Friday, January 13, 2017

Staying Creative to Beat the Blues


Some of you know that I take a lot of pretty photos, mostly of Oregon seeing as how I live here. A few of them are on @OregonIsGross on Instagram.

Last year, my creativity took a nose dive. I had no direction. I was struggling to publish even one book, let alone work on my other ones. I distracted myself with video games, and then I fell in love with running. At first, running was also a distraction. I needed something to do because my mind was restless. I wasn't being creative anymore, and frankly, I was more than in a "slump."

As I started to run farther, I explored more and more just in my own neighborhood. I started to find trails. I started to look for new places. I started to find beauty in everything. The first creative spark I had in ages was back, and it was because I wanted to jump back into photography.

Staying active helped keep my health up, but I still wasn't all that motivated to go back to sitting in a chair to read or write. It was when my back finally gave out (probably months of running without properly stretching mixed with stress mixed with a terrible snow storm that got me trapped in a car for three hours) that I realized there has to be a balance in life. You can't be active all the time. There's a time and a place for everything.

Since it is winter, and it somehow keeps snowing in Portland, I have hung up the running hat until it warms up a bit. I've started doing yoga, which I can do from the comfort of inside my warm house, and have picked up reading and writing again. Obviously, I'm also back to blogging with a vengeance. It has been too long since I've seen the creative side of myself, and I'm determined to make 2017 the year that I figure out how to balance work, life, and play.

I'm also really excited to start doing little photo updates for you all. There are some amazing shots I've managed to take throughout the year, and I plan on going on more hikes and adventures once the weather is warmer.

What do you do when it's cold outside? How do you stay warm and beat the January blues?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Excerpt: Girl Nevermore

Purchase your copy on Amazon
Girl Nevermore is my dark contemporary young adult novel based on real life events. When I was much younger, my best friend at the time tried to take her own life while sitting next to me in class. She went to the bathroom with the pass that hung by the door, was gone for a while, and came back a completely different person.

She slowly started fading away as she sat next to me.

The image of her eyes haunted me for almost a decade, and I still remember the look she gave me to this day, but I've grown up a lot since then. While the helplessness I felt in that moment used to cause me anxiety, I've realized I'm much stronger now and much more sympathetic because of it.

Thankfully, my friend is still alive, but some people do not get second chances like she did. I've lost a lot of people - a lot of good people - along the way, and I cannot imagine how it would have been to lose her in that moment.

Girl Nevermore's story grew from that single moment, and the thoughts and feelings that I had after. I never truly grasped how much it affected me until later on in life. But events like that change you.

If you are in the mood for a dark story, Cooper's journey is full of life lessons, things that took me a lot longer than her to realize. Today, I am sharing a small piece of Girl Nevermore with you. Cooper finds the journal that her twin sister, Kayla, had been keeping. Over the course of the book, she reads her sister's writing. Kayla never seemed so alive, and then ... Well, I'll let you read to find out the rest. Enjoy the excerpt from Kayla's found journal below:

We pulled into the park, stealing drinks from the flask he keeps in his glove compartment. We leaned against the side of his car, passing it back and forth, him taking bigger gulps than me.

When the sprinklers came on, I was already a little light-headed, feeling freer than I had in a long time. I kicked off my shoes and ran into the grass barefoot, laughing as water soaked through my jeans, my shirt, everything. The grass squelched between my toes, and I watched him watching me. His dark eyes never left my body.

It felt blissful, perfect.

Trent and I don’t talk much. There’s not much to say. We just are. We’re two different people who are from separate parts of the universe. But when we collide, our worlds smash together with such fire I can barely breathe. I want to take the feeling he gives me and bottle it up, keep it for whenever I need it.

This kind of perfection never lasts a lifetime. I’m not stupid. But that’s why I’m soaking it all in. I take every chance I can get with him to make up for all the insignificant moments that will happen later. Because as long as I live, I will never meet anyone who makes me feel as alive as Trent does now.

