Saturday, October 29, 2016

Three More Days!

Many of you have been with me from the beginning - you watched me as I tiptoed through independently publishing To Love A Selkie, the story that launched a career I had (until that point) been too afraid to embark on. You watched me as that story grew, as it transformed in my mind and became the trilogy that I'm so incredibly proud of. You watched me add other stories to my backlist. You watched me explore different genres, different social media platforms. Some of you have even come out to meet me in person, or found my books through running into me at signing events.

You've watched me grow on this blog too, as a writer, as a publisher, as a businesswoman - as a person. Some of you have commented here or emailed me personally in support, and that means more to me than I could ever express.

So I'm excited to share this with you, the next step in this journey I've been on now for almost four years, this new release. In three days, Selkie II goes live, and I'm so excited to see what you all think of it - and for those of you who aren't here for the books, I promise that after this week, we'll go back to body positive, mental health, and lifestyle posts as usual.

In the meantime ... I thought you'd like to see these - and that maybe you'd even be willing to share them around on your social media?

Until next week,
Happy Reading,

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Today In History: Fighting For Freedom Book Trailer

Three years ago today, I published the video trailer for Fighting For Freedom. So today, in honor of that anniversary - combined with October being Domestic Violence Awareness month and the fact that I've FINALLY begun to make solid progress on Still Fighting For Freedom, I thought I'd share it with those of you who might not have seen it.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

I don't always mention this, and I don't usually ever make a fuss about it, because my connection to this day seems somehow fragile at best. I have two (mostly) healthy children, two beautiful girls who amaze me every day with their quick wit and their big hearts, and underneath my fervent wish that my children had been born with the ability to sleep in, I'm still thankful for them each time they wake up - because they woke up. When they bicker, I'm thankful that they have the energy to fight with each other, to assert themselves and their sense of independence. I'm thankful for the way they're comfortable enough to be who they are, even when it isn't always pleasing to the people around them.

But this gratitude, even on the days when I feel like the worst mom ever and I think that, just maybe, my two children are horrible little demon-spawn from Hell, is rooted in the remembrance that I've been pregnant three times. And I remember that my children, though they sometimes can be bothersome and inconvenient, exist because they were not lost.

Josephine was born when I was nineteen years old. When she was five, her little sister, Eden, came screaming into the world, bringing with her a chaos like no other. The two of them together are an exercise in everything girl, everything busyness, everything on full-speed and full-blast.

But before Joey, before the pregnancies that worked, there was one that didn't. The first time I got pregnant (at 18), I was a newlywed, excited to be taking the next step in my life, excited to be starting a family of my own. I stopped smoking. I stopped drinking. I stopped eating chocolate, swore off coffee, and spent lots of time reading books about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. I stayed away from everything the books said was bad for my baby, took my vitamins like it was my religion, and closely monitored what my books said about my baby's development each week.

I wished fervently for a boy, a little boy who would be beautiful and perfect, who would someday by the very best big brother, who would be strong and fun and would always take out the garbage for his mommy. I was still in the first trimester when the bleeding started, and I still feel horrible about the things I can't remember in order to properly commemorate the child that never was.

I can't remember what my due date was. I don't remember the day the bleeding began, or the day it ended. I never knew if the baby was a boy or a girl. But it had ears. I'll never forget sitting in the exam room in the Emergency Department, with a cold obstetrician who calmly told me that, "Some pregnancies just aren't viable. Sometimes, it just isn't meant to be." I was alone, my husband was at work. The doctor moved on to talk about the possible need for a D&C, and I broke out of my grief-stricken stupor just long enough to beg him not to make me do it. I'd just been told that my child, the baby I had already begun to love and develop such incredible hopes for, would never cry, would never be born, would never be ... real. I couldn't fathom the idea of lying back on a cold operating table and having the remnants of that hope scraped from my body and discarded as if it had never been there.

