Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Feels: October

*affiliate disclaimer at the bottom of post*

I don't know about you guys, but this post series has become one of my favorite things about sitting down to write a blog post. It's funny how a little random list of feelings can help me connect more deeply to myself and what's going on in my life, and I really love when something pops up that I'm like, "Yes! That's what's been messing with me!" It's something that gives me a greater understanding of myself and who I am - and I believe that's always a good thing, because it's in truly knowing yourself and who you are that helps you learn where to start and how to keep getting better.

As fall rolls into East Tennessee, what I think I've been feeling the most of lately is cold (anyone got a spare tiny space heater for feet??), but as the holidays grow closer and certain pressures in my personal life are coming to a head, I've been feeling lots of other things too - so when's better than now to sit down and straighten myself out, amIright? (You can follow along - just click here to get your own random list of feelings! Or, you can feel free to use mine, too. Either way, if you decide to write your own Friday Feels, make sure to drop your link in the comments - I'd love to see what other people are feeling!)

1. Calm:
Honestly, the most calming thing in my life lately has been making sure I keep attending weekly therapy sessions. My therapist is a sweet woman who really hears me out, and because she's a human who has experienced a very human life, she has enough personal life experience to be able to relate to me and my experiences. It makes a huge difference for me and really gives me the strength and security to be able to explore my memories and feelings in a setting that's totally non-judgmental - and since I haven't had a lot of that in my life, it really means a lot to me to have it now. Whether it's the *CBT strategies for anxiety or depression, or it's just having someone to talk to that hears me out, I know it makes a difference. Even the kids have noticed.

2. Contented:
Contentment is a funny thing - it's the word we use to describe the state of being "alright" even if you aren't entirely "happy" - and while PTSD and PMDD team up to make sure I struggle with my search for happiness all the time, I do sometimes find a sense of contentment in the moment I'm in. Watching my kids play at the park with their cousins or friends, catching them when they do something kind for each other without knowing anyone is watching, a well-written blog post that I'm especially proud of. Happiness may not always be easy to reach, but I have learned to find contentment in the warmth of a cup of coffee, the scratchy, bristly whiskers of my cuddly dog, or the emotional solidarity of a song that understands me. Sometimes I have people (who know what the deepest, darkest corners of my personal life really look like) ask me how I can be okay with the harder parts of life, or how I can walk around with my head high even when everything around me is a mess - and I believe that it's the ability to find contentment that gives me my strength. I firmly believe that if I weren't able to enjoy the good moments as they come, the plethora of unenjoyable moments I face everyday would simply be too much to bear.

3. Heartbroken:
This year I lost a friend who was very important to me. This was a person who was always there to talk to, a person who always seemed to understand what I had going on, and who always seemed to be able to understand - even when they couldn't truly relate. This person enriched the way I thought of myself, reinforced beliefs I desperately needed to be able to embrace, and stepped in for me several times when life got the best of me and I needed help. It was one of those kinds of friendships you really look forward to - with rich conversation and common interests and what I thought was a healthy and mutual respect. This particular friend (and others I've had in the past) was a stark reminder to me of why I generally stay away from politics and religion in conversations with people (and in my writing life as well, for the most part), and why I struggle to trust people who tell me I can count on them. And despite what was a very painful reminder ... I miss the depth of that friendship so much sometimes it makes my heart ache and my eyes water.

4. Hostile:
Sometimes in life, you end up sharing your circle of influence with people who you wish would - for lack of a better term - drop dead. When I was a young girl, one of the things I was most proud of about myself was my anger, and the way it combined with my eloquence to help me protect myself. Even if I wasn't big enough or strong enough to be physically intimidating, I was proud to have developed the ability to open my mouth and unleash a weapon very few people could match. The old saying says, "The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword," but I like to think it's not the pen which holds the power, it's the words themselves - and writing them down isn't necessary in order to make them hurtful. A few well-chosen words can trigger, de-escalate, or even outdo a strong punch in the right situation, and I was very proud of the way I could set someone in their place with a sharp tone and an acid tongue. Eventually though, as I started to realize how truly long-lasting words can be, I started reigning it in, taking time to think before I spoke, to make sure that I at least meant what I said before I said it. After that, I learned to better filter what I said - not in an effort to be less honest or less blunt (because I'm still proud of having so much of both of those qualities), but in an effort to tender my words more carefully so as not to cut others down with them. Mind you, I haven't lost the ability - I just choose not to use it so much anymore.

