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#FridayReads Only She Can Save Herself

Scorched, by Jennifer Armentrout

Sometimes life leaves a mark…

Most days, Andrea doesn’t know whether she wants to kiss Tanner or punch him in the gut. He is seriously hot, with legit bedroom eyes and that firefighter body of his, but he’s a major player, and they can’t get along for more than a handful of minutes. Until now.

Tanner knows he and Andrea have had an epic love/hate relationship for as long as he can remember, but he wants more love than hate from her. He wants her. Now. Tomorrow. But the more he gets to know her, the more it becomes obvious that Andrea has a problem. She’s teetering on the edge and every time he tries to catch her, she slips through his fingers.

Andrea’s life is spiraling out of control, and it doesn’t matter that Tanner wants to save her, because when everything falls apart and she’s speeding toward rock bottom, only she can save herself.

Sometimes life makes you work for that happily ever after…

I read this book in just a few hours. Not because it was super short. It wasn’t light reading, either. But I devoured it. I had to know what happened next. Because Scorched isn’t just a romance. It’s about living with depression and anxiety—two conditions that are a huge part of my life.

Andrea tries to self-medicate using alcohol. Her concerned friends aren’t sure what to do. Even she isn’t sure.

There were plenty of moments of levity. I laughed out loud quite a bit. Scorched balances out some pretty heavy material with brilliant dialogue and witty narration.

My favorite part about this book was the relationship between Andrea and Tanner. He gives her room to figure things out for herself, with lots of support.

Readers who enjoy books that tackle real issues with the prevailing message of hope should definitely pick up a copy of Scorched.

If you read and liked Scorched, you may enjoy my novel Diving Into Him, a story about a young woman struggling with alcoholism and her dream of redemption.

Sade on the Wall: Chapter 1

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“Don’t you dare tell anyone,” I stage-whispered to my fourteen-year-old brother Corey as we got closer to Reggie Wilson’s porch. The party looked like it had started hours ago. Kids sat on the front porch, drinking out of big plastic red cups and smoking cigarettes. My eyes widened. Our parents—my birth mother, who we called Mommy, and Corey’s birth mother, who we called Mama—thought this would be a good old-fashioned clean Halloween party, mostly because that’s what I thought it would be. The Wilsons were famous for the haunted house they put together for the neighborhood kids every year. Judging by the lack of strobe lights and headstones on the lawn, it looked like Reggie’s parents weren’t even in town.

“Only if you let me try a beer, Sade.” Corey smirked. He moved ahead of my best friend Jackie and me, and went inside. I stopped walking and stared after him. I didn’t think he would say anything to our moms, but you never know with little brothers.

“Don’t worry about him,” Jackie said with a wink.

A couple of people stared at me, pointing. I glanced down and slapped my thigh with the palm of my hand. “Shit,” I said, looking down at the Disney princess costume Mama had sewn for me. The ice blue dress fell to my ankles, the long sleeves and velvet fabric clinging to my body. Although I loved the costume, it just wasn’t sexy enough. I yanked off the dress, revealing the short fairy costume that Jackie let me borrow. The night air felt cool against my legs—about normal for Connecticut in October—but it didn’t matter. We would be mostly inside throughout the party.

“Relax people, nothing to see!” Jackie called to them as she helped me put on the fairy wings. I slipped my feet into her heels, shoved the white flats and glacial blue dress into my bag, and followed her inside.

I felt the eyes of everyone on the porch on me as we walked past, but the screen door closed behind us in seconds, shielding me from their smirks and head shaking.

There must have been a hundred people inside the house. Although Clarington is a small town, I didn’t recognize any of the faces we passed. Music boomed in my ears. People either danced, or stood off to the side drinking out of more big red cups. In the hallway between the living room and kitchen, even more people stood talking.

I followed Jackie into the kitchen, where three long tables were set up with cups all over them. Kids stood at either end of the tables, tossing a ping-pong ball back and forth. I turned to ask Jackie what they were doing and realized she’d gone ahead into the dining room. I hurried after her, my heart pounding, terrified I’d get lost or someone would spill alcohol on me, and Mommy would smell it and ground me forever. I hoped the dining room would be less crowded so Jackie and I could catch our breath and try to find Corey. It was even worse in there. It only took me a few minutes to see why. Kids were lined up with more of those red cups in their hands, waiting to get them filled at this huge metal drum in the corner of the room.

