Thank you.

happy endingOn November 1, 2011, I embarked on a writing adventure called NaNoWriMo, also known as National Novel Writing Month. The goal was to reach 50,000 words by November 30th, and I was bound and determined to meet that goal.

The Road to HopeDuring those thirty days, I poured my heart out in a reckless rough draft that mingled real life with fiction, unleashing a few hurts and hardships I’d suffered in life—the death of a child, poverty, young pregnancy, heartbreak—and allowed my characters to suffer on my behalf while I healed. In doing so, I fell in love with my characters, Maddie and Jill, two women who suffered terrible loss and found strength in the rebuilding of their lives.

This book is The Road to Hope, and tomorrow I will finally be able to share it with all of you. In many ways, it’s a love letter to the darker times of my past. And it’s a letter of hope to those of you who may be in the thick of it.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

Love, Crissi

Where to buy:

Kindle or Kindle app
Amazon Print

Note: This book is not available publicly for other e-readers. However, contact me if you read on a non-Kindle device and we can work something out.

Cover reveal of The Road to Hope

If you are part of my newsletter email list, you have already seen the cover of my upcoming book, The Road to Hope. If you’re not, shame on you. ;-) You can remedy that by clicking here.

My book designer and close friend, Liz Carrasco, has worked her magic to create yet another gorgeous cover for one of my books. Some of you may remember the beautiful cover she created for Forever Thirteen. So when she offered her talents to The Road to Hope, I didn’t hesitate. And I’m so glad, because look what she created:

Click on image to pre-orderDon’t you just love it???

I especially love the vineyard on the front cover of the book. It was taken in Sonoma County (where I live) by local author and photographer, Kent Sorensen. You can check out his photography at kentwsorensen.com.

And now for surprise #2. The Road to Hope is available for pre-order for Kindle readers RIGHT NOW! I am keeping the price at $2.99 through the book’s first week so that all of you can get it at a lower price. After that, the price goes back up. So be sure to order it soon to secure the lower price.

CLICK HERE to pre-order.

And now for a little bit of news for those of you who read on eBooks that are not Kindles. I have decided to sell the eBook version of The Road to Hope on Amazon only, at least for the next three months. If you read books on a Nook, Kobo, etc., contact me and we can work out a way for you to still be able to read it.

For print readers, never fear. The Road to Hope will be available across the web in book form, beginning October 15th, and eventually at Copperfield’s in Sonoma County.

Thanks for reading!

The Road to Hope publishes Oct. 15! How about a teaser?

