THE MANDATORY SIX, Part Three: Robert Johnson 9/19 | 10:02 a.m.

Robert struggled to focus on I-40 West as it stretched ahead into the outskirts of Grants, New Mexico. He took another chug from the energy drink in the console, his palms sweaty, his heart slamming in his chest. He was getting close. She was waiting at a cheap motel a few miles from the next exit—or had been at the time of their phone call.

He glanced at himself in the rear-view mirror. Sixteen hours since he’d left St. Louis, and he hadn’t taken a full breath yet. His bloodshot brown eyes and rough dark skin aged him beyond his twenty-three years. It’d been days since he’d had a proper sleep or bothered with the skin care routine he’d been doing in Chicago. In some parallel dimension, he was looking like shit because he’d been out drinking with his friends the night before like a normal college student. Then again, if he was a normal college student, he’d already have his degree by now instead of having his studies delayed by a missing family.

Most of his friends had drifted, but it was his own fault for being so depressing. Adrenaline had fueled their efforts to help him in his search during the first couple of months, but no one could go on like that forever. They didn’t know what to say. All around him, the stench of tragedy hung in the air, emanating from the festering hole where the explanation should have been. His reality was a question mark, standing before him like a skyscraper. He had lived as a forgotten wanderer in its massive shadow, and now, after all this time, he was about to discover the truth. The only thing more frightening was the idea he never would.

A few nights ago, Mama had appeared on Aunt Tiffany’s doorstep in St. Louis. Tiffany had called, but by the time Robert made it there from Chicago, Mama was long gone, bolted out the door after overhearing Tiffany phoning the police from the bathroom.

“She wouldn’t even speak, Rob,” Tiffany said, crying. “I begged her to tell me where they were. She didn’t say a word.”

He’d stayed in St. Louis the next couple of nights, all his time spent driving around, unsure where to look. He’d eventually given up and curled up in a pathetic lump on Tiffany’s couch, where he stayed the next few days. She liked to watch the news, but the images of the massive earthquake in South America were too depressing for him to bear. Everything shook, rumbled, and fell. Including his phone when he’d realized the unknown number could be Mama. The thought crossed his mind every time someone called. This time, he’d been correct.

Mama had been quiet at first, but he’d recognized the sound of her breathing.

“I’m ready to tell you everything now, Robert,” she said. “I’m ready to tell.”

She’d given him her new location, and he’d left right away. Tiffany couldn’t take off work, but it was better this way. He wouldn’t have been able to take the car ride together, the unbearable silence as they both pondered the possibilities. Especially the one they were too afraid to ponder with clarity, the possibility that Jacob, somehow, was okay. Robert had put that sputtering hope out of its misery long ago, and it had now become the fog that floated around the back of his mind. He avoided it with everything he had as if acknowledgement would prevent it from ever coming true.

He took the exit and rolled down the road, passing hotels and fast-food restaurants despite his growling stomach. His GPS led him further from the recognizable chains and into a more remote area, where he spotted the sign for the Desert Lodge Motel, nearly invisible thanks to its display of faded gray letters against a dusty backdrop.

He pressed into the brakes, enduring a loud screech from his much-abused 2005 Mazda hatchback. It’d gotten him this far. Whatever happened from here didn’t matter as much.

He thought again about David Youngstone as he climbed from the car. The experience had remained fresh in mind over the years, at times giving him hope, other times making him laugh at his own baffling stupidity. Of course the kid hadn’t really been a time traveler. He was just a precocious young person. The water tower thing had just been a coincidence. It had to be. And that meant this whole thing could still be a bust.

Every screptch of his shoes against the dusty concrete walkway reminded him of that as he got closer.

He arrived at the door and knocked.

It opened to reveal Mama standing there. Thinner, older, and more vacant in the eyes, but Mama no question.

He’d envisioned this moment so many times. Prayed for it too. It didn’t feel like he’d expected. He could only tremble and stare.

