Three Years, Three Little Words

Karaoke night. This is the only photo I have of myself with both of my longest, closest friends.

Three years ago today, I was sitting at the desk at my part-time office assistant job, chatting with the 90-something-year-old woman who’d helped build it from the ground up. Mrs. D was an absolute doll—though I can’t say the same for her son’s girlfriend. Anyway, it was a slow day, so Mrs. D and I kept each other company while working on odds and ends. Then I got the text.

“Sean passed away,” Mike wrote.

The world flipped. My mind went as white and cold as snow. No. Then I entered the first stage of grief: denial. This has to be a joke. And it’s not funny.

Sean and I had been friends for 12 years—ever since the day we’d sat together on the bus my freshman year and bonded over our Gameboys. Our friendship was the oldest one I had, one that had changed very little over the years. We were super close, though a little too alike in our short tempers; we often had heated but friendly debates about anything and everything. We’d seen each other through tragedy and milestones: his first painting sold, my first book published, him moving in with Gabi (the love of his life), me marrying Mike (the love of mine).

So when Mike texted me those three little words, I couldn’t believe it.

I wouldn’t.

“Excuse me,” I told Mrs. D. “I need to step outside and make a call.”

“Of course!” She smiled warmly at me, then continued what she was doing at her desk.

I walked out to my car on shaking legs. I hadn’t had a cigarette in two years, but at that moment I needed one. I opened the passenger door and sat down. Then I called Mike.

No answer.

I tried to take long, slow breaths. Why, my brain demanded to know, would Mike text me something like that and then walk away from his phone? It was starting to feel less like a sick joke and more like a horrible misunderstanding. I couldn’t just sit outside forever. So I logged into Facebook.

As I scrolled through my feed, I told myself that I’d see everything was fine. I’d see Sean’s or Gabi’s latest post, and then I could kill Mike for pulling such a nasty prank. Who does that? my brain insisted.

He’s never done anything like that before, though. He may be a goofball but he’s not mean. Never mean.

And then I saw it.

A mutual friend of Sean’s and mine had posted something along the lines of “Just found out an old Kaynor friend passed away.”

No.

No.

No.

Just as the tears started to blur my vision, as I frantically tried to tell myself maybe it was someone else, Mike called.

My poor husband couldn’t talk.

In his shock, he’d managed to fire off those three words and then he’d broken down.

He’d seen it on Facebook, too, but the post had specifically named Sean.

“No,” I sobbed. “We would’ve heard something from Gabs.”

Meanwhile, our lovely, sweet girl was barely keeping it together while she sat with his parents and helped make arrangements. She’d wanted to tell us herself because she didn’t want us to find out via Facebook, but understandably hadn’t had the chance to yet.

It was true.

All of it.

Still, my brain insisted that if I just went to Sean and Gabi’s, I’d see that it was all a joke. Or a mistake. I wouldn’t even be mad that they’d pulled such a mean prank. I’d just give him a big hug.

This was the second stage of my grief: bargaining.

The rest of January passed by in a haze. There were nights at Sean and Gabi’s place. I stopped sleeping, binge-watching Lost instead because we’d long had a debate about it and I guess I needed to put that to bed. There was a wake and a funeral, and two autopsies that gave us no cause of death.

Only a black hole in all of our hearts.

Sean and Gabi, at my wedding (2013).

He was only 28. He had his entire life ahead of him—along with a beautiful, loving girl who he was going to marry. It wasn’t fair. They’d been in our wedding; we were supposed to be in theirs, too, damn it. The four of us were going to start families together, continue our Friday night tradition of games and drinks, and grow old together. I still hadn’t even gotten him to sit down and watch Game of Thrones or Firefly with me—two shows that I knew he’d love but he hadn’t made the time for yet.

He left paintings unfinished and goals unachieved. None of us could grasp that someone so young could just pass away, for no reason at all.

I still can’t, not really.

The gang, before catching the train for NYCC (2011).

It has gotten easier, though—at least, a little. I no longer hope he’ll text me on a Friday morning with “What are you guys doing tonight?” Hanging out with you guys, duh. I still want to text him every once in a while, before I remember. And I always wish I knew what he’d think about certain things, like the new DC and Marvel movies, the LEGO movie we all went to see just weeks after losing him, and the new Coheed album. I know we’d probably debate it, but I’d give whole limbs to be able to argue with him again.

Today makes three years since the day Sean passed away. Much has changed since then. Our group is now scattered across Connecticut, rarely connecting because of our hectic schedules. Mike started painting, beginning with a memorial piece for Gabi. And me… I poured my grief into my stories.

Rather than feeling sad, I now cherish the memories—of which there are so many good ones. Though I’ll always miss him, the grief is no longer debilitating and consuming. I’m not religious, so I don’t know what I believe about the afterlife, but I do know that someday, somehow, we’ll cross paths again.

