A quick note about privacy.

I posted this over on my Facebook page, but I thought it’d probably a good idea to C&P here.

We’ve all read and freaked over the Guardian story about the author stalking the reviewer, right? Really effing creepy and disturbing stuff. I do not say “interesting” or “fascinating” for a reason. Because what Hale did, to me, is not interesting or fascinating. Not even a little. It’s disturbing, appalling, and many of the responses to it are sickening.

Some of you reviewers and bloggers might now be side-eyeing your bad reviews, trying to figure out who all has your address for giveaways. You might be looking at that list and wondering who will hunt you down and invade every inch of your personal life. I don’t blame you. While tweeting about it over the weekend, I had moments of, “aw, hell. Is this gonna come back on me?” Online confrontations can be bad enough. When that comes bursting into your personal life off-line? No. Hell no. All the Hell Nos.

I’m a big fan of giveaways. They make me feel a little like Oprah. “YOU GET A BOOK! AND YOU GET BOOK! EVERYBODY IS GETTING A BOOK!” I do them quite a bit and, as such, I’ve ended up with a lot of email and home addresses. And I always, always, destroy the latter and never again use the former unless we have previously, and in clear terms, discussed me emailing you in the future. Never will I ever contact you in any way, shape, or form unless I know, without certainty, it’s welcome. I do not keep addresses for any reason. I write them down on a slip of paper if I’m sending out multiple things at once, then I shred that paper as soon as the packages are addressed to be mailed. I delete the emails and DMs containing those addresses. Never will I ever knock on your door, either literally or figuratively, to question who you are or what you said about me or my books. You are allowed your thoughts and opinions, you are allowed to voice them, and never will I cross over the line between author and reviewer in that way. EVEN IF WE COMMUNICATE ON OTHER PLATFORMS ON A REGULAR BASIS. I view my books as my babies in a way, yes. But at the end of the day, I separate myself from them when I put them out in the world and do not take what’s said about them personally.

I appreciate the hell out of each of you who pick up my books. I appreciate the hell out of you taking the time out of your lives to review them. I am so sorry that there’s been a level of fear and worry introduced to this hobby, this service, so many of you give authors for free. Privacy, as well as free speech, are two very important things to me, and two things I believe should be protected at all costs. If your privacy, rights, and free speech are threatened by someone else, I can’t promise I can always take up arms for you. I can’t promise I can ride into battle on your behalf. But I’ll always speak up to defend them. I can promise that. And I can promise I will never be the one to threaten those privacy and rights. Pinky swear.

A pocketful of hope

I wasn’t going to write an end of the year post like I have in the past. I tried. I sat down to start it more than once but couldn’t get much past:

I don’t even want to recap this year in any way. I don’t want to try to glean lessons from the trashfire and while there was many many MANY good moments in 2016, remembering them makes me anxious over how hard we may have to work to have even somewhat similar good times.

2016: the year I had to up my medication to deal with it

I really don’t want to look ahead to 2017 either. I’m worried at best and terrified at most and I’m already bone-weary tired.

Last year, however, I did something a little different, something a little Neil Gaiman. Something a little like what we’d do growing up, speaking blessings and prophecies over each other in those final hours of the fading year:

I hope the coming year is magic.

That the dragons we all come across are friendly and, if they’re not, our swords are sharp and our aim true. I hope we make lovely, terrible things, and we get as much goodness returned to us as we put out. I hope the only tears we cry are from laughter and, if they’re not, there’s always someone there to wipe them away for us. I hope we find light when we need it and we’re a light when someone else does. I hope the only time our bones hurt is from holding someone’s hand too tight or dancing too hard and the spot next to us is never empty when we take a break. I hope we find miracles and mischief and that we are miracles and mischief. I hope our pile of good things are always taller than our pile of bad things and we make friends with the monsters under our bed.

But above all, I hope we’re happy. Dangerously, recklessly happy, and I hope we spread that happiness like seeds and that happiness grows tall and strong with roots thick and deep.

Those blessings don’t seem to have taken all the way and maybe that should turn me off of trying again. But I’m stubborn and that’s exactly what I wish for in 2017.

I hope we’re more stubborn.