“Sweet, a keg,” Jackie said. Her mouth was really close to my ear. “Isn’t this great?”

“Did you see where Corey went?” I asked, but she didn’t hear me over the music. She grabbed a red plastic cup from a stack on the shelf and held it out to me. I shook my head. She shrugged and got in line. I followed her and tapped her shoulder. “Did you see where Corey went?” I repeated.

Before she could answer, the kids in the dining room started counting. A really tall kid was doing a handstand on top of the keg and had the nozzle in his mouth.

“Twelve! Thirteen! Fourteen! Fifteen!”

“Come on, Harry!” a blonde girl yelled, jumping up and down.

“Twenty! Twenty-one! Twenty-two!”

I wondered how he didn’t fall down, or pass out from holding his breath for so long. I poked Jackie. “What’s he doing?”

She rolled her eyes, and I blushed. “It’s a keg stand. You drink upside down for as long as possible. You get drunk faster that way.”

“Oh. Uh … okay. Are you doing one?” I really wanted to ask her when she started to care so much about getting drunk, or even how fast she got drunk, but I already felt stupid enough.

“Hell no! I have to walk home!” She grinned. “Why, do you want to?”

I shook my head. “No way! Remember when we used to do handstands and get dizzy?”

She wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, I guess it can’t be all that fun, then.”

“Thirty-five—oh!” Everyone’s gasps rippled through the crowd. Silence fell over the room.

We looked up. The kid doing the keg stand sat on the floor looking dazed. A couple of people helped him up from the floor, then helped someone else get up onto the keg.

I watched the first guy—Harry—gag with his hands on his knees, hunched over the garbage can. I tapped Jackie again. “I’m gonna go see if I can find Corey,” I said. “I’ll be right back.” I headed back toward where I thought the kitchen was, but without Jackie, the house seemed much bigger.

I tried to remember how to get back to the dining room. I spotted a door that I thought looked familiar and went inside. Music videos flickered on a TV, but I couldn’t hear them over the music. Several people sprawled all over couches, making out and rubbing their hands all over each other. One girl even had her shirt off and her bra unhooked. I rolled my eyes and left the room quickly, heat spreading across my cheeks. I went straight back through the hall and found myself in the kitchen.

“Hey!” Someone touched my arm.

I whirled around, swaying in Jackie’s heels, a little off-balance from stopping so abruptly.

A girl dressed in rainbow colors, her blonde hair dyed to match, nodded to me. “We need an extra player. Danielle’s too drunk. You down?”

I glanced at the long tables and shrugged. “I’m looking for my brother, but maybe later.” I didn’t think there would be a later, but I didn’t want to look lame.

“Aw.” She sighed.

“I just wanna make sure he’s all right.” I smiled like I was a pro at big, crazy drinking parties.

“Oh no, he didn’t drink too much, did he?” She took a sip from a brown glass bottle. I didn’t recognize the name on the label, but I doubted it was soda.

I shook my head and laughed. “Corey? Yeah right. He’s never even had a beer.”

Even though I was a year older than Corey, I’d never had a beer, either. I wasn’t about to tell her that, though. She had a metal ring through her nose, a couple of tattoos, and something told me the dye in her hair wasn’t the temporary stuff Mama allowed us to use.

She laughed. “I’m Olivia.”

“Sade,” I said, pronouncing it extra hard—Sha-day—so she got it.

“Like the singer?”

I cringed. I’ve never even listened to her music, but I don’t plan on starting anytime soon. People always assumed I was named after her. “Like the chick standing in front of you,” I said, my face hot. The words stumbled out of my mouth and I regretted them almost instantly. I swallowed hard, hoping she wouldn’t take offense.

Olivia laughed again, though, her eyes sparkling.

“I’m getting thirsty!” A guy with dark hair and a goatee drummed his knuckles on the table. He looked older—a lot older.

Olivia winked at me. “So, you playing?”

“Let me go get my friend first. Be back in two minutes!” I said, and headed toward the dining room.

“Aw, come on,” the older guy said as I left.

I found the dining room, but Jackie was nowhere to be seen. I went back into the weird little hallway I’d walked through earlier, and stood in front of the door to the make out room. I did not want to go back in there. I headed back to the kitchen and rejoined Olivia. “I have no idea where my friend went. Did you see a little blonde Puerto Rican girl in a sailor costume?”