Because ever since I met Sean in 2002, our paths crossed again and again—even when we weren’t really speaking. I’ve always believed that there are certain people we’re meant to have in our lives—people we instantly connect with because in a sense, we already know each other.

So even though my heart is heavy today, it’s the good memories that make me smile and remind me of how precious the people in our lives are. As they say in Rent, there’s “no day but today” to live our lives and appreciate the people we love.

Out of Control

via Unsplash

I like lists. Schedules. Planners. Being prepared. As much as I appreciate order, though, life continues to teach me that I can’t control everything.

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.
-John Lennon

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do other than let go and focus on the things you can change.

I’m learning this more and more lately.

Because I have anxiety, I can easily spin out—especially when there are too many what ifs hanging over my head. I’ve always been observant and curious, which are both my best and worst qualities. I see everything. I always have. Sometimes it’s a bit like being the psychic in a Stephen King novel. You just know shit’s gonna hit the fan, but no one will listen to you because you’re weird.

I can be stubborn and pushy, which almost never works, but I have a really hard time letting go and letting be.

Especially when it concerns people I love.

But more and more I’m learning to focus on me. Even when it feels selfish or wrong. Because, at the end of the day, the only thing I can control is what I do.

I can’t make my autoimmune disease go away, but I can keep track of my pain levels and try new medications.

I can’t force a loved one to get help, but I can be a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen with.

I can’t fix my country’s social and political issues, but I can get my own affairs in order, while being kind to everyone.

Because the truth is, no matter how observant I may be and how much I might worry, I still don’t know what the future holds. Not for sure, anyway. By working on myself, though, and making sure my own world is stable, I can be more available for others—and whatever comes next.

My worry list is long, but the more I work on myself, the more capable I am of coping with those worries.

It’s Okay If You Can’t March

This morning my Instagram feed was full of pics about the upcoming Women’s March on Washington. Well, okay, books too, but the closer we get to the 21st, the more people are getting involved. This makes me incredibly proud, but also a little sad.

These days I’m lucky I can stand long enough to do dishes, never mind march for civil rights.

It doesn’t help that some of the slogans that people are using seem to reach out and pinch those of us who can’t march. I know they aren’t actually for us—they’re for those sitting by in apathy, doing nothing—but it still sucks that I can’t be there.

Still, I realized something.

These marches have historically been people more powerful joining hands with people less powerful to achieve the same goal. Every movement has been about someone stronger lifting up someone less strong—whether in voice, privilege, or ability.

It’s hard for me to let others do for me, when I’d rather do it myself. It’s difficult for me to just sit and watch, rather than participate.

I never thought I’d be sitting on this side of history; when reading about The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom—AKA the civil rights march—as a kid, I always felt this burning passion inside of me. I knew, had I been born decades earlier, I would’ve marched right alongside those women and men. In reality, my body is the opposite of willing and able.

And that’s okay.

It’s also okay if you’re not marching, too.

You don’t have to explain why to anyone.

It’s okay.

In your heart, you know what you stand for. You know what you believe and who you support. And you can resist in other ways.

Keep breathing.

Keep making art.

Keep raising children who love.

Keep posting selfies.

Keep making posters for your town.

Keep denouncing hate.

Keep spreading love, even if in “small” ways.

Keep.

Just keep.

Because when someone hates you—for how you look, who you love, what illnesses you live with—the loudest torch you can carry is to keep living, in spite.

Let your fire blaze bright.


However, if it’s the cost of travel that’s holding you back from marching, there  are many sister marches happening all around the world. I had no idea until I saw a few overseas ones this morning on IG. There are even several in Connecticut, so I might actually be able to go to one, depending on how I feel. Click here to search by your state or country.

Then rise, baby, rise.

Hello, 2017

via Unsplash

If you’ve been around for any period of time, you know I’m all about goals rather than resolutions. Setting actionable, achievable, and accountable goals is far more productive than making promises.

Usually, I keep my goals for the year down to a short list. Recently I heard about Level 10 Life, which is basically just your life, broken down into 10 areas. You’re supposed to set 10 goals for each area—100 in total—with the objective of eventually fulfilling all areas of your life. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it’s possible to ever reach 100% fulfillment; there’s no such thing as perfection. Plus, I think 100 goals is a bit overwhelming.

Goals are supposed to be challenging yet within reach. If you set the bar too high, you’ll set yourself up for failure.

A few weeks ago, I found a wheel of life pin that I loved. It focused on eight areas of life rather than 10, with one goal in each area. The objective is to achieve more balance in your life; once you reach a certain goal, you set a new one in that area.

I tried making the wheel of life and failed epically. After several attempts, I realized I didn’t need a Pinterest-worthy craft to help me set goals for 2017. I sat down with my white board and several dry erase markers, and got busy. This list is the result.