I am setting the publish date! The book is edited and ready to go. The cover is in the final stages of being designed (so I can’t reveal it yet). And I am chomping at the bit to share The Road to Hope with you! For now, how about another teaser?

~~~
~ Chapter Four ~
Not Our Little Girl

Maddie ducked her head down under the pressure of the officer’s hand, giving up all efforts of the fight she’d had in her just moments before. What was the point? They had her. At least she’d have a warm place to sleep tonight.

She could have killed Jordan, even as she understood why he took off and let her bear the full brunt of his scheme. It had all seemed so simple when he had relayed the plan. Who would suspect a pregnant girl to do anything against the law? Despite her growing belly and disheveled hair, she still possessed the look of a girl who came from a good home. With her wide brown eyes and effortless smile, she had the face of innocence.

But inside, she held the rage of a girl who had been turned out by her parents once the pregnancy test came back positive…

***

One month earlier in Gallup, New Mexico.

“But where am I supposed to go?” Maddie cried.

“Why don’t you go find that low-life boyfriend of yours and tell him you’re his problem now,” her father said. He stood firm, his military background shining through as he looked at his daughter without any hint of sympathy. Even though it had been years since he’d retired from the Army, he still sported the close cropped hair and muscular build. And Maddie, she was expected to be his little soldier, standing in line and only doing as told.

“Bill, please,” her mother said, placing her hand on her husband’s arm. As large and intimidating as Maddie’s father was, her mother was the exact opposite. Petite in every sense of the word, her mother took to sweaters and pearls, her light brown hair always combed and pulled back. She aimed for perfection, volunteered for the PTA, and attended bible studies in the middle of the week. Maddie’s mom was firm in her beliefs, and consistent in her appearance. But she always stood down when it came to Maddie’s dad. So when her mom tried to stop him with the touch of her hand, Maddie wasn’t surprised to see him shake her off and turn his glare toward her.

“Not now, Carol. Maddie needs to learn she can’t just go around life doing whatever she damn well pleases with no repercussions whatsoever,” he said.

“But she’s pregnant. We can’t just throw her out,” her mother pleaded.

“She should have thought about that before sleeping around. We’ve raised our children.”

“But this will be our grandchild!” her mom argued.

Maddie’s dad was silent for a moment as he regarded his wife. For a moment, Maddie thought he might reconsider. But when her father returned his cold gaze to her, Maddie’s heart fell.

“No it won’t,” her father said. “Because I don’t have a daughter.”

The words struck Maddie, taking her breath away. She could feel the tears hovering in her eyes, but she willed them to stay back. She closed her mouth, setting it into a firm line as she worked to mirror the icy stare of her father.

“Fine,” she said. She turned on her heel and went to walk toward her bedroom.

“Where do you think you’re going, young lady?” her father called behind her.

“I’m going to get my things,” she muttered through clenched teeth.

“What?”

“I’m going to get my things!” she yelled, turning to face him with her hands on her hips. Her father only glared at her.

“You don’t have any things,” he told her.

“Yes I do!” she yelled. She could feel her chest burning as her fury erupted in the hallway. Her father remained calm.

“No, you don’t,” he said. “I bought all those things. They’re mine.”

“You didn’t buy everything!” Maddie yelled. “What about all of my Christmas presents? And what the hell are you going to do with all my clothing, my stuffed animals, and the pictures of all my friends?” she demanded.

“Whatever the hell I want,” he replied with narrowed eyes.

Maddie took several deep breaths as she faced her father, every muscle in her body clenched. She waited for him to back down, to tell her he’d give her another chance, to let her know he was only teaching her a lesson, and the lesson was now over. But he never did. Instead, he moved to the side and pointed toward the door as if she were a mere dog being ordered outside.

She thought of all the things in her room she was leaving behind. Her pillow, the one she’d both laughed and cried into. Her favorite sweatshirt, the light pink one with the hood. The teddy bear she’d had since the day she was born. The dozens of photos that lined her mirror, reminding her of friends she had once been close to before she met Jordan. Her journal that detailed every single one of her thoughts, including thoughts she never wanted her parents to know.

“You don’t own my journal,” she said. “I’m getting my journal.”

Her father regarded her for a moment, then nodded his head toward her bedroom.

“Fine,” he said. “But you have two minutes, or I’ll come in there and throw you out myself.”

Maddie didn’t hesitate. She turned on her heel and rushed into her room. She opened the drawer next to her bed and pulled out the journal and a pen. She also grabbed the small stash of money she’d been putting aside for a rainy day, stuffing the dollars in her pocket. She looked around the room, searching for anything else she could grab. After a moment’s thought, she took her pink sweatshirt out of her drawer and slipped it on. Then she grabbed her backpack and began stuffing whatever clothes she could find that would accommodate her soon-to-be-growing body.

