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Stories That Blew My Mind

We become writers a lot of the time because there are books that changed our lives or had a lasting impact on us…and we wanted to try and do the same as those authors did for us. At least, that’s why I became a writer.

There are those books that contain stories that stay with you for a lifetime. They change how you view life, love, and even death. Or sometimes they just make you laugh or cry. Whatever touched you within the pages of these books, they changed you and maybe even shaped who you have become.

There are also books that help shape who you become as a writer but, these are the stories the blew my mind. If you haven’t read any of them, you definitely should consider it. Maybe they will blow your mind too.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
I read this book in college and it tore my white bread, suburban perspective on life apart. I knew of course about racism, sexual abuse, and domestic violence but never had I read anything like the tragic story of Pecola Breedlove. There’s a scene in the book that haunts me to this day: a young white boy throws a kitten across the room, slamming it into the wall, while Pecola looks on helplessly. The kitten slides down the wall, limp, and falls on the radiator. The smell of burning hair fills the room. The way Morrison describes the oppression and shame the main character feels watching this happen yet unable to stop it because of her color is seered into my psyche. Everyone should read this book to see where we’ve been as a human race, and hopefully never go back there again.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
The fact that this book is written by a man is mind-blowing. Period. His portrayal of a woman suffering from the lifelong affects of abandonment, rape, and mental illness is masterful. The main character, Dolores, who has spent her formative years eating for comfort in front of the television finds herself in adulthood tipping the scales at over 250 pounds. She somehow maintains her sense of humor through tragedy after tragedy and ultimately develops the self-esteem she has been missing all along. It was the first book I read that highlighted how people self-medicate with food, and one that did it in a way we could all see a little of ourselves in Dolores.

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
Anyone who has picked up a book by Barbara Kingsolver and read only a few words knows the artistry and skill of a master at her craft. This particular story is reminiscent of Heart of Darkness. It’s a journey into madness for one ill-fated family fueled by good intentions…and we all know that the road to hell is paved by good intentions. The backdrop is the Congo, which becomes a character of force in the story that slowly wears down the will of the father, Nathan Price, a Southern Baptist preacher, who has decided to take up the mission in Kilanga and convert all the godless primitive heathens to Christianity. The story still sticks with me because of the intermingling of social, ecological, and religious undertones combined with Kingsolver’s details and gorgeous writing. It got me to think bigger, beyond myself and my little world–which is something we should all do from time to time.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The plot is very simple: a fifteen year-old boy finds a dead poodle on a neighbor’s lawn, stabbed with a pitch fork and he begins his search to learn what happened and who did it. But it’s not the plot that makes this a mind-blowing story, it is how the protagonist tells his story. You see, Christopher Boone, the protagonist, has Asperger Syndrome, and sees the world through a very unique lens. The way the author captures this characteristics of this disorder and portrays the character dealing with his world is amazing. You truly begin to understand the struggles people with this disorder must deal with every day in every interaction and relationship. Christopher jumps from advanced astrophysics to the existence of God, from quadratic equations to his favorite animals at the zoo. Christopher’s narrative voice is unlike I have ever experienced and, he makes a wonderful guide through his fascinating journey.

Burnt Edges Available on Kindle

You can get my debut novel today on Kindle!

Set in Southern California during the tumultuous 1960s era, Burnt Edges is the heart-breaking story of Laurel Lee Page, a young girl born into an abusive and violent home. She appears to be living a condemned life but she is determined to find independence and freedom amidst her family’s legacy of hatred and self-contempt. Faced with an unplanned pregnancy at 19 years old, Laurel finds herself in a powerful position, poised to break the cycle of abuse but can she do it?

Click here to get it on Kindle!

Stay tuned for contests, extras, and more!


How I Pull Myself Out of a Blue Mood

I think many writers suffer from depression because we think too much. And for those of us who are brave enough, we write what we think so the depression doesn’t consume us. Depression has always been part of my life in some form, like an inherited legacy. Lucky me.