My Goals for 2017

Home

Get curtains for all windows. Though it has its quirks, I love our little country apartment, and hope to stay here until we’re ready to start a family. (That’s a whole other blog post, so stay tuned.) To make our place look even more home-y, I’d like to get curtains for each window. Fortunately—in this case, anyway—there aren’t many windows; our apartment was an attic in a former life. I’m starting with the kitchen, with the front door (which naturally has the oddest measurements ever, and I can’t seem to find anything). Challenge accepted!

Me

Get arrow, hummingbird, and spade tattoos. 2013 was the year I got married, and probably one of the best years of my life. But 2014 and 2015 were easily two of the worst years of my life. I lost one of my best friends in 2014 and in 2015, I lost myself. PTSD finally caught up with me and I completely bottomed out. But in 2016, I got better.

There’s a quote that really spoke to me in 2015-2016:

An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.

I don’t know where it originated, but it really resonated with me—especially regarding my PTSD. I truly cannot explain how strong I feel. I’ve got my voice and my magic back, and I feel more me than I’ve ever felt. This is why I want to get an arrow on my ribs, on my right side—to remind me of how I shot forward in 2016. Something simple and delicate (my ribs do swell, after all, so tattooing that area might be a bit… challenging). Something like this, in this same spot:

I think this design is the one I’ll go with.

I’ve long wanted to get twin hummingbirds on my collarbones, for my Popi. He loved watching the birds at the lake, and the “hummers” were his favorites—especially the ruby throated hummingbird. Growing up, I always felt enveloped by magic whenever I could look fast enough to see them. Popi had hawk eyes and saw everything; he was the magic.

I like the general placement of the hummingbirds in the above pin, but I don’t love the design. My plan is to have Jay—the artist who did my hydrangeas and tiger lilies—design and tattoo my hummingbirds. I love his style and I know he’ll help me come up with something I love.

Finally, I want to get a spade in memory of one of my best friends, Sean. He loved spades—I’m pretty sure it was an old nickname, though I have to check with his girlfriend to make 100% sure—and had one tattooed on his forearm. I’ve been racking my brain, trying to figure out the perfect tattoo to remember him by. It suddenly dawned on me the other day that I should get a spade. I’ll probably add it to the sleeve I’m working on, on my left arm.

I’d like to get something for my Biz Noni, too, but for one, I’ll be lucky if I can afford three tattoos in one year. Plus, I kind of already got something for her: my hydrangeas around my Fievel. She was still alive back then, but my dad was talking about transplanting her hydrangeas in the yard. I thought about how amazing it was, that those hydrangeas stubbornly continued to bloom year after year after year—even though she couldn’t physically get outside to nurture them anymore. It reminded me of her; she was “up there” in age, but remembered everything and had survived much. I got the hydrangeas tattooed as a reminder that I can survive, too, even in the toughest of circumstances.

Money

Pay off all debt and past due bills. I won’t bore you with the details, but between my student loan, some credit cards that I opened to help us out, our bills, and my creative team from Booktrope, I’ve racked up a teensy bit of debt. I say “teensy” because I was panicking but when I added it all up, I realized it’s really not that bad. Some people are thousands of dollars in debt; I’m only about $5K in. Still, I’d really like to make it go away—especially the damned student loan that’s been hanging over my head for years.

Long story short, that student loan is from a half semester that I had to withdraw from due to health issues. It was too late to withdraw without penalty, so I got stuck with the bill. I’ve been trying to pay that thing off for almost 10 years now.

My accumulated debt grew to a ginormous monster in my head. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, heart pounding, terrified I’d go to jail for delinquency. That’s totally not the case, but anxiety lies. When I actually broke it down on paper, though, it suddenly became a teeny baby monster. Now that I’m writing for Textbroker and regaining momentum in my career, it doesn’t seem completely impossible to overcome, either.

They say the best way to pay off debt is to make regular payments on everything while going really hard at one particular bill. I haven’t quite decided which one to tackle first, though.

Career

Finish all currently open series. 2016 was all about regaining some lost momentum; 2017 is going to be all about closing boxes.

Right now, I have three unfinished series: the Comes in Threes, Not Just Any Love, and South of Forever series. While the Not Just Any Love series is actually just two companion standalones (Just One More Minute and the forthcoming Char/Amarie novel), the Comes in Threes series has been in limbo for almost four years.

I’ll be releasing the final South of Forever book soon, and then my plan is to get back to Quinn, Tara, and everyone else from Crazy Comes in Threes. I’ll be rewriting CCIT; I won’t be changing anything about the story, but I’ll be making some structural changes—that way I can pull off my master scheme. I’m super excited about what I have in store. More news on that soon!

Marriage

Go on one date every month. Thanks to the holidays, health issues, and financial stress, Mike and I haven’t been able to spend much time together lately. Our hot dates have recently consisted of doctors’ appointments and him helping me put pants on. So romantic. 🙄 Not!

Money is beyond tight, but I’d really like to do something every month—even if it’s just a movie night in. We’re both always busy, but I make sure we eat dinner together (unless he’s working), with no tech at the table so we’re really focusing on each other. Still, I’d like to do actual dates.

