I was a young teenager when my mother told me a story that she would never again mention. She recalled waking in her bed, unable to move, something heavy sitting on her chest. The demon was holding her down, blocking her breath, keeping her from her young son (my older brother) in the next room. Despite the pleading prayers stringing through her mind, the minion refused to move. This was a direct attack from the devil, a punishment unwarranted. My mother was a faithful Christian woman, and she'd done nothing to deserve this kind of spiritual warfare.
Eventually, her prayers paid off. The demon left, and she once again found her breath.
Up to as many as four out of every 10 people may have sleep paralysis. This common condition is often first noticed in the teen years. But men and women of any age can have it. Sleep paralysis may run in families.
There's no need to fear nighttime demons or alien abductors. If you have occasional sleep paralysis, you can take steps at home to control this disorder. Start by making sure you get enough sleep. Do what you can to relieve stress in your life—especially just before bedtime. Try new sleeping positions if you sleep on your back. And be sure to see your doctor if sleep paralysis routinely prevents you from getting a good night's sleep. (Courtesy of WebMD.)
It was during National Novel Writing Month 2012 that I penned Sleep to Dream, a young adult love story in which my two main characters, Pepper and Liam, share the chronic condition of sleep paralysis. But while my own experience with the phenomenon was a one-time incident, it's a completely different story for the love-struck couple whose connection is the very thing that will ultimately keep them apart.
Sleep to Dream is one of the most honest pieces of fiction that I have ever put on paper. Pepper, too, was raised in a home where beliefs were not to be questioned, and problems weren't always approached with practical rationale. She shares my insecurities, my dreams of a better life, and my curiosity. She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes, even if it means losing some friends along the way. And above all else, she wants those she loves to be safe and happy, even if it's at her own expense.
I know what it's like to fight against that constant paranoia of what will people think if I write this? That question only has one answer as far as I'm concerned: Who the hell cares? Is it really a big deal if someone doesn't like your work? Maybe it wasn't to their taste. Maybe it disagreed with their belief system. Or maybe you simply need time to grow as a writer. But who cares? You're not going to get any better if you stop. You're not going to improve if you don't give yourself the opportunity. Write who you are, what you know, with all your heart, and I promise you—someone, somewhere, will genuinely fall in love with it.