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My Story

If you’ve been in a church, you’ve probably heard about peaks and valleys. Life is full of them. About a year ago, I was checking out a pretty great view on my own mountain peak… and then was shoved from behind into a canyon. Every time I think I’ve found some hand and foot holds to start to climb back up, I slip.

The thing is, as miserable as this experience has been, I know I won’t be down here forever, and what I do while I’m down here matters.

Because one day, I am going to have an amazing story to tell.

I am a writer; however, God is the author of my life. All truly good stories have several intertwined subplots, and as the reader, we don’t always see how all those subplots fit together, but the Author and Creator always sees how it will all connect in the end.

I am learning that I am not the author of my life. God is. I cannot get out of this valley on my own. I have to trust He is working behind the scenes to pull me up. He is giving me an amazing story to tell. He didn’t knock me down here, but He knew I would fall. He already had a plan to raise me up.

My story is not finished yet. One day I can share the story and the happy ending of eternal life.

(I had this post fermenting in my mind as the first of 2016 over a week ago, and then my pastor gave a message last Sunday that confirmed this was the right thing, right down to the video I had already decided to include. God is funny that way.)

It Would Be a Sin Not to Read this Book: I Kill the Mockingbird

I don’t go to bookstores very often because it is dangerous. I already have a huge and growing list of books to read, and bookstores just increase the chances that I’ll end up with a book not even on my list. I should just admit to myself that I will never complete my list, but I’ve been trying denial for a while now. Books on my list are like that old wive’s tale about gray hairs, where if you pull one out, two more grow in its place.

I was recently in a bookstore, and yep, it happened again. I was innocently walking by a shelf when this book caught my eye.

kill mockingbird

As an ardent fan of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I could not ignore this cover.

(BTW- I’m still not sure where I stand on Go Set a Watchman)

I picked up the book and read the back cover, then the first few pages. I quickly realized this book is for juveniles and a far stretch from the A Song of Ice and Fire series I have been reading. It appeared it would be a quick, yet humorous and pleasant read, and also something good to read as a gauge for a comparison to my own juvenile fiction series (please, if you do not understand the naming of book age categories, do not think I am insulting this or my own books). And yes, it is a tribute to the book I love so much.

So I bought it.

And I took it to read on days at the beach (between walks, and searching for starfish with a five year old).

Oh, and I loved it!

First of all, the trio of young friends was not only a group I personally connected to because they were intelligent yet fun book nerds, but one of them had a Star Wars backpack as well. Seriously, I loved that these kids were not portrayed as a bunch of trouble-making hoodlums out wreaking havoc all summer long, but a group of awkward kids with their own issues, making the most of their summer by “fighting for the books” in a way that would have made their late English teacher proud.

Though technology played an important role in the progress of the kids’ summer project, kids being kids reigned and there was an Americana feel of how simple summer should be and an innocence similar to that of Scout, Jem, and Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Sure, they witnessed Atticus having to put down a rabid dog and defend a poor black man wrongfully on trial for the color of his skin, and Lucy, Elena, and Michael deal with the death of a beloved teacher while Lucy comes to grips with the near loss of her own mother to cancer, but they are still all just kids trying to have fun in a small town setting.

There is also an understanding of our culture that is a little sad, but still funny. This excerpt will illustrate that:

“We know people are talking about the book,” I say to Elena. “I wish we could be sure that they’re reading it.”

“How about we go online and start a rumor that To Kill a Mockingbird is violent and lewd? she suggests. “That would get people to read it.”

“The story’s got rape, murder, lynching, and rabies,” I remind her. “There’s also a man named Boo, and an old lady drug addict, and a kid dressed up like a pork chop. How are we going to top that?”

There is also a beautiful scene where Lucy and her mother finally talk about her mother’s near miss with death by cancer:

“Lucy,” says Mom, “I am going to die.”

Suddenly I feel like I can’t catch my breath. “What?” I say again.

“You heard me… But that’s not all.”

“There’s more?”

“I’m not going to die today…We all die, Lucy. Me. You. Everybody. But you know what we do first?”

I shake my head.

“We pretend that it’s not going to happen. We make believe that we’re never going to die. Do you know what that’s called?”

“Lying?” I say.

“Living, Lucy. It’s called living. That’s what I’m going to do now.”

