Fever Pitch Grand Prize Raffle

Fever Pitch Grand Prize image

Follow this link to enter this Rafflecopter giveaway, find it on my main website, or look for it on the main Fever Pitch Blog Tour.

This contest starts Monday, September 15 at midnight CST and ends October 13 at 10AM CST.  What prizes are available for the Grand Prize Raffle? THREE, for three different winners.

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Prize one:

  • Win an electronic copy of Fever Pitch for you, or for a friend
  • Receive by mail a signed paperback of book one in the series, Love Lessons
  • Choose between a $10 iTunes gift card or one month of premium Spotify membership to enjoy the a cappella music you read about in Fever Pitch
  • Select an item of your choice from the Heidi Cullinan Saint Timothy Swag Store (Items still building, especially quote mugs)

RC LL series prize

Prize two:

  • Win an electronic copy of Love Lessons and Fever Pitch for you or for a friend
  • Pick or design a Love Lessons series quote mug from the Saint Timothy store (if the quote you love isn’t there, tell Heidi and she’ll design a mug just for you!)
  • Pick another established item from the Saint Timothy store, anything goes! (More products added all the time.)

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Prize three:

  • Win an electron copy of Fever Pitch (for you or for a friend
  • Tell Heidi who your favorite character from the Love Lessons series is, and they’ll write a public blog post personalized to you!

There are eight different ways to enter, and some you can do more than once. This is my first Rafflecopter experience, so hopefully it all goes well. (I’m really not sure about the Pinterest images, but I’m going on faith that they’ll post okay.)

If you enjoy Fever Pitch and want to share the love on your blog or social media site, there are a number of quote images here. I never want readers to feel like selling my books is their job, but your word of mouth is absolutely the best advertising on the planet. I will never say no to your help!

Good luck to everyone!

May Walter be ever in your favor.

Navigating Fear and Instinct

Thor no clue

Today’s been a damn weird day, and every last second of it has been me bouncing like a BB between fear and instinct.

There are deeper layers than simply this, but today I was coming to Jesus on my novel due end of October hopefully end of November absolutely, and I was also accepting while I’m much better post surgery, I still have some lingering chronic pain issues, and I need to be aggressive to address them. Both were problems I needed to solve, but neither issue had a clear answer, nor a clear place to seek the answer. The novel was actually the easy part. I’ve been to this rodeo.

This is the part where it comes undone in my hands because I did it wrong, because it’s essential I first do it wrong. It’s how I roll. I write 40-60k, it starts to lurch, I look back and see holes and frayed bits, and I redo. I have no idea what other authors do, but for me it’s all about the conflict threads. The conflict comes out of character, and I only know so much of their character when I write the synopsis or outline or both. By 40-60k, I know all about them. I know who they are, I know how and why the lie and what their nose does when they do it. I’m pretty militant about a main conflict through line, individual conflicts for each character (conflicts coming out of their individual character) and then they all knit together at the end in a nice big bloom, or sometimes a firecracker. This is a firecracker book. My entire goal is for someone to put this book down and go OH MY GOD THAT WAS SO AMAZING. I want them to feel not that I am amazing, but that the book was so intense that it was its own thing and an intense, incredible, happy ride. That, grasshopper, does not ever happen by accident.

I’m at the part, though, where I have to cut open my arm and saw through my own leg and all sorts of metaphorically wrenching things to find those lines of gunpowder. It’s work, it’s hard, and it’s stressful. So I’m pulling the book apart. I’m surfing the net and wandering around the house, and basically it’s existing above my head in some sort of multidimensional thing. It always looks like one of those expanding spheres they sell at science centers. It’s big, it’s crazy, and it’s where the story happens. It used to freak me out and make me feel like a failure, but now it feels like the midpoint. I’ll find the answer. In fact, I already got there this evening. (I didn’t let myself blog until I had the answer.) (I also had a marathon phone call. Multitasking!)

HOWEVER.

giphy-1At the same time I was sorting through that, I was also problem-solving the pain thing. I’ve been going to the chiropractor a lot, and now PT, but I’m doing this big pingpong thing where I go back and forth between progress and fuckery. Pretty much I’m in pain all the time. The other day Dan said, “You seem like you feel so much better now that you’re not in pain.” I blinked. “Um, no, I hurt [rattled off about seven things, some pretty severe] and I took a pile of pills. But yeah, I’m a lot better, and I feel great. I just hurt still.”

I’m worried about the pills, however, and now that I don’t feel like I”m being dragged sideways into a pit of tar, I’d like to hammer this shit in the head and get better. I’m ready to climb out of this pit with my teeth if necessary. It’s on, it’s happening, it’s here.

Except how that happens has been really fucking hard to sort out. Because let me tell you. Nobody in medicine, traditional or non-traditional, knows shit about pain. They sort of know how to alleviate it a bit, but it’s all palliative. They have ideas on how to get rid of it. But they don’t know. Nobody knows but the person suffering, and they’re in pain and it’s hard to focus. And they don’t know what they know. They really want someone to just tell them what to do.

I’ve been trying to get someone to tell me what to do for a month. I keep asking, and they keep giving me their best answers. I try their way, and it doesn’t work, so I try somebody else’s way. Hell, I keep trying my way, and my way sucks too. Nothing seems to work. And then today I went to my MD and said, “Hey, you want to double check all these pills I’m taking? It’s a lot. I mean, it’s a lot of pills. Got any ideas for pain management?”

He said, “Yes, I have ideas. I want you to try Cymbalta.”

He’s actually suggested this before, but Dan had him go with Effexor, and it sort of kind of worked, and then I went off it because I couldn’t really write well. And I’d forgotten that part, somehow. I’d also forgotten how many people I’ve talked to who can’t write a word on Cymbalta. This afternoon, though, I remembered, and I dithered over the prescription I’d asked Dan to fill. I freaked out all over the place. Twitter is my witness.

