Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse Speaks Out: Being Silenced Again

2016 has been an incredible year. I have witnessed many achievements as they were realized, and I have experienced many losses. Juxtaposed on either end of this continuum of achievements attained in 2016 are the publication of my debut YA novel, The Packing House, on 1/18/16, and the closing of my publisher, Booktrope, on 5/31/16, when my book goes out of print and the voice that took nearly 40 years to find goes silent once more.

  • Published my first book
  • Earned my first book award, "Indie Reader Approved" and a 4 Star review from Indie Reader
  • Inducted into Chi Sigma Iota International Honor Society for Counseling
  • Attended first Weekend of Recovery (Male Survivor)
  • Signed a contract to publish a poem and interview in an upcoming anthology to benefit, Things We Haven't Said, tentatively scheduled for January 2017 publication
  • Received high rate of 4 and 5 star reviews on The Packing House
  • Worked full time while attending grad school for counseling while maintaining a 3.9 GPA

  • First book goes unpublished as of 5/31/16 due to publisher closing
  • Demands of work and grad school schedule limit how much time I have to devote to writing additional books to recover losses
  • Despite many positive aspect of publication, poor marketing has negatively impacted book sales and reader awareness the book even exists
  • A 5 month window of being published is too narrow a window to reach the full extent of potential readers
  • Commitment to donate 20% of every book sold is limited by the length of time The Packing House has been in print, and by the poor marketing efforts which led my publisher to close.
  • Financial burden after investing in the promotion and marketing of The Packing House does not yield increased book sales
  • Despite finding my voice as a survivor of child sexual abuse through this book's publication, going out of print essentially silences my voice once more

How will I respond to my voice being silenced? I was four when I first experienced the silencing effect that shame has on a survivor of child sexual abuse. At such a young age, I found it very difficult to speak up about my abuse. It took me decades to climb out of the aftermath, the rubble, and find a way to speak about what had happened.
When I first started writing about my abuse in the form of poetry in high school, I knew I had much more to say, but had no idea how to bring the words to the surface in a way that would speak out over so many years of silence and darkness. Despite a poor attempt to begin a short story entitled, "The Packing House," it wouldn't be until years later that I would attempt to convert what was a spark of an idea in high school, into a novel. Told from the perspective of the older brother, rather than his mother, The Packing House took 3 months to write the first draft, more than 20 cover to cover rewrites, 1,000s of edits and revisions, and a full five years devoted to querying. I was offered a contract from a small press, but felt it was not the best choice. I was very grateful for the acknowledgment, but passed on that offer.
During those five years of querying, I received 8 requests for partial manuscripts from various agents, 5 requests for full manuscripts, and one revise and resubmit request. Several times, I went to the point of receiving an offer of representation, only to be passed on for a variety of reasons. At one point, another publisher closed while my book was under consideration with their Head Editor. Finally, I decided it was time to shelve the book, and begin a master's degree program when the contract offer of publication came from Booktrope. The process to take the MS and revise it to the point of publication took two full passes with three layers of edits by my amazing editor, Jessica West, and another month of work with my proof reader, the incredible Kathryn Galan, to get The Packing House to its final, published form.
Yet all of this goes back to a four year old boy who was sexually abused and silenced for what was done to him. I had a promise that I would gain back what was taken from me, and I believe there was some interest owing on that promise. I mean to get every cent back. I am not talking about money. I am talking about something worth far more than that: lives changed. Survivors who are heard, validated, and who can find a way to heal from the aftermath of their abuse. That is what I am after.
So, I am out on query now, seeking representation from an agent who is willing to risk re-publishing a book about abuse and a boy and a girl in love. I plan to finish writing book two of this planned duology, and begin one of several new series.
I have a MG series on dragons and shadows I plan to begin this summer with my two oldest boys, and a YA fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast in a steampunk world with a gender swap of the characters. In  my world, the Beast is the girl, and the Beauty is the boy. I've also got a YA Prom-themed murder mystery series, and a YA dystopian series about twins and multiples and a world where there is no disease, at the expense of one half of these sets of twins being held prisoner by the government.
This is your very last chance to decide to purchase your own first edition copy of The Packing House before they are no longer available and out of print. They are currently scheduled to end availability on 5/31/16. However, they could go out of print sooner, if the provider has to take them down to meet the deadline of 5/31/16. Currently you can purchase a Kindle version or Paperback at Amazon. Barnes and Noble has already removed both the Nook and Paperback version, other than a 3rd party seller who thinks you'll pay $47. Other sellers are linked in the upper right side bar.

Following this date, my rights revert to me (I already have the documentation on this) as of June 1st, and I wait to hear back from a few select agents.

I will close by saying thank you to all my readers and followers. Thank you for reading The Packing House, for reviewing and sharing your experience with others, and for recommending it to others. Without you, gaining my voice would not have mattered as much as it has. Thank you.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Smell of Smoke: Surviving the Aftermath of Trauma

            Survivors. We smell the smoke. It seeps into our clothing and surrounds us like a heavy fog. Ashes rain down like snowfall, cover us in dust, catch in our eyelashes, and clump under our fingernails. The flames have long since flickered out. Even so, the houses of our lives have burned to the ground in the aftermath of the trauma we have endured. Somehow, we made it through.
           We know what it feels like to sit down in the charred remains, to dig among the rubble, searching for meaning, something to hold onto or bring us back to the present. We try our best. Some days, we are lost. Flooded by memories that feel so real they could be mistaken for right now. Our reality is skewed. Other days, we manage to feel things as we turn them over and over in blackened hands, tracing their edges as if they could construct words and speak to us. These objects are our Braille, and we are blinded and reeling in the aftereffects of all that has happened.
            We probably look strange from the outside. The reality we walk through each day is heavy with silence, guilt, and shame. These things press down hard upon us, like the words we’ve taken in and have running endlessly on repeat just loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to consciously register them anymore. From the outside, you can’t see the devastation, the loss, or what it continues to cost us to survive.
           From your vantage point, we look rather like a lost puppy, or a homeless person begging coins and food on the street corner. The urge to turn your head and ignore us is strong. This only adds to the cacophony of silence. For the trauma to have happened, it required silence and tolerance. Looking the other way. None of that helps us. Instead, it further validates our abusers and their actions toward us. If you haven’t yet, this is where you’ll turn away.

