Happy Birthday to Me: AKA, My Official “Separating from My Publisher” Post

Monday is my thirty-fourth birthday, and on paper, I’ve accomplished nothing.

Actually, if we’re being technical, I’m going in reverse. I once had a book deal. I once had a cool apartment in Denver. I once had a plan for my life that looked different from what is currently happening. To quote one of my favorite romantic comedies: I am “Benjamin Buttoning.” And you know what? I’m okay with it. Sometimes you have to back up if you want to get on the right path again.

How Book Deals Disappear: What Happened with GMMG

As some of you might already know, my publisher, Georgia McBride Media Group (GMMG), who owns both Month9Books and Swoon Romance, dropped many of their authors recently. There was a lot of scandalous craziness going on with the situation, but I don’t see much point in bathing myself in that negativity any longer. Other people can investigate if they want to, and if you’re interested in learning more about what happened, here is an article. I’ll just say that it wasn’t working out anyway, and I’m happy to be able to start over with self-publishing.

I should have known that I was always meant to be an indie author. I want the freedom to release books on my own schedule, with my own covers, set my own prices, do sales/giveaways when I want, etc. And most of all, I want access to my sales. I still have no idea how many books I sold. I’d guess it isn’t many, but still, I’d like to know. I don’t do well with being kept in the dark about things, and I’m pleased that I’ll never have to deal with that again.

Still, I’m not bitter. It’s hard to shift your perspective when you had hoped something would be your “big break,” but it can be done. This experience gave me a place in the writing world. I can walk away and wish everyone involved the best.

What Happens Next: The Future Feels Much Brighter

I have to sign a bunch of paperwork to get the rights to my book returned to me. That paperwork will be taken care of within a week or two. As soon as GMMG stops selling the book and takes it down from Amazon, I’ll be free to self-publish. So while the book is going to be temporarily unavailable, it will return.

The sequel, Edge of the Permanent Always, is coming soon!

I have another new book that I might release first, but I’m keeping quiet about it for now, because it might need a bit more work. It’s with a beta reader at the moment.

I have tons of stuff going for my other pen name, too! Aside from my epic supernatural horror love story, which will probably be in-progress for a while, I’m working on a new comedy-horror that I’m really excited about. I had no idea I would ever write anything like this, but I’m loving it!

In Conclusion: My Thoughts on My Birthday

So yes … I’m about to turn thirty-four, no longer a published author, and on paper, I’ve accomplished nothing. I also have far more freedom and opportunity than a lot of people my age, and for that I’m very grateful. I’m like a thousand high-quality parts that are just sitting on the ground in a big room waiting to be assembled. I’m not sure what this fully formed me will look like or if I’ll even live long enough to see her in the mirror. But I will keep working on building myself. I refuse to let people bring me down.

I want to thank everyone who has offered me love, support, and friendship during this rough time—especially my fellow authors. Getting closer to a lot of you guys was the best part of this entire experience. I feel blessed to be part of such a supportive community.

Stay tuned for more!

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Yummy Whole-food Carrot Tomato Soup with Greens

Food represents many things for me. It’s a facet of my spirituality. A reason to always be thankful. After struggling for years with food allergies, health issues, and also an eating disorder, I appreciate food now more than ever. Do you know what it’s like to enjoy a slice of pizza for the first time in over three years? Recovery is a beautiful thing.

My food-related Instagram posts were getting a lot of attention, so I figured I might put up a few recipes from Edge of Something More and see how they perform. These aren’t exact recipes but rather vegetarian meals that would regularly be at the homestead. I’m not vegetarian, but I go days or even weeks without meat sometimes. I will share more of the meals I come up with if you guys like them.

Soup Feeds the Body and Soul

A bowl of soup is good for the soul, especially with a nice grill-cheese sandwich! This soup is rich with three of the foods I base my diet around: tomatoes, carrots, and leafy greens. I’ve found that these offer the most value for your dollar. They are cheap, healthy, gluten free, easy to stock up on, and for me, all of that stuff is important.

