Self Publishing is Hard and My Head Hurts

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I have to admit, I am a bit short on things to blog about tonight. I just finished uploading and formatting my book on copious online retailers as well as Lulu and Createspace for print editions. I had to change the release date to December 31, 2013 because every distributor told me I had to. Now that I’m done, my brain hurts…self publishing is A LOT of work. I love it though and I’m excited to see how my work is received.

At any rate, I made a promise to myself that I would post a blog post everyday so I’ve decided to post the first chapter of Darkness Within, my debut novel. I hope you enjoy and if you like what you see, you can find me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Chapter 1

August 30, 2013

“In the springtime sun, I glisten and glow. The sunshine glistens throughout my pores and everybody knows my name. I am Awen, descendant of Celtic deity.” I scribble on the paper before making it into a ball and depositing it with the collection of beginnings I had written today. I am 17, a senior in high school, and ready to embark upon the most anticipated journey of a person’s life: college.

My GPA is well above average, I have participated in enough extra-curricular activities to occupy a small army and I am active in charity. I can fill up the pages of an Admission’s Application with ease. Despite these facts, I had yet to complete one single admissions essay.

I am already accepted into local colleges which require no essay but I am not satisfied with that. The college of my dreams is Harvard University. I want to stand among the elite Ivy League student body and be counted as part of the selected few. My father is a professor of the arts there but I have asked him no favors in the admissions process. I want to know that I have been granted access to the prestigious University based on my own merit.

The application has been completed for a couple of months now but I have had no success with the Admission’s essay. Two simple words kicked the edges of my pounding head: “Define Yourself”. As far as Admission’s essays were considered, it should be an easy task. I’m sure the University is looking for the ability to look inward and describe what you see.

It should be simple to define myself. For all intents and purposes, I appear to be a normal teenage girl. Aside from my bright red hair and stark Grey eyes, which set me apart physically, I am a normal looking teenager. I am captain of the cheer leading squad and president of my school’s Key Club. I take delight in charity work (at the urging of my father) and have a decent size group of friends. I am in between boyfriends but I have dated in the past. I love clothes, shoes and technology. I watch videos on-line and update my status whenever I go to the bathroom.

However, these things do not define me. They are merely products of my age and culture. They do not begin to touch the inner depths of my soul or explain my purpose on this earth. These things will not help me gain entrance into Harvard University. Writing an essay about these things would paint me as shallow and be off-putting to Harvard’s Admissions Board. Painting myself as a normal teenage girl will not help me stand out as Ivy League material.

The problem isn’t knowing myself. I know I am not shallow. I have spent a fair amount of time searching the depths of my soul and I am certain that I know myself, and those around me, a lot better than a large majority of my fellow seniors. In fact, I’m certain that I know myself better than most adults. The problem is not peering into the depths of my soul; the problem is that the things that lie there should never be spoken.

Firstly, my mother died as I was being born. This has left me with a mental list of questions about myself, and my heritage, that I feel will never be answered. My dad does not talk about her often and I don’t even know her own parent’s names. Before she died, she named me Awen but I have never been given indication as to why she chose the name. Sometimes I imagine that she took one look at me and simply decided that Awen is the name suited me best or that there is some tie to my heritage hidden in the choice. These are just guesses and the aching feeling of not knowing takes hold of me every time I try to discover her motivation for choosing the name.

I know that I share in her love for studying humankind and (like her); I plan to study Anthropology at Harvard University. Looking through her notes one afternoon, I found a study she had begun about Celtic Druids. The Druids define Awen as ‘flowing spirit’, explain it in the same manner that Christian’s explain The Holy Spirit, and use it at a chant to end their prayers (much like Amen is used in our society). She has given me the gift of an unique name and whenever I introduce myself to people, it often becomes the subject of prying questions. Embarrassed that I cannot offer a complete explanation, I simply define it as the “hand of god”.

