Sunday, July 22, 2018

City of Secrets is back!

My handful of loyal readers (love you guys) have probably noticed that my wonderful serial "City of Secrets" has disappeared. This is because unfortunately, JukePop serials, the site I published on, wasn't all it was cracked up to be. After that, I started sending out chapters on my blog, but the readership just wasn't there. At the time, I was well into writing "Pieces" my literary mystery (it's almost finished; yay!), so I really needed to focus my energy on that.

I've toyed with the idea of trying Wattpad, but was unsure. I considered writing is a "normal" book and publishing it that way, but the story is so long and unique. There really is no way that I can see to break it into a three or four book series, so I really think releasing it chapter by chapter via a serial site is best. So, hopefully third times a charm. 

In case anyone needs reminding, this is City of Secrets:

To tourists, Caribou Canyon is an idyllic Colorado mountain town—one made even more enjoyable by the ghost stories told at local inns. But outsiders don’t know about the frequent disappearances and grisly murders. The residents know, and they might care—if these weren’t the things that made them some of the richest and most powerful people in the world. As the children of these wealthy, influential people, the students at Caribou Canyon High have every reason to be happy. However, three girls about to start their senior year find that their lives have been broken by the town’s corruption and decide it’s time to do something about it. 

Penny Harper is at the top of her class and sees an Ivy League college in her future, but the death of her brother leaves her family broken. Consumed by grief, Penny struggles to hold onto a dream that feels more and more distant with each passing day. Frankie Moreno is rejected by her stepfather, ignored by her mother, and scorned by the other students for being Latina. She prides herself in not needing anyone, but a painful experience has left her with a problem that even she may not be able to handle on her own. Natasha Jameson had the perfect life in the city of Denver, but when she stumbles across her birth certificate, that perfect life crumbles. She moves to Caribou Canyon in search of answers, but someone doesn’t want her to find them. 

Fate brings the girls together, leading them to discover a deep connection that unites them against the evil that corrupts their town. But will the light created by their friendship be enough to take on the darkness? 


Check it out here:

Sunday, May 6, 2018

My Mommy

I've wanted to share this, but I haven't put it up yet, because it's hard. But I feel like it's important to be shared, especially now that it's so close to Mother's Day, it's important that people know who my mom, who passed away 3/26/18, was. (I can't wait till I can stop seeing Mother's Day commercials.)

This is what I wrote and had read at the memorial service.

