Long Dark Year

If you follow this blog at all you’ll notice that my posts have been very sporadic this year. I haven’t done the math, but the posts have been few and far between as I’ve struggled through a difficult year.

Now, I know many people have been giving 2017 the side eye, and I’m sure there are many who have been beat down and dragged because of the toxic political climate of my country and the world. I know this has affected me as well, but in all honesty, it’s been a cliff note. Something holding me back, but not what’s dragged me down.

And here’s what only a few people close to me know: I’ve been struggling with depression. Severe depression. It took me months to realize what was going on, then longer to say the words out loud (or even type them). Then months to get up the energy to seek help. And longer to find the, hopefully, right treatment.

This is the first time I’ve been officially diagnosed as depressed. I’ve had my ups and downs in the past but a combination of medication and life is what I would attribute to this.

It’s been a long, dark year. When I had goals, I was able to push myself forward with my writing. I had sparks of creativity and inspiration, mixed in with long, long periods of lying in bed, watching the same series on repeat for a year (I kid you not.) I watched the one series for one main reason: there was nothing I wanted to do, so it was easy to stay cuddled inside my current obsession. Plus, the show was about hope, something I desperately needed.

My reading suffered. My writing suffered. I suffered. I have no idea what my young son is aware of. I know I tried my best to pull myself together for him. I also know I failed and failed miserably.

I hope to never have a year like this again. And I hope others don’t have to, either.

The key is acceptance. It’s one thing to say “mental health issues are normal.” It’s another thing to say, “I’m depressed.” It took me time to accept this and own it. To not feel embarrassed or guilty. To not feel like I was just being lazy and all I had to do was push myself a little harder and I’d be fine.

Because that’s what depression felt like to me. Laziness. Only Laziness is not wanting to exercise. Laziness isn’t having your legs feel like dead weight and the thought of moving out of bed bringing tears. Yes, they feel very much the same, and it’s a mind fuck. But they are very, very different.

So here’s my story. I start over a year ago when I received some major edits the same day my husband broke his wrist. I became a writer on a deadline, taking care of the house and my family. I was fine then, but I was also under an enormous amount of stress.

While my husband recovered and I edited and wrote and rewrote I came down with a mystery illness. I’ll spare you the details but a long month of not knowing what was wrong with me turned into a nasty virus that wiped me completely on my ass. I finally got antibiotics and I felt better.

And then I didn’t.

In the meantime a huge change happened at my work, piling a lot more responsibility on my shoulders. And I’m so sick I can barely keep track of when I’m supposed to take my medication.

Recovery was slow. The holidays came and went, my deadline finished and sent in. And eventually I realized: I’m not better.

I should have been.

The next several months I swam in the darkness. Binge watching Netflix, barely picking up a book, letting my laptop collect dust and getting really good a tri peaks solitaire. I kept thinking: I’ll get better. I’ll get better.

I finally broke down and managed to tell my husband what was going on. I had been hinting for weeks, but hints don’t do it. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to say and the most important. It was the first step in my recovery.

I stopped the medication I feel triggered this (birth control, it’s had mood effects on me in the past). After a few weeks I felt a little better, but not enough. A few more weeks and I finally managed to drag myself to my doctor.

I’m into holistic treatments and my doctor started me on supplements. I’d love to tell you that this is all that was needed. Not for me. I needed more, but it might work for you if that’s your jam. I tried a few different types and was brought up. But not enough.

Side note, in the midst of all this I realized I also had anxiety and would practically have a panic attack when I needed to use the phone. This is why things took so long, because it would take me weeks to get up the ability to call my doctor. I did go to a vitamin shop and picked up a supplement for anxiety on my own. It helped take that edge off so I could get back to taking care of myself.

Eventually I knew I needed medication and I was ready for it.

My doctor started me on a low dosage. And I fell further. Three weeks later I went back to see him and I think he finally saw me at one of my lowest points. He upped my medication. Three more weeks went by and I felt I was coming up. I had shakes and even before I was on any medication I would have these manic moments when I was coming up from the depression.

And then the shakes calmed down and my mood stayed up. I started doing more at home. I started doing more with my son. I enjoyed reading again. I dabbled with a new story idea. Part of me had the reoccurring mania sensation where I felt as though three gerbils were running tracks in different directions in my mind. My poor husband and close friends listened to me babble in incoherent clumps of information.

