Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three AM thoughts: How I'm dealing.



It’s been a long time since I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with the undeniable urge to write something that wasn’t fiction. I woke up last night with that urge, and I don’t know how any of it turned out because I don’t want to chicken out of posting this. Because I feel like it’s important that I get these thoughts out there, for anyone who can gain something from them. I don’t do stuff like this that often, and it’s been a while since I got personal on my page, but if you click back through older posts, that’s all I used to do.


Over the past six months, maybe year or two (I can’t remember shit lol) I’ve been struggling with some issues. I’ve tried many things to cope. Writing is one of them. It always has and always will be. But it isn’t often that I write non-fiction. Fiction makes it so I can deal with what I have through a filter, but sometimes I don’t want one. Sometimes I feel the need to deal with things in a raw and unobstructed way. I think that’s what I was doing early this morning.


For me, it’s important to not just show my successes and have people think I live an amazing life full of writing and fun stuff. Don’t get me wrong. What you’re about to read may have you think that I’m hopeless and ungrateful. I’m not. I love my readers and bloggers and friends and family and a lot of times, these are the things that help me the most. But a lot of my life hasn’t been so fun lately and I think it’s worth it to show that to people as well. I hope at least some of you appreciate this.


Here are my Three AM thoughts from last night, unedited and unrevised:




Having anxiety and depression is a lot like being thrown into the deep end of the pool when you don’t know 
how to swim (for the record, I hate water and I don’t really know how to swim. So this is a great analogy, huh?). When you first experience it, you don’t really know what’s going on. As a result, you flail around, kicking, screaming, crying, pleading—doing anything it takes to keep your head above water so you don’t drown. 

I was diagnosed at a very young age with anxiety. I don’t remember much about it with the exception of the panic attacks. I’ve always been able to remember each and every one of those. I know that I was in  third grade, in the middle of story time, when I first had one. I remember how I scared the other kids in my class and how I didn’t return to school until the middle of fourth grade because I couldn’t function like everyone else. I don’t really know what caused the anxiety. I wrote about that a little HERE.
My doctors and therapists seemed to have thought it had something to do with my parents getting a divorce, but I was so little that my parents always spoke for me, so I don’t know how much of that theory is real and how much of it was them trying to explain why their daughter was acting out. It probably didn’t help that my parents’ toxic relationship was even more toxic now that they were leaving each other, unwillingly placing their children in the middle of a war-zone, but I think there’s probably a lot more to it that I don’t understand. Even now.

The double-whammy of depression and anxiety is just plain evil. That saying of “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy?” Yeah. That makes a lot of sense here. I don’t sleep. I have trouble doing “normal” things like hanging out with friends and driving. I have a hard time enjoying things, I have a hard time believing what I’m doing is worth anything at all. Then I get anxious about what’s wrong with me. 
When I step back and look at my life the way an outsider would, I’m happy. 

I think it’s important to point out that sadness, depression, mental illness in general, is not a straight line. Things can be good and bad at the same time. You can be happy and sad at the same time. Confusing? I know.

That’s why I thought it was important to write this post. So very few people understand what it’s like, and I’ve been struggling to explain it since I was very, very young. I still don’t know how. All I know is that I’m more aware of my “issues” than I was before, and all I can do is try to float around without bumping into anything that will make me start flailing again.

I was doing okay until January. I was having anxiety issues because of school and stress and whatnot, but in general, I was alright. Functioning.
I cannot explain what it’s like when a sibling calls you to say that one of your parents has died. That two police officers showed up on the middle of the night to tell them and they were too upset to call you until morning. I can’t explain that at all, but I can tell you how the snow was falling outside the window, how quiet everything was. And how loud.

I also can’t explain what it’s like trying to plan a funeral when you didn’t talk your parent for the last three years of his life. People have told me that it’s better we weren’t close, that if I really loved him, if we were really in each others’ lives, it would have been harder. That’s where they’re wrong.  It’s like he left us an enormous puzzle. One with missing pieces and even the pieces that are there are warped and don’t fit in the right places. Six months later, and we’re still trying to put the pieces together, still trying to move on when he’s everywhere and nowhere. When we have no answers.

Depression and anxiety affects literally every aspect of my life. It controls everything. It tells me what to think, how to feel, what to eat, how to dress, what to write about, what to worry about. It doesn’t matter that I know that some of these thoughts (a lot of times most of them) aren’t rational. Hell, sometimes I’ll pace the room anxious just about the next time I’ll be anxious. 
I don’t sleep. My stomach hurts all the time. I never feel healthy. I never like or enjoy anything completely. I question everything (good and bad) that happens in my life and wonder if I deserve it.

