Fear. We’ve all felt it. And each of us deals with it in our own unique way. For some, it can lead to a state of immobilization but for others, it may work in the opposite way, inspiring them to march right onto the battlefield to face their fears head on. I’d say I’m somewhere in between these two reactions.
I wanted to write about fear and more specifically facing fear because it happens to be a theme in my WIP, The Devil in Us All. I’ll give you a quick summary of the book:
Four teens from different backgrounds, but who have all been in trouble with the law and their parents/guardians, find themselves at Birchwood Ranch Camp for At-Risk Youth for the summer. But when a camper is found murdered less than two weeks into their stay, Justina, River, Carrigan, and Truett have reason to believe that they’ll be at the top of the list of suspects; they all had beef with the murdered kid after all. Rather than take their chances with the law, the four of them take off horseback into the surrounding Ouachita Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma where they must face difficult terrain, hunger, and maybe, worst of all, a growing suspicion of each other. If the murderer is indeed, among them, could one of them be next?
It’s funny that this book should deal with fear in such a real and visceral way because honestly, it has been scary as hell for me to write. Up until now, I’ve only written a light sci-fi (my first book) and contemporary stories (the last four books). The thriller genre is an entirely different monster, or so I’ve learned. To top that off, I also decided to write it from five different POVs (à la One of Us is Lying). To say this book has tested my writing stamina would be a total understatement. It’s been tricky every step of the way. It’s also been over a year now, and I’m still working on it. Aside from my first book, none have taken this long. But I’ve learned that it just goes with the territory apparently–especially when you’re a pantser. I’ve rewritten multiple chapters multiple times and I even added in the fifth POV during this latest round of revisions. Now, I’m working to make all five voices distinct and tie up loose ends.
I’ve gotten the typical “when will your newest book be done?” question a lot lately and the truth is, I’m not really sure. I’m hoping some time this summer, but that may depend on my next round of beta reader feedback. I’ll see what else needs to be addressed.
However . . . I also wanted to write about fear for a completely different and non-writing related reason. I wanted to share something more personal, but with the hopes that others may empathize. If you know me, then you know that horses have always been a huge part of my life. I grew up riding and was a competitive barrel racer for many years until I had kids (and my horse became injured right around the same time). In those early years, when my kids were young, I tried to get into it again, riding a friend’s horses and then buying another of my own. But it just never worked out and I gradually lost much of my riding confidence as well as my competitive drive. I’ve still had horses all these years, but over time, I’ve ridden less and less.
I don’t know, maybe it’s this latest book–in which horses play a minor but very important role–that has inspired me, but for the first time in years, I’ve had this desire to start riding again. I worked up my arena (no small feat either) and last week, I saddled up and rode for the first time in forever. Then, to seal the deal, I even went and bought myself a new pair of boots!
In my glory days, I rode almost daily, weather permitting, but now, I know I’ll be happy if I can get out there at least once or twice a week. Of course, Oklahoma weather has decided to drench us on a daily basis again lately, but once it dries up, I’ll be back at it. I’m going to take it slow. Get confident in the arena first and then venture out on our land. My end goal is to buy another horse trailer and go trail riding again. In fact, I can’t wait to go back to the place that inspired The Devil in Us All–Robber’s Cave State Park.
But writing this book AND deciding to start riding again makes me think of the John Wayne quote:
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
Despite my fears, that’s exactly what I’m doing: saddling up anyway.