Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Open Rebuke is Better...

Ever had a friend that ALWAYS agreed with you?  No matter how much you swayed in your opinion or actions, they were there to lend their support, letting the words you wanted to hear fall from their lips like dripping honey?

I've had a few friends like that, and know a few acquaintances who are similar.  However, they don't remain my friends for long.  Not because I don't like what they have to say, on the contrary - their words are soothing, comforting and encouraging - but because flattering words are not what I NEED in  my life.  I need truth, honesty and a little bit of common sense.  

There's a old proverb that speaks this truth much better than I can. Proverbs 26:5-6 - "Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." 

Of course my pride and selfish ambition doesn't agree with this statement.  Who likes open rebuke?  Who likes to be told they're wrong or being stupid?  Nobody I know, especially me.  Just because I don't like it, doesn't mean I don't need it from time to time.  I'd much rather know the truth of a matter than be allowed to walk around in deceit. 

Telling the truth to your friends and family is a sticky mess.  You run the risk of them getting angry with you, even to the point of breaking all communications.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten angry at my husband, friends or Pastors when they've brought some things to my attention in an open rebuke.  I think for several years I lived in the land of "Tonya, Honey"... which was always the precursor of an oncoming rebuke.  But, I can't express to you how much I appreciate and love my husband, my friends and my Pastors for being honest with me.  Their actions showed me they loved  and cared for me.

Being a writer is no different.  When I put my first novel attempt out for critique, what I received was not what I had expected.  I was waiting on the accolades and tinker-tape parade in celebration of my genius.  Instead I got line edit after line edit of red-marked rebukes.   I chose not to allow the critiques to stop me from doing what I loved most in the world and took a step back from myself and examined my work with a new set of eyes.  I'm a much better writer today because a handful of wonderful people opted to tell me the truth instead of allowing me to embarrass myself in foolish deceit.  Now, no matter how much I like my other writer friends, I return the favor with honesty.  I'm not mean about it, and hopefully give more encouragement than I do rebuke, but I love them enough to tell them the truth.  Remember that it's a show of love the next time a friend offers you a rebuke.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Birds of a Feather

I love hanging out with other writers.  There's nothing more exciting than seeing a writer's face light up when they start talking about their latest adventure, or seeing the inspiration of hope take hold of their heart and their faces begin to glow with anticipation and excitement.  Nothing gets my heart pumping, my adrenaline flowing or my creativity buzzing like talking with a bunch of writers.  Well, that is besides having lunch with them.  We might be a bunch of nuts - but hopefully we're screwed on the right bolt.

 I thank all my lunch buddies for the creativity they shared today around the big table - and the great Italian meal at La Trattoria; Tom Cook, Joann Dunn, Dawn Goodwin, Frank Rogers and Bob Covel.  I want to especially thank new members Sue Lee, Lorien Forrest, Dawn Perry, Chuck Wanager and Maggie Lisiecki for their inspiration and encouragement at my end of the table.  You guys are the reason I love the Carrollton Creative Writer's Club so much.  I'm blessed just to be acquainted with you. 

I also appreciate everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend the Carrollton Creative Writer's Club meet today to attack all the tough issues that were brought to the table.  I was so impressed with the professional and courteous attitudes.  I'm excited about this club and know there are some big things in store for it's future.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, December 12, 2011

Writing & Parenting

I look at the various pictures pinned to the wall of my office and I can see how much I've changed over the years; not just physically, but in every way.  I don't think the same way I used to think, and I certainly don't act the same.  In many ways, I believe I've improved.  I've grown in maturity, increased in wisdom and flourished in knowledge. In other ways I could use some reminders of first loves, fluttered emotions and youthful excitement.  But, I'd never trade what I have now with what was.  I'm not one of those people who wish they could go back because their glory days are behind them.  On the contrary, I'm excited about what lay ahead of me - especially when it comes to my writing.

I love to write.  I love to create new worlds, give life to new characters, and then watch as they grow, mature, conform and flourish.  I find inspiration in their stories; a hope to overcome and succeed in my own story.   I'd be lying if I told you that everything was always easy when it comes to exercising my skills.  On the contrary, it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.  It's a lot like parenting. I pour everything I have into my proverbial children, but they have their own lives and sometimes go in a direction I never wanted or intended. The wisdom I have in dealing with my latest children has matured greatly from the first. 

Like many parents, I sometimes wish I could correct mistakes I made with my older children and manuscripts, and apply the new methods and understanding I've since gained.  However, as it is with parenting and writing, I can't go back.  What's done is done.  What's published is published.  All I can do is start from this point, apply my "now" wisdom to the current situation and state of things, and make different choices/changes/corrections.  Reconciliation is never off the table.  I only lack wisdom - and wisdom can be gained.

I'm proud  and sincerely love every story I've ever written, no matter how full of flaws they contain.  The same goes for my children.    In my 40 years of existence I've learned a few things, picked up a few skills, tested the waters more times than I can count, and I'm satisfied with the knowledge that  I did my best. My efforts may not have been THE best, but they were MY best. 

I've come a long way as a writer and as  mother.  I still have a lot to learn about both, but I'm determined to enjoy the journey along the way. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Developing Individual Characters

Ever picked up a book and the beginning started off with a bang, had a great concept idea, the action was well crafted to find the story quickly fizzled because all the characters were one-dimensional and had the same personality?  I've ran into that one too many times of late, it seems. 