Here’s the problem: if I take Cymbalta and it kills my creativity, it will screw me up. I have not just the above book but another book due by the end of the year. I have a third book due Feb 1. The last one isn’t contracted, but the first two are. And I can do all if it, totally. Free of my endometrial sludge, I’m on fucking fire. All I need to be able to do is sit in a chair without pain and get this shit out. Hell, I solved a problem that usually takes me three weeks and 50k of overwriting in one goddamned afternoon. I’m all over this shit.

tumblr_m8j9knuxbj1r4s0jmExcept if I take Cymbalta, I might not be. It might be okay! It might not. It might shut me down. And it’s not like I can just say, “Oops, it’s shutting me down. Better not.” It takes weeks or even a month to get on it, and double and possibly triple that to get off. Translated, failing Cymbalta could take me the rest of the year.

This would cost me three books. Two contracted. This would cost me my slots next year in the production schedule. I’d have to break my word. I’d miss out on that income and make it harder for me to sell on spec in the future.

That Cymbalta is a very, very expensive pill.

So that’s why I’ve been a fucking freak about it all afternoon. On the one hand, it might save my life. It might let me sit in a chair AND keep my brain, and there might be rainbows and puppies and everything happy and amazing in the world. It might not do shit for pain, might fuck my brain, and cost me three novels. Big, big risk. Big. And there’s no way to know except try. So I have to decide, am I trying, or am I accepting what I have going on right now, which is admittedly not great?

Except there’s one thing I haven’t factored into my choice. Instinct.

I put the brakes on my story and pulled it apart because a heaping backlist of published books has taught me when I’ve taken the wrong turn. I know it by the smell and the way the scenes start to shape, or fail to. I know what tool to use to fix it. I’ve got it down. With the health stuff, I’ve had years and years of listening to my body, but I didn’t have access to the one part that was actually fucked, so I didn’t really know the answer. I horse-traded a lot of getting by, but in the end there was one fix I didn’t know I needed.

Now I’m not managing chronic pain, I’m trying to recover. There’s nothing wrong with me. I just need to strengthen. But I have a lot of ground to recover, and unless I want to go into a bubble, some of the things I try to do are basically hurting me. It’s a really hard line to ride.

giphy-2Every instinct I have lately is to run. I want to bolt down the street. Dance like a fool. I can’t–every time I try even a little bit, I get hurt. I have instinct then too. Not yet, something whispers. You need to go, but not yet. Every week I get a little stronger, and if I listen, really listen I can hear this far. Now stop. It’s an intensely delicate dance. I want to go, and that’s the push nudging me on, but I have to know when to yank back. It’s not unlike knowing where the characters are going and being excited for the story I know is there but using my smarts to slow down and do the thing right.

I was trying to do that with the Cymbalta thing, but fear kept getting in the way. In the same way as when I was more of a greenhorn I thought every fuck up meant not that I had work to do but that I was a big faking faker who sucked ass and not in the fun way. I’ve had instinct all week, but I keep slamming the door on it and asking other people. Smart people, even. They all mean well, and they’re giving me good things. But at the end of the day, this is my body, and they could have fifty degrees and not know it as well as I do.

My body is saying, go. Don’t walk for five minutes. Walk for twenty. Walk hard. Push. Go. Strengthen. Hurt a little, go a little too far, and recover. It’s saying not at all what anyone else is saying. It wants me to keep kosher with the gluten free and look at cutting out sugar again. It wants me to exercise, push, and go. Sometimes I catch myself inventing exercises, weird stretches in doorways and “yoga” positions on the floor. I start pacing back and forth or catching myself putting on tennis shoes and thinking about walking up the street. Not around the block. Through the neighborhood. But I’ve resisted, because everybody’s been telling me to go at this a different way.

In the same way I didn’t listen to anybody about outlines or synopses or flying by the seat of my pants, about writing without looking down or backing up–I need to do that with my body. Basically, anybody who tells me how to write gets a big smile and a fuck you very much. When I put a book out, it’s the best I can make that book at that time. Other people would write it differently, and they’re welcome to do that. I’m not going to please everyone all of the time, and that’s fine. But I am deliberate, and I know what I’m doing, and I’m one hundred percent driven by instinct. I’m very comfortable with it.

This afternoon, after paralyzing myself with fear of what to do about my health, I broke down and listened to my body. It said, “Put on your shoes and go. Walk hard, walk so fucking hard you lose your breath. Get a stitch in your side. Swing your arms. Fucking. Work. Go for at least twenty minutes. Go hard. Go really goddamned hard.” Figuring the only thing I had to lose was my Friday, I did it.

You know where this is going.

My body was right. That instinct was one hundred percent on. I didn’t need Cymbalta. I needed to move and to push. Did it fix everything? No. Am I in pain right now? Yes. But it’s manageable, and if I go walk, gently this time, it’ll feel good again. I haven’t taken any pills since this morning, so this is me without meds. I’m finding other ways to keep the pain manageable while I work on strengthening. In fact during this post I’ve shifted several times, gotten up once, and keep doing these cat-hunches and shoulder rolls in my chair. I also roll my hips and flex my glutes. Every time I do, it’s like I’m shaking off pain scales. It’s not all gone, but it’s less.

tumblr_lxer3wb4Ub1r3ovdbo1_500I can’t say I won’t take the Cymbalta. Dan filled the prescription, and it’s going to sit on my shelf. I may put it on my desk. It’s going to be my adversary, the thing I don’t want to do but have to if I don’t listen to my instinct. I may end up having to take it, because instinct isn’t infallible. But I’m going to try not to, because I don’t want to risk what i don’t need to, and also because I’d really like to win this on my own.

If you’re fighting chronic pain, a manuscript, or something else–listen to yourself, or learn to. This is actually a theme of my life, that while it would sure be nice for a fairy godmother to show up and make everything okay, usually you have to build your own carriage and cobble your own shoe. And it’s better that way. More work, yes, but not only is what you make just right for you, you also have the satisfaction of pointing at that pumpkin and saying, “I made that, bitches.”

I’m going to make myself. I’m getting my goddamned body back. I don’t need to look like I’m twenty. I’d settle for feeling better at forty than I did through my thirties, because basically that decade most fifty and sixty year olds outran me. I’m gonna do it, just like I’m gonna hit all my deadlines, and early.