“Mama?”

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Discover more of the story in BEYOND MY DYING MIND, available now on Amazon. Robert’s story will also be further explored in one of my future books.

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Blog Revival: Changing too Fast to Keep Up

Hello everyone. First of all, major thanks to the lovely Devon J. Hall, who designed my beautiful and mysterious-looking new banner, which I could stare at forever! 🌺

The Usual Catch-up Stuff

This past year has been transformative. So many changes, too personal and massive to get into but worthy of mention. I took a break from this blog due to being too burned out on writing and having no idea what sort of content I wanted to do. I switched my focus onto Youtube, which led me to a similar conclusion. I’ve been struggling to connect to my true vision for so long now.

The difficulties of needing income can lead you down the wrong path, but intuition always helps me readjust and go in a better direction. After chasing various dreams the last few years, I now see how unhappy I’ve been, and why it’s been so hard to manifest what I want.

I’ve spread myself too thin, pushed myself too hard, and hated myself way too much for not being successful. I’m now moving into a chapter of my life where I’m learning to accept myself easier. I just want to enjoy the ride, manifest what I can, and write as many great books as possible along the way.

Book News and the Plan for the Blog

I have a new book that’s going to beta readers in August. It remains top-secret until more of the details are figured out, but it’s a low/portal fantasy love story about an afterlife for suicides and a couple trying to right the wrongs they did on Earth. I’m nervous! This will be the first time my writing has been seen by outside eyes since I was still published.

I’d like to start using this blog for flash fiction and short series that interlock with my books. The process of writing books involves going through the story over and over, seeing it differently and learning things about what happened each time. I’m trying to streamline this best I can, but I also want my books to be perfect for you guys. While I’m working on that, it will be fun to experiment with shorter fiction and share whatever I come up with.

My Author Rebranding: Navigating the Jungles of Change

Happy 2017! I haven’t posted here in ages, but now that a new year and new wave of energy has arrived, it’s time to get this blog active again.

I’ve been going through the process of rebranding my author name for some time now. I mentioned this on my author Facebook page, Twitter, and Youtube channel (you can check out the video here), but I haven’t yet done a blog post to officially make the change, so here it is: After much thought, I’ve decided to switch genres.

Knowing Myself as an Author

In case you can’t tell, I’ve had a bit of an identity crisis as an author. All you have to do is look at this blog. Do I write fiction? Am I a self-help author? A lifestyle blogger? I have a huge spectrum of interests that I’m passionate about, and it’s taken a few years to start making sense of my vision for my career and life.

When I first started writing, I didn’t have any ideas about what sort of writer I’d be. I wasn’t even aware of genre. I knew that some stories were about murder or monsters and others were about high-school romance, but I knew nothing about author branding. I therefore had no plan for my career. I was just writing my book because I loved the story, and when it was revealed to me that I’d written a contemporary romance, I thought, great! Romance is a top-selling genre.

What I didn’t realize was that I’d be expected to continue writing contemporary romance, and if I wanted to write my other stories, I’d have to start over with a new pen name. I didn’t like that. Trying to build a following on social media is hard. As I went through the process of learning about the industry, I began to realize I might have made a mistake.

My main goal had always been to focus on subjects that were closest to my heart: the spirit world, the afterlife, aliens, alternate dimensions, space travel, time travel, monsters, and so on. I like the big stuff. The crazy stuff. Stories that keep you thinking after they end. So when I lost my book deal, I thought it could be a good time to change direction.

My New Genre: What the Hell is It?

I haven’t faced the daunting task of trying to write a blurb about the series I’m working on now, which follows a group of survivors through the apocalypse and beyond. I’m calling it a fantasy with elements of science fiction and romance. It has some typical apocalyptic juiciness you would expect from such a story. At its core, it’s really about an intense connection between a group of people who experience the unimaginable together. They slowly put together a shocking bigger picture that continues to grow from there.

