Career, Identity, and Shifts in Perspective 

I remember when my mom took me to see The Nutcracker when I was five years old. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and from that moment on, I knew the purpose of my life was art. 

This has taken on many forms throughout my life: dancing in ballet recitals, singing in the school chorus and church choir, writing little plays and having the neighborhood kids perform them on the driveway, taking acting classes, going to drama club, making student films, going to a performing arts high school for singing and then transferring back to my regular high school to start an all-girl rock band, performing in musicals like Peter Pan and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, getting a BA in English and then an MFA in Creative Writing, filling so many journals and notebooks with poems and stories and diary entries that I literally have boxes and boxes in my closet, going to see a production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Actor's Express over 30 times, jumping from band to band and performing at my favorite Atlanta venues and even some venues in Chicago and Asheville and Charleston, playing guitar in bars in Edinburgh and San Miguel de Allende, producing and directing my own plays, writing a short screenplay and doing everything from holding the boom mic to picking up pizza for the cast and crew to performing a cameo as the stoner guitar player, hosting open mic nights at Unity North Atlanta Church and Cool Beans, seeing my plays on professional stages like Horizon Theatre and Out of Box Theatre, booking bands and putting together benefit shows, writing books and pursuing traditional publishing, getting a literary agent, self-publishing, publishing with a small press, singing in trios and quartets and ensembles at church, decoupaging a table with my favorite albums, running through the Tabernacle crying as Morrissey sang "Now My Heart is Full", studying writing with New York Times Bestselling authors, and hosting a podcast about art and creativity.

I have had so many amazing experiences creating my own art, sharing other people's art, encouraging other artists, and teaching other artists what I know. I have collaborated with, bonded with, shared a stage with, and connected with so many other artists--from warming up backstage with other singers from other bands to being blown away by original songs at open mic nights to hanging out on the rooftops with other writers in Mexico to road trips crammed into small cars with other musicians to a telepathic form of communication that happens when jamming out with other musicians to making people laugh on stage when you're not supposed to and now interviewing so many thoughtful and inspiring creative people on the Find Creative Expression podcast

And yet, I have not considered myself to be "successful" because while I have made some money on my books, plays, music, etc., I have never made enough money to not have to do other work to pay my bills. I have always thought of my "day job"--whether it's as an actual employee or a freelance writer and marketer--as something I was temporarily doing until I "made it" as an artist. Now, don't get me wrong, I never expected to be Stephen King or Taylor Swift. But there are tons of midlist authors, indie musicians, independent artists making a living on their art, and I always thought I would eventually be one of them. 

Recently, though, I've realized the number of artists that can actually make enough to pay their bills strictly on books, music, theatre, or art and don't have to also do some kind of "day job"--even if it's something related like teaching, writing books in a popular genre that you wouldn't normally write, speaking, etc.--are few and far between. 

But why is it that there are so many artists who I consider to be successful that also have to do other work? I realized this last week when I interviewed musician, Kim Ware, on the podcast. Here is a songwriter and musician that I have always considered to be successful. She's had five albums, she ran an indie record label for ten years, and she opened for the freaking Indigo Girls. It never really even mattered to me if she worked a day job or did other work. I realized I never actually knew if she did or not until I interviewed her last week. (She did manage to do all of that while working a day job!)

So I'm letting go of the idea that my art will ever be the only thing that pays my bills.

This might sound like giving up, but it's not. I have zero intentions of stopping writing, creating, playing music, encouraging other artists, continuing the podcast and other content, etc. If anything, this gives me more freedom. I won't have to pressure myself to write in popular genres or create a ton of content every week to create a successful brand. I can create what I want and release it when I want to. Which means if I want to write a book of poems about loss, I can!

I have also realized lately that the ability to create and be artistic assumes a certain amount of privilege. I know I am extremely privileged but over the past few months as I've been trying to freelance, there have been phases where I've had a lot of work and phases where I haven't. When I haven't had a lot of work, I've also been Doordashing, which is fine, but doesn't pay nearly enough for my current lifestyle (which isn't even extravagant at all, but just living a "normal" American existence is expensive). I've realized that I've had to use so much creative energy to budget, juggle bills, figure out who I can delay paying, figure out who I can borrow money from, etc. that I haven't had much left over for my writing, creativity, or art. 

