Tag Archives: writing

Voiceless

The tagline on my blog reads “developing a voice through writing.” The first thing I recognize after five years of blogging is that I have utterly failed.

“Voice” to writers has a unique meaning. It’s the development of a style, a way of using words that stands out and makes a writer or a character recognizable, distinct from the millions of others out there. That is no easy task.

It is not the task to which I refer in my tagline, however. I’m talking about a more fundamental, more primal concept of developing a voice, of being able to speak one’s thoughts, fears, hopes, and core truth. For many, this is the natural course of human development. A child starts speaking with a series of sounds that later become words. Words become sentences, and eventually the sentences deliver whole thoughts, which are used to express that child’s uniqueness. For some children, this process is blocked, disrupted, and they are unable to speak their thoughts or even develop as an individual.

Survivors of abuse know this struggle, recognize how difficult it is to learn to speak one’s truth. Abusers may overtly silence the voices of their victims through threats of what will happen to them, or those they love, if they tell anyone. Or more subtly, through whispers of shared secrets between abuser and victim that others must never know. Then there are oblique ways of silencing victims: family patterns of ignoring bruises, instantly pretending to be a happy family when a visitor shows up, or disallowing the expression of unique thought.

For some, developing a voice, the ability to speak out about one’s own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, comes much later in life, or sadly, not at all.

One of my motivations in writing my novels and in starting this blog was to give expression to parts of myself that have been silent for far too long. Creativity has breathed life into me. I feel alive when I work on my novels. I particularly love creating worlds: characters, places, languages, and magic. That’s why I am a fantasy writer. To me, it offers the broadest spectrum of creativity.

I also have a social conscience to my creative expression. I have a connection to victims and survivors because of my own history. I want to do something to change the world, at least one little piece at a time, so I talk about and expose modern day slavery. I try to educate others. I give a portion of each book sale to help survivors of domestic sex trafficking.

And yet… and yet… I still feel voiceless, or maybe my voice is just weak and raspy. I write under a pseudonym and have taken pains to be anonymous, and yet I’m still afraid to speak my mind or expose my truest self. Old patterns are hard to break. Survivors of abuse will recognize this truth. In unsafe environments, one learns to never trust. Don’t trust the person who promises to help you—they may betray you. Don’t trust a secret to anyone—they may expose you. Don’t trust that anyone will believe you—the consequences are too great if you are wrong.

Thirty plus years removed from abuse and still these beliefs hold me back. So I ask myself, what would I say if I weren’t afraid?

One of the first things that comes to mind is I want to rattle against labels thrust on me.

I am a person of deep faith writing in a genre where my literary peers tend to think people of faith are ignorant, narrow, and judgmental. I am a member of a religious tradition where my peers tend to think people who write fiction, especially fantasy, are wasting precious time and ought to focus on something of substance.

My husband is a pastor, which doubles the weirdness from both sides. I must really be extra-critical and small-minded in one side’s opinion, and ridiculously errant and missing my calling, which should more appropriately involve writing devotionals or at least inspirational stories, from the other side.

But here’s the rub, I can’t be what either side expects or wants me to be. I’m just me. With my history, I find it downright hilarious sometimes that I carry the label “pastor’s wife.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m a good person. I’m kind, generous, loving, but I’m not who I would have placed in this role. And trust me, there are always people around to make me feel inadequate and less than I ought to be. On the other hand, my faith is profoundly important to me and is at the core of who I am and what I do. I could no more deny the existence of God than I could deny my skin color. I would not be alive if it were not for God’s active presence and intervention in my life–I still don’t know how I got down from the ledge of that building when I was twenty. I also would not have the loving husband, four fine children, and six amazing grandchildren if not for the grace of God.

Am I narrow and judgmental, like the other side assumes? No. I am one of the least judgmental people I know. I would be the first to say that I have no right to throw stones at anyone. I have received mercy from many directions, and I will generously give mercy. I have a deeply compassionate heart and great empathy. How they developed, given my background, is a mystery all its own. I am also a strong advocate for social justice and do my best to be a global thinker. I reject the far-right evangelical political ideology. I don’t recognize the teachings of Jesus anywhere in their rhetoric. I am inclusive in my thinking, an advocate for the poor, empathetic to the plight of refugees, and believe strongly in fighting for racial and gender equality.