Stubborn in our pursuit of happiness. In our refusal to allow tyranny to take hold. I hope we stubbornly dig our heels in, as a society, and refuse to be dragged backward. I hope the spark in our hearts, that flame that warms our blood with all the beautiful things that make us human, stubbornly burns on. I hope we keep learning, our thirst for knowledge to do and be better, is unquenchable and as stubborn as a toddler.

I hope we’re happy. Genuinely and staggeringly happy. I hope our spines are straight and our cries thunderous if we’re not. I hope our hands always find another’s to hold and I hope we remember to stretch out our other to someone who needs it. I hope we shine like the brightest of stars and the darkness trembles around us. I hope we reach down and punch up and I hope our swings are sure and dangerous. I hope we dance in sunlight and in ashes and I hope it rains glass from the ceiling.

I hope we create lovely and sensitive things. Things full of fury and soothing touches and so much love it bursts the seams and spills out and saturates the ground and softness grows from it.

I hope we have hope. I hope we are hope. I hope our pockets are bursting with it and we have an abundance to share and we pass it out to strangers who pay that hope forward and it’s our homes and talismans.

I hope 2017 is ready for us and we’re ready for it and if we’re not, we find our footing quickly and there’s someone there on our six.

I hope. I hope I hope I hope.

See you on the next page. My boots will be laced, my sword sharpened, and my fingers waiting to find yours.

Let’s give it hell.

It’s Quiet Uptown

I don’t think I’ve posted this much on my blog since 2013-14. I don’t think I’ve needed to write so bone deep badly since then.

Whew. It’s been a month, hasn’t it? It’s been a year. I keep hoping it’s all a horrible fever-dream. At least November. It seems so impossible so much grief could exist in 30 days.

But, for the first time since Wednesday, this grief I’m carrying in my heart feels pure. It’s not weighted down with extra stress and anxiety. You, my community, did that.

God, what have I ever done to deserve that? To deserve you?

I’m still so floored by it. So overwhelmed with gratitude. When my mama confessed her anxieties to me, when I took them on as my own as we’ve always done, I paced with it. I started doing sweaty math, calculating bills, wondering, even while knowing the answer, if we could take on another. I started thinking of all those letters from the bank about loans I’d ripped up and tossed over the months. I looked around my house and wondered what I could pawn. How much money could I get for my things? Not enough. Not enough.

I’d pulled up gofundme and stared at it. I never ask anyone who didn’t give birth to me for anything. It’s been bred into me and I’ve taken it to almost obsessive levels. I could be laying there with a mortal wound and I’d wave off the first offers to help me. It took me years to ask even Betty for much more than to pick me up something from the store. I want others to see me as strong. Capable. Somewhere in my head, strength became intertwined with not needing help. Suffering stoic-like anywhere but within my own walls.

I want to be an inspiration. Not a tragedy. And never a charity case.

But this time, it was bigger than me. It was my core family. The Girls, as we called ourselves. I’d burn the earth for them. Bare my chest and let the masses see my wounds if it meant easing theirs.

So I filled it out. Paced, literally, for another two hours. Then finally took that deep breath and posted it.

And it took off.

People, god so many many people, pushed it. Offered things in exchanges for donations. (Poems, stories, books, CUSTOM INSULTS.) People vouched for me. Hard. Too hard. “Oh my God please don’t I’m not worth that I haven’t earned that” hard. The response was swift and fierce and I never had to creep back and repost the link, something that filled me with dread because asking for help once is hard enough, but having to repeatedly ask is humiliating on a level that makes my gut twist and my throat feel clogged and hot just thinking about it.

But I didn’t have to. Because other people did. You all did. You begged, pleaded, reminded. You told me to sit down and you had it. Had me. Had mine.

I’m still so overwhelmed by it, I don’t even know how to respond individually to everyone. Because thank you is so paltry in the face of so much compassion.

I never thought. I never believed. I never expected.

I never dreamed I was worth such a response. I never dreamed, for even a second, that I was worth people showing up like that. That kinda thing happens to other, more important, people. My job, my role, was supposed to be side support or infantry. Not this. Never this.

Because the money, yes. I can’t properly put into words what kind of weight has been lifted off of us. Because it fell on us, like it often did. And we’d always found a way to manage whatever it was. Between the four of us, me, my mama, my gramma, and my sister, we’d always always managed. “We got this” could be our family motto. We’d stopped asking for any kind of assistance from family, we knew we’d mostly be met with indifference. Or someone would come in and make it worse. So tight, so capable, so enduring was our little family, it took me a shamefully long time to even trust my stepdad when he stepped into the picture.

