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?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I need your help picking a new story (or part of a story) to share!

I've been wracking my brain as to which story to work on next (either finish writing or finish editing). And before you ask: Yes, I am working on Sun Damage. A lot. And that's why it's good to take a little break to work on something else. Right? Right.
And I have so many new stories/pieces of stories that I'm excited about, but I don't know which one people would want to read first. So I am turning to you, internet friends and family, to help me decide.
Here's a little bit on each story. If any of them interest you, just vote at the bottom. I'm hoping to have it posted by New Year's Day!

Beholder(Short story): Beholder is a story about sight. And fish. And a serial killer. 

Shadow Tag (Story): This is flash fiction (I think). And it's experimental. Shadows move among his world, and only he can stop them. He can't even write about them without the lines being crossed out.
The rough draft. 

Stranger on The Train(Chapter one of "the android story"): Are you a human or a machine, and which is worse?
From my notebook. The first draft.

The Donor(The first part): A story about one girl and her desperate attempt at making some money for her family before time runs out (This takes place in the same world as The Sunshine Series, but it's very different). 

Ava's Song (a.k.a. a Sunshine Series horror spin-off)(excerpt):
Michael has searched an eternity for her. Now that he has her, he isn't going to let go. (characters include Evan, Ava, and Micheal).

Notes from a workshop on this story.

Six (excerpt): Corbin is in love with a box her mother bought at a yard sale for a dollar. It's never opened, but she still loves it. Maybe that's why she's been in and out of mental facilities since she was little. That and the shadows. They're everywhere. 

Vote for your favorite here:

What Story (or part of a story) do you want next? free polls 

Happy voting! Can't wait to share something new with you guys!

: )

Friday, November 15, 2013

How AFI Saved Me From Drowning

I had my first panic attack when I was in third grade. I don’t really know what caused it. I remember it, which is weird, because I don’t really remember many things, but it’s extremely clear in my head.
We were sitting on the floor in the classroom. My teacher was reading a book to us, and I was towards the back of the “circle” (because kids thought I was weird. duh).
One minute, I was fine and happy. Then I blinked. And things started to look unreal. The windows began to slant, the dark blue carpet became ridiculously scratchy under my palms. I started to sweat, even though I was freezing. Then I felt sick.
Something you should know: When I was a kid, I didn’t sneeze without permission. I didn’t get up from the table unless everyone else did first, I didn’t like people staring at me, and I did everything in my power NOT to get into trouble.
So when I suddenly got up and ran to the door, I guess it alarmed my teacher.
“Nicolette,” I remember her nearly yelling. “Where are you going?”
By that time, I couldn’t really talk anymore, but I remember trying to tell her, “I have to get out.”

What does this have to do with anything?
I’m getting to it.

Over the years, my anxiety and depression have been intense to the point where I can’t even leave the house, to so mild that when I look back on the intense times, I convince myself that it probably didn’t even happen the way I remember it. That I couldn’t have ever been that bad.

I remember in high school, it was so bad that I missed weeks of school because I was “sick”. Once, when my aunt came to visit from California, we went to a restaurant and she had to drag me outside because I had an attack at lunch and I kept worrying about everyone watching me.

Last year, I woke up completely paralyzed, believing I was in my father’s house, That I could hear him coughing, and smell his cigarette smoke.

I like to say that my anxiety comes in waves and lulls. I can go months or years without feeling anything extreme, despite the stress of school and work, or I can be completely calm and have no stress when it hits me and I can’t even get out of bed.

I don’t try to make it a secret that my sisterly and I grew up kind of in a messed up way. That’s not what this post is for. You can read through my other posts to see some of that.
But it’s important to know because I’ve always believed that if we grew up differently, stable, we wouldn’t be who we are now. Kelly wouldn’t be an artist. I wouldn’t be a writer. And Dana wouldn’t have the undying compassion for people that she has in her either.

AFI came into my life when I was both in a wave period and going through a really, really hard time. I was losing my step dad, I was hurting myself so I didn’t have to cry or have an anxiety attack, and I was really, utterly alone and closed off to anything.

They reached me. I heard one song from Sing The Sorrow and there was someone else there with me, not only inside the wave, but reaching out to me, saying it was going to be alright. That I wasn’t alone. That I didn’t have to be.

This was the band that brought me back from the dead. This was the band who taught me about words. How they can be used to heal someone, help someone. I found every album and devoured them whole. They made me hungry, but it would be a few years before I knew what that hunger was for.

I’ve been trying to delay writing about this, but I feel like the only reason I have is because I didn’t want to admit it: I’m in a wave again.

Call it what you want: sadness, anxiety, depression…it’s the same entity to me. It has claws, and once it has you, it’s hard to keep walking around like you’re not in pain. It’s hard to keep upright. It’s unbelievably hard to be normal.