“No!” her father yelled, standing in the doorway. “Drop the bag and get out.” He strode forward, and Maddie clutched the bag to her chest, ready to fight him if she had to.

“No, Bill,” her mother said, determination in her voice. She held on to his arm tight, and didn’t let go when he tried to shake her off. “It’s bad enough that she has to leave. The least we can do is to let her go with a few things.”

“The least we could do was everything we already did—raise her with proper ideals, a roof over her head, and with all that we worked hard for so that she could live a good life,” he hissed. But he didn’t fight his wife, allowing Maddie the time to pull her backpack on and grab her journal off the bed. Eyeing her dad, she also grabbed the teddy bear off of her pillow. Without a word, she dared him to stop her. He didn’t.

Maddie looked at her mom. Tears were now streaming from her mother’s eyes down her cheeks. She rushed forward and grabbed Maddie into a bear hug.

“I’m so sorry, honey,” she said. She pushed something into Maddie’s hand away from the hovering eyes of her husband. Maddie recognized the familiar texture of dollar bills, and she quickly stuffed them into her pocket with the rest of her money. She knew this wasn’t her mother’s decision for her to go. Still, she kept her emotions from spilling over. Her mom could stop all of this from happening. She could put her foot down. But she didn’t this time, just like she never stood up to Maddie’s dad every other time he laid down the law. She was just letting her daughter go without any fight at all.

It was Maddie who pulled away from the embrace first, and her mom put her hand over her mouth with a sob. Without saying a word, Maddie strode past her parents and out of the room, down the hall and through the front door for the very last time. It wasn’t until she’d hit the sidewalk when the sound of her mother’s sobbing stopped following her. And still, she knew that sound would haunt her for a very long time.

****

The countdown is on! The Road to Hope will be available for purchase on October 15, 2014.

Don’t tell Colleen Hoover I Facestalked her.

Blog note: This post is kind of embarrassing. Don’t read it. Especially if you are Colleen Hoover.

There are two realities I’ve been living in lately – one of total frustration and impatience, and one of sheer excitement about possibilities. It’s whatever one I’m focusing on that dictates how I live.

Hint: Cupcakes are a delicious part of my new book series coming in 2015.

Hint: Cupcakes are a delicious part of my new book series coming in 2015.

Right now, I have several exciting things to look forward to. The first is that I have made a clear plan for getting out of debt, and the end is in sight. The second is that I am weeks away from releasing my third novel, The Road to Hope. The third exciting thing is that I have a new 4-book series coming out this next year that I am crawling out of my skin to release because I’m so excited about it.

When I focus on these three things, my whole world is rosy and I am overjoyed to greet each day. But sometimes, Negative Nelly takes over, reminding me of how much work needs to be done to get these three things off the ground, and how one slip can bring everything down.

Negative Nelly:

“You’ll never get this book finished in time.”
“Why save to pay off debt when you can buy cool things?”
“Some huge expense is going to knock your budget off center, anyway, so stop saving.”
“There are so many moving parts to this book series. You sure you want to commit to this?”
“You’re going to be stuck wishing you were a big time author forever.”
“Are you really serious about your book release schedule? Because that will never happen.”
“Why are you putting so much effort into writing books when you’re paying more than you’re receiving?”“You might as well throw in the towel. You know you will eventually, anyway.”

This morning, as I felt the excitement of possibility warming my insides, I could hear Negative Nelly knocking at my door, asking to be let in. And so I did what anyone would do in this situation.

I turned to Facebook.

Okay, so that’s not actually a good answer. If you’re feeling down about yourself or you need to get some work done, Facebook is the last place you should turn. It’s a tempting distraction from everything you should be doing, and you’re liable to feel worse about yourself after running through an endless timeline of other people’s successes or tragedies. However, this morning I came across a post by the ever prolific author, Elizabeth Gilbert. She’s on tour right now with Oprah and a bunch of other inspiring people. And the latest talks they had elicited the following statement:

“You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you believe.”

If you’ve been following my posts, you know I believe this truth with all my being. I believe we manifest whatever it is we focus on. So if we’re focusing on being a failure or not succeeding, those things will come true. But if we focus on moving forward one step at a time, reaching our goal, and living our dreams, it will come to fruition.

So I told Negative Nelly that I didn’t have time to listen to her today.

colleen hoover

Colleen Hoover