I Kill the Mockingbird was an easy and funny read, yet had deep messages. In that way,and the presence of a protagonist who is mature and intelligent, I compare this story to my own book series. I loved this book, and it was a great respite in the middle of the violence and death I’ve been reading.

My Writer’s Block Poem

so just write

I haven’t really done much poetry in years. Somehow the perfect storm of discussing writer’s block and reading the poetry of a few talented kids made the following today:

I can’t start to finish

when I can’t even begin.

Lack of inspiration

may be all in my head.

But I can’t seem to find the words

to get me through a line.

Do I have it in me,

to write a verse this time?

Empty words are dulling me.

Nothing now has meaning.

I don’t want to be a writer

with no substance, no feeling.

With my head in my hands,

I let out a monstrous moan.

Yet somehow I have done it.

I have written this poem.

 

Terri Klaes Harper

Copyright 2015

Getting into More Shuffles

lost_books

There is an over-saturation of self-published, or “indie authors.” I know this because I am one of them. Many are good and the changes in the publishing industry can be seen as a blessing for us getting our books out into the world. However, there is an unfortunate number of these authors who really aren’t any good, like the train wrecks we see audition for American Idol and wonder how they could possibly think they had a chance. There are also some who have great potential, but they lack polish and editing. These last two types are bringing us all down, and the good ones are getting lost in the shuffle. People are afraid to take a chance on an unknown because they may have been burned by one already.

It’s all about who you know, the supporters you have, and self-promoting savvy, apparently. I am sadly lacking in these areas, and I’m shy about my work when I am face to face with people. I imagine most writers are introverts, as I am. After all, that is the nature of writing. We tend to be great at expressing ourselves through the written word because we are more internal thinkers. If we were extroverts, we probably wouldn’t take the time to write it down, but would just blurt it all out verbally. Of course, I know there are exceptions, but you get my point, right? So I need to get more extroverts on my side.

When I published my first book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: The Middle-ish Ages, on Kindle 2 1/2 years ago, using the free giveaway option was a great way to get a book noticed, get readers, get reviews, and get more sales. I tried this a few times more recently and didn’t notice any new traffic or increase in sales. I certainly got no new reviews from it. Why not? So many authors are just giving it away now in the same desperation I had in getting noticed, that even in that, we get lost in the shuffle.

I have been published exclusively through Amazon in order to take advantage of the KDP benefits such as the free giveaways and the countdown deals, but I have come to realize that if I’m going to get lost in the shuffle anyway, perhaps I just need to get into more shuffles.

Every 90 days, my books were set to auto-renew into KDP, but I was able to recently rescue book 2 from the exclusivity trap. Book 1 will linger there until mid-April. I have now made book 2 available through Smashwords and Nook as well as Amazon, and book 1 will join as soon as it can. It’s a bit awkward to only be able to offer the second book in a series through these two new formats, but I have hopes of more shuffles.

 

Guilt

Just a little something that was in my head. Write whenever you can, even if it’s just a little thing. It might become part of a big thing.
I was always the bad girl. My friends all took their cues from me, so I guess I decided to help them cover their biggest mistake out of guilt. Guilt, and the possibility that because of my past history, I would probably get accused for their crime anyway. The only problem was…I never killed anybody, and it’s a little harder to cover up a mess like that.

 

All rights reserved

Terri Klaes Harper 2015

My Valentine to You…an excerpt

Ah, Valentine’s Day, a dreaded holiday for many, indeed. Drew is no exception. The following is the Valentine’s Day chapter from Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year.

Your True Colors

I guess it didn’t really matter what day of the week Valentine’s Day fell on.  Even if it had been a weekend, the SGA would have found a way to force us to celebrate it.  All week long during lunches people could buy various colored anonymous hearts for their friends, crushes, girl or boyfriends, which in turn would be delivered during classes that Friday, the official V-day.  Every delivery held the classroom occupants captive, everyone secretly hoping it was for them, but trying to be nonchalant about it, while those who were recipients would feign embarrassment. I had contemplated faking sickness myself that morning just so I could miss this torturous routine, but I could only miss four more days for the year in order to be exempt from any of my exams (I would also have to have an A or B average in the classes), so I decided to soldier on.