I wish you weren’t hearing this right now. I wish I’d never had to write it, not because I don’t want everyone to know how amazing Mom is, but because I want her to be here so you can see for yourselves. Though chances are, if you’re sitting in this room, you have some idea of how great Mom is. But I’m writing to tell you that she’s even more amazing than you know.
            When I say words like “great” and “amazing,” I don’t mean perfect. No one is perfect. What I mean is that Mom tried to be perfect. She put everything she had into everything she did. She learned from her mistakes, apologized when she knew she was wrong, and constantly strived to be better.
            I am proud to say that I have a lot in common with Mom. People say I look like her; they’ve been saying it my whole life. I got so used to hearing it, I took it for granted. But just this past week, several people have told me how much I look like her. Now I hear those words with fresh ears. The words are now more comforting than I ever could’ve imagined, because it’s as though she’s a part of me.
It’s not just looks we have in common. I inherited her ridiculously good memory for dates, times, what we were wearing, what we ate for dinner , and other random facts (it makes for a neat party trick). We’re both shy—insanely so—but quirky and funny when we’re in an environment we feel safe in. We don’t like to lead, but we can if we have to. My mom never stayed silent when something needed to be said, and she taught me to do the same.
            Some people think shy people are weak, that they can be walked on. This isn’t the case with Mom. She got very nervous about making phone calls, large work events, and anything else where she might have to speak or be put on the spot. But when it came to standing up for Angie and me, she never hesitated. She was fierce when it came to protecting us. Once, in middle school, I was selling Girl Scout Cookies door to door. We were fairly new to the neighborhood, so not everyone knew us yet. I went to the house two doors down from us, and the woman who answered the door started screaming at me and saying something along the lines of, “How dare you come to my door! This is my daughter’s neighborhood to sell cookies in! Get out of here!”
            I came home in tears. Mom immediately marched over there to give that woman a piece of her mind. I didn’t hear it (kinda wish I had), but the lady came over and apologized, and invited me to play with her daughter. I have many more memories like that one. If I shared them, we’d be here all day.
            The irony is that Mom didn’t know how good she was. She worried so much over all the things she did wrong. When her illness worsened, I started to think of some things I wanted to tell her, and I worried I wouldn’t get the chance. But one day in January, I had the gift of visiting with her while Scott was out, so it was just the two of us. I got to say the things I needed to. One of those things was telling her how lucky I was that she was always there for me and to thank her for being my mom. She said, “I can’t believe you love me. I was horrible.”
I told her, “Of course I love you.” It makes me sad to remember that she said that, but that was just who she was. She worried that she didn’t do well as a mother. She worried that she wasn’t good enough. But she was the best; I hope she knows that, wherever she is.
            No one knows how to be a parent until it happens. But parenting is even harder when you’re a single mother, and even harder still when a certain teenage daughter named Becky does everything she can to make it more difficult. I was a troubled teenager, and there were times when Mom feared what would become of me. There were probably times she wanted to rip her hair out and scream. Even though she didn’t know how to help me, she did. I got through what she called my “lost weekend.” I got through it because she never gave up on me.
She continued to be there for me, even once I was an adult. It’s a good thing to, because I’ve had my fair share of crap. I’ve walked through hell, swam through floods, sank into quicksand, and gotten lost in the labyrinth of life. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been through so much, and boy do I have stories (it’s a good thing I’m a writer). But I’m not here to tell those stories. I’m here to tell you who carried me out of hell, who dove into the water and pulled me out—and she can’t even swim!— who rescued me from the quicksand, and who traversed the labyrinth to guide me home. That person is my mom, and I honestly don’t know where I would be without her. She gave me the strength to traverse the steepest mountains. I believe in myself today because she believes in me.  
I once told her I had her to thank for where I am today, for the accomplishments I made and the things I did. She said, “No. I didn’t do that. You did.” Maybe she was right, but I couldn’t have done it without her. Now, I’m terrified because I don’t know how to do this life thing without her. I’m afraid I might crumble to pieces, that I don’t know what to do or where to turn. I’m afraid, but just before she passed, I told her I’d be okay. I honestly don’t know if it’s true or not, but if it is, it will be because she gave me the strength to be okay, because she believed in me and stood beside me. She can’t hold my hand, or give me advice, but she’ll be in my heart. She gave me herself, and that is a gift I will keep forever.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Cemetery in the Rain

I went to the cemetery today. I haven't been since the day we put my mom's urn in the ground. It was freezing that day. I chose today because it was raining and I love rain. It seemed appropriate, and I also really wanted to be alone, and I figured no one else would go to the cemetery in 45 degree rain. I was right, and that was nice. I brought an umbrella and my headphones, some paper (all I had in my car were random scrap papers and a wrinkled folder) and a pen, and a sweater to sit on.

Because I have no sense of direction, I couldn't remember where my mom's grave was, so I wandered around for about twenty minutes, stopping and sitting on the gravel path whenever inspiration struck me. I finally found my mom, after I decided to give up looking and head back to the car. Her grave was ten feet from the car and I'd walked right past it.

Anyway, here are the poems I wrote.

Raindrops Above You

I don't know who you were
but I cried for you today.
Or maybe that was just the rain;
but either way I thought of you--
who you were and what you once wanted.

An angel statue, and a cat, tall and majestic.
The cat drew me to you; it made me think of you and cry for you today.
Maybe others were thinking of you, but maybe not today.
Today it was cloudy
Today it was rainy
Today the mountains were shadowed and gray
and cold raindrops dampened the ground above you.
Today I walked by.
Today I thought of you.

Lost in the cemetery in the rain

Lost in the cemetery.
In the rain.
It's a great title. There's so much in that one sentence.
Or is it two?
How lost am I? In what way am I lost?
Have I lost my map or made a wrong turn?
Or am I lost in my grief, lost without you.

But maybe it's only a title.
Maybe there is nothing more.

I'm only lost.

In the cemetery.
In the rain.