I’ve just got this feeling it’s all gonna work out–and I’m going to listen to that feeling. All day long.

Library Contest Winners: EVERYBODY GETS NEW BOOKS

Last night at 8:30 the library contest closed, and there were ten entries. Many of the entrants were actual librarians, which is awesome, and the others were people carefully curating for their library. According to the original contest, half of those libraries should win a package of my books and some books of other LGBT and ally authors.

Except I really, really love libraries. I couldn’t be THAT CLOSE and not give all the librarians who entered some books. I had enough donations from other authors to make ten meager packages, which would be fine, except I wanted MORE. So I went begging on Twitter and Facebook, and now we have fabulousness.

EVERYBODY WHO ENTERED GETS TO WIN.

The winning libraries are:

  • Blue Island Public Library, Blue Island, Illinois
  • Borgarbókasafnið, Reykjavík, Iceland
  • Farmington Community Library, Farmington Hills, Michigan
  • Fayette County Public Library, Oak Hill, West Virginina
  • Tigard City Library, Tigard Oregon
  • Troy Public Library, Troy, Michicagn
  • SUNY Potsdam College Library, Potsdam, New York
  • Columbia Public Library, Columbia, Missouri
  • Waterford Township Public Library, Waterford, Michigan
  • Milwaukee LGBT Community Center Library, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Authors donating prizes:

  • Heidi Cullinan
  • Damon Suede
  • Z.A. Maxfield
  • Amy Lane
  • Tara Lain
  • Kate McMurray
  • Larissa Brown
  • Vivian Arend
  • Eden Bradley
  • Kate Rothwell
  • Megan Mulry
  • Lex Chase
  • Ava Penn
  • Amy Jo Cousins
  • Leta Blake

Authors, if I missed you (we were all flying in ten directions last night, so sorry), leave a comment or email me and I’ll add you to the list.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

The LGBT reading community is full of fabulousness, and when I said I needed books, a number of READERS and bloggers said they’d donate too. Here are the reader and blogger library super heroes:

  • Leslie Bradner
  • Kelly Taylor
  • Jillian Stein
  • Beth Bellanca
  • Birte Tamm

If I dropped your name, tell me and I’ll add you. If you want in on the fun, let me know and I’ll hook you up. ANYBODY can donate books. 

ETA: Riptide Publishing will also be donating some titles!

Are you a library and you missed out? Talk to me.

Because of this last minute activity, it really will be the end of the month before I send anything. Just keep me posted as to where you’re at.

THANK YOU, everyone! You’re all awesome. Off to email the libraries now…

5s

 

The book you need right now: Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews

Scroll through my Twitter feed Friday evening from about 5 until 9 on September 5, and you will see me freaking the fuck out over a book. This is the book.

A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews

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In a world where every detail of life—down to the width of a hat brim—is dictated by God and the all-powerful rules of the community, two men dare to imagine a different way. At 18, Isaac Byler knows little outside the strict Amish settlement of Zebulon, Minnesota, where there is no rumspringa for exploration beyond the boundaries of their insular world. Isaac knows he’ll have to officially join the church and find a wife before too long, but he yearns for something else—something he can’t name.

Dark tragedy has left carpenter David Lantz alone to support his mother and sisters, and he can’t put off joining the church any longer. But when he takes on Isaac as an apprentice, their attraction grows amid the sweat and sawdust. David shares his sinful secrets, and he and Isaac struggle to reconcile their shocking desires with their commitment to faith, family and community.

Now that they’ve found each other, are they willing to lose it all?


 

I’ve been seeing this book around, and I gotta tell you, I was saying no. Because I could think of eight million ways this setup could go horribly, terribly wrong. Having grown up in a family full of pastors and living near two different Amish communities in my life, one the Amish/Mennonite megahub that is Kalona, Iowa, I know Amish, well, and while I don’t wish to join their lifestyle, I have deep, intense respect for it and their right to live how they wish to. I also know how a gay Amish man would be received, that there’s a lot we wouldn’t expect in both the accepting and non-accepting departments. I feared a lot of over-angst. I feared  slipshod research, over sentimentalization and basically an exploitation of a community. For no other reason than that’s what I’ve seen when I’ve read Amish romances, far too many times. And if the respect was there, how could there be an HEA? I mean, really? I couldn’t work it out. I feared obvious conflicts and all kinds of things bad.  I thought, this is stupid, I can’t read this book. There’s no way.

But I caved and read the Amazon sample. The moment on the barn beam hooked me. Hard. I saw the price and thought, okay. I’ll bite.

I will stand here now, hat in hand and say, not a single fear was realized. Not one. It is full of research and respect and knowledge and FULL understanding. It is not over-angsted. It is fucking hot, while not being gauche given the subject matter. It ends happily, but I swear to god, at 93 fucking percent complete, I still wasn’t sure. I really, really worried. I couldn’t imagine how. And when it was done, I exhaled with those best of breaths. The ones where you know everything is okay, and you made it, they made it, EVERYBODY FUCKING MADE IT and the sun will come up tomorrow, and two boys will be happily snuggled in a corner of it somewhere.

I needed this book. This month has been surgical recovery, too many books, too many decisions, too much everything. This week ended with me feeling weird and overwhelmed for reasons both identifiable and not. I’ve become very, very picky lately, hating almost everything I read. I wanted so much to love this book, but it could not have me cheaply. It had me. It caught me, made me, took me up to the stars and let me run. 

No, it’s not fancy, and that’s why I like it. It’s sweet, delightful. It made me sigh and freak out and worry and basically let go. If I still haven’t sold you and you like my stuff, and you read Love Lessons? This is Walter and Kelly go Amish. I mean, not really. But it is, in its way. Those archetypes. 

And this was self published. She did this all herself and the team she hired. Hot. Damn.