I spun around in the middle of the field until the stars collapsed in on themselves, blending together into one blurring ball of light. I wanted to kiss that sky, get sucked up into it and dance forever.

When I stopped, the world kept moving around me. Trent marched right through the sprinklers, dropped the flask in the field, and wrapped his arms around me. He kissed me with such an intensity I thought I would melt right into his skin.

That’s how he makes me feel, like I could become something bigger than myself. I’ve never felt that kind of power before. I grinned the whole way home, wondering how I got so lucky, but also wondering how I was going to keep this a secret.

Because I want Trent to be mine and just mine. I don’t want to share any of these moments with anyone else. They are too beautiful, too enormous. And I’m afraid if I tell someone, they might become a little bit smaller, and that would ruin the magic we have now.

Friday, January 6, 2017

YA Gets Real: Wizard School

The rolling hills fly past us as we head down the lush landscape and into a deep valley. I'm adoring the drive, and my mind rushes with the ideas of how the next four years will play out. To think, my parents had been keeping this a secret my whole life.

"We wanted you to grow up as a normal girl," Mom said.

"That meant keeping your past a secret from you." My dad nodded.

I grin as I look up at the clear blue sky. All of those things I read about were true. The fantasy books they gifted me as presents were hints, and I never knew how real they were until my parents confessed everything a few days ago. They had signed me up for my first year at Harringtons, a school for girls who are training in the magical arts. They had handed me a brochure which featured this great stone building, and it looked magical.

We turn onto a long drive and come to wrought iron gates. My dad presses the small red button, and the intercom comes on. A lady on the other side greets us cheerfully, and the gates swing open. Our car carries us all the way up the gravel path to the steps heading into the main gorgeous building on campus.

I step out of the car with my backpack on my shoulder and slam the door shut behind me. I take in the large steeples, the antique window frames, and warm stone of the structure. The building looms over us, but feels welcoming and cozy just the same.

My mom helps me get my two bags out of the trunk and gives me a wide smile. Something about it feels strange though, because normally her eyes light up. Maybe she's sad about me going away to school. "Honey, I want you to know, we love you." She pulls me into a hug.

My dad presses his hand on my shoulder, which is about as affectionate as he'll get these days. "Do you want help inside?"

A woman with a clipboard comes out from inside Harringtons. She has a pen tucked behind her ear, and her hair is pulled taut away from her face. "You must be Delilah."

Both of my parents back away from me, as if this woman is going to burst into flames. Perhaps she can.

"We'll be seeing you on holiday." My dad slides into the car, and my mom hesitates with her hand around the handle.

"I have in my paperwork that your parents told you about Harringtons."

I turn back to the woman and nod, eager.

The lady glances at my mom and gives her tight-lipped smile. The engine of the car starts behind me, and the gravel shifts underneath the car as they pull away from the building.

"I'm Mrs. Sutherland, and I'm afraid I have some grave news." She swallows, and my face falls. "You see, we're a boarding school. Just a regular one."

"But ..." I scrunch my face up. My parents had been telling me about my past for months. There had to be some kind of a mistake. "What about the brochure?"

"We made them so parents could convince their kids to come here. You see ... Most children don't want to come to boarding school, so at Harringtons, we decided to make the transition a little easier." The lady stands upright and looks down her long nose at me. "We do have some of the best classes and professors this state has to offer. And most students who graduate from here go onto do amazing things."

"But nothing magical," I say, crushed.

"Nothing magical. Just the wonders of the natural universe, I'm afraid." Mrs. Sutherland laughs to herself. It's high and tinny, but I don't get the joke.

She turns and heads up the stairs, carrying one of my bags with her. I grab the other and trudge in her wake, counting down the days until I could scream at my parents.

As much as I'm mad at them, I'm more angry with myself for believing them. Magic. Yeah, right.

- - -

Oh man, I wish Wizarding School existed in real life. I've been in love with the idea of being called to an adventure most of my life. This is probably why I read and write as much as I do, and go out hiking when the weather will let me.