Most often this happens with new writers or books that have been self-published - lending support to the main reason for finding themselves of the self-published rack with dozens of rejection letters from traditional publishers.  I can only imagine the turmoil a publisher goes through reading these cardboard characters, seeing as they make me want to pull my hair out because of the blatant  waste and misuse of a great idea.

I'm currently reading such a book now, read another a few weeks ago, and another one a few weeks before that.  I'm not sure yet if it's part of some grand conspiracy or if perhaps they have been brought into my life to help me gain a grateful appreciation for the well developed characters I've met in the many stories before them. I suppose it's not ever day we get to understand the misunderstood Mr. Darcy, experience the maturity and growth of Harry Potter or learn to step into greatness like Eragon.  Don't even get me started on George R.R. Martin's all-star cast of The Game of Thrones - where I've never met so many characters in all my life in one book and each one of them had their own distinct personality. 

The stories I love most are always "character-driven".  When I relate to a character, feel what they're feeling and come to care about the outcome (whether for or against - because I LOVE-TO-HATE a great villain), then that is what I call a successful story.  I also believe the lack of such characteristics is the reason why these good-concept books with cardboard characters fall by the wayside.

So, for all my writer friends out there, let me give you this little piece of advice.  Go back to what you're working on and read the dialogue of all your characters.  Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Do they talk the same; use the same words, expressions and exclamations?
  2. Do they use the same body language in the dialogue tags?
  3. Do they 'think' the same way as the other characters - or are they different in style, speech and resolve.
  4. Is everyone as smart as the other characters, have the same values, choose the same options and solve problems in the same manner?  Giving them different clothes, hair color and eye color doesn't make them different.
Now, look around you at all your family, friends, co-workers and associates and tell me that everyone is the same.  It's our differences that make us interesting.  It's what we can learn from one another that make us a better person.  How can we learn something new if all we see is the same? 

Let your characters develop themselves.  Don't force them into a mold of your making, because all you'll get is multiple versions of your conceited self.  A true writer doesn't use their gift of writing to reveal themselves through their characters - but has the power to give life, color and fullness to a character of their imagination. 

Please, please don't let the next book I pick up be filled with cardboard characters.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, December 08, 2011

War Wounds

Have you ever found yourself smack dab in the middle of war and suffered a massive injury? Have you ever been in a situation where retreat was out of the question, but going forward was excruciatingly painful?    That's the way it is sometimes - that is if you're alive and breathing.  Life is a battlefield, and we're all soldiers.  The war wounds we receive are not just flesh wounds, many times the most damaging injuries occur in the heart; deep into the soul. Trying to move with such deep seared injuries, exudes pain with every step.  But what option do you have but to press forward? 

  • Our first natural instinct when we obtain an injury is stand still and assess the situation and severity of our wounds.  Often we are in shock, and unbelief spreads through us like a disease causing us confusion.  We allow this deception to color our perception and misdiagnose our true state of being.
  • Our second natural instinct is to remain still in fear of increasing the damage, but that's the wrong move.  When we're in the middle of a battle field - we need to seek shelter, avoid further attack and obtain medicine - seek out our Strong Fortress and our Tower of Strength.  The only way we can do that is to keep moving forward; keep pressing on - even through all the pain. 
  • Our third natural instinct is to retreat into ourselves and give up.  When has ever putting our lives into the hands of our enemies ever benefit us?  If our enemy allows us to live, we become their living prisoners; slaves to the things which have wounded us and will continue to wound us periodically at their choosing. 
 All battles leave scars known as war wounds.  Who we are is not determined in how we obtain our scars, but in the decisions we make after the attack.  I look back at the white faded lines of my past wounds and realize how far I've moved forward from that moment.  While I was "IN" that pain and torment, I couldn't see what lay ahead of me - but I'm so glad I took the steps that brought me to where I am today.

The enemy is still dropping bombs all around me, shooting arrows at me and plotting against me, but I'm still pressing on.  I'm sure I'll obtain some more war wounds until my mission is complete, but I know that other days like this - a day when I can look back and see how far I've come - are on the horizon.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Out With the Old

New things, new people, new experiences are always exciting.  There's just something inside us that really lights up when it comes to new things.  Don't even get me started on new chapters, new shoes, new destinations, and new opportunities.  Of course, not all new things that come into our lives are good for us or prove beneficial.  In the end we find out that we've lost something valuable with the old tried and true we've tossed out for the new.  Makes me think of smiling people with wagging tongues that come in and  tell you all about the new and amazing things they can do in your life and how you can't live without them - to find out they were NOTHING like the excellent, dutiful and faithful people you already had in your life. All talk, but no substance.

Don't get me wrong, NEW is great.  I think we should all live our lives in one direction - forward.  It's the only way we're going - so we might as well get acclimated to the idea.  However, we don't need to be in such a hurry to toss away what we have to make room for everything new that comes down the pipe, as if to say we can't obtain the new with what we already have.  We need to remind ourselves of the story of the man who had so much that he tore down the barns he already  had to build bigger ones to make room for the new stuff he thought he had to have in his life.  God called that man a fool.  There's  a lot of wisdom in that. Success isn't about what we have, who we know, or who knows us, but WHO we are regardless of all that.

