On this Day, Historical Fiction & a Sneak Peek

On this day in 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Union.

I fell in love with history when I was a little girl. I grew up on films like Saving Private Ryan and documentaries like The World at War. Did I always fully comprehend some of the horrors of World War II when I was eight-years-old? No, of course not. But as I grew up and began to, there was always one major event in history that struck my heart at its core.

The Holocaust.

From the moment I realized I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to a write a book about the Holocaust. But nothing I was able to come up with ever seemed good enough. I wanted to write something that showed respect and passion not only for the men who fought and died to win the war, but also give a fresh perspective on Hitler’s plan to wipe out the Jewish population.

As a flawed human being, I tried over and over to write a story like that but never felt satisfied. I criticized myself for not doing history justice and never allowed myself to finish the project.

Until I wrote The Good German Girl.

I fought and cried and stressed my way through writing this story, constantly afraid I wasn’t doing justice to the truth behind the fiction. But the harder my doubts and worry Good German Girl Quotepushed their way into my mind, the stronger my resolve to keep writing and actually finish this story became. Something that never happened before when I attempted to tackle a story that involved the Holocaust.

In writing this story and choosing to have my character encounter one of the most monstrous figures in history, I had to do a lot of research on Auschwitz II – Birkenau. This research emotionally drained me to the point of nearly shutting down. I tell you in all seriousness, there were times when I was researching and I began to fall asleep at my computer in the middle of the day–as if my body was attempting to shut down and shut out the horrific things I was reading.

From learning about the heartbreaking experiences of Dr. Gisella Perl who worked as an inmate gynecologist in Auschwitz, to the horrendous experiments Josef Mengele performed on adults and children alike within the walls of the concentration camp, I was overwhelmed to the point of tears. Some nights, I slept like a baby–my way of escape. Other nights I lay in bed staring at the ceiling with the same stories replaying over and over in my mind.

But despite the pain of doing such intense research into Auschwitz, I battled through to finish a story I desperately wanted to write. The Good German Girl explores two very different perspectives on the war. One from the point of view of a battle-hardened sniper who lands on Omaha Beach on D-Day, and the other from the point of view of a young German woman who is silently resisting the Nazi regime while hiding her best friend–a young Jewish woman–in her house.

These two characters–Margot Raskopf & Bernie Russell–have imprinted themselves on my heart. Even with ‘The End’ written, I find myself thinking about their story in the Margot 2middle of the day. I sometimes look back and can hardly believe I was the one who wrote this story to begin with. I knew when I started that I wanted to write about extraordinary people–particularly extraordinary women–but I never realized how thoroughly these characters would engrave themselves on my heart.

Bernie Russell is my favorite hero I’ve ever written. He was so real to me during the actual writing of the story, I was blown away. His humanness struck me early on in the story. Bernie is not perfect. He’s not necessarily the hero who swoops in and rescues our heroine from the villains who torture her. He’s just a man, fighting for his country. Flawed, certainly, but who holds a sense of honor that keeps him moving forward not only toward victory, but toward justice.

And Margot? Margot Raskopf has the kind of strength and courage I wish I had. She doesn’t shrink under the weight of Nazi rule but instead struggles to fight back against tyranny. Her life was achingly difficult to write about. Because with as much strength as Bernie Russellshe has, she too is merely a human being who wants to save the people she loves and who will do whatever she must to make sure they survive.

These two characters are separated by thousands of miles, not to mention a war, but their connection is as strong as if they walked beside each other through their trials.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a love story, per say. The Good German Girl is a Historical Fiction that highlights some major events of World War II while weaving the beginnings of a great love into the mix.

From Omaha Beach to the Battle of the Bulge, we march with Bernie toward the end of the war and watch as he questions his own sanity after fighting his way through Africa, Sicily, and now France.

From the heart of Berlin to the barracks of Auschwitz II – Birkenau, we walk a painful path with Margot as she attempts to save her friends and her family from the monsters all around them.

The Good German Girl put me through the wringer, to be sure. But writing ‘The End’ was never more satisfying. I hope, one day soon, I will be able to share the entire story with you within the pages of a book.

For now, though, I will work on editing and perfecting the manuscript while also writing Book 2 of A League of Extraordinary Women–tentatively titled The Red Bird in the Tower–on the side.

Thanks for reading! But don’t leave yet! Scroll a little for a sneak peek at a scene from The Good German Girl!

 

 

She took a step across the room, staring into her mother’s eyes.

