I have the honor of having one of my short stories in an award-winning series of horror anthologies. My disturbing tale “Under Mama’s Roof” is in 13: Deja Vu, which you can find on Amazon. The sequel, “Into Mama’s Lair” will be in the next edition, 13: Night Terrors.
I just turned 40 (eek!) so I’m going to have a huge giveaway. I’m giving away 10 ebooks (winners choose which of my books they want), and 1 grand prize winner will win a $40 Amazon gift card! Here’s the entry form!
It’s less than a month now before the final book in The Other Place Series is released. Synchronicity comes out May 2!
The Other Place Series was really fun to write. Well, maybe “fun” isn’t quite the right word. The stories in the series are, in my opinion, great stories. But they go deeper than that for me.
The Other Place Series starts out with The Hustle, which is a tale of Liria, a young woman battling addiction, homelessness, and abuse. She’s trying to find her place in a world that seems set up to exclude and take advantage of her. It’s often described by readers as “a rollercoaster”. That’s a good description, because that’s what it feels like to deal with those issues.
When I was younger, I was dealing with physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as well as the onset of psychosis. I was addicted to heroin, and went through periods of effective homelessness, as well as incarceration. Writing The Hustle was a way for me to process those experiences in a way I never had before. It was hard, but it was also a great experience.
The next book in the series, The Other Place, follows Justin, a talented young artist with schizophrenia, as he struggles to find his own place in the world.
Writing The Other Place was my attempt to deal with my deep fear of my own psychosis. When I was younger, I thought I was schizophrenic. It terrified me that I might be. I couldn’t think of anything worse than to be trapped in the horrors of your own mind, caught in a constant, living nightmare. I didn’t tell anyone about my psychosis for decades, and (as I said) self-medicated it with heroin and other things.
My psychotic episodes ended up being infrequent. It turns out I actually am bipolar and have PTSD, not schizophrenia. In writing The Other Place, though, I was exploring that part of myself that I was so afraid of…and discovering that I wasn’t afraid of it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with me, or with anyone with psychosis. It’s not a living nightmare at all, though it can be tough to deal with some symptoms at times.
In writing The Other Place, I also ended up in a close relationship with the man who is now my fiancé, who himself is schizophrenic. When I began hanging out with him, I recognized a lot of my own behaviors in him, and I identified with the way he was treated by society—getting harassed, threatened, physically abused, and kicked out of places when he wasn’t doing anything wrong at all. I started to see myself and my place in society more clearly, and realized that a lot of behaviors I’d been blaming myself for and trying to change, were not things I could or even wanted to change. They were things other people wanted to change about me, because they saw me as abnormal and even dangerous. All those years, I’d been beating up on myself for other people’s prejudice.
Society’s prejudice against people with neurodiversity—the idea that we’re violent, scary, hopeless, helpless, and lacking any kind of beauty or inner life— is so deep-seated that people don’t recognize it as prejudice. Not even I saw it for what it is.
The Other Place Series is an insider’s perspective on how it feels to be an outcast. It shows the prejudice and mistreatment people like me face on a daily basis. Not only was this series a growth experience for me personally, I think it could change the way others think of people with mental health issues.
Besides all that, they’re just good stories. In my opinion, they’d be good stories even if they didn’t deal with addiction or mental health issues at all. After all, people with mental health issues are just people, with their own stories to tell that have nothing at all to do with their diagnoses and addictions.
The last book Synchronicity, is the story of Liria and Justin trying to make a life together, despite all the forces trying to tear them apart. I’m really proud of this book, and I hope you all love it as much as I do.
Are you ready to see the cover? Okay…
I am so excited to announce that I was graciously invited to the Women2Women event at Heritage University in Toppenish. I will have an author table there, and will get to meet a people and talk about my experience as a neurodiverse female author (and hawk my new book, Love and War!) Not only that, but I’ll get to see Shannon Huffman Polson speak—she looks like a powerful woman with some good stuff to say.
I would love to see you there. Info and registration are here.
I think I neglected to mention I was interviewed by Slate about my experience as a sensitivity reader. They of course took all my quotes out of context, so I don’t know how I come off here, but it’s still super cool to be interviewed, and that they did an article on this subject in the first place!
This was seriously hard, guys. Judging contests is always hard, but I love reading about people’s stories so much, and I learn so much about query-writing and beginnings from judging them, that I’ll continue to put myself through this torture fairly regularly.