But when four became three, when that critical space in our circle stepped away, slipped off, never to rejoin us here, we were instantly lost.

And you guys found us.

This is already long. That keeps happening. Like the tears, the urge to talk comes in waves. And like the tears, once I start, I can’t seem to stop.

And I can’t seem to stop here. Can’t seem to stop saying thank you. My heart is heavy with grief and full with gratitude.

I’ve already let everyone see so much, so much more than I’d normally let anyone but a very small few see, but I’m gonna let a bit more of my naked nerve-endings, my brittle heart, show.

I often, so so often, feel small and unimportant. I always have, if I’m being honest. Unless I’m with The Girls, I often feel as if I could slip away and no one would notice. It’s always been my mama and gramma and, later, my Plus One and Wifey in my ears, building me up, up, up, making me bigger, stuffing steel in my spine so I stood straighter, stronger. Wrapping their arms around me when I came back bruised and battered and mending my wounds and reminding me of my fire. All the good things about myself that the world often stripped out of my hands.

Losing my Gramma is devastating on so many, many levels, and that’s just one item on a very long list. I lost the woman who’d always took my hand in her much softer one and soothed me when I felt teeny and invisible. Like a speck of dust that could float away.

But as y’all rushed to see that our financial goals were met, you also filled me up with the kindest, loveliest words. Over and over, y’all said that I was important. Loved. Appreciated. You made me feel big when grief was battering my shoulders, shoving me to the ground, making me feel small and helpless and lost. I couldn’t call my Girls to build me back up. The remaining two were on their knees too. But y’all flooded forward to meet even that need, without it having ever been voiced.

How? How will I ever thank you enough for that? For all of that? How do I thank you for making me feel so big when I was at my smallest?

I’m standing today, a little shaky, unsteady, and the tear tracks on my swollen cheeks are fresh and will probably be that way for awhile. But I’m on my feet. I’m up. And y’all did that.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

I love you. I appreciate you. And I promise to work twice as hard in this community I love. I promise to pay this kindness forward.

I promise to slay trolls twice as hard. Oh, man. I’m gonna destroy them.

For y’all.

Because no one messes with Auntie’s babies.
I’m gonna close this out with words from my mama:

Love you all so much. To the moon and back. Go drink some water, okay? 😙

Hey, Pretty Girl

Hey, Pretty Girl.

I imagine you waving me away right now with that laugh of yours. Brushing off the “pretty” or asking me with that smirk if I liked your hair. Thirty-one years of seeing it every which way; wet, sweaty, tousled from sleep or surgery, you never stopped being a little embarrassed about your hair.

You taught me to tease it, or was it back comb? wincing as I practiced on you because you were so tender-headed. Later, I’d use that skill when your hands shook and your arms couldn’t lift that far for that long to do it yourself.

God. You were always so precious about your hair. Always asking if you could borrow some of mine, saying I had enough for two people as your fingers ran over it with a look of pride and envy. You were always fussing with your own, even after you’d get back from the salon, never completely satisfied.

That was you, though. You were never entirely satisfied. It’s what drove you. What took you from being passed from house-to-house, feeling unwanted and unloved as a little girl to snatching Papa up at 17, straightening his ass out, and building a family and a home and a life.

You always wanted a little better. You’d hover over crafts, a frown on your face, then drag me out to another secondhand shop, searching the shelves of discarded, neglected items, picturing a new life for them. I hated those secondhand shops. I was so worried I’d be seen there, that someone would think we needed to shop there, but you’d pull me in anyway, stop at every yard sale, and give me that eagle-eyed look and say there was no shame in being poor, only in acting poorly.

I keep thinking of those random things. Random memories. Little stuff, like the allowance jar you made me. It was a soup can, you’d cleaned it out and wrapped in pretty tack paper and filled it with dollar bills for random jobs I did around the house. Not my chores, I didn’t get money for things I was expected to do, but you rewarded the extras. Cleaning my sister’s room or watering your flowers or sweeping the porch. Kindness brought blessings, you said. Then you blessed me to prove it.