This is no way to live, yet I’ve lived this way for as long as I can remember. However, I think my dad dying the way he did put everything into perspective. He was alone because of his mental illness, and although alcoholism and my issues are completely different in a lot of ways, I’m drawing lines from one to the other daily. I’m realizing that we aren’t that much different. And it scares me.

I’ve been told that anxiety is a “fight or flight” response. That when my brain doesn’t know how to deal with something, it just shuts down—something maybe left over from an earlier time. I don’t know about that. I think it could be true, but I also think it’s something that I can’t explain away that simply.

I am so grateful to the people in my life, but I honestly don’t know why or how they find the strength to put up with me. How I can flail around and there’s always someone there trying to pull me out. Al and I have been together for eight years. When I first told him about anxiety, I remember  the confused look that passed over his face, like so many others. I remember how nervous I was to tell him that I had depression, seeing that same confused look. But he just hugged me and told me he wanted me to be happy. He still does that. And I don’t know how or why he does.

Part of me will always be afraid that I’ll tell him I’m under a bad wave and he’ll decide he’s had enough. Move on to a normal happy girl, but I know that I’ve never loved anyone so completely and so without question that it scares me even more. I’m afraid of myself and what I do to the people around me. I make them worry. I make them sad or upset. They feel helpless or like they aren’t enough to make me happy. What they don’t understand is that they are. They are more than enough, and although I don’t say it to them as often as I should, they make the whole getting out of bed and trying to live life normally thing worth it. If I didn’t have my friends and sisters, I think I would be a lot worse.

Love is something I’ve never truly been comfortable with. I think it has a lot to do with how I was brought up, how easily things changed for the worse and how easily it was for someone to tell you they loved you and then turn around and drink themselves sick while you were around.
I’m beginning to realize that while I didn’t always have a good relationship with my father, I know he loved me. I remember we would ask him to stop drinking as young as nine years old, beg him to for hours on the phone when he called drunk, asking why we didn’t want to see him. I never believed I was enough. I always thought that if he loved us, he could stop putting something that hurt him and everyone around him above us. I think I’m slowly starting to understand. He did love us. There were just other things in the way. There was some part of his brain that didn’t let him love me completely, that didn’t let me believe him completely.

It’s my biggest fear that this is how the people I love will one day see me. That despite how much I tell them I love them and how much I try to show it, they’ll never fully believe me because they know that deep down I’m not happy and that they aren’t enough.
That’s why, after years and years of struggling to do this on my own, I’ve decided to be put on medication. I’m leaving to hang out in the mountains tomorrow night and when I get back, I’m starting on it. Real, honest-to-god, not-herbal-all-chemical medication. Understand me when I say that this scares the living shit out of me. I don’t want to be taking pills that alter my mood or who I am, I don’t want to end up more screwed up than I am now. I am anxious about taking medicine that will help me be less anxious. Come on, it doesn’t get more confusing than that. Lol.

I know that the people closest to me will be supportive no matter what. I know that there are strangers reading this now who will support me because they’ve been through similar things. I think it’s important to point out that I am not writing this for attention, I’m writing this for the reason I write anything: to help others. I want it to be okay to talk about issues like this. I want it to be okay to be scared, to ask for help, to say that you’re tired of flailing and you need someone to pull you out of the deep end. If I can be something like that to even one person, I’m happy.

I guess I’ll end this here. I’m writing this at 3AM in the dark and it’ll all probably look different in the morning, but I wanted to get this out there. I just wanted to let you—whoever you are—know that I’m trying. I really am. That’s all any of us can do. Stay with me. We’ll be okay.
http://twloha.tumblr.com/

Thank you for reading this post. I love you. Your regularly scheduled book news and so forth with continue soon.  : )

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Donor (Part One) Cover Reveal and Blog Tour List!

Okay, let's start this out right, with the cover for my newest work, The Donor (Part One) out July 14th:



And I guess I should give you a synopsis as well:

Casey Williams and her family are poor. Her parents work non-stop and so does she, just so they can keep the trailer roof from leaking.
They’re getting by fine enough when the headaches start. Then there’s the nosebleeds. And the inevitable doctor’s bills.
Fortunately for Casey, there’s MyTrueMatch.com: an exclusive, quick, and almost easy way to pay it all back before her parents even have to know.
All she has to do is give a man she’s never met whatever he wants from her body.
Inside or out.