I talk a little bit more about it here.

The Law of Attraction and Happiness with Writing

I’m starting to accept that I’m a slow writer. I took seven years working on my first book. Did I end up with something I’m proud of? Yes. But at that rate, I’m only going to complete a few more books before death. I’m working on speeding up, but I also need to make this the priority in my life if I want to live the dream.

Then again, I’m already living the dream in some way. I love my characters. I love the adventures they experience and how those experiences make them grow and change as people. I love watching them learn. I enjoy witnessing them go through joy, grief, falling in love, or sometimes, even dying. Not every writer is blessed enough to enjoy the experience at the level I do. So while I haven’t found the full dream in life yet, I still feel grateful.

What the Future Holds

I hope to get a solid draft of book one within a few months. I’m not quite ready to reveal the title yet, but I’m getting there. I’m going to be giving it my full effort. Then, maybe some beta readers. I’m glad to be getting involved with the writer community again. I’m navigating the jungles of change, and I’m becoming the person I was meant to be.

To my future readers: I love you. Please exist. Please find me. Please let me provide you with stories you’ll enjoy. Thank you.

Happy 2017 everyone!

Andi

Choosing Kindness: Why We Shouldn’t Minimize Online Bullying

After an unfortunate experience this evening, I was moved to write this tonight. Before I begin, I want to just say that I know nothing I do will change the world. I know plenty of wonderful people have written blogs like this before. I know that all we can do is control our own behavior, pray for our enemies, and do our best to move on. But that doesn’t mean I can’t speak my mind.

I haven’t talked about this here as it’s very personal, but I suffered from an eating disorder for a lot of my late twenties. Around 30, I realized I had a serious problem and took the first steps toward recovery. I continued my healing over the next couple of years, and now, at 33, I can say with confidence that this particular issue is resolved. I’ve been thinking about sharing the entire story here one day. It would open up a lot of old pain, but it could potentially help someone. And my particular eating disorder, orthorexia, seems to have a severe lack of awareness surrounding it.

Orthorexia is not “eating too healthy” as many people seem to believe. You can’t eat “too healthy.” That’s a contradictory statement. You can, however, become so focused on the quest for health that you end up lost in obsession. This obsession can take over every aspect of your life, heart, and soul. It’s not about diet. It’s about control. It happened to me, and it’s happening to many others, but that’s a topic for another time. All you guys need to know for this post is that I did have an eating disorder and that it was serious.

I saw a post on a forum about how doctors and therapists are now gaining an understanding of orthorexia and looking into providing effective treatment. This is a wonderful thing. But the comments on this thread were ignorant. There were multiple comments about how it’s impossible to eat “too healthy” and how this “disease” was likely invented by the owners of McDonalds. I like to spread awareness, and since this disorder is something I have personally battled, I felt compelled to share my story.

I was responded to almost immediately by someone who decided to tell me that I never had a disorder. I was simply a “moron” who didn’t know how to eat properly. The same person went on to tell me that my years of hard work in recovery meant nothing since the “desire to eat is natural” and all I did was “give into that natural desire.” Okay. This person clearly has no understanding of eating disorders. I can’t blame them for that. I can blame them for their choice to respond to a complete stranger in a cruel way.

I don’t think there’s any excuse for saying something mean to anyone, let alone a stranger. Let alone a stranger who has just shared a painful memory of suffering from an eating disorder. I already know what people are going to say. Haters gonna hate, right? Trolls will troll? Sure, these things are true, but that doesn’t make it okay. I don’t think we should shrug off bullying as “the way it is.”