  • A ten-year nutritional study from the Netherlands found that regularly eating carrots can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • With beta-carotene, calcium, and other vitamins and minerals, kale really helps me fight back against some of my health problems.
  • Tomatoes are known for having an abundance of lycopene. Studies have found that lycopene can help protect the body from osteoporosis.

This Isn’t Really a Recipe (LOL, Sorry)

I wish I could give you guys an exact recipe, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I don’t measure anything. I use approximately three to ninety-five sprinkles of each spice, depending on the mood and what I’m making. If I’m cooking for more than just me, I throw in more handfuls of ingredients. I think I’ve burned out the spice-receiving centers of my tongue and brain by abusing them so much, but people always tell me my food is flavorful. For this recipe, I recommend you add three to four pinches of everything, taste it, and then explore from there.

soupsIngredients:

  • Vegetable broth
  • Kale
  • Frozen spinach
  • Frozen green beans
  • Carrots
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes
  • Tomato sauce

Spices:

  • Onion
  • Garlic powder
  • Sea salt
  • Coriander
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Black pepper

Making the Soup

I start with equal parts water and vegetable broth. I’d say about two cups each, which makes about three to four servings. You can use pure broth if you want to, but I find it’s unnecessary and adds to the expense.I usually chop about a cup of carrots. You can do more or less. Same with the kale. I’d say to go for about three leafs per person you want to serve. I really like greens, so I add a lot of frozen spinach too.

Put all of the above in your pot along with the fire-roasted tomatoes (I usually do two big spoonfuls) and get it simmering. I add sea salt, garlic/onion black pepper, and some of the other spices at this point too. I keep adding throughout the entire cooking process. Whatever feels natural. Taste as you go. Add sea salt slowly and always err on the side of adding less, but don’t worry, you can always water it down some if it gets too salty. You might want to add more water at some point anyway, because the leftovers will thicken in the fridge.

At this point, I brown my frozen green beans with some onion on the cast iron before adding them in. You don’t have to do this, but it adds flavor.

Once you get everything in the pot, add tomato sauce until the broth is as thick as you would like. I usually add 3-4 spoonfuls, but it just depends.I usually let it simmer for about twenty minutes or so after that. You’ll be able to tell when all the ingredients are soft and tender.

Make it Your Own

You can do whatever you want with this soup. If you don’t like onions, leave them out or use the powder instead. Likewise, you might want to chop fresh garlic rather than using the powder. You can switch out any of the veggies for other options or even add some chicken, pasta, or rice if you like. There are very few rules in cooking. If not for thinking outside the box, I’d never have come up with some of my favorite meals, like enchilada oatmeal or tomato curry with mashed potatoes. Food provides us with an opportunity to be creative, so relax, have fun, and see what you come up with.

 

 

 

 

Romance on the Road: How a Fling with a Foreigner Changed My Life

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Photo Credit One: Prince Roy

 

It’s easy fall in love when you’re surrounded by beauty. Vang Vieng, Laos, is one of the most breathtaking spots on the planet. My experiences there have been a huge influence on my current work in progress, a contemporary romance about escaping demons from the past and embracing self-discovery through travel. That story—and this one—is set in 2009, when the famous “Death Slide” and big swings were still in full operation along the Nam Song River. They’ve since been removed, so despite the fact that I ended up with a minor injury from a rope swing attempt gone wrong, I feel blessed to have experienced that wild river and all the romance that came along with it.

Strangers to Lovers: Submitting to an Overseas Romance

My first night in town, I was dining with some friends, and this guy walked into the restaurant. He was cute, but in a sea of tanned backpacker hotness, I can’t recall anything in particular that stood out about him. Still, I couldn’t look away. He scanned the room and walked back out. I didn’t think much of it.

My guesthouse was gorgeous.To this day, it’s one of the best places I’ve stayed anywhere on the planet. If you want to check it out, you can do so here. The pictures should give you a good idea of how pretty it was, so you can imagine my happiness when I discovered the random cute guy was staying there too.

His name was Peter—not really, but anonymity and all that.He was an Israeli expat who had been living at the guesthouse for a while. The place had a communal area where everyone hung out and passed around spliffs, so after a few days, Peter and I became friends.