So my heart goes out to everyone who is so busy struggling financially that they aren't able to be creative, and I hope eventually, I can get involved in outreach or helping somehow. I have dreams of opening up an artist colony where I could pay artists to come and create for a short period of time. Or if nothing else, I hope I can continue to offer my services to people for cheap or free as I have always done as much as I can. (I always try to take time to answer questions people have for me, I have always created a lot of free content for other artists, and I help people out with editing and graphic design and video editing and whatever else I can for affordable prices or bartering or whatever I can make work.)

I'm tired of doing the freelance hustle. I am looking for a new job. I'm looking for a long-term opportunity. I know I have a lot to offer in terms of marketing, creativity, and content creation, and I am open to whatever may come my way. In an ideal world, I would have a "day job" for an artistic organization or an organization that helps others in some way, but honestly, my main motivation right now is to cover all of my bills so that I have enough time and energy left over to do my real creative work. 

This also got me thinking about identity. In America, there is this tendency to define ourselves solely based on what we do to make money. We go to a party, and people ask us what we do. "I'm an accountant." "I work in sales." "I manage a restaurant." But might the more honest answer to that question be "I'm a father," "I'm a birdwatcher," "I'm a baker," or "I'm a hiker"?

So the next time someone asks me what I do at a party, I can say confidently, I am a writer. I am an artist. I am a creator. And why does it matter what I get paid to do? 

Now, a lot of people would probably tell me this is not something I should be admitting. This is not what people want to hear at job interviews. 

"Why do you want to work here?" 

"To pay my bills so I can do my real work." 

But ironically, I think by finally being honest about what I am looking for in a job, I can actually honor the "day job" more than I have in the past. By admitting that my day job is not my identity, I can actually pursue a day job that means something to me. I feel that if I take the pressure off the "day job" to be my identity, I can actually find more meaningful work. 

I don't know what the next chapter of my life is going to look like. I don't know what opportunities will present themselves to me. And that's kind of exciting. 

The Music Inside You Never Dies: My journey as a musician and a singer 

This is the updated version of a post I initially posted in Find Creative Expression.

My first memory of a piece of art moving me is The Nutcracker. My mom took me to see it when I was five. Since then, I’ve known with my entire being that my purpose in this life is to be an artist. Unfortunately, I’ve had a hard time since then deciding what kind of artist I was going to be. I have been a singer, a dancer, an actress, a director, a playwright, a screenwriter, a spotlight operator, an author, a poet, a keyboardist, a guitarist, and a songwriter. 

Two of these things have been more consistent throughout my life, though: my love of music and my love of stories. Even when I was a ballet, tap, and jazz dancer as a kid, I always loved the music more than anything. I remember being in a school play of Little Red Riding Hood in fourth grade, and I played Red’s mother. I got to sing a solo, and that was the first time that I really thought that maybe I could actually be a singer and make some of the music I loved so much. 

In middle school, I was a dorky kid, a loner. But in 8th grade, I got to be in chorus. I shyly tried out for the solo at the beginning of “White Christmas,” and from that moment on, I had an identity. I was “the girl who could sing.” I thought I was headed down the Broadway/choral singing path, and I was even accepted into the performing arts magnet high school as a vocal major. But after about a month, I decided it wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to sing choral songs and Broadway songs; I wanted to write my own songs. So I went back to the high school where all my friends from middle school were, worked at Schlotzsky’s for months to save up to buy my first guitar, and started an all-girl band with my friends. We called ourselves Population 2 even though there were four of us. It didn’t really matter that we didn’t entirely know how to play our instruments or write songs. We figured it out together.

The four of us with our friend, Brandon, wearing a "Pop 2 Crew" t-shirt at our first gig

I remember watching Hole perform on a concert series they used to do on HBO with my bandmates, and we dreamed of the day that we could be on stage with our guitars, playing to thousands of people. And from about 2001 to 2013, that’s what I tried to do. Although I did continue to sing and perform in choral groups and musical theatre throughout the years, I mostly played solo singer/songwriter gigs and band gigs. After Population 2, I sang, played guitar, and played keyboard in the bands, Ruby, Novo Luna, Long Absent Friends, Sara Crawford and the Cult Following, and Pocket the Moon.

Ruby - I'm serious here, y'all. I'm in a graveyard.