Am I missing my religious calling? Should I be writing devotionals and inspirational stories? In my mind, my dark fantasies are inspirational, but not in the way many religious people might use that term. I hope I inspire mercy, compassion, understanding, and action. I hope I encourage people to love each other in word and action. If, through my commitment to donate a dollar from each book sale to the Genesis Project, I can make a difference in one child’s life, to help them find freedom and healing from sex trafficking, I would feel my time and energy well spent.

I’ve been told that the healing journeys of my characters in The Innocence Cycle series have helped readers to find healing in their own lives. That just makes me smile. When I first started writing the series, it was just to put down on paper one scene that kept nagging at me. I had no idea all those words and characters and ideas were just begging to be released. I’ve completed four and am a third of the way through book five—and they are long novels. So many words! It’s hard to believe. The journey has been healing for me as well.

So that is what I would say if I were not afraid. My voice feels stronger already.

 

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Interview

Today I’m being interviewed by a long-time friend, Stena Mears, on her blog. She and I used to meet weekly with a group of women who all had young children. We had been friends in college and had progressed to a different stage. We agree now that we needed those gatherings to keep our sanity as stay-at-home moms. It’s interesting that out of the six of us who met regularly, four of us went on to become writers. You can read the interview here:  http://www.stenamears.com/tuesday-talks-interview-with-j-d-abbas/

 

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Book 4 Released!

Book 4 Cover 1

In honor of my oldest grandchild’s birthday, my fourth book in my five-part fantasy series is now available on Kindle. The paperback will be out shortly. It’s kind of amazing to realize that I’ve published four books in a little over two years. It’s a day to celebrate all around.

As always, $1.00 from every book sale goes to help survivors of human trafficking.

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My Second E-Book Launches Today

EB, Maduranga final

The second book in The Innocence Cycle continues Elena’s courageous journey to find healing for herself and her land. Again, $1.00 from each book sale will go to help victims of human trafficking. From the back cover of the book:

Seventeen-year-old Elena is adjusting to her new life as the adopted daughter of the Lord Protector of the Shalamhar realm and his companion, the Prince of the Elrodanar. For the first time, she has friends, a devoted dog, and the possibility of love. With two fathers, seven personal guards, and a keep full of warriors, she should feel safe—but she doesn’t.

The rogue Guardian who nearly killed Elena still hasn’t been found. In addition, Anakh and the remnant of the ancient Alraphim race have vowed to never stop pursuing her until she is theirs again to use, sell, and destroy. While Anakh makes direct attacks on Elena, a new foe—a race of strange half-human, half-wolf creatures—raids her home village and another Guardian stronghold. Soon reports of missing children and brutal assaults are coming in from every corner of the Shalamhar.

In order to save her new family and protect the rest of the realm, Elena knows she must embrace the shattered parts of herself and learn to use the powers hidden in her complex inner world. The answers she needs most are in the place she least wants to go—behind the third door.

Available on:

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My First Author Interview

Here’s the link to my first interview as a published author. So exciting.

Shattered-by-Shadows-front-cover-Ebook, 19,25

An Interview with Debut Author, J D Abbas.

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I feel little, broken, invisible, lost…

I found myself saying those words this morning, over and over—in truth, sobbing them. hiding child BWAnd at the very time I need to be the opposite of those things, or so I tell myself. I wanted to hurry past the feelings, push them away, like I have been doing for weeks. I know better. I spent years in therapy trying to expose the buried emotions that kept me from functioning at my fullest. I also spent years as a counselor encouraging clients to “embrace their brokenness” rather than push it away or bury it. And yet, here I am.

As the release of my first book approaches, the turmoil has increased. Rationally, it is not surprising. As a survivor of severe abuse, one of my strongest defenses has been to be invisible, blend into the woodwork, never draw attention, and now I am asking myself to do the opposite: be visible, expose myself, my thoughts, my very heart. And the broken part of me says that is dangerous, deadly. I can argue with the thoughts, but changing the feelings is near impossible. My counselor self says, don’t change the feelings, embrace them.

So I allow myself to feel what I have been pushing away. It’s ugly, painful, terrifying. This world seems huge, unfriendly, just looking for a way to crush me. I am not wanted here.

Oh, I hit a core belief. I am not wanted. Who I am is a mistake. My thoughts are not wanted, my feelings are not wanted. I should never have been born. Ouch. My heart twists with the pain. It is so deep, so fathomless.

