ISO: ARC Reviewers

Hey everyone!

With the release of A Book About Life coming up in just 4 months, I’m putting out feelers for ARC Reviewers.

Interested?

This book is inspired by real events, LGBT protagonist, Jane Austen feel, low-concept (character driven), contains mental health topics and even a HEA (happily ever after). New Adult Fiction, romance subplots.

What I’m looking for in an ARC Reviewer:
-likes to read
-will leave a review (when the book is up for sale) on Amazon/GoodReads/iTunes/etc

Optional things:
-put up a blog post about thoughts (or I’ll come around and we can chat!)

What you’d get:
-PDF version of A Book About Life for FREE!
-This would be sometime around November

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, let’s chat! Inexperience isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I haven’t determined how many ARCs will go out, but I’m thinking about 12 tops, so let me know!

Coming up soon: Cover reveal and dare I say it…GIVEAWAY! (And here you thought November was only good for pie!)

-M

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My People! An Announcement!

Long time no speak!

It’s time for our monthly update, I think, and that means I need to bring some good news to the table!

Mark your calendars now, because a fresh new take from me is coming to an online retailer near you! I get to announce that my book, A Book About Life, will be published later this winter!

I’ve been away from the blogaverse because I’ve been deep in an editing phase, and that’s been delight (what with finals and internship and classes and work) but that means I’m doing everything I can to make my work as good as it can be.

So what even is A Book About Life?

Well, think about Pride and Prejudice. Think about survivor tales. Think about New Girl. Think about social work.

And there you have it! But in case you want more, here’s my blurb about what you can expect.

Alicia Whittemore graduated college with three things: a master’s in clinical social work, a quarter of a million dollars in student loans and the hope of saving the world. All her studying seemed to pay off when she landed a job at St. Vincent Memorial, but her troubles were only beginning. When a tempestuous board member and a heart-breaking patient emergency prove to be too much for Alicia, she must come to the realization that there’s so much more to life-and love-than settling for stability.

A Book About Life centers around a millennial trying to find her way though the world after college. She’s a hospital social worker who chooses routine over anything adventurous.

Millennial main character? Check (she’s in her upper 20s)

LGBTQ main character? Check (She’s ACE!)

Ride or die best friend? Check (they met doing a play)

Mr. Darcy character? Check (he means well, but yeesh)

Honest portrayals of mental health? Check (it gets heavy sometimes)

A Book About Life is a tale inspired by my love of Jane Austen, and my work as an MSW student. Each character is based on someone I know, someone I care about. Each situation is discussed with honesty and with respect, but with the depth that I kept completely real. This book contains empowerment after sexual assault, after domestic violence and after self-harm.

I took what I know-working with survivors of intimate partner violence-and I showed how those things play into the life of a very new, very conflicted working millennial. Based on truth, wrapped in emotion, it’s a book that shows the caffeine addicted, trauma informed career that I’ve inserted myself into.

A Book About Life, the New Adult Fiction book about, well, life, comes out this winter!

One More Rebellion

To understand where this post is coming from, it is important to know that I’ve been in a very pensive, reminiscing attitude lately. I’ve been working on a new book in which much of the young adult culture of the early 2000s plays a part. But also, I’m about to start the semester and that’s the point where I start thinking about how I got to where I am.

Part of the business of growing up is a little thing I’ll call “going corporate”. Masses of people leaving behind the neon hair, the black and red eyeliner, the studded belts and chucks for business suits, natural hair colors and 9-5s.

And I’m not having it.

So many people my age (and older) make comments like:

“I don’t know what I was thinking about that hair.”
“I can’t believe I wore that/dressed like that/went out like that.”
“I’m so glad I grew out of that.”
“I’m so glad that phase ended.”

And that’s fine… for them.

But I look back at the pictures, the memories, the status updates and I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. And the thing is, I can’t remember ever thinking I’d made a mistake. In my closet you’ll find business clothes-interview attire, internship outfits. But you’ll also find band tees, studded belts, two pairs of chucks, and skinny jeans (yep, even my size). My makeup is all deep and vampy.

So imagine my surprise when the suggestion came across my screen that instead of just 2019, we should be celebrating 20NineScene (Scene being the neon cousin of the emo culture that I reference above.). And I could not be more excited.

Because you see, we are the cycles we have lived through. Yes, I believe in moving past periods of time that are too negative for you, that are toxic. After all, what kind of (future) social worker would I be if I supported toxic environments? But why should I (and may others) feel that there is something to be ashamed of by exploring who we are?