Olivia shook her head. “Blonde Puerto Rican?” She lifted an eyebrow at me. “Isn’t that, like, an oxymoron?”

I started to explain that nothing about Jackie was ordinary. She was Puerto Rican with blonde hair and blue eyes, and didn’t speak any Spanish. She could dance and usually had a line of boys chasing after her. She knew how to make me laugh and kept my secrets. We had met in kindergarten and became best friends when another girl stole my lunch money and Jackie kicked her until she gave it back. I couldn’t sum up almost ten years of friendship in just a couple of words, though.

“We playing or what?” the older guy demanded.

Olivia rolled her eyes and turned to me. “You’re on my team. You ever play?”

I decided to just go for it. I figured Corey was off having his own fun, and Jackie obviously was, too. There was no reason why I shouldn’t, either. I hesitated, though, because I didn’t know what they were playing. I wondered whether I should try to wing it and make myself look dumb, or admit that I’ve never been to a party and look even dumber. “The rules are so different everywhere,” I said, inspired by a poster board taped to the wall with “House Rules” written in big, black letters.

“Okay,” she said, “obviously, you have to get it in. You can’t bounce it off the table, and clean catches don’t count. If it hits two cups, they,” she jabbed a finger at the older guy and his partner, a short blond guy that at least looked like he was still in high school, “drink one each. If you knock one of their cups over, it doesn’t count. You drink. That’s pretty much it. Got it?”

I nodded. She handed me a ping-pong ball. It felt weightless between my fingers.

“Me first,” she said and, with a flick of her wrist, sent the little ball sailing over the table. It just missed one of the cups. I realized the cups were lined up in a triangle, with the tip pointed toward the opposing team. “Your turn,” Olivia said.

I swallowed hard and stared at a cup in the second row. There is a reason I don’t play sports. Please don’t make me look stupid, I thought as I tossed it over. I squeezed my eyes shut.

“Yay!” Olivia squealed, and hugged me. I opened my eyes. The guy with dark hair set the cup to the side and wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

The game went by super fast. The next thing I knew, Olivia and I won and were “racking up” again to play against two other guys. Her friend, the still-drunk Danielle, cheered us on from a chair on the side, smoking cigarette after cigarette. She kept offering me one, but I said no each time. The only person I smoke with is Jackie, and even then, it’s only once in a while. Cigarettes are too gross to get hooked on.

I expected beer to taste nasty—since neither Mommy nor Mama ever drank it—but it was kind of fizzy, like soda, but the color of ginger ale, bitter and wet, kind of like the yeast Mama used for baking. I loved drinking the foam the most.

Each time we started a new game, Olivia reached into a box and pulled out two or three cans of beer. The first time, I watched her fill the cups with just over a mouthful, maybe two, but after that, I started filling them. By our third game, I was filling the cups with three or four mouthfuls, and Olivia laughed each time.

“You are gonna get us smashed,” she said, hugging me and leaning on me. “I feel so good right now! How’re you feeling, girl?”

I nodded. I barely noticed the rough words in the rap blaring over the speakers anymore, and the boom of the bass made me want to dance. Everything—even when I missed a cup or knocked one of the guys’ cups over—made me laugh.

As we racked up our fourth game, I heard someone shouting my name. I turned and saw Corey pushing through the crowd watching us play. “Sade!” he yelled.

“What?” I finished filling our cups. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s eleven-thirty!”

“Okay,” I said, and tossed the ball. “So what?” I froze as my younger brother’s words sank in. “Oh shit. Olivia, I have to go!”

“Aw!” She pouted, then turned to her friend. “Danielle, can you play another game?”

I followed Corey, tripping awkwardly in Jackie’s heels. “Slow down,” I whined. “Where have you been?”

“Upstairs, playing Xbox with Reggie and some other guys. Where’s Jackie?” he shouted as we circled the downstairs part of the house a second time.

“I tried looking for her earlier. The last place I saw her was in the kitchen.” I leaned against a wall and yanked the heels off.

“We are in so much trouble,” Corey said.

“I know,” I said, my heart pounding. “I don’t think I feel too good, either.”

“No,” Corey said. “Look.” He pointed.

