Just Me and James Dean…by Cheryl Bradshaw
When I was a little girl I used to make up stories at bedtime for my younger sister, Michelle. The most vivid centered on a boy and a girl who received a piece of gum for Halloween in their trick-or-treat bag, and when they chewed it, they were transported to a magical land where they were granted unlimited wishes. Even at such a young age, the process of concocting stories was effortless. My mind revolved like the reel of a movie spinning inside my head.
I spent many hours daydreaming as a child. Back then everything was as beautiful and white as a freshly painted fence. I fantasized about the day I would get married, the children I would have, the house I would own, and the life I would live when I was all grown up.
When I was a teenager, my mind still swirled with girlish hopes and dreams. I remember lying on my bed in my room staring at a poster on my wall of James Dean. He was hunkered down on the seat of a motorcycle, and Marilyn Monroe was perched behind him with her arms wrapped around his waist, and her head resting on his shoulder. I wanted to jump into the poster like the girl in A-Ha’s Take on Me video and ride off into life’s highway, just me and James. Together, forever.
When I became an adult and moved out on my own to attend college at the tender age of eighteen, I thought I had my whole world figured out. I’d developed a slight obsession with Agatha Christie and knew mysteries and thrillers were the perfect genre for me as a writer. All kinds of ideas flowed for the first novel, and I thought I was on my way. There was just one problem: I never started writing.
I wasn’t prepared for the events that were about to take place in my life or how they would affect my journey. Life didn’t turn out to be the dream I thought it would be, and I struggled—a lot, and faced challenges and trials that at times seemed more than I could bear. My relationships didn’t always work out, and all the babies I hoped to have didn’t come like I’d planned. There were times when I felt like my life was like a shattered mirror, and I was on my hands and knees desperately searching for all the pieces of myself so I could glue them back together and feel whole again. During those times I wondered how many other women out there in the world felt the same exact way.
Time went on and I struggled, but eventually I picked myself back up and I healed. With a new lease on life and a positive attitude about what I’d overcome, I thought about writing again. In 2009 I wrote Black Diamond Death, the first novel in my Sloane Monroe series. Sinnerman followed six months later and now I’m hard at work on the third, I Have a Secret.
As I sit here and write this, I’m shocked that I am being so candid. Normally, I safeguard my feelings. To say I’m a private person is an understatement, but I feel compelled to get this out. My message in all of this is to never lose sight of your hopes and dreams. Never forget who you are, where you came from, and what you are capable of accomplishing in your life. And if you have a passion, foster it with everything you have inside you. Let it shine. Let it breathe. Let it be.
When I pondered about the dedication I would use for Sinnerman, my direction was clear and I wrote the following:
This book is dedicated to anyone who’s ever had a dream. We have but one life, and one opportunity to live it. Make it last, make it count, and make it the best it can be. Live your dreams, I know I am.
Today, I’m no longer waiting for James Dean to ride up on his shiny black motorcycle. I’ve fallen for a different kind of boy now, one who dreams of wide open spaces and a simple life. One who wants to be a cowboy when he grows up. Now the poster I see in my visions is one of man hoisting me up on the back of his trusty steed while we ride away together into the Wyoming sunset.
If you asked me ten years ago if this was the life I thought I wanted, my answer might have been no, but if you asked me today I would say I’m right where I’m supposed to be. My life isn’t perfect, the challenges are still there, and I still have a lot to learn about myself. But no matter what the future holds for me, I know one thing for sure: I’ll never stop writing.
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