Thanks for reading! If you haven't seen it yet, here's a link to the Go Fund Me my friend set up to send me to writer's conferences.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Another Way To Help

Hi, everyone!

By now many of you may have seen the Go Fund Me my wonderful friend set up for me. If you haven't, I'll link it at the bottom. It's to help me raise funds to attend a couple of upcoming writer's conferences. These events are very important in helping me to achieve my goal of becoming a published and full-time author. I am very close to finishing my literary mystery "Pieces" and will soon be ready to shop it to agents. These events will allow me to meet with agents and editors, network with other writers of all skill levels, and attend workshops that will help me grow my craft. If you know me at all (online or IRL) you know how important writing is to me, and how hard I've worked over the years. You also know that it's been a rough three years for me, which is why attending these events without financial assistance is difficult. With the help of some friends, an anonymous person, and a former friend and coworker of my mom's, I am closer to having what I need to attend, but I'm not quite there yet.

Aside from writing, I've also been an avid jewelry maker. Some friends and I sell our jewelry for charity on our Etsy shop, Pins With Purpose. It's been very rewarding. To date, we've raised over $3000 for various causes. In addition to making jewelry for our shop, I also do much of the social media advertising. It's been great to know that I've been able to help people, especially while things haven't been going well for me. I've enjoyed making jewelry so much, that I have more than we really need for our charity. With the encouragement of my fellow craftivists, I've opened up my own for-profit Etsy shop, My Voice Boutique. There are just a few items up so far, but I'm always adding more.

I mention this here, because the money I would make from My Voice Boutique is extra money, therefore I could use it for things like writer's conferences. So, if you're not into just donating/giving me $ (which I totally understand) you can buy something from me. It's a win-win. Here are a couple of the items I have for sale:

You can view more at my shop:

And here's the Go Fund Me page if you'd like to learn more:


Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Long Journey Indeed

Hello friends, family, fellow writers, and the few random strangers who maybe clicked on my blog (I like to be positive and think that this is happening).

It's been awhile since I've blogged. I've been a little scarce in the blogging/Twitter world. My mom has been sick with COPD for several years. In January, her illness took a turn for the worst, and it's been terribly painful watching her go through that and not being able to help her. She passed away at the end of March, and I miss her terribly, though I'm glad she is no longer suffering. I couldn't have asked for a better mother. I'm honestly afraid of making it in this world without her.

My mom has helped me through many rough times, especially in the past few years. I wouldn't have made it through my most recent ordeal without her.

For five+ years I worked at a non-profit job as a community connector (this is a title that encompasses behavioral analysis, counseling, driving, CNA-type duties, care-taking, paper-work, janitorial work, etc. etc.). I took care of older adults with developmental and degenerative disabilities. I loved my job, mainly because of the wonderful people I had the pleasure of meeting and serving.

One day in June of 2014 I was assisting a client with gait issues walk. This is something I've done dozens of times over the years. Even with assistance, he was so unsteady that he fell frequently. He fell this day, but it wasn't like any other fall. He bumped my knee and took me down with him. I landed with my foot trapped underneath me. I immediately got up to assist him. It was a few minutes before I even realized I was hurt.

A visit to the urgent care revealed that I'd incurred a mild ankle sprain. The doctor advised rest, ice, compression and work restrictions, and said I'd likely be fully healed in two weeks. Except I wasn't. I was no better than I was immediately after the injury. I was referred to a specialist, where the injury was re-diagnosed as a high ankle sprain (less common, more severe). I continued working on restrictions and began going to physical therapy. After several weeks of PT, my injury was still no better. I was in pain all the time and miserable. It was very difficult to get through the work day, even with the restrictions. It was too much on my body. Finally, I had an MRI, which showed that surgery would be necessary to repair the damaged tendon and ligament.

Just after surgery, I was let go from my job because the company did not have a position that could accomodate my needs. It was past 90 days, so they were in their legal right to do this.

The surgery went well, and after a month of wearing a cast, I returned to physically therapy. Things were starting to look up. I was working hard in PT and gaining more function and the pain was lessening. But just when I thought I was ready to return to work, the pain began to worsen, and the swelling in my ankle returned. After being referred to a new podiatrist and having another MRI, it was revealed that while the ligament was well and good, the tendon was not. It had had a bad reaction to the sutures and was torn again. So once again I went under the knife, this time with a rather attractive surgeon holding said knife. I told him so while recovering from surgery and possibly a little looped on medications.

