BELL LET’S TALK DAY – Every Day is Mental Illness Awareness Day

Today is the day that Bell has marketed as #BELLLETSTALK day. Their reasoning is that an official day of mental health issue awareness would start the conversation…that would hopefully continue into all the other days of the year. Let’s Talk is all about awareness and peeling back the stigma that has traditionally surrounded those suffering mental illnesses.

These few simple truths, when believed-followed-lived, should set sufferers free and end bullying and shame and denial and hate and confusion and judgement.

1. There is no shame in having any of the dis-eases on the entire spectrum covered by the blanket catch-all term mental illness.

If you need a number 2, it’s that those who suffer from mental illness are people…just like everybody else. People who need people. People who love. People who feel. People who have lives and a desire to have fulfilling lives despite the obstacles real or perceived that stand in their way.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness. ~ Bell Let’s Talk

I tend to cover mental illness in much of my writing. One of the two main characters in my 3rd novel, THE REASONS, suffered a mental illness. It’s when it is not addressed, not spoken of, not dealt with, that chaos ensues. I did my best to show the turmoil of suffering mental illness while simultaneously suffering the consequences of shame and not speaking and not dealing in the character of Maggie Reason.

The opening lines of The Reasons, my third novel.
The opening lines of The Reasons, my third novel.

I will always talk of mental illness. I will always address mental illness. I will always shed light on mental illness. We live in a time where the suffering can be minimized. Because we live in a time where we can educate both those who suffer and those who do not suffer. Removing the stigma is more than half the battle. The stigma, over time, is one brick after another loaded on top of the sufferer. Imagine having bricks placed upon you, one after another, sometimes for years and years. The weight is excruciating. There comes a point when it is the bricks that are doing the damage. It’s a monster that feeds upon itself. SHAME. SHAME. SHAME. It begins to weigh more than the original mental illness. Just imagine removing those bricks. One at a time until the sufferer is free of the added weight of shame and stigma. Imagine being free to work only on the mental illness. I want to live in that world. I want that freedom for mental illness sufferers. I’m on board. Bell, Let’s Talk!

(Today, I also reviewed ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES on my book review blog at TRYTHISBOOKONFORSIZE. It’s a great YA read that deals with mental health issues.)

Happy Book Birthday to ME! Half Dead & Fully Broken is Now Released!

It’s been a long time coming! Half Dead & Fully Broken won the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon’s BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD. Slow-forward almost 5 years and here we are… RELEASE DAY! Carter Colby was one of my favourite characters to create. I’m so happy to finally get to share him with readers. You can 1-click Half Dead now at Amazon and start reading right away! Click on the cover below:

cover2500Here’s the synopsis for Half Dead:

Carter Colby is the most unpopular teen at Jefferson High. This would be easier to deal with if his identical twin brother, Marcus, weren’t the hottest, most popular boy in school.

When Marcus is killed in a motorcycle accident, Carter discovers the one thing more painful than trying to compete with Mr. Wonderful: wearing his dead brother’s face. He felt invisible before the accident, but with Marcus dead, everybody turns away from him in mourning. How can he blame them? He can’t bear to look in the mirror.

When Carter begins to see Marcus’ ghost, Mr. Wonderful’s quest to save the world and spread happiness may not be over after all, even in death. Marcus knows that Justin Dewar, the boy who drove the truck that crashed into his motorbike, is struggling with the guilt of taking a life. Melanie, Marcus’ mourning girlfriend, was also hit hard by the tragedy. Marcus wants to make things right before it’s too late.

With Marcus’ help, Carter experiences love and friendship for the first time in his life. But is Mr. Wonderful’s helping hand enough for Carter, Melanie, and Justin – three kids fully broken by the tragedy – to save one another?

LOOK FOR THE PAPERBACK VERSION TO BE AVAILABLE ANY DAY NOW! (-: It will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters, etc.

Add Half Dead to your GOODREADS SHELF.

Team Carter Begins in 4 Days. Change Everything (MNM, MaleSurvivor)

I’m getting excited about the arrival of my 5th novel, HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN. I remember with great fondness writing this one at the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon! I’m sure you’ve heard all about this marathon by now. It takes place in a small town in Northern Ontario…but its reputation has now gained something of an international notoriety. For those of you NOT acquainted with the marathon, I will share with you now the movie created to celebrate it. This movie aired on national television here in Canada. It’s comprised 100% of still images, but looks like live action. It’s really quite amazing. I can’t even remember the amount of still shots gone in to make this movie. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

So, basically, 30ish writers get together over a 72hour long weekend. We each write a novel. We sleep, we eat, we laugh, we cry, we angst, we shout, we sing, we get stupid, we write, we write, we write. We also each come in with sponsors. It’s a marathon to raise funds for literacy. And raise funds, we do. In 2014 alone, we raised over $21,000.00 for literacy programs in Muskoka/Simcoe County.