“Do you remember the Entartete Kunst Exhibition?” she asked, her voice catching on the horrible words. “I was too young to go, but I begged Franz to get me in so I could see what they were saying about some of my favorite artists. I cried for a week, Mama. What they did to those paintings … how they degraded such beauty and made our countrymen think they were ugly …”

“I remember,” Sofie whispered. “But Margot, by teaching Brigitte such things you are putting not only yourself in danger, but her as well.”

“How can I keep her from what is natural to her? How can I tell her that her passion is wrong? I won’t do it, Mama. I cannot. Because it’s just not true.” Margot returned to the window, hugging her arms tight across her ribs. “If I can help one child to know the truth, then I will. Even if I cannot help any of my other students, at least I will know I helped one child of the next generation to see the truth behind the lies ravaging Germany.”

“And when Joachim comes again? When he orders a more thorough search because he has no choice but to do so?” Sofie asked.

Margot stared at her reflection in the window. The way the glass made her golden-brown hair shimmer and caught the glittering flecks of blue and brown peppering her eyes. She’d never forget how Hans used to tease her about her strangely colored eyes. How she wished he was here now to comfort her with brotherly teasing! To put his big arms around her and tell her everything would be all right.

To reassure our mother I am doing the right thing. Margot closed her eyes, plunging herself into darkness. There was no day so horrible as the day her twin felt he had no choice but to put on a uniform and fight for the Führer.

“Go back downstairs, Mama,” she said, breaking the deafening silence. “Ilse shouldn’t be alone.”

Bitte, Margot …”

“Mama, I beg you, go downstairs.” A tear rolled down her cheek. She listened to her mother’s breathing, each one heavier than the last before the soft rap of her shoes on the wooden floor warned she was turning around. The door clicked softly when it opened.

“And Mama?”

Ja?”

Margot looked over her shoulder, wiping the dampness from her cheeks. Her eyes collided with Sofie’s, holding her gaze steadily.

“We will never speak of this again.”

The End is Near …

I know, I know. That’s some title for the first blog post of the year. But it’s true! The end is near. The end of my fantasy series is near. I can see the finish line–I know how the story is going to end. I know who is going to live and who is going to die. I know exactly what the last battle looks like.

I just need to figure out how to get there.

Winter’s Light is the final book in my Winter Queen Series, which will wrap up the lives of so many characters I’ve grown to love. They’ve surprised me in so many ways over these last three years. And while I don’t consider fantasy to be my primary genre, I am going to miss writing about the land of Nfaros and its rulers. Excited as I am to begin focusing more on my historical fiction WIPs, I am going to miss the Sundragon sisters more than I thought I would.

Looking back over the progress of these novels, my heart soars over how they came to beWinter Queen. Winter Queen was born from a little idea I had during a very bad bout of writer’s block. I was stuck in the middle of another story, so I decided to simply write ‘for fun’ for a little while. And that is how Winter Queen came alive. It started with an image of two young princesses fleeing their city accompanied by the idea of a queen who could command an entire season. From there, it developed into something I never expected. Soon, there were ice fairies, dragon folk and a world full of strange and extraordinary people.

Have I ever told you The Winter Queen Series was originally a seven book series? When I realized how many characters I wanted to be involved, I thought there was no way I could do this in a trilogy. So I split the storylines into seven different books. Until the day I realized they might actually be published! On that day, I cut the stories down so they could fit into a four book series.

But even having done that, I worry. These last few days of writing with the story jumbling about in my head in bits and pieces, I start to wonder if I should’ve added more of the storyline to Dance of Shadows or Crown of Flames. I second guess myself about how I ended the second and third books of the series. I wonder if there was another place I could have ended them. If I could have tacked on a bit more so this last book RGB_Dance of Shadows (1)would have been easier.

But then I realize, stressing over what I might have done is useless. All I can do now, is write. I look back at the difference between writing Dance of Shadows and writing Crown of Flames and realize it is no different than what I’m going through now with Winter’s Light. Will this fourth and final book be longer than the others? Most likely. From the Jandry Siblings to the Sundragon Sisters to the Malaki family, I have a lot of characters and storylines to wrap up.

And one of the most difficult parts of that is deciding exactly how these stories will end. Will there be tears? Well, if you’ve read my books, then you probably know there will be. I can’t seem to write without throwing in some emotional trauma.