For the most part, I’m a happy person. I like my job, I like learning, and I’m writing as a career, getting paid for it, being asked to talk about myself and my books at colleges and things like that. I’m so grateful and happy about all of it. But the claws are still in me, digging in. I can’t help it. It’s not something I can control like what class I take or what story to write.

A month ago, I saw AFI in concert. When I was 15, this was all I wanted to do. I’ve wanted to see them live for so long. But the morning of, I wasn’t excited. Not even a little.
I went to see my boyfriend that afternoon, and I was angry. I couldn’t figure out why. I wanted to cry, or scream, or jump out of my skin. He took me on a walk in the woods, which usually helps when I’m anxious. But all I did was break down over and over again.
By the end of our two hour walk, I did feel a little better. Drained, not okay, but not bad either.

Then the AFI show happened.
There they were: Davey, Jade, Hunter, and Adam. And they were so close. And the first song they sang was the first song I ever heard of theirs, back when I was 15 and under another wave. This time, the song seemed to be saying the same things: This is what music can do. You are not alone. 

But now there were new things too: Look at how far you’ve come. Look at what you can do.

Singing along with other fans, holding my sister, Kelly and crying with her during these songs, raising my hands along with the hundreds of other people who all have their own shit and problems and anxieties…It was something I’m still having trouble describing.

If you’re a lucky person whose life has never needed saving, or an unlucky person who has needed saving and had no music to save you, I doubt, that even if I could put it into words, you’d be able to understand.
When the show was over and I went home that night, I felt less heavy. Instead of drained, I felt like I should be writing, or painting, or creating something. I’m not saying that I’m out of the wave, not just yet. But I’m hoping this is the start. I’m hoping that this is the beginning of me reaching out and being able to stand without being in pain or thinking about the claws of anxiety.

I want to believe that. For me. And for them. Because without AFI, I wouldn’t be who I am. I can’t say that I would know who I would be, but I don’t think I’d be this person. The one who is under a wave and pretending to not be under a wave. 

Maybe one day, I won’t have to pretend. Maybe I will just be and that will be enough, but for now, I still have a life raft. It’s something I almost forgot I had until I saw them in October.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is: if you’re struggling with a mental disorder, I know how you feel. You are not alone. If you can find something else that tells you that in this world, while you’re under your own waves, you’re extremely lucky. Hold onto it and don’t forget that it’s there. But if you don’t have that, or can’t find it just yet, I’m here. My words are here (and I hope they help). It’s hard to believe when you’re under water, trying to convince people that you aren’t drowning, but you will be okay. Waves recede. Sadness lessens. The world will not always be a scary place. Not forever.

(You can go HERE to listen to their new album, Burials. It's what's been keeping my head above water lately)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A NEW STORY! Whoooo!

Hey, guys! It's been an extremely long time, hasn't it? Between my entire summer being taken up by writing and edits, and now starting my LAST YEAR of college, I feel like a new post is long overdue.

There's also some Sunshine Series news coming soon, so if you're not following me on Twitter, facebook, or goodreads, you're going to miss out on some AWESOME stuff in a few weeks.

But besides The Sunshine Series, I've been trying to work on a lot of short stories as well. I was going to wait until next week to post something, but what the hell. I have a new story (and serious procrastination issues), and I wanted to share it. : )

This was the first one I wrote for Advanced Creative Writing this semester, and it's one of my few attempts at flash fiction. So be easy on it (lol). So, here it is. Tell me what you think.