But that's not to say I'm not constantly faced with people and situations that make my blood boil and my palms itch and my mouth wish I was still the old me. There is one particular person that is a major part of my daily life ... and I can't even express how much I wish I could take that person down to size.

I guess there are some people that just bring out the worst in us.

5. Humble:
In my current phase of life, most things humble me. Driving my nineteen-year-old, on-the-verge-of-breaking-down, almost at 150-thousand-miles van. Pulling into our wish-I-didn't-live-here-but-can't-do-much-about-it-yet driveway. Too much time spent with my blunt and abrasive teenager (gosh, wonder where she got that blunt abrasiveness from, huh?). Dropping the ball on all the doctor's appointments I juggle on the daily. Checking my bank account.

There are a lot of things in my life that keep my ego small and my sense of self very carefully caged - a lot of things (and even a few people) that remind me daily of where my failures and insufficiencies are. These things, though? They give me gratitude for the beauty in my life - especially because some days that beauty is harder to find. They give me compassion for others, and a slowly growing freedom from my own judgmentalism - they help me understand that no matter how the people around me carry themselves or what they have or how they treat others, they're dealing with issues too, just like me. And those issues don't have to be visible to be real.

6. Peaceful:
Honestly, I wish I had more peace in my life right now. And I know a lot of people tend to say things like that even when they have pretty peaceful lives ... but I don't. I truly do live with a lot of stress on the daily, whether it's from outside influence, the pressures of other peoples' expectations of me, my own expectations, my struggles with perfectionism and mental wellness, single mom life with two kids, etc. I feel a lot of pressure in my daily life, and not always a lot of peace. But when I'm driving, that's peaceful for me. Other than worrying about whether I'll break down or not, driving is one of the few times when Eden will stop chattering (usually), Joey will stop being a snippy teen (because she's listening to music on her phone), and in those moments, it's just me and the road. Sometimes I listen to an audiobook, sometimes I listen to my daily self-improvement podcast, sometimes I listen to music of my own. Either way, those moments are some of the few that truly belong to me, and I treasure them.

7. Puzzled:
Without getting too into subjects I'd rather not bring to my writing platform, the thing that has me most puzzled these days (and it's been this way for a while now) is the level of sheer unadulterated hypocrisy that lies buried in the human race. Not that I've never been guilty of it myself, or that I couldn't ever be caught up in it, but seriously - it's insane right now. I'm so confused by the way people justify wrong behavior - not because the behavior is wrong, but because they think it's only wrong when someone else does it. Like, "I can do whatever I want; I can break laws or stifle expression or be rude or exclusive or demanding or controlling or judgmental - but you can't, because then you're too-loud/too-demanding/too-selfish, too-messy/too-opinionated/too-"dramatic." The double standard some people live by is just ... astonishing.

8. Relaxed:
One thing that never fails to relax me is listening to music. Maybe it's because there's a song for just about every mood and situation you can possibly find yourself in. Maybe it's because of the way the beat works to calm the heart or inspire the mind. Maybe it's because of the words and the way they flow over a heated spirit like the cool wash of a lapping wave. Whatever it is, it always works.

Another thing that's been relaxing me lately has been reading. I've recently finished reading Max Lucado's *You'll Get Through This and let me tell you, I was incredibly inspired by this book. I felt soothed and spoken to on a personal level, and the words in that book are sticking with me still. I happened to find it at just the right time, and I am still totally thankful for the way it speaks directly against those who seek to be sources of discouragement in my life. Now I'm into something lighter - but only in the sense that it's fiction. I read through the first book in Shannon Messenger's *Keeper of the Lost Cities Series in about three days (which is why this blog post was almost late), and then immediately jumped into the second book. This series is perfect for anyone who loved Harry Potter, Septimus Heap, or any similar series, and while I haven't seen any language or sexual content that I feel is inappropriate for my kids yet, I did see things that some younger children might find frightening. But if you're picking it up as an adult looking for a light read ... it's so. worth. it.

