- I cried, too. You just couldn’t see me.
- Being brazenly proud of your Internet history should have been a warning flag.
- It’s awful that I can only sum up the entire contents of your heart into that moment you pressed a cold wash cloth against my head when my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding.
- I used to press my head against your car window, wishing you were anyone but you.
- You are my best friend, and I can’t wait to high five your face in heaven.
- You should stop talking so much so I don’t have to be sad for everyone’s ears.
- You taught me all the worst parts of myself and it only made me see the best in you.
- I wanted to be you when I grew up, but only if you would have grown up, too.
- I am not evil. You aren’t either. Let’s just leave it at that.
- It’s okay. I understand now.
- Wishing it away is like swallowing your own tongue.
- I stopped writing because the words began to break and fall apart and when I tried to pick one up, it bit my hand and called me a fraud.
- You are a whirling dervish on acid.
- It wasn’t fair of me. Not a single moment of it.
- I never wanted to be you. Not really. I just wanted, just one time, for you to want to be me.
- Don’t be me. Don’t ever be me.
- Unless you want to. I don’t blame you. I have nice ankles.
- But seriously, guard your heart, your loins and every tissuey organ that has the potential to give you grief. And when you do give them away, be prepared to never ask for them back.
- I loved you all the most. And perhaps that was my vilest sin.
- One more high five, best friend.
- Okay. I’m ready.
I stayed at a Ritz Carlton once, and you know the way some memories are made of cardboard and their corners poke at your brain from time to time?
Let me share one of those corners with you. There was a placard on the bathroom sink at this particular Ritz Carlton and etched into its plastic face were the words “Bath Menu.”
A bath menu. There were several types of baths listed, which I was pretty impressed with seeing as I was under the impression there was only one way to take a bath at the time. But was was even more astounding was the fact that if this menu of baths existed, and an entire customer base of bath takers existed there at the Ritz Carlton, then this could only mean one thing: There was a bath giver. The man/woman who’s sole purpose (heck, maybe even soul purpose) was to create another human being’s perfect bath.
I mean, what pressure you know?
Have you ever tried to draw the perfect bath? I just tried it a few minutes ago, and I royally failed. Like I’m ashamed to admit I have a college degree. I can’t even get temperature right.
But somewhere at a Ritz Carlton in Boston exists a person – no – a hero who fights through the shifty temperament of a fancy faucet and creates pure magic in a bathtub.
I just thought this was important to share with you. Whenever life is weighing heavily on your shoulders and your brain hurts and there’s no one whose heart is perfectly crafted to deal with the fact that you got pulled over today AND you have a paper cut…well, don’t get down, my friend.
At least you’re not The Bath Man.
This has always been a tough one for me.
I’ve always been one to talk a big game about being selfless and loving others, but I was also always the first one to wave my middle finger out on the road.
It really wasn’t until I allowed Christ to be part of the equation that I could really even consider putting others in front of my needs, my wants, my ambition.
It was easy to guard my heart in the name of self-preservation. It only made sense to constantly defend myself because humility and kindness meant weakness to me. It meant setting yourself up just to get torn down.
But then I became tired of being so bitter. I wanted something more for myself. And I wanted something more for the people who came in contact with me.
I realize I’ve been given the chance to give love in such a way that it reworks the course of humanity and heals a slew of broken hearts. We all have. And that, for me, is more than enough reason to celebrate today and the opportunity it brings.
from Instagram: http://instagram.com/p/93mrAott1e/?taken-by=erickaclay
Okay, first thing’s first: as a Christian, I don’t believe anything is secular. I feel God and have vibed out on evil in the past and wholly and fully understand both can be felt when you least expect it – even when it comes to literature.
So “secular” fiction is a bit of a misnomer for me. But alas, it’s still a thing, and to keep confusion at bay, I’ll be calling it as such throughout this post.
Secondly, I really don’t think anyone SHOULD do anything, so if you read this post and think, “No thanks,” then it’s all good in the hood, and I’ll still share my Cheetos with you.
Now, let’s get down to brass tax.
Before I became a Christian, writing was easy peasy. I just fired up my inner demons, threw the words they inspired on the page and called it art.