But I felt better.

Netflix has begun missing me. Books are being read. I’m getting back into dabbling with a just for me draft. I’m able to handle my job.

I’m not better. Not yet. I don’t know what my future holds. I do know I’m paying close attention to my mania as my grandmother was bipolar. Maybe I am, too, maybe I’m not. Regardless I found myself depressed and it took a long, dark year to get back to me. But I sit here, hands on the keyboard, tears in my eyes, and I feel like myself again. Just in time to really enjoy the holidays with my family and look forward to a brighter 2018.

As I know many of us are.

If you are struggling, reach out. Find someone you can talk to, even if it’s a text message or an email. Talk to your doctor. It’s hard, but you deserve it. You deserve to feel better. You deserve to enjoy life again, to love yourself again. You’re worth it.

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New Release: A CRAZY KIND OF LOVE by Mary Ann Marlowe

Release Date November 28, 2017

 

Synopsis

In this irresistible new novel by Mary Ann Marlowe, one woman’s up-close and sexy encounter with a tabloid sensation reveals the dizzying—and delicious—dilemma of dating in the spotlight . . .

Celebrities hold zero interest for photographer Jo Wilder. That’s a problem, since snapping pics of the stars is how the pretty paparazza pays the rent. So when Jo attempts to catch a money shot atop the broad shoulders of a helpful bystander, the only thing she notices about the stranger she straddles is that he’s seriously hot. Only later does Jo learn that he’s also Micah Sinclair—one of rock’s notorious bad boys…

Soon Jo is on the verge of getting fired for missing a Micah Sinclair exclusive. Until she’s suddenly being pursued by the heartthrob himself. But how can she be sure the musician’s mind-blowing kisses are the real deal? Her colleagues claim he’s a media whore, gambling on some free PR. But something has Jo hoping Micah’s feeling the same powerful pull that she does. A pull so strong, she can’t resist becoming his latest love, even if it means she might become the media’s latest victim . . .

“The perfect romantic comedy.” —RT Book Reviews

“Another sizzling, glitterati-filled story.” Booklist Online

“If you like wonderfully written, light, fast paced, swoon worthy moments, and chemistry so strong it jumps off the page, then this is the book for you.” Wit & Wonder Books

 

Available November 28, 2017 from Kensington. Pre-Order at all digital retailers:

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Google Play | Goodreads | BAM! | Audible

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My ***** Review:

I absolutely loved the first book in the series and jumped at the chance to get an early read of A Crazy Kind Of Love.

One thing I really enjoyed was how the author gave the readers more from the first couple, Eden and Adam. I love seeing bits and pieces of happy ever after and my always-wanting-more-heart was thrilled.

That said, you don’t need to read these books in order, they stand alone. But I do think reading in order will heighten this wonderful second book.

I’d already grown attached to Micah, the bad boy musician from the first book. Josie was brand new to me but I connected to her instantly. A paparazzi with a conscious who gets tangled up with a rising star, perfect recipe for a great novel!

I also loved that Josie is a diabetic. I am a big fan of books showing different types of people living their lives with their own challenges.

This story grabbed me by the heart and made me swoon. I love how the author manages to let the reader feel the hero even from single POV. Micah stole my heart with lines like this:

He grew quiet. “Things I’ve never said to a girl before.”

I shifted so I could meet his eyes. “What have you never said to a girl?”

“You do ask the tough questions.”

“You’re not going to tell me?”

His cheek rose as he half smiled. “I have a feeling I might.” He stood and offered me his hand. “But not tonight. Come on.”

All in all, I highly recommend this novel. If you like a good, sexy romance, comedy, and a rocker, you’ll love this book!

Author Bio:

Mary Ann lives in central Virginia where she works as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel.

Connect with Mary Ann

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Website | Newsletter Signup

The Importance of a Strong Opening

As writers we know how important it is to have a strong opening. Our goal is to grab a reader on the very first page and never let them go. This is often compounded in writing contests where only the first 250 words of a story is often seen, forcing us to make those opening pages as strong as they can possibly be. And it doesn’t stop there, as querying and submitting also require that strong start.

Writers talk a lot about starting a story in the right spot, often the inciting incident, and not going too heavy on back story. Or clichés like first days of school or looking in the mirror. There are a ton of rules out there, they all aim to help newer writers create an opening that pops.

Sometimes we need the reminder of why.