So. What do you think?
I figured I would use all that knowledge I gathered at community college as a Fine Arts major and put it to good use. I'm proud to say that this is the first cover I've ever made myself and I'm happy with how it's turned out. I have a really specific vision for these little novellas (they're only about 30 pages each) and this one fits perfectly with the three ideas I have. This story started, like so many, in workshop class. I had a story due in a week and had written nothing because I was so busy with school.
Then, I was sitting in my Spanish class and I was writing in the margins of my notebook as we were learning animals en EspaƱol. I tried to find a picture of it (because I take pictures of shit like that), but I couldn't find one. I do remember the first line, just like I remember every first line that comes to me. The one for Sunshine was, "Love is a monster, you see." And this first line was, "'There are worst ways for girls like us to make money,' she said. And I remember thinking, were there?"

Anyway. I'm really excited about this little project and I hope others are as well. It's also scary because it's so new. I wanted to try something different by putting out short pieces that all go together and releasing them shorter apart from each other than my novels. I hope people appreciate that as well.

When I have to answer interview questions, one thing I'm asked time and again is something like, "How do you know if a book is ready to publish?" and I always answer in some elaborate way that means something like, "I don't know, it just is."
What I've come to realize is the more I publish, the more I want to publish. I don't mean I just slap anything I write up on Amazon. Trust me, there's tons of shit in my notebooks that never sees the light of day. I guess what I mean is that I write for myself, first and foremost--that's how it's always been and always will be--however, when I feel this overwhelming need to share the stories I write, that's when I'd say something is ready. I feel like this story is something new for new fans and something old for my Sunshine Series fans. I really, really can't wait to share.

Okay. Enough rambling. Here's the Blog Tour details!
*I'm still open to adding people to the tour on the same days or different ones, so if you're interested, just email me! (nikkiraeauthor@gmail.com)

The Donor Part One Blog Tour (June 30-July 21)

July 10: Still wide open! : )
July 11: Richard Schiver
July 14 (Release Day Blitz!!!): ALL THE BLOGS
July 16: Pure Jonel
July 21: Best Chick Lit

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Donor (Part One) NEWS (and excerpt)!

Hello, all! A lot's been going on. I'll try to keep this as short as possible.

Since my last post here, I've graduated college, put out The Sunshine Series (that's right, ALL of them! FINALLY) in print, went to an art show, created an editing company, which, by the way, is also looking for stories for anthologies, drank lots of tea, worked on Animal (the horror/suspense spin off), won an award for the first chapter of my Android Story (like, what? Is this real life?), and went gluten free (for health reasons. Don't ask unless you want to be bored to tears).

Phew.

Anyway, the most important thing right now is The Donor (it's the title of the post, damn it!). Remember this blog post a while back? The one where I asked you to vote for the next story I would put out? Turns out you guys really like two things: The Donor and Androids.
But The Donor won out in the end (by the very skin of its teeth).

There are two sign up sheets circulating around the internets: one for the cover reveal (June 9th) and one for the blog tour (June 30-July 21). If you've already signed up, thanks, you rock! If you're a reviewer/blogger, why not give a short piece of mine a try?
And as always, please, please share them (or this post) around. This whole independent thing doesn't work if there's no word of mouth.

So. Without further ado, here's a little, itty bitty excerpt from The Donor to drive you nuts tide you over until The Donor's release date, July 14th! See you then!:

***



He leads me into the house, shutting the door behind us and flipping on lights ahead of me. The inside is just as unassuming as the outside. No crystal vase on the dining room table. Just hardwood floors.  No plasma screen in the living room. No original artwork. Just plain, white couches, a coffee table, a desk.  The only thing that hints at his wealth is the huge fish tank across from the sofa. I’m not aware that I’m moving toward it until my hand is pressed against the glass. Bright purple and orange coral sits on the bottom, two large black and yellow striped fish slowly swim past my face. I spot three brown seahorses hanging behind a rock, bobbing with the current the filter is creating.
“Do you like them?” he asks from directly behind me. He’s taken off his coat and sat it alongside my suitcase on an arm chair. He’s also rolled up the sleeves of his pressed shirt.
“Yeah,” I say, turning back to the tank. “Not everyone can keep seahorses alive.”
He lets me stare a while longer before he says, “Would you like to sit down?”
I turn around, slightly self-conscious that I went all gaga over something he probably never thinks twice about. If one died, he could drop another two hundred dollars and get one over-nighted without much thought.
I slip off my backpack and down on the couch across from the seahorses. I take off my coat too, and give it to him when he holds out his hand. After he’s placed it next to his, he sits down next to me.
When neither of us says anything, I say, “I like your house.”
He rests his hands on his thighs. “Thank you.”
Then silence again. He smiles. I smile. I adjust the hem of my dress over my knees.
“So did you bring the paperwork?” He asks.