I’m not a fool. I know you weren’t perfect. You could be meaner than a rattlesnake and stubborn as a bull. Sometimes it was funny. Sometimes it frustrated me to no end. But you said that stubbornness kept you alive. That you were too stubborn to die. Papa had always said you’d outlive us all.

I guess, in that place in my heart that believes in impossible things, that you always nurtured and fed into, I kinda believed you would.

I always asked first before I’d sit on your bed. I don’t know why. I knew I was allowed. I knew I was allowed most anything. But still, I’d always ask first. Always felt a little guilty about rumpling your comforter.

I didn’t expect it to hurt like this. I thought I was ready. I thought I was prepared. But I guess you’re never prepared for your foundation to crumble. You’re never ready for the moment your world stops for a minute while the rest of the world keeps spinning on.

It seems so unfair. That the sun still rose the next day and life kept happening. It seems so unfair that we are so weighted down with grief while others broke bread, sat at tables with their families, when your spot at our table will always be empty now.

The world isn’t fair, Kissy, you’d say. And then you’d tell me about a time you were wronged, and finish it with a shake of your head and a shrug. “That’s life.” You got more bitter about it at the end, but you always said it. “That’s life, Kissy.”

Who’s gonna call me Kissy now? Who can say it like you did? Turning the “I” into a drawn out “E.”

Mom said you’d told her the day before to tell me to hurry up and get there. We wonder, now, if you knew. Could feel it coming and it wasn’t just your normal request. You wanted me there for her.

That feels like something you would do. You always had a way of knowing things.

I love you. I said it so many times over the years. I rarely left your room without saying it. I got to say it one last time, but it’s still on my tongue. I love you. I love you. I love you. You knew, but there’s no way you could truly know. Hell, I didn’t truly know just how deep that love ran and how consuming it is. I love you. God, Gramma. I love you so much.

I’m screwing up my tenses. You’re here and you’re not. Past and present merging in my mind, switching out places. Eventually past tense will win out. But for now, you’re both.

Remember when I had 9? They kicked everyone out of the room but you were so worried and weren’t content to sit in the waiting room. I still don’t know how you did it, but you sneaked past the small army of nurses and suddenly you were at the side of my bed, leaning over the rails, fussing and slipping me sips of forbidden water. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t see around it, but I could see you and I told you I loved you but shut up. You laughed and held my hand and stuck around until they discovered you. Or maybe you left on your own. But you were the first face I saw in the triage room. While everyone was cooing over brand new 9, you came around that curtain to check on me.

A week later. In your bathroom. The staph infection in my incision site. Mom ran, terrified of what was happening. Bless her heart, she’s always been awful in crisis. But you stayed. Poured peroxide over it while I stared up at you with wide, panicked eyes and you didn’t say anything soothing words. Opposite of that. You had your nose covered with your shirt while spraying Lysol into the air and you kept pouring that peroxide. When you deemed it Taken Care Of, you helped me out of the bathroom. Followed a few paces behind me, as if your much smaller frame could catch me before I hit the ground if I was going that way.

Hell. Maybe you could have.

You cried when I cried. I’m crying now. Sobbing, really. And I can’t call you to ask you to pray.

Who am I gonna ask to pray for me?

I asked mom to bury you with that zebra blanket I got you for Christmas last year. Asked that you’d be covered up in it. You always complained about being cold. I know you’re not now, but still. We’re gonna tuck you in one last time.

I don’t know what to do without you. I thought I did. I thought I would. But I don’t. I’m selfish, Gramma. I know you were ready to go. I know you wanted to. You’d said so for months, how tired you were, and in the the end, you didn’t fight it. You went to sleep. I wanted that for you. After so many years of agonizing health struggles and medical scares and surgeries and rehab, I wanted you to ease out instead of going in the middle of a fight. I wanted you to lay down your shield and go peacefully. Willingly. I wanted you to greet Death as a friend.

I wanted better for you and you got it, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to do without you being here. Always here. You’ve never not been here. You’ve never been further than within arm’s reach. Now I’ll reach and my hand will grasp at empty air instead of yours.

Your hands. You weren’t much of a hugger. Those were reserved for greetings and partings and your great-grandbabies. But you were constantly holding your hand out. Taking ours. Rubbing them with your other with that little smile and contentment in your voice and joy in your eyes.