I brought a book home from the library to read to my young son. It had a subject matter I thought would resonate with him. The book has no pictures, even though he prefers them, so I was a little worried how he would respond.

I brought the book to bedtime and told him this was what we were reading. Now, this is a kid who is strong willed, he likes what he likes and he wants to do what he wants, but he sat nearby as I started to read.

This story opened with the main character doodling on a piece of paper during school. My kid is an avid doodler and he instantly perked up. By the time I finished the very first paragraph he was sitting next to me, leaning on my arm, and said, “This is cool!”

I read one chapter to him that night. He read a second (slightly above his reading level, mind you) on his own after I left.

All because that first paragraph grabbed him.

This is what we want as writers. No matter what category or genre we write, we want our readers hooked by the first page and eager to keep reading and devouring the story. If this book hadn’t started with the main character doodling, if it had started with the life history up to now, my kid might have listened, played with a toy, and not picked it back up on his own. Some stories do need a slower build up, but regardless of buildup you need to make the reader care.

The next time you’re struggling with your opening, think of this story. Will the first paragraph snag a potentially reluctant reader? In all truth, it won’t grab everyone, that’s life in the reading world. But will it grab the one who needs it?

Romance Cares Giveaway

I am thrilled to be part of this giveaway providing relief for those affected by the recent hurricanes and earthquakes. Read on to find out how you can help and win free romances!

Romance Cares (FINAL GRAPHIC)

~*~*~ ROMANCE CARES GIVEAWAY! ~*~*~

Rachel Lacey and Mia Sosa have teamed up with over 30 romance authors to offer you a special giveaway, in light of the recent natural disasters that have affected parts of the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands. To enter, just email us at romancecares@gmail.com showing proof of a donation (please remove sensitive information) to disaster relief efforts, and you will receive 1 or more free ebooks – chosen at random – from a list of books from participating authors. Some people will even receive an entire series! 🙂 Please help us spread the word by sharing this giveaway on social media using the hashtag #romancecares.

Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone who’s been affected. ❤

Entry Details:
1. Please email romancecares@gmail.com by Friday, October 13th showing proof of a donation to disaster relief dated between August 1 and October 13, 2017.
2. In your email, please indicate your preference of Kindle or Nook copies for your gifted ebooks.
3. If you’ve already read any of the books included in the giveaway, please let us know in your email, and we’ll do our best to gift you a book or books you haven’t read yet.

 

Our Awesome Participating Authors:
Laurie Benson – An Unexpected Countess
Jennifer Bernard – Setting Off Sparks
Marnee Blake – Altered
Asa Maria Bradley – Viking Warrior Rising
Laura Brown – Friend (With Benefits) Zone
Celeste Castro – Homecoming
Olivia Dade – Ready to Fall
Alexis Daria – Take the Lead
Jen Doyle – Calling It
Kate Forest – Interior Design and Other Emotions
Calista Fox – His Angel of Starlight Bend
Megan Frampton – the Dukes Behaving Badly series
Codi Gary – Crazy for You
Mia Hopkins – Cowboy Rising and Cowboy Karma
April Hunt – Hard Justice
Ryvr Jones – Shadow and Bones
L.J. LaBarthe – The Archangel Chronicles (complete 9 book set)
Rachel Lacey – Crash and Burn
Ruby Lang – Hard Knocks
Jessica Linden – Fight For Me
Tracey Livesay – the Shades of Love series and the In Love with a Tycoon series
J.L. Lora – Boss
Sarah MacLean – the Scandal and Scoundrel series
Kelly Maher – The Bridesmaid and the Hurricane
Tif Marcelo – North to You
Liz Maverick – The Transporter
Harper Miller – The Sweetest Taboo
Steph Nuss – the Love in the City series
Priscilla Oliveras – His Perfect Partner
Tamsen Parker – Rogue Desire and In Her Court
Annie Rains – Forbidden Kisses
Sara Rider – Going for the Goal
Lydia San Andres – A Summer for Scandal
Susan Scott Shelley – Making His Move
Sabrina Sol – Delicious Satisfaction
Mia Sosa – Acting on Impulse
Elisabeth Staab – Losing the Fight
Mia West – Marked by Fire
Tara Wyatt – Dirty Boxing

 

 

For more details, check out the sites of the two who started this wonderful giveaway: http://www.miasosa.com/romance-cares-giveaway/ and http://www.rachellacey.com/romance-cares-giveaway/

The Wait Game of Publishing

Publishing is a slow industry. It moves at a turtle pace, with random spurts of speed. It requires all your patience, and then some. It requires a thick skin.