I went through a lot of ups and downs with each of these bands, and each of these bands taught me something about who I was. I can remember so many great times playing with every single one of the people I played with. I remember the months Geoff, Brian, Adrian, and I tossed around ridiculous ideas for band names until we finally settled on Sara Crawford and the Cult Following. I remember Kylei, Michael, and I driving through ice and snow to play a Long Absent Friends acoustic show at Red Light Cafe. I remember playing at a gym with Novo Luna where we were followed by a belly dancer. I remember all of the conversations on porches during breaks at band practice. I remember all of the moments in each band where we communicated with each other without saying anything. You look at each other, and you just psychically know to play the last chorus or to go into the bridge or to switch to a G chord. I remember all of the songs we covered. To this day, any time any song I ever covered with any band comes on, I have to tell someone, “hey, I used to cover this song!”

Novo Luna playing at a pizza place that I'm pretty sure no longer exists

During these years, I got to play so many great local Atlanta venues. Smith’s Olde Bar, The Earl, The Star Bar, The Drunken Unicorn, The Five Spot, Lenny’s. I got to release albums and EPs. I got to play in Nashville, Tennessee and Augusta, Georgia. I got to play a tequila bar in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and an open mic night at a bar in Edinburgh called Lebowski’s after I flew my guitar all the way to Scotland. I was voted Best Local Songwriter in the Best of Atlanta issue of Creative Loafing into 2010.

Long Absent Friends - the shortest-lived of all my bands. We really did become long-absent friends.

There were also a lot of disappointments. There were the shows I played for three people. There was the show I played on a tiny plywood stage at a festival in Piedmont Park where literally not one person listened to my set. There were dramatic arguments and encounters that only sensitive musicians can have with each other. There were all of the misogynistic assholes only female musicians have to deal with. And every time a band I was in broke up, it felt like a romantic break up. (And sometimes, they literally were romantic breakups.) And every night on stage, there was a vulnerable feeling that only comes with singing your heart out. Sometimes it was magical. Sometimes it was heartbreaking.

Sara Crawford and the Cult Following

Pocket the Moon - and look there's an actual moon behind us, y'all!

And then there was Pocket the Moon. Geoff Goodwin had a real talent for taking these raw songs I wrote and making them into something special. He really understood what I was trying to do musically, and he helped me achieve the exact sound I was going for. To this day, our self-titled album is still one of my proudest artistic accomplishments, and I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near as proud of it if he hadn’t arranged, co-written, played, recorded, and mixed it. (It's so hard to believe that album will be ten years old in June!)

And for a moment there, I really thought we could make it. I finally could see myself on that stage we used to dream about when we watched Courtney Love covered in glitter, her guitar attached to her like another limb on her body. 

We even went on a little tour of sorts, piling an entire drum kit, a keyboard, two guitars, a bass, and maybe a PA (I can’t remember, but it was a lot) into Geoff’s Honda and playing actual gigs in Asheville, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Charleston, South Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; and open mic nights in as many cities as we could along the way. 

I remember so many nights when we had a gig, during the guitar solo of “Rooftops,”–a song about the healing power of art and coming together with other artists–I would just close my eyes, listen to the ethereal sounds of Geoff’s guitar solo that he used the electronic bow on, strum my simple A and E chords on my acoustic, and just feel like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

One of the best things about my time in Pocket the Moon, though, was how involved I got in the Atlanta music scene. I met so many amazing musicians that became good friends. We would all go see each other’s bands and support each other. I met touring musicians from all over. I traded CDs with so many people that to this day, there are still CDs scattered all over my house. 

But eventually, we stopped playing, too. I played a couple more solo gigs in 2013, and on my 29th birthday in 2014, I played what I called “my last gig in that context” at Smith’s Olde Bar. I had Geoff and my friend, Noah, back me up on bass and drums, and I booked my friends, singer/songwriter, Juliana Finch, and indie band, Finster, to play with me. 

At the end of my set, I covered an obscure Spiritualized song and got Geoff, Noah, Juliana, and Finster to sing the last chorus with me. “So long you pretty thing, God save your little soul/The music that you played so hard ain’t on your radio/And all your dreams and diamond rings and all that rock and roll can bring you/Sail on, so long.” I remember singing that verse and looking over at all of them and feeling so grateful for my time in the Atlanta music scene. And that obscure Spiritualized song that no one knew was a way for me to say goodbye.