You were always so happy to see us. Even when you lived close, when our visits were frequent, daily, even, instead of annually, you always looked like you’d been waiting all your life to see us when we walked in the door. Your eyes would light up and your face would go soft and warm and even if you didn’t say much, we always knew you felt a little more complete with us there.

I don’t think I’ll ever feel complete again.

I’m lucky, I know. You hung on and fought to be with us for 86 years. You clawed your way back every time, because you knew we wanted you here. Remember the last time we were together in person? When I was there and you looked at me with sadness and asked why you were still here. “Because we need you,” I’d said. And meant it. Fiercely. We needed you. Even at your bitchiest. Even when we stomped away from your room because my God that woman is driving me batshit, we needed you. You were our rock. The base our entire lives were built on. You were our matriarch. Our queen.

What’s a kingdom without its queen? Who are we now, without you as our guiding force?

I keep trying to make a list of everything you taught me, but I don’t know how to count to infinity. What didn’t you teach me? That list would be shorter. Even when it was me doing the opposite of you, your fingerprints are everywhere. All over who I am.

You taught me to love. Unconditionally. I don’t know who taught you. Abandoned at six, who taught you to be so unwavering in your loyalties? Who taught you to stand so firmly next to your babies, through all their faults and mishaps and screw ups?

You taught me how to be a mother. And the pride you took in those babies I made. They were yours too. You mothered them, even when you were too frail and shaky to chase after them.

You helped me raise 9.

You bought a highchair as soon as you heard we were coming back. That we were coming home to hunker down with you and mom while Betty was off learning how to be an Airman. You saw it at a yard sale and snatched it up and it was waiting for us when we came stumbling in the door.

Little things. So many little things that weaved through my entire life. I had no idea that if your thread was plucked, I’d come unraveled.

Your jewelry box. Massive and filled to the brim with cheap necklaces and earrings in every color imaginable. I’d run my hand across them and you’d tell me which outfit they were bought for. The Skin So Soft you kept in the shower and you’d always tell me to use. The scent of your perfume. Your smell. I couldn’t put a name to it if I tried, but it was yours and it meant memories and food and a safe place.

We laughed on the beach this past summer. You in your wheelchair, slathered with sunscreen and under that big hat I had to have because it made me feel fancy and you worried yourself to pieces between bites of chips, wondering if I put a high enough SPF on the boys. I laid on a blanket near your feet, sunbathing, and you shot me a couple disapproving looks until I sprayed myself down with it too. Then we laughed, made up stories about the other beach goers, and you pointed your finger, gnarled with arthritis, and shook your head. “Just look at that one,” you said. “Not a lick of sense.”

I wish I had a picture of it now. You in your hat and me on that polka dot sheet, under that blazing July sun. Memories fade and become hazy after awhile. I don’t want that to lose that one.

I’m gonna forget your voice. It’s inevitable. It happens in pieces, losing someone. It’s not like the time you yanked the band-aid off my arm and said after, “see? Over and done.” I’m gonna forget all those tiny moments, forget your smell and the way you said things. Little by little, time will take you from me until one day there’s a reminder; a song, a turn of phrase, a whiff of perfume, and the suddden clear memory of you will be a shock to my system.

I won’t forget your breathing that last phone call. Or the words I said, but you couldn’t respond to. You kinda did, though. There was a hitch between breaths, a distinct noise, and I know in my heart you heard me. That we got to have one last Talk.

God, I’m gonna miss our Talks.

You died 10, 15, maybe 20 minutes later, after we hung up. You waited for me.

You always waited for me. Always kept the light on.

The grief is so strong, I almost can’t bear it. It comes in waves and for a moment I think I’ll drown. But then I remember you after Papa, still going. Still doing. Taking time to sit, hidden away in the bathroom, to talk about him with me through your own grief.

That’s what I’m doing now. In my mind, I’m sitting on the side of your tub, in your pretty pink bathroom, you on the closed toilet with that ridiculous shaggy cover, and I’m talking, talking, talking. You always said I could talk your ear off. And I’m telling you these things, because you were always the person I brought them to. Mom, then you. You, then mom. But always you.

Always my Pretty Girl. Always my Old Broad.

Sleep easy, okay? Sleep peaceful and content and rest in love. You were so loved. You were so wanted. And you’ll be so achingly missed.

Kiss Papa for me. Tell him his Mitzy says hello. That I miss him like mad and I named my first baby for him, just like I vowed I would.