It's often said that the man with the most toys in the end - wins.  What does he win?  The prize for being the biggest fool?  Sometimes our greatest treasures aren't what we can get, or even what great opportunities become available to us - but in what we already have.  Most often what we already have is highly unappreciated - especially when it comes to the people in our lives.

Not everybody that says they're a friend is a true friend.  There may be some true emotions involved, but emotions change from day to day, experience to experience, and level to level.  With it, most friendships also change, at least those that are only viable in the emotional realm.  True friends are steady unmovable rocks.  They may react in emotion, but they work through those flows and ebbs, building character and trust; strengthening the bonds between each other. They know how to forgive and to apologize, to encourage and rebuke.

Many people come in and out of my life, because I'm in constant motion.  As I move, different opportunities present themselves bringing the different people with them.  Some the world would consider inconsequential, while others enjoy a celebrity status.  Years ago, when I barely valued myself, I would have endowed the celebrity with higher enthusiasm than the regular Joe, but not today.  I've matured and learned to love myself and see the value in who I am, and realize what character traits I value in other people - honesty and integrity above all.

I know both rich and poor, unknown and famous, inexperienced and successful, students and scholars, titled and untitled,  and among them all I have made many friends.  While I may spend some of my time getting to know the new acquaintances in my life, I don't throw away the wonderful, valuable and precious jewels in the true friends I already have.  I'm not impressed with titles, money, status, prestige or celebrity - in fact those are the ones I'm most wary and often pity. I've seen many  with my own eyes lose sight of what's really important in life chasing after the wind - but as Ecclesiastes reminds me - it's all meaningless.

I'm a writer striving for success and I'm a good business woman - but I don't measure my success on the number of book sales, dollars earned, celebrity endorsements, or acceptance by the populace and popular prestige.  I measure success in the many letters I receive from readers who've been encouraged by the words I've written or found inspiration by my example to write their own.  Writing makes me happy, so whether I reach 'worldly' success or not, I'm already successful.  I thank God for the friends I have in my life who pray for me, lift me up, encourage me when I'm down, remind me when I've been living in the clouds too long, rebuke me when I'm out place, bring me soup when I'm sick, tell me the truth especially when it hurts, and stuck around long enough to get to know me and my character. 

Now, where can I get a new pair of shoes!!!

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, December 05, 2011

My First Screenplay

I never really had any interest in writing screenplays, I've always tried to stay close in the land of fiction novels.  It seems like once I get in the groove of a great fictional story, something comes along and pulls me out - like when I'm asked to edit a non-fiction, ghost-write an inspirational teaching series, work on a memoir or autobiography, design and manage a newsletter,  or produce a news article for an online magazine.  I don't mind these things, but they don't make my heart palpitate hard against my chest.  They don't cause goosebumps to pop up all over my arms or send the hairs on the back of my neck into full attention. 

Needless to say, when writer/producer Elise Dimitria Bowman of CINIGI Lighthouse first approached me about writing a screenplay, I was very reluctant.  Part of me was asking, "Why can't SHE just write one if she's so interested in my work?"  With an already OVER-EXTENDED schedule, I just couldn't fathom the time, energy or desire to do it properly and so became almost hard-hearten to the opportunity.  Today, I'm glad she didn't give up on me.  I'm so thankful she insisted I participate in her Intro to Screenwriting Workshops because I'm finding that writing screenplays offers me the same excitement that my fiction novels provide, at least when it comes to adapting one of my own novels.

I still have an over-extended schedule and it has caused this screenplay to be slow progressing, but it is progressing none-the-less.  I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, enough so that I'm doing what I can to remove some of my other responsibilities to make a little more time for this new-found love in my life. I know I have a long way to go and lot more to learn, but now I'm not so squeamish to give it a shot.  Maybe because she's a great teacher more than I'm an eager learner.

I still don't know what Ms. Bowman's role will play in my life, but if it never goes any further than what it has already, she's been an important inspiration to me.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray 

Thursday, December 01, 2011


I'm a very blessed person and have a colorful pallet of people in my life I am privileged to call friends.  I couldn't say that 10 years ago, and couldn't even fathom the possibility 20 years ago, but something amazing has happened in and through me over these last few decades. 

Have you ever smashed a magnet and then thrown the broken shards into a pile of other broken shards of metal objects?  You get quite a reaction.  Some parts cling together while other parts are separated as the polarizing effects of the magnetization fight for dominance.  That was me growing up.  I was a broken piece of magnet thrown amongst shards of metal.   While there were always bits of metal that liked to cling to me, sort of like that children's game where you took the magnetized wand and moved the black pieces around a huge face to make funny hair and beards, the largest portion of me repelled everything around me.  In an effort to put myself together I became coated with superglue, and as a result created a protective shield to keep anything from sticking. 

Now I find that I'm made whole again, no superglue and no sharp edges.  I still have a few cracks in me, but they too are beginning to fade.  I also find that I'm equally able to draw and repel people in my life. 