9. Threatened:
This feeling crosses my emotional path far more often than I think anyone would be comfortable with - I feel threatened by one thing or another almost all the time. That sense of impending threat, the lingering anxious watchfulness is, after all, the very root of what causes PTSD in survivors of domestic abuse. I don't back down from conflict in general, but I also don't seek it out ... and yet, it seems to find me. The way my personal life is set up right now, conflict lurks around every corner and there aren't many places in my life that are safe from it. And wishing I could change it isn't enough, and making constant daily effort isn't enough either. Slow and steady may win the race, but it's also exhausting and anxiety-inducing and depressing and sometimes outright suck-ish. But knowing you have what it takes to defeat the lion running at you across the plain doesn't mean watching a lion run at you across the plain doesn't scare the shit out of you.

10. Upset:
Some days, the most upsetting thing I deal with is the range of my own emotions. I have days where I feel everything - not in cycles, but all at once. Like an overload, a wash of emotions flooding over a struggling dam. And it's the whole range, the whole extended spectrum of emotional depth - anger and frustration sit right next to joy and amusement, and surrounding them are fear and worry and love and tenderness, and abundant energy wars with exhaustion. It's overwhelming. Other days, I feel things in a very muted way, like someone has taken the photograph of my emotional ability and turned it down until it's almost ... black and white. Like the feelings are there, but they're ghosts, just a little bit see-through. Then I'll have days where someone will crack a joke and I'll smile because I  know I should be amused right then - and yet, if I pause for just a second to examine myself ... I realize that I don't feel amusement at all. Or offense or frustration, or even boredom. On those days the only real emotion I feel is a horrified fear of my own numbness. Those days sort of come and go, pushed in circles by the way PTSD and PMDD work together. To call it upsetting is to put it mildly.


It's funny sometimes, isn't it? The range of emotions humans can be filled with? Sometimes they're the kind of screaming emotions that set up residence in our hearts and refuse to be ignored, and other times they're the tiny little voice behind the things we didn't even know we meant until we said them. Either way, owning up to them and facing them head-on is the only way to find and deal with the things in our lives that bring these emotions on. So tell me, what are you feeling lately - and why?

Make sure you take some time to look around while you're here; if you find something that really resonates with you, I'd love for you to share a link with your friends! I'd also like to invite you to hang out and follow along with my journey; if you subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, you'll be sure to never miss a post!

And if you're a book lover like me, come on over to Patreon for a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! You can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life. And if you want a little more, for just $2 a month you'll also get to vote for upcoming content, read my upcoming poetry release as it's written, and have access to weekly L.A.F.F.S. - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, I'll be posting daily PhLogs!! (Click that link to check them out - most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public, and the one from October 2017 is REALLY good.)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.


*NOTE: I often use affiliate links in my product mentions on this site, so remember that if you choose to click my product links and end up purchasing through them, I will probably receive a (very) small commission for referring you to the merchants and products I love best. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you - but also know that my family and I appreciate your support! (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Conventions I'd Love To Attend

A few weeks ago, I had an interesting chat with someone about book conventions and what sorts of items top the list for a writer heading out to such a huge event. In years past, I've attended several amazing and well-organized writing events, both on my own as part of a small local organization of writers, so I can definitely give some feedback into what to bring to an author convention ... except ... well, I've never actually been to an author convention, specifically. Signing events are a bit different - they lack the same level of learning experience offered by the chance to attend (or participate in) speaking panels, as well as the pomp and circumstance of awards ceremonies and things like that.