So this 2019, instead of walking longingly past Hot Topic and pining for the days when I didn’t feel like a kid in their parent’s business suit, I’m going to allow myself one final rebellion. I want to slide into 2020 (and the return of the Roaring 20s) in the throes of the crimson and black smudged eyes, the black-like-my-soul outfits, the spiky hair, the splashes of neon breaking up the monotony. I never stopped listening to the music I did in high school, and in fact I prefer it to the stuff now (I’m exactly that old). Grunge music like Nirvana and Three Days Grace. Emo punk like All American Rejects. Emo pop like Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy. Dashboard Confessional. My personal favorite, Boys Like Girls. My Chemical Romance. And so many of the glorious others.

In high school, I had so many dreams about who I would be when I approached my current age. And I’m honestly nowhere close. I thought I’d be done with school, traveling, maybe even semi-famous. And if I’m honest with myself, I still hold out for that. It’s why I took a chance on a manuscript that I sent out before winter break to agents. I believe in that manuscript like people praying in church. It’s raw and honest and hopeful-everything I am at my core. I believe that someone will look at it and see the potential, will give me a chance to prove that it’s worth it. I believe in myself.

And none of that would be the case without the high schooler who felt the world a bit too much. Who needed validation more than air. Who wasn’t afraid to rock the red eyeliner, the spiked hair, the black wardrobe. I believe in her as much as she believed in the future. And that’s why I’m completely in support of 20ninescene. Because why on earth would I ever choose to lose who I am just to “go corporate”?

Writing Tips for the Busy

This Winter Break I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I really dove into my hobby and I made it work for me. I’ve got one fully polished manuscript, and I’m about 10% of the way through the first book of a trilogy (doesn’t that sound impressive!). But in just a hot minute, I’ll be back at classes, this time with a field placement and I’ve realized that I’m going to need to block my time more prudently. So.

  • Make the time

I’ve got a calendar all set up, which shows me what my major obligations are. I’ve got class days marked in one color, homework blocks in another and writing blocks in a third. This way, it’s the most important date with myself-and I’ll be able to keep on track. (Famous last words, I know.)

  • Change scenery

I’m not talking field trips here, I’m talking the thing you’re looking at. Sometimes the words just don’t plop on the page as quickly (or numerous) as you beg them to. Change fonts. Change programs. Switch handwriting (or languages!). That difference will let you pick out editing mistakes, and may just get you out of the slump.

  • Word Sprints

I learned this trick from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Sometimes all you have is 15 minutes. And that’s plenty. Take your 15 (or 10, or 5) and jam as many sentences as you can into that time. Don’t go for edited masterpiece-just go for words on a page. Do this 4 times and you’ve got your hour of writing for the day.

  • Start with your favorites

This one I learned the hard/easy way. For me, starting at “Sentence One” and taking my idea start to finish is hard. Great for continuity, terrible for inspiration. I’d always have that “But I wanted to write THAT scene” syndrome. So with the polished manuscript, I jumped out of my habit and wrote what I call “Scenes Out Of Context”. (I even label them as “SOOC: Scene Name”). I have a list of scenes that I know need written, and I start working on whichever one seems the most awesome to me at that moment. About halfway through, I’ll decided none of them sound awesome and then I’ll start “Sentence One”. Which, by then, I’ve got a great idea of how I want the tone to be, I’ve got enough to do some foreshadowing and I’m not offended by linking the chapters together (which adds to my word count).

  • Use said, then add

This last piece of goody info is actually an editing piece. I discovered that the easiest way to come up with the basic manuscript is to low-ball it. Write through the skeleton of it, using only the most basic of dialogue tags: said. Don’t describe things unless absolutely necessary to the scene. Don’t describe the characters unless absolutely necessary to the scene. And give yourself the most basic of word counts. For a 62k book, I gave myself a 35k skeleton goal.

And then? As you edit, you’ve got a feel for the people. Apart from the obvious editing (grammar, punctuation, etc) you can now search your document for “said” and add in fleshed out dialogue tags (any number of which will give you an additional 1-10+ more words). Then add in the descriptions that you left out: buildings, aromas, the way the food tasted, what the characters were wearing, any mannerisms that weren’t obvious in the skeleton but you knew were there. (Leave notes as you add bones, so you can add in stuff later and not forget!). I added several plot-hole-fixers during that point, and an additional 15k words in just “meat” that I’d left out. That way I knew my structure was solid, and the rest added layers.

See anything I missed? Any tips you’d have added? Any of these not work for you? Let me know!

Ya’ll, I’m a writer.

I got some really epic news today: I’m getting a book published.

It’s not the traditional way, but I have 100% agency over it, and I’m 100% okay with that.

It’s a book I’ve been through the gauntlet with: I sent query letters out to 75 agents in the span of 9 months and got nothing back (besides a few well meaning rejections). It was my very first NaNoWriMo novel, and I’ve been rather attached to it. I put it aside for a time and have been editing it, working through all the things I messed up.

And when you take a leap of faith, sometimes you’re rewarded in some amazing ways.