After becoming a Christian, I started to take issue with this process, namely the inner demons part because I suddenly (and luckily) found that I no longer had any. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still human, but the the little thoughts that used to badger me and tear me down were gone, and frankly, I had made those bad boys my friends.
So what’s a Christian gal to do? Keep on keeping on.
Listen, I know I can still write. And I know there’s a fire burning in my belly. But now it’s a matter of using that fire to bring others into the light instead of letting it devour my soul in smoke.
Really, when you think about it, it’s not a bad trade off.
It’s also why I choose to write secular fiction over Christian fiction.
There is a whole audience out there struggling, my friends. There’s a whole segment of our human population that needs someone to send them down a little miracle and make the shitty existence of every day living worth SOMETHING. As a Christian and an author, I intend to do just that.
The way I figure it, you can’t heal a broken heart with rainbows and unicorns. You can’t go up to someone who’s hurting, actually decomposing from the inside out and say, “Isn’t the world such a beautifully golden and God-filled place,” and then start twirling on a hillside a la Maria from the Sound of Music.
People generally don’t like that.
And I mean you may feel like twirling until your wooden clogs go flying off your feet, but remember when you didn’t feel that way? Remember when the only thing you thought about was the exact temperature you needed to set the oven before sticking your head in?
Look, I’m not trying to be graphic here. I’m trying to be real. There’s nothing wrong with truth even when the truth is a dark and ugly thing. Because truth gives birth to light.
And fortunately, we all have the ultimate guide when it comes to writing this way. It’s called the Bible.
The Bible doesn’t sugar coat the reality of this world. The Bible is up front and in your face when it comes to sin and how it can slowly and methodically deteriorate everything in its path. And I appreciate the Bible for its honesty.
If it wasn’t so darn honest, I wouldn’t believe a lick of it.
So this is why I’m a Christian and write secular fiction. I want to be honest, transparent, and let the world know – the hurting, crying, miserable segment of it that feels like the sun is a burnt out star – that hope flickers through my words, through my waterfall of pages.
It is a light I’ve been given from God, and I love you to the point of setting your heart on fire.
*Inspiration for this post: The Dilemma of Being a Christian Who Writes Fiction
All my life, I knew I was going to be SOMETHING.
Something great. Something wonderful. Something rich and something famous and something so intellectually on point, I would lightly stab the world between the eyes.
“Here I am, World. Eat your heart out.”
You know what I’ve been doing lately? I’ve been praying for people. I’ve been praying for our family.
I’ve completely removed my tumored heart from this ruthless world, and I’ve never felt better.
How does a woman of this world focus less on BEING something and devote herself to DOING something?
Prayer, you guys. It all comes down to prayer.
In the past, I’ve been what you would call a “casual” pray-er. If an anxiety attack comes on, God’s the first dude I call. If my plane is doing the turbulence dance, I’m all over the prayer stuff. If anyone I love has a suspicious looking mole on their cheek and even if it only turns out to be a sprinkle from their cupcake, I’ll pray so hard, I’ll forget to eat my own cupcake. (But then I eventually will eat it because it’s a cupcake. Duh.)
But for the longest time, prayer wasn’t necessarily something I sought to do on a regular basis, nor was it a thing that I believed actually worked. Really, it was just a way to focus my mind on something so worry wouldn’t gnaw a hole in my stomach.
So I never really thought of prayer as something powerful, something that could really change your life because God isn’t some genie in the sky who blinks and grants your every wish. And I’m right, He’s not.
But He’s love. He’s the connection between your heart and mine. And when we pray with intention for another human being instead of our own selfish needs and wants, we’re helping to connect those we’re praying for to God and wrap them in his warm embrace.
I know this because it happened to me.
I went from caring only about MYself, MY accomplishments, MY tush sitting on a chair next to Oprah so I could drone on and on about some bestseller I just penned and the way MY hair would look on camera to caring about others, their lives, their beautiful souls.
How did this change happen??
