Hey! I’ve been out for a bit, buried up to my neck in telephone wires (long story), but our dear little sister sent us another piece of art work. I’m literally blown away at her talent, especially considering her age. Book Two is well underway, with a hopeful release date of early Spring in 2016. Remember, if you order the paperback version of Windmill Keepers off of Amazon, you can get the e-book version for only $0.99.
When I was younger, we spent a lot of time inside libraries. It was a free way for my parents to entertain us. When I got older, I would ride my bike to the library on my father’s air force base and spend hours sorting through books on the paranormal and epic fantasy adventures. I did this on weekends and even through summer vacations. Eventually, I would learn that my grandmother used to work for a library. It kind of makes sense that I was comfortable sitting between the stacks of books, reading about ghosts and sword fights. It’s in my veins.
My family never really had a lot of money, so buying books was rare. Libraries were a free place for us, where checking out a dozen books didn’t feel like bankrupting our budget. It was a safe haven from the summer heat, and also where I could learn anything I wanted. To me, libraries were and still are magical.
One thing I remember very clearly from my grade school days was watching Matilda. In the very beginning, the main character ends up walking to the library everyday to read a tiny mountain of books. Eventually, the librarian gives her a library card, despite her young age. That scene actually made me want to work in a library for a long time. Giving people access to books felt like one of the most important jobs in the world. In a way, I think it still is.
In 2002, a Malawian teenager named William Kamkwamba built a windmill to power appliances from his home. He went on to build even more, and eventually made a solar powered water pump for his village. He did this by reading books he found in the library. It’s amazing what people can do, when given the resources.
Even in an age where electronic sources are taking over, I still feel that libraries have a place in our world. Lending programs such as Openlibrary and KDP are proof that online libraries are possible. They should be everywhere. Books aren’t something our country should be withholding and not being able to afford education doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t have access to it. Such a barrier is a detriment to our society.
Libraries have done more than just educate me. They gave me access to adventures and magic. I found a thousand creepy stories to recite at slumber parties. Even when things were crashing down around me, the books I found gave me a place to hide and recenter myself.
Whenever I go online and look at my account on KDP, I can see how many pages someone has read of my book through the lending library. It makes me happy to know that someone stumbled upon my book and enjoyed it enough to keep reading, even on their weekends. I feel almost like the authors I found hiding in my favorite libraries.
In the end, that’s all I ever needed.
Hey everyone! Windmill Keepers is slowly making its way from the hands of our close friends and into the hands of their close friends. The spread begins! I’m proud to say this book has helped me come to another conclusion as well.
The day after we published to Amazon, I was talking to someone about my career and where I was headed in life. I admitted that I hadn’t been happy since I started my current job. He asked me what I wanted to be when my contract was finally up, and I didn’t have an immediate answer.
I have a graduate degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology, but it did me very little good when I graduated. There wasn’t anything open to a 23 year-old with no experience in the field, despite my fancy paper. Unable to break into investigations, as originally planned, I ended up joining a tiny, forgotten branch of the military. I managed to do some good at my last unit, but I wanted to move on in four years. I never expected to tricked into a seven-year contract. Now that I’m here, the only thing I can do is make the best of my situation and plan for my next career.
I’ve considered getting some more qualifications in forensics and working in a lab. After all, that was my concentration in college, and what I was best at. I’ve also considered going into robotics and possibly working in another country. But at the end of the day, I have a family to think of, and entry-level work at 31 sounds like financial suicide.
When I ran these options by my husband and sister, I added one more. I mentioned teaching, and they said that was where they could see me being the happiest. I can’t disagree with them.
I think having great teachers is extremely important. They’re the unsung heroes of America. In fact, their presence and words can alter a life. I can speak from experience on that one.
I was home-schooled until I was eight. When I finally started, the staff was worried I would be behind and placed me in second grade instead of third. My first teacher was Mrs. Moore. She was an old, puffy woman who wore lots of animal print button downs. Back in her golden years, teachers were still allowed to beat children who didn’t listen. To give you an indication of how that year would go for me, she missed those days terribly and often told us she wished America would bring it back.
We spent our days in a cinder block building, at the end of an abandoned road. There was nothing around us but cornfields, empty farm houses, and a military base on the horizon. The Midwestern sun turned our schoolhouse into an oven. With no air-conditioning, we had to make due with fans and open windows.
It was in the middle of this blistering heat that I remember silently crying as I wrote my mother and father an apology letter for being a bad daughter and student. Mrs. Moore watched me from her desk, tapping her long nails and lecturing to the class about how she used to beat ill-behaved children who talked in class. My face was red and hot, despite the fan blowing against the back of my neck.
When I was done, she read it to the class and said I didn’t do a good enough job because I didn’t admit to my guilt. She wrote an angry note in ugly red ink to my parents on the back. Then she told a girl across from me that once I fixed my attitude, she needed to teach me how to properly brush my hair. But I sat with my back to a fan, and it was that girl that had been talking – not me.