I look around me and see that I'm not just surrounded by like-minded people, or people with the same interests, talents or vocations.  Many have differing political, religious and social views from me and each other, but somehow there's still an attraction.  I have friends that are actors, writers, screenwriters, Pastors, world-wide evangelists, producers, publishers, business leaders, store clerks, waiters, politicians, activists, retirees, teachers, bus drivers, police officers, community volunteers, aide workers, nurses, lawyers, reviewers, reporters, bloggers, singers, musicians (got a house full of those), factory workers, electricians, buyers, sellers, jewelry makers.  I have friends who have similar interests and beliefs, and those who don't. I freely speak, socialize and admire an array of diversity: such as liberals, conservatives, Christians, Jews, Agnostics, gays,  straights, blacks, whites, and everything in-between,  and much more.  I can put a name and face to each of those descriptions and still wouldn't cover everyone. 

There was a time in my life when I surrounded myself with only those who were like me, or who thought the same as me - but I found myself most often alone.  Friends aren't people who agree with you - they're people who share who they truly are with you.  They're not afraid to speak their mind for fear of your judgement or acceptance.  That's not a friend.  A friend loves you.  They don't have to agree with you, they don't even have to believe and have faith in the same things you do. It's not a contest of who is right and who is wrong.  We're human - sometimes we're both. You be who you are - 100% honest, truthful and open - and allow them to do the same - and you'll be surprised at how many friends you attract. Enjoy and learn from the diversity instead of allowing fear to keep you in your little boxes.

If you want friends in your life - show yourself friendly.  If you want honesty in your life - be honest. What's amazing is that I still believe the same things I believed 10 years ago, but I don't live in a little box anymore and I have a lot more friends.  Don't get me wrong - not everybody likes me.  I'm as equally repellent to dishonest, angry, depressed and judgmental people - they can't stand to be around me, and that's just fine.  I love my friends.  You know who you are.

Look around and see who surrounds you - if you look close enough you might just get a glimpse at who you really are, not who you think you are.  Now that's a scary thought!

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Don't Worry - Be Happy

Ever since I became a Christian almost 20-years ago I've been taught, told and preached the concept of "Don't Worry - Be Happy" as if it were a decision as easily made as choosing between a pair of identical socks.  But I find it a little more complicated to make that decision. I don't disagree with the concept, on the contrary I agree whole-heartily, I just have a difference of opinion when it comes to exercising the practice  in everyday decisions and practical matters.

 Sometimes I'll be going through my day, zipping through my responsibilities, fulfilling my obligations and not realize that I'm stressed from the burden of the panacea of things I'm worried about.  If you asked me right out if something was worrying me, I'd answer with an emphatic "No".  However, I'd be lying to myself - which is quite possible and often the culprit in 99% of the worry people carry.

What do I  worry about - whether consciously or subconsciously?  Let's see:
  • Education - With a daughter as a Junior in high school, this is the year for searching for grants, scholarships,  and deciding what type of college, how to pay for that extended education and try to draw up a plan and budget to begin the process of fulfilling those dreams (which can change at any moment and then you'd have to start all over).  I have a son about to enter the police academy, but first has to take a few courses at college to give him the best negotiating terms to obtain the desired position within the police force.  Of course - all of this is without a college fund - and we're expected not to worry about it - it's only our children's future we're talking about here. I find juggling the ideas of responsibility/faith/obligation gets a little tricky sometimes.  I'm a great debater and could possibly win on either term - but shouldn't they work together? God will make a way where there is no way.
  • Economy - With the downturn in the economy and unemployment at all time record highs, business opportunities are not as viable as they were five years ago.  The unemployment rate among teenagers is hovering at 95%, while college graduates are around 40%.  When the top 1% are closing businesses and not investing in new ventures and technology due to high taxes and an unstable market - that means middle class workers like myself and those in school like my daughter - don't have many options.  When business aren't hiring and laying off people, investors are tightening their belts and reluctant to part with their savings, and the political tensions and shallow promises are slung left and right blaming each other instead of coming up with solutions.  We're asked to Hope for Change, yet things stay just the same.  No matter how much I tell myself "don't worry", worry comes anyway. God is my provider.
  • Health - With the high cost of health insurance, increase in taxes  and the cost of living (groceries & gas) and decrease in pay - many of us have found ourselves between a rock and a hard place (too rich for Medicaid or free health care (unless illegal)/too poor for even your basic HMO) and have become uninsured.  Now unable to participate in 'preventive' health care like physicals and regular checkups, I sit by and hope and pray nothing serious happens health-wise  until I'm able to get back on my feet. Being over 40, I'm told how important it is to have a regular pap, physical and mammogram because the  best defense against most conditions that effect women my age is early detection.  Yet, I'm expected not to worry.  God is my healer.
These are just a few of the examples, there are many more.  I'm trying to follow my dream as a writer, knowing this is the gift I've been given in which I operate best.  Everyday I come against obstacles that want to crush that dream.  I have to fight against the 'practical' in order to fulfill the dream.  A war wages between Responsibility, Obligation and Desire.  Each have their own requirements for fulfillment, often sacrificing one another.

It's said worry can kill you.  I believe that.  With worry comes stress, anxiety, oppression, depression, ulcers, acid reflux, low immune system and easy susceptibility for disease.