White meant someone thought you were cute.  Red was love, of course.  Pink was a crush, and yellow was for friends.  It was sweet that my friends didn’t let me down, but a white or a pink would have been nice, you know, for variety and all.  But, alas, only yellow came my way that day, and I had to watch so many others loaded down in pinks, reds, and whites.  Anne was so adorably happy in chorus with her red hearts from Shane that I didn’t vent to her at all. Yet I was so frustrated with Mona flaunting her twenty-nine pink hearts, and I wanted to get out of that class as fast as I could, that I completely forgot to stop at my locker before photography.  When I entered the room and didn’t see Adrienne, I unhappily remembered that she left early for a dentist appointment.  Lucky!

Mrs. Ansel kept us busy that day, but Dustin kept sneaking glances and smiling at me.  It was weird, even for him. In the last five minutes of class, three last minute heart deliveries were made, and somehow I received a white one.  Someone thought I was cute. It was my turn to act like I didn’t care, but I was actually thrilled to be cute to somebody, even though these hearts were sent in secret and I didn’t know who it was.  And then I remembered I would have to stop at my locker, the opposite direction from the bus.  When the bell rang, I bolted.  Without Adrienne, I would miss the bus on my own, and mom would be less than thrilled.  Make-out girl, with more pink and white hearts than I had seen on any one person all day, and a huge teddy bear with several balloons, was lip-locked with yet another guy when I got to my locker.  It took a while to nudge them out of the way, and all my belongings I had been hurriedly stuffing in there all year came tumbling out.  As I scooped it all up, pulling aside what I needed and cramming the rest back into the locker, Dustin showed up beside me.

“You need some help?”

“Yes, please.  I’ve still got to catch my bus.”

“Uh, they just pulled out.”

I closed my eyes and threw my head back in annoyed disbelief. “No!” I cried out to the ceiling.

“That’s pretty dramatic, Drew.”

“Not really.  My mom is not going to be happy with me for missing the bus. “We practically live in another country and she likes to plan trips into town like they did back in pioneer days.”

“There’s a guy down my street who owes me.  He gets home at about 5:15. We can give you a ride home then.”

“Ok.  I still need to call her though.”

“Sure.  I got a quarter,” he said, offering up the coin and gesturing towards a payphone at the end of the hall, close to the gym.

When I called my mom, she was unsure about a stranger giving me a ride home, but I told her Dustin would be there and I think her not wanting to drive into town won out. “Ok.  Be careful.”

“Of course, Mom, always,” I replied. As I hung up the phone, Dustin grew a smile.  “So, what are we going to do?”

“It’s actually a kinda nice day.  A little warm for February.  Let’s walk.”

“Ok.  Where to?” I asked.

“Wherever.  We’ll just go and see where we end up.”  Flawless strategy.  So we walked the opposite way from Dustin’s house and ended up under the bridge and by the river.

Along the way, I asked, “So, no plans with Alyssa today?”

“Nah, you were right about her.  She’s with Jonathan.  I’m trying not to get mixed up in all that anymore.  She just makes me feel bad, you know?”

“I do.  Have you ever been here before?” I asked, certain he must have been at some point since it was close to his house. It was a stupid question, but a distraction from the Alyssa topic.

“Yeah, but not in a while.  This tends to be a redneck hangout. I’m surprised there’s nobody here now.”

“I discovered the rednecks last time I was here.  Let’s hope they don’t show up again,” I said as I sat on a boulder.  Dustin took a seat on another nearby rock. “It is nice out here though,” I said.

“You going to keep wearing those hearts?” he asked.

“Oh, I actually forgot about them.  I guess I must have gotten one from Adrienne, Nadine, Anne, and Carmen.”

“And the white one?”

“It’s a mystery.”

He laughed at me.  “Not anymore.  That one’s from me.”

“So, let me get this straight. You think I’m cute or pretty or whatever, and you know I like you.  You have to. So why don’t you want to go out with me?  I feel like there’s something wrong with me.”

“Yeah.  You’re too good.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m not good, and I don’t really want to be good either, and I don’t want to corrupt you.  I’ve thought about it,” he said, eying me up and down with his left eye, “but I,” a pause, “respect you too much.  You know.  You’re sweet and innocent, and I want you to stay that way.”

“Dustin, that’s a load of crap!”

“No, it really isn’t,” he said as he threw his hands up in defense. “I’m a typical teenage guy and there are certain things I want out of a girl, and I’d love that with you, but it’d be wrong ‘cause you’re not one of those girls.  And don’t tell me that’s crap again because it’s hard to do the right thing with this, but you really do mean a lot to me.  You’re the kind of girl I’d want when I’m done being a jerk, but I don’t have that kind of self-control right now.

