Today’s guest post is written by my friend and fellow, Playlist Fiction author, Rajdeep Paulus. She discusses inner strength, character development and her latest release, Seeing Through Stones, the sequel to her heart wrenching debut young adult novel, Swimming Through Clouds (both from Playlist Fiction).
At a recent book signing for Seeing Through Stones, an attendee asked the question, “Where does Talia (the protagonist) get her strength?”
Talia, as those of you who read Swimming Through Clouds know, has a heart-breaking background, one of which will require her to muster immense strength to get through. But like the average human (we’re talking all of us who don’t have super powers), she cannot hurdle life’s struggles without help. Talia’s help comes in a tri-fold package.
FOR A CHANCE TO WIN SOME SEEING THROUGH STONES GOODIES ENTER HERE
Primarily, the first book opens with Talia finding a Post-it note. And then a second. And then several more. Her initial source of strength trickles into her heart via the words of a boy, Lagan, who is smitten over her. He not only drops petals of hope in her pathway, but he also asks her questions, never demands an answer, and shares his heart with her in little yellow square sheets. When their relationship develops to more face-to-face conversations, Lagan promises to “fight for her.” So, the hero has a crush on Talia, and as she starts to fall for him, she finds strength in him.
Talia’s second source of strength comes from her mother, or rather the memories of her mom. Talia remembers some of her deceased mother’s words, especially the plea to take care of Jesse, her brother. Deep down, Talia wants to honor her mother’s broken hearted life by not giving up, and perhaps fulfilling some of her mother’s extinguished dreams in her own life. In Seeing Through Stones, Talia has escaped the wrath of her life and found sanctuary at a women’s shelter. The women at the shelter are another huge source of strength for Talia, sharing their stories to remind Talia she’s not alone, suggesting ways to fight back she had never thought of before and filling in some of the gaps of the mom she’s lost.
Finally, the source of strength that allows Talia a new perspective of her life, shows her purpose, and reminds her of her worth comes from a Friend who speaks to her at a garden and in her dreams. A Friend she cannot see. He is referred to as The Gardener. I never name who The Gardener is, but I use symbolism to point readers to see He is no one other than Jesus. Thinking of how C.S. Lewis created Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, I longed to create a character who offered the main character hope in a way no human could. When I placed Talia under the willow tree in Chicago’s Botanical Garden, the idea of The Gardener naturally arose.
What I love about The Gardener is His ability to speak to Talia through nature. The broken branches of the willow. A sunny or cloudy day. The dirt of the earth. I also treasure the fact that He slowly becomes the father figure Talia always longed for. But my favorite aspect of their relationship is the freedom Talia has to disagree with Him. To not embrace everything He says without questioning Him. To not always get answers. I think these details authenticate Talia’s journey with The Gardener, because the strongest relationships are the ones that have been tested, and His omniscient nature allows Him to show up, regardless of Talia’s day or situation.
In the end, I think Talia’s journey is not unlike our own. We need friends and family to help us through the madness of this life. Similarly, our pasts shouldn’t dictate our futures, but we are shaped by what we’ve been through and by loved ones who have left us. Finally, many of us depend on someone bigger than ourselves. God. The Creator. The one who invented love, faithfulness, peace, and hope.
And if by changing Jesus’ name to The Gardener, a few more people connect with the universal longing to be loved and accepted, pursued and treasured, Talia’s journey will be more than a success for me.
Ultimately, all these sources bolster the muscles of Talia’s resolve and influence her not to give up. Because in the end, we all need someone who won’t give up on us. That’s what helps us to keep on keepin’ on. Yep. We all need that. Especially for those times when we give up on ourselves.
And you? Who is your source of strength? Ever receive a Post-it love note? Just curious.
SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER, for Palmer, Claire, Kat and Hannah at Clarkston University, the fictitious setting for my Status Updates series. To celebrate, the four college roommates in the books are offering you their first book, It's Complicated, for only 99 cents!
For less than a song on iTunes, less than a pack of Claire's bobby pins, less than a slice of pizza at Clarkston's Ragazza, less than even a small cup of coffee from Corner Cup, you can get an entire novel! Just click on this link and download: http://www.amazon.com/Complicated-Status-Updates-Series-ebook/dp/B00C2BXK6Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
(if you don't own a Kindle, no worries, the App is free on the Amazon site for most phones, tablets and laptops)
OR if you don't have access to a Kindle or Free Kindle App, visit Smashwords and enter promo code WK68Z prior to checkout. Offer expires May 16, 2013.
"I absolutely love love love this book!!!
Here are 3 reasons why...
#1 FAB FRIENDS- these characters are unique, fun, funny, and wonderful! It's hard to pick my fave! There's super-athletic KAT, fashion-forward PALMER, boy-crazy HANNAH, and the serious quiet type CLAIRE. I love them all!!
