as affected by this as I am. I tend to take criticism, whether good or bad, to heart. There are times I will choose not to say something, wear something or do something because of what I imagine people will think, effectively negating my rights to self-expression. I’m not talking about something that is so outlandish that it will propel me into you tube stardom. Just something simple like a shirt, an opinion, or dancing with compete disregard for rhythm. Growing up, I used to think everything my mother did was embarrassing. I told her once not to breathe, because it was embarrassing. Was it? Not really. But looking back I realize it was only because I expected judgment, that I assumed that everyone around us found her behavior less than socially acceptable. I say that having reached a point in my life where I have a deep respect and love for my mother and what I consider a fine job of raising all seven of us with minimal injuries.

As a young child, I obviously didn’t consider people’s reactions to my behavior. But as I got older, I became self-conscious and developed the need to seek approval and acceptance from outsiders. I became a people pleaser, looking for reassurance that I was indeed acceptable. I looked for approval in every facet of my life, doggedly putting aside my own well-being to meet my “imagined” expectations. It wasn’t until I was 26, married to a man, going to a church that didn’t fit me and contemplating the best way to get away from it all that I realized I couldn’t look for acceptance outside. I finally realized I was my own worst critic, unable to accept me for me, criticizing myself more than anyone else could. I had to own up to the fact that the life I was living and the approval that I received wasn’t for the real me. It was for some fake fa├žade that I had built. It was time to live my life as the real me.

Ten years later, I thought I had gotten rid of those tendencies and given myself the freedom to live my life. It wasn’t until I decided to write and subsequently publish my first novels that I realized the old skeletons were peeking out of the closet and reminding me too much of 7th grade anatomy. There have been moments along the way that I reverted so far back that I actually contemplated taking every book off of Amazon, the bits of criticism almost too hard to stomach. It has been most noticeable with my soon to be released book.

To this point, I have only written romance and had gotten to a place where I was comfortable with that. But about a year ago, an idea popped into my head and took my brain captive. It was a mystery, so very different from anything I’ve done thus far. As I wrote the story, the tiny voice of doubt whispered in my ears, asking me quite frequently what the hell I thought I was doing writing this genre. I pushed it away as best as I could, needing to empty my mind of a story that kept rattling around inside. Once it was finished, I wondered if I had the gumption to put it out there and open myself up to the feedback that any book gets. I wasn’t sure. Suddenly I was a kid again, worrying that my hand-me-down clothes and shoes, and my new haircut that my mother gave me wouldn’t be good enough. Could I take the pointing and the teasing again? It took me a while to accept the answer.

At 8, my mind couldn’t. But at 37, I am a stronger woman. So I pushed the skeleton back in the closet and stuck a chair under the doorknob for good measure. Every time I step out into the world or release a new book, I know there will be opinions on it. But now I’m not taking them to heart near as much. Everyone has a story to tell, in some fashion and everyone puts themselves out on display in the world, with the hopes of being accepted. We look in the mirror every day and make sure we look okay before we step out. We try on more than one outfit just to get it right. We think, even if just for a few seconds, before we say something. All because there’s this part of us that just wants to be liked. For the most part, we don’t let that desire paralyze us and for the most part, people aren’t mean. I know that now, so I no longer assume that people are going to make fun of me. Rather, what I do accept is that everyone has an opinion and most times, they aren’t going to be the same as mine and that’s okay, it makes us all unique.

With that said, although it is still a few weeks off, I’m sending out a sneak peak of my newest novel, The Killing Ground. This way I have to release it. I’m also including a heartfelt thank you to anyone that gave a cautious unknown a chance to live her dream.

 A serial killer is working his way through Chicago. His victims have nothing in common except being pregnant. Detective Rebecca Foxx of the Chicago Detective Division has her hands full trying to catch the murderer before he kills again. She has enough pressure without the overbearing FBI butting in.

FBI Special Agent Jordan Gray isn’t sure what she is in for when a midnight call brings her to her boss’s office. She asks her to take an assignment off the records. Investigate the attack of her partner, but don’t let anyone outside her office know.

It soon becomes obvious that Rebecca resents the FBI’s intrusion and it seems Jordan’s personal attention. With no breaks in the case, she is forced to accept the FBI’s help, but she’ll be damned if she is taking anything else from Jordan.

What follows is a series of missteps and twists and turns that leaves both women wondering if they will ever catch the killer and trying to figure out how to keep their feelings for each other from becoming a distraction.