I was mesmerized by his piercing blue eyes and soft voice. There were butterflies in my stomach and all around us, resting on the wildflowers and floating through the open sky. We ate together, explored together, partied together, and after a short time, we moved from our individual rooms on one side of the guesthouse into a shared suite with the best view the place had to offer. Through so much condensed time, intimacy was developing fast. Travel can do that to you.

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Photo Credit: Angie

Lovers to Strangers: Facing the Harsh Reality

I had plans to backpack on through the southern part of Laos and into Cambodia, but the thought of leaving Peter and Vang Vieng was gut wrenching. I didn’t want the pleasure to end, and this river paradise was the coolest place I’d been so far. I fit in there. I debated staying and riding out my time and money, but I never said so out loud. I waited to see if he would ask me to stay. He didn’t.

None of my friends in Laos wanted to go to Cambodia—or as Peter put it, the “Wild West” of Southeast Asia, so I went by myself. I was afraid I would regret it if I didn’t. I spent the next few days alone and depressed. I wandered the city streets, pondering the meaning of suffering. I stared out of bus windows as sad music wailed in my headphones. I vented to friends back home, hunched over in a pathetic mess as I typed away in my own little corner of the computer café. All around me were happy backpacker couples, and only a short time before, that had been me.

I don’t want to feel this way again, I thought. It’s not for me.

A Broken-but-happy Heart: The Lesson from My Travel Love Story

My travel love story marked a huge turning point for me. It was one of many bridges between my previous life, which involved a lot of alcohol and heartbreak, and the life I live now, where happiness is priority and I’m unwilling to settle for less. There was still tons of pain in between, and there will probably be some in the future, but I know who I am now. When you set a standard for yourself and aren’t afraid to walk away, you develop a strong center that no one can take from you. I deserve a guy who is looking to stick around and stand by me long-term.

I got a sweet email from Peter a few weeks after we parted ways, but nothing after that. He didn’t love me, but that’s okay. I didn’t really love him either, and had we stuck together, I’m sure we would have found many reasons why. This way, I’ll never have to discover any of his flaws, and he’ll never know the majority of mine—although I did puke in front of him once, and another time he took care of me through a terrible cold. What a soldier. If he remembers our time together at all, hopefully the yucky stuff has faded more than the good. I know it has for me.

 

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For more love and adventure on the open road, check out Edge of Something More, a contemporary romance set in the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

When You Don’t Fit in: Thriving in a World You Feel Separate From

Maybe you look different. Maybe you live different. You’re a creature of a world all your own. This can be a great thing. Some people build their entire identities around it.

Not fitting in can also feel crappy. The outcasts, the loners, the people who put on fake smiles while they’re secretly grimacing at how frustrating it is to be so different from everyone around them—they all know this. Sometimes, the feeling only lasts a moment. Like when you’re the only person in a group discussion who disagrees with something. It can also be a lifelong thing. Or maybe feeling misunderstood by the people around you is a constant. You might even feel like you were born on the wrong planet.

Oh, I’m an INFJ—That’s Why I’m Weird

You can be blessed with close friends but still feel at odds with society in some way. That’s me. I’ve known for years I’m an INFJ, but it was only recently that I really started reading about what that meant. It’s the rarest personality type on the planet, apparently. I guess that makes sense.

Personality Page says:

“INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand.”

I like that there’s documentation of my complexity and all, but other personality types feel misunderstood too. There’s enough differences in the world that everyone feels that way sometimes. Whether you were “born on the wrong planet” or not, you’re meant to be here, and that’s important to know. Your presence will change the story of life on Earth. This is always true but especially if you make an effort to be remembered for your unique gifts.

Fully Utilize the Internet

This seems obvious since you’re online right now, but just in case it isn’t: take advantage of the web. No matter what you’re into or how you feel about any aspect of existence, someone out there is feeling the same. I’ve been on forums for long hair, colorful hair, cooking, skincare, health, dancing, unique/free spirituality, general exercise, arts and crafts, and of course, writing. I’ve met so many interesting friends this way.