My parents sent me out of the room when they had a meeting with Mrs. Moore about the note. Apparently, my teacher admitted to calling me stupid in front of the class, and suggested that I couldn’t handle higher thinking. My summer vacation started a week early that year when my mother refused to send me back.
The next year, I had a new teacher, in a new grade and a new building. The old one was shutdown and replaced with an air-conditioned elementary school on base. Mrs. Guerrero had been a third grade teacher for just a little bit less than Mrs. Moore had been teaching second grade. But the difference changed my life.
Mrs. Guerrero encouraged me. She told me what I needed to work on, as well as what I was good at. With her, I won a poetry contest and placed third in the Young Authors program. She told me I was smart. When I saw Mrs. Moore in the hallway, I refused to look at her.
By fourth grade, I was in the advanced class. By seventh, I was homeschooling myself to skip eighth grade. The next year, I was a ninth grade student-worker at a college prep school. All along the way, I had amazing teachers that encouraged me and made me push myself (even if I nearly failed math in sixth grade).
Sometimes, I wonder where I would be if I had another Mrs. Moore in my life. Would I have gone to college? Would I have tried to write a book? I have a feeling I wouldn’t have.
Teachers have such a huge impact on the people around them. They can make or break a young mind. I have so much thanks to give the people that encouraged me. I want to do that for another child. I know it will be scary starting something new after 30, but I think I can do it and keep my writing career as well. I have five years to go to get my qualifications and move into something better. I know I can make that happen. And when I do, I’m going to be someone else’s Mrs. Guerrero.
P.S. Just a reminder that you can purchase the e-book version of Windmill Keepers HERE for $5.99. If you like it, share it with a friend! Or review it on Amazon. Every bit helps 🙂
It feels like forever since I last wrote anything about Windmill Keepers. There’s been a backlog of tiny disasters in my life that finally banded together in the form of a giant monster. I haven’t slain it yet, but I’m armoring myself for battle.
It’s no secret that I struggle with depression. The whole soul-crushing hopelessness is something of a family affair. I know for a fact that both my grandmothers had it, and possibly my parents as well. I’m not sure when they developed it, but I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t feel overwhelmingly sad out of the blue. Even as a child, I remember this heavy weight that would settle over me like a thick fog. Sometimes I fought my way out. Sometimes I just waited for the sun to come back.
I’ve tried different tricks to force myself to get better. Upbeat music, long walks, exercising, writing – nothing really works. And that’s the difficult part to explain to people who don’t suffer from it. You can’t just make yourself happy. Emotions don’t work that way, especially not when you’re depressed.
Little things seem like a big deal when you’re in a rut, and big things seem impossible. Getting up can be like climbing a mountain. But sufferers still do it. Each day, I wake up for work, get dressed, and then proceed to ignore eight hours worth of frustration. Unless it gets really bad, no one even realizes I’m fighting an uphill battle whenever I need to do the dishes or run errands.
As strange as depression is, it’s even stranger when you’re a writer (and stranger still if you write comedy). Unlike Poe, most of us are writing more then just sadness and despair. We’re telling stories with characters that go through difficult times as well as great ones. A hero that cries for three hundred pages isn’t very interesting, after all. We need depth.
In Windmill Keepers, I had to try and write a scene where my characters are victorious and in joyful disbelief. What I ended up writing was the most muted celebration since the invention of the earmuffs. I had to go back and redo the whole scene on a better day. Ironically, when I had to write about a funeral, it was a sunny 80 degrees in the Florida Keys and I was having a fantastic day. I tried to dampen the mood with shades and songs about death. It didn’t work out.
Writing is already a complicated matter, but when you add a dash of depression, it’s doubly so. About the only benefit I see to it is when I’m writing sad scenes on down days. Those are some of the most accurate and honest moments I’ve ever created. Still, I’d trade them in an instant if I could make my chest stop hurting for days at a time.
Here’s the odd thing: I’m an optimistic person when it comes to others’ problems. A few months ago, I spent an hour giving someone the greatest “life gets better” speech in my personal history. But I couldn’t talk myself into breakfast today. I had a supervisor tell me I needed to be stronger. He called me weak. What he doesn’t get is that I’ve had to be twice as strong as my peers for twenty-six years. I’m not superwoman. I’m bound to stumble from time to time.
I think everyone needs to remember how hard we try. People with depression don’t need talks on what makes them happy. And we don’t need people calling us pathetic. People with depression need support. We need to know there’s someone out there, waiting for us to make it through the storm.
My surname has a motto. Lucem Spero. It means “I hope for light.” Even in my darkest moments, I try to hold onto that. After everything my sister and I have been through, we’d be foolish not to. That tiny bit of light at the end of all our dark tunnels has been the only thing pulling us through. No matter how bad it gets, I will always have my family. They’re my flickering beacon at the end of this storm. If you are brave enough, then be someone else’s.
Now, it’s time I got back to battling that monster. I’ll see you all again when I’ve reached that light of mine.