Last month, my Noni got us a gift certificate to our favorite sushi place, so we went to lunch after my rheumatology appointment. (Note to self: blog about that ASAP.) It was nice to get out and spend time together, and we have enough left on the gift certificate to do it again. Little things like that keep our relationship strong.

Family

Host at least one family dinner. Due to my arthritis, it’s really hard for me to pull off gatherings at our place. Not only is it physically difficult, but it also takes a major toll on my energy. The last time we hosted anything was Mike’s birthday party—in October. It was so nice to have both sides of our family all together, but I paid for it dearly in the days after. I always do.

Originally, we really wanted to host weekly Sunday dinners, but that’s just not possible. I’m slowly adjusting to my limitations, which means not pushing myself and accepting things for what they are. Still, I’d like to have at least one Sunday dinner this year; they were a huge part of Mike’s family when he was growing up, and it’s really important to him that the tradition continues.

My plan is to give Plaquenil and Prednisone some more time and, when the weather gets warmer, set a date.

Health

Find a treatment that brings pain down to a 4/10. I’m hoping Plaquenil is The One. I’ve accepted that I’ll probably never have a zero pain level again, but if my new normal could be a 4/10, that would be great. At that level, the pain is tolerable; once it gets to five or even six, it’s debilitating. Honestly, I’ll even take a five at this point; last Sunday, it got all the way down to a five, and I felt amazing. It’s been an eight lately, which is still better than a nine or 10.

But four is about my normal level when I’m not in a flareup. If Plaquenil can decrease the flareups and their severity, I’ll be happy.

I’d also really like a diagnosis more definitive than “it might be Lupus” or “it’s definitely enthesitis-related arthritis.” Right now, my chart has Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD) as my diagnosis, which translates to “undiagnosed autoimmune disease.” It means there’s definitely something inflammatory and autoimmune going on, but my labs are inconclusive. There are two camps in rheumatology: one that relies more on symptoms to diagnose, and the other that relies more on labs. My rheumatologist falls into the latter, and so did my former rheumatologist. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for my own closure, I’d really like to know the name of the disease that has completely and irrevocably changed my life.

I may never get that. I may have to practice accepting that. Time will tell.

Passion

Write “writing through trauma” book as a blog series. I’d like to tell my story—and help others write through theirs. Writing has long been a huge part of my life. I’ve written my way through every major event, be it in a journal or weaving my pain into a novel. The most important writing I’ve ever done, though, were my trauma stories.

I’d like to teach others how to write through their pain. Eventually, I’d even like to lead workshops for local organizations who help sexual assault survivors, but I’ve got to start small. That, for me, means writing a how to book.

I’ve started several times. I keep getting stuck because I’m not sure how much of my personal story I should share; I don’t want to take away from the advice I’m giving, but I’d also like to show how writing through my own trauma helped me. I’ve decided to take my outline and the roughly 10K words I’ve written, and turn it into a blog series that can be later converted into a book. This way, I can get some reader feedback on it while I’m putting it together.

Stay tuned, because that will be starting very soon.


What are your goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments!

Goodbye, 2016

via Unsplash

Despite this year being a hard year, I can’t exactly say it was a bad year. 2016 was full of growth, grief, and guidance for me, and though I suffered some major losses, I’m very happy with where I am right now.

I started off the year recovering from fresh trauma and working to overcome multiple traumas from my past. I was in a fog of PTSD-driven depression and anxiety, as well as medication withdrawal, and it felt like I’d never be myself again, never mind recover. But my therapist Erica believed in me. She insisted I’d experience something called “post-traumatic growth phenomenon.” She encouraged me to keep facing my demons and to write my story. With her cheering me on and with the support of my family and friends, I did. I’m still trying to find the words to tell that particular story, but after about six months of hard work, I started to feel whole again. And, even better, I started to feel like myself—but even stronger.

I got my voice back in 2016, and no one will ever take it from me again.

I lost my great-grandmother, though—my Biz Noni. In October, she passed away after battling dementia. It still hurts so much, especially because I didn’t get to spend as much time with her as I wanted.

A couple weeks later, my great-aunt Gayle had a severe stroke. Thankfully, she survived and has been making fantastic progress. She’s always been strong, but watching her recover has been truly inspiring. She still has a long way to go, and many things will never be the same for her. But I’m grateful that she’s doing as well as she is, because we almost lost her.

I also really struggled with my autoimmune disease. My rheumatologist, who’d diagnosed me with Reactive Arthritis, suddenly left the practice. The rheumatologist who replaced her decided that I couldn’t possibly have any kind of autoimmune disease, and took me off all my meds. Just like every year, I went into a flareup as the weather got colder. It got so bad, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning or dress myself. After a phone conversation with my rheumatologist where I asked him to please give me a hand up, he took a closer look at me. I’m now taking Prednisone and Plaquenil, and able to get up in the morning, care for myself, and do normal things like dishes. However, I’ve really had to learn to pace myself and be more forgiving of and gentle with myself; I quickly get frustrated with my limitations and lack of mobility.