A few family members prayed for me and kept praying for me even when I insisted The Secret was the true religion, and if I focused hard enough, I’d be able to have more than my fair share of Oprah in my life…and a BMW…and maybe a few more cupcakes. But my family never stopped praying because they understood that His love is what I needed in my life. Not the glittery yet transient things that kept catching my eye.
It’s funny how I gave more credence to people and things and entire ways of thinking than I gave to God.
But when you live in this ill-stricken world, the one that cares more for Oprah, BMWs, and cupcakes than truth, it’s hard not to become a suffering patient right along with it.
So how about a little activity? I heard about an organization called CURE International that would greatly appreciate our prayers. They help A LOT of people and they fully understand that they’re an active representation of God’s love in this world.
Just click here to pray for these people. There’s even a prayer guide that you can download that will help your heart find the right words.
God never abandoned me, you guys. I abandoned him. But he’s in my life now because I’ve finally allowed him to be.
And he’s there for you, too. Just let him hear your heart. Let him hear your prayers.
My book is about a man who has sex with another man in a cemetery near a Catholic church.
My book is laced with profanity and the difficultly digested truth that darkness can worm its way through a weakened heart.
My book deals with piss and bleach and infidelity and marriage and drunkenness and slurred words and dried mascara and manipulative sex and co-dependent love and all those other things that would never work as a Facebook status or yearly Christmas letter.
My book is honest. It is real. It is humanity in its dirtiest form.
So how, then, can it be Good?
We’ve been indoctrinated to believe certain things about Goodness, especially about those who attempt to live in the name of it. They are close-minded, judgmental, bitter little individuals who would rather wallow in their self-righteousness than actually give two cents about you.
For some people is this truth? Unfortunately, yes. But is this what REAL Goodness is all about?
This is the thing: the world hurts which means we hurt. My characters are hurting in their own world. They feel disconnected and cut off and unloved. They feel alone and embarrassed in their attempts to connect. They feel scorned and hopeless.
They just want to be truly themselves and respected for it.
And my hope is that this book is a testament to what I believe. That even when things seem the most heartless and scary and downright suffocating, there are still Good people who want to lift you up and bring you to the light. They want to be the shoulder, the rock, the way. They just want to help, no strings attached.
This is what I want my book to teach. I want my writing to be a reminder that those same feelings of unworthiness boil in the bellies of all of us. And that no amount of make up and staged photos and new cars and cool clothes will ever be able to wash away that fact.
Because when we’re reminded of our humanity and seek it in others, we’re more apt to do the Good thing, the only thing: love.
Why is this the hard one to write?
Why is this one freezing up my fingers and slicking my skin with ice cold sweat?
But guys, I have a confession: I’m a Christian.
This is kind of exploding every single brain cell in my skull right now because sometimes when I even say it out loud, I think, No you’re not. You’re a cat glitterer, you crazy woman. You’re a car keyer and avoider of all office situations. You’re the person who lies on the floor in Target and puts nacho cheese in her bra.
You’re Ericka, gosh darn it.
But see, that’s the thing.
I’m still Ericka. I’m still Ericka “What Did Her Mother Put in Her Bottle?” Clay. I still love cats and glitter to the point that I’m not allowed in the state of Vermont anymore. (Spluh, like I need their stupid cheddar…sniff.)
But even more than that, I’ve taken to re-sculpturing my life so that it can support a more loving and open heart. I’m taking steps that have left me less lonely, less dark and more willing to smile and ask you your name than write you off as something you may not even be. Because fear is easy. Fear and misunderstanding is the name of the game in this world.
But I’m learning it doesn’t have to be. And man, does that feel good.
So really, this whole Christianity thing isn’t taking me away from Ericka. If anything, it’s made more Ericka-like, so much so my face won’t stop sticking this way. It’s okay. I have amazing teeth.
And no worries, you guys. I love you for you. There will be no requests to follow me down this journey because everyone has the exact road they need right beneath their feet.
All I ask is that you accept me for me. That’s it. (And to smuggle me some cheese from Vermont.)
Because “me” I fully am now, and I can’t wait to unleash all that I’m on this amazing world.
Cats, I’ll give you a five minute head start.
I’m all for new. New is good. New is exciting. But I’m also for the concept of “comfortable” which is why I live in yoga pants with a pillow strapped to the back of my head.
