PLAY ON Swag Giveaway

Hi, you guys!

So, I suppose that if I write books, I should actually talk about those books from time-to-time, yes? Especially when one book is releasing in less than 3 months! And what better way to start the convo than a giveaway?

Play-On

Let’s talk about PLAY ON, y’all.

I love words. I love the power they hold, the way they flow, the way just a few can hit us full-force and make us take notice. And in stories, I love the way a line or two can tell you so, so much about a character and what’s going through their head.

I love reminders of those words. I love pretty things. So I made this.

PO Quote 2 poster

What is that, you ask? It’s 1) an 11×17 poster print, and 2) one of my favorite quotes from PLAY ON. And it can be yours!

Want me to sign it? ABSO-FREAKIN-LUTELY. You don’t want Sharpie messing up the pretty? That’s okay, too. Just let me know.

If you win, of course. Do you want to win? Keep on reading.

Here’s what you do. Head over to Twitter, where all you have to do is follow me (here!) and RT the giveaway tweet by midnight on February 1st, EST. I’ll pick one winner, you tell me whether or not you’d like your poster signed, and I’ll send it along with a signed bookplate, some bookmarks, AND a $10 Amazon gift card (which you could theoretically use to pre-order PLAY ON, but that’s entirely up to you).

In review:

Follow and RT for a chance to win an 11×17 quote print, a signed bookplate, a few bookmarks, and a $10 Amazon gift card.

Easy, right? Good luck! ❤

Editing to add: Giveaway is now closed! 

Lessons Learned in 2014

2014 was a big year for me. There were no huge events or celebrations; most of the year was spent at home, revising and editing PLAY ON, revising a secret YA Contemporary, and drafting the follow-up to PO. So what made this such a big year? I learned. A lot. And in true-to-me form, I’m going to share some of those things with you guys.

1) It’s Okay to Say No

I’ve always been a people-pleaser, almost to a fault. I would say “yes” first, and figure out how to make it work later. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is when you become overwhelmed with all the have-to-dos. When you agree to be everywhere at once, you stretch yourself too thin. What happens to a rubber band that’s stretched too far? It snaps.

And I snapped. More than once.

When you say yes to everything, you’re unable to truly focus on the things that matter. So about midway through the year, I made a list of priorities, and those get my “yes” first. These are my best yeses. These are the things that are right for me. These are the things that get my full attention. And then, if I have time to spare, I’ll move on to something else.

Lesson learned: it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to admit that you’re one person, and you’re only capable of so much.

2) It’s Okay to Take a Break

Life is crazy. It’s hectic. You go and go and go, non-stop for days. Maybe you’re a writer and your calendar’s full of deadlines. Maybe you’re a parent and you’re in survival mode with an infant or toddler who always needs something. Maybe it’s your brain, which just won’t slow down.

You’re tired. You’re worn. You’re looking at a blank screen or at a baby who won’t sleep. You’re looking in the mirror, at a person who’s broken and exhausted and just tired. Maybe you actually say the words “I need a break.”

Take one.

Walk away from the computer. If your baby is fed and dry, place them in their crib and walk away for five minutes, or call a friend or family member and ask for help. If you’re locked inside your head and your thoughts won’t slow down for you, close your eyes. Breathe. Listen to music. Take a walk. Take a hot shower. Call a hotline. Call your therapist, if you have one. Do what you need to do keep yourself healthy.

I had more than one breakdown this year. I’ll likely have more than one in 2015 because hey, this is me we’re talking about–it happens. But this is when you need to have your safe place. And when you need a break? Run like heck until you reach that place. And remember: just breathe.

3) I Don’t Have it All Figured Out. And that’s Okay.

I’m a planner. I need a plan. I need to know what’s going to happen today, and tomorrow, and next week. But sometimes life throws a curveball, and you’re left wondering where the heck everything went wrong. Maybe you made a mistake. Maybe you completely screwed something up.

It happens.

Mistakes and screw-ups suck. Feeling defeated is downright miserable. But the important thing here is to give yourself some grace, and remember that it happens to everyone. It’s part of life. Forgive yourself, tuck the lesson into your back pocket, dust yourself off, take the consequences in stride, and keep going. And honestly? Some of the best lessons in my life have come from screwing up.

4) Do What’s Right for Yourself

This one is short and sweet. Repeat after me: You will never, ever, ever please everyone. Someone, somewhere, is going to find fault in something you do. Make the choices that are right for you.

In 2014, I grew. I learned. I acknowledged that I still have a lot of growing and learning to do. And I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll see y’all in 2015. ❤

Just Breathe

Tomorrow will be better.

It’s something I tell myself on the bad days. The rough nights. The moments when I feel like absolutely nothing is going right, or when my brain decides to do its own thing and goes barreling through that fun, fun tunnel of darkness. (Spoiler alert: it’s not fun.)

Tomorrow will be better.