There, in the front door of the living room, stood our moms.

Read Chapter 2 »

October Goals

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I used to set goals for myself every month.

I don’t know why I stopped.

Maybe because I thought they were stupid, that they were just distracting me. In truth, I think they were keeping me on track.

My goals for 2015 were divided into three areas of my life:

Career

  • Make a full-time income
  • Write the South of Forever series
  • Write a YA series

Marriage

  • Get an apartment
  • Have a date every week
  • Be more patient

Health

  • Get a diagnosis and treatment
  • Eat healthier
  • Do more yoga

Jury’s still out on the yoga thing. I remember to do it maybe once a month. #oops

The last time I set goals for the month was July.

That’s two months of nothing. Interestingly, I was super depressed throughout August and September. Does setting goals really impact my mental health that much? Maybe.

When I think about September, I think about new beginnings. But when I think of October, I can only think about the impending winter. November is even worse.

It doesn’t help that I feel so heavy because of the medication I’m on. Thinking is very hard right now. But I want those goals. I need something to refer to this month to keep me on track.

I think, when you are in a fragile place, you need to set goals that are super attainable but not too easy. I decided to pick three things that I’m already working on.

  • Release Savannah’s Song
  • Adjust depression medication
  • Read 1-3 books

Savannah’s Song comes out on the 26th. I’m seeing my APRN tonight to do something about my meds. (I still think I want to come off of everything and start fresh.) And I’m already reading K.A. Tucker’s Ten Tiny Breaths.

Sometimes, when you’re down, you need to build yourself back up.

I’m a work in progress.

Happy Birthday, Popi

Popi, me, and Noni on the day I graduated college.
Popi, me, and Noni on the day I graduated college.

My family is scattered. At one point we all practically lived in the same house. Now we’re separated across Connecticut and Virginia. Normally, I miss them but I’m able to go about my day. We’re all living our own lives, occasionally reuniting to celebrate the milestones. Times like today, though, I feel the pang of that split.

It’s my grandfather’s birthday, and all I want is to be around my family.

I can’t.

I’m too sick.

Plus, later, I have to go to the DMV. Today is not my favorite.

But thanks to Facebook, we can trade photos and stories. My sister dug up this photo of my grandparents with me on my college graduation. My aunt and I were discussing the various traits we all inherited from Popi. Across the gap, we’re still closer than ever.

Nightmares

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I’m seriously starting to hate Wellbutrin. First it turned my thoughts against me. Now it’s ruining my sleep.

When I first started taking it, it made me laser focused. I could think. I could write again. For about two weeks, I tackled my To Do list with a fever. I even commented on it to my therapist, that it was almost too good to be true.

It was.

Two weeks ago, after being on Wellbutrin for a couple of months, I lost all concentration. I stopped writing. Disturbing thoughts started popping into my head. They weren’t suicidal thoughts, per se, but they were definitely not mine.

Last night, the nightmares started. I’ve always had odd dreams on Wellbutrin. They were quirky and charming. Now they’re bloody and terrifying.

It all reminds me too much of when I was on Viibryd.

I still can’t quite talk about the hellish experience I had. But I know when it’s time to get out of Dodge.

I have an appointment with my APRN for psych meds on Thursday. He has razor sharp instincts when it comes to these meds, but I want off. I won’t wean without supervision. I know how dangerous that can be. And I’m sure that there’s a drug out there that will work for me. I’ve just had enough for now.

Maybe I’m a little traumatized. Maybe I’m being too extreme. All I know is, Viibryd almost killed me. I won’t make the same mistake again.

Under One Roof

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

I’ll be honest: blogging twice a day, five days a week was killing me. I was lucky if I managed four days at Elizabeth Barone; I hit the lotto if I managed two at Kaylene Campbell. I also kept stumbling on a pesky question with a pretty good point: What do I write about where? Meaning, did I reserve just personal stuff for EB? or should I only blog about mental health on KC?

Dude. It was exhausting.

Plus, I don’t keep my pen names a secret. There was no real reason to keep my blogs separate.

It dawned on me that I could make one blogging home for myself, while keeping the other websites as static “look at my books!” command centers.

So what can you expect here? Everything: news about both my Young Adult and New Adult books; my life with dysthymia and Enthesitis Related Arthritis; and more!