Some entries I didn’t choose because of technicalities like word count, market forces (as I understand them), and stuff like that (for instance, the fact I’d get yelled at if I only chose entries from my own team). Others I love the concept and voice, but think they’d be better served by another edit or two. And some entries are DEFINITELY ready for querying, but I didn’t choose them because other ones were more to my taste.
So, here are my votes:
THE SOCIAL SEASON
RAMBLN’ HAND OF SHERRY ANN
(And yes, I know that I chose three from #TeamLeia. I tried not to, because I felt like I was being partial, but I really just got a spectacular team. I would have chosen more from my team, actually…but see above.)
All of you, keep querying. I know the only reason I’ve gotten published is my dogged and stubborn refusal to quit. I’m using the same tactic with marketing, hoping it will work for me someday in that arena, as well.
It’s almost here—the release date for Love and War, installment number three of The Other Place series. It comes out on March 7!! But you can order an e-copy right now!
This is a novella told from Arty’s point of view. It describes events that took place during The Other Place, from her perspective. Originally, this was the beginning of the last book in the series, Synchronicity. I cut it out before turning the book into Limitless, though. I loved the story, and Arty’s voice, but it seemed awkward and out of place as the beginning of another book told in Justin’s voice.
However, when Limitless said they would publish it as a separate novella, I was thrilled!
I don’t know how many of you know the story of The Other Place Series, even though I’ve told it a million times. I began writing The Hustle a couple years ago when I’d first moved to a tiny little desert town in southern California. My marriage was unstable, and I myself was going through a transition (my psych would say I was in a manic phase, but that sounds too clinical).
With writing The Hustle, I was opening the time capsule of my late teens and early twenties. It wasn’t an appetizing process; it was as if someone had put an egg salad sandwich in there in 1999, and I was dissecting it. But I felt it was time to examine this part of my life, and see what I could come up with. So I wrote a book with a main character who was homeless and addicted to heroin, and who had to do a lot of things she wasn’t proud of in order to survive.
It was a really difficult process, but I’m glad I did it. I was able to root for Liria, and this helped me to forgive myself for a lot of my mistakes.
I’d been thinking about the book I’d write after The Hustle, and I was trying to gather the courage to write another book dealing with my personal issues. At that point, I hadn’t been very open about the fact that I had periodic episodes of psychosis, but when I was younger, I’d been terrified I had schizophrenia. Turns out I don’t, but I still felt the need to face that fear by writing a book from the point of view of a schizophrenic person.
Then, when I was still writing The Hustle, a weird and synchronistic thing happened. I was giving away sack lunches in the local park as part of the summer lunch program, when this young and handsome dude approached me and started talking about my shoes. I could tell right away he had schizophrenia, but I wasn’t scared of him at all. In fact, he was the coolest guy.
I only talked to him for about fifteen minutes, but I couldn’t get the guy out of my head. He ended up as a character in The Hustle, and then as the main character in the two books after that, The Other Place and Synchronicity.
I didn’t see the guy again for months—I didn’t even know his name. I called him “The Real Justin”. But I got to a point in the books when I knew my experience with psychosis wasn’t enough to get the narrative right. I needed to talk to The Real Justin in person.
Not knowing where to go, I went back to the park where I’d originally met him. He walked into it right after I did, came up to me, and told me he wanted to talk to me.
The Real Justin is, of course, Phoenix: my psychic vampire bastard and the other half of my soul peanut. We stuck together through the destruction of my marriage, and now we’re together as a couple. I’m so glad I have him. He’s taught me that being neurodiverse can be pretty damn awesome. And he’s brainstormed with me—during late-night delusions of mind-reading—ways to show the world what it truly means to be crazy, so that they can see the raw beauty of our worldview.
It was a long and heart-rending process, finding a home for a series this different. It’s hard for people to identify with people like Liria and Justin. This is why Phoenix and I feel like such outsiders: because we are. But I did finally find a home for the books with Limitless Publishing.
So, that’s the story of this series. I hope you like seeing the world through these different eyes, and that you can see the value in characters like Liria and Justin.
Category and Genre: Literary Fiction/Magical Realism
Word Count: 70K
A FOREST GUMP meets PRACTICAL MAGIC tale.