But a girl can dream, right? So without further ado (and in no particular order):



 01. Penned Con
This convention is hosted annually in St. Louis, MS, and from what I hear, it's utterly amazing. The convention offers a variety of learning experiences, tons of chances to get up close and personal with the authors you love, an awards show, a two day book signing event, panels, workshops, and even a huge party! And to top it all off, the convention is deeply focused on giving back to the community and helping those in need with their connection to Action for Autism. 2017's event just passed, but 2018 is underway for the minds behind Penned Con, and tickets to the 2018 event are already being advertised here!

When I first heard about this signing, I literally squealed with glee. There was a masquerade ball. I believe there was some mention of horse-drawn carriages. It was to be held at an unspeakably lovely Inn in Frankenmuth, MI. There would be books and authors and workshops and awards and ... sigh. Just the place for me - I could lose myself among the most bookish of people, spending time learning and having fun with those most like me! Due to certain circumstances, I didn't get to go that year, and I haven't had the chance to go since then, either. But I want to. I want to with all my little heart! Tickets for the 2018 event are already available for this one here, and there will be a Toga Party! What?!

Started as a conference for writers and lovers of Young Adult fiction, this conference grew quickly over the years and exploded in popularity - at least in my circles. I had several author pals who went multiple times, and I always had to unfollow them a little bit during UtopiaCon season, otherwise it broke my heart a little every time I got reminded that there was a major writing conference only a few hours away from where I live ... and I couldn't go to it. I was - and am, for the most part - okay with the fact that travel and conferences just aren't part of this chapter of my life right now, and I was - and still am - thrilled for my friends who are out there experiencing and learning with the pioneers of independent publishing ... but it still stings a little, if I'm honest - especially because this conference was always right in Nashville, only a few hours from where I live. And now I'll never get to attend this one, because they're not doing it anymore.

I don't think a romance novelist can make a list of dream conventions without including something from RWA. Despite recent whisperings in the publishing industry about problems within the RWA, their convention is generally agreed to be well-planned, well-executed, and full of incredibly valuable information. I also love that so many of my personal favorite authors are members of RWA, and thus, I could hope that some of them might be in attendance. Another amazing thing is that if you click the link above this paragraph, you can find information about RWA conferences all the way out 'til 2021. How's that for planning ahead? The only thing is, the 2017 event has already passed - but that just means you've got time to plan ahead for a ton of learning in 2018!

This is another one that came onto my radar because I'm connected to people who have gone to it or are involved with throwing it (similar to Penned Con and Once Upon A Book), and have heard about a million firsthand stories that illustrated the awesomeness of the event while shattering my left-out little heart into jagged little pieces of sadness. This year's InD'Scribe event literally just passed (only a few days ago), with the talented Marie Force teamed up with Brenda Novak to act as keynote speakers at the event. Unfortunately, as the event literally passed, I couldn't find information about the 2018 conference, but the link above would take you to more direct information.

The fun thing about this convention, other than the party and signing event and VIP extras, is that as this event moves around the country, its name changes each time. Aptly named LoveNVegas, the 2017 event will be held in Las Vegas, NV, and hosted at the beautiful Planet Hollywood Hotel. They've even created a beautiful itinerary for this year's Love N. Vegas event, to be held October 27th/28th; tickets are still available for this event, and they'll have volunteers who will act as "bookmarks" to hold your place in the longer lines, so that you have time to meet and greet as many authors as possible! Planning to catch a red-eye and make to Vegas in time? Check out Vegas.com for steals and deals on everything from hotels to shows while you're in town! Future events from Love N. Books are just as cutely named, with LoveNSalem being held in June 2018, and then LoveNColorado to come in April 2019.

This is another huge event, with the 2018 version spanning three days at the end of May 2018 and including celebrities of all sorts, including Ginger Zee (who I loved on Dancing With the Stars), Gabrielle Union (can't wait to read her memoir), and the beautiful Colleen Hoover (OMG I can't even!). Then you tack on the likes of Stephen King and ... well, politics aside, you can see why I'd want to attend. And even if these particular names weren't enough to get you moving, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of learning sessions to attend. Oh, and it's in New York City - as if it needed that. But you guys, NYC?? Imagine!