I had heard the heartbeat already. And it had ears - I'll never forget the way that thought kept running through my mind. I had just read it in one of my pregnancy books the day before. My baby had ears, and I had been looking forward to playing music for it. But suddenly the pregnancy was over, the heartbeat silenced, the hope dashed.

The doctor told me that a D&C could possibly be avoided, if my body was able to "discard the tissue" on its own, and as I went home that afternoon, a pad in my panties to soak up the leaking remnants of lost life, I felt more broken than I'd ever felt before. And I was angry - I had done everything right, and what had it gotten me? Loss. Unspeakable loss, a sense of guilt and failure, empty hands, empty arms. An emptying womb. They sent a grief counselor in to speak with me; she brought me a little pin stuck on a card, a little silver pin in the shape of two tiny baby feet. I remember looking down at it, watching it blur behind my tears.

The next week (or so) was painful. I remember laying on my couch in the small apartment my husband and I lived in, crying, curled into myself, my womb screaming in pain, my heart broken in a way that felt like it would never heal. I went back to the doctor several times to have ultrasound exams, until finally the doctor sat back in satisfaction and declared - in the same cold, no-nonsense tone - that it was done. "Don't try again for a while though, your uterus still needs time to heal," he said, seemingly unaware of the stream of silent tears I couldn't hold back.

I didn't know anyone who had been through that, didn't know anyone who could have been there for me in the way that I needed someone. I got a lot of pitying looks and sorrowful, frowning versions of, "I'm sorry," that meant nothing to me. For a long time, I believed that the child had been a girl - a girl who had somehow known she was unwanted. A girl who died because I so fervently wanted to begin my family with a son. No one seemed to understand that, either, or why I felt so guilty over it.

It's been almost fourteen years now, and I still think of that lost child, wonder who he or she might have been, what things might be different about my life now if not for that devastating loss, if not for that moment when the emergency room technician sat back and stopped looking for a heartbeat that was no longer there. And in the years since, I've encountered young women experiencing that same loss with a frequency that makes my heart ache.

Some days, I don't think of it - the loss of that first child isn't something I choose to dwell on. But some days, the child is with me like a ghost, the almostness of its life somehow mocking.

I still don't know which would have been worse: losing the child in that way, before my body changed with its growth, before I had a chance to buy it clothes, choose its name - or to lose it later, when I might perhaps have had a change to see it, to hold it, instead of wiping it away as if it were nothing.

I know I'm blessed, though, blessed with heartbeats that didn't stop, children that survived, children that have thrived and developed into little people I can be proud of.

Still, I remember.

Until next week,

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Leggings ARE Pants, Dammit.

The new school year is well underway, and my daughters are now in second and seventh grade. They're beautiful and headstrong, smart, and (at least, usually) kindhearted. They're good kids, good girls, each with a strong sense of modesty, each with a healthy dose of self-respect.

It's actually a running joke between my oldest daughter and I that I don't worry about her growing up, that I don't worry about her as a woman because I know she'll be just fine. She's got a tough exterior like her mother, and doesn't let herself be run over -- at least, not for long. The punchline of the joke though, is that it can sometimes be very hard to be her mother, because she doesn't let ME run over her, either. Still, it's her strong sense of self that gives her that confidence, and I'm not afraid to tell her how much I admire that in her. It's what keeps her from falling into the wrong crowd, and it's what will (I hope) keep her from attracting and accepting the attention of the wrong sorts of people as she gets older.

My daughter is like most other teenaged girls, bubbly and bright with an eye toward the trending fashions and an almost desperate desire to look "right" so that she can fit in. Still, she's fairly modest, especially when she leaves the house, and I'm proud of her willingness to keep the more private parts of her developing body private. She doesn't wear revealing clothes, not only because as a conservative mom I wouldn't allow it, but because she simply doesn't choose to dress that way. So I guess that's why I got so mad when I had to go to her school a few weeks ago to bring her a change of clothes.