I went through the drill all over again: rest, non-weight bearing, crawling on the floor to carry hot coffee, cast, and finally physical therapy. And more physical therapy. And pain. And more pain. Continued pain and swelling. The function in my ankle returned, while some swelling and pain remained. The surgeon admitted that he did not know where to go from here, while the physical therapists tried various techniques, including weird electric things and tape. Yes tape. I guess their reasoning was that what two surgeries couldn't fix, surely some freaking tape could. As shocking as this might my seem, the tape didn't work. I was sent to a pain specialist, an occupational therapist, and a psychologist, because at this point, most doctors believed the pain was in my head. I had a new worker's comp doctor put in charge of my case, and she did a pretty terrible job of listening to me and assessing my needs.

At this point, I had to become a strong self-advocate, something that is terribly hard for me. I had to fight tooth and nail to get necessary treatments. It took forever, and I wanted to give up many, many times. The insurance company was ready to kick me to the curb and my doctor was no help. She did not listen to me and accused me of wanting money, despite my insistence that I only wanted treatment. At this point, the pain had spread from my ankle, to my foot, and up my leg. This is called  peripheral neuropathy, and it's a real asshole. It hurts like hell and is the weirdest kind of pain you can imagine. It has to do with angry nerves and can be caused by compression or surgery. Burning, pounding, crushing pain spread through my whole foot and up my leg into my knee. After a while, it moved to the other leg. Yes, it did. It sounds crazy, but it can happen. I was put through a number of tests to see if I had Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a severe form of neuropathy that occurs in a limb. All my test results were negative, but every symptom I had fits perfectly into CRPS. Several physical therapists said they suspected I have CRPS. In much of the research I did, it was stated that none of the tests are fully accurate or conclusive. According to my research, CRPS is the only condition in which the patient experiences mirror pain--pain in the opposite, uninjured limb, like I had.

I was in pain all the time and severely depressed. My doctor didn't believe me and was closing my worker's comp case, meaning I would no longer receive disability benefits or any treatment. I was in no shape to go back to work. I was forced to hire an attorney. Just finding an attorney was yet another trial. Most attorneys won't take ankle cases, mainly because they don't pay much. Attorneys want severe car accidents and back injuries, and they told me this point blank. After talking to close to ten attorneys, I finally found one who was willing to take my case. But even so, it was still a battle. I had to see an independent doctor for an exam, and convince this one man that I needed more medical care. I couldn't just go to any doctor, I had to go to one my attorney and the worker's comp insurance company agreed on. It's a pretty messed up system. My attorney was not thrilled about the doctor I wound up with. Lucky for me, my attorney was wrong.

Dr. Regan listened to me and heard my frustration and agreed that I needed more care. He diagnosed me with CRPS and ordered more tests, and also thought I needed to see another ankle surgeon (something I'd been trying to tell my primary WC doctor, who wouldn't listen.) It was actually pretty satisfying taking this report back to my WC doctor. I wanted to wave it in her face and say, "I told you so!" I of course didn't, but I didn't have to. The report said it for me. She was wrong, and she knew it. Ever since then, she's listened to me and what I have to say.

Of course, the insurance company wasn't ready to give in. They filed for a hearing to dispute Dr. Regan's assessment, but it never got that far. The new surgeon used a more appropriate test than an MRI (dynamic ultrasound) and determined that my tendons and ligaments were a giant mess, like spaghetti noodles all clumped together. Likely there was an angry nerve trapped in that mess, causing all that awful nerve pain. So after jumping through more hoops, the insurance company was forced to back down and accept that I needed a third surgery, and reinstated my benefits. That was one year ago. My ankle is now strong. It still hurts, and I still have neuropathic pain in both legs, but it is much less than it was. The surgeon believes the nerves will likely calm down with time.