But then I went one step further. In my goal to one day be writing books for a living, I needed to see how other authors had done it. So I went back to Facebook (I know. Bear with me.), and Facestalked one of my favorite indie authors – Colleen Hoover.

Now this woman is someone you all should be following if you’re into New Adult romance, or you just like brilliantly funny people. Colleen is everywhere. She recently just came off a book tour with a few other authors writing under the label Atria Indie Authors. In the last 2.5 years, she’s written 8 books, all of which have received tons of attention. She’s in the top sellers list, like always. She releases a book, and then two months later, she has a new book she’s releasing.

The woman is on fire.

However, it wasn’t what she’s doing now that I wanted to see. I mean, it’s inspiring and all. But I wanted to see where she was when she was like me – just starting out and waiting to hit the big time. So I looked back to her beginning days, the ones where she had just published her first novel, Slammed.

First things, Colleen Hoover found a way to hit the ground running. She published Slammed at the beginning of 2012 (or possibly December 2011), and the reviews began trickling in. It seemed she really knew how to get the word out about her book. And within two months, she had the second book in the series released. And then she began hitting the bestsellers lists, including the NY Times as well as Amazon. And then she sold 100,000 copies of books in June of that year.

While this is kind of more than amazing, that wasn’t what I was looking at. I wanted to see who Colleen was back then vs. who she is today.

Today’s Colleen is incredibly successful. But back in 2012, Colleen was new to all of this. Her first few posts are months apart. And when she does post, there’s a sweet awkwardness underneath, with only a few comments and shares.

This is a vast difference from today’s posts, where hundreds of people share her words, and thousands are liking or commenting.

At any rate, one thing is unmistakable about Colleen Hoover from the very beginning – she believed in herself as a writer, and worked her butt off to make her dream a reality. I mean, it isn’t just sitting around to release quality books as quickly as she did. The fact that she became so popular so quickly is no mistake. She made that happen.

So seeing all of this, I became even more inspired to send Negative Nelly on her way and start focusing on what I need to do to get things off the ground.

Me:

“The Road to Hope is a beautiful story your readers are going to love.”
“You have some amazing ideas for this new book series coming out next year.”
“You’re going to enter 2015 almost completely debt free. Won’t that feel amazing?”
“You are living your dream right now. You are a writer. Be patient, good things are in the works.”
2015 is going to be a game changing year.”

As a final note, in Elizabeth Gilbert’s post I mentioned earlier, she confessed that before she was a bestselling author, she was serving eggs and hash browns at some greasy spoon diner. While she was waitressing, however, she never stopped believing she was a writer. She WAS a writer. Even amid rejection letter after rejection letter, she believed. She worked long days, and spent all her free time writing. And it took YEARS before success finally found her. But in all that time, before she was doing tours with Oprah or inspiring people with Eat. Pray. Love., she was a writer.

I am a writer. And you? You are whatever it is you believe yourself to be. So decide what that is. And then live it.

P.S. Colleen Hoover, you are totally welcome to Facestalk me back.

Invisible child: A story of stillbirth

Twelve years ago, everything I thought I knew about life changed. It was on Sept. 20 when I felt the last kick of my baby. Three days later, I would meet my child who lacked a heartbeat. On Sept. 23, 2002, I gave birth to him, Connor Marley, my baby who died 32 weeks into my pregnancy.

For years, especially in the first year, the loss of my son defined me. I was no longer Crissi; I was the mother of a dead baby. His death changed my whole identity. I was scared to talk about his life and death, as if the mere mention of his existence would wipe the smear of infant mortality on anyone I came around. But I also longed to talk about him all the time. I wanted to scream to the skies about Connor, to make his mark on the world for him because he had been stripped of that. He existed for nobody but me and our family. He was invisible. But to me, he was my whole entire world.

Over the last twelve years, recovering from Connor’s death has evolved. The first year I was a shell of a person. In my mind, living when my baby had died was unfathomable. How could I go on? If I failed to think of him every moment of every day, it meant I didn’t care. I had two living toddlers, and yet I could see nothing but Connor. His death devoured me, and it stripped my living children of their mom. In that first year, our family fell apart. We ran out of money and experienced poverty. My messy marriage took a turn for the worse, and eventually crumbled. I moved into my parents home and filed for divorce. I laid on the couch for days at a time.

I wanted to die.

In those first weeks after his death, my neighbor mentioned that she had suffered a stillbirth once, too. She mentioned that eventually I’d be able to move on. It felt like the coldest thing someone could say to me. Move on? Forget my baby? Never! How could she even suggest that?