And that was it. I thought I was done with singing, with being a musician, with being in bands. I sang a little bit off and on at church, but I even stopped that eventually. And my keyboard and guitar collected dust in my room. 

There was one day I was driving with my music on shuffle. “Tangled” by Pocket the Moon came on, and I heard myself singing, “you’ll miss them when they’re gone.” And then I started the album over, listened to the entire thing, drove around Marietta, and had one of the biggest emotional breakdowns I’ve ever had. I was mourning for a part of me I thought I had lost. I was mourning for a dream I thought I lost. (This moment later became the inspiration for a scene I wrote in the book, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.) 

I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I didn’t think I would ever be able to play on that stage like Courtney Love so I didn’t see the point in trying. I thought I was getting too old to be in bands. All of my friends who used to come to my gigs were moving to other states, getting married, having kids, growing up. I didn’t think anyone would come see me sing anyway. And so I stopped singing. 

I did still sing off and on at my church, but then life got complicated. I got married to someone with severe mental health and addiction issues, and during those years, I was just trying to get through each day. Eventually, I left him and after staying with my parents for the summer, I moved into my own apartment. 

Shortly after I moved in, I became obsessed with the song "Pink Rabbits" by The National. One day I just decided to learn how to play it on guitar. And eventually, I expanded my daily guitar playing to include some of my old songs. 

And then the pandemic hit. And we all had to readjust. 

One of the things I started doing was writing little songs for my friends for their birthdays on my ukulele. As silly as they were, they made me want to keep writing songs. So in July of last year, I wrote my first song in seven years. 

I never would have tried to play a gig at this point, but with everyone in quarantine, tons of musicians were doing live streams. I decided to play a set in my living room and live stream it. 

Most of the people who watched were my friends and family, and I was definitely rusty, but I had a blast. And for possibly the first time, I wasn't playing my music with the idea of achieving some goal--"making it" as a musician--but I was just playing my songs for the sheer joy of it. I was just expressing myself, expecting nothing in return. 

I was re-reading the first two books in my trilogy, The Muse Chronicles recently, and I realized that this trilogy is a bit of a love letter to music and musicians. In the acknowledgments of We Own the Sky, I wrote, “Thank you to all the musicians I have played with over the years, especially Geoff Goodwin, the other half of my former indie band, Pocket the Moon. Thank you to all of the Atlanta musicians who inspire me. I would never have been able to write this book if I hadn’t had all the experiences playing music with you all.” 

And I realized there has been a reason for all of it, for every single up and down, for every single song I wrote, every single show I played, every single musician I played with or met or saw, even if I only interacted with them for one moment, one song. Because these musicians have been my inspiration, my Muses. And maybe it hasn’t been that I ended up singing on a stage with a band like I thought I would, and maybe I did stop singing for a time, but I never stopped creating. And even though I wasn’t singing, the music was coming out in other ways–in stories or in plays or even in the way I worked with other writers or artists. Sometimes even in the way I write blog posts on here, I think. 

I've barely picked up my guitar since my living room set last August, but I’ve realized something important. Music is a part of me as much as breathing is or walking. And whether I’m singing at church, writing a story or play about music, or maybe eventually even venturing into an open mic night again, I can’t give singing up. And if you’re an artist or a creative person, you can’t give up your art either. The music inside you never dies. And it doesn’t matter if your audience is a thousand people, a hundred people, one person, or two cats, if there are songs inside of you, you have to sing them. If there are stories inside of you, you have to write them. If there are paintings inside of you, you have to paint them. 

Because if art or creation is part of who you are–whether it’s singing karaoke or coloring in an adult coloring book or taking an improv class or writing poetry–you owe it to yourself and to the world to create. You won’t feel entirely right until you do.

Poetry Books Released Today! 

My poetry books are out today!

You can download Coiled and Swallowed, Driving Downtown to the Show, Slip Away, or a bundle of all three ebooks on all major retailers. (They may not be up on Apple yet but should be by the end of the day.) You can also download any of these here on the website. 

The print versions should also be available by the end of the week, and stay tuned for information about the audio versions!

Also, I will be doing a brief reading mainly featuring poems from my new collection, Slip Away, tonight at 7:00 PM EST on my Facebook page. I hope to see you there!

Coiled and Swallowed, Driving Downtown to the Show, and Slip Away 

I'd like to announce that on March 23, 2021, I will be releasing Slip Away, my new book of poems.