Just fucking go buy it. Read it. Do it. Five goddamned fucking stars. I’m not normally one for sequels post HEA, but I’m totally down for this one. I’m all the hell over it.

grinning

 


 

Buy Links

Amazon • All Romance ebooks • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads • iTunes • Smashwords

Ms. Andrews’s website

 

My Kingdom For a Watercooler: Why Twitter’s Rumored Changes Pretty Much Wreck Everything

(Disclaimer: This post uses an excessive amount of GIFs. But there SOOO many good angry ones, I couldn’t say no. Apologies in advance.)

Twitter is, apparently, looking at becoming Facebook 2.0.

This article at Gigaom is more doom and gloom than the WSJ, but even the Wall Street Journal article opens thusly.

An algorithm-driven content feed. A souped-up search engine. Group chatting.

These appear to be among Twitter’s priorities to make its service more relevant and easier to use, an issue that has plagued the company ever since its IPO last year.

shutMy Twitter feed has been an explosion of rage and disappointment, my tweets included. Over the past hour I have, in fact, vacillated between outright depression, despair, and attempts to soothe myself with thoughts of how I’ll live without my very favorite social media experience on planet earth. I try to tell myself I’m being dramatic, that maybe it won’t be so bad, but it doesn’t stick. Alogorithm-driven content feed is exactly what I hate about Facebook as a user. It’s why I have segregated accounts, one for my “real life” and one for my author life, and I barely ever go there. When I do, I have to be feeling pretty masochistic, because pain will absolutely be involved. I will see things I don’t want to see. I will miss things from people I want to interact with. Oh yes, I could say “I want to see what Bob is doing” and go to his page, but that requires me to consult a checklist reminding me what I want to think about. It involves switching feeds from “top” to “news” (so much cultural slip-showing there), though only on my computer because I can’t seem to figure it out on my phone. I can subscribe to “notifications,” changing my experience from a calm, friendly perusal to ALERT, ALERT, ALERT.

fbsmshI despise Facebook. I feel I shouldn’t say that because I’m an author, and maybe I just dissed a reader’s favorite thing–so let me clarify, I’m totally fine with Facebook EXISTING, but it’s not for me. I half-heartedly put some stuff up sometimes on Facebook because I am told as an author I should, and out of respect that some readers want me to be there. I always wonder if anyone sees it, though, or if they like me have nothing but ads, Huffington Post articles, and the same popular conversation which made me uncomfortable four days ago sitting at the top of the page. I assume everything I do on Facebook goes into a void, because I’m not a media conglomerate, so I have no influence. As a consumer, Facebook offends, upsets, and confuses me. As an author, it stresses me out, makes me feel by turns guilty, angry, uncomfortable, nervous, and on rare occasions, engaged with my readers. Even on the occasions I go through a more active Facebook period, every single day results in someone saying, “did you see what someone said?” and the answer is always, no, I did not. Usually I can’t even find it on their own page unless I search for an hour.

flynnAlso, anyone can FB message me, which on my author account is usually with a businesslike something which requires me to look something up or link or type more than a quick response, or remember that I just agreed to something. It’s because of this I will never, ever have business Facebook on my phone again. Only my personal account is there, and with the exception of a few people, I don’t read or answer messages. Because Facebook is a drain. Facebook makes me sad and hollow inside. I’m hoping someday I use it like I now do Goodreads–every few weeks, to update or check something, and to manage whatever hell the notifications and messages have wrought.

On the other hand, I love Twitter, especially as it currently is, before it phases first through Facebook 2.0, then dies and cools in the earth beside walks around like a zombie beside Myspace. I love it because I only follow the people I want to. They’ve even made it so if there’s someone politically/politely I “should” follow but don’t actually want to, I can mute them and they never know. Perfect. My readers/friends/curious strangers can follow me, and I can follow them back, or not. I don’t have to pollute my feed with guilt, aggression, or spam. Plus, when the people I follow talk, I get to hear them. Oh yes, I miss stuff, but that’s like being out of the room when someone tells a story. It’s okay. I like them. They’ll say other cool stuff, or someone will retweet it.

tumblr_n35fr14IxQ1tw1vhco1_250The number of wonderful things Twitter has brought me is immeasurable. It got me my agent. It’s introduced me to a conference ballroom’s worth of author friends and contacts. It’s introduced me to several of my new favorite authors. It’s helped me connect outside my genre. It’s allowed me to have conversations with readers, many who have become friends. It’s allowed me to find a new, better way to get news, and most recently after Ferguson, showed me the wonderful world of reporters on Twitter. It has shown me many events in real time: deaths, invasions, aggressions, moments of joy, moments of shock. It does all this organically. Despite its (current) signature chronological scroll, it largely functions horizontally. It forges connections, facilitates networking like a social media shot of souped-up Red Bull. It allows me to stretch my legs, laugh, explode, inform, fuck up, and recover. I check Twitter all day long. It’s always open beside me. It’s on the front page of my phone. It’s my reward for a long spate of writing. It’s where I connect, unwind, and learn.

I’ve gotten used to the ads. I’d pay a hefty month subscribing fee to get rid of them. I’ve come to like the conversation thing, at least the ability to figure out what people were talking about. I really hate the dumping of “top favorited comments” into feeds, but by using the Mac App on my desktop, that doesn’t seem to happen to me too much, though I assume I’ve lost a ton of followers because I favorite everything. I’m annoyed by this weird header which is four times as big on the desktop and tiny on the phone/app but must use the same image. I hate that I can’t edit a tweet if I misspelled. But otherwise, it’s perfect. It’s everything. It’s controlled by me, designed by me, built by me.

hulksmashAlgorithms will end all of it, and honest to god, every time I think about that, I want to cry.