“All those girls with all the hearts today are more or less targets,” he continued.  “You know, the ones who put out. Once they’ve all been used up, guys will want a challenge, so be careful, ‘cause they’ll move on to girls like you. But you’re better than that. You’re special, and I need you to be my friend and keep me in my place.” His eye did not stray from mine through any of that, so I knew he was being genuine, even if the intensity of it made me uncomfortable.

“Yeah, I’m always a friend, never a girlfriend.”

“You don’t need all that anyway.  You’ve got talent and a big heart.  Hold onto your values and be careful. Trust me, more guys are going to start noticing you soon.” What was with the guys I liked being so full of wisdom?

“So, you’re going to hang out with easy girls like Alyssa, and I have to just be good, even though you might like me.”

“Yes.”

“That’s a double-standard.”

“Sure it is, but that’s how it works, because guys are driven by pretty much one thing, so they do stupid stuff.  I don’t want to be stupid with you…well, I do,” he said with a twisted smirk, “but I know I shouldn’t.”

“You are really confusing me, Dustin,” I said, annoyed. “You always confuse me.  I even wrote a poem about it.”

“Really?  About me? Can I read it?”

“Well, it’s kinda stupid.” Why did I bring it up?  It just slipped out.

“Nah, I doubt it.  Do you have it with you?”

“Well, yeah.  We got our journals back today,” I said as I dug through my backpack, sifting through all the crumpled papers floating around in it. I opened my decorated spiral notebook to a specific page and handed it over reluctantly.”

“You’re not going to recite it to me?” he asked.

“If you don’t want to read it…” I said, grabbing for it.

“No, I’m just kidding.  I can read it to myself.” And so he did, and I sat uncomfortably waiting for his reaction, and feeling like it was stupid to let him read it in the first place, especially after our conversation, but I couldn’t very well time travel, so I had to just sit and wait and avoid eye contact.

 

When Will Your Sun Rise?

When it is bright and sunny out,

What is it like inside your heart?

When everyone around you smiles,

Do you insist to wear a frown?

When all the world hears music playing,

Why do you keep the sound out?

When you are asked to join in something,

Is that when you run and hide?

When everything is over,

Why don’t you let it be?

When you hear the birds above,

Do they seem to turn to vultures?

When the day grows pale and dim,

What is it like inside your heart?

Tell me now about your life.

When will your sun ever rise?

 

“Wow,” came Dustin’s reaction.  “Sure this isn’t about you?”

“Maybe we’re a bit alike, but I was thinking of you when I wrote it,” I said quietly to my feet as he handed back my notebook. “Like I said, you’re confusing. I never know where I stand with you.  Well, I didn’t before anyway.  And you’re always at least partly sad, like there’s so much going on, but you keep it all inside.”

“Not all of it.  I meant it when I said you were special.  I guess you’re really my best friend.  I mean, I’ve told you stuff I don’t talk about, and when I was feeling so down at Christmas, I was thinking of some bad stuff, man.  I was in a dark place.  Knowing you were there helped me not…kill myself,” his voice quietly trailed off at the end of the sentence.  “I wanted to talk to you about it the night we all went to Joey’s, but that douche Danny was there, so I didn’t get a chance.  And actually I’m sure he’s a nicer guy than I am, but I just didn’t like him liking you.”

“Well, if you don’t want to go out with me, you can’t hate everyone who comes along and might like me.  And he went home, and we talked and are also just friends.  Apparently that’s what I’m good at.  But I’m glad if it kept you from hurting yourself,” I added.

Dustin checked his watch.  “It did, and now we should head over to my neighbor’s.”  He stood and extended his hand to help me up, and then he gave me a big, yet short hug. “You’re more amazing than you realize.  Thanks. And can I get a copy of that poem?  I’m a big fan.”

“Uh, sure.”

So I had endured another satisfying yet confusing heart to heart conversation with a guy I liked, who needed to keep me at a platonic distance.  I was cursed as a nice girl.  I cannot even go into the details of the romantic gestures that came all the way across the country to Angela from Ryan that day.  It makes me ill just to remember. And, yeah, she rubbed it in.

 

Copyright 2014 Terri Klaes Harper

 

 

TBT: Some Old Ramblings

writers block

10/17/16

Okay, I have something to say. I just don’t know what it is yet, but I’m sure there is something waiting to come out. Something has been waiting for years to come out.