So, what is the answer?  I wish there was an easy solution I could give you, but I can't.  Some things motivate some people, some things motivate others, but everything doesn't work on everybody the same.  We're unique individuals with our own strengths and weaknesses; we each have our own measure of faith.  But, without HOPE - there's nothing.  So, by FAITH, and the love I have for and through my Creator, I cling to that hope with all I possess - my God shall supply all my needs.  Doesn't mean I'll get everything I want.  My candidate may not win, my child may not get into the school of their choice, I may have do with just the basics for a time, my books may take a while before they hit the best sellers list - but I will prevail, I will overcome, I will succeed and I will rise again. I am happy right where I am - right in the middle of my little mess. THAT I don't worry about.  In the meantime, I'll keep trying to work on the other things.   

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hallmark Movies - Why I Have a Love/Hate Relationship

Every year, starting the day after Thanksgiving (I refuse to watch a Christmas movie before that date), my husband and I begin watching Christmas movies, especially the feel-good Hallmark Originals.  Yeah, my husband loves them too and he's not ashamed to admit it (at least that's what he tells me).

I have a love/hate relationship with these movies.  I hate them on the one hand because they're so predictable.  Within the first five minutes while the opening scene tittles along, I've already figured out the major plot, know exactly what the turning point point will be, and the solution is clearly written in the snow flakes that are bound to fall during the Christmas Eve miracle scene.  However, I love them for those exact same reasons.  I know beyond all uncertainty EVERYTHING will work out in the end.  In a world full of chaos, disappointment, struggle and strife - my soul yearns to see miracles, to watch the sparkle of magic and to believe in the unbelievable.  That's a Hallmark movie wrapped in it's golden bow.

So, despite their predictability and lack of imagination, I recommend everyone to sit back, prop your feet up on a foot rest, wrap yourself in a warm blanket, fill a bowl full of popcorn, and sip on a large mug of hot chocolate as you sit back with your loved ones and watch a wholesome, magical, and inspiring Hallmark movie.  (No, I'm not a paid spokesperson for Hallmark.)

You never know what miracles you'll be inspired to believe when it's over.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Writing - Why It's Better Than Sex

I must begin this blog by telling you I'm 40, not 20.  I'm not sure a 20-year old would understand half of what I'm about to say, so there's no sense for them to read past this sentence.  Now for the rest of us - let me try to briefly explain why I think writing is better than sex.

  1. Sex only provides a temporary sense of satisfaction, that is if it's done properly.  In order for it to be of use at a later point in time, it would have to be repeated.  Not so with writing.  A brief moment of brilliance can be recorded and revisited any time in the present or future.
  2. Sex requires the participation of two or (as in some cases)  more individuals. Masturbation doesn't count. Writing can be a collaborative effort, but it only requires one person, one mind, one idea and be equally, if not more, satisfying.
  3. Sex requires great physical exertion and writing only requires the minimum effort- mostly from the largest muscle in the body - the brain.  For those with physical disabilities, sex isn't an option.  With many of today's technological advances, even paraplegics and the severely handicapped are able to express their thoughts and ideas in written/electronic form. 
  4. Sex carries a risk of disease, unwanted pregnancy and physical harm.  Writing only carries the risk of a bad idea or carpel tunnel syndrome. 
  5. Sex confuses emotions.  Writing helps to sort them out.
I could go on and on, but I think I'll stop there.  I've heard, more times than I'd like to admit of people expressing the idea that they couldn't live without sex.  Of course, this is usually spouted from young people whose hormones are raging without much self control, or perverts who really need a lot of help.  I'm older now, a little bit more wiser and can see the world beyond physical satisfaction. I too once thought the world revolved around me, but my eyes have widened and I realize there's a whole world of people out there and we all are on the same rotating rock.   I too used to think 'sex' was the answer to a lot of things, but having been through many things I've learned sex only complicated matters, never solved them.

Emotions, physical or not, are most often misleading.  Our outbursts sometimes are not directly linked to the things we say with our mouths.  It's only a symptom of a much deeper issue - one we're usually trying to avoid. Sex often times is usually evoked to mask or ignore those symptoms in a hope of making them disappear.  Those stubborn issues don't go away until we face them, no matter how much sex we have.  Writing has been the avenue for me that brings those deep-seeded issues to the surface - forcing me to see them, face them and then act to deal with them.  Sex has never done that for me.

Now, I just want to make it perfectly clear that I have NOTHING against sex.  I like sex.  I'm just saying that in my experience with both sex and writing, I find writing the better of the two.

Now, for those whose cheeks are pink at the bluntness of this subject, surprised by my audacity to speak about such a taboo and dirty-little subject - you can go back into your little boxes.  I'm done for the day. I bet throughout this day or in the days to come, you too will come across another reason why writing is better than sex.  And for those of you who NEVER write - I want you to know I still believe in miracles. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, November 21, 2011


Our mindsets totally dictate to us how we think, how we act and most importantly how we react to every situation and circumstance in our life.  Those mindsets are formed through a compilation of thoughts and experiences we've accumulated throughout our existence since birth.  We can tell ourselves to exhaustion that they are of our own making and choosing, but that's just one of the dozens of lies we tell ourselves everyday.  We have this obsession to try and understand the world around us, but our efforts are in vain.   No matter how much we think we know - there's a large vastness of the things we don't know or understand. 

In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday I've been thinking about those people who've been lucky enough to be "Thanksgiving-minded".  I'm not talking about being mindful of the holiday.  Most of us don't even give a second thought to the yearly event until the day after Halloween.  Much like I try not to even delay the concept of Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving (though that gets harder and harder to do when commercials, stores and businesses all around me start advertising, celebrating and reminding us earlier and earlier each year.)