So I’ll be on Channillo, a place where writers write and readers read. I have a more political thought essay collection there too, called Coffee and Criticisms, which you’re more than welcome to also check out!

So about this book!

The Queen of Souls

It’s called The Queen of Souls (which makes me giddy every time I look at the document). It’s YA lit, with some upper YA themes. And well, here’s the snapshot I have for it:

Katerina Alkaev has only ever known how to be one thing: an outcast. With no real memories of her past, no family and no prospects of a future, she’s stuck in a spiral of bad luck, non-committing foster homes and an extreme lack of self-worth which bring her to the little town of New Hollow. She struggles to find her place in the world, not sure she’d recognize her destiny if it slapped her across the face, which was nothing new to her. When a fight with her abusive boyfriend Michael leaves her broken and bruised, Katerina discovers a world that she might just belong to, provided she can stay alive long enough to find out. With the help of her best friend Isobel, Katerina begins to unravel the past, creating allies and enemies that all seem to stem from an ancestral act of love and sacrifice. As Katerina begins to accept her fate, she discovers an ages old prophesy that demands she side with the darkness or die. With love and life at stake, one thing is absolutely clear: if she wants to survive, she’ll have to transform.

This book is based loosely on the mythology of Psyche, the goddess of souls with a touch of modernity. Set in the fictional world of New Hollow, it features coffee shops (obviously), a small town on hard times, mystery, rebellion and love. Apart from that, well, I guess you’ll just have to read it and find out!

It will be published in parts, so it’s perfect for a little bit of light reading every now and again. I’m working on more books (both the traditional and self-pub way, so if a subscription service isn’t your style, stay tuned-there’s more good things to come!) and I’d say that’s a pretty swell ending to a pretty swell day.

Fear v Courage

There’s a lot to be said about courage and fear. Everything I’ve seen is usually in response to some vague stressor that makes us feel doubt, concern and general consternation. And I think that that’s worth mentioning. However, I want to do a good old fashioned mental health blog today. The kind that’s more or less just preaching to myself.

In Facebook, you can look at all the things you posted on that day throughout the years. And today pulled up a piece I’d done here that was designed as a letter to myself. I talked to myself about abusive relationships, about self-hatred, about perseverance. And all of those things are important. But they’re not the only things I need to tell my younger self.

Anyway-fear. I found myself at a place mentally where I knew I wasn’t poised for success. But I’d convinced myself that it was completely necessary for me to be there. I told myself the list of reasons I had to be there, and then told myself that list again. And the louder I yelled that list at myself, the more I hated why I was doing it. So I shushed that voice that told me I had to and I got out of it. The list of reasons isn’t gone, but I sure am.

Do I have a plan? Nope-I have like 12% of a plan.

But what I do have is my mental health. And as I told someone today, that feels very selfish. That person then told me that mental health is never selfish.

And they were right.

I was so caught up in the embarrassment that I was going to ignore the voice telling me I had to because I couldn’t be happy with it. And I looked down.

I’ve told you this story. About how a little girl said the four words that changed my life. I wish for this. And the truth of the matter is, I couldn’t bring myself to say those words. So I left. I made myself feel better, happier. I chose me over all the reasons telling me “them”.

So here’s the deal.

Courage isn’t the thing keeping you rooted to the bottom of the ocean, fighting the tides. Courage is the thing whispering quietly to uproot yourself and be free. Fear isn’t getting swept up in the breeze, not knowing where you’re going. Fear is never leaving the mundane because you’ve convinced yourself not to take chances.

And so I took a leap of faith. Which was rewarded by an opportunity. I am pleased to announce that I now have a series on Channillo! You can find out more at: Coffee and Criticisms

Collide

The title to this blog is the song, but as you’ll see, it also represents something else to me. Today, I want to try to describe a scenario which to me, is the singular reason why I can’t seem to get a grip this past year. I know that being prone to moods and their sways is also not helpful, but I can think of no other thing which makes me feel like a shitty person, friend and individual. I don’t need sympathies, but I hope that my words help someone. And if not, they at least help me.

Fear.

When I was younger I had a dream. Like one of those really vivid nightmare type dreams where you’re positive that it will come true. It was me driving a little car down a road in Columbus, passing under a bridge and getting into an accident. That accident (in the dream) caused me to die. I even remember looking at the black lamp post where blood had splattered. THAT kind of vivid. It’s stuck with me as a weird gut feeling ever since.

Going on a couple years ago now, my husband and I were in a pretty hellacious car accident. We were totally fine, but the car was not. In fact, had the horse (yes, we hit a horse) been any heavier, I would have eaten some very serious amounts of windshield. It ended up that the windshield was an inch away from my face. The horse, for all you animal people, was entirely fine. He got up immediately and ran off. Later the owner found him and got vet treatment immediately, or so he told me. I was in the passenger seat. It shook me a little, but for the most part I was entirely okay.