Oh, where is my muse? Where is the magic that used to be in my words, dancing on the pages? I used to see them in my mind and feel them form into ideas. There was always a poem in my head or a story waiting for a chance to spill out from my pen. But for so long now, there has been nothing. How can I call myself a writer when I don’t write?

Start small. Description. Like the constant humming and croaking of a million different night creatures in my back yard… getting louder as they find their places, my writing will reveal itself.

My cat with the twitchy nose and freckled face can be my muse. Start small. Start with the movement of her radar ears, which spasm at each noise in the darkness. She cranes her neck to see what only her imagination knows for sure is there. Her back ripples as I touch her softly with just one fingertip. I softly trace the line on the back of her head that separates the two color blocks of black and coppery-brown.  She turns to look at me with ears pointing straight up, as alert as soldiers on watch. Her pupils almost fill the space of her eyes, searching for the source of a new noise. She gingerly licks her paw and smooths it over her ear and spotted face. She always looks as though she has missed a spot, or twenty. She doesn’t mind. Contentedly, she settles down for yet another nap.

TBT: Words are Life

Cleaning our home office has yielded the discovery of many treasures, such as this poem. I had long forgotten its existence, but when I found it, I remembered the point when I came to the epiphany that in neglecting my writing, I had neglected a part of who I am. It’s not always easy to find time to write, and the world around me often leaves me unable to sneak in even a few sentences, but I need it as often as I can. I need words.

Words…

wrought with anger,

dripping with tears,

pure intensity.

 

The salvage of me.

And who am I?

Don’t you see?

 

I am Frankenstein’s creation…

dead pieces melded together.

Now bring me to life!

 

A perversion of self,

no longer who I used to be.

Now bring me to life!

 

Can I again use words

to find my inner self?

Can words bring me back to life?

 

My soul has no voice.

My heart bereft of inspiration.

I need the words…life.

 

Terri L. Harper

Copyright 2005

words poem

I’m a Writer, Not a Conversationalist

Confession: I am an introvert, as I imagine the majority of writers must be. This makes the tasks of self-promoting, public speaking, and the ever-dreaded networking nearly insurmountable for me. While an extrovert views a room full of strangers as a room full of potential friends, I use the spy skills I’ve acquired from watching Alias and all the Jason Bourne movies to scope out all the escape routes. Alas, I am not as agile and quick to escape as Sydney and Jason; thus, I usually find myself stuck in awkward small-talk. I despise small-talk. It’s so…small… and insignificant. I only want to exchange verbal words that have meaning. And don’t get me started on having to talk about myself to strangers.

All of this is to express to my readers the fear and anxiety I felt going into the huge book signing and author event I was part of on Saturday. There were around fifty authors and random people coming into the Veterans Memorial Library in St. Cloud, Florida that day. I felt like part of an assembly line, or worse, part of a speed-dating event. Authors were lined up at tables with our books, business cards, and shining smiles on display. Potential readers journeyed from table to table, judging our books by their covers, occasionally asking us questions about ourselves and our books. Whenever I had the chance to talk, I felt like I was vomiting incoherent strings of words.

Yet, I felt a value in all of the torture.  It was a chance to be seen, to tell about Drew, my dear protagonist/me, and to see what other authors do. We all had a chance to learn from each other, spanning across the genres. Yes, this was a valuable experience, even if it made me feel as out of place as an adult at a Justin Bieber concert.

I also just gained access to my interview from the event. 

TBT: Random Poetry Bits

I have notebooks and folders scattered and tucked into dark places throughout my house, and most of the time, I forget they exist. I’ve been on a cleaning and organizing binge as of late, and I have found odd, mysterious little treasures. Many writers save everything we’ve ever written, not so much because we really like most of it, but because we figure there’s a chance some of it will strike inspiration into us later.

I don’t know how inspiring these little bits of poems actually are, and I have no recollection of actually writing them, though it is undeniable that this handwriting belongs to me. Perhaps there never was an occasion for the words, but rather an idea for characters in a story I locked in the back of my mind. I don’t even have any clues to when I may have written them. Anyway, here they are, just for fun.

Sweet and serene,

I found an old photo of you and me.

Nobody knew back then

How close we were to

stumbling

off 

the 

edge.

…and…

The silent waif of yearning

hungers for a gentle word,

a soft caress of love,

to help stop the mourning.