Being Thanksgiving-minded is having a mindset and a spirit of being 'thankful' everyday.  Having grown up in a large family that never said the words "thank-you", either as a polite courtesy or attitude of gratitude, to one another or anyone else.  It took me a few years on my own as an adult to formulate the habit.  The words felt strange on my lips and often came as a gesture long after an appropriate action that granted its favor thereby never reaching it's intended target.   I've had many people comment to me in my past how 'ungrateful' they thought I was because I never said the words. 

I can understand their sentiment, though I disagree.  I've always been a very thankful and grateful person.  I'm a giver,  a helper, and have sacrificed my own wants and needs for others on countless occasions.  I just didn't know how to express myself through two simple words.  I don't say words just to say words.  I only say what I truly mean.  Often times it gets me into trouble because I'm not perfect and my speech reveals that imperfection.  I show my gratitude by my actions and my deeds. 

I'm learning to say thank-you more often. I say it when someone does something for me out of the goodness of their heart, or just out politeness.  I say it even when I'm the one who offers help.  I say it when someone has wronged me or set themselves to discredit or injure me - often reflecting blame of an indiscretion to preserve the peace over non-sensible issues.  I don't accept responsibility for things I'm not guilty, but when feelings are involved - I choose to keep the peace and apologize despite my innocence or guilt.  I say thank-you when a door is open for me or when I open one for someone else.  I say thank you for a word of encouragement or of rebuke.  Both are equally important and beneficial.  I say thank you to strangers, friends and family.  I say thank you to the cashier at the grocer store even though they're just doing their job.  I say thank you to the drive-through employee as they take my money and hand me my food.  I say thank you to the clerk at the tax office as I hand over my payment.  I say thank you to the parking attendant as I pay my fees.  I say thank you to the waiter who fills my drink.  I say thank you the husband who holds the umbrella over my head.  I say thank you to the daughter to who puts away the dishes.  I say thank you to the son who stopped by the store and grabbed a last minute item on his way home.  I say thank you to the writers club member who pointed out an error in my latest chapter.  I say thank you to the mother-in-law for their 10th reminder of upcoming holiday plans.  I say thank you to my God for all He has done for me.

I don't say thank you to receive one in kind, yet I hope that I can inspire the practice.  I've noticed that this world is getting more and more 'un-thankful' and turning to a  more "entitled-mindset".  I find that sad.  That makes me even more thankful that I'm not a part of it. 

Don't just let Thanksgiving be the only time you give thanks.  Let it be a time to celebrate that you're able to give thanks at all times.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'm a Flashlight!

One of the greatest inventions of our modern times for me is the flashlight. We've humans have upgraded tremendously from torches, candles and lanterns in order to successfully navigate in the dark. We're a race dependent on our five senses - mostly on our sight - in order to make our way around this celestial orb.

I've learned something about the flashlight this morning that I didn't comprehend the day before. It's not like the information is new; only a new revelation to me.

It's not the casing of the flashlight that gives it its importance and purpose - though the outer shell is extremely important in its function to house the thing that makes it valuable and of use. It's the light that emits from the flashlight that gives it it's purpose.

Understanding the above statement has sparked an enlightened revelation that I had never been able to construct with words. I'm a flashlight!

Most of us go through this life with a hope of what the next life will bring; bearing the burdens of our world, braving the elements and holding tight to our faith and beliefs until the end of our days, most often in an expectation of a reward for our sacrifices; a utopian retirement in eternity filled with golden streets and peaceful jubilation.

Deep down inside I've always had a slight problem with this sentiment. Not that I wouldn't want a golden parachute at the end of my labors in reward for my all my toil, but I couldn't seem to find the motivation to modify my current behavior in a hope of a fantastical dream. I live with a hope of obtaining that utopian fantasy in THIS life.

I know the world is full of all kinds of hate, evil and chaos. On many occasions and through different experiences, I've been the victim/perpetrator at their dubious hands. However, I've also been the giver/recipient of love, good and order. Both exist at the same time, and both continue to flow through this universe even now. The only thing that has changed has been how I respond to each when I brush against them.

I've always been told that I'm a light in a dark world - meaning that I am to expose the darkness as I allow the light of my faith to shine. As I click this flashlight on and off, I realize it's function. It's not to expose the darkness - because the dark is already apparent. When the light comes on it causes the darkness to retreat and expose the truth of what's around me, lights my path so I can see where I'm going or where I've been, and even allows me to see myself when I was unable before. However, when I came into an already lighted room, the light from my flashlight exposed nothing that wasn't already exposed before - neither path nor direction. It became useless; just another object in the room. It no longer had a purpose. What good is a flashlight where there is no darkness?

Having a purpose and being used for that purpose is what drives me most; it is the single largest factor that shapes my decisions, actions and reactions. It's not fear from a lake of fire for my disobedience or the hope of a bright utopian eternity beyond this life. Whether or not those are the final consequences - really don't make a difference in the day to day decisions I face or make.