Fast forward a couple years and a couple cars and I now live in Columbus. I drove all my stuff up here when we moved, I drove back from the grocery store once and I drove to school (but not back) and other than that I have not driven at all. I’ve been here for almost 6 months. Why? I live so close to so many wonderful things that I could literally go anywhere I please and be amazed at the fabulous scenes and sounds. But instead, I stay home or catch rides with someone else (namely my husband). He doesn’t seem to mind, but there are moments when I know it bothers him. 

The reason I’m even writing about this is because well, really two things. The first being that I need to acknowledge that it holds me back. The second is that I want everyone to know that I’m not being a bad friend, or a bad family member, I have a real problem and I’m really just not handling it very well. So I want to describe to you the process of getting from my house to anywhere.

I have a good luck charm, which always goes into the right hand front pocket of my jeans. If I’m dressing up, it goes into another pocket on the same side. It’s full of herbs and charms and crystals which are supposed to bring safety and observation skills. I then put on my best face, grab my stuff and head to the car. By that point, I already have an upset stomach, my head hurts and I fell like I’m going to throw up. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. GET. INTO. A VEHICLE. And that can be quite often if it’s during the school week. So we pull out of the drive and I’m already feeling sick. I look down at my phone while my husband drives and check the news or Facebook or anything I can to keep me occupied. It doesn’t last for long though, because soon enough we’re on the highway and that’s when phase two of my passenger ritual begins.

I have a little chant that I say while clasping my hands together between my knees. It goes a little something like this:

We shall not break down, crash or die today

Not no how, not no way.

And I say that probably for a good 15 minutes solid. Even longer if the traffic is bad, which it usually is. I do this because I’ve developed a nasty habit of pointing at brake lights, gasping a braking cars and saying my husband’s name when people merge into our lane. He put up with it for a while, but my fears were (and usually are) unfounded and he thought I felt that he was a bad driver. I don’t feel like that at all. I’m just literally terrified of being on the road. So I try my hardest to remain quiet in the mornings for our commute, finally starting to open up when we make it to the school. 

In the afternoon, I try a different approach. I say my little rhyme once or twice, usually just at the ramps and then I try to talk to him about what happened that day. But I think even he notices that I don’t look out the front window. And in fact, that is a constant no matter when we drive. I look out the passenger window if I look out them at all. Because each car is one that might hunt us down, cause us to swerve off the road or mangle us up horribly.

The one time my husband needed me to come to the school to pick him up, I nearly threw up in the car. I even took the back way, so determined was I to avoid the main roads and high ways altogether. My hands were shaking so badly that it really might have looked more like a person coming out of rehab than someone who was simply driving. And I thought to myself, maybe this is the worst feeling in the world.

But it isn’t. The worst feeling in the world is being trapped by your fears. I have to make a trip by myself in a couple days and it turns my stomach just thinking about it. I’ve tried meditation, I’ve tried convincing myself that I’ll be okay. I’ve even tried to force myself to suck it up and drive anyway. But in the end, there’s no success. I literally just sit in fear and wait for the next time I’m going to have to suffer through these feelings. We go back to school in just a short little while and I’d really hoped that this would be the semester that I could share the drive with my husband instead of cowering in the passenger seat. But I think it might be the semester I convince myself what a shitty person I am because I don’t know how to be a functional adult and therefore no one will ever hire me and I will die alone and poor. Literally that is how this thought process goes. There is no logic in fear, there is just an overwhelming, all encompassing feeling of inability and failure. But I didn’t even have these fears while I lived in the old place. So why am I so afraid?

I’ve always been afraid of change. I can outwardly speak about accepting change and change making you a better person, but inside I fight against it with all my might and I frequently cry about how hard it is. Any change is like that scene in one of the Chronicles of Narnia books (Voyage of the Dawn Treader, maybe?) where Aslan is de-scaling Eustace. That’s how it is for me. I’m putting off graduation because I’m afraid to move to somewhere new. I was a nervous wreck when it came to living in this apartment for the first few weeks because it was new.

  And you know what? All I’ve wanted to do my entire life can be summed up in two things: I want to help people and I want to travel.

Seriously. I can barely walk by myself alone on campus without being afraid. I can’t even drive myself around because I am afraid. And I want to see the world and meet new people? Who am I kidding?

But that’s the thing. When Eustace got his scales ripped off, he because a better person. He was in pain, he was scared but he was better. And I guess that’s what’s important. It’s not entirely okay to be afraid. But only in the capacity that you be blocked from your destiny by your fears. So this year, for my New Year’s Resolution, I feel like it is very simple.

I want to drive myself places.

And you can laugh all you want, but when was the last time you took on your greatest fear?