But she was right.

When your baby dies before you even get the chance to meet him, you never forget him. But you learn how to exist. It’s a new kind of existence, though. Before, the world was a place where bad things happened to other people, which almost felt like they didn’t happen at all. After, it’s apparent that if babies can die, then anything bad is possible. And for awhile, that dread of living in such a horrible world crushes you, making it hard to breathe, eat, think, sleep…..live.

But soon, the pain of that loss lessens.

It’s gradual at first. I didn’t even notice it until I realized I’d gone almost a whole day without thinking of Connor. I tried to grab hold of my sorrow again, return to living within the sadness so that his death wasn’t for nothing. But a little more time passed, and I was able to loosen my grasp on that pain just a tiny bit more. Eventually I could breathe, I could feel the sunlight, I could see my living children and enjoy their company. Life was bearable at the very least, and hopeful at its best.

In between Sept. 23, 2002 and today, much has happened. Much of it has been good, some of it bad, and all of it exactly as it’s supposed to have happened. I will always be the mother who lost her baby before he was born. But that loss doesn’t define me. I survived, even when I swore it wasn’t possible. I still have twinges of pain from time to time, and I have moments of guilt for not thinking of him as much as I believe I should. But he’s okay wherever he is. My attention deserves to be on the living. They need me more than he does. And one day I know we’ll meet again.

A few years after his death, I wrote a poem that defines my heart wrapped around Connor. You can find it here, as well as in my poetry book, Everything I Am Not Saying. But I’ll post it below as well.

If you’ve lost a child to miscarriage, stillbirth, or as an infant, I’m sending you my love. Your child exists, and he or she lives in your heart. Your child is not invisible. And I know that he or she is loving you from afar until you meet again. <3

Brittle Leaves
It is in the golden brown of brittle leaves
that I think of you most.
My breath,
suspended momentarily
in a cloud of warmth against the crisp air,
expanding from its small containment
and reaching to the earth and sky,
breathes for you.
You exist between each click of the second hand,
when time momentarily stops
and all that can be heard
is the deafening roar
in the silence of a stilled heart.
The mornings are darker, the days shorter,
the hours precious as time slips by…
I wonder if I had only loved you more
would you still be here today?
The dates set in stone
that I have traced my fingers over
again and again
are etched in my mind
much more complete
than the memory of your face
that has faded with time.
Yet I know you by heart.
It was in the golden brown of brittle leaves
where you said your goodbyes
in a moment only we shared,
when the world around us
disappeared for a time,
leaving us floating in suspended reality
where all I felt was you
fluttering faintly from my grasp.
Yet with each setting of the summer moon
and rising of the autumn sun,
when the leaves turn from green
to red
to a golden brown,
I smile at your spirit
that exists in the laughter of a child
and floats in the wind
with the remnants of trees.
Peace has melted together
the broken figments
of my injured heart,
revealing the beauty in leaves of golden brown,
gently holding them before letting them drift away,
watching them stay strong in the wind
while knowing they could shatter in an instant,
setting you free with a delicate prayer
of love for an autumn’s child.

Feeling funky

purposeThis morning was really bad. My dog, the one I spoil with remnants of my breakfast and who spends the evenings sleeping at my feet, bit me. Then, just to rub salt in the wound, he ran away after one of the kids left the gate open. I spent 30 minutes trying to coax him back in, trying not to let it show in my voice how much I wanted to murder him. When he finally tired of the chase game around the block and I could get close enough to catch him, I had to throw him in his kennel to save him from me. I was so frustrated that every single thing beyond my ornery dog felt like too much. I spent a lot of time this morning crying and feeling sorry for myself, and it carried into the majority of my day.

I’m a firm believer that we manifest whatever our main focus is. If we focus on love and light and all things positive, blessings and peace will wrap us in their embrace. But if we focus on evil and hard times and all things unfair and negative, we are inviting bad things into our life. I knew this today, even as I left the cloud of despair hanging over my head. I knew that the longer I settled into my funk, the longer the funk would own me.

Know what? I didn’t care.

I eventually had to go to work. I cannot begin to tell you the exact number of times I thought about driving past my exit, and just going until I ran out of gas. I didn’t, of course. To keep driving would rid me of the incredible experience of feeling sorry for myself at work. I walked into the office, avoiding everyone, and sat in my chair. And I booted up my email. There in my email was a note from my boss, letting me know that little old me would be conducting a training on our computer system, all by lonesome. Me. In my funk. Teaching people things.