Everyday, due to the impact of my daily decisions, I'm either tormented or at peace. Right now I'm either suffering from a hell-on-earth or I'm filled with heavenly joy. I find the choice is really up to me no matter what's going on around me. In the middle of my turmoil, I find I can have peace. In the middle of my celebration, I find I can be in pain. I can't control what happens around me - prevent evil from touching my life - but I have complete control on how I respond to those events. The response determines my atmosphere.

Where my faith factors in all this is not about condemnation or salvation at the end of my days - but in each moment, each step, with each breath that testifies I'm not alone and I don't have to walk through this darkness alone. The answer to the test isn't that I finish having ran a good race, but that I find what I'm searching for AS I run the race; that I discover I'm a flashlight in a dark world - with a purpose while I'm in the darkness.

I don't mind being a flashlight. In fact - I'd like to be a lighthouse!

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Milledgeville Misfit Book Trailer

I did it.  Here is my first attempt.


Book Trailers - I Want One

I just watched one of the best book trailers for a book called "Shatter Me".  Now, I WANT one.  I want to learn how to make one.  Part of me is dreading it, because I already have so many things I'm already doing; I've got more on my plate than I'll ever be able to eat, and I want more.  I'm a glutton.  When it comes to the writing universe, I can't get enough.

So, the biggest question - where do I start?  I don't know the first thing about making book trailers.  It seems I keep gravitating more and more to movies, mini-movies, trailers, screenplays.  Perhaps the printed page isn't my only niche.  I guess all my few remaining minutes of the day are going to be spent on researching, studying, seeking, reading, experimenting and learning how to make book trailers.

Anyone with any experience in this area... I'm begging for help.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Inheritance - Christopher Paolini Review

***** (5-Stars)
I can't get this hard lump out of my throat. I'm equally happy and sad at the ending; probably because it is the end of a great epic tale. I think Paolini outdid himself. While I know not everyone will see the beauty of his choice of endings, I thought it was well-planned and a stroke of genius. It touched me deeply. Only a handful of stories have been able to do that.

If this is what he can accomplish as such a young age, I can't wait to see what he has next. I'm a fan for life. I see much of Eragon in him.

I can't give any higher praise than that. If I could, I would.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Milledgeville Misfit Cover

Here is the new cover for the upcoming release of my new novel "Milledgeville Misfit".

Fourteen-year old Juniper "Junebug" Summerville loses her parents and her ability to talk in a car accident.  Against her silent protests, she is sent to live in a remote swampland known for its ghosts, prisons and insane asylums.  

As Junebug struggles with her emotional scars, she begins to heal with help from six other orphans at Dearborn, a once famous southern plantation turned orphanage.  But on Halloween night, she finds herself in a fight for her sanity when she stumbles upon a tear in the fabric that separated the natural from the supernatural and allowed the dead to walk among the living.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating Giveaway


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating! by T. L. Gray



          Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating!


          by T. L. Gray


            Giveaway ends December 31, 2011.

            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

The subject of happiness has come up quite a bit in my life lately.  It seems everywhere I turn I find someone looking for it or showing an expression of it.  It's had me really asking myself, "Am I happy?"

Immediately the answer "Yes!" flashed through my mind, but then right behind it came this slow, uncertain question of "Really?".  It surprised me.  Only two seconds before I had been so sure and now I sat there wondering why I was questioning myself.  (Don't try to figure that out - you'll get a headache.)

I pondered.  If I was so happy what exactly was it that made me that way?  After several days of fleeting thoughts, a long hot bubble-bath, and nice warm cup of coffee I realized that my happiness can't be contributed to just ONE thing.  It's a compilation of many different things. Not all of them would be OBVIOUS things.  Simple things.

Here are few examples:

My cat Pip.  She's often a pain, getting into things she's  not supposed to, tearing up furniture with her claws, leaving her toys just laying around everywhere so you step on them in the dark type of stuff. I'm not even going to mention having to clean out the litter box.  It's also those very same things that make me happy.  She's a happy cat.  She's loving, she's not afraid of anything, she's spoiled, and she LOVES attention.  She's free because she's loved.  She's not afraid of her family.  She's not hungry or hurt.  She doesn't have a diamond collar and eat gormet cat food, but she's happy - and she makes me and the rest of the family happy.

My son Johnathan.  (BTW - these are in random order.  In no way do I imply that Pip is more important than Johnathan.)  My son is a bit on the lazy side and his drive for success is lack luster at best. I could focus on all his faults and constantly stay behind him and pressure him to move forward, but instead I've chosen another route.  My son in happy.  He's lazy because he loves being at home and he's comfortable there enough to let himself be who he really is.  He loves playing games with his family at dinner time, he loves fighting over pop corn, or trying to beat everyone on the video, card and board games.  He's a poor sport and horrible loser, but he loves playing.  He's 21 years old and would rather spend his weekends at home with his dad watching football or sitting at the kitchen table after work writing his first novel with me while I cook dinner.  He doesn't drive around in an expensive car, go to a fancy college or wear designer labels, but he's happy. He dates on occasion, but he's not out looking for someone in order to make feel complete or loved.  He loves his music and playing his drums.  He's learning to love himself.  

Everyday we live with goals and aspirations, reaching out to obtain those things we dream about.  But, I've learned that it's not in the achievement of those dreams that makes life worth living; the thing that makes us happy.  Those moments are just that... fleeting moments.  They're a great moment of exhilaration.  But if we live our life in a struggle everyday under oppression, stress and pressure in the pursuit of happiness - we'll miss the moments that truly grant them to us. 