And sometimes that’s a lie. I don’t know it at the time, of course, but I’ve become well aware that tomorrow isn’t always better. But it gives me that tiny little bit of hope I need to keep going until I fall asleep. And hope? Hope is a major driving force, not only for those dealing with depression, but for anyone. Because the bad days don’t discriminate.

Hope is powerful. Hope is that tiny sliver of light at the end of the tunnel, the light that you strive to reach. Hope is the better day, the clearer mind, the more peaceful heart.

Tunnels are long. But they don’t last forever. And no, tomorrow isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s not even the next day, or the next. But one thing is for certain: I have a pretty good track record at getting through the bad days. And if you’re reading this, I’d venture to say that you do, too.

The sunrise brings new chances. New beginnings. New opportunities. New surprises. You may feel the same way you felt yesterday. You may feel like you’re going through the motions, but the utterly amazing thing about this world is that there are always new ways to be surprised.

Life is kind of awesome that way.

And so I’ll leave you with something that’s probably incredibly clichéd, but it reminds me to relax, even for the briefest of moments. And if you’re yearning for a better tomorrow and it just doesn’t seem to come, I hope this serves as a reminder for you, as well.

Breathe. Just breathe. Because it will get better. We’ve done this before. We can do it again.

Why I Keep Talking About “It”

While chatting with someone yesterday, the topic of depression came up. I mentioned (very casually, might I add) something about my own experience, and this person asked me a question that really caught me off-guard.

Why do you keep talking about it?”

The person may not have meant it this way, but their question came across as an attack rather than genuine curiosity. But in case they (and anyone else reading) are actually curious, then I do have a few answers.

– To let others know that they’re not alone.

– To let others know that it’s okay to admit that they’re not okay.

– To let others know that, while depression is a daily battle, there is hope.

– Because it helps me heal.

Prior to my own diagnosis, I had no idea that depression was so widespread. I had no clue that so many people suffered in silence, that there were so many others who felt at war with their own minds. And so I talk about my own experience so that maybe, just maybe, it helps others see that it’s not just them. That there is a light at the end of that excruciatingly long tunnel. And yes, talking about it helps me. Hiding depression is like hiding a secret that eats away at you, slowly, slowly, slowly, until there’s nothing left but the pain, the loneliness, the downright agony. Being a shell of a person with nothing but the ache inside is no way to live. Being honest with myself, and with others, frees me of that.

Sure, the openness makes me vulnerable (especially to people who attack me for speaking out), but it’s also brought me so much closer to others. I’ve received messages from people I’ve known for years, saying, “Yes. This is me. Right now, this is me. Thank you.” And for that, it’s all so very worth it.

To New Beginnings

I’m going to tell you guys a story.

It’s the story of a girl who slowly, slowly, slowly drifted into the darkness of depression–so slowly that she didn’t realize what was happening until she was at the bottom of the pit. This girl struggled. She collapsed onto a cold bathroom floor countless times, wondering if there was more out there for her. She needed to know that there was something beyond the ache of emptiness. The agony of loneliness. She cried, and cried, and cried, until it felt as if there were no possible tears left.

And then, she cried some more.

After a while, the depression convinced this girl that there was nothing more—at least, not for her. That this, this pain, was her destiny.

But the girl was so, so wrong. Because depression is a bold-faced liar.

If I could see that girl again, I’d sit beside her on that cold bathroom floor. I’d take her hand. And I’d tell her that yes, the nights could be so very dark and long, with no end in sight. But I’d also tell her that morning always comes, no matter how dark the night gets. That each sunrise brings new chances. New beginnings. That each breath is a declaration that she’s still here, and that she’s still winning this fight. She may feel beaten and rundown and defeated, but every breath is its own victory. In the battle against depression, we celebrate each and every victory.

I’d tell her that there’s a place for her here. And that while she may not be able to see it just yet, her place in the world cannot be filled by anyone but her. You see, this girl loved to tell stories. I’d let her know that no one could tell her stories better than she could.

If I could see that girl again, I’d tell her that even though things felt like they were falling apart, they were actually falling into place.

If you’re struggling, if your pain is crippling, if the tears just won’t let up, I hope you hear me when I say that while the world can be a beautiful place, it’s so much more beautiful with you in it. The night is dark, but I promise that the morning always comes, bringing with it a new beginning. Life is full of these new beginnings, some being much larger than others. Those beginnings aren’t always easy, but they’re so, so very worth it.

I love National Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day, because they bring awareness to silent suffering. But every day is an opportunity to tell someone that we love them. That we’ve got their back. That we’d really miss them if they were gone. And that if they ever needed us to, we’d sit beside them on a cold bathroom floor and hold their hand.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7): 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Lifeline (24/7): 1-866-488-7386

 

An Open Letter: To Those Who Fight

To Those Who Fight,

I get it. I know how hard it was to get out of bed this morning. I know how your heart clenched when you glanced in the mirror. I know how taking one step felt like trudging through a mud pit. And people expect you to take step, after step, after step. They expect you to keep going, even when you’re so very tired.