People are entitled to their opinions, even if that opinion is as crazy as believing mental disorders are imaginary. I just wish everyone would work on being a little nicer to each other. I’m a strong person at a relatively good place in my life, but what about the person who happens to stumble upon that thread when trying to determine the nature of their own eating disorder? What about the person who’s debating suicide and falls victim to one of these bullying incidents at a bad moment? Don’t throw the “people are too sensitive” argument at me, either. It’s bullshit. A lot of people are sensitive. Perhaps too sensitive. A lot of people are also suffering from mental and emotional disorders, and we need to be aware of that. I know a lot of the people in my life suffer or have suffered with eating disorders of their own, depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, or a variety of other mental illnesses. People shouldn’t have to become cold inside to handle abuse from others in modern society. It’s fucking ridiculous. We’re all capable of being better than that.

Friends, I ask you to think about your words and actions, both online and in real life. Look for opportunities for kindness. If you notice people spreading misinformation about a disorder, drop some knowledge. Even something as simple as reaching out to someone who is getting bullied on a forum might save a life. You never know what someone is going through. We all have the chance to make an impact in this world, however small that impact might seem.

While I was writing this post, I went back to check on the article I mentioned, and it seems the bully thought better of it and deleted their posts. That makes me happy.

 

The Loss of a Friend: Saying Goodbye to Frogger

Fifteen years ago, I walked into a friend’s house and spotted the tiniest, most beautiful gray-and-white kitten I had ever seen. He was a stray that had been abandoned on a local freeway. My friend’s mom stopped and rescued him—an act of kindness that ended up connecting me to one of the great loves of my life.
20150724_171915Frogger (full name: Frogger Friend) was always meant for me. It was obvious as soon as we met. He crawled up on my chest, purred, and looked right into my eyes. It was love at first sight. My friend told me he was a girl, and I never bothered to check myself, so for the first few months of his life, I went around calling him my “beautiful princess.” I even gave him a pink collar. Imagine my surprise when it was time to get him spayed, and I found out I actually had a little prince.

Once his gender-identity crisis was figured out, he became my boy. We moved through various homes and apartments together, and he was by my side through so much. I have struggled with depression and other serious health problems, and he provided support for me. Always in tune with my emotions, he would come to me when I was upset. Sometimes, something as simple as his paw on my leg would be enough to keep me going another day.

He did so many cute things that brought everyone who knew him joy. Running across the room and leaping into the piles of newspapers on the floor. Going crazy playing with his toys until he became “overwhelmed” and had to hide behind the living room curtains for a few minutes (he did this every time!). Sucking on his paw and making sweet

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Frogger had a way of looking into your soul.

little noises as he was falling asleep. Sitting and staring at me, sometimes for hours, as I worked at the computer. I never had another cat that would make unwavering eye contact like that. He loved being near me. I wouldn’t even have to be petting him. I could just turn and look at him, and he would begin purring.

There were gaps in our time together. In my late twenties, I had a difficult decision to make. I felt the intense desire to travel, which meant I would have to leave Frogger behind with my family. I spent five years away from home, experiencing many adventures and learning many lessons. Whenever I came home to visit, his eyes would light up, and he would purr. He never forgot me, even when I was away for over a year.

This last year, I decided to come home to California for good. When I arrived, Frogger was much thinner and weaker than he had been the last time I saw him. I promised him that for the rest of his life, I would be here. I wouldn’t be leaving him again.

We shared many beautiful moments during these last few months. He wasn’t the playful kitten he 20150807_131926once was, but he was still my kitten. After the vet told us there wasn’t any hope, all we could do was take him home and try to make the most of our time with him. As the end grew closer, he didn’t want to leave my side. Days were spent with him curled up beside me as I worked at my computer. Sometimes, he liked to rest his head on my mouse pad. Just to make sure I would remember to pet him. Of course I did.

Today, on February 13th at 2:10 PM, Frogger Friend took his final breath and then crossed over into God’s loving arms. I know he will be waiting for me when it’s my time to pass. Our souls have shared many existences, and we will be together again. I feel blessed to have known him and to continue to know and remember him throughout the rest of my days.

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RIP Frogger Friend 2000-2016