That didn’t stop me from writing, though. I wrote Just One More Minute, a small town romance novel. Then, as a Christmas special, I wrote a novelette starring the Just One More Minute characters. I also started the last book in the South of Forever series.

Meanwhile, the publisher I was with suddenly closed its doors and, as a result, I became an indie author again. At first it seemed like the absolute worst timing; because of my health, my husband and I have been struggling financially. I suddenly had to self-publish four novels, which meant spending money that I didn’t exactly have. Due to a contract snafu, I also became financially responsible for my publishing team. This was all right before I was supposed to be releasing the third book in the South of Forever series. Thankfully, my team was super understanding and we came to an agreement. Through crowdfunding, I was able to release What Happens on Tour.

I desperately needed to catch up on bills but still couldn’t return to work, so I launched a GoFundMe to get some freelance work. The response was overwhelmingly lovely; not only did I get some work, but many people donated and told me they wanted nothing in return. I hadn’t expected anything, so it was a huge surprise. I can’t even begin to express how grateful Mike and I are.

Toward the end of the year, I decided to cut back on social media. I needed to limit my use of the computer, and through time tracking tools, I realized I was spending hours every day responding to DMs, tweets, Facebook comments and messages, and other social media comments. It was a difficult decision but I had to make room for self-care—and to catch up on work.

I used the last few weeks to get some inventory done. I re-launched the South of Forever series with new covers and put it in Kindle Unlimited for 90 days. I also re-launched my Chick Lit novel, Becoming Natalie (more on that soon). I also wrote a business plan for 2017 and have been working on other things I’ll be able to talk about soon.

I came down with the damn flu, which knocked me on my ass (even though I got my damn flu shot). I nearly missed the Christmas festivities, but thankfully recovered just in time to spend the holidays with some of my family. I’m still dealing with a bit of fatigue, which I think has more to do with my autoimmune disease; I picked up some D3 and B12 this week just in case I’m deficient again. It’s also been pretty cold here in Connecticut, which is wreaking havoc on my joints. I’m snap, crackle, popping away (and it really hurts)!

Still… I feel content. Happy, even. I’m more me than I’ve ever been. Like the Alanis Morrissette song, “I’m broke but I’m happy,” and “everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine.” I feel strong, and I’m getting better at coping with my chronic illness. With the holidays over, Mike and I are spending more time together. I’ve been slowly connecting with friends and family who I haven’t seen in a long time. Even though I have some concerns about what 2017 will bring, and I don’t know what the future holds for my personal life, health, or career, I do know that 2016 was the year I grew strong.

Whatever happens in 2017, I’m ready.

via GIPHY

10 Kick-Ass Books I Read in 2016

via Unsplash

One thing I was determined to do in 2016 was read more. I often get caught up in the “should”s, as in I should be _____ instead of reading. (Really, you can replace “reading” with anything. I so need to stop “should”ing on myself!) My goal was to read 25 books; I read 31—or at least, that’s what Goodreads says. I didn’t track all of my reads, so I’m sure this number is a bit off.

The following 10 are my favorite reads from this year, in no particular order. Check them out, and load up your Kindle!


F*ck Love, by Tarryn Fisher

F*ck Love would, gun to head, be my favorite book of 2016. I read it during a weekend while Mike was away at an art show, and I couldn’t put it down. Helena and Kit’s story was absolutely insane, in the best way possible. Months later, I still can’t stop thinking about it. This dark and gritty romance is exactly the tone of book I hope to write someday.

Buy Now on Amazon


Lex Talionis, by S.A. Huchton

What’s better than a revenge story? A best friend’s revenge story! Lex Talionis also joined F*ck Love in my list of all-time favorites. This was another one that I couldn’t put down. It’s also got a romantic element that had me rooting hard, plus an ending that is super rewarding.

Buy Now on Amazon


Luther: The Calling, by Neil Cross

My mom kept recommending I watch Luther, the show on BBC about a detective who might be just as crazy as the killers he chases. I borrowed this from her and had to seriously reign myself in from reading it in one sitting. I then proceeded to binge half of the series; it’s going to be a while until the next season comes out, so I’ve slowed down quite a bit to savor it. Complex, mysterious, and smart, Luther is one of my all-time favorite characters. It doesn’t hurt that Idris Elba is so damn sexy.

Buy Now on Amazon


If I Stay and Where She Went, by Gayle Forman

These books are a back-to-back must. I can’t imagine having to wait for the sequel. I borrowed If I Stay from the library and basically cried my way through it. It was so poignant and heartwrenching. Where She Went was just beautiful, and worth running back to the library for.

Buy Now on Amazon


Collateral, by J.C. Hannigan

The final book in the Collide series, Collateral was quite the grand finale. I’ve loved Harlow from the moment J.C. told me about her, and it’s been such a great experience watching her grow and come into her own. A suspenseful romance, Collateral is raw and real. And don’t even get me started on how freakin’ hot Jax is. He’s seriously the perfect boyfriend—and my all-time favorite book boyfriend!