I want to rush to counter the belief. I am loved by many people. I am wanted now. I have gifts, thoughts, skills that are valuable and needed. But to rush to that argument diminishes the value of that broken part of me and confirms her beliefs: nobody wants to hear that negative talk, nobody likes a loser—just ask Donald Trump. The world wants to see confidence, power, strength, not ugly, self-pitying weakness.

I have learned over the years, however, that I make truer, deeper connections with others in and through my brokenness. A huge percentage (don’t ask me for numbers; I have no idea) of this world’s population is more familiar with brokenness than power and “success.” Exposing my broken places, being honest about who I am and what I feel, has built more bridges to others than my façade of confidence ever has or will.

My entire novel series, in fact all I’ve ever written, has come out of my brokenness, not my learned skills or my inner power.

The reason I am a modern day abolitionist, the reason I fight for the rights and dignity of all people comes out of my brokenness. moderndayslaveryWhat I’m feeling today—little, broken, invisible, lost—those trapped in slavery, those being trafficked, those being abused, feel every day. I don’t want to shove away my feelings because they keep me connected to 27-30 million slaves around the world and  uncalculated numbers of survivors of abuse.

And so, I embrace my brokenness, and I embrace our broken world. If you are one of the  broken, I hope you feel my heart reaching toward you. And if you should choose to reach back,  my heart is open.

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“I do it myself…”

Living with a two-year-old can give one a new perspective on life. This stage of development is so much fun to watch as toddlers discover new skills and determine what is within their power to control—all things, of course!—often leading to battles of will with other toddlers or parental figures. I should mention, this is more fun to watch when you are not the overwrought parent who has to deal with them.

While this is a developmental stage through which all humans must progress, those that grow up in unhealthy or unstable environments sometimes get stuck in this two-year-old mentality. It may manifest as “if I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself” or “I don’t need help; I can do it myself” or as one is emotionally falling apart, “I’m fine. I’m NOT tired.”

What does this have to do with me as a writer? Well, I’ve found myself doing a little self-check recently. In November, I made the decision to independently publish my first novel, which is book one of a five part fantasy series. I came to that conclusion after considering many things, which I won’t bother to list here. But in the back of my mind, questions needled at me: Is my choice being influenced by my trust issues? Am I back to being a two-year-old and stomping my foot saying, “I’ll do it myself”? (I mean no offense to two-year-olds; they have good reason to hold their ground.)

It’s always good to question our motivations and to take a critical look at the reasons for our decisions. It can save us from making emotionally-driven, poor choices. In this case, however, I think the questions came out of self-doubt and lack of trust in my decision-making abilities. Either way, I have answered the questions and am surprised at some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

First of all, independently publishing should never be “I do it myself.” It certainly hasn’t been for me. The number of alpha-readers, beta-readers, critique partners, writers’ groups and writing conferences alone create a tribe of helpers. Then add a mentor, an editor, a graphic artist, and a cover artist, who have all helped to make my vision a reality, and the tribe grows. In addition, there are authors I’ve never met, who have blogged, Facebooked, tweeted, or published how-to books with wisdom from their own journeys that have smoothed my way.

Secondly, I’m learning to trust my decision-making ability. While I have sought the skill and wisdom of many along the way, the decisions are ultimately mine to make, and the consequences mine to bear. On a good day, I’m certain I am making good decisions, but there are always those bad days (artist temperament, right?) when I’m sure they all suck and I’m doomed to fail and fade into oblivion, or worse yet, undergo the knife skills of vicious one-star reviewers. In the end, it has been a good experience for me to face these doubts and move past them.

Thirdly, perspective is essential. While writing and publishing my novels is very important to me, if they are not “successful”—if people don’t love them as I do, or if few copies sell—it will change nothing in the universe. I have friends battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses—that’s important. I know others whose families are falling apart—that’s heartbreaking and truly hard work. Daily, I see the ongoing suffering of those enslaved and trafficked worldwide—real life and death issues. I remind myself of these things, and I find balance. I hope my novels make a difference in some people’s lives, and I hope to raise funds to support survivors of human trafficking. But if that doesn’t happen, life won’t end.

I realize no matter what the future may hold, I’m still better for having taken this journey. I am richer for the people I have come to know along the way. I am wiser for the multitude of things I have learned. I am more confident than when I started. And maybe, just maybe, I’ve conquered some of my two-year-old trust issues.

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