Half Dead is the story of Carter Colby, and his dead twin Marcus. I will include the synopsis at the end of this post. While writing this story, I was in a completely overwhelmed with emotions. It was a thrilling roller coaster ride discovering the story while I frantically wrote into the night into the morning into the afternoon into the night into the morning into the afternoon into…you get the picture. From beginning to end in 72 hours, just rushing through the story to find out what happens next. My favourite way to write. I hope I caught something in the story worth the time of my readers. I feel like I did. I cried while writing the ending. That’s usually a pretty good sign. (-:

While I have you, I like to mention an organization that has helped me in the most profound way. It’s an organization that continually saves lives. MALE SURVIVOR. Their tagline, for those who are unfamiliar with the organization, is MaleSurvivor provides critical resources to male survivors of sexual trauma and all their partners in recovery by building communities of Hope, Healing, & Support.

Below, you can watch their video entitled WHAT IS MALE SURVIVOR:

Through attending 2 of their Weekend of Recovery retreats, I count myself among those saved by Weekend of Recovery. They made me realize that I had the power to change everything. Only when one is willing to work on past pain, can one eventually become free of it. Please consider this my semi-regular shout-out to Male Survivor. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, or know someone who is, there is no need to suffer in silence. Seek help. If not from MaleSurvivor, then from an organization in your area. The more we raise our voices against sexual abuse, the more resources we will have to combat its effects. You are not alone. And it is not your fault. Rebirth is just a step away. Having waited over 30 years to take that step, I know intimately how difficult it is to take it. But I promise you, it gets better once you take that first step. The road to recovery from the all-encompassing and devastating effects of sexual abuse is right there…just waiting.

So, here’s the cover for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN. You can click on it to go to Amazon, where it is already available for PRE-ORDER:

51OeS9ITAHL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_The story goes like this:

Carter Colby is the most unpopular teen at Jefferson High. This would be easier to deal with if his identical twin brother, Marcus, weren’t the hottest, most popular boy in school.

When Marcus is killed in a motorcycle accident, Carter discovers the one thing more painful than trying to compete with Mr. Wonderful: wearing his dead brother’s face. He felt invisible before the accident, but with Marcus dead, everybody turns away from him in mourning. How can he blame them? He can’t bear to look in the mirror.

When Carter begins to see Marcus’ ghost, Mr. Wonderful’s quest to save the world and spread happiness may not be over after all, even in death. Marcus knows that Justin Dewar, the boy who drove the truck that crashed into his motorbike, is struggling with the guilt of taking a life. Melanie, Marcus’ mourning girlfriend, was also hit hard by the tragedy. Marcus wants to make things right before it’s too late.

With Marcus’ help, Carter experiences love and friendship for the first time in his life. But is Mr. Wonderful’s helping hand enough for Carter, Melanie, and Justin – three kids fully broken by the tragedy – to save one another?

Half Dead comes out on Monday January 19th. It will be my 5th published novel. It was also my 3rd of 4 BEST NOVEL AWARD wins at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. I am absurdly proud of my wins at the MNM. If you pick up #HDAFB, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And I also hope that, at one point or another, you cry like a baby. (-: Looking forward to your indoctrination into #TeamCarter (-;

In other news, my BURN BABY BURN BABY is getting the most incredible reviews I’ve ever had. It was released last month and has had a steady stream of beautiful praise that has left me speechless. You can check out Burn Baby Burn Baby on Amazon by clicking the book cover below:

51Wb19wCHtL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_You can find all my books on GOODREADS RIGHT HERE.

Remember one thing…you have the power to change everything. No matter what it is. Either for yourself or for others. Don’t be afraid to use that power.

I leave you with the song that began to play while I walked into my first MALE SURVIVOR WEEKEND OF RECOVERY. It gutted me like nothing ever gutted me before or after. The anxiety I was feeling, dealing with uncovering a lifetime of darkness, might have had something to deal with it. But I still can’t listen to this song without shattering. It came to me at the moment of my first step. I knew it was going to be one of the hardest weekends of my life. And I also knew, as I listened to this song, that it would be my rebirth.

MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN.

Give Me the Feels or Give Me Nothing! Cry, Baby, Cry…

You’ll have to pay attention for this post, I’m afraid. I feel madly-off-in-all-directions at the moment. This is the result of the current young adult novel I’m reading. If the last half is even close to the effortless perfection of the first half, I know I will use it from this day forward as the template for the perfect novel. It will be the measuring stick I will continually hold myself up to from this point on. Because its recipe is exactly what I look for in a read.

I want to feel. I want to bleed. I want to bawl like a baby until the snot is flying in all directions and I can’t see because of the abundance of tears. That is my pleasure in reading. To feel. To be gutted.

This is also my pleasure as a writer. I want to punch my readers in the feels. I want to take them on a roller coaster ride that toys not so much with their adrenaline glands as with their feels buttons. If I make a reader cry, I feel I have done my job. But I’m not talking gratuitous crying. I want them to believe that the people in my stories are real…that they experience loss and love and pain and hate and madness. I want the reader to live and die with my characters. I need it. And in the end, when they flip over that last page and gently place my book down on the table beside them, I want them to feel a soft torrent of heartbreak and redemption. Of loss and hope. Of pain and bliss.

That’s all. I don’t ask for much.

So I picked up this novel that spoke to me so powerfully it had a halo of neon signage around it. READ ME! READ ME! READ ME! Sometimes, I just have to listen to my inner-reader. I need to read the books it tells me to read.

The book?

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by JENNIFER NIVEN. < Click there to go to Amazon to read about this beautiful book that will soon be a movie…

READ THIS BOOK!
READ THIS BOOK!

Every once in a blue moon a book comes along and I know, even before I have finished reading it, that it will change me. This is one of those books.

And when I finish reading it, I will recalculate my goal as a writer. I will attempt to not emulate Niven, but to reach that level of emotional pull she has achieved in this young adult masterpiece. It’s not in me to copy other authors, to attempt to write the next The Fault in Our Stars or the next The Perks of Being a Wallflower or the next All The Bright Places. That’s never my goal when I attempt a new novel. My goal is to step up the emotional impact I’ll have on my readers. And reading gems like these? That’s what it’s going to take to get me there. And get there, I will. Because I want to make everybody cry like a baby. Give me the feels or give me nothing!

A Sure-Fire List to Help Motivate Your Inner Writer Into Actually Writing! Follow This List Carefully and You Will Be Writing Again!

Have I done a list lately? I should keep a list of the lists I list. Or is that list the lists I keep?

In a writing slump? Finding it hard to finish that Great Canadian (American, Armenian or otherwise) Novel? Trying to dedicate more time to writing this year because you’re one of those people who makes New Year Resolutions? Follow this list to a tee and you should find yourself back on the writing wagon. If you’re already on the writing wagon and you follow this list, you will find yourself even more connected to your writing. My point? Follow this list and you will write more.

The questionnaire
Do not skip items on this list. Follow it closely, or there is no hope for you. If you falter, you might go gently into the night and get lost forever in the vast vacuous land of NOT WRITING. Proceed with caution and a willingness to adapt yourself to the points made on the upcoming list you are about to read…

How to Write When You’re Not Feeling Writerly (OR When You’re Feeling Stabby and Murderous Towards Words, How Do You Embrace Them and Make Them Work in Your Favour…Even Though You Hate Them)


  1. Turn OFF the social media and Click the wifi to OFF. I know it’s impossible to imagine, but these things are distractions…killers of the imagination, even while they are stimulating it. If you follow this first item in this list, you will significantly increase your outflow of words. The increase could quite possibly be tenfold.
  2. See the first item in this list. Quite frankly, if you got this far in the list you aren’t following the steps properly.
  3. ARE YOU STILL HERE. Stop reading this. Turn off the internet and write.
  4. Don’t make me yell at you. SIT. WRITE. Open only one window…whatever program it is you use to write with.
  5. I’m gonna keep this list short and to the point. Only 5 items. Item 5 is CLOSE THIS WINDOW. SIT. WRITE. <<This advice works if you’re a beginner writer, or if you’re someone like that up-and-comer Stephen King…who has a couple books under his belt.

If you’re still here, clearly you’re not heeding my warnings. If you’d rather read than write, click on the image below to get yourself over to GOODREADS to enter to win a paperback copy of my latest novel, BURN BABY BURN BABY. The contest ends JANUARY 11, 2015!

goodreads

If you’re on INSTAGRAM, follow the steps in the picture below to win a paperback copy of BURN BABY BURN BABY in the INSTAGRAM contest! The easiest way to enter this one would be to go to Instagram and repost this image from my account. Instagram is sometimes tricky with resizing, etc.

Follow the Directions in this image to enter to win a paperback of Burn Baby Burn Baby on Instagram!
Follow the Directions in this image to enter to win a paperback of Burn Baby Burn Baby on Instagram!

Okay…now there is still a chance for you. Turn it all off. SIT. WRITE. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. No magical equation. No tricks or gimmicks. To write more all you need to do is write more. One word in front of the other without the everyday distractions that weigh you down and mess with your creativity and drive. SIT. WRITE.

On the (Almost) Eve of Release Day – Novel Number Five – Feeling Half Dead and Fully Broken

13 Days. Less than two weeks. That’s when my 5th novel will be published. Between you and me, it’s also my personal favourite! HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN wrote itself. No surprise, but it was yet another Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. I wrote it in 72 hours. It’s my fourth marathon novel to be published. And it’s also one of the four that won BEST NOVEL AWARD at the marathon. Half Dead won Best YOUNG ADULT Novel…way back in 2010. That well and truly feels like a lifetime ago from where I’m standing at the moment.

Background on Half Dead? One of my readers recently pointed out to me that I have twins in practically everything I write. This is something I actually wasn’t even aware of. I don’t know how one doesn’t become aware of something so glaringly obvious as that? It unhinges me. Another example of my habit of going through life with blinders on. Not always a huge plot point, I have nonetheless sprinkled most of my novels with the presence of twins.

Where was I? Yes…background. So Half Dead & Fully Broken is the story of identical twin brothers Carter and Marcus Colby. One is the most popular boy in school, the other is the least popular–showing that looks are only one of the deciding factors that go into creating the hierarchy of popularity.

Carter is the story’s narrator. He is also the surviving brother. It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Marcus doesn’t make it. In fact, Carter will let you know this fact on PAGE 1. The story is really about what happens after DEAD Marcus comes back.

For the record, if your twin ever dies, be prepared. It’s out of this world freaky when a dead guy looks exactly like you in every way. A lot creepier than you can ever imagine when they actually come back. But, hey, he is my brother. I can’t turn my back on family just because he’s dead. Believe me, though, I thought about it.

Carter is a bitter sarcastic guy who is sadly misunderstood. (-: His amazing brother, even dead, is there for him. Marcus is one of those guys EVERYBODY loves. When he sees an injustice, he works to correct it. No surprise he carried on this noble trait even after death. The twins kind of team up to right the wrongs created in a moment of bad decision-making. Fallout is a terrible thing to live through…unless you’re lucky enough to have a guardian angel on your side.

Here’s the synopsis for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN:

Carter Colby is the most unpopular teen in school. This would be easier to deal with if his identical twin brother, Marcus, weren’t the hottest, most popular boy in school. Sharing a face with Mr. I-can-do-anything-better-than-you, Mr. Helpful, Mr. Reliable, Mr. Freaking Wonderful—it’s not as easy as it sounds. When Marcus is killed in a motorcycle accident, Carter discovers there are things even harder to deal with than trying to compete with Mr. Wonderful…and that’s sharing a face with a dead Mr. Wonderful. Nobody wants to see Carter now that he’s walking around with Marcus’s face. He felt invisible before the accident, but with Marcus dead he sees everybody turn away from him in mourning. But how can he blame them, he can’t even bear to look in the mirror anymore.

But Marcus has a plan. Even dead, he’s still up for saving the world and spreading happiness. Carter begins to see Marcus’s ghost and Marcus has a few magic tricks up his sleeve to share with his brother. But there’s a reason for his presence. Marcus knows that Justin Dewar, the boy who drove the truck that crashed into his motorbike when Marcus ran a red light, is struggling with the guilt of taking a life. Marcus’s plan is to put everything right before it’s too late and all is lost. But he needs Carter to help him…he needs to use Carter’s body to bring his plan into action. It may sound hard, but it really isn’t. He just has to slither inside and take the helm of his brother’s body. Once inside, the two become the superhero Carter once dreamed of being as a child.

With Marcus’s help, Carter experiences love and friendship for the first time in his life. Marcus, even in death, has the power to do the right thing. He brings Carter together with Melanie, his mourning girlfriend, and Justin, the boy who drove the truck that plowed into his motorbike. The three are all broken after the accident, but with Marcus’s help they just might be saved. It’s a race to save the distraught Justin, though. With Marcus’s help, Carter and Melanie set out to do just that. And along the journey to saving Justin, they might even inadvertently save themselves.

HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN releases on January 19th, but you can pre-order with 1-CLICK on Amazon today! Click the cover below:

51OeS9ITAHL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

I’m kind of stunned that HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN is finally getting published. It’s my absolute favourite so far! I loved loved loved writing it. The most fun I ever had writing a novel. And I’m almost finished a BOOK 2 too. ALIVE & KICKING is another Carter Colby story. It’s darker and more dangerous…but just as much fun to write. Here’s hoping it will one day be available to my readers. (-:

Meanwhile, BURN BABY BURN BABY got another amazing review today on Amazon! This one from a soon-to-be teacher who said they’d love to use BBBB in their curriculum. You can check out all the reviews at Amazon and 1-CLICK Burn Baby Burn Baby too. Just click on the cover below:

51Wb19wCHtL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

From the latest review, mentioned above: “I plan to be a teacher someday and I definitely see myself using this book in my lessons to teach about bullying, acceptance, and compassion.” To visit the full review on the reviewer’s blog go to: TINA, THE BOOKWORM

Hashtags: #BurnBabyBurnBaby and #HDAFB