It requires professionalism.

If you can’t handle the wait. If you can’t handle rejection. If you can’t handle constructive criticism (never mind the negative feedback you will undoubtedly be the recipient of), then you either need to learn how or get out.

Harsh. Yes. But true.

I actively sought out an agent for two years before being picked up. Two years and two manuscripts. Which means that my first manuscript collected rejection on top of rejection until I had combed through the list of agents I thought could be a match. And you know what? Two years and two manuscripts are nothing compared to what some authors go through.

And when you do land that mystical agent, guess what? You’re not going to be offered sight unseen. True story: when I first spoke with my agent on the phone I found out she’d been stalking me on twitter. That’s right, she checked my tweets, saw how I interacted with others. She decided that I was worthy of her time and that I was a potential client she could be proud of. She wasn’t going to sign me if I had been complaining about rejections, or how long an agent took to respond. She wasn’t going to sign me if I seemed impatient or difficult to work with. Because it’s not just her working with me, she needs to know that when she finds an editor for me, I’m not going to be difficult to work with.

The waiting doesn’t stop at the agent level. The waiting goes up to turbo level. Your agent will send your manuscript out on sub. And then neither one of you will hear anything for a long time. Weeks, maybe if you’re lucky. Months more than likely. Sometimes years. Your agent isn’t going to want you emailing every week asking for an update. Because there won’t be an update, your agent is just as in the dark as you are. It’s mind numbing and stressful and the reason why everyone says to work on your next project.

Because you never know which novel is going to be picked up. So having something new to work on, and a next project prepared, is always a good idea.

This post is stemming from some things I have seen in regards to Pitch Wars. Now, Pitch Wars is great for the waiting game. It’s only three weeks long! That means in three weeks, you have an answer. You are not stuck waiting for months or years. Just weeks. And there’s an entire community waiting with you! Plus mentors chatting and teasing. Who cares if they aren’t teasing about your baby, you’ve got an insight into what’s going on. That’s awesome. Agents and editors certainly don’t give you as much.

Bottom line: if you can’t handle the wait, you aren’t ready. And that doesn’t mean you can’t stress out about it or get frustrated. It does mean you behave appropriately on social media and keep your freak outs to your close writer friends. They get it. They’ll hold your hand and cheer you on, and you’ll do the same for them. And then you’ll go back to social media and smile sweetly as if there is no turmoil in your life. You don’t tweet about requests. You don’t tweet about rejections. You keep a positive and professional front.

I’ve had my freak outs. My husband reminded me how crazy stressful Pitch Wars was when I was a hopeful. I’ve had melt downs to my CPs. I’ve had melt downs to my agent. You won’t know about this by searching my social media. I mention it here without any specifics. Because it’s the specifics that are the problem. We all know how insanely stressful it is to be a writer. We know that we all have these moments. It’s how we handle these moments that separate those that are ready from those that are not.

Some Pitch Wars Stats

Pitch Wars is in full swing and many of us mentors are knee deep in glorious words, crying over the fact that we can only choose one! I’ve always found the behind the scenes stuff fascinating so I’m going to let you into a small look at what I’ve been working with.

I received 89 subs this year! That’s almost double from last year. Part of that is due to expanding my wish list, part of that is due to the sheer jump in numbers the overall contest received.

Here’s how those 89 subs broke down:

  • 16% were New Adult, the rest Adult with one YA I had to automatically remove.
  • 21% did not follow my wish list. (Sad panda)
  • Highest word count: 141K
  • Lowest word count: 45K
  • My genre breakdown. Note that I simplified some genres to make the chart less crazy. Also note that some marked Contemporary were really Contemporary Romance and I spotted them easily. Some of the Women’s Fiction did not appear to match my wish list (if you read my wish list, this isn’t you, don’t worry!)

genres

To date I’ve read 827 pages and can usually tell within the first 2-3 if a story is right for me or not. That number read is actually higher since I read fulls on my kindle and don’t have all of those updated yet. And no, I do not read every full in complete. I read until I have enough to make my decision.