Although I may have simplified the explanation of my name, the sad truth is that I am left unknowing why it was chosen in the first place. The notes on the Druids were the last notes entered into my mother’s logbook before going to the hospital to give birth. As I sat in the foyer reading her words, I was left with a numbing feeling that my naming was an accident. She was dying, was that simply the last thought that had wondered into her head?

If it were not an accident, I ponder, that would explain a lot.

My life had been unusual to say the least and some of the best parts of me are locked inside a box and hidden carefully within myself. While my most private truths set me apart from the average, how do I explain to the Harvard Admission’s Board that I hear whispers in the wind? The Awen that the world knows is a carefully constructed ruse that I play out day after day. I have quilted together all the best pieces of myself and I wear it around like a coat of many colors.

I see hints of the same thing in people around me every day. I am privet to the truth behind the stranger’s lie. Whenever I ask a friend how she’s feeling and she responds with an “I’m fine”, sometimes I see a crack around the edges. In those moments, I know the truth. I know that the “I’m fine” is her ruse. I see deeper into her words and realize that what she means is “I’m tired of fighting. I am working day and night on college applications but I don’t even know what I want to be yet.” Why must we construct simple lies for the complicated truth?

My truth is far more frightening than the uncertainty and fear which most people lie to cover. I hear things. I see things…I can do things which are terrifying.

When I was 13, Alecster Jones and his brothers were teasing Cleary McQuintock in my front yard. Cleary was a kind hearted boy with two different color eyes but he was always targeted by bullies for his differences. I was in the back yard, using my powers to manipulate the snow when I heard them teasing him. I ran around front in his defense and punched Alecster Jones. In that moment, I had wished something bad would happen to him. As he fell backward, he stumbled into oncoming traffic and in the front of a moving vehicle.

When I was 15, my stepmother and I had gotten into an argument. My dad sat in the living room , pledging not to get involved. She stood in the kitchen, preparing dinner. As our voices rose, I felt a heat rushing through me. I’m not certain whose anger was the greatest but when the two came together, in one quaking moment, the pot rack began to rumble. One by one, the dishes began to fall and we stood in silent awe. We have never spoken of the event.

In fact, we have never spoken of anything really substantial. My stepmother plays out one of the most carefully constructed ruses I have ever seen. Most of the time, she is completely ruled by fear. She is afraid to be judged. Most of all, she is afraid to be known. She focuses most greatly on her outward appearance, because she doesn’t want anybody to peer inside. She doesn’t want anybody to see the pieces of her soul that she folds up and tucks in the corner. I could gather up all her simple lies and fill the Grand Canyon.

The majority of incidents that have occurred are much less terrifying, though. I discovered, at a tender age, that I simply see things differently than the whole of society. The first fall breeze, for instance, may signify the need for a jacket for most. For me, it signifies a change in energy; in power. It is a telling sign of a great wheel of nature which is ever churning.

Society teaches me that these things are to be feared and mocked. “Anything which cannot be understood is to be hated and feared.” This is the zeitgeist of our time. So, instead of moving against the current, I ebb along. I flow through my life, blending into the societal fabric around me.

There are times when I dream of changing everything. I imagine myself standing on top of a building in the public square, completely exposed for everything that I am. I watch the crowds in the streets cheering me. They accept me for who I am and feel comfortable to shed their own simple lies for complicated truths.

Unfortunately, I do not do this. I trudge forward, carrying half of myself around at a time. I compartmentalize. At this current moment, it’s college applications and quiet reflections. Later, it’s pizza and movies with my best friend Lacy. For these tasks, I adorn different masks and play different roles.

Later tonight, I will shed my skin and travel to an unseen land. I will face real terror and darkness. I will confront it and I will change it. In these moments, I feel more complete than at any other point in the day. Although I am not concrete in knowing whether my nighttime ambitions are based in fiction or reality, I feel more real in those moments than any others in my life.

Maybe I should put that in my Harvard essay:

Awen Murdock: Travels the realms and hunts shadows. Hears whispers from the divine in the wind. Loves pizza and romance novels…

I scoff at the idea as I gather my books, change clothes and head out to meet Lacy.

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