I've got a lot of big dreams in front of me and I'm doing everything I can to reach those dreams.  In the meantime, I walk through my days with a song in my heart because I'm truly content and happy right where I am - right in the middle of my mess.  In fact - it's that happiness that fuels the energy I need in the pursuit of my dreams.  If I wasn't loved or love my self - I wouldn't make it through all of life's bumps, road blocks and sink holes. 

I thank my family for that.  I thank God.  I thank my friends. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Keezy's 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating

Times-Georgian Article

Local author takes a break from the supernatural to help teens with dating
by Spencer Crawford/The Villa Rican 10.15.11 - 11:59 pm

Local author T.L. Gray has taken a brief respite from the world of the supernatural to begin a book series aimed at helping guide teenagers through the world of young adulthood.
“Keezy’s 10 Awesome Rules for Teenaged Dating” made its debut at last weekend’s MeccaFest event and Gray reports she nearly sold out the first printing. Based on her 17-year-old daughter, the new book attempts to teach pre-teens, tweens and young teens how to traverse through a dating world that has changed drastically with the emergence of social media.
“In this book, I’m talking about issues that are relative today,” Gray said. “For instance, dating doesn’t really exist anymore. Kids go out in groups of 10 or 20 and if you happen to sit next to a guy now you’re going steady. Their relationships are now basically on the Internet and through social media. That interpersonal relationship is kind of disappearing because they don’t go out to dinner and sit and talk to learn to get to know each other. There’s no such thing as courting anymore.”

While some nuances traditionally related to dating are disappearing, Gray explained that new pitfalls are popping up due to interaction through social media.
“Every little thing they do and say is out there for everybody to judge and it’s out there as a permanent record,” she said. “It used to be that when we would do something stupid, like all teenagers do, it would be a rumor for a month or two until the next stupid thing is done and then it would be forgotten. Nowadays with everything out there on tweets and posts and on Facebook and Myspace everything is now out there as a permanent record and somebody has a copy of it. They’re basically living in a fish bowl.”
Gray also discusses respecting one another, self-esteem issues, cyber-bullying, clinginess and other issues teens face in relationships today.

“It’s just getting hard for kids in relationships today,” Gray said. “The book is just about how dating has changed.”
Though Gray holds no doctorate in child psychology or relationship, she does have the experience of raising three teenagers — Megan, 22, Johnathan, 21, and Kelly. She researched the book by talking with her daughter and dozens of her friends about the dating world today.
“This book is really for the pre-teens, or the tweens, before they start dating so they know what to expect,” Gray said.
The book could also be a benefit to parents of teenagers so they understand that the dating world is not the same as it was when they were growing up so unfair expectations shouldn’t be put on your kids.
“As parents, we can’t be blinded to it and think it will all work out like it did for us because it’s not the same world as when we were dating and that was just 20 years ago,” she said. “What I find most is that we parents are expecting our children to respond the same way we did, but we don’t live in the same world so they can’t respond in the same way. If we don’t educate ourselves to find out what’s going on, we’re going to be lost and we’re going to give the wrong advice.”
Next year, Gray plans to release two additional books in the “Keezy” series, one that will provide rules for teenage drivers and another that will offer inventive ways to make money in a poor job market. She plans to release two “Keezy” books per year, one in the spring and one in the fall.
Grays first book, “The Blood of Cain,” tied religion and the supernatural together in a story of vampires. It, too, will eventually be a series and she’s already completed the second book. However, her next offering, “Milledgeville Misfit,” due to be released in December, is a return to the supernatural before the release of another “Keezy” book in the spring.
“Milledgeville Misfit” involves a young girl who was in a car accident that kills her parents and now mute she is sent to live with an aunt and uncle at a plantation home called Deerborn in Milledgeville. She discovers there are five other kids living in the house who teach her how to cope and deal with the loss of her parents, but she later discovers they are all ghosts. Later the young ghosts cross over from the supernatural world to become real again.
“Milledgeville Misfits” ends with a cliffhanger similar to the popular movie “Sixth Sense” in that the main character is left wondering whether she has been dead all along or she imagined everything that’s happened or whether the children she thinks are ghosts are actually real. Gray never answers the question, leaving it up to the reader to decide.
“I take what appeals to kids, what appeals to the young adults and I remember when I was a teenager what I wanted to read about,” she said. “I was fascinated with the supernatural. I loved stories about vampires, witches and ghosts. I think
there’s a reason why you are attracted to those kind of things and, in my case, I come from a very abusive background and to me that was my escape.”
Gray also explained that she was a fan of superheroes growing up and a series of books she’s already completed, but hasn’t yet published, called “The Necromancers” is her tribute to superheroes. She says she’s waiting on the right book deal before publishing the series.
“I like so many different things, so it’s easy for me to move from one genre to the next,” Gray said. “I don’t really get stuck on any one thing. To me a book is just a story, regardless of the genre that it’s in. I’m able to jump on an idea and from there just go forward and write in that genre. Every book has a message, it’s just put into a story form that they think readers will understand what they’re trying to say.”
Gray’s books can be found locally at Horton’s Books and Gifts on Adamson Square in Carrollton. They can also be found on most major Internet bookstores.