I did not get nearly as much diverse stories as I did last year, less for disabled characters. Makes me sad but could mean there weren’t as many participating. (more sad panda)

I’ve made requests (currently at 12%), founds some I’ve loved, some I’ve passed on to others (no stats, sorry, I’d have to sort through all I’ve mentioned and compare that with all I’ve sent, it’s not easy!), and some that I’m not the right person for. I am not done requesting. I’ve also received some subs from others that were not subbed to me.

Here’s a look into my actual notes in my spreadsheet. I write these for my own eyes only, not intending to share, so there’s no filter here. I’ve blanked out any areas too telling. These are also random places in my inbox. No, I will not share what the colors indicate.

TenQuery1TenQuery2

I’ve found a lot of high quality stories in my inbox, so you should all pat yourselves on the back. I hope you all have been making connections with your fellow potential mentees. My core group of CPs (Critique Partners) have all come from contests, either directly or indirectly and I would be nothing without them.

In regards to feedback: I’m a feedback junkie. Love it, and when I was in the trenches I always craved it to help point me in the right direction (news flash, one opinion from one person is just that, one opinion, it might not be right for you, but three similar opinions require some consideration). Last year I sent out feedback to everyone who subbed to me. This year I am not going to have the time. If you are interested in feedback, please comment below or on twitter with your title and I will add you to my list. I cannot promise how prompt I will be, and for most of you it will only be a few lines, but I will get to it.

And that’s your tiny insight into what’s going on in my inbox.

Is This Manuscript Ready? Some Pitch Wars Thoughts

I’ve been seeing this question pop up on the hashtag, with hopefuls pondering if they are ready and if they will be ready in time. I have thoughts on this so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it.

First and foremost: you can’t win if you don’t try. Yes, the mentors do not want a first draft—and we can spot a first draft, we’ve written enough of them! But if you are wondering if you need yet another round of edits first or not? Stop. Pitch Wars is a mentor contest. We’re not looking for perfect. If you are chosen you’ve got a LOT of work ahead of you. Take a few deep breaths, do what you can, and enter.

If you are not sure if a part of your novel is working, then you are a prime candidate for this contest. Mentors are looking for something to love, yes, but we are equally looking for something we can fix. We want to fall in love with your stories and see its weaknesses. More importantly, we want to have the inspiration on how to fix said weaknesses.

Now, story time. In 2015 I entered for the second year as a hopeful. I was working hard at finishing up a major revision. I didn’t know if it worked. I felt like there was still some major flaw left in it. I’d lost my way in the revision process and was floundering, as many of us do during the course of writing a novel.

I ended up with requests from all but one of the mentors I subbed to, which was thrilling! I wasn’t chosen to be a mentee. And let me tell you something, even though I still worried there were major flaws, the manuscript didn’t need the contest. A month later I signed with my agent and did minor alterations before going on sub. That book sold not too long after that and my editor’s edits were not the rip it apart kind.

The novel was ready. Some of you out there are biting your nails, fighting this gut deep feeling that there is something wrong with your novels. Some of you don’t have major problems left to address. Some of you are there. You are ready. You just don’t know it yet. Because this business is subjective. It drags you down, knocks you out, and forces you to pull yourself back up again. If I hadn’t subbed to my agent, if my agent hadn’t subbed to my editor, I might still be in the trenches with all of you. It’s part talent, part luck, and a whole hell lot of perseverance.

But back to the contest: Do you have a finished novel? Does it have a beginning, middle, and end? Have you edited it, hunting for easy fixes? Have you had other eyes providing feedback? (If not, reach out on the hashtag or join the Facebook group!) Have you done what you think you can for the novel? If you are at least close, enter. The only thing you have to lose is a quick pass (not a rejection, it’s not a rejection when we can only pick one) with potential feedback (some of us do, some of us don’t, check with your mentors). And in the meanwhile you’ll make friends and learn from others. Which is a win-win.

As for me, do I still bite my nails and wonder if my work is ready or not? Yes and no. I have my close CP (Critique Partner) cheerleaders who talk me off ledges constantly, but a perk to being published, and having reviews, is learning my own weaknesses. I spot them in my own work, I self edit with my agent and editor in my head. I’ve seen my work go from creation to completion. It helps let me know when I’m ready and when I’m not. It comes from experience and not giving up. We are all always learning and we will all always have edits to do.

The real question isn’t if your manuscript is ready. The question is: are you ready to work?