Thanks for reading YA Gets Real! It's a parody series that takes some of my favorite YA tropes and turns them into something more realistic. Although this one is pretty silly in itself.

If you want to read about people learning about their supernatural abilities, consider some of the following titles:
 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Goodbye 2016, and Hello 2017.

I apparently make vlogs now! I have no idea what the world is coming to, but I am making a commitment to post three vlogs a month for the next year. We'll see how it goes.

In this one, I review 2016, state some of my accomplishments, and uh ... Hang out with some cats? I also look ahead to January 2017, where I'll be um ... Hanging out with more cats?

Watch the video. It's funny and stuff.



But seriously, if anyone wants a review copy of any of my books, I will happily send you a mobi or epub. Just tell me the title and give me  your email address and it's yours! All I ask is that you actually review it within two months (amazon, goodreads, your own blog, whichever!).

Also, remember to sign up for my Newsletter to get information about sales and new titles when they are released!

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

With Dreams So Powerful

I woke up this morning from a dream not with a yawn or a stretch, but with tears running down my face. The dream made me angry, sad, hurt, and confused. When you have dreams as powerful as that, there's no way to avoid your emotions.

Last night, I struggled to actually sleep. I tossed and turned, awoken every hour due to pain. A customer jokingly said to me yesterday that he didn't want to live beyond forty, that it's all downhill from there. I didn't want to tell him that I haven't reached thirty yet, and my last year of my twenties has been awful health wise. This is probably why you should never joke about their being an age where things start to go wrong, because on the surface level, I look healthy. I feel healthy, mentally. That's saying something, because I battled anxiety and depression for a long time.

The dream I had right before I woke up for what felt like the tenth time was one where I was struggling to walk. All of the muscles in my back had tightened again, leaving me helpless. It was the same pain I had that made me go to the hospital, and here I was, reliving it again in a dream. I was walking on the road, determined to make it to the doctor's office, when I collapsed. It was so icy that I slid into a snowbank, freezing, cold, and angry. I started to cry as people stopped and tried to help me.

Those tears followed me into real life, along with some tension pain in my back.

I believe this is a dream about my pent up feelings. I've been putting on a show, much like Michael C. Hall's character in the first episode of Six Feet Under, which I just started watching. I've been frustrated and angry with my body, but I've also been frustrated with not being able to get proper care. I haven't voiced it. I haven't gotten angry. I've been calm and said, "Oh, you know, I'm in pain. It's cool." I've been playing it of like it's no big deal, but really, I'm screaming inside.

When I went to the ER in so much pain that I couldn't stand or sit without assistance, I was given pain killers, a shot of ibuprofen, and sat around for six hours. It's not the hospital's fault that I was one of many people who needed care that day. But I ended up leaving, getting discharged without seeing a doctor or getting X-rays. For all I know, there could still be something wrong with my spine.

Since my primary care doctor recently left my network and my health insurance is switching to a new network on January 1, there was no point in seeing a primary care doctor now to have the X-ray ordered, to bring to a new PCP in January. So I've been waiting.

And waiting on a health issue because of this sucks. We should have never privatized the healthcare system.

So yeah, I'm screaming on the inside.

I say, however, that I am mentally healthy, because I'm also keeping it together better than I did when I was younger. I'm trying to smile despite the pain. I've either been socially trained to have more poise, or I just gained it over time.

Instead of wallowing, I've been making a bullet journal, planning for the future, and getting excited about next year. I have publishing plans, I have blogging plans, I have long-term goals I'm working toward. There's plenty of awesome things on the horizon. I just need to get through a few more days, and then I can get everything properly evaluated.

While I might be screaming on the inside, I'm transferring that anger and aggression into something good. I'm creating a planner for things to come. I'm being as creative as I can be while taking my health into consideration. And at this particular moment, Munster is sitting in my lap keeping my warm. I can't possibly complain about that.