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It's been three weeks since I've slept soundly through the night.

I’ve recently found myself waking at three am with a jolt. After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, I finally rise from my bed and shuffle my way downstairs to a darkened kitchen. I make myself a cup of tea and I stare out the back glass door as I breathe deeply into the quiet. The kitchen feels strangely forbidden to me during the time of the day when the sun decides to take a nap—as if I’ve wandered into the off-limits wing of a Disney castle. And yet, these nights spent alone while the rest of the world dreams peacefully behind closed eyelids have stirred something within me, and I’m powerless to fight the changes that have followed.

The imaginative aspects of my spirit have always sought solitude in order to make sense of my own reality. At school, I ached for moments away from the classroom; I was the girl who, more often than not, found herself roaming the empty hallways with a hall pass in hand. I can imagine how odd I must have appeared to the neighbors on the days that I trudged home from the bus stop, marched directly into the backyard, dropped my backpack in the grass, and disappeared into the woods behind the house. The woods were my sanctuary; a place where I could finally take a deep breath and feel safe. The major selling point of the neighborhood woods was a tree-fort that had been built directly behind my house for all the kids in the neighborhood to enjoy; only, many of them had already outgrown that stage of childhood. This meant that I had full control over the tree-fort, and let me tell you… I ruled over that mighty acropolis as if it were the castle to my kingdom. Like any good Queen, I reigned solemnly and fairly from my wood-haven domain.

On a more humble note, I recall a certain memory in the tree-fort involving a squirrel-hole, a stick, me PRODDING that stick inside said “squirrel-hole,” and then getting chased by a rabid mama all the way to my parent’s patio. I screamed loudly enough to draw attention from everyone in the neighborhood. Many spectators thought that the Strebs' daughter had been attacked by some sort of daytime stalker purely based on the shriek that had descended over Glenstone Drive on that spring afternoon. The rumor was soon dispelled when news spread that Bill and Jane’s daughter was perfectly fine. No— she had intelligently JAMMED A TWIG INTO A SQUIRREL-HOLE and got what she deserved.

Two important notes:

1. I was wearing a rainbow-striped sweater-vest that day (stylingggg).

2. I‘ve only ever recalled an outfit from memory if the recollection carries with it a certain amount of trauma. Needless to say, I still give a wary eye to any squirrel that crosses my path.


I spent hours lost in those woods behind my parents' house; climbing trees, roaming the paths, and singing to myself as I ventured deeper and deeper into the darkness. I often lost track of time. It wasn’t until I would hear my mother ringing the dinner bell that I would stop in my tracks, huff disappointedly and about-face for home.

Yes, we had a dinner bell; I’m the daughter of a Pennsylvanian farm-girl. That’s just how my family rolls.

I had even managed to convince one of my friends that a baby alien had landed in the woods behind my house and that, daily, I visited him to be sure that he had enough food and water. I suppose that my love of storytelling (or lying, HA!) had already taken hold of me. That, or I’d watched E.T. one too many times that year. Either way, I couldn’t have imagined then that at nearly thirty years old that I would credit my love of stories to those imaginative afternoons spent frolicking about wood.

This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with sleepless nights. Solitude is my way of processing. I usually have trouble sleeping on vacations; the experience of being in a new place brings up new thoughts and new understanding. Spending time alone is how I can quickly connect to myself so that I can eventually venture back into the world at my best. However, these past few weeks pacing the kitchen floor between the hours of 3 and 5 am have not been peachy-keen; the pitch-black of the night can do a lot to mess with the mind. I’ve found myself asking the refrigerator-light some of my darkest questions; Am I psychotic for not sleeping these past few weeks? Am I an insomniac? Am I a serial killer in the making?

Last night, however, I came to a rather astute conclusion: that I'm experiencing a Software Update… you know— like your iPhone lighting up at 3 am on your side-table. I’m being upgraded… at least, this is what I choose to believe.

Time and time again, God has spoken to me in dreams about what would be required of me to write this book series. His most menacing promise?

—Every obstacle your protagonist must face will be yours to face as well.

I mean, WHAT?!

As a writer, I find this ‘message in a bottle" from God to be particularly horrendous. Any writer knows that in order to capture your reader, you must drag your protagonist through the shit and still manage to keep the story humorous and light. Now—I don’t know about you, but I don’t see myself sporting a shit-eating grin whilst being dragged through horse manure behind the canter of a Kentucky-Derby racehorse. I don’t care how many millions of dollars await my arrival at the finish line… you will see me ugly-crying for the entire race. I will wear my Sunday best, but I will be shouting obscenities and urging all attendees to get out before it’s too late.

The bottom line?

God disciplines those he loves. I’ve endured four years of some of the harshest discipline I could have imagined; sleepless nights, too many hours spent wondering if I’m on the right path, rejection, watching others succeed at the exact time that I was certain was my time.

I’m near to finishing the second manuscript, which means that if I’m in symmetry with my main character that I will have some important decisions to make soon; selfless decisions, which are often the hardest ones to make. My mind clearly knows this and is seeking the solitude that I need in order to come to a sound conclusion.

Side note: I can’t even imagine the type of train-wreck I will be while I write book three. I apologize in advance to all my close family and friends. Hate to say it, but run for cover.

Still, I know the ending of my story… and that makes any chapter before “THE END” worth telling. Any good story must contain the elements of hardship, fear, and darkness. There would be nothing to overcome without them; no villains, no character arcs or growth. No themes from which to learn. NADA.

And besides…without the darkest nights, we wouldn’t appreciate the brightest mornings.

All for now.


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