Life’s already hard enough. Depression makes it even harder.

You may be dwelling on the mistakes. On what happened yesterday, or last week, or three years ago. On the what-ifs, the could’ves, the should’ves. For some reason, the negative thoughts are so much louder than the good ones.

I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. I’m not going to say that life is perfect, that you’ll be surrounded by unicorns and rainbows and glitter. I’m going to tell you that it gets tough. That some parts downright suck. That some days make you wonder why you exist in the first place.

But I’m also going to tell you that there’s a reason you’re here. The beat of your heart and the air in your lungs means that you’re still here, and you’re here for a purpose–your purpose. It’s unique, and it’s meant for you, and you alone. You may not know what that purpose is yet, but you do have one. The catch? You’re the only one who can discover that purpose. Which means you need to stay.

And we want you to stay.

There may be nights when your heart aches and your stomach’s in knots and your head is clouded with the mistakes, with the what-ifs, with the could’ves and the should’ves. But I hope that you hear the voices of others, the voices that are screaming for you to stay. They’re screaming that you matter so very much, that your story is only beginning.

And I hope that you realize how strong you are. That you are here. And that someone out there loves you–dear goodness, they love you.

It still won’t be easy–climbing up a mountain never is. But when you get to the top of the mountain? It’s so very worth it. And the view is breathtaking.

Hope is possible.

Healing is possible.

Forgiveness is possible.

A future is possible.

Your story is far from over. And I can’t wait to hear that story.

~ Michelle

National Suicide Prevention Week begins September 8th, and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you or someone you know is suffering, there are people who care, and who want to listen, and who want to help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7)

To Write Love on Her Arms

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Lifeline:  1-866-488-7386 (available 24/7)

What a Stray Dog Taught Me About Hope

We were eating lunch when I spotted her outside my window. I went outside, hoping to get a closer look at the pup wandering in my yard. (My neighbors have dubbed me the “neighborhood dog catcher” for good reason.) This has always ended one of two ways: finding a collar and calling the dog’s owner, or delivering the dog back to one of my neighbors.

I stepped onto the porch and got a better look as she sniffed the grass in my yard. No collar. Even from my distance I could tell she’d been on the loose for a while–she was extremely skinny, and her fur was covered with dirt. I called out to her softly. Her head popped up. And the moment those wide eyes landed on me, I saw it.

Hope.

Her tail wagged as she trotted over to me, a stranger who held no food or water. I knelt down and offered my hand for her to inspect. She looked me in the eyes and nudged my hand, begging to be rubbed. So I scratched her ears (where I immediately found a tick). I rubbed her fur (which was covered in fleas). She licked my nose. I didn’t stop her.

My phone was in my pocket, so I called my husband, who was inside the house, and asked him to bring a bowl of water and a treat. He did and became the dog’s new best friend (seriously, she tried to follow him into the house). As he headed back inside, I asked him to bring my car keys and shoes. I knew where she needed to go. I didn’t want to take her there, but I also knew we couldn’t keep her. We have a 6-year-old pup who’s very much a one-dog dog.

She held my gaze the entire time I petted her. When I told her she’d be okay, she licked me again. And again, I didn’t stop her. (I know this might sound disgusting to some people. But my own dog is super affectionate and does the same thing all day, every day. I’m used to it.)

I threw a blanket over the backseat of my car and helped her inside. She immediately tensed. I couldn’t blame her. But as we began the 20-minute drive across town to the SPCA, she relaxed. And my heart broke a little more with each of those twenty minutes. By the time we reached the shelter, I was in tears.

Throughout the entire ride, I repeated, “You’re going to be okay, sweet girl.” I’m not sure why I kept saying that to a dog who probably didn’t understand me. Maybe because it’s something that we all need to hear sometimes. That even when we’re dirty, and a little smelly, and we’ve been lost for God only knows how long, things will be okay.

I had a talk with my girl before taking her inside the shelter. I told her she’d have food, and water, and a roof over her head. I told her that these were good people, people who wanted the best for her.

The shelter worker took her from me, and I’m fairly certain I’ll never see that sweet girl again. I cried the entire drive home because she trusted me, and I somehow felt that I’d let her down. That I’d abandoned her. But now that it’s been a few hours, I can see that it was the best choice. She’ll have better care at that shelter than she would’ve had on the road.

She was so tired. Now she has a place to rest her head.

I was reminded of something today. That sweet, trusting, hopeful girl reminded me that many of us have felt like her. We’ve felt lost. Eager for someone to find us. To love us. To tell us we’ll be okay.

And I have a secret: you will be okay.

*I have to give a shout-out to the SPCA of Northeastern NC. There are phenomenal people there, workers and volunteers alike who have a passion for animals and go out of their way to take care of our furry friends. Thank you for being there. Thank you for caring.