***
 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sun Damage Cover Reveal!

I wanted to write this huge post about how excited I am and how awesome this cover is, but you probably already know that, so...




Here's the cover for the third and final book in The Sunshine Series, Sun Damage!
(And before you ask, YES, Sun Poisoned and Sun Damage will be in paperback this summer!)

Regina Wamba of MaeIDesign has outdone herself. This is my favorite cover yet. : )

Don't forget, the blog tour for Sun Damage starts March 14th! There's going to be interviews, guest posts by me, reviews, and giveaways of some AWESOME schtuff! Here are all the lovely blogs hosting me:
March 11th: Author Take Over at Book Lover Reviews
March 14th: Dark Obsession Chronicles and Shayna Varadeaux Books and Reviews
March 15th: Shaytastic Books
March 16th: Paranormal Books R Us and Le' Book Squirrel
March 17th: Wicca 4 Witch Book Blog
March 18th: Happy Tails and Tales Blog
March 19th: My Book Boyfriend and Trips Down Imagination Road 
March 20th: SassyCat’s Book Reviews 
March 21st: A ReadingNurse 
March 22nd: What’s Beyond Forks? and Books and Other Spells  
March 23rd: Pure Jonel
March 24th: A Diary of A Book Addict
March 25th: Hearts On Fire Reviews
March 26th: Book List Of Books Lost In A Good Book, and Author Take Over at Book Bliss 
March 27th: CurseOf The Bibliophile and Fire& Ice Book Reviews
March 28th (Release Day!): Best Chick LitIndie Writers Review,Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock, and MANY MORE
March 29th: The Violet Hour Book Reviews
March 30th: The Bookie Monster
March 31st: Lost In A Good Book  and Podcast Interview With Indie Writers Review 
April 1st: Book Lover Reviews
April 2nd: So Bookalicious 
April 3rd: Moonlight Gleam Book Reviews
April 4th: Kayla’s Place 
April 5th: Flip and Catch, Tista Ray, and Reviews In A Pinch  
April 6th: Kellie’s Reading Nook

Thursday, March 6, 2014

An Open Letter To Authors Whose Books Are Being Banned



I heard this morning that an author's book had been banned three separate times from Amazon. There are specific warnings on this author's book about the book's content, yet people are still trying to get rid of the author's book based on "content violation".


This is just one of the many stories I have heard over the past few weeks, and honestly, it makes me really, really sad. I've been keeping mostly quiet, but I wanted to write a small post about what I think about all of this.


I honestly don't know much about what is qualifying these books to get banned (sometimes multiple times), but I'm going to share what I know. Most of these books are on the darker side, are erotica, or involve some form of graphic content (which the reader is always WARNED about). These books are read by people who shouldn't be reading them, or people who think they are romance books (again, even though there is a disclaimer), and when the customer isn't happy with how the plot plays out, they return the book, saying that reason was because of the book's content.
Also, I don't know for sure, just speculating here, but I think there could be something deeper going on in some of these cases. What could be happening is that one person is offended by the book so much that they feel the need to get more people to buy it and return it for "content violation" and then the books are banned. Just a thought.


Honestly, this whole thing reminds me of high school.


When I was in high school, people were mean to me. Everyone is picked on during that time, it just depends on the reason. People picked on me because I was different. I carried around a coffin back pack, wore black lipstick, and hung pictures of Edgar Allan Poe in my locker. I wasn’t afraid to make art that reflected the darkness I was going through in my personal life at the time because that was the only way I could make it come out.
But people didn’t understand this, and they were afraid. So they bullied me until I changed what I looked like, until I stopped being different.


Perhaps the saddest part was that I told my parents, my teachers, and my guidance counselor, and although there were one or two who stuck up for me, most of these people “in charge” sided with the bullies by doing nothing. They told me I was overreacting. That no one would pick on me if I just tried to fit in.