I can’t say I’ll bail the second it goes up, but I’m already mentally preparing myself to hate Twitter the way I hate Facebook. It bums me out, and it freaks me out, because realizing Twitter can and probably will do this makes me acknowledge probably everything will do this. The great egalitarian days of the Internet are dying. Everything will be turned into money and profit and manipulation. Pretty soon unless I’m able to be published by a really big media giant, my website won’t be findable or loadable because I won’t be able to pay to get it there. The books I write were never anywhere but in the back corner of the bookstore anyway, so there was this fantastic moment where maybe I could stake out my crazy web homestead and reach readers that way, but now that I’ve let the pessimist out of the bag, I’m just assuming everything will fuck up eventually.
umadThis is a lot to hang on Twitter’s algorithm, and I know I’m blowing it out of proportion. It comes, though, at a point where I already feel like I’ve had it with balancing eight million fucking social media networks, when I’m exhausted from too many conferences and overwhelmed by how fast, nasty, and confusing online rumor mills can be. In my head, Twitter felt like the bar where I could always go and at least hang out with people I liked. Maybe it was real, maybe it was all in my head, but even if Twitter comes out in the next hour and says JUST KIDDING, WE’D NEVER DO THAT TO YOU, I think I’m going to keep my utopias in my head from now on, or at least for a while.

Navigating social media sucks. It’s hard enough to learn it, period, but when they keep changing not only the rules but the goddamned interface, it’s hell on earth. I’ve closed my Twitter app more today than I have ever, because it’s making me sad to look at it. I had my big sad, I wrote this therapy piece, and now I’m ready to say, “Well, I guess I’ll check everything every few weeks, or once a month, and just write books instead.”

I have liked interacting with people. I want to keep doing it. I like networking and chatting with fellow authors and with readers. I like seeing the world this way. But if you make it feel like stress and work, you stupid greedy idiot CFOs, I will not follow you. I’ll miss the magic you facilitated. But if the magic is gone, there’s no point in hanging around to watch you die. I’ve never been a big fan of zombies.

breaking-bad-fu

Contest for Libraries and How My Characters Became My Cats

This is the flushed out version of my newsletter, basically.

It was my birthday yesterday, and as is now my custom, on my birthday, I give things away. I’d meant this to be done all through August, but my August has been a bit wonky, so I’m STARTING the contest around my birthday and running it through September 5, though it will take me probably until October to get everything organized and gathered.

A sample of books Heidi will be giving for the contest.

A sample of books Heidi will be giving for the contest.

This year my contest is for librarians. If you are a librarian and would like some of my books and yet-unspecified others, enter yourself at this link. If you want to try to get books for YOUR library, make sure they’re down with that, and then you can enter on their behalf. Here are the rules, which are also posted on the form:

This contest is void where prohibited by law. Must be 18 to enter. Only one entry per person. No purchase necessary. Contest open worldwide unless contest is illegal in your country. Contest winner will be chosen at random by online randomizer from total number of entrants. Prize is one of FIVE paperback packages of some of Heidi’s books and other books as donated.  Prizes will be mailed directly to the libraries or their designated representatives. Non-librarians entering must affirm with target library to ensure they wish to be considered for the contest. This contest will open August 26 at 14PM CST and close at 8:30PM CST on September 5. To enter participants must fill out this Google document form. Winners will be announced on Twitter/FB and Heidi’s blog and will be notified of their wins via the email they provide in the contest entry. If a winner does not reply within 48 hours to claim prize, or if it is discovered the winning library doesn’t want the prize, a new winner will be chosen.  Prizes will be delivered by media mail and posted no later than October 1, 2014.

If I get a lot of author donations, I’ll do more than five packages. “Library” can be vague. If you have an LGBT center with a bookshelf, that counts. The only thing I’m not doing is your personal home library or the little free library in your front yard. If you have questions, email me at heidi@heidicullinan.com.

If you’re an author or someone who loves donating your favorite books to libraries, email me and let me know what you want to chip in. I’ll take all books from all genres.


 

The other story of the day is that we have two new members of the family, and their names are…Sam and Mitch.

I want it emphatically stated I had no part in the naming of these cats. How these two became named after my novel will be explained in the story.

So as regular blog readers know, we lost one of our cats, Sidney, in July. We didn’t want to get a new one until after my surgery and well into recovery, and we wanted to take our time and do it right. We’ve been peering at cats here and there, but this morning at the Animal Rescue League in  Des Moines we found two cats we liked, and one of them came with the name of Mitch.

Anna and Mitch

Anna and Mitch

I had almost looked at him last night because of the name, but it felt too on the nose, plus I am biased against longer-haired cats. Yet today when we asked for a good lap cat, he was the first guy named, and my daughter fell in love with him. He’s a rare bird: a male tortoise shell calico. He really is sweet. Ironically enough, he hates riding in cars.

Anna had originally wanted a cute baby kitten, but we talked her out of it because she already has a “her” cat who is weirdly still kitten-sized, and we cautioned her that if she’s after cuddly, kittens aren’t always the way to go. Mitch is a HUGE cuddler. He’s exceeding chill, not interested in toys or treats, just a good dish of water, snug places to hide, and people to lie on. He looks damn good in a blue collar, and he LOVES being brushed.

The other cat had been named Jacob at the shelter, but this was the cat Dan picked out, and Dan had his heart set on naming him. In the car on the ride home, Dan pointed out it was only natural to call the other cat Sam. I could hardly argue, and Anna thought the name suited him very well.

Sam does not hold still for photographs.

Sam does not hold still for photographs.

Sam is a firecracker. Whereas Mitch is an adult, Sam is still a kitten, and he zooms around the room, attacking feet, crinkle balls, socks, carpets, and anything he can get his hands on. He’ll endure being held, but he wants to run more. He, naturally, has a silver glitter collar.

We haven’t introduced Sam and Mitch to the other cats, but the other cats are already pissed. Daisy is growling at everyone, Glinda meows angrily at the door where the newcomers are sequestered, and Walter glares at us as if to say, “How could you?” We’re hoping they all get over each other quickly enough. Sam was unsure of Mitch at first, growling and batting at his face, but they’ve already made nice and are big buds.

(Don’t make any comments about what they’re going to do after dark. They’re both neutered.)

That’s the story of how I ended up with three of my five cats sharing names with my characters.

 

Please share this link with any librarians you think might be interested in getting some books. And stay tuned to social media for more cat pictures. You know there will be a million.