I’m proud to say that I continued my funk, except this time with tears.

I was a pathetic mess. My boss came over and I couldn’t even look him in the eye, I was so mad. How could he spring this on me? Didn’t he know I was in a funk? Couldn’t he just understand without my having to tell him that I had planned on spending the whole day not talking to anyone as I felt sorry for myself? He didn’t, of course. In fact, he pretended that my tears weren’t even there. And he pointed out all the parts I needed to cover and then left me to stew in my misery.

The dreaded hour came, and the receptionist in the lobby let me know my trainee was here. I hid my resentment and put on my best smile, knowing that even in my funk, it wasn’t fair to subject a perfect stranger with my impressive bad mood. Then I led the trainee to my desk, and spent an hour teaching him everything I knew about the computer program I was training him on. When it was over, I led him back to the front door where he promised to invite my husband and I over for a housewarming. And then we parted ways.

As I ascended the stairs to come back to my desk, I searched for my dark cloud of gloom. But it was nowhere to be found. Instead, a prayer of gratitude graced my lips.

“Thank you, God.”

Seems someone had a hand in ridding me of my bad mood with a little social persuasion. I wasn’t going to do it myself; the misery was too rich. But it doesn’t help me, or anyone around me, to remain in my funky mood forever. God knew this. And despite my stubborn resolve to stay angry, He had other plans. And He did this by forcing me to think of something, anything!, other than myself.

I found the above picture today in the moment that my funky mood vacated the premises. What caught my eye was “Having a rough morning?” Yes. I did. “Place your hand over your heart.” Okay. “Feel that? That’s called purpose. You’re alive for a reason. Don’t give up.”

There are times when that funky mood is so downright rotten, to even think about pulling yourself up out of it is simply laughable. It’s okay to feel rotten. When you find yourself in that space, take a moment to dwell on every single horrible thing that’s plaguing your life. Simmer in it for a few moments, or a few hours if you have to. And then, when you’re ready….

….let it go.

You may need to coax your way away from the funk. Enlist a friend to help you. Or take a moment to do something nice for someone else. Do whatever it takes to take the focus off of you and your bad stuff and onto someone or something else.

Because if we focus on evil and hard times and all things unfair and negative, we are inviting bad things into our life. But if we focus on love and light and all things positive, blessings and peace will wrap us in their embrace.

In between projects

Today is kind of a quiet day. I find myself in between projects, which means I am unsure of what to do with myself. My coming book, The Road to Hope, is now in the hands of my editor for the next two weeks. This is both exciting (since it’s one of the final steps before getting the book into your hands) and also nerve-wracking (it’s one of the FINAL STEPS before getting the book into your hands!).

As an indie publisher, let me tell you that writing the book is the easy part. To me, the final process of putting the book together are the hardest – probably because they are the very parts that will capture your attention and get you to open the book. Specifically, it’s designing the cover, writing the blurb on the back, and creating a worthy description of the book for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. There’s a lot of pressure involved, because these few items can make or break the success of the book.

There are several reasons why this matters so much for this book in particular. First, of course, is because I wrote it. That’s a given, and goes with every other book I’ve written as well. But for this book, it’s so much deeper than all that.

toddler solace

The Road to Hope is the first book I have ever written – or at least, the first book I ever wrote that I knew would be read by the public. I wrote it way back before I knew what I was doing, which allowed it to hold on to a unique rawness in the storyline. It was written before A Symphony of Cicadas and Forever Thirteen. But as much as I loved the story, I knew I wasn’t ready to mold it into a published novel. So I let it sit for a few years, untouched but not forgotten.

Now that I’m getting ready to publish it, I can’t convey enough how glad I am that I waited. I feel like I needed to get a few “practice” books on my plate before I could release The Road to Hope. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the books I have published so far. A Symphony of Cicadas and Forever Thirteen are two stories that came from my soul. But they also allowed me to get out all the kinks and learn a few lessons in storytelling and publishing before I could craft The Road to Hope into what it’s supposed to be.

In about a month, I’ll be releasing The Road to Hope, the story of two women on different journeys of grief, whose momentary connection changes both of their lives forever. I can’t wait to share this book with you, and it is my greatest hope that you will receive it with open arms.

If you’d like a preview, please check out my post here.