#2 ISSUES & DRAMA- author Laura L. Smith doesn't shy away from issues that real teens are dealing with today, and when you put four friends together you know there's gonna be some drama!!
#3 IT'S A SERIES!!! I soooo can't wait to read more about these girls. It's Complicated is a totally awesome start to what promises to be one of my fave series ever!!!" JoJo's Corner
Slide on your flip flops and shades, grab a Tazo or an iced latte and enjoy a summer read that will take you to the beach, the soccer fields and Paris before it's time to dive back into next school year. All for less than a dollar.
Tingling all over with the announcement of the second book in my Status Updates series, It's Over, releasing April 19!
HOW CAN YOU MOVE ON WHEN IT'S OVER?
When four college roommates lose pieces of their lives, the pain isolates and the tension rises. Emotions are hard to hide and even harder to tackle. How can the girls move forward, when there is so much pain in letting go? Together, Claire, Kat, Palmer and Hannah learn to lean on God and each other, and through it all they learn loss is a part of life.
"In It's Over, Laura L. Smith confirms the truth we've been told that we are never alone in the midst of heartache and struggle. In fact, she takes us to a place where we not only get to see, but feel deeply the truth of the fact that every single one of us has a story. Every single one of has experienced pain. But more importantly, that every single one of us has great hope. Laura L. Smith's writing strikes a deep chord in my heart. It makes sense. It's real--and in my opinion, that transparency makes all the difference." ~Holly Starr, Christian recording artist
"Laura Smith speaks for the broken. With a voice that’s warm and true, Laura gives words to those rendered speechless by issues that high school and college girls should never have to deal with—but so many of them do. In writing that’s raw, relevant, and real, Smith goes where few authors dare to go: straight into the heart of today’s young woman."
~Amy Parker, bestselling author of Courageous Teens
"YA author, Laura L. Smith crafts another story that will appeal to all girls, because no one is untouched by heartache in all its forms. The grace Smith extends the four girls in It's Over will touch readers in deep ways, as they follow these characters through some of the worst parts of life. Best of all, they'll cheer when the girls lean on one another and find ways to be thankful in everything. This is a fantastic read, one that will resonate with teens, college girls and their mothers."
~Laura Kurk, author of Glass Girl
I’ve been warned.
I’ve been leery.
I’ve read stories about them and have even been charmed by the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist and even more so by Bo, Prosper and Scipio in The Thief Lord.
I’ve had a few close calls – people coming too quickly at me from a strange angle, someone else’s fingers headed towards my husband’s pocket, someone pressing uncomfortably against me in a crowd. But in those instances, I swerved, I ran up to my husband, hugging him and I abruptly turned away, avoiding potential crimes. Today, I witnessed a pick pocket in action.
My family was on maybe our sixty-fourth metro ride since we’ve been in Barcelona this summer. My husband gave me the look and shoved his hands deep in his pockets – our sign to each other to be extra wary of pick pockets, or as our seven-year old calls them, pocket-pickers.
On the subway the group cloistered around a set of the poles people hold onto for balance seemed overly pushy, like they were separating our family. A young lady, quite attractive, headed to another car, and then came back, preening, almost posing for the crowd. I grabbed our two youngest children and plopped into an available seat. Moments later yelling, scuffling, slapping, grabbing.
This group of four twenty-somethingers seemed to be traveling separate, but they weren’t, and they had a system. The girls were distractions and immobilizers. One guy was the living deposit box in the corner. The other guy was the actual pick pocket. He snatched a traveler’s wallet. A random woman on the subway witnessed it, slapped the thief’s hand, the wallet went flying and the skirmish began (an odd foreign coin I couldn’t identify hit me on the eyebrow. I returned it to the victim). In the end the man got back his wallet, but the band of pick pockets got away.
So, if you’re backpacking, touring, traveling and/or vacationing in Europe this summer. Be smart. Be careful.
· Wear a money belt, tucked into your pants or skirt, so that a pick pocket cannot access your stuff. It seems a little weird at first, but I promise it won’t show, unless you’re wearing jeggings. And, you get used to it.
· Do not carry your passport, just a copy of it (keep the original in your apartment or safe at your hotel).
· Do not carry more than 50 Euro at any time, better to lose a little than a lot.
· Wear your backpack as a front pack. Again, not a super fashion statement, but you’ll be glad you have all your stuff at the end of the day.
· Keep your own hands in your pockets, so no one else’s can find their way in.
· AND MOST IMPORTANTLY - be aware of your surroundings – any distraction, fight, performance, drama can be used to divert your attention away from your things.
Enjoy your travels by taking precautions, so you can enjoy the amazing sights, flavors and spectacles around the world.
Laura L. Smith