At the same time, I will also be re-releasing my book of poems, Coiled and Swallowed (2010) as well as my book of poems, Driving Downtown to the Show (2012) with these new covers.

All three books will be available in ebook and print on all book retailers. I will also be recording audiobooks though those won't come out until later this year.

A few weeks ago, I had to put my cat, Frank, to sleep. I was devastated, and the only thing that helped was writing poetry. The idea for Slip Away was born. It is a collection of poems about loss. Actual loss through death, yes, but also the loss of relationships, the loss of childhood, the loss of dreams. 

I've been writing like crazy since then, and now I have a first draft of the entire collection. 

I know what you're thinking. "Wow, that sounds depressing, Sara." But actually, if you stick with me until the end of the collection, it has an uplifting message by the end. 

These poems are all very personal to me, and sharing them is giving everyone a peek into my soul, more so than my fiction or plays have.

For those of you wondering what's going on with my vampire trilogy, I've decided to shelf Until the Night Falls for the time being. I will definitely return to the trilogy at a later date, but my heart just isn't in it right now. Right now is not the time for me to write about vampires. 

The ebook versions of my poetry books will all be $1.99, or there will be a $2.99 bundle with all three books. (The print versions will be $4.99.) 

I am so excited to share these poems--both the old and the new--with you.

Thank you for making my 2020 better 

Well, it's that time again. The last day of the year. 

In normal times, I love New Year's Eve. I love reflecting back over the previous year and looking forward to the new one. But if 2020 was anything, it was definitely not normal. I'm cautiously optimistic about 2021: hoping for live performances to return, hoping to be able to hang out with my friends and family normally again, hoping to get a lot of writing done. 

I usually set reading and writing goals. I usually try to read 50 books a year and I set some ambitious goal about writing 300 words a day or publishing four books. I'm not doing that this year. I was going to set my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 25 books and just put it out there that I will finish my Shadow Vampires trilogy in 2021. Anything above that will be a bonus. 

2020 has definitely been difficult on a national (or even global) scale. There's been a lot of struggle. The pandemic, amplifying the fight for racial justice, the election. My heart goes out to anyone who has been sick or lost a loved one. 

At the same time, artistically and creatively, it was a pretty good year for me. I started the Find Creative Expression podcast, which I actually really enjoy doing. I have had so much fun having conversations about art and creativity with artists of all kinds. I started playing music again. I wrote tons of "joke songs" and even a real song, and I played an acoustic set that I live streamed from my living room. I "went wide" with my indie books--making them available on book retailers like Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Google Play. I had a Bookbub Featured Deal, which led to a lot more readers of We Own the Sky and The Muse Chronicles Trilogy. I had my first book traditionally published with Parliament House Press, and I had my first audiobook. I quit my day job and started freelancing full-time. 

Everything I was actually able to accomplish was due to your support. Whether you are a friend, family member, reader, podcast listener, or collaborator, thank you so much. Without you, I don't know that I would have made it through the year. Thank you so much for reading my work, for listening to my podcasts, for supporting my return to music, for every comment or like or share, for every review, for all of your support. It means the world to me. 

And so I look forward to 2021. But I don't have any expectations. I don't know what's going to happen this year. I don't know what it will look like. But I do know your support will continue to mean everything to me.

There is no right way to be a writer 

Well, it's the last day of November, which means lots of people are celebrating winning National Novel Writing Month - writing 50,000 words in 30 days. To all of those writers, I'd like to say congratulations!

I started out the month working on NaNoWriMo, but then I was so distracted by the election, I didn't get much done. I also committed to more freelance work than I actually should have and had to spend a lot of time doing that. And then I got to the point where I was desperately trying to finish my novel, Until the Night Falls, the sequel to Into the Shadows, my YA vampire paranormal romance. Revising everything I had already written became more important than writing and tracking new words, and I had the novel up for pre-order to be released on 12/29/2020. So I needed to send it to my editor, revise based on her feedback, and then have it proofread all by Christmas. So I ironically had to quit NaNoWriMo to finish my novel.

I spent most of the weekend trying to shape everything I had written into a somewhat cohesive novel, but at some point on Saturday, I realized it wasn't working, and I had to start completely over with a new document. (This isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds as I end up copy/pasting a lot of stuff I've already written but still.) I really wanted to avoid canceling my pre-order and postponing the release of the book as usually if you do that, Amazon won't let you use the pre-order feature for one year. It also felt like failing for me somehow. 

