So excited to announce the release of my YA Dystopian book SHIP OF SECRETS! I have received tremendous feedback from readers. Working hard on book number two.


In the near future, humanity is thrust into the Great War, a nuclear holocaust that destroys all but one ship. That repurposed battleship, the last bastion of humanity, is capable of carrying its five thousand passengers, all that is left of mankind. Miranda Watkins, a teenager, is one of those passengers who was born on the ship, knowing no other life, yet destined to play a crucial role in its fate. Before her Choosing Ceremony, she unravels a sinister plot that leads her on a wild search for answers. Nothing is as it seems on the ship. The more she digs, the darker the secrets become, and the more danger Miranda finds herself in.

        I received over sixty rejections when pitching my first Doodles novel until I was finally given an offer. Imagine if I had given up at any one of those points, and believe me, with each rejection it became harder and harder to persevere. I struggled to complete the first book in my Doodles Lanhorn series because I had a young baby who decided she was not going to sleep well for about a year. But instead of sulking about being too physically and mentally exhausted, I decided to make use of the time I spent walking my daughter at night. I wrote ninety-nine percent of my series on my iPhone while holding the baby in my other arm. When I had time, I would transfer what I wrote onto my computer to edit it.
       The Doodles Lanhorn series —Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc. publishes Doodles Lanhorn and the Quest to Save Inner Earth and Doodles Lanhorn and the Search for the Missing Artifact —was born from my passion for the arts and wanting to pair it with a few important underlying themes of anti-bullying and the importance of friendship. For those of you who have not read any of the Doodles Lanhorn novels, Doodles is a red-headed boy of 13 who doesn’t feel very popular but he has recently discovered the powers of Wizartry, the art of drawing something and making it come to life. 
       I do not know how other writers go about their writing, but my approach was to write in a very stream of consciousness way where I pre-planned and constructed the world and the characters in it, but put them in difficult situations and figured out how to solve it as I went along. It seemed to just flow out of me and made me more excited to find out what happened next. I highly recommend trying different writing methods until you find the one that works best for you.
       As I continue writing additional books in the Doodles Lanhorn series, I find myself struggling to make sure I keep up the previous caliber of writing. Taking some breaks and refocusing has really helped. Taking time off when needed, multitasking to get writing done, persevering despite rejections, and finding a theme you are actually passionate about—these lessons are what has helped me to accomplish what I have one and I hope that it will help you on your journey.


     As I sit in my new writing chair, a chair I admittedly spent far too much money on, my laptop across my lap, and my muscles too sore to move from shoveling snow and carrying my kids around the house on one too many pony rides, I write this blog post. I have not had the time to write a blog entry lately due to the birth of my second girl and the busy life of working and trying to balance family life. In an ideal world, I would only write. Such is not the case for me and 99.99 percent of every other aspiring writer. Instead, I find the time to write on my phone, one paragraph here, one paragraph there, and then edit it on my laptop when I have time.
     I am finding time to write when there is no time and cramming it into things that shouldn't be multi-tasked. But hey, not to sound cliché, but I have a dream to succeed. To make that happen, I have set some goals for 2017. They say writing down your goals for all the world to see will hold you accountable. I will be honest when I say I don't need that accountability. I have a fiery passion to succeed in my writing career. I also just realized how much faster and easier it is to write on a computer than one painstaking letter on the phone.  :p
     Goals for my 2017 writing career:

     I have also recently found it very helpful to listen to podcasts and youtube videos on other writers' journeys and experiences, especially in relations to publishing dos and don'ts, pointers, and personal stories. Inspirational stories of authors succeeding only after the eighth book in the series keeps me writing. It only takes one break to make it happen.
Multitasking is so essential nowadays- we all have so many responsibilities, family, finances, work, things that get in the way of things we really care about. Let’s say for instance you always dreamed about writing a book. I always did, ever since I was little. Then one day I had an “AHAH!” moment and realized I was just thinking about it but not actually putting my thoughts and dreams into action. The book wasn’t going to write itself. The problem was that work was very stressful, my life was full of more and more responsibilities, and I had a newborn baby. I remember I was running on such little sleep and had to walk the baby a lot at night because every time I tried to put her down she would cry. I was so tired that by the time I finally got her to sleep I just wanted to curl up in bed and sleep because I didn’t know when she would wake up next. I went through several months of this and kept thinking that I would just push it off. I thought I could always get around to it one day.