If you really feel alone with your ideas, consider starting a blog so you can introduce your unique perspectives to the world. There might be others like you out there. Not everyone knows how to express themselves. If you can and feel the desire to, you should!

Relocate—with Realistic Expectations

Some people go out and search for a place that feels right for them. Edge of Something More is about a search like that. After living in three states, I don’t think I “belong” anywhere. Maybe I’ll feel different in the future, but I kind of doubt it. I’ve had happy experiences many places. The world is beautiful all over. Traveling is always worth it, but making a permanent move is a different thing.

If you do relocate:

  • Know what you’re looking for and why. The more you have at stake, the more you want solid, dependable reasons for doing what you’re doing. Being in love with the local music scene or a nearby national park is dependable. Being in love with a girl you met online three days ago is less so, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. Just look at what you have to gain versus what you have to lose, and then go with what feels right.
  • Don’t build the place up too much. An atmosphere more conducive to your landscape is a valuable thing, but it’s never good to expect more than a place can offer. Sometimes feelings change over time as well. The excitement of a new place wears off.
  • Don’t get dragged down by negativity. People can be harsh on places, so keep in mind that you might love what someone else hates.
  • Be serious about climate. If you’re like me and can’t deal with winter, a lot of locations are off the list. I didn’t realize this about myself until I had traveled quite a bit. The first snowy winter was exciting and fun. After that, not so much.

Live Your Way

I was okay until I reached kindergarten and people started demanding I get up at a certain time and do a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to do. I was depressed a lot of my life. Not only did I feel like a weirdo, but I also had a bunch of health problems. Somewhere in my twenties I figured out that living my way is my only chance of survival.

Don’t let society force you into a mold or a life plan that doesn’t work for you. There are all millions of lifestyles, and they all rock as long as you’re in alignment with your real self and not hurting anyone else.

Moments of Connection

Chances are that you do fit in and don’t realize it. At least in a lot of small ways. I try to notice those ways and point them out to myself. For example, I feel that connection to the world around me when:

  • Sharing humor. I love seeing the memes people make. Some of them are so awesome that it makes me love the human race once again.
  • Interacting with other writers. It’s such a huge part of me. Even the writers who get me the least still align with me more than a lot of the world.
  • Watching television. Connecting to other people in TV fandoms has always been fun for me. I plan on doing more TV recaps and rants on this and my other blog soon.
  • Talking about relationships. There are only so many different problems and situations. It’s easy to connect to people on the subjects of sex, love, and heartbreak.

Just be You

Never accept toxic relationships in the name of fitting in. People who put you down for being different don’t deserve your time or energy. Being unique is setting an example. I’ve been influenced by many brave individuals who set examples for me over the years, and I’m thankful.Those who clash with society help change it, so speak your mind and do what you want.

Writerly Wednesday: Sorry for Vanishing

Hi guys! This #WriterlyWednesday, I want to apologize for ignoring my blog.

A lot has been going on. I’m going hard at the third rewrite of my new romance, which now has a working title: Since Vientiane. This story has all the elements I love: travel, serendipity, hot chemistry, and plenty of color. I wanted to take some of my own experiences in Southeast Asia and twist them into something even better. It still has a long way to go, but it’s a solid book now, which is exciting!

I’ve been brainstorming a lot of new ideas I’m not sure how to get into just yet. This is a strange time in my life. Removing myself from the dating scene has been a valuable experience that has given me new perspectives. It’s a lot to process, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Processing, thinking, growing, praying, expanding, brainstorming–and working my ass off so I can build the life I want.

I hope to put out a lot of entertaining stuff for you guys, but the process is slow and frustrating. I have so many projects planned that I could work 24/7 for the next decade and still only put a small dent in what I want to do. And that’s just when it comes to the books.I also want to blog, not just to promote my books but to have the chance to help people in some small way.

You guys come here and read my blogs every single day, and that makes me happy. Thank you for your support. I hope you’ll hang in there and give me the chance to get back into this one day soon.

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Check me out on Goodreads

Get Edge of Something More, my first novel from Swoon Romance

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