            We keep going.

            We walk on hot coals, smoldering beneath our feet, ready to reignite at any moment a spark falls upon our steps. One memory stacks upon another, increasing the heat of the flames that relentlessly burn. Fire ebbs and flows. It comes and goes. At times, it can build until it seems an entire forest is aflame. At other times, the coalbed, while hot, is banked to the back corner of the fireplace, barely keeping the chill off. Yet, still we rub our hands expectantly for warmth.
            We are in the aftershock and there aren’t enough blankets to weigh us down and keep the shivers away. Absentmindedly, our soot-covered hands work through the ash heap looking for something else that made it through the flames, perhaps with scorch marks, but intact enough to recognize. It might as well be a mirror. That’s exactly what a survivor is, too.
            Do you know a survivor? Chances are, you do. One in four women and one in six men, before they turn eighteen, have survived child sexual abuse. The statistics for rape, of both men and women, as well as those from the trans and gender fluid communities, are even worse. All of us are survivors. All of us have endured trauma. We went through the fires. We were likely burned. Many of us are still reeling from the aftereffects. Without support, we might choose a path that includes self-medicating (such as alcohol, drugs, and other substance abuses, addictions such as porn, and self-harm) behaviors.
There is hope. There is a way through the fire. There is life on the other side. Mindfulness may help you get there. Resiliency, too. Recovery is possible. Change is possible.
Most importantly of all: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Many, many others travel with you.
Check out these pinterest boards for survivor resources:


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Release Day Celebration: The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece with Giveaway

Happy Release Day to
The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece!
Join us in celebrating this new release from Month9Books!
Enter the giveaway found at the end of the post.
Happy Book Birthday, Julie!
The Paladins Cover
The Artisan curse is broken. Souls trapped in a mysterious otherworld called The Void are finally released. Now, Raven Weathersby, Gideon Maddox, and Cole Wynter can finally move on with their lives...or so they thought. If the ancient magic is truly dead, then why are mystical fires plaguing Gideon at every turn? What accounts for Raven’s frightening visions of her dead mother? And who is the beautiful, tortured girl haunting Cole’s dreams?
Last year, a group of lonely teens sacrificed secrets, battled the supernatural, and faced their own demons to set one another free. Yet six months later, the heart of evil still beats within The Void. And the trio is forced to face the horrific truth: that their only way out is to go back in.
The Paladins completes this eerie YA Southern Gothic where loyalties are tested, love is challenged, and evil seeks them on the ultimate battlegrounds—in their minds, their souls, and their hearts.

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The Paladins (The Artisans #2) by Julie Reece Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books

Gideon’s arms slide around my waist as I stand at the kitchen sink with my snack. I’m trying to work up the courage to tell him what happened in my room this morning. All day I’ve avoided delivering the news that may derail our careful plans for fall semester.
Warm breath lingers on the back of my head sending delicious chills though my body. His fingers gently brush the skin on my stomach beneath my blouse, and I fight the urge to turn and leap into his arms. The guy emits more dangerous energy than a leaky power plant. Still, I hold back.
I was the one who wanted to go slowly. Like, first gear slow. Maybe just idle. Call me old fashioned, but I always dreamed that my first time sleeping with a guy would be with my husband on our honeymoon. I still want that, and him, but I just turned eighteen.
The muscles under his golden skin flex as his arms tighten around me. How does he make me feel safe and nervous at the same time? His nose parts the hair above my ear. Steady breaths, finally drive me to place my cookie on the counter and face him. My hands slide around his neck, fingers playing with the silky curls at his nape. I love the spicy scent of black licorice that’s distinctly his.
He lowers his head, nose rubbing mine before he lets his lips drift over my mouth. Whisper soft, his hesitant touch is an excruciating tease. Always, there’s curiosity and the promise of more to come.
My fingers untangle at his neck and drop to the bulge in his biceps. I can’t help enjoying the way they bunch when he holds me. My legs lose strength, knees weaken. There’s every possibility the boy will kiss me into unconsciousness. Can that happen? He must know because he holds me so close I hardly have the air to speak.
The Artisans
They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.
To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day.
Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad's drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.
But Raven's stepdad's drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she's ever known out of jail, or worse.
Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries' clothing line, signing over her creative rights.
Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can't imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.
But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?

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Born in Ohio, I lived next to my grandfather’s horse farm until the fourth grade. Summers were about riding, fishing and make-believe, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all.
I struggled with multiple learning disabilities, did not excel in school. I spent much of my time looking out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) I fought dyslexia for my right to read, like a prince fights a dragon in order to free the princess locked in a tower, and I won.
Afterwards, I read like a fiend. I invented stories where I could be the princess… or a gifted heroine from another world who kicked bad guy butt to win the heart of a charismatic hero. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Later, I moved to Florida where I continued to fantasize about superpowers and monsters, fabricating stories (my mother called it lying) and sharing them with my friends.
Then I thought I’d write one down…
Hooked, I’ve been writing ever since. I write historical, contemporary, urban fantasy, adventure, and young adult romances. I love strong heroines, sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. My writing is proof you can work hard to overcome any obstacle. Don’t give up. I say, if you write, write on!
Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win!