 

Also, since I’m rehashing the newsletter: Hero is available in all retailers, and Fever Pitch and Sleigh Ride have preorders. DON’T MISS the cover reveal for Carry the Ocean at Heroes & Heartbreakers.  See it also on my website, and sign up for my newsletter to be alerted for preorders.

Also also, there will be more of these in the coming month as we do the Fever Pitch tour, but this quote pic is my very favorite, and I can’t stand waiting to share it anymore.

safe space

Be good to yourself

Heidi Cullinan:

This is my husband. Kind, wonderful, wise. His take on the issue of depression/anxiety, and you should listen, because this time it’s the horse’s mouth. Love you, honey.

Originally posted on This Man's World:

There has been a boatload of words written about Robin Williams this week.  I have to say that I was only a casual fan of Williams’ work – he was frequently too frenetic and intense for me to really appreciate – but I was still saddened by his death. The thing that impressed me the most this week was how Twitter really served as a communal grief center. It seemed that this particular celebrity death hit many people very, very hard.  This was undoubtedly compounded by the fact that Williams died by his own hand.  How do we reconcile the funny man that everyone saw with the act of suicide?  It’s tough, but not so tough when you think about it.

Williams’ death has also brought an amazing number people out of the mental health closet.  The famous and the not-so-famous are all writing their own bits on dealing with…

View original 1,327 more words

Lights in the Darkness

life_under_the_ocean-widemy emotions feel loud and big. its hard for me to keep hold of them. they weigh me down. make me heavy and tired and overwhelmed. sometimes I feel like everyone else is carrying a bucket of water but I’m trying to carry an ocean. its very hard. sometimes I would rather not carry my ocean, even if it meant I couldn’t be alive.

— Jeremey Samson, Carry the Ocean

I got the news about Robin Williams while I was at the barn with my daughter. At first I tried to push it away, but it was like this huge stone ball in the middle of my head that kept rolling back in. Then Twitter began its snowball of grief, and I have not been able to stop. I’m unable to edit this properly as I usually do, so please forgive any thoughts that ramble to nowhere or things that aren’t quite fleshed out. I confess, this is largely therapy for me tonight. Forgive me my indulgence.

For me Robin William’s suicide is a multi-fold pain. To start, he has been, for my whole life, the magic, maniac man whose very presence on a screen could change my day. He made bad movies good. He made good movies excellent. He was Mork, a show I watched religiously as a child. He has forever been so huge in my head. The idea that he could be taken down by depression is devastating not only for the literal loss of him as a man and an entertainer, but also because it drags in its wake the terrible thought: if a man that great, that wonderful, that beloved can be a victim to depression, what hope does anyone have?

And now comes the part that keeps making me cry: I love so many, many people with depression and anxiety.

This is hitting me so much harder than it is my husband, who is open about his struggles with depression and anxiety (mostly anxiety), but that makes a great deal of sense, to be honest. For him this is sad, but it isn’t news. Yes, he knows acutely how nasty the whispers of mental illness are. How they steal hope. How they distort the world and turn a blue sky into an ominous storm. While he works hard to avoid letting it tell him things are so bad he should remove himself from the world, he can see the road to that place far, far too easily. It lives on his horizon in a way that alarms me when I’m made aware of it, but which also far too easily fades from my view.

This is not to say he is constantly considering suicide. This is not to say he isn’t a strong, intense, wonderful, deeply caring human being. He is. He’s amazing. The problem is he lives with a shade, an illness which is not a cancer of the cell but of the spirit. While I look at him with love and feel deep affection, even express affection, left unchecked, it can tell him I am lying. It can tell him many ugly, terrible things. It can turn a banquet into a graveyard. It can turn wonder into despair. And it can do all this without me ever knowing it’s happening.

I know and love so many people who fight this fight. There are more people I love who fight, but I don’t know they do.

Let me assure you, the people who struggle with depression and anxiety are ten thousand times stronger than those of us who don’t. I’ve had a few bouts of situational depression, and it’s soul-sucking–but I could at least point to chronic pain and undiagnosed illness as my culprit. Clinical depression and anxiety do not have to have a cause. Depression and anxiety can strike anyone for any reason, or for no reason. And it doesn’t present with a nice rash so you can say, “Oh hey. There goes my anxiety again.” It sneaks into your thoughts. It looks and feels like you. It walks with you, talks to you. It can be entirely invisible, even when you know someone is suffering from it.

This makes me crazy. This makes me sick, it makes me furious, it makes me rage helplessly inside myself some days. It makes me say the wrong thing to the people I love who have depression and anxiety. I am a woman who prizes my strength and control, who loves with passion and intensity, and this fucking disease makes me watch it hurt the people I love and keeps me from reaching them. Keeps me from knowing they need help. Twists my words of love, contorts my support. Even when I dance the support team dance right, it can still make all my efforts ash.

There is something about this horrible, godawful sonofafuckingbitch disease taking Robing Motherfucking Williams that makes me feel so much despair I don’t know how to even express the words. I keep cycling through this like a madwoman, so I started to blog in hopes of bleeding off some of the pain–but I think this is one we have to sit with. Depression and anxiety eat so many lives. It doesn’t take them all by suicide. It takes most by inches and hours. It cuts them off from love and hope.

It makes me so crazy I feel like I will explode.

It makes me want to cry until I puke.

It makes me want to hug my husband until he tells me to get off.

It makes me turn inside out for my child, who is winning her own war with anxiety right now…but I fear not arming her enough, not loving her enough, that I could do everything right and it could still speak louder than me.

Inevitably when I get like this, I feel like a fool because I’m not the one carrying that pain around, I’m only watching. I think, though, as I watch the whole Internet lose its shit over this, we need to all start carrying this pain too. We can’t take depression or anxiety from those we love. But we can work hard to make sure we’re loving not only them, but speaking publicly about the reality and truth of these illnesses, including that a whole, whole lot of amazing, wonderful people carry that ocean.