Buy Now on Amazon


The Year We Fell Down, by Sarina Bowen

This was the first book—that I can remember reading—with a disabled heroine that fully captures what it’s like to live in a limited body. I devoured it in one sitting because I loved Corey and I absolutely had to know whether she and Adam would be together. Though Adam is only temporarily injured, he’s the epitome of the perfect partner. I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I really need to get on that!

Buy Now on Amazon


I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

My sister brought this over one day, urging me to read it. I’d been wanting to, so no argument there! Malala tells the story of how she defied the Taliban and fought for girls’ education alongside her supportive father. It was such an inspiring and enlightening read. I was 13 on 9/11, so I remember it well but there was still a lot that I didn’t know; it was fascinating to read about the global effects of the so-called “War on Terror.” More importantly, Malala’s bravery was so empowering and uplifting.

Buy Now on Amazon


Pretty Pink Ribbons, by K.L. Grayson

Going in, I didn’t know that this was a breast cancer book, but I figured it out pretty quickly, as I have several loved ones who have fought breast cancer. Though it’s in a series, Pretty Pink Ribbons is a complete standalone. It’s quite the rollercoaster, emotionally speaking, but the ending is so worth every second of heartache.

Buy Now on Amazon


Kaleidoscope Hearts, by Claire Contreras

This was another one that I devoured. Contreras writes so beautifully, and I fell deeply in love with Estelle and Oliver. I related to a lot of their problems, and I got really attached to their friends and family members. I picked up the complete series box set, so I’m still making my way through the rest of the books. Kaleidoscope Hearts was just lovely.

Buy Now on Amazon


Let’s Get Digital, by David Gaughran

And now for something completely different! If you’re new to self-publishing or have been at it for a while and looking for a refreshing book with some publishing and marketing tips, Let’s Get Digital is an insightful, quick read. I promptly grabbed Let’s Get Visible to widen my education, and have already learned a lot.

Buy Now on Amazon


There were some books that I started but didn’t finish because I just didn’t get into them, and there were others that were re-reads of old favorites. Honestly, I’ve been watching a lot of TV; by the end of the day, I’ve got too much brain fog to focus on reading. Still, I’m really happy with my reads for 2016.

What were your favorite books this year? Let me know in the comments below!

December 2016 News and Goals

dec2016goals_12022016

I’m going to keep this one short, because my wrists and fingers aren’t happy with me right now.

First things first: What do you think of my new blog theme? Well, okay, it’s not new. It’s WordPress’s Twenty Fifteen theme. I think it’s slick!

Nerd things aside…

cover_ebook_jomm_600x900_11282016-2

Just One More Minute is now available. Grab your copy now!

Kindle · iBooks · Nook · Kobo · Google Play · More

Or, if you’d like a free copy in exchange for your honest review, please click here.

"Just One More Christmas" (Not Just Any Love Series, Book 1.5), by Elizabeth Barone

Speaking of Just One More MinuteI’m currently writing a Ro/Matt Christmas story, “Just One More Christmas”! It will be available very soon for $0.99. Make sure you’re on my email list; all my subscribers will get a free copy.

In case you missed it, I’m currently on hiatus from social media. Here’s why, and here’s a bit more of an in-depth post on my illness.

On to the goals!

I’m also reading a lot more. I missed reading! I recently finished I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai—the girl who fought for education and was shot in the head by the Taliban. It was an inspiring read, and also really insightful into the war on terror and its global effects. I strongly recommend every American reads it! We tend to live in a bubble out here.

I’ve also been reading Cold Fire by Dean Koontz—which is, as always, very good—and Chris Fox’s Write to Market. I’m learning a lot about writing better books, which is always a good thing! For some reason, I never finished David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital, so I restarted it. I think I just forgot I was reading it, to be honest. Brain=mush. Mostly, though, I’ve been focusing on the Koontz and Fox books. Then there are the many books on my iPad that are begging to be read…

Bookworm problems, am I right?

via GIPHY
via GIPHY

That’s it for my December goals!

What are yours? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Until Further Notice

via Unsplash
via Unsplash

My dear readers,

I’m going to be say this flat out: I need a break. I’m dealing with a nasty flareup of my autoimmune disease, which means every single one of my joints is in agonizing pain and stiffness and I’m beyond exhausted. Every day I fall farther and farther behind on my work load. I’ve been struggling to catch up on bills with freelance work and a GoFundMe. It’s almost December, which means I’m supposed to start my yearly inventory soon (updating covers, interior formatting, pricing, etc). The holidays are officially here, so my personal life is naturally more hectic. And pretty soon I’ll be starting pain management, which occupies a lot of time during the first month or so; hopefully I’ll also be starting Plaquenil or some other kind of DMARD.