And I’ve realized the idea of “comfortable” is what’s made me excited to write again. I had been playing with the idea of writing a story called Marilyn Winters but it just wasn’t sticking. I then tried to turn it into a screenplay and that just didn’t get the job done either. I then attempted to put in my BLT, but that just made me cry and drunk dial an ex-best friend.
So “new” hasn’t been working for me.
But do you know what I’m good at? First person narratives. And you know what else? Being funny when I don’t mean to be. And you know what else again? Yoga. I’m actually standing on my head right now.
But the first two things? The first person/funny part? That’s what’s lighting the fire under my ass. As much as I want to get all literary and profound on your backsides, I know deep down that sticking with what I know and who I am is going to make for a much better read than forcing something that just doesn’t taste right.
So what’s this new story about. Let me fill ya in!
Toby Yates is a twenty-eight-year-old college drop out who still idolizes his old best friend, Chuck, and is currently living off his sister’s dime. When she threatens to kick him out of her apartment, Toby decides to get a job as a janitor at Burling Gates High to reconnect with Chuck who’s a popular guidance counselor at the school.
While cleaning the girls’ bathroom one day, Toby meets Wren Reynolds, one of the troubled students Chuck counsels. As their friendship progresses, Toby learns that Chuck is having an affair with Wren and must decide if he should keep Chuck’s secret or out him, putting his newly reformed friendship with Chuck on the line.
Humorously told from both Toby and Wren’s perspectives, For the Love Chuck will tug at your heartstrings and have you rooting for a very unlikely hero.
Watch Me Write: The Series
And just to give you the inside scoop, “Watch Me Write” is a brand new series I’m doing here on the blog.
I’ll be writing about my progress on For the Love of Chuck plus giving you the week’s BRAND NEW CHAPTER. This way, you can read my story for free on my blog and you can even read it on Wattpad, too!
So without further ado, here’s the first chapter of For the Love of Chuck! Hope you love it!
READ CHAPTER ONE NOW!
Now Chuck’s your buddy, your pal. The dude who mops up your vomit after a late night at Los Gallos that turns your bathroom ranker than a three day pair of underwear. He’s the guy that has your back and he’s the guy that had mine until Grace Anne nosed the toe of her dirty Keds between us. One second we’re on the bleachers watching our loser friend Kryptonite Chris make an ass of himself on the mound during a baseball game at Burling Gates High and the next, there’s this curtain of hair sitting between me and Chuck and I end up spending the rest of the game counting the dandruff flakes in the curtain’s scalp.
Grace Anne Delahoy. A real ugly thing whose tits didn’t quite pass inspection. But Chuck? You’d think she’d invented the chili dog the way he looked at her. And there he went placing his arm around her smoother than a shot of tequila while I plucked her shedded skin from my Royals hoodie. He hadn’t even asked her name yet.
That was senior year. Ten years ago. When life flies, it zips like a mother fucker.
Shit, I have to pinch myself now.
I’m doing this new thing where I pinch my arm every time I say or think or something bad. It’s what my sister Tammy calls “physical awakening” or some shit – ow – that she heard over at her yoga studio. She’s just there to fold the towels and wipe sweaty DNA off the yoga mats, but you’d think she’s a bonafide yogi the way she yaps about spiritual enlightenment and all that crap.
My arm is starting to look like an eggplant.
“Ah, underwear, cold pizza from a Ziploc bag. I have to admit, it’s no yesterday’s half-shirt/milk from the carton combo, but I think it has real potential.”
That’s another thing about my sister. She’s a real smartass.
“Excuse me, Zen Queen, but some of us are looking for an actual career.” She plops down next to me on the sofa and my bag of pizza hits me in the junk.
“I’m sorry, but don’t you need a college degree for one of those?” She slants her eyes at me like she’s been doing since we were kids. I almost forgot this part but when she was six and I was two she stole me and took me to the park and fed me the broken bread Ma used to give us to feed ducks at the pond. When Ma finally found us, she had to remove a knuckles-worth of carbohydrates from my windpipe. So that proves it. Tammy’s a whackjob so you really can’t trust anything she says.