I find myself returning often to mental illness in my stories, sometimes overtly and sometimes indirectly. I don’t know that I always do a good job, but I always try to present anxiety and depression as real, normal aspects of life, with people who get happily ever afters. I think that keeps happening because I cannot control real life but I can control my fiction. I want everyone to feel they have hope. I want everyone to have models of hope. I want everyone to feel they can be okay, whoever they are, whatever they carry.

The quote at the beginning of this post is from a novel coming out in April 2015, about a hero with high-functioning autism and another, the character quoted, who suffers from depression and anxiety. I have the novel on my desk as a pre-edit, a chance to go over it with one last hard polish before my editor and I begin working on it together. When I gave it to people to beta, I gave it to several people I knew had depression and/or anxiety, and then others who didn’t. Or rather, who I thought didn’t. It turned out every single one of my beta readers identified as depressed or anxious or both.

So many of my readers have depression and/or anxiety, which I know because they tell me. The number of times a reader has reduced me to a mess at a signing because they identified with a character who had depression, anxiety, and/or disability is more than I can recount here. It always humbles me, shakes something in my core, because it’s both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful that my words could mean that much to someone, that they could be so personal–but it’s always followed up by my terror that I might have gotten it wrong. That I can never go deep enough, write enough, be careful enough.

I think, though, that is what it is to love someone with depression or anxiety. You must sit with the truth that you cannot take their cup. You cannot be louder than the illness, not always. You cannot always see its blows coming. It can, and too often does, take good people from us. For no reason at all. It is terrible to realize how powerless we are. It is this helplessness and ache which make us screw up, make us try to dismiss people’s depression and anxiety, because we want so much for it not to be true. We don’t want that pain of helplessness, and we try to push it away.

We have to stop pushing that pain away.

I cannot carry anyone else’s ocean for them. But I will probably always try. To be sure, I will carry even more people even more closely now as I do that edit. I will carry every reader who has written or approached me. I will carry my husband and my daughter. I will carry my friends and my family. I will carry the total strangers who connected with me on twitter tonight. I will carry Robin Williams. I will carry everyone I can, knowing I can’t ever be powerful enough to make someone okay. But I can be a light that helps them find their way out. I can be part of a sky full of light. It is worth the pain of trying and failing, because we never know when we are light. Sometimes the simplest thing can be what allows someone else to hold on.

We all can be lights in the darkness. We are all light, even in our greatest darkness. Be light for those you love. Be light for anyone you can. Because yes, depression can fell the most magic, wonderful people. But I will never stop believing that even the tiniest shard of hope can save us all.

Not Enough Memes in the World For My NO: Amazon, Stop Dragging Me Into Your War With New York

What-the-fuck-is-that

Is it me, or does this Ariel look like Victoria Dahl?

I had this whole other post started last night, and then I abandoned it until the wiser hours of the morning. In between now and then, Chuck Wendig has written this, and I can’t say I disagree on a single of his points, though I was up until blarp o’clock talking on the phone, not to a toddler.  I agree that this letter from Amazon, which I was sent because I once tried to upload a free short and then gave up because they made it too hard, is so freaky weird wrong that I seriously still wonder if they aren’t being punked. (Though I like his sentient Al theory.)

Before I get going, however, I want to address readers up front in case you (wisely) see author politics and want to run screaming. Before I turn inward toward industry, let me clarify points I have been worrying my readers might be concerned about.

  1. I want you to buy my books from wherever is most comfortable and easy for you. I will never tell you where to buy your books. If you ask me where I want you to buy them, my answer is always, “Wherever your book buying experience is happiest and best for you.”
  2. I will never make my book exclusive to Amazon, because I know a significant chunk of you don’t want to shop there. To my best ability, I will place my books with as many book-buying options for you as possible, including paperback.
  3. I will never ask you to email anyone on my behalf. Not a publisher, not another author, not any business or individual. I think that’s tacky and gross and invasive of our relationship. If you ever choose to do such a thing on your own, that’s fine. But I want my readers to read my books, and I want that reading experience to be the best for you that it can be. I want nothing to get in the way of that, especially an activist campaign.

 

Now I’m going to talk shop. Please don’t feel bad if you say, “I think I don’t want to read this.” Mostly this is for the authors in the room, because a number of us are scandalized and upset, and we’re talking to each other through our pain.

I CANNOT BELIEVE a book distributor just emailed me and asked me to write an angry letter to a publisher who is not my own. That is still ringing in my head ten hours later. Is Amazon hoping I’m really stupid? Because if I write a letter to a major publishing house parroting the party line of the entity currently at war with them, I run the real and likely risk of being blacklisted not only at that house but all NYC houses. Not because they are big colluding colluders. Because they talk to each other at lunch. You’ve put them all in the same boat, Amazon—you outright say in your letter you see this as a flagship for the great ebook pricing revolution—and even if you hadn’t, those editors chat. If I am a tool to someone at St Martin’s, the Harper Collins editor she goes to the gym with will hear my name associated with bad behavior, and if my agent floats a manuscript to them, they will remember that I’m that ragey-pants bitch who flounced at the SMP editor they do pilates with. So, no. I’m not shooting myself in the foot because you’ve decided all authors should be collateral damage beside the Hachette authors.

53445327Even if that weren’t a fast track to being blacklisted—legitimately so—again, they are not my house! This is not my business! I have no horse in this fight except for the awkward part where except for the extortion, hostage taking, propaganda and bully tactics, I agree with several of Amazon’s points about ebooks. Yes, I sell more books when they’re priced lower. Yes I make more when I get a higher percentage. And yet I don’t always make more money when my ebooks are priced lower. On my popular books I sell about the same number because readers are buying it at any price, and the way math works, I get less when the book is priced lower. Yet I’m okay with that, because I believe if I create enough work of quality, if I work hard and reach deeper and deeper into mainstream romance culture and work hard hard hard to politely, patiently convince readers who haven’t read LGBT romance to try me—I believe, like a doe-eyed Pollyanna, that someday this will pan out for me in a big way.

