Title: Locket Full of Secrets
Author: Dana Burkey
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Synopsis: After over 4 years, Olena comes rocketing back into Claire’s life, changing everything for the worse. Picking up the shattered pieces, Claire is not sure who to believe. Is Olena who she says she is, or is she a killer to stay away from? Leaning on her new boyfriend Steven for support, Claire is faced with the choice on who to trust: a friend she barley knows, or a history lesson she barely remembers. Together, the three will begin a journey that will take Claire from the safety of her home to the last place she thought she would ever be: The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. With the wreckage of rector four looming behind her, Claire will have to see Olena’s plan through until the end if she wants any chance of making it out alive.
I Might Be Crazy….
I might be crazy, but a few years ago I decided I wanted to get more in shape. Okay, that is not the part that makes me crazy. The crazy part will come in a minute, I assure you. Well, at first I started to just work out, eat right, and generally stay active. It was working well for a little while, so I signed up to do a local fun run. It was two miles, and lead to me trying out two 5ks in the next few months. After that second 5k (3.2 miles for those of you who need to google it like I did back then), I somehow decided I was going to go for a bigger race. But why skip to a 10k, or simply try to better my time on a 5k? No, instead of those logical next steps, I went and registered for my first half marathon.
That’s right, I decided that I could go from wogging (walking/jogging) 3.2 miles to suddenly completing 13.1 miles all at once. This is the crazy part, in case you were not sure! And it was crazy! It was crazy for me to think that I could just do this. Especially since training turned out to be really boring! I have never liked the idea of running in my neighborhood, and since I did not have a car at the time to drive to a local running trail, I bought a treadmill and trained at home in my basement. So, each night I would start going and just stare at the wall. It was super boring, and I would always stop after about 3 miles. The one time I actually pushed myself to go farther, I only made it to a whopping 5 miles!
Well, race day arrived, and it was time for me to see what I could do. The race was on September 25th 2011, and happened to also be my 26th birthday! My dad was in town from Ohio to visit me in Washington State, so he took me to the race and was going to be there to cheer me on when I finished. Or rather, if I finished. I had a few friends taking part in the race that day as well, so I hung out with them at the start and listened to them chat about how fast they were going to go, or how their latest training run went. Did you catch that? Their “training runs.” As in they did more than just walk 5 miles on a treadmill in their basement! I knew I was in trouble by the time the starting gun went off.
I think it was around mile 3 when I started to feel great about my life choice. The sun was shining and I got some water and things were going great. I was passing people, I didn’t have to stop and use the porta potties that were sitting in the sun all day, and my body was not really in any pain. In fact, I was feeling so good I even started to jog a bit in celebration at how great I was doing! And, when I passed mile 5, the farthest I had ever gone in training, I was excited for the unknown world ahead of me. I knew there was something called “hammer gel” at mile 6, and then I could start counting down the miles I had left.
Hammer gel turned out to be about the consistency of glue, and tasted like glue with a little bit of a Kool aide powder mixed in for fun. It was pretty terrible, but it was almost like food, so I loved it! I ate it super-fast and kept going, feeling pretty good. But then, my body started to realize what was going on. My body suddenly realized that I was not going to be stopping in a few minutes, but rather had half of a race to go! That was when my knees, hips, ankles, and shins started to hurt. It was like my whole lower half was trying to fall off of my body so they could quit before I made them do anything else crazy like run or even walk.
Sadly, I could not just quit or take off my legs and phone in the rest of the race, so I kept on going. I put one foot in front of the other and before I knew it, I heard a sound I loved. People cheering! I was near the finish line! I walked up this hill that was in front of me, and there was a crowd of people cheering! But my heart fell. They were not cheering for me. They were cheering for the people who were finishing, people that were 4 miles ahead of me! I wanted to cry in that moment, but instead just kept going while people literally walked past me on the other side of a rope. They were finishing, and I was still heading out farther and farther from the finish. And, to make matters worse, the wind was picking up. Every step felt like three, the wind pushing on me every second of the way.
One thing that I didn’t do as part of my “training”, if you can even call it that, was look at the course map. If I had, I would have known that the last few miles would take me out to Boulevard Park and back. But, I did not know this until there it was in front of me. It happened to be one of my favorite parks in town, and to this day is my favorite place in the world to watch the sunset. The problem is that one element of the park is a long boardwalk that extends over the ocean from the land above. That land truly is above, making it a massive uphill climb. I have since walked up the hill a few times, and even when it is at the start of a walk it feels like a million mile trek to get to the top!
As I started up the hill, noticing that mile 11 was located about half way up. It was hard, but I felt like I could do it. I put one foot in front of the other and forced myself to keep going. At the top of the hill I was so happy I wanted to cry! I had done it! I was up this massive hill, and I was getting close to the finish for real this time. But, as if to stop my celebration in its tracks, my stomach began to growl. I was hungry, and my body really wanted to let me know about it. Not only was I hungry, however, I was hungry and still would be burning quite a few calories while continuing on to the end of the race. Oh, and in case things were not looking bad enough, the next mile was a stead uphill that was slight enough to make you feel like you could do it, but at the same time steep enough for your body to always be working double time just to keep moving.
It was at this point in the race, with less than 2 miles to go, that I remembered something. I had a burrito in the fridge at home! It was my leftovers from dinner the night before, but was enough food to fill my empty stomach for sure. So, each step I took suddenly was not about the finish line, but about my burrito! I said the word in my head with each step, and imagined how great everything would feel once I could eat the whole thing while sitting down! Thankfully, the idea of this amazing food that was still to come kept me going when I wanted to quit so bad!
With the idea of Mexican food in my mind, and my legs still trying to quit on me, I continued to walk and jog my way to the finish. My dad stood cheering me on as I crossed the finish line and received my race medal. I had to fight back tears of both joy and pride in that moment, happy I finished what I set out to do, and also happy that it was all over! And it was over indeed! I limped to the car with my dad, my legs now wanting to stop working all together, then headed home for lots of food, a shower, and rest! It was, up until that point, the hardest thing I have ever done.
In the hours that followed the race I thought about what I had done over and over again. I thought about how insane the 13.1 miles had been, but also how I made it through it all. All of a sudden, the idea of doing it again was sounding like a great idea! Every time I looked at my beautiful race medal, I got the feeling I could do it a second time. So, it in the years that have followed I have done 9 more half marathons, countless 5ks and 10ks, and even a triathlon this past summer! The memory of crossing the finishing line and feeling accomplished keeps me going for each new race I set out to run.
The other thing that has come from me doing that first race, and even some of the ones since that day, is that I know I can do more than I think I can sometimes. When I face difficult things in my personal life or in my work life I remember how much I worked hard and pushed through in that race on my birthday. I think about how easy it is to quit, but how rewarding it is to keep going! Now, I get to apply that to my writing. I get to go one step closer to the finish line as I write words, edit paragraphs, and create characters. Self-publishing really is like a half-marathon, so much work put in to each page. But, in the end, seeing readers enjoy my work and reading reviews posted online feels the exact same way as that medal around my neck! I know it will not always be easy, and often feel like an uphill climb, but the accomplishment and feeling of pride I get for really pushing myself makes all of it worth it!
About the author:
I graduated college from Youngstown State University in 2009 with a degree in theater and a minor in creative writing. I am currently living in Washington State in a little cabin in the woods with my cat Cato. I work full time at a kids camp, and spend my free time doing community theater and adventuring in nature! I am an avid geocacher, and love watching reality TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance, Project Runway, and Big Brother! I am currently working on my next project that includes a few YA romances and a YA dystopian series!
U.S. only (paperback)