This particular event combines all the best things about conferences for me - it's a book signing with group workshops and activities ... on a cruise ship ... out at sea. And as if that wasn't enough, it's usually right around my birthday. For instance, the 2018 Book Splash is coming back into port on February 16 in Port Canaveral and will be debark on the 17th. My birthday. This event is a literal dream vacation for me, and is one of those events for which my heart actually aches. It's one of those things where longing sets in and determination locks up your jaw so hard it hurts. And you whisper to yourself ferociously, "ONE. DAY. I. WILL. GO."

09. BlogHer
I've wanted to go to BlogHer ever since I first learned of it many, many years ago. I've been blogging off and on for a little over ten years now, and when BlogHer became a thing back in 2011, I was chomping at the bit over the idea of being able to hang out with people like me - creative people who loved the written word and had a passion for storytelling, whatever form it takes. And while this isn't a novel-writer's conference, blogging is quite similar (to me) in that it still requires dedication and a strong desire to spend time writing, combined with a need to be heard and a willingness to speak - so I think a blogging conference still qualifies for sure. I also love that this conference has such a focus on empowering women to be themselves and tell their stories in whatever form works best for them - y'all know how much that whole idea means to me especially. Still, I haven't yet been, so here it is, on my wish list to the universe.

Last but certainly not least on this list is the RT Booklovers Convention. This is another one that settles in a different city every year, giving authors (and readers) from around the country a chance to attend without going bankrupt on book shipping. Like most other events on this list, the RT Booklovers Convention 2017 has already passed, but 2018 promises to be an exciting time in Reno, NV, with panels, parties, signings, and more! 


In honor of today's book-con-themed post, today's "Featured Favorite Product" is exactly the kind of lightly lined, beautiful hardback journal you'll want to keep at your side at any convention. It would make a great keepsake, filled with the signatures and information of all your favorite authors and writing industry professionals, and is definitely among my list of must-bring convention items.


Seriously, isn't it gorgeous? That one's called Versailles, but if you click through, this particular seller also has several other cover patterns that are all utterly stunning. Like this celestial one - so pretty! (You can just click either image to purchase - these are both under $15 on Amazon.)


I like that these are great for just regular journaling too, if conventions aren't your thing; and they'd also make a perfect gift for the writer in your life, regardless of your preferred writer's preferred writing style.

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)
If you could choose one of these conferences to go to, which one do you think sounds like the best fit for you? Are there any others you've been to that you didn't see mentioned here - or that you think should have been mentioned? If you've been to any conferences, what was your favorite thing about them, and what would you say is the number one most important thing to bring (besides books, because duh)?

Take some time to look around while you're here, too; if you find something that really resonates with you, I'd love for you to share a link with your friends! I'd also like to invite you to hang out and follow along with my journey; if you subscribe to this blog by filling out the "subscribe by email" form in the sidebar, you can rest assured you'll never miss a post! And while the darker content of this blog may not always be easy to read, I truly hope that through the light days breaking up the darkness, we'll learn from and inspire each other.

And if you're a book lover like me, come on over to Patreon for a whole new way to read my novels - WHILE I WRITE THEM! You can sign up to sponsor my writing journey for as little as $1 a month, and your dollar gets you access to all sorts of content, including photos and mini-blogs from my personal life. And if you want a little more, for just $2 a month you'll also get to vote for upcoming content, read my upcoming poetry release as it's written, and have access to weekly L.A.F.F.S. - and the best part is that as my patronage grows, so do the benefits for every patron! Our goal right now is 25 patrons, and when we hit that goal, my PhLogs will start going up daily!! (Click that link. Most are subscriber-only, but one each month is marked public, and the one from October 2017 is REALLY good.)

However we stay connected, whether it's through my books, this blog, my social media profiles, or even Patreon, you can always rest assured that my brand is built on the concept of what I write and who I'm writing it for. "Love Stories and Lifestyle for the Undaunted Woman." Click here to find out more about what it means to be undaunted - maybe you'll find that you already know the perfect nominee for our next Undaunted Woman Interview!

And as always, whether you're a first time reader or a long-time loyal follower ... from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.