That got me thinking. Why did it feel like a failure? Was it because I had been comparing myself to indie writers who release five or ten or even twelve novels in a year? Was it because I was getting emails from writing coaches and successful authors talking about everything you HAVE to do to be a successful writer?

All throughout my studies of creative writing, I have heard so many "rules." Write every day. Don't start a novel with dialogue. Don't have a prologue. You have to create an outline first and plan everything out. But I have discovered that these rules are crap.    

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely rules for writing - the structure of storytelling, how to develop characters, how to show and not tell, etc. - just as there are for every art form. But every rule in writing can be broken. Sure, it means a lot more when you break the rules if you have a good understanding of them first, but when it comes to process, there are no rules. 

Maybe I'm just never going to be like those indie authors who write ten books a year. Maybe some years, I will write five books, and some years, I will write none. Maybe I go through phases where I write every day, and then I go weeks without writing. (Well, creative writing. I absolutely do write something every day - whether it's a journal entry or web content about metal roofing equipment or a blog post about writing process.) 

Maybe it's okay that I will have four or five different drafts before I even figure out the shape of the entire plot. Maybe it's okay that I always start with something that won't end up in the final version. Maybe that's just my process. 

As it turns out, Amazon has temporarily suspended the rules about canceling pre-orders so I won't even suffer any consequences for canceling my pre-order, except of course the refunds Amazon will give to the people who have already ordered the book. And it has been so long since the first book came out (February 2019) that a few more months won't make a difference I think. I still plan to do some promotions with Into the Shadows right before I release Until the Night Falls that will hopefully get readers excited, but I was going to do that anyway. 

So I just wanted to say to all the writers -- whether you won NaNoWriMo or didn't finish or didn't even do it at all this year -- whether you write every day or sometimes go entire months or even years without writing -- whether you are someone who flies by the seat of your pants and discovers the plot as you write or someone who meticulously plans and outlines beforehand -- whether you need silence to write or you have to write to music or the noise of crowds chattering (well, not during a pandemic, but in normal times) -- there is no right way to be a writer. Whatever works for you is what works for you.

Does that mean you should never try anything different or try to use a different writing process? No. Does that mean your process won't evolve and change? Of course not. But you also first need to accept where you are. Cut yourself some slack. Don't try to fit into someone else's box. Someone else's process is entirely theirs, and every writer is different. 

Sometimes, life is going to get in the way of writing, too. So have some self-compassion, and give yourself permission to be the kind of writer you are. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Day of My New Life 

Anything could happen at any moment. You could get laid off from the job you thought you could count on, you could go on a date with a stranger who you end up falling in love with, you could get into a tragic car accident, you could win a huge sum of money, you could put yourself out there at the interview or the audition or with a new book or album, you could lose everything, you could lose everything, you could gain everything. The universe is infinite, and everything is temporary. Certainty is (as my friend, Brian Perry says) a myth. 

This is always true, but most of the time, we at least have the illusion of certainty. If there's one thing 2020 has done, though, it's shatter that illusion. 

Friday was my last day at my full-time day job. It seemed fitting that we were in this weird state of limbo as a nation last week, not knowing which way the election would go. It mirrored my own life, how I didn't exactly know what would happen next. 

I am immensely grateful for my time in that job. I have learned a great deal and grown tremendously, both personally and professionally. But much like we are turning the page as a nation to step into a new era, it's time for a new chapter in my own life. 

I have always known I wanted to be an artist, a storyteller, specifically a writer. I used to write plays when I was 7 years old and have the neighbors perform them on my driveway. I recently found boxes filled with notebooks and binders full of poetry, novels, stories, screenplays, and plays in the closet of my old bedroom at my parents' house. I have been writing plays, novels, screenplays, songs, and poems for almost 30 years. 

I have been seriously pursuing a career as an author since 2012 when I got my MFA in Creative Writing. Since that time, I have gone through many ups and downs: signing with a literary agent, seeing one of my plays on a professional stage, being on submission with the novel of my heart, studying with amazing NYT Bestselling authors, parting ways with my agent, becoming an indie author, and most recently, having a book published by a small press. I have been pursuing this career on the side of my other work, my day job. 