I've mostly made it through that ridiculous ordeal. I'm exhausted. It was a nightmare fighting so hard against the insurance company and doctors. The whole thing made me feel like shit mentally, on top of the physical pain. I felt like a worthless loser. I was unable to work, yet most doctors said I was fine. I was terrified about money running out and had no control over anything.

Luckily, I had a lot of support from friends and family. They played an important role in getting me through it, but they couldn't stop the depression, or that feeling of uselessness. Nothing stopped it completely, but there is one thing that helped it a great deal, and that's writing. Writing is my passion, my long-term career goal, my obsession, and my great love. I wrote before my injury and continued after. On good days, I pretended I wasn't disabled, but instead a full-time writer. My stories were my saviors. They gave me hope and purpose. I can say with perfect honesty that I don't know how I would've survived that time if I didn't have my writing. It gave me purpose. Without it, my depression might've taken over. I'm not exaggerating. It's just the truth.

I'm now back at work, and it feels really good to be out in the world again. It also feels good to be helping people again. My work is very different than what I did previously, but still rewarding. I work at a large non-profit helping homeless veterans find housing. I enjoy it and hope to continue it. The irony is that the book I've been working on for the past two years is called Pieces, a literary mystery about a combat veteran with PTSD trying to put his life back together.

I went back to work in December, just before my mom got sicker. She was thrilled to know I was doing better; she'd been very worried about me. In early March, she asked if I was better, and I said yes. This wasn't completely true, but true enough. This was about two weeks before she passed. I think she needed to know I would be okay.

Even though I have a job again, writing is still my goal. Pieces is almost ready to send to agents. My strength as a writer has grown over the years, but there is always room for improvement. The best way to improve is to network with other writers, attend workshops and meet agents and editors. Lucky for me, there are several events like this in Colorado. One is in June, called LitFest. The other is in September, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold Conference. I plan to enter Pieces in the RMFW Gold Contest this May. The winners are announced at the conference. It would be wonderful if I could be there, whether I'm a finalist or not. There will be many agents and editors at this event, and I would love the opportunity to meet them and discuss my novel with them.

Unfortunately, conferences are expensive. Really expensive. But this is where my wonderful friends come in. One of my best friends set up a Go Fund Me for me, to help me fulfill my dreams, and some of my friends have already contributed. It's starting to seem possible that I might get to attend these conferences, and I couldn't be more grateful. The link to the campaign is below. I would appreciate any contributions anyone can give. If you can't, please share this post with your friends. Thank you so much! Love to all!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I'm Back

For real, I swear. Until my next blogging hiatus. But with four works in progress, a volunteer non-profit charity biz, a new jewelry biz (very new), a new job for the first time in 3 years, continued chronic pain, exercises to keep up on, chronic migraines, two cats to try and get to stop killing each other, and a sick/dying parent, it's hard to keep up on the blogging. But I want to blog. I want to do all the things.

As is tradition for when I've taken a blogging hiatus, I will discuss my current writing projects. Because that's how it's done. More about all that other stuff later. And it's a lot.

Four works in progress.

My first priority: "Pieces" A contemporary mystery with light paranormal elements. It's in the final stages. I've gotten good feedback from drafts 2 and 3 from different sets of beta readers and am working on the 4th draft, which is more editing than rewriting. Finally! When you've moved from constant rewrites into actual edits, you've gotten somewhere. Because I said so. I think it may be done by mid-year, maybe sooner. It's hard to say. But I'm super excited. I plan to enter it into some contests and try to attend some writing conferences this year to meet with agents in person. I think this one is the most commercially-marketable of all my stories, so I'm definitely going to try the traditional route with it. I think I will be in fully querying-swing by Fall, definitely winter.

Priority 2 is "New Year's Revolution" (Formerly Bloody New Year and Vampiric Vanguard. Still thinking of using Vampiric Vanguard as a series title.) This is an urban fantasy/paranormal/post-apocalyptic novel. It's my first baby, and has therefore seen many rewrites/edits. Somewhere between 7 and 10. But I've discovered the solution: it's not a three book series, as originally planned. It's four. The first book needs to be cut in half. I feel confident about these changes. My goal is to have this ready to be queried (again) by the end of the year. It's doable. I've queried agents for this in the past and gotten roughly 30 rejections (go me!). I'm aiming for the 3 digits. When your number of rejections hit the hundreds, you know you've made it. I plan to query some agents, but mostly small/indie publishers.