Most everyone in the family calls Dylan “slow.” Worse, his abusive mother claims he’s wicked. But Dylan has magic, and can spin marbles from oysters and whip up Chicken Alfredo by tapping his thumbs together. The only one to appreciate his magical abilities is his loving uncle and caretaker, a disabled Vietnam veteran. When Uncle Jim dies, Dylan is torn from the home he loves and placed in an adult boarding house. There he meets an equally gifted but troubled young lady named Liona.
Dylan finds a friend in Liona, and finally settles into his new life when a tragic accident drives him away. His only refuge now is the beach and the oyster beds. His old Vietnamese friend, Tim Lan, offers him a room in his shanty in exchange for his magically-made pearls. Dylan is tormented by the suspect requests of Tim Lan and muddled by his feelings for Liona. His nightmare ensues when his mother, who had once washed her hands of him, returns to exploit his gifts. Through his troubles, Dylan must find truth, and the courage to walk his own path.
By the time I was eighteen I didn’t care what Aunt Agnes said about me.
“He doesn’t connect the dots right,” she complained to everyone at my graduation party. “He can’t carry on a civil conversation. In fact, I don’t know if he is past the third-grade level of reading.”
I rolled my eyes, but Uncle Jim got mad. By the time we got home, Uncle Jim’s face was red and I swear he foamed at the mouth like a rabid dog. “He’s smart enough to finish high school, with decent grades to boot. So don’t you be talking him down.” Uncle Jim rolled his wheel chair into the house, threw his baseball cap on the couch, and grumbled something fierce, steering his chair through the litter in our living room. I appreciated his support, but I didn’t like him yelling. I dodged into the kitchen and waited for Aunt Agnes to leave.
I was happy enough. I had all I needed – a life with Uncle Jim in our little house at Windy Point. Best of all I had magic. I knew that someday that magic would make me a famous chef.
The sea empowered me. All I had to do was close my eyes and imagine the foamy surf splashing over the oyster beds, and then think of the water gliding gracefully down the beach, leaving imprints of its ripples in the sand. If I meditated long enough, the power flowed into me and tingled my left side.
In the aftermath of a car crash that claims the lives of his wife and child, world-renowned actor and musician Jonah Wilder spirals into the hell of heroin addiction. To avoid publicity during rehab, Jonah slips into his most ambitious role to date, becoming John Walker — a bearded, long-haired, reclusive auto mechanic. Under the guise of Walker, Jonah checks himself into a sobriety house in upstate Minnesota, determined to keep everyone at arm’s length and his tragic past hidden.
Divorced from her abusive, controlling husband, Andi Sawyer’s first priority is to provide a stable home for Charli, her musically gifted, special-needs daughter. Then an unexpected friendship blossoms with John Walker, the new arrival at the men’s sobriety house next door. But when the feeling that she’s met him before drives Andi to put her artistic skills to work, she realizes that John may not be the man she thought she knew.
As his walls crumble and love opens the door to dreams of a new life, John Walker envisions a future for the three of them as a family. But Andi’s dangerously obsessed ex-husband arrives in town, and Peter Sawyer will stop at nothing to reclaim what’s his. Jonah must reconcile his past and accept the better man he’s become, or he will lose everything he’s come to cherish—Andi, Charli—and his second chance at life.
FIRST 250 Words
God, do I need a hit. One little hit. Just one.
Jonah Wilder tried to silence the thought as soon as it appeared. But those in charge of his treatment program had changed the daily routine he’d come to depend on, and free-falling into agonizing withdrawal was the result.
Stay in your room this morning, the nurse who brought his breakfast said. No activities. Dr. Vance will be in shortly.
With nothing to do but pace his room in this prison that masqueraded as a chemical dependency treatment center, Jonah stopped and gazed out the window at the beautiful view it offered. Oh, how he longed to be out there with sunshine, fresh air, greenery, and not trapped in the same shit, different day, meaningless lump of inertia his life had become.
One hit. Just —
His emaciated body twitched.
Gripped by a wave of nausea, Jonah moved away from the window just as there was a soft knock on the door and the man of the hour stepped into his room.
Dr. Vance was a bespectacled, thin, gray-haired man with a New England accent, an enormous beak of a nose and kindly brown eyes. “Hello, Jonah,” Dr. Vance said, closing the door. “How are you today?”
Every morning it was the same greeting, as if he was expecting a different response than what Jonah always provided, whether it was true or not.
“I’m okay.” But this time he added, “What the hell is going on?”