Every aspect of my life is completely off track—including my marriage, due to my declining health and the resulting financial stress we’re under—and I desperately need to play catchup.

I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, and I feel tremendously overwhelmed. Not only am I too stiff to get right out of bed every morning, but I also immediately feel panicked because there is so much I need to get done in a given day and my body just won’t cooperate. Even simple things like doing dishes have become a serious challenge. It’s not a good feeling.

love social media. I love blogging and I love sending newsletters and I love tweeting and I love doing Facebook takeovers. Most importantly, I love chatting with you. But if I’m ever going to catch up on my work and get my personal life in order, something is going to have to go.

So I’m going to go dark for a while.

I really hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings. But I’ll be using my time away to:

  • finish up some projects
  • update covers and pricing
  • rearrange my catalog
  • get my health in order
  • reconnect with my dear husband
  • spend time with my family

You won’t be completely cut off from me. I’ll be scheduling social media posts in Hoot Suite; I just won’t be able to respond individually or check DMs and messages. I’ll be releasing a special holiday novella starring Rowan and Matt from Just One More Minute. I’ll be checking my email every Monday; you can write to me at elizabethbaronebooks@gmail.com. And I’ll be sending out a holiday newsletter sometime in December with all my current happenings. (I may also be occasionally blogging, but nowhere near as much as I’ve been.) You might see some titles go unavailable on Amazon, etc for short periods of time while I’m updating, but please don’t worry. I’m just doing inventory to prepare for a rocking 2017.

And just to throw this out there, I’m not getting divorced or anything like that. Mike and I have just both been really stressed and I think we need to spend more time together to reconnect. We’re just as sickeningly in love as ever, if not very frazzled and overwhelmed.

I know I keep using that word but trust me, it doesn’t even begin to describe the state of Liz Land right now.

In the end, this will be the best thing for everyone. You’ll get things you’ve been long waiting for—like the rest of the Comes in Threes series—and I’ll (hopefully) get a diagnosis and start treatment. Not that my health hinges on the time I spend on social media; I just need to rearrange my priorities so I can focus on the most important things.

I hope this makes sense and I hope you understand.

I love you dearly, and I’ll see you in the new year!

Elizabeth Barone

A Year in the Life, Round Two!

1280_gilmore_girls_revival_fallMy sister and I finished up the Gilmore Girls revival tonight—er, last night?—with “Summer” and “Fall.” While the first half of the revival was göööd, the second half was… lacking. The following review is mostly spoiler-free, and contains some complaining from the perspective of a storyteller and longtime fan.

When “Summer” started, there was still no sign of Jess or Dean, and Rory was still really lost. Lorelai and Emily were working through some things. During a town meeting, Taylor announced that they’d be putting on a musical. This musical took up entirely too much time. It was awful. We got it already, okay? Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, except Lorelai. The musical didn’t really seem to fulfill any purpose other than filler. I actually considered fast-forwarding, which I’ve never done while watching Gilmore Girls. Ever.

There were still funny parts, of course, but the whole thing just seemed to lose direction. I didn’t even mind that all three generations weren’t on the best of terms, because that’s been a theme throughout this show. What bothered me was the long segments that did nothing to move the story forward. Between the never-ending musical and the caricature of a dream sequence that was actually the return of the Life and Death Brigade, I was bored and frustrated. Lauren said she felt the same. We actually paused during the musical to make some tea. I wish I’d just let it keep playing, because literally nothing new happened.

In “Fall,” things finally started coming together in the second half. But they seemed rushed. It was almost as if ASP really didn’t know which direction she wanted to go in. I know the cast members all have other commitments, so it’s not that I’m bummed Dean had two minutes of screen time and Jess had only a few more. Both Rory and Lorelai felt very out of character to me. The things Rory was doing just weren’t her. And Lorelai’s quest in “Fall” was so bizarre. That’s not how Lorelai handles things.

It all just seemed like filler.

And, without giving anything away, the ending felt very anticlimactic and left me with no closure. That’s what this whole thing was supposed to be about. There were three things I was left wanting after the abrupt end of the original series:

  • a Luke and Lorelai wedding
  • to know that Rory had her life together
  • a real match for Rory

I didn’t feel like I got any of those things. If they’d canned the 30-minute musical, we could’ve had more than an elopement montage and a thrown-together ending with zero resolution.

Even more frustrating, the ending left us with more questions than answers. I was very disappointed and, like Lauren said, almost wish they hadn’t even bothered. Though I will say I’m glad things were finally resolved between Lorelai and Emily. Even that felt rushed, though.

The four words—I won’t give them away, I promise—were pretty much what I suspected. But they just left another cliffhanger for dedicated fans to tumble off of.

In a nutshell, the first half was great and the second half was rushed. I’m deeply disappointed. If by some chance they do more, I won’t be watching. I feel punk’d.