     “There’s nothing you can do,” she said. “It’s already done.”
     Her voice always wakes me up when I’m trying to sleep, but when I turn on the light, when I’m still in-between worlds, I think she’s there. Until I look around and find no one.
     I think about killing myself for the third time today when the waitress gets my order wrong.
     I wanted my eggs scrambled, but they stare back at me. Two yellow, runny eyes. It’s raining outside, causing the sidewalks to swell up with dirty water. I wonder if it will turn into a flood, lift the diner off of its foundation so it floats away.
     On average these days, I think about death more than I think about life. I know I’m too much of a coward to do it. I don’t even know if I want to, not really. But thinking, I can’t stop thinking.
     The second time I thought about it today was when I was in the shower and started crying for seemingly no other reason than the fact that my face was already wet.
      The first was when I woke up, reaching my hand across the covers to find the rest of the bed cold.
      “Sorry, hon,” the waitress says. “Can I get you something else?”
      I tell her no. I’m not hungry anymore.
I thought we were mostly okay. We never really fought, neither of us liking confrontation. We were together for almost three years before everything died. Pictures on the walls shrunk, flowers crumpled in on themselves before turning black.
     The fourth time I think about killing myself today is when I’m back in my car and the heat stops working. The rain soaked through my coat and I’m shivering. I wonder if the water will rise more. If it will go past my tires, get into my car and soak through the upholstery. If I stayed in my car all day as the flood swept through, would it be enough?
     A month ago, for my birthday, she tried baking me a cake while I was at work. I came home to a smoke-filled house and her crying on the kitchen floor. “I can’t do this,” she said.
     I asked her what she meant, but she only went to our bedroom and slammed the door.
     I had only seen her cry a few times, mostly when there were things going on that she couldn’t control. Her cat died, her parents got divorced. Things she couldn’t stop or draw out.
     She told me the next day that she was going to visit her parents and would be back in a few weeks.
     She didn’t come back.
     I called, wrote, left messages. I went up to her parent’s house, to her friends, her job, and they all told me they hadn’t seen her. Wherever she was, she didn’t want to be reached. She didn’t want to be found.
     I call out of work when I get back to the house. They tell me that if I continue to take sick days, they’ll fire me. I say it won’t happen again, but the pause between my response and my boss’ tells me that we both know I’m lying.
     I crawl back into bed, there’s no other place that makes sense lately.
     She always had problems sleeping. She’d toss and turn all night. I’m a heavy sleeper, but sometimes the motion of the mattress would wake me. I’d curl myself around her and make her still. Sometimes she’d sleep through the night that way.
     When everything ended, all I got was a phone call. She told me what she was hiding beneath her smile, her personality, and clothes. I told her we could work it out. That I was upset, but that I still loved her.
     “That’s why I can’t do it,” she said. “I can’t be with someone that could love me after what I’ve done.” The silence on the other end of the line buzzed through my ears, splitting my head in half.
     But in my dreams, she’s still here. I don’t think about life or death, or the consequences of either one. In between being asleep and awake, I can see her brown hair in my hands, leaking through the cracks in my fingers as we both stretch out over the mattress.  She’s unaware of what she’s done. How we’re both on a sinking ship, her in a lifeboat while I’m still behind the helm. I don’t care if the baby would have drowned us. I would have been happy to drown.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sun Poisoned is born!

As we speak, Sun Poisoned is processing on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and it is live on Smashwords. It will be .99  for the entire weekend.

Sunshine has been re-edited and re-formatted as well, and will be on Smashwords for pay what you want. 

And I am FREAKING the FUCK out.

You'd think it would be different, releasing your second book. It is in some ways. I know how to format now, for example. I know to do it earlier in the day so it goes up that day. I have learned some things.
Editor's notes on how to improve Sunshine.

But as far as what I'm's not different.

I spent over five years on Sunshine. Sun Poisoned took me only six months. That's insane to me. That I could create a book in such little time that's complete and exactly what I wanted. But it's happened.

I'm still scared. I'm still anxious. I'm still excited beyond anything.

I still have that familiar feeling of wanting to have my baby out there in the world, yet still trying to hold its hand when it tries to leave me.

Me, when I first started typing out Sunshine
...It's such a strange thing, making up stories. I don't think there is anything out there like that in the world. You spend all of your time crafting the characters, the plot, the words. You grow attached to them all (at least I do), and then you have to let them go.

People have asked me if I'm one of those writers who use "inspiration" from my life in my writing. The short answer is yes. And as much as I did it in Sunshine, I've done it even more in Sun Poisoned. I use writing to deal with this thing we call life. I hope the books find people who have a hard time dealing with life.

What can I tell you about Sun Poisoned?

Not a lot. You'll have to read it, or the reviews that have been trickling in. What I can tell you is this: It is full of love, music, betrayal, horror, lies, and then more love.

But mostly my soul. I put a lot into this one, and I hope that shows.

Here are a bunch of links, if you want to buy the book(s)

Barnes and Noble

Or if you want to learn more:

Or if you want to come to my AWESOME Facebook party with games, prizes, and a live Q&A with me via webcam (It starts at 12pm EST):
Party on the internetz

Thank you, though. If you're reading this, there is a chance that you've read Sunshine. And I want to thank you so much for giving my dreams a chance. All of the long hours, the stress of working, going to school, and trying to put out books doesn't matter when I think about how there are people reading them, and liking them.

We are the media. You guys have the power to make or break an author, especially an indie one. You can share everything, you can spread the word, you can shake your friends by the shoulders and tell them, "You HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK!" Which helps us out more than you know.

When I see that someone is reading one of my books on Goodreads, tracking the progress and writing comments as they go, it's like I get to go on the whole journey again with them. I feel utterly and amazingly connected to you all, and that's what I want more than anything. I want to talk to you and see your feedback. I want to be a part of this thing we call life, with you.

Without you, I'd just be a writer, which is fine. But now I feel like I'm really doing what I've wanted to do since I was in high school.
So thank you. Thank you for making me an author. : )