“I’m sorry, but aren’t most of you friends married by now?”
“Don’t change the subject, asshat. You keep putting it off and putting it off but I can’t support your lazy ass anymore. Ma kicked you out because she’s smart and I may not be no Stephen Hawking but I need you to start pulling your weight. Lord knows it seems to be multiplying,” she says and jabs her bony yoga finger into my stomach.
“Ah Christ, Tammy.” She gives me those slant eyes again so I give myself a pinch.
“Listen I don’t even need no stupid degree. You know Chuck used to say-”
‘Yes. Exactly. Used to. But Chuck’s getting married, Toby. And doesn’t he go by Charles now? New wife, new house, new name? Chuck’s moved on. I suggest you do the same.”
I hear her and it hurts to hear her even worse than my bruised up arm. Chuck’s moved on. Chuck’s changed and is better and newer and different and here I am, naked-er, fatter, and lazier and in major need of a shower.
But here’s the thing I can’t say to Ma or Tammy or the entire world the way I want to: I love Chuck like the brother I never had. Screw Grace Anne if she thinks she’s going to steal him away and imprison him in her tract castle. I refuse to give him up.
My gut groans, scraping chewed up pizza through my bowels and it echos the sound of my life swirling down the drain.
I’m gonna have to get a fucking job. Ow.
Hi. My name is Ericka Clay, and I’m still learning to write.
I know. It’s quite difficult to admit. As much as I want to wave my fancy Creative Writing degree over my head as proof that I know ALL THINGS WRITING, alas, I don’t.
Not even a little bit.
And I know this to be true not only because I can practically see it plastered across my forehead when I look into the mirror (I also see perfectly arched eyebrows. It’s a genetic gift), but I’ve also heard it from book reviewers who have read Unkept and Dear Hearts and have critically broken down where I’ve gone “wrong.”
Ouch, right? NOPE!
What I love about book reviewers is that they’re not my mother. What I mean by that, is that they’ll never tell me I’m the best writer that has ever existed and that I look mind blowingly fantastic in these JCPenney’s jorts (another genetic gift). What they WILL tell me is that there are a few things I need to work on.
So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite critiques I’ve received in no particular order:
“…I was confused in a few places with the way she integrates flashbacks and memories…”
“The characters are all complicated, as is the writing. Don’t pick up this book, if easy reading is what you are looking for.”
“Nearly every principal character is incredibly flawed, in some cases to the point of being deeply unlikeable.”
“The novel has a somewhat unclear start as the opening chapters are overloaded with a barrage of character names and too many unanswered questions, making it difficult to settle in until the third or fourth chapter.”
“There are a lot of metaphors, back story, and flashbacks in Unkept that often interrupt the flow and clarity of the story.”
“The alternating POVs don’t always take the story forward.”
“However another part of me just can’t seem to truly believe Mitch as a character.”
Now granted, these same reviewers had some amazingly wonderful things to say about my books, too, which I deeply appreciate. But the critiques above are exactly what I needed to hear.
So what does this mean? I get back on that writing horse and do it again, only this time much better.
Those thoughtful critiques are the very reason I’m taking a BRAND NEW JOURNEY and writing a novel chapter by chapter on Wattpad – about a small town transvestite trying to “win” her best friend back of all things! I’ll be changing my style a bit, getting to the meat of the story and using flowery language in teeny tiny doses. I’ll be working on the “here and now” and try my best to refrain from mind boggling flashbacks.
I’ll be taking these reviews to heart.
So book reviewers, thank you, thank you, thank you a million times over for these! You’ve helped me in more ways than you know. And writers, leave discouragement at the door. A good critique helps not hurts, and if it is blatantly hurtful, ignore it and move forward.
We’ve got this, you guys! We’ve got this!
Have you received a “bad” review? What did it teach you?
It’s officially official! Today is the RELEASE DATE for Dear Hearts! Even better news? If you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, you get this baby for free! Be sure to snag your copy today!
There’s a new girl in town, but looks can be deceiving! Find out why Marilyn Winters is an unlikely heroine in my latest novel – that you can read FOR FREE!