Recently, I came down with an awful cold and had to stay in bed for a few days. That usually puts me in a down mood because I’m not being useful in any way. For me, I dictate how things are going by how I feel. If I feel good, the day is awesome. If I feel crappy, my day usually goes crappy so I try to do things that make me feel good. That’s where I start whenever I’m in a blue mood: what will make me feel good at this moment?

  • Watching a funny video on YouTube.
  • Meditating or doing yoga.
  • Talking to a friend.
  • Writing down whatever is burdening my mind.

Sometimes these don’t work. I’m too down. I feel helpless and hopeless. And the only thing that helps is crying. It’s like there’s a build up of gunk in my heart and it needs to come out some way and unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to prevent the build up of gunk. I think it just happens over time and I need to clean it out periodically, like the gutters on my roof.

My turning point came when I realized that my mind is a powerful force and I can choose to change my perspective on how I see and experience things like depression. Rather than sucumbing to it like a ping pong ball floating helplessly down an angry river, I can look for the signs and triggers that signal an episode and reach out for an oar that will help me navigate the raging river. I can feed my mind with positive information, images, and ideas that lead me down gentler waters. I stay away from the news and disturbing images…the other night I was watching American Horror Story with my husband and some freaky, serial-killer clown came on. That’s when I siad, “Oh hell no!” and turned it off.

Depression won’t ever go away. It will raise it’s head once again, I know it. But I’ve gotten much better at recognizing it, accepting it, and managing it.


Flying Books

5 Blogs Every Self-Published Author Should Read

Being a self-published author means you never stop learning. Some would say (including me) that just being a writer means you never stop learning too. The very nature of what writers do makes them curious individuals who want to know more about things so they can articulate and express them in ways that connect with people.

The world of publishing is changing every day. The choices and options you have available to you as a self-published author are constantly changing too so that means you need to educate yourself on the business of publishing, distributing, and selling your books. There’s no better way to do that than to learn from how others are doing it.

Here are the best blogs out there to date that will give you the straight scoop on how to write, publish, and sell your work as a self-published author.

  1. The Creative Penn Blog – Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling, self published author and she share lots of wisdom and advice about what it takes to be
  2. The Book Designer – Joel Friedlander knows how to build good books and he helps writers and self-published authors do just that on his blog.
  3. A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing – JA Konrath, one of the most prolific self-published authors around, shares his uncensored opinions about the publishing industry and what’s worked for him.
  4. Hugh Howley’s Blog – Hugh Howley, an extremely successful self-published author, also shares his opinions and insights on the business of being an author and publisher.
  5. BadRedHead Media - Rachel Thompson, award-winning author and poet, shares tons of great advice on how authors can use social media to boost their platforms.5

Just Keep Editing…Just Keep Editing

How the heck do you know when you’re done editing your novel or book?

I don’t know.

Honestly, I don’t know when you’re done because one day you’ll be like, “Okay, this is it. I’m done with edits!” Then the next day you’ll look at your manuscript again and realize that it could be so much better if you fix a few things. Just a few things. Then you’re switching stuff around, moving entire chapters, writing new scenes, and you wonder if the damn thing will ever be done.

I finished my novel. It’s been out for edits and came back with suggestions, which I’m working on now but I’m finding that there is still so much to do! Crap. I wanted to publish it by the end of October but that’s not going to happen. Whenever I hit this point in my writing and publishing process, I Google my butt off because I’m looking for answers, or at least a blog post about someone who has done it before and what they did or learned what NOT to do by making mistakes.

Jeff Goins has a great suggestion: The 5-Draft Method. I started using this toward the end of my revision process and wish I had known about it sooner.

Then there’s a great discussion on Nathan Bransford’s blog when he posed the question: How do you know when your novel is really finished? There’s all kinds of advice from quoting Leonardo Di Vinci: “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” to check lists to just getting plain sick of working on it any more.

The Sarcastic Muse ponders The LIfe Cycle of a Manuscript on her blog as well making it sound magical, and etherial. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that way right now about my manuscript.

I’m even following my own grammar tips, but this process is brutal. In an attempt to not get stuck in this editing quagmire, I’m working toward a new publishing deadline of November 21. If I just keep plugging through, a little each day, I’ll get there come Hell or high water. Just keep editing. Just keep editing.