For my part, I know I’m probably going to cry. Not necessarily because of what happens to my characters–I’ve been preparing myself for the end of this series for a while now and have known a few things about the conclusion since the first book was published–but more because the stories themselves will finally be complete.

I was so excited when Crown of Flames was released last year in June! As the writer, I think this one might be my favorite of the series so far (we’ll see how Book 4 comes out COF - 1;)). Crown of Flames not only introduced even more characters, but brought our favorites to a crucial point in the plot–a climax in a way. Two major battles were fought and whether they were won or not is up to you to find out.

I’m so proud of Book 3, the ending giving me a perfect opening into Book 4 as well as lighting the way to several conclusions. Whether you caught the hints of certain characters’ fates or not, I promise I won’t spoil anything. But I am so excited for you to see everything come together.

As we entered Awards season at the beginning of the year, I hesitated to enter Crown of Flames, simply because sometimes I feel the harder I try, the less results I receive. But then I realize–as I always do–that not trying won’t get me anywhere. So I entered and am looking forward to seeing the results. And if there are no results, then what did I lose? Nothing. Because either way, people saw and read Crown of Flames, simply because it was entered to begin with.

Oh, and by the way, if you wanna help a girl out … Crown of Flames is eligible for a nomination in the INSPYs awards. If you want to nominate it, click here.

Now, who wants a sneak peek? The final book of The Winter Queen Series should release later this year (as long as I get to writing like crazy!). So here’s a little excerpt from Winter’s Light (The Winter Queen Series, #4) to hold you over until then …

“In fear they are here.” Jhaedra raised defiant eyes to Haileah. “If they saw Gwylan Almandreya, run to her they would!”

Haileah grabbed Jhaedra by a handful of her hair, yanking her close. “Do not speak that woman’s name!”

“Why? Because more powerful than you she is?” Jhaedra grimaced, a small smirk shining through the pain of Haileah’s grip. “Able to hold the Novices for long, you will not be. If run to wait out the war they do not, run to the Sundragons they will.”

“Let them! We do not need their pitiful strength. The Intermediates are all we need.” Haileah shoved Jhaedra away, sending the woman into a heap in the snow. “And if you do not remember your place and hold your tongue, I will soon have very little need of you as well.”

With a twirl of her cloak, Haileah spun back toward the camp. Jhaedra remained on the ground, watching until the woman disappeared among the tents. Then she looked up, peering directly through the tree branches at Taleah. The Frostling held her breath, unable to restrain the flurry of snowflakes falling from her wings any longer. A shower of them fell upon Jhaedra, making the Quintarian woman smile.

“Tell Adlae Sundragon,” Jhaedra murmured. “If survive Haileah’s wrath, I do, I will rally the Novices to her side.”

Jhaedra!” Haileah shrieked, her voice bouncing among the trees.

“Fly, Frostlings! Fly!” Jhaedra hissed, struggling to her feet.

“Come dear ones,” Taleah said, grabbing both M’kela and Ilicya’s hands as she watched the Eventide Sister stumble away. “We must deliver this message and pray the Creator show mercy on Jhaedra Randeryn.”

In a flash of snow dust, the three Frostlings vanished into the sky.

The Old, the New and the End of 2019

Merry Christmas!!!

I can hardly believe Christmas is less than two weeks away! 2019 has been a tumultuous year for me. There have been equal amounts of tears and laughter this year, along with periods of grief and anger that made me wish to the heavens 2019 would come to a hasty conclusion so I could start fresh in 2020. That being said, I am sorry I have been so silent this year! I am hoping to blog a lot more in 2020 (I know, I know, I say that every year but hopefully this time it will actually happen!).

For now, I hope you will join me in looking back over my 2019 year!

Early in the year, I received a wonderful and overwhelming gift. My sweet, loving Me & MaMagrandmother made it possible for me to attend my 2nd ACFW conference. Shortly thereafter, this wonderful woman who I loved with all my heart passed away. I cannot even begin to describe what it was like, waiting for months after she passed to attend the conference, knowing I would not have been able to go this year if not for her.

Then, something beautiful happened. ACFW (America Christian Fiction Writers) often has a worship period during the meals they provide for the attendees. On the first night of the conference during the welcome dinner, we all stood up to sing during the worship. Standing next to me at the table to my left was a sweet older lady who kept glancing my way. Then, without a word, she reached across the space between me and put her arm around me.

Everyone–I kid you not–she was wearing my grandmother’s perfume. I nearly broke down in tears right then and there. Until that moment, I’d had a lot of trouble grieving for my grandmother. I have always been the type to grieve in private, but even that had been difficult for me this year. I thanked God over and over for that moment, because when that lady (who had no idea who I was or what I was going through) put her arm around me it was like my MaMa was giving me a hug! Finally, I allowed myself to grieve and I was so relieved.

This year, I suffered another loss. A friend who I hadn’t seen in a few years died tragically. I felt numb when I heard the news, because he was one of those friends you always think you’re going to see again someday, even though there are so many miles between you now. This added to the grief that made me want 2019 to come to a quick end. I miss him very much and hope he is at peace now.

This year, with as much grief as there was, there was also joy. I had another book release in June! Crown of Flames (The Winter Queen Series, #3) is now available to order on Amazon! I am so excited this book is available now, but also sad. Because this means I COF - 1have only one more book to tackle in this series before I officially close out my fantasy series and will no longer visit the land of Nfaros. I am hard at work writing Winter’s Light, the fourth and final book of my fantasy series. I’ve hit a few snags so far, trying to bring every character’s plot to an end in a satisfying way without leaving behind too many holes in the storyline.

Considering these books are made up of SO MANY characters, this is harder than you might at first think! I need to keep the story interesting while also tying up any loose ends from the previous books while ALSO creating intense situations for some new characters that were introduced in Crown of Flames. All the same, I am enjoying writing Winter’s Light and hope that, if I finish within the next two months, I will have a release date along with a cover to share with you soon!

Now I’m going to do some major self-promoting … 😉

That being said, have you had a chance to catch up on the first three books of The Winter WQ SERIES INSTAGRAMQueen Series? No? Why wait?

Catch up by reading Winter Queen (The Winter Queen Series, #1), Dance of Shadows (The Winter Queen Series, #2) Crown of Flames (The Winter Queen Series, #3) now! Want them the easy way? All three are available together on Amazon Kindle for $13.47!

Travel to the beautiful land of Nfaros and catch up with the fierce Sundragon sisters as they fight to regain their father’s throne. Journey with the courageous Jandry siblings across treacherous lands. And fly with the People of the Dragon over the Nfaros Sea in the first three books of my series and be prepared for Winter’s Light (The Winter Queen Series, #4)!

In September, as I mentioned above, I attended the ACFW conference, and what an experience it was! I was able to connect with some wonderful people AND I heard Frank Peretti speak! Along with his keynote address, I attended several amazing workshops and learned so much.

I was also able to connect with the lovely Laurie Lucking who was nominated for a Carol Me & LaurieAward for her novel, Common! I was so excited to meet Laurie because she has supported my fantasy series from Book 1 and has written beautiful endorsements for all three of the books for me.

She is such a lovely person and an incredible author! If you haven’t read her book, Common, then I highly recommend it! I am a lover of love stories, and this one was a great one! Not to mention it fell in the Young Adult/Speculative category, which I also love! As I say in my tagline: when it comes to genre, there are no limits. And I mean that in both writing and reading!

I met so many wonderful people at the conference this year and reconnected with some of my favorite people as well. I was especially excited to attend author Pepper Basham’s workshop! Pepper is one of my favorite authors and such a sweet person. She also endorsed my debut novel, The Lost Generation: A Novel of World War I, so when I had the chance to meet her at my first conference in 2017, I didn’t hesitate.

Speaking of The Lost Generation, have I mentioned the paperback is available on26536218 Amazon for $9.99? If you love historical fiction, then grab your copy now!

And speaking of historical fiction …

I did something else new this year. I wrote a World War II era novel. I finished it at a whopping 92,048 words and 350 (Microsoft Word) pages! It is currently titled The Good German Girl and I am so excited about it! I have stepped away from it for now because writing it was emotionally draining, but am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for this novel.

I rediscovered my love for Historical Fiction while writing The Good German Girl and realized I wanted this genre to be my primary genre. That being said, The Good German Girl inspired several other World War II era stories that I have made a part of a series tentatively titled A League of Extraordinary Women Series.

NaNoWriMo WinnerThis led me to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time! And … I won! I wrote 51,346 words in November, beating my goal of 50,000 for the next book in my World War II era series in the month of November! What a satisfying feeling it was too, as I hadn’t written that many words in a single month in a while. I was very proud of myself and still am.

I loved participating in NaNoWrimo! I received so much support as I struggled through to achieve that very large word goal. I wrote even on days I didn’t want to write, and kept writing even when I felt like what I was writing was absolutely awful. As a writer, that’s very hard to do because I want everything about my story to be perfect. So when it’s imperfect, it’s hard to not simply stop and walk away for the rest of the day. NaNoWrimo pushed me to set a goal and stick to it and at the end, I was so very pleased.

Oh, and did you notice? I became a redhead this year! That’s right, I made the transition from brunette, to blonde, to redhead! And, may I say, this is my favorite color so far. Could it be? Have I finally made a permanent decision about my hair? Will I remain a redhead to the end of my days? You’ll just have to keep checking in on my blog to find out, I guess. 😉

Well, I think that’s all for now, folks. Thank you for stopping by and reading this incredibly long post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! I’ll see you in 2020.

A New Journey Begins …

It’s the most wonderful time of the year …

FBPost4Christmas is coming, it’s marvelously cold outside, and I have been crazy busy with my book! Crown of Flames, book 3 of my fantasy series, is just about halfway done and my plan to finish it by the end of the year has me glued to my laptop in an attempt to write, write, write until it’s done! Whether or not I’m able to finish by December 31st, I must say I am so happy with the way the book is going. Dance of Shadows was a bit easier to write, but despite the struggle with book 3, continuing the story of the Sundragon sisters has been a true joy.

I am so looking forward to sharing some book reviews with you soon. Keep your eyes open for my review of T.E. Bradford’s novel, Child of Prophecy, coming very soon. Book Reviews Coming Soon!In the coming year, I am going to try to keep up more with my book reviews, so you should be seeing my (hopefully favorable 😉 ) opinion on a mix of fantasy, romance, and historical novels in the coming months.

Now … who’s ready for a giveaway? Because one is coming! I will be hosting a giveaway for 3 signed copies of Dance of Shadows! So be sure to check back tomorrow for the details.

Now, in other news, I have a very special announcement to make. Today, I am launching a brand new blog! This website is completely fantasy based for the purpose of promoting writers of speculative fiction as well as attracting readers who love the fantasy genre.

Other Worlds: Discovering New Worlds One Fantasy Writer at a Time, has been created for the purpose of helping writers get some free promotion, as well as introducing readers to authors they may not have heard about before. I have always wanted to create a website that reaches out to authors who are trying to get their name out there, but haven’t quite made it yet. As someone who still struggles with marketing and promotion, who is very limited at the moment to what she is able to do, I understand how tough it can be when you’ve poured your heart into your book but you’re running out of ideas to keep people interested and attract new readers.

Will you become famous overnight by participating on my new blog? I’d like to say yes. 😉 But all I can promise is a little extra promotion that will reach some readers you may not have reached before. Oh, and did I mention it will be lots of fun?

I hope you’ll stop by to check out what the new blog is all about and I hope to hear from you soon!

Other Worlds: https://otherworldsfantasywriters.wordpress.com/

Other Worlds2

It’s Here!!!

Good Morning everyone!

I am SO excited! Dance of Shadows, book 2 in The Winter Queen Series, released on October 29th! Who’s ready to get reading? Book 2 was so fun to write. There’s more of everything in this book. More danger, romance, dragons, and new characters! Everyone from book 1 grows and develops a little more in this story and it was such a thrill for me to write about them.

FBPost4I received so much support with this second book! If you were able to stop by Facebook on Monday evening, then you know the launch party was a huge success! I was joined by four other wonderful authors who made the night even better with games, giveaways and live videos. I’m so looking forward to repeating the experience next year with book 3!

Dance of Shadows is now available on Amazon and you can purchase your paperback copy HERE. Also, keep your eyes open! A Goodreads Giveaway will be coming up soon for your chance to win a signed copy of Dance!

Now, just to refresh your memory, here is the back cover blurb for Dance of Shadows! I hope you enjoy this second installment of my fantasy series, and don’t forget to leave a review! 😉

The Winter Queen has brought the storm … RGB_Dance of Shadows (1)
and the Abyss roams the halls of the Blood Keep.

Ten days have passed since Sundragon blood was shed for a sacrifice by Raphaela Kael. Ten days since Lathan and Maxx Jandry fled the city in search of Princess Damari Kael and their niece, Noelle. Brecken Jandry, Brae’s loyal husband, remains a tortured prisoner in the Kael dungeons and no one in Sunkai is safe from Roderick and Raphaela’s wrath.

Damari Kael flees Sunkai with little Noelle Jandry, determined to deliver the child to the safety of the Shadow Lands, even as her own power emerges within her. The Eventide Sisters embark on a mission to join the Winter Queen. Across the land, Clea Jandry arrives in her birthplace of Molderëin where she is met with a savagery she thought long dead. Afra Malaki seeks the Creator’s will and the Queen of the Woodlands prepares for battle.

In the peaceful city of Quintaria, the Winter Queen grieves. But the shadows are coming for her. They carry a message for Adlae Sundragon, and they will not rest until all is revealed.

Cover Reveal!!

So, the moment has arrived! It is time for me to reveal to you the BEAUTIFUL cover for Book 2 of The Winter Queen Series.

I am excited to say I am now in my second round of edits for A Dance of Shadows! We are one step closer to publication!

And now … drumroll please …

Tada!

RGB_Dance of Shadows

A Dance of Shadows should be coming your way this October as long as all goes well! I am so very excited for you to find out what happens to our characters in this next installment of my fantasy series, as well as for you to be introduced to some new people and places!

Now, to finish up, here’s the summary for A Dance of Shadows!

The Winter Queen has brought the storm … 
and the Abyss roams the halls of the Blood Keep.

Ten days have passed since Sundragon blood was shed for a sacrifice by Raphaela Kael. Ten days since Lathan and Maxx Jandry fled the city in search of Princess Damari Kael and their niece, Noelle. Brecken Jandry, Brae’s loyal husband, remains a tortured prisoner in the Kael dungeons and no one in Sunkai is safe from Roderick and Raphaela’s wrath.

Damari Kael flees Sunkai with little Noelle Jandry, determined to deliver the child to the safety of the Shadow Lands, even as her own power emerges within her. The Eventide Sisters embark on a mission to join the Winter Queen. Across the land, Clea Jandry arrives in her birthplace of Molderëin where she is met with a savagery she thought long dead. Afra Malaki seeks the Creator’s will and the Queen of the Woodlands prepares for battle.

In the peaceful city of Quintaria, the Winter Queen grieves. But the shadows are coming for her. They carry a message for Adlae Sundragon, and they will not rest until all is revealed.

Don’t forget to add A Dance of Shadows to your to-read list on Goodreads, here!

What You Never Saw When You Looked At Me

I grew up a Christian. I declared my belief in Jesus as my savior when I was five-years-old. I loved Jesus. I embraced faith so easily when I was little, because the faith of a child is incomparable. It’s absolute. It’s flawless. There is no room for doubt in the heart of a child. It’s only when they get older that doubt creeps in, that they start to believe the hurtful things that people say. That they let themselves believe that maybe they’re not as worthy of love as they once thought.

This is what you never saw when you looked at me.

I’ve been battling depression since I was thirteen.

It started small. I didn’t even realize what it was at first. It was like a heavy feeling, falling on my shoulders, burdening me. I let people convince me that I was just lazy. That I just needed to get out and do more things. I let people judge me and convince me that there was something wrong with me. And there was. But I couldn’t tell them. Because if I told them I was depressed, then that meant I wasn’t a good Christian.

How did I get this idea about myself? Based on religious views and the comments of others, I came to the conclusion that if someone said they were deeply depressed, it meant that there was something wrong with them SPIRITUALLY. That only made me more depressed, because apparently, there was ALREADY something wrong with me spiritually as I didn’t always agree with what others around me believed. I didn’t feel wrapped up in love, like the love Christ tells us to have for each other. I felt wrapped up in judgment and it was killing me.

Even when I would encourage others who came to me for advice, to be themselves, to believe what was in their hearts and trust it as God’s guidance, I was depressed. I would advise others, but then not take my own advice for myself. Because I had let depression convince me that I couldn’t be rescued from myself. That I was what others said I was. That there was simply something wrong with me and I had to examine myself (over-examine myself), to figure out what it was and fix it. I conformed myself to what others said I should be instead of thinking about who I was.

I thought there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t in a serious relationship by the time I was eighteen. I thought I was ugly. I was body-shamed, but not in the way you think. I was offered diets when I didn’t think I needed them. But I was happy with my body…until I wasn’t. Until I was convinced I shouldn’t be.

I was treated strangely for the curves God had given me. One moment I was told I was fearfully and wonderfully made by God; the next moment I was made to feel ashamed of the fact that I had a well-developed bust for a teenager. Like I should be ashamed of it and try to hide it. I had people coming up to me all the time, telling me to pull up my shirt. The problem? If I’d pulled up my shirt any more, it would’ve been up against my chin. I wasn’t even showing cleavage! But I was ashamed of my body. Of something about myself that others (I’ve been told by family and friends alike in more recent years) wish they had.

I remember one time, years ago now, I was sitting outside one night with my dad and a friend. He was a young man, just a couple of years older than me, and he and my dad were talking about serious stuff. I can’t even remember the subject. At some point, my dad got up and went inside, leaving me alone with this friend. I was shy and insecure, unsure of how to approach any subject, but I’d been doing research lately and I was excited to share with someone. I’d just gotten the courage to say something, when the friend stood up and started to walk away, without a word to me. In a moment of pure frustration, even anger, I called after him and said, “You don’t have to go inside. I have interesting things to say too, yah know!” In response to this, he laughed and continued on his way, leaving me all alone. He laughed. Like I had made some big joke about my own intelligence. Like it was a joke to think I might have something to contribute to the conversation; something interesting and smart to say. He probably doesn’t even remember doing that to me and most certainly didn’t mean it the way I took it. But I remember. Because it crushed me. It affirmed all my insecurities that I wasn’t interesting; that I wasn’t smart.

The influence of people who aren’t even family on the teenage mind can be damaging. Because while my family reminded me every day that I was beautiful, talented, smart, and a good Christian, it was other people who had my ear. Other people who convinced me that my family and I were wrong about me. I still struggle with these thoughts every day. I was so convinced that there was something wrong with me, that I let those ideas become me. I lost my strength. I lost my fire. I lost all desire to make myself better because I let depression convince me there was nothing I could do to change what I’d become.

Yet with all these feelings roiling inside me, I smiled. I put on a façade. I convinced everyone who knew me that I was a happy, faithful person who was trying to be what they thought I should be. My mouth smiled at you; my eyes screamed for help. I laughed with you; my heart was shattering. I sang with you; my soul was crying.

This is what you never saw when you looked at me.

You said I was shy.

I felt WORTHLESS.

You said I was quiet.

I was ASHAMED.

You said I was easy-going.

I was DEPRESSED.

Depression is real. In many people. In all religions. In all aspects of life, depression is real and no one—NO ONE—should feel ashamed to say they’re depressed. No one should be made to feel that there was something WRONG with them, because they’re depressed. No one should ever feel that they aren’t a good Christian because they’re suffering from depression. I suffered for years and kept my mouth shut, because I was so afraid of being judged by people who said they cared about me.

Maybe, to some, this sounds harsh. Maybe you’ll even take offense; feel defensive. But my thinking, in the depths of depression, was based on things I was being told. On things that people said, sometimes directly to me. So, I kept quiet. I suffered in silence. I endured. But it was painful. I was devastated. I couldn’t drag myself out for a long time. I can’t undo my past, but I can move forward.

Because I’m pulling myself out now. I’m overcoming. I’m conquering and for the first time in my life, I’m happy with myself for WHO I AM.

God is my JUDGE.

The Holy Spirit is my GUIDE.

Jesus Christ is my SAVIOR.

This mighty Trinity is all I need to move forward. To keep going. My story isn’t over. It’s just beginning. So I ask only one thing of you.

Look at ME.

SEE ME.

See me for who I am. Not what you want me to be. Not what you think I should be. My name is Erica Marie Hogan. I love to write dramas and romances. I like vanilla lattes and chocolate. I change my hair color twice a year, just because. I think that if a tattoo is pretty and tasteful, there’s nothing wrong with it. I think nose piercings are pretty (I got one last October). If I could, I’d have a whole farm of cats and dogs, all mixed breeds, rescued and loved. I watch old movies, I love I Love Lucy, and I have ten-thousand books 😉 (half of which I haven’t even read yet and half of which aren’t Christian Fiction or religious based). I’m 24-years-old and in no rush to be in a serious relationship with anyone; I’m happy being single for now. I’m the best introvert I know, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends and family. It just means that crowds make me nervous, I’m more comfortable one-on-one with a friend, and I prefer being at home. I’m a bit claustrophobic.

I believe that, no matter what I do, no matter how bad things get, God is on my side and Jesus is here to save me.

This is me without my makeup on. This is me, vulnerable and exposed. This is me, unashamed to say that this is who I am and if you think I’m weird or in sin, then it’s your loss. I’m not going to be ashamed of who I am anymore. I’m not going to pretend to be like you, just so you’ll like me. I’m not going to let myself fall into that pit again.

Being depressed didn’t make me a bad Christian. What made me a bad Christian, was letting others whisper in my ear what was wrong with me instead of listening to the other Voice that told me what was RIGHT with me. God was always with me, I just forgot how to look for Him. The voice of depression told me I wasn’t worth it. It told me I wasn’t worthy of love or friendship. It told me to run away from someone who wanted to help me. From the first person I confided my years of battling depression to. I ran, because I didn’t think I was worthy of his help. I ran, because I didn’t think anything would actually help. I ran because I was afraid of being judged again. If that person is reading this, then he knows who he is and I hope he can forgive me. For cutting myself off. For going my own way.

The voice of depression told me that people who said they were my friends, didn’t really want to be my friends. That they tolerated me, instead of actually liking me. It told me I was annoying, ugly, full of sin, completely unworthy of God’s love.

But that’s not true. None of it. Not for anyone. The truth is, if we were all faultless, then we wouldn’t need God’s mercy. We wouldn’t need His forgiveness. I was led to believe that because I didn’t think the way others did, because I didn’t do things the way others did, it made me a bad Christian. I was convinced that I needed to change who I was in order to have a place in God’s heart and house. I didn’t believe that God—or anyone else for that matter—could love me for just being ME. I thought I had to be better than myself to be loved and have friends. But what’s the point in having that kind of love and friendship if you’re miserable? It isn’t real, none of it.

I thought things you’d never imagine I would think. I considered actions you never thought I’d consider. I kept secrets. I fell far. I was told that there were a lot of people far worse off than me and I should be grateful.

No one should have their feelings belittled. No one should be made to feel guilty for feeling. If you make a depressed person feel guilty, that just makes their depression worse. Trust me, I know. Guilt & Depression are old friends of mine. They work together like a poison, wrapping themselves around you like a snake, trying to squeeze the life from you. I felt guilty for being depressed. But no matter what a person is going through, no matter how small you think their troubles are, depression is still depression. It doesn’t matter if you think that person shouldn’t feel depressed. It doesn’t matter if you think they have nothing to really be depressed about. You don’t know what’s really going on inside. You don’t know what they’re thinking. You don’t know about their health. You don’t know about what happens behind closed doors.

They are not yours to judge. As Christians, we are to love each other. Forget about the splinter in their eye and look at the plank in your own.

God is their judge. God is my judge. He did not appoint you to judge me. He did not give you the authority to tell me what you think is wrong with me.

Jesus said:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Nothing I say here, is said in bitterness or anger. Writing like this is how I heal. This is how I move forward. Some would say they told me the things that they did because they love me. But I can’t believe that. Telling someone over and over again how they’ve failed, how they’re sinning, how they should be more like you, isn’t being loving. Loving someone is helping them; telling them that you think they’re a beautiful person, no matter who they are or what they look like. Telling them they aren’t in sin just because their opinion differs from yours; their choice of dress differs from yours; their choice of living differs from yours.

Yesterday I did something I never thought I’d do. I got a tattoo. But not just any tattoo. I went out and got a semicolon on my wrist. It’s small and barely noticeable, but it means everything. It’s quirky, because I’m a writer ;). But it means something, too (if you don’t know what I mean, Google ‘Project Semicolon’). That’s why I chose it. Because you know what? My story isn’t over. Far from it. I’m moving forward now, with a new sentence. A new chapter. A new life. I’m pulling myself out piece by piece, with God’s help, a loving family, and friends.

For the first time in a long time, I like myself.

I am not ashamed. I do not feel guilty.

I’m me, exactly as God made me.

And it’s the best feeling in the world.

If you were at all offended by this post, then I am sorry. But this is me. I am finally saying what I’ve been screaming inside for years. Forgiveness is a powerful thing, and that’s what this post is about. I am moving forward now, which means—in simple terms—I am ‘over’ the past. If you decide to remove my friendship on your social media because of this, then I am sorry. That is your choice, not mine. If you wish to leave a comment, then please leave something positive. This post is not meant to start debates or arguments. Any negative or defensive comments will be deleted. This post is meant to encourage any and all who have suffered with depression; to show that you can conquer this. That this point of your life shall pass. That you are loved and cherished, no matter what the world tells you. God is always with you, even in your darkest hour. Even if you don’t believe it.

I am LIVING proof of that.

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