I don’t know if that’s true, though. My research is personal and based on many variables I have no true details for, and by the way Amazon, YOU are the greatest withholder of information which would help me better understand my career. If you would tell me what the fuck your “bestseller” numbers mean, if you would stop prioritizing sales of people who publish exclusively through you–if it made any goddamn, consistent sense, I could do stuff with that data. But you give me charts with no graph lines and no numbers except on one side, and if I blink the whole board changes.

Let me be frank. I’ve seen “bestselling” authors on Amazon charts, particularly the gay romance chart, publicly crow about their sales numbers, and every time my eyebrows raise, because let me tell you, I know a lot of authors at publishing houses riding the lower levels of those same charts whose numbers smoke the pants off these “bestsellers.” These are always Amazon-only sales, which means these authors are being snookered, told they are better sellers than they truly are, and by miles. This is an example of not only Amazon not helping me but deliberately walling off large bodies of authors into a ghetto, feeding them slop while smiling and telling them this is the best gourmet soup ever, as good as if not better as the stuff they get at that silly New York house down the street! This is great, right? Don’t look over the wall. Stay focused on me.

Because Amazon is not simply a Barnes and Noble who also sells beef tongue, coffee pods, and gluten free groceries. Amazon has become a publisher too, which means they are a publisher trying to dictate terms to other publishers, trying to shrink and thereby control the publishing environment. Let’s be very clear about that and not sugar-coat it. If they were one or the other, it would be different, but they are both. This changes everything and forever gives me pause.

53440643Yes, Amazon, a higher percentage and lower price points which generate higher sales is wonderful. I have that in my publisher Samhain. They give me a beautiful bridge between the assets of New York and the benefits of a small, lean publisher. And so far you’re leaving them alone. But if you successfully topple New York, what will you do to my publisher? What happens when you’ve killed all publishers or all but enough to keep the government from breaking you up as a monopoly and you decide I should settle for 25%? Or back down to New York levels of percentage, but with no production value and basically no control whatsoever, because you have it all now? I love the utopia you paint, except for the part where you’re in control of it all.

I love Amazon. I use it at least once a week to order something. I buy my books exclusively on kindle one click download because it’s the way I like to do it. I make, no question, the lion’s share of my money on Amazon. We’re at this moment waiting for what we call in this house the “Amazon check” from Tough Love, the payment from my publisher where Amazon’s release day numbers show up in the royalty payout. It’s always the big dump, the money we can use to pay things down and squirrel away, and those numbers always carry on for several months. When I give away books and readers tell me format, overwhelmingly it is mobi. There is so very much about Amazon that defines and shapes my life and my career.

Which is why I get so upset when I see things like this. I don’t want to hate Amazon. I don’t want them to drunk text authors and god help me, readers, pissing me off so much I start getting books from elsewhere and figuring out how to upload them on my kindle. Because I’ll buy less books then. Part of the lure of one-click is it’s so effortless. I have no time to second-guess myself. I can buy a book via a twitter link on my phone. My kindle becomes littered with gems while I shop for groceries. My readers love Amazon. I want Amazon to stay.

I don’t, however, want Amazon to take over. I think the Big Five have a lot to learn about ebooks and the way the world is turning, but I believe whole-heartedly they should be able to make those decisions themselves. I understand and respect they have much more data than I do and are making the choices they make because they truly believe they’re the best for them and for their authors. I comprehend that there is a true and frustrating ceiling to being a largely ebook author, and that Amazon is only interested in helping me reach further if I give them exclusivity—though as mentioned above, I don’t know how in the world I’d be able to measure my success.

53445517I don’t want to be kept in the dark. I don’t want one bookseller to rule them all. I don’t want to kiss the ring of anyone—I don’t want New York to be able to make my small publishers go away because they’re frustrating to the world they used to know and understand, and I don’t want Amazon to create some post-apocalyptic new world order. I want to write my work, get paid a fair wage for it, and get the widest distribution possible. So no, Amazon. I won’t be emailing on your behalf.  You need to fight your own battles. And honestly, you need to be careful. Yes, I spend a lot of money at your business and enjoy a number of sales because of you. I want you to remain strong and let me keep doing both those things. This? This isn’t strength. This is insanity.

Amazon. Sell shit. That’s what you do well. If you don’t like New York publishers, don’t sell their books. You don’t have to. Except you know what we all know, don’t you, that they still make the lion’s share of everyone’s money. Should they maybe join this century? Yes. Are things in publishing going to get worse before they get better? Yes. Very much yes. But this isn’t helping. This is a power grab and manipulation, and I absolutely don’t ever want you to involve me in it again. And never bother my readers. If you try to shame my readers into your war, I really will start shopping elsewhere, even if it’s less convenient and means I can’t stream Hot in Cleveland on Amazon Prime anymore. As you point out, there’s a lot of content out there. I’ll find a way to survive.

Congrats, Amy and Miss Rose Rose, also an update since I’m overdue.

picard_clappingAmy R won her choice of paperback, and Miss Rose Rose won the ebook. Congrats to you both!

On to the quick update portion of the blog post: as you can tell from the way I’m ready to shout at online magazines, I’m feeling pretty good. Recovery is going quite well. I’m 2.5 weeks into my 6-8 week recovery, and I feel better than I have in ten years. A lot of my chronic pain is gone, though not quite all. I still get intermittent neck and shoulder trouble, and after a great start my feet and knees are still a bit princessy, but overall, everything is good. There are also some signs that the food stuff might calm down, but no, you can’t come over yet and hand me an egg and cheese on wheat with some almond milk to wash it down. Environmental allergies are also a bit improved, though still there. There’s hope those may all ebb or reduce, but this will be the work of months and possibly years.

My biggest issue is I need to rest, and I’m not always good at it. I still get tired very quickly, and it’s essential I listen when systems shut down. For example, tonight Anna and I went on several errands, and I did really well–right up until the end. So though I wanted to go to the grocery store too, I had to put that off until tomorrow. That and everybody has to carry everything for me. But I’m able to do small household tasks now, and I think tomorrow I’m going to try driving out of town.

So the bottom line is, things are good, and so am I. Thanks to everybody for the cards, notes of support, and everything. They totally helped.

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