Now that I look back, I wish there were more people who stood up for me. It’s easy to write things off as “just something that happens”. It takes a little more effort to say when something is wrong.


When you’re a writer, or an artist of any kind, you put yourself out there in ways that most people don’t even think about. I don’t know any of these authors whose books are being banned, but I feel so bad for them because I know how much hard work and emotion they must have poured into their work.


When I decided to become self-published, I saw Amazon as a safe-haven. No one in the “real” publishing world would look at my work, but here was a way to have thousands of people buy it with a click of a button.
Can we just take a minute to process how scary that is?
I spent years on my first book and it all came down to someone hitting “buy” on a website. That one small gesture would hang my book off a cliff, where the reader could save it (like it) or push it off (hate it)(Okay my analogies are weak, but I’ve been awake for two days so forgive me).


It’s hard enough trying to make the words happen. It’s hard enough trying to get everything perfect. It’s hard enough promoting and networking and getting people to review your books and like them as much as you do and to be taken seriously as a writer.


I have been fortunate enough that most people seem to enjoy my books. Even the people who don’t like them aren’t cruel or trying to attack me and my art.


I can’t imagine what these authors are going through. If it were me, I don’t know how easy it would be to keep going. But I think it’s important to say that no one should be forced to change who they are or what they choose to create art from just because it makes some people uncomfortable.
Then, when the authors tell Amazon that their books shouldn't have been banned, Amazon almost always does nothing. Eerily familiar.

I'd like to say that Amazon has been nothing short of awesome to me, and I do understand where they're coming from as well. They're a business and just like any other business, they do not like to have unhappy customers. 
However, in this case, their way of making their customers happy is flawed. Maybe something needs to change withing the format. Maybe there can be an agreement people have to check off to show that they read the content warning before the purchase the book, or there can be a way to prove a customer's age before they're allowed to purchase. The way they are handling things right now isn't acceptable.


The point of this post isn’t really different than any other: I want people to read it. I want people to share it.


I feel it’s incredibly important to never censor any art. There are so many things that I don’t personally agree with or see the beauty in, but that does not give me the right to take that art away from others who believe in it.


So, if you’re a writer reading this, keep going.
If one of your books were banned, I’m sorry. Keep going.
If you are a reader and don’t like certain genres or themes, don’t read those books.
If you read something that offends you, think about why. If you can’t deal with the reason(s), put the book down. You aren’t ready for it.
What I want to do is make people aware that these things are happening, so if you know of or if you personally are being affected by the book banning, please share what you know/your experience. The more people that stand up, the more art that gets saved.


Sign the petition to stop the bullying on Amazon HERE.

And support the authors whose books are being banned. Give their page a like or drop them a nice message. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there is a person behind those words.




Friday, February 14, 2014

The Sun Damage Blog Tour Sign Ups are Here!

Hi, guys!
Yes, I am alive. Things have been crazy lately, but the good thing about bad things happening in real life is that better things happen with my writing life.
So. Are you ready?
Sun Damage, the third and final book in The Sunshine Series, is set to release on March 28th. Look, it has a book trailer and everything:
I've been trying to keep busy, so in between editing (It's SO CLOSE TO BEING DONE), I've been gathering all of the bloggers and reviewers I can remember to ask them about helping out with the cover reveal, blog tour, and release day.

But if you know me at all, you know I can't ever remember anything, and I don't want to leave anyone out, so I came up with this cool sign up sheet to make everything organized and all in one place.
So if you are someone or if you know someone who is interested in helping out with Sun Damage's blog tour, check it out HERE and feel free to share it! Whoever doesn't see it/sign up, I'll try to remember you and add you to the list of people to message, but it's impossible to keep track of everyone, so this really helps.

Also, I just wanted to take a minute to say thank you to everyone, especially now when things have been hard. I feel like I have this little family of people I never met and it's been truly amazing.

When I wrote Sunshine, even after it was published and people were reading it, I never could have imagined how amazing my life would become. Honestly, that's one of the things that's been getting me through all this, so thank you. If I could hug you all, I would.

I can't believe this series is coming to an end. These are characters who have stuck with me since high school. Now, as I near the end of editing (Seriously, SO CLOSE), it's kind of a bitter sweet feeling. I'm sad to be leaving them, but I'm also extremely excited for what's coming up next.
And I couldn't have done it without each and every one of you.

Let's make sure these characters get the proper send off, eh?