Have you seen the Gilmore Girls revival? What did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

PS: I’m thinking of doing a live stream in Romance Readers Anonymous where we can talk about our feels. First I’ll survey the group and find out how many of us have seen it, that way I don’t accidentally spoil anything!

A Year in the Life with Barone’s Belles

I made this for the reader group I co-run, Romance Readers Anonymous. Jess or bust!
I made this for the reader group I co-run, Romance Readers Anonymous. Jess or bust!

Technically I’m supposed to be unplugged for the weekend, but I couldn’t resist sneaking on and sharing some of my thoughts on the Gilmore Girls reunion on Netflix: A Year in the Lifespoiler-free, of course!

I grew up on Gilmore Girls with my mom and sister. Those nights are some of my best memories. No matter what was happening in my life, I always had my girls and the Gilmores. We also got my Noni hooked on it, and even my dad watched with us sometimes. (He was convinced from the very beginning that Luke and Lorelai were meant to be.) So when I heard about the reunion, I knew I’d have to binge it with at least two of the women who have always been my rock. We’d originally planned on trying to do it on launch day, making it an all-day fest—complete with coffee and Chinese! But I screwed up the date and my mom ended up having to work.

Then I found out Noni and Aunt Wendy wanted in, making it a three-generation celebration! We did some planning and decided to watch the first half tonight and the rest tomorrow (and maybe Sunday, if we need to). And of course, we had Chinese (though not coffee because it was already late in the day and I am one of those people who believe you can’t sleep after drinking it, haha.) I have a lot of thoughts and feels, but I’ll keep it spoiler-free, because I don’t want the wrath of Taylor sicced on me. 😜

Side note: I call my reader group Barone’s Belles*, because I’m Barone and my kick-ass main characters are my belles—plus my strong and beautiful readers are my belles (and beaus sometimes), too. After I told my family about the group, Noni started calling us her Barone’s Belles. So it’s an extra special name now. I was super excited to get to spend time with these ladies, because life is life-y and we don’t often all get to gather.

We watched “Winter” and “Spring” back to back.

First of all, this reunion is funny. Like, Gilmore Girls was always funny. Rewatching it again recently, I thought it was even funnier than I’d remembered. But Amy Sherman- and Daniel Palladino really brought it for this—as well as the entire cast.

And it’s so pretty! The set is gorgeous and even though some things are different, it’s definitely my Stars Hollow. Even the way it was shot and everything… Just beautiful!

I teared up when “Winter” kicked off, because hearing the rewind of the original series and  knowing we were about to see the reunion just made my heart squeeze. As each cast member made their appearance, I got so excited. It was like seeing old friends.

Now, this isn’t a spoiler if you’ve watched the trailers, so I think it’s okay to mention. All three Gilmore women are going through a rough time. It’s so painful to see Emily grieving Richard, and it’s hard watching Lorelai struggle with her worries, but I think it’s hardest for me to watch Rory feeling so lost. Rory has always been something of a role model for me. She’s always been so confident, and to see her struggling with her confidence is both heartbreaking and relatable. I’ve been feeling a bit lost myself, lately.

But I know Rory will find her place and come back swinging, because that’s my girl. (And so will I, because if Rory can overcome Wookies and bitchy CEOs, I can handle my stuff, too.)

I really want to gush and squee over the details, but I don’t want to give anything away. So if you want to leave a comment, keep it spoiler-free for those of us who haven’t watched yet. (I can tell you right now, I won’t be checking anything internet-y until I’ve seen all four episodes because I will cut a bitch**.)

Oh, and speaking of episodes… Netflix is calling this “Season 1.” While I kinda think that’s just because it’s how they do things, part of me is hoping it’s because there’ll be more. But even if there isn’t, I’m so, so, so happy that we got this reunion—and we finally get to hear those four words.

Which of Rory’s exes are you rooting for? All five of us are Team Jess, and so is my dear CP Molli Moran, but I know my dear work wife J.C. Hannigan is staunchly Team Logan. 🙃  Tell me who you’re hoping Rory ends up with in the comments!


*If you’d like to join my reader group, click here and request to join. I or someone else will approve you ASAP! I post behind-the-scenes tidbits while I’m writing, Belles-only excerpts, early cover reveals, and more! I also co-run Romance Readers Anonymous with Molli, J.C., and the lovely Rebecca Paula.

**I don’t actually think spoilers are a big deal. I mean, am I going to avoid going out into public for fear of spoilers? No! I think people who get angry about them are overreacting a bit. But something like this, something we’ve waited ten years for… I think it’s decent to maintain the surprises for everyone else. Thankfully I have Netflix so I don’t have to wait—THANK YOU SANDY!—but I’d be a little miffed if I went on Twitter and all the details were immediately in my face. Not everyone has the luxury of extras right now, and I understand that all too well. As far as everything else… Well, I’m married to the king of blabbing TV and movie spoilers, so I’ve learned to deal. I actually call him Spoiler Alert sometimes. 😂 He knows better than to spoil certain things for me, though. 🔪😈😉