    Finally I thought of a great idea. This is where multi-tasking comes in. I decided that while I walk the baby in my arms in the middle of the night, I could write my book on my phone, one painstaking word at a time. Then, when I had an opportunity I could transfer it to the computer and edit. I was then multitasking and bringing my dream closer to reality where I thought I didn’t have any time.

     People don’t realize that by multi-tasking you can find time for the things you love or the goals you have. I don’t have a specific example to help each of you, but try and use my real life story to reassess your situations. Determine your goals or things you have been putting off and think of ways to combine your daily tasks to fit them in. You will need to be creative with this.

     Because of pushing through and multi-tasking, I am now a published author of three books and one more forthcoming.


Mental Illness and Addiction: How Are They Linked?

A shocking number of people with mental illnesses will find themselves addicted to a substance at some point in their lives. If you or a loved one has a mental illness, this information can be alarming. However, understanding how mental illness and addiction are connected is the first step in preventing addiction among people with mental illness.

Of course, someone who is struggling with an addiction can also develop mental illness as opposed to the other way around. If you or a loved one is either addicted or suffers from a mental illness, here is a little information you should know about the link between addiction and mental illness.

Self-Medication is a Major Cause

While the Western world is becoming more accepting of mental illness and mental healthcare, we still have a long way to go before everyone is fully knowledgeable about mental health. Many people who have mental illnesses will go undiagnosed and untreated, leading them to resort to coping alone. Unfortunately, self-medication is a very common form of coping with mental illness.

Self-medication occurs when a person abuses a non-prescription substance in order to cope with a mental or physical illness. Alcohol is one of the most common forms of self-medication for mental illness. It dulls the senses, encourages (poor quality) sleep, and slows a racing mind. It is also very socially acceptable to use, making it easy for someone to slip into the habit of self-medicating without realizing it. Before too long, they are addicted to the substance they are abusing.

Prolonged Addiction Can Cause Mental Illnesses to Develop

Of course, addiction will not cause inherited disorders such as autism but more common health problems such as depression and anxiety can easily be the result of an addiction. These types of disorders are caused by imbalanced chemicals in the brain, something that can come from excessive drug abuse.

As the person recovers from their addiction, the illness may fade or even disappear as the brain restores its chemical balances. Rehabilitation and therapy are the only ways to prevent or treat mental illness as a result of addiction.

Mood Disorders, in Particular, Leave a Person More Susceptible to Addiction

While any mental illness can increase a person’s risk for addiction, people with mood disorders have been found to be most likely to abuse substances. One theory for this phenomenon is a generic vulnerability. People with mood disorders tend to have a gene that leaves them more likely to develop a mood disorder.

Similarly, this genetic vulnerability to mood disorders can cause a person to become addicted more easily than the average person. If a person who is more at-risk for addiction tries substances early in life, they also become far more likely to develop an addiction later.

Coping with an untreated mental illness is a recipe for disaster. The likelihood of self-medicating rises as does the odds of an addiction developing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone who has an addiction also becomes far more likely to develop mental illness or experience certain symptoms of mental illness. In both cases, the most important thing you can do is get treated. It is never too late to seek help.

Excited to announce that the publication date for the third book in the Doodles series is November 10th,
but the book will be available for pre-order 90 days before that! I am extremely excited. For those that have read the second book in the series, it is neat to note that part of that cover is in one of the paintings along the wall of this new cover. Hopefully the new book brings a lot of enjoyment to my fans. I had a ton of fun writing it and think the books are getting progressively better.
I had a fantastic time speaking on the ASJA 2016 panel at the Roosevelt Hotel in NY! Here are some of the helpful tips I discussed:

Helpful Hint #1: Importance of Reviews

You write a book and pour your heart and energy into it, putting it online for the whole world to see and hope, despite the odds that it magically sells. It is not so simple. You have to put the legwork into it. Writing and editing is the easy part. You gotta dig your heels in and push even harder after that. You need that social proof. The first few reviews are so vital. Treat it like a job. Literally write down goals of how many people you will talk to and how many posts you will make on blogs/ facebook groups/ etc. Set these goals high and reach them. It is a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the more reviews you will get plain and simple. For instance, if you set your goal per week to be to reach out to 100 people and literally bring up your book and how important reviews are for writers you may get ten percent to read your work and add a review. That's ten reviews! Repeat the process. It is hard for unknown authors to get reviews at first but once they start rolling in and the book is selling, more will come. Join groups, be social, and reach out to your friends and their friends. Word of mouth can be powerful. Make sure when you join groups that you are providing valuable information that is relevant to the group. Don't go into a group for mothers and spam your book.