She had gone to school in leggings and a longish t-shirt, totally covered from collarbone to ankle. No skin showing, and even her leggings were not skintight. In fact, they were loose enough that some people actually thought the striped pattern was there to mask non-existent rips just below the rear (there are no rips).

Mind you, I'm not talking about footless tights, the somewhat see-through, spandexy pants you buy in the underwear section that are meant to wear under a dress or skirt of some kind. No, I'm talking about leggings, the stretchy cotton pants sold literally three steps away from the stretchy denim jeggings that would fit exactly the same way and look exactly the same, except that they have butt pockets and they'd be heavier fabric -- which would be too hot and uncomfortable to wear in the late summer months. Leggings. Pants. Just pants. See? Look.

It made me angry to see that look on my daughter's face, to see her being accused of being "distracting" or "inappropriate" with her clothing. But I went to the school calmly, delivered a change of clothes for my daughter, who was terribly embarrassed, and brought her leggings and t-shirt back home to be put away. Without going off on anyone (if you've known me for long, you'll know why I'm so proud of that). But I was angry. As her mother, I was angry. This happened right about the same time the rest of the world was just as angry about this, and now let me address two other things:
  1. Before someone feels the need to comment about school dress codes, let me be clear that our school dress code allows leggings, so long as they aren't worn with a hip or waist-length t-shirt that reveals a clearly defined bottom.
  2. Before someone feels the need to comment about how my daughter's issue and the Brock Turner case are totally unrelated and have nothing to do with each other ... They do. The whole issue boils down to the issue with something we call Rape Culture, the societal way of blaming girls and women for being victimized by the boys and men around them.
Now, I'm no feminist (at least, not in the commonly perceived militant fashion of the term), but I believe rape culture is a real issue. When we hear of women who have been victimized, we say things like "well, she shouldn't have been drinking like that," or "well didn't she know if she wore that, she was pretty much asking for it?" We blame victims for not speaking out against this issue -- "It's her own fault, she should have come forward sooner." And we blame them when they do come forward -- "It's her own fault, she shouldn't have been-there/worn-that/slept-with-him-before/led-him-on/flirted-that-way/left-her-drink-on-the-bar," I've even done it myself at times, because I was taught the same thinking patterns that most other people are taught. And this is where the connection is formed:
  • It's in the schools where we teach our daughters that what they wear is distracting, even when they dress modestly.
  • It's in the schools where instead of teaching our sons to respect our daughters and our daughters to respect themselves, we teach our daughters to "cover up" in order to protect themselves from boys who aren't given the gift of self-control.
  • It's in the schools where, as we feed into the rape culture that tells girls their clothing choices control the focus skills and sexual self-control of the boys around them, their clothing choices ALSO matter MORE than the education they came to school for in the first place.
But I didn't say anything while I was at the school. I didn't go in there and throw a useless tantrum that would further embarrass my daughter. I didn't make a spectacle of it in the moment. But because I was angry, and because I believe it to be a valid problem, I did seek out a public outlet to voice my concerns with the best sarcastic humor I could muster, to get it off my chest and also to finally join the conversation that's been raging around this topic for years. That was at the end of August, and I'm still angry.

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one, though. All over this country, there's a movement against overly restrictive dress codes and the messages that they send to our young women, and when I posted my rant on Facebook I was awed and amazed at some of the support that flew in. Sure, we got our share of trolls and haters, but that was to be expected. But what lit my daughter's face up in the days to follow was that we also got almost 250k views and nearly 3k shares. I received messages of support from countless people, was reached out to by several groups working to battle and change the restrictive quality of our school dress codes, and met Amanda Study, a brand new LuLaRoe consultant who wanted to show her support for my daughter in a tangible way. She reached out to me and shocked me with her kind offer to send my daughter two free pairs of beautiful LuLaRoe leggings, along with her encouragement and support to for standing up for my daughter.