We’ll be okay here. I’m sure you knew that. I’m sure that’s why you let go. And we will be. Bit by bit, we’ll channel your strength. We’ll carry you in our bones.

Goodbye for now, Pretty Girl. Your hair looks great.

Make something up

When I was 18, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

I got the phone call while sitting in my ex-boyfriend’s car. One day, a little over a year later, in fact, he’d be my husband. But in that moment, he was something like my friend but not. He was comfortable and familiar and even while we wandered, dated new people, connected our names with an “and” to others, we kept each other in sight.

He’d had a job interview and I’d had a broken down car and classes I was already late for. I decided, for no real reason, to go with him. Hang in the car while he did his thing, then go to my next class, rather than walking into my first one late. I had some homework I could work on. Sociology research to do. I was explaining my paper to him as we drove, it was on religion, when I got the call from my doctor.

The recent testing I’d had done after an abnormal pap came back. The news wasn’t good.

Words, so many words, spoken in a too calm voice and I knew them but not like this. Not put together in this way.

I nodded as though she could see me when she said she was sending me to University of Michigan immediately for further testing. That they’d be waiting for me and when did I think I could be there?

Work, I said. I have work and school and softball season is coming up I have to train and and and…

“Kristy.” That’s all she said. Just my name, in that same tone. Too calm. Too steady. Too real.

I’d be there Friday I said. It was Tuesday. Give me till Friday.

She wasn’t happy, but she agreed. Told me she’d get everything set up. Call me back with names and floors and times. I nodded again and hung up in a daze.

Betty was glancing over at me as I let my phone fall into my lap, eyebrows raised in question.

“Cancer.” It fell from my lips and shattered at my feet and I fell apart around it.

I was drowning. Drowning in fear. Drowning in the possibilities. Drowning in a word that could destroy my world. My chest was cracking open and I clutched at it with trembling, cold fingers, grasping for the jagged edges that had to be there as hot tears tore my throat apart.

Betty pulled off onto the shoulder of the road and turned toward me, but before he could do something dangerous like touch skin that felt like cracked, strained glass, I gasped out, “make something up.”


I couldn’t look at him. Not like this. When I was breaking so thoroughly in front of him. “Make something up. Anything. Make it good and believable. Make it up.”

“Okay.” He nodded. Fumbled with the heat dial on the dash. Nodded again. “Okay. You’re gonna go to the hospital. You’re gonna go through the testing. It’s all gonna come back clear. They won’t find a single thing and it’s gonna confuse them but they’ll shrug and it’ll be nothing.”

“What if –” and I choked. Choked around the words. “What if they have to take everything out? I don’t want kids but maybe — maybe some day…”

“We’ll adopt. As many as you want. Or dogs. We’ll adopt a whole litter of dogs and we’ll have a big house with tons of little feet running through it and we’ll step over toys and bitch about the mess and we’ll be happy.”

In the end, weeks, dark, terrifying weeks later where I drank too much and cried too often and moved through work and school in a daze punctuated by random outbursts and middle of the night calls to him, begging that he make something up, his first prediction was closest. Scans that had been omnious, distressing, were suddenly coming back clear. A scare, the team at UofM said. A fluke.

A miracle, my mama and doctor whispered. It was a miracle and so was I.

It became our ritual. Over 12 years of me looking over at him, this boy who isn’t a boy anymore but will always be to the girl who fell for him, and asking for something to be made up in our darkest moments. A happy ending to be written, even temporarily. Something to hope for. Something to work for. Something to fight for so I could fight for us. Make something up and make it good.

Tuesday night, as I watched the election results come in, as states, including my own, were called for a dangerous, racist bigot who incites dangerous racism and bigotry, tears slipped down my face. I thought of all those Trump signs in my town, my state. As he slipped ahead of Hillary, and Gulliani compared this “victory” to Andrew Jackson, I broke down. I rushed out back, collapsed into a chair, and sobbed. Heaving, ugly cries that rocked me forward with each one and made me gasp for breath. I was terrified. I was heartbroken. I felt like my chest was caving in as each devastating possibility of a Trump presidency fully hit me for the first time. I was scared for so much and for so many, including myself. My children. I reached for anger, for hope, for anything I could grab onto but there was nothing. Only ugly, grim, overwhelming truth. We were fucked. My family, my dearest friends, people I knew and people I didn’t were fucked, and I was surrounded by people who would smile to my face, commiserate with me when I pointed out how he incited violence, mocked people like my son, called my niece and nephews rapists, called for my friends to be rounded up, their parents thrown out, and laughed about sexual assault, of which me and far too many are victims of, and voted for him anyway. For every dangerous policy he promised to enact and the people who would help see it through.

I remembered the guy, the night before, who called for my children to be put down on Twitter. The guy who shouted out of his truck window at me and my five-year-old son to “go home,” and the sizzle and pop of firecrackers thrown out of a car window at us as we walked to the store to get him chocolate milk. The way people around here had stopped smiling at me in recent months, and instead edged away. People I know, had lived around for four years, had started treating me like an interloper in my own town. And now it was being called a victory, compared to the very man who caused limbs of my family tree to be cut off. Who tried to destroy my people among other heinous acts.

I rocked and I struggled to breathe and I wondered how I’d tell my kids, who had gone to bed after crying their own terrified tears. How could I reassure them everything would be okay when nothing was? How could I look into their eyes and tell them they were safe when they, and so so many, weren’t?

Betty came outside, face stoic, took one look at me sitting there, falling apart, and that tic in his jaw appeared. The one only I ever see, ever recognize, as him struggling to be strong around his own emotions. He opened his mouth but before he could say anything, I gasped out, “make something up.”

He handed me a beer. Sat down across from me. Was silent.

Later, after I’d pulled myself together enough to go inside, wash my face for new tears to bathe, and curled up in a chair next to him, he quietly whispered, “We’re gonna be okay.”

“Hmm?” It was all I could manage. My ugly, desperate sobs were now pitiful, unrelenting ones.

“We’re gonna be okay,” he repeated. “We will be.”

I almost lashed out. I barely managed to bite it back. But he looked at me, eyes searching my face and I saw what he was doing. Not offering platitudes. He was making something up.

And for the next 24 hours, that’s what he continued to do. When my chin would start trembling again, when my hands started shaking around whatever mundane task I was trying to accomplish, as I relayed the terrified texts from friends, he’d elaborate further. He said people would fight. People would rise up. That we’d be okay, okay, okay, okay.

He told me a story. An elaborate story that soothed raw, naked nerve-endings and put bandaids over the parts of me that were bleeding. I gave him updates, things I read on Twitter, pictures I saw of the hate crimes already taking place, and he’d nod, then give me the next line of his story so I could look at the next thing, face it, start formulating plans for all the worst case scenarios, of which there are many. He handed me a light, took my hand, and I pulled him a little further into the dark, into the ugly reality we have no choice but to navigate through.

Because that’s what stories are. They’re hope. They’re a light. They’re a hand reaching out. They’re a brief escape from the fight, the struggle, and they’re a weapon. The most dangerous weapon, because words are the most powerful things and we, as a people, have survived through awful, devastating times because we told them. Because we gave each other something to work toward, to fight for. We gave each other happy endings and that gave us strength when we desperately needed it.

We desperately need strength right now. Hope. Things are dark and we need a light. A hand. We need to hear that happiness still exists, could still exist, and could be ours.


Make something up.

Make it good and believable.


COVER REVEAL: Susie Warren’s The Sheltered Heiress


Cover designed by Kim Killion of Hot Damn Designs



Felix Goldman is a self-made billionaire, admired for his design aesthetic, bold choices, and defending the underdog. But his success hides a core need for revenge. Years ago, the Bolles family destroyed his mother, shattering his childhood and sense of safety. Slowly, he amasses enough wealth to destroy the Bolles’s flagship company—and the legacy of unfairness they’ve left behind. So close to achieving his ultimate goal, Felix didn’t count on Grace Bolles, or the simmering attraction he’d feel for her.


Grace Bolles lives a careful existence pursuing her artistic endeavors, never letting anyone get too close to her. A chance encounter with the charming Felix Goldman makes her wonder if she’s been missing out on life’s greatest pleasures—but when she discovers he plans to destroy her company and legacy, she’s forced to decide between their growing attraction and her deep sense of self-protection .

Will her love be enough to lead him down a different path, or will his plan for revenge destroy them both?


Release Info:
Releases June 24, 2016
In Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited

Purchase Links:
Amz: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F9UB1S0

Author Bio:
Amazon bestselling author Susie Warren writes heartfelt and passionate contemporary romance with tempting, larger than life alpha heroes and smart, sassy heroines. The stories are set in elite and glamorous worlds and appeal to readers looking for an escape from everyday life by offering jet-set lifestyles and sophisticated plots. Her contemporary series, The Rosa Legacy and the Bolles Dynasty, feature remarkable, stylish women and the sinfully tempting heroes that challenge them to reveal their secrets, their strengths and their deepest emotions. Susie lives in New York with her inventor husband and their three creative teenagers.

Reach Out to Susie:
Website: http://susiewarren.com

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bGYl_5http://eepurl.com/bGYl_5
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/susiewarrenauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/susiecwarren
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/SusieWarren

I can speak for myself. I am awesome.

Disclaimer: the following post was written entirely by my son. I have not edited, tweaked, or otherwise touched it in any way. It’s being posted with his consent, or, rather, his encouragement  (“so people can know me!” he said. Then, “Maybe I will be Internet famous.”)

I don’t know if this will make him Internet Famous like he hoped for, but I’m pretty excited for y’all to know him.

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How I kick NaNoWriMo’s ass.

Or at least how I avoid having a mental breakdown during it.

I’ve participated in NaNo for — a lot of years now, under two different accounts. Both of my published books were actually born during NaNo. Some years, I was more successful than others, but every year I wrote all or most of the book I’d set out to write. And through those years of participating, I’ve figured out some tricks, ways to ensure I crossed the finish line at the end of November. These aren’t tricks to write X amount of words in X amount of days. This isn’t even a fool-proof list of tips that will absolutely work across the board and if you want to be successful, you have to do this. But it’s what has always worked for me and, hey, maybe it’ll work for you too.

It’s in list form. Of course it is. Man, I love my lists.

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How Chris Pratt, a segway, and a pack of chickens broke me.


I’m bipolar.

It’s a weird way to start this post off. I’ve tried different opening lines, arranged words around, trying to find the right combination to ease into the heaviness that’ll follow. But I keep coming back to those two words. It’s where this story starts. Where, in a lot of ways, I start. I’m bipolar and it’s not a secret, but it also kinda is.

I talk about being bipolar a lot. Or, at least, more than I used to. I’m not afraid to throw it out in a conversation about mental health, or to take ownership of this diagnosis I was once so bloody afraid of. But I still shy away from the details. I pull back when it comes to sharing what being bipolar means for me because, while it’s not as dramatic as typically dipicted in books and movies, it’s not always pretty either. In fact, the lows are anything but pretty. I’m a girl who’s ruled by the sun, however, so my lows are short lived and blessedly predictable. I can count on cycling high, or into a very low manic phase, in spring, where I’ll stay until near the end of fall. Then, like the season’s name, I fall into a depressive low, the worst of it peaking around mid-winter, until spring comes again and I can start my ascent back to feeling like a human.

Those winter months are the hardest. It’s a time of little energy, little emotion, and little desire to do anything. Literally anything. I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t want to eat or, sometimes, I don’t want to stop eating. I don’t want to shower or socialize or even think. I force myself to go on autopilot, existing in bare minimums, constantly feeling like I’m trudging through wet sand. I’m a robot, basically. A robot with rusted joints and a paper heart.

But the sun. The sun is my salvation and it’s what gets me through those cold, heavy months. The knowledge that when it burns brighter, when the days stretch around it, I’ll shake off that creaky metal surrounding me and feel human again. It’s my lullaby when I lay in bed at night, reaching for sleep with both hands, rarely grasping it. When the noise around me beats at my slumped shoulders. The sun will come and chase the darkness away.

Except this time, it didn’t.

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SHE GEEKS: Jupiter Ascending.

As always with my She Geeks recaps and reviews: spoiler heavy.

Facts about me:

I love space.
I love Science Fiction.
I love space operas.
I love campy.
I love melodramatic, over-the-top anything.
Throw a romance in there anywhere, and it’s a recipe for me to fangirl until the end of days.

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about Jupiter Ascending since it came out, but reactions were mixed, so I kept putting off watching it. Betty ended up renting it from OnDemand last week, making my mind up for me, so I was like, “Fuck it. Okay. We’re doing this” and settled in to be mildly horrified.

Oh my God, y’all. Oh my God.

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