Helpful Hint #2. Book Themes-

The book market is flooded. A lot of people are putting books out there with amazon making it so easy to publish. Without the backing of a major publisher or being a well known author, you might get lost in the sea of books. Every book should have an important message or theme in it. Capitalize on not only your book, but your theme. Mine is bullying and friendship. I now tour schools and talk about bullying and the power of friendship. I focus on that first and secondary on my book. I relate my subject matter to my book. This makes it so i dont come across as salesy. Whatever that niche is that you can dive into, do it. Remember, you want people to reach out to YOU. Think about it this way. I promote that if people want to share their personal stories about bullying, I will interview them and put it up on my website www.bullytalks.com. This makes it so that not only are people discovering my book after finding my information useful(more likely to then buy my book), but they are also more likely to tell others about your website. Take the example of a child in a dance recital or play. Each child might have their parents/ siblings/ grandparents etc at the performance. The people that spread the word about them being interviewed on a website are then doing the work for you!

Helpful Hint #3. Website- You want to present as a professional. Don't put up a poor website just to get it up. Take the time to ensure it looks professional and for it to be interactive and clear. This is the first thing people see. Do you want to look like a professional or an amatuer? Make sure you link it to your other social media sites and names as well as have a blog so people can follow you and comment.

Helpful Hint #4. Multi Task - I wrote ninety percent of my first book on my iPhone while carrying a crying baby. If I was able to do that, anyone can find time to get writing in. Find ways to multi task, set aside time to write, make it a priority.

5. Overcoming Rejection- I was rejected so many times I lost count. If I had stopped on any of the rejections along the way, which god knows I wanted to, I would never be where I am today. Use the rejections to fuel your passion, and come to terms with the fact that rejection will be a part of our lives. It is the nature of the business.
     I have always been fascinated with fantasy and magic, the telling of stories that can take your imagination to new heights. Why should students read dull books, when they can read fun, entertaining books with strong moral lessons? I picked a theme that is dear to my heart due to both personal experiences and from friends, and I placed it into a magical world that I created, a world that was both a mix of reality and an amazingly fun magic system. I created characters that were faced with bullies and other evil doers so that my readers can be emboldened by the fact that these characters overcome these obstacles, not by popularity or athleticism, but by creativity, power of friendship, and their purity of heart.

     My talks at schools make me feel like I am truly making a difference. I have students ask the most amazing questions, really thought-provoking ones, and the way in which they share their own personal experiences makes me realize my talks and my books are reaching them. They are actually interested, not only in the entertainment value of the books, but also from the lessons the books  provide. When a student comes up to me after my talks, or sends me and email letting me know that they feel more comfortable talking to someone about bullying, I take great happiness in knowing I made a difference.

     It is amazing how intuitive students are at such a young age. They truly grasp the concept of bullying and are malleable to advice and teachings that provide tools and tactics to cope with bullying. The message I try to impart the most is to set up an open discourse between family members. Setting up a support network prior to something going wrong is key to survive bullying or stress. A parent can tell their children that they are able to tell them anything, BUT, and this is KEY, if they don't feel comfortable talking about a certain subject, here is a list of people they can talk to. Having that support network in place is key.

     I intend to keep writing more and more books with fun characters and storyline, all with the intention for kids to feel more confident dealing with bullying and recognizing the power of true friendship.

I started doing interviews in order to raise awareness of bullying and for people to see and be emboldened by the fact that others are sharing their stories. I want it to show others that they are not alone, that others have gone through bullying and are stronger for it. Perhaps these stories will make others feel more confident to speak up and get the help they need, that victims of bullying will no longer stay silent and face it alone. There are many of us against bullying and we will stand strong and united. I love incorporating standing up to bullying themes in my books as well as the power of friendship and how friends can help each other overcome anything.

We are taught in school that an outline with points A,B,C etc are needed to properly structure your story and while I believe this tactic serves as a strong foundation, to me it takes the fun out of writing. I enjoy developing characters by understanding who they are, where they come from, and their motivations. Then I simply place them in situations and become that character like an actor. How would I get out of this situation if I were this character in this particular situation? It makes for a fun time because I develop the characters and the story based off of their backgrounds. I discover the story as the characters do and so it is always fresh and entertaining for me. The process is a fun one and whether or not it is the correct writing method, it surely is fun and has been rewarding thus far. What is your writing method?