A little over two weeks ago, I decided to leave my day job. It's time to pour everything into my author career. 

This is a risk. While I have started making more money with my books over the last few months, I'm still not making "quit your day job" money, and I've lined up some freelance work to help me get by until I am making a living with my books. But I feel called to put my entire self into trying to be a successful author, a career author. And I believe I can do it 100%. 

I don't expect to be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, but there are a ton of independent authors making a decent living, and I know I can be one of them. 

Will I have to work another day job in the future? Quite possibly. I have no idea what's going to happen. I do know one thing, though. I will never stop telling stories, and I will never stop pursuing a career as an author. No matter what happens.

No one knows what the future will hold. On New Year's Eve last year, I don't think anyone had an accurate idea of what 2020 would bring. But as I step into this new chapter, I am optomistic. I have hope. 

There's a song I used to always sing with the worship team at Unity North AtlantaI follow my vision, I follow it through. I change, I grow, I make myself new. And I follow my vision, I follow it through. 

So I'm stepping into this new chapter with that song in my heart.

Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. Authors, readers, and bloggers are uniting again his year to fight stigma, spread mental health awareness, and support the prevention of suicide. To encourage participation, we're giving away a $50 Amazon gift card and a Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day t-shirt to one lucky winner.

Two kinds of stigma continue to persist: public stigma and self-stigma. Public stigma occurs when other people view a person with a mental illness in a negative way. Public stigma feeds into self-stigma when people with mental illness internalize the negative talk they hear from others. 

Well-meaning people say things like, "Suck it up," "Choose to be happy," "Turn that frown upside down," or "Focus on your blessings," as if mental illness were a mood, a frame of mind, or an attitude that can simply be overcome at will. 

Often, people who suffer from mental illness blame themselves instead of seeking help. Just as a diabetic needs insulin, a person with mental illness may need treatment. 

People who contemplate suicide don't want to die; they just can't fathom how to live because they are so miserable. They can't see past their pain and misery, and they see no point in going on.

According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, "Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds." 

IASP explains that "[e]very life lost represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviour. Suicidal behaviour includes suicide, and also encompases suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide." 

If you're contemplating suicide, please don't do it! Instead, seek help. You might be suffering now, but you never know what tomorrow brings. Reach out to a friend or family member. See a doctor. If that doctor doesn't help, try another. Please don't give up. 

If you're in crisis, please reach out to the toll-free hotline in your region. You can find your hotline here: https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/. 

If you are grieving the death of a victim of suicide and need help, here are resources that can help: https://www.iasp.info/resources/Postvention/National_Suicide_Survivor_Organizations/. 

If you suspect that someone you know may be contemplating suicide, please reach out. We often hesitate because we're afraid we might make things worse by saying the wrong thing. According to IASP, "Evidence suggests that this is not the case. The offer of support and a listening ear are more likely to reduce distress, as opposed to exacerbating it." 

Warning signs to look for include severe anxiety, agitation, hopelessness, rage, feelings of being trapped, a strong urge for vengeance, engaging in risky activities, excessive alcohol and/or drug use, withdrawing from people, trouble sleeping, and dramatic mood changes.

My Story

I've struggled with depression and anxiety since I was about 12 or 13, and while I've never actually attempted suicide, there were definitely times when I was so depressed I didn't want to live.

My depression and anxiety is manageable now but only because I take psychiatric medication and see a therapist regularly. There is no shame in admitting that you need help.

If you struggle with mental illness, please reach out for help. There are so many resources that will allow you to get help if you are open to it.

No matter what's going on in your life, it's temporary. And suicide is permanent. There's nothing you can't overcome with the right help. So don't be afraid to ask for it.

The Tour

Book lovers from all over the world have joined together to share their stories and spread mental health awareness. Please follow this tour guide to find our posts and to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card and a Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 t-shirt: 

P.D. Workman, Author 

Triple A Book Blog 

Jessica Burkhart, Author 

Here Is What I Read Blog 

Crossroad Reviews 

Jazzy Book Reviews 

Book Corner News and Reviews 

I Love Books and Stuff Blog 

Luv Saving Money 

Debbie Manber Kupfer, Author

Ash Ineski, Author

Allie Burton, Author 

Book Butterfly in Dreamland

Tawdra Kandle, Author 

Quinn Loftis, Author 

Kat's Indie Book Blog 

Day Leitao, Author 

Steph Weston, Author 

Lanie Bynum, Author 

L.B. Carter, Author 

Holly and Mistletoe 

Eva Pohler, Author

 

The Giveaway

From September 1-10, enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card and a Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day t-shirt. There are lots of ways to enter below--choose one or all. You can also tweet daily for extra entries. We'll email the winner by September 11th.