I cried. I told my daughter about the message, and watched her face light up. She got to choose her leggings from several photos that Amanda sent us, and I watched her face light up again when the leggings arrived in the mail:

She's already worn the red ones to school twice, once with a similar t-shirt and once with a longer sweater dress (without getting dress coded either time) and the blue ones once (also not coded) -- and she looked beautiful, confident, and appropriately modest each time.

We're so thankful for Amanda's sweet effort to reach out and support us that I thought it might be fun to throw some of that support her way, too. LuLaRoe leggings are amazingly soft and incredibly comfortable as well as being easy to size and fun to wear. They aren't too thin, aren't too thick, and can be dressed up or down in fashionable ways the fit the current trends as well as any lifestyle. I'm planning to order some of my own (if I can ever get to them before they're always sold out!), and I thought some of you might like to try them too. If you haven't tried LuLaRoe's fabulous clothing line, please check out Amanda's Facebook Closet, a group she's opened in order to display and sell her product. Give her some encouragement, tell her I sent you, and show her some love by helping to support her brand new business! From one mompreneur to another, I know she'd appreciate it.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Boy, Do I Have News.

For all the things I need to tell you all, this is still somehow probably going to be the shortest post in the entire history of this blog.

I'm exhausted, and the last couple of weeks have been really crazy for me. My personal life has suddenly gone completely insane, and while it isn't having much of an impact on my writing, it IS having a strong and inconvenient impact on some other things. 

So, with that being said:
  • You guys already know that just like every other author, I desperately want to be able to write full-time, while getting paid a full-time income doing this thing that I love so passionately. Unfortunately, I'm not making a full-time income yet, so I've been brainstorming some other ways to help my writing support my munchkins. Idea number one: Patreon. While I still fully intend to follow and implement my novel writing plans, my Patreon account is going to be a place where I exercise my writing skills in a more short term way. Novels take a long time and a lot of creative power to produce, but I know that leaves readers hungry and waiting. So with Patreon, I'm going to be offering exclusive flash fiction to my supporters there, in addition to several other rewards. The first exclusive story will go live on Patreon TODAY, so make sure you check out my page and pledge your support! It'll be worth it, I promise.
  • If you follow me on social media, you already know that I've finished Selkie II! The writing stage is complete and the book is now going through the first editing pass! It'll be with beta readers soon, and then on November 1, it will be live on your favorite major e-book market. Paperbacks will be available shortly after, and I just know you're all going to love this story! In the meantime, if you haven't started the Selkie Trilogy yet, what's holding you back? The first book is already out there, just waiting for you to pick it up.
  • I mentioned earlier that there are some things changing in my personal life that are impacting certain things I've committed to - namely, my signing schedule for next year. I was wildly excited to be planning to attend the East Texas Book Bash next August, but with things going the way they are, I just don't see it happening. I'm still hoping to be at Romancing The Smokies in the spring and Thunder Road in the fall, but that's because both events are close to home and right now, travel is just not looking like a feasible option. I can't go into any major details, but I will say this: for anyone this disappoints, please know that I'm as heartbroken as you are, and if there was a way I could make it work, I would. In the meantime, if you were planning to meet me at ETBB, please let me encourage you to come to RTS instead. All the necessary links are available here.
  • My next major novel project is Still Fighting For Freedom, the much-awaited sequel to Fighting For Freedom, which follows a young woman rebuilding her life after domestic violence. The book is already coming along well, and I'm excited to be spending time with Christine and the Safe House crowd again.

And in non-writing news:
  • I'm reading the Shining for the first time. Y'all, this book? Creepy.
  • Next week, I'll be sharing something really cool that happened to my daughter recently! This has been ridiculously exciting for us especially in the midst of what we've been going through - it was this little small thing, but it made me so grateful and was so incredibly touching and I can't wait to share it with you!

Until then,
Happy Reading,