These two books will keep me busy most of the year, but I have not forgotten my other two children. I began my fourth novel "Eternal" in November (NaNoWriMo 2017). While I got it past 50k, I did not complete the rough draft, but that's okay. I know where the story is going and felt like continued work on the sloppy rough draft wasn't productive. I don't know when I'll be ready to work on it again, but I feel like I'll be ready to write a solid draft two when the time comes. Oh yeah, it's a speculative romance. I know, I'm writing a romance. Who would've thought? While I won't be writing on it for a while, I will be reading in preparation: lesbian romance novels, stories that take place in the 80s, and stories that feature mixed race characters.

Last but not least is "Caribou Canyon" later called "City of Secrets". This is my second baby. I love it, but don't know where to go from here. It's a YA paranormal, and the story is too big. There are 3 MCs, and I fell in love with all of them and gave each character many subplots. The polished first draft rounded out at 250k words. Yes, you read that correctly. I started releasing it as a serial on Jukepop, but that didn't pan out. Then I started releasing it on my blog, but I'm not sure that's what I want to do with it. I think I'm going to remove it from my blog and set it aside in my mind, but I definitely want to continue it. At this point, I would likely polish it up and self-publish it, maybe in installments.

Okay, so those are my writing projects. I'm having a busy 2018, and that's just about the writing. So many other things are happening, many of them painful and trying and sometimes I just want to curl up and sleep, and keep sleeping, and keep on sleeping. But writing is my passion, my art, my life. I will take all of this crap and funnel it into my stories.

Get ready world. They are coming.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

March 11th

I used to get depressed around February and March. Well, to be truthful, I get depressed on and off all year round, it's called dysthymia, or persistent depressive disorder. But that isn't the point. Before 2007, Daylight Saving Time didn't start till after Easter. I got really restless in early March for the time change, because it always made me feel better to have that little bit of of extra sunlight. It helped.

In 2007, I was really excited that we were going to be changing the clocks forward about a month early. I remember March 11th 2007 very clearly. It was the perfect day for Spring Forward. It was nearly seventy degrees out. I was bored, but it wasn't really a bad kind of bored. I was feeling hopeful for the future, which was a big deal because the past few months had been shit-tastic and that is not an exaggeration.

I was trying to decide what to do regarding the fiance I was separated from due to lots shit-tastic fucking shit. I hadn't spoken to him since early December, before the bleeding shit hit the flaming fan and flung its shit-covered entrails all over my life. Despite those months of separation, I didn't consider us over. I didn't know what I considered us. I needed time to myself, time to focus on Becky because for so many years Becky hadn't existed. Josh existed. Josh and Becky existed. Every now and then Becky and Josh existed, but mostly it was Josh. So it was nice to focus on Becky. I thought he understood that. I thought he knew I loved him and just needed time. Now I know he didn't, because in his world, Becky still didn't exist. Josh and Becky existed. Becky existed as a prize for Josh, as something to covet and keep and hold onto and to worry would leave. Becky existed as someone who could make everything right, except that wasn't a fair thing to put on a person.

It was the morning of March 12th when Mom came home from work less than thirty minutes after having arrived and woke me up to tell me Josh had died of a heroin overdose. I remember those moments more clearly than anything. My Mom heard the news because her mother-in-law reads the newspaper regularly. Mom rushed around to find out it if was true before she told me. Josh's mom wanted to tell me herself, but my mom wouldn't let her. I appreciate that. Hearing the news from my mom, someone who wanted to comfort me instead of be comforted by me, helped.

March 11th was a Sunday, just like today. Because of that, the memories are more potent. It's been eleven years but it will never go away. To add to this pain, my mom, the person who's been there for me through everything, is in the final stages of COPD and not going to make it much longer. So now I just have to remember the strength she gave me and save it for the future. It's a gift. And I guess the sunshine is too, though it hurts, like antiseptic in a wound.

Sometimes I want to remind myself that pain is what makes me real, pain is what makes me feel love and appreciate beauty. Sometimes that's true, and other times it's a giant load of flaming horse shit.

The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!”

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky