Book Cover and ARC Giveaway for The Unhappening of Genesis Lee!

Apr 28, 2014

You guys...IT'S MY BOOK COVER!

I'm so excited to share what the designer at Sky Pony did with the cover for The Unhappening of Genesis Lee. It's so beautiful, I totally fell into the stare-at-my-cover-on-the-screen-all-day trap. I love it and I'm thrilled to share it with you all! Hafsah at IceyBooks was awesome and pulled together a great cover reveal for me, and I'm even giving away an ARC over there!

Go forth and enter, and admire, and (if you'd be so willing) share!

Altering Perceptions of Mental Illness-- It's a long road

Apr 22, 2014

It's no secret that many writers deal with mental illnesses of some kind. For some reason, the creative mind seems particularly prone to them. And despite the fact that many of us are trying to change our perception and others' perceptions about mental illnesses as actual illnesses, I think we still have a ways to go.

Author Robison Wells has been very open online about his several mental illnesses, and I am personally so grateful to him for that. Why? Because I deal with mental illness too. Rob's are much more severe than mine. So severe that he's in deep medical debt. And right now, his friends and fellow authors have banded together to help him. Before I go any farther, please go check out the IndieGoGo campaign to help raise this money-- not only can you get an anthology of fabulous work by well-known authors like Brandon Sanderson and Dan Wells, but a host of other things as well. You'll be helping a fellow writer and human being through a financially-devastating illness.

Now, I'll get a little personal. I've dealt with episodic depression and anxiety for years-- in fact, there was a point in my life where I didn't even realize that's what it was. But looking back, I recognize it now. For me, it wasn't until after my second child that it got bad enough for me to recognize it in the moment. Four months after my baby was born, I sat in the car with my children, trying to cry as quietly as possible so they wouldn't hear, and no longer saw a point to life.

I wasn't quite suicidal, but it was a wake-up call. I called my doctor that afternoon, and was diagnosed with postpartum depression the next day. I was given a number for a psychiatrist and a prescription for anti-depressants. Driving home, I had a strange mix of relief that I could treat what was wrong with me, and shame. Shame for the pills in that little white bag on the seat next to me. I should have been able to fix this. Why couldn't I just control my emotions, change my attitude, and make it better? Why was I so weak that I needed a pill for my damn EMOTIONS?

You see, even as a sufferer of a mental illness, I didn't see it as an illness. I simply saw myself as weak.

Looking back now, I'm still not sure if my depression was true postpartum, the beginnings of my multiple sclerosis symptoms, or some mixture of both. I don't think it really matters. Whether it was hormones screwing with my brain, or my immune system eating away at the nerves directing my emotional currents, it was out of my control. My physical MS symptoms started within the next month and a half, and after I was diagnosed, we discovered that some of my MS symptoms were being exacerbated by the side-effects of my anti-depression meds. Cautiously, I weaned myself from them under my doctor's care, and watched as my MS symptoms abated completely.

Fred and George, my new zebra finches, are helpful as
my cheerful little therapy birds.
I've now been unmedicated for my depression and anxiety for a year, but the illness hasn't gone away. I have a suspicion that the nerves damaged in my initial MS attack are permanently scarred, because the things that can trigger my other MS symptoms to resurface temporarily-- heat, tiredness, stress, eating certain foods--trigger my mental symptoms as well. I'm managing with alternate therapies like therapy animals, real therapy, meditation, diet changes, etc., but there are days when the anxiety especially renders me incapable of doing things.

It's exhausting, mentally, physically, and financially, to look at the rest of my life and realize I'll likely struggle with this forever. That I'll have to be very careful with the medications I take for it. But I've finally gotten to the point where I realize it IS an illness. We tend to view illness in our world as something physical. Something obvious to others-- a cough, a rash, glassy eyes, hot forehead. Emotions and mental processes, however, are invisible. And we are taught they can be under our control if we just try hard enough. But when the brain is broken-- when chemicals malfunction, when nerve signals short-circuit--it's invisible, it's "in our head." It's hard to understand that just because it's in the brain doesn't mean we control it with our thoughts or willpower.

I've realized there's not much I can say to really remove the stigma of mental illness. Even I, who thought I truly viewed them as real illnesses, still felt shame over my own lack of control when those illnesses took me over. Even I still feel guilt on the worst days for being unable to do the things I want and need to do, for putting pressure on my family, for crying in public. It can be hard for an outsider to distinguish mental illness from other things like laziness, drugs, or just "being weird and crazy." And I think that's why it's so hard to change the stigma, to change the fact that we often view mental illness as craziness, laziness, or the patient's own fault.

My friends, I know some of you deal with these illnesses. If you don't, I guarantee you know someone who does. I know it can be strange and uncomfortable to see yourself or someone else going through it, and hard to change our thought processes. To all of you, I say, be kind. Be kind to the ones you know. It's hard, when you yourself don't understand what's going on in their head. You don't have to understand. Start by being kind. Give people the benefit of the doubt instead of a judging glance. Be kind to yourself-- which, if you're the one suffering, is the hardest thing of all. Do what you can to let go of guilt and self-judgment.

And, if you can, check out the anthology and support a fellow human being who needs it.

The Stories That Mean the Most to Us-- Cover Reveal for Michelle Merrill's Changing Fate

Apr 3, 2014

The stories we write always have meaning to us-- they always strike some kind of personal note that we hope readers feel, too. But sometimes, there's a particular story that is really powerful to us. The characters, or the theme, or the concept, or the whole story wrapped up together is more than just a meaningful story. It's a part of our soul. Those stories are the most terrifying to share, but often the ones we need to share the most.

So today, I'm so happy to share my friend Michelle's book. This is a story that means so much to her, and I'm so proud of her for having the courage to share it with all of you. Today is the cover release for her book CHANGING FATE. You can read more about what this book means to her over at her blog. Half of all proceeds from the book will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

All Kate wants is to live. Battling cystic fibrosis is hard enough, dying from it is even harder. When her mom moves them closer to the hospital in the middle of her senior year, Kate’s determined to isolate herself—saving everyone the trouble of befriending a dying girl. It’s a difficult task when cheerful optimist Giana insists on being Kate’s friend.
Kate’s resolve falters even more when curly-haired Kyler captivates her with his sweet melodies. As her emotional walls collapse, Kate realizes the people she’s been pushing away may be the ones giving her a reason to live. But it might be too late.

Michelle Merrill loves kissing her hubby, snuggling her kids, eating candy, reading books, and writing first drafts. She names her computers after favorite fictional characters and fictional characters after favorite names. To learn more about her, visit

Follow her on Twitter-

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