Enter the giveaway

Other Ways You Can Help

1. On September 10th at 8 p.m. your time, light a candle to remember all those we have lost to suicide and to represent the hope of preventing suicide. People all over the world will be participating. You can send an ecard in 63 different languages to invite others to participate. Find the ecards here. 

2. Purchase a Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 for $20. For every shirt sold, five dollars is donated to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. Order yours here. 

3. Spread the word about this giveaway, to encourage more people to read our posts and tweet about overcoming stigma. Use the share buttons at the bottom of this post, and 

Click to tweet: #EntertoWin a $50 #giftcard and #Tshirt while fighting #stigma and spreading #mentalhealthawareness for #suicideprevention #WSPD.

Other Resources

Here are videos on suicide and mental helath that I have found to be helpful: 

The Bridge Between Suicide and Life 

You're Still Here: Living After Suicide 

This Is for All of You in a Dark Place 

Suicide Is Preventable

Also, I did a video several years ago about Tips for Writers With Depression

Special thanks to author, Eva Pohler, for putting this together!

The Shadow Vampires Trilogy 

In February of 2019, I published Into the Shadows, the first book in The Shadow Vampires Trilogy. Then my life blew up when I was in the middle of writing the second book. I was finally able to get back to it though, and I am thrilled to announce I will be releasing the sequel, Until the Night Falls, on December 29, 2020 and it is currently available for pre-order. I have also re-released Into the Shadows with a new cover--making it available on Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Google Books, Kobo, and other retailers in addition to Amazon.

Download Into the Shadows from my website.

Download Into the Shadows from your favorite retailer.

Pre-order Until the Night Falls from your favorite retailer.

The third and final book in the trilogy, Out of the Darkness, will be released in Spring of 2021. Stay tuned for more information about that!

Ever since I read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice when I was 15, I have absolutely been in love with all things vampire. Lost Boys, Dracula, True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries... I love them all! So I have been super excited to finally tell my own vampire stories.

Here's the description for Into the Shadows:

Chloe Chastain thought the mysterious stranger from the internet was just another obsessed fan of her favorite vampire books, and she grew close to him, letting him see into her soul. When she discovered that he was the actual dangerous vampire, Theodore Dupont, the protagonist of her favorite books, she vowed to forget him. 

After an encounter with her childhood bully goes horribly wrong, she knows Theodore is the only one she can turn to for help, and she travels to New Orleans to find him. As she learns all about the world of the vampires and her role in it, she tries to resist her connection with Theodore, but she's not even sure if she wants to anymore. 

When she finds out how much is at stake for not only Theodore and herself, but the entire New Orleans supernatural community, she's forced to make an impossible choice.

Readers have called it "fast-paced, can't put it down action and romance" and a "brilliant first book in a new series." I had a blast writing it, and I can't wait to be able to share the rest of Chloe and Theo's journey.

 

 

Thank you for a great release week! 

Last Tuesday, my first traditionally published book, Time After Time, was released from The Parliament House press. The release went really well, and I had so much fun writing my guest post about ten 80s tunes I love and also doing an interview for The Parliament House's YouTube channel.

Thank you so much to everyone who bought a copy or shared about my book or just offered me your support. (Especially thanks to Julie Boniger who put together a surprise Zoom party to celebrate my book release!)

Here is the description for the book:

Megan Gallagher has only ever seen her mother as neurotic and overworked. 

When a Whitney Houston song at the 80s dance sends Megan back to 1987, she discovers her teenage mom dressed in all black and sneaking liquor in the bathroom. After preventing her mom’s drunk car accident, Megan realizes she has one month to get her teenage parents to stop partying, and learn enough about her family's secret to get back home. Too bad the much cuter teenage version of her history teacher is such a distraction. With time running out and her future at stake, Megan must learn that, when it comes to family, you can't always get what you want, but you might just get what you need.

You can find the book at your favorite retailer here.

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