I Did a 30 Day No Soda Challenge and this is Why I'm Not Looking Back

All the way back in simpler times of February 21st of this year I started the No Soda Challenge. I say simpler because of the recent developments and won’t ramble into thoughts of what should’ve been done differently between then and now. But it was February and in my small town it was simpler times.

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For years I struggled to lose weight (I lost a bunch and then gained half of it back after a trauma in my personal life) and with a life long addiction to soda. I hail from a part of the country where it’s not uncommon to see people dilute soda (pop, soda water, Coke, whatever you call it) into their small child’s bottle. Thus, in 1989/1990 my parents did too. I’m 30 now and this has been a life long addiction that I struggled to break through my 20s. Nothing really stuck, because quitting soda sucks! It really does. I won’t sugar coat my experiences with quitting. The first week was hell. i thought I’d die before I made it to day 30. Now, it’s been 32 days and I’m going strong. More or less, but more about that later.

First, let’s break it down by days and week.

Day One: I was okay. Tired, but I started the quit the night before so I was surviving. I drank coffee and tea (no sugar or sugar replacements) and survived just feeling brain dead.

Day Two: Felt like I was going to die. Tired. Had a headache. Everything made me want to cry. I missed carbonation. I didn’t supplement it, because I tried that before but somehow it always led me back to soda.

Day Three: Hell came to my small town. Usually, what happens is I give up about this point. Quitting soda gives you heart palpitations. Even my doctor told me this, but they give me panic attacks. So, I had a panic attack that night sure I was dying not from quitting soda but from some mysterious thing. Yep, that’s how panic attacks work. Eventually, I fell asleep.

Day Seven: By the end of the first week I was in awe of the fact I stuck it out that long. I was posting on my FB author page so I had some accountability to those who followed me there. I think this was my biggest motivation. I was posting daily updates and didn’t want to fail in front of my readers. It was only 30 days after all.

Week 2: I was back to work as normal, but had so much catching up to do on The Crow King’s Heir (Book 8 of the Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga), because my first week off soda left me too brain dead to keep up with my normal word counts. So, I buckled down and worked. I still missed carbonation. It took me forever to get awake in the morning and I started dreaming about gas stations full of soda fountains. The dreams were so vivid I tasted my poison of choice: Pepsi.

Week 3: My third week of quitting soda was an exciting day. I finished my first draft of The Crow King’s Heir and a state of emergency was declared in the United States. Needless to say I wasn’t thinking much about soda at the time. I continued to make daily updates on my page, because I wanted to go on with life as normally as possible.

An old friend made a joke that she thought I’d only quit drinking soda at the end of the world… I was not impressed.

By the end of the third week I didn’t really miss carbonation anymore. I did still crave sugar at times. I’ve let myself have a couple glasses of orange juice a week. I know that fruit juice is just as bad for you with the sugar content – but it’s a happy medium for me. When I quit soda I was drinking probably 4+ cans a day. So, three glasses of orange juice a week is a huge improvement.

Week 4: I wasn’t really thinking about soda or how long I’d been quit. I was pretty sure I was done with it for good by this point. I didn’t want to waste anymore calories or money on it. Don’t get me wrong sometimes in the morning I still want the sugar.

Yesterday, I had a tiny drink of soda poured from a 20 oz bottle of a friend – freshly opened don’t worry about cooties and it didn’t taste right to me. It was like sugar beer or something. I can’t describe it. I didn’t even finish the tiny bit that was given to me. Seriously, don’t worry we practiced social distancing. She stood outside my window several feet back and we used hand sanitizer. She just wanted to check on me.

So… Why aren’t I going back?

  1. Don’t want to waste the money. It’s expensive to keep up with how much I was drinking a day. According to my QuitThat app I’ve saved just over $60 bucks so far.
  2. I’ve lost 9 lbs since quitting soda. Seriously, I’m not doing that much different. If anything I’m getting less exercise since I haven’t left the house since 3/14.
  3. I get full quicker and I’m not starving in the morning.
  4. Fruit tastes so good now – so sweet and delicious. I’ve always liked it but it’s a huge treat now when I have my daily fruit.
  5. I don’t want to worry about it during the ongoing current events.
  6. The health benefits are huge – we’ve all heard about them so I won’t list them here.
  7. I feel as if soda as I remember doesn’t exist in reality. What I remember is what my tongue with its taste buds ruined by years of soda recalls. That’s not how soda really tastes.
  8. I’ve come this far and don’t really want to give up the progress. I mean 32 days is a long time after being addicted for 30 years.
  9. My anxiety isn’t as bad.
  10. I don’t feel so stiff all over when I wake up in the morning.
  11. Quitting a 30 year habit makes me believe quitting cigarettes for good is possible. I quit last year for almost 7 months before falling back into the trap.
  12. Diabetes runs in my family. Quitting soda reduces my risk.

If you drink soda, I don’t care. lol I mean that in the nicest possible way. When I first told my friends I planned to quit – they all had the same worry: I’d nag them to quit. We all do things that are bad for us and we know we do. If you want to quit – just know you can do it. I did it. If you don’t, cheers! I’m not here to tell you how to live your life.


Where Have I Been? (And some notes about book 8 of The Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga)


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Writing. Editing. Moving. Gaming. Reading. Everywhere except for on the blog, I guess. Life’s been crazy here and that was before people started hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, and tomato sauce. (Yep, that one stuck with me. You know who you are if you told me that. lol)

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In January I made the choice to move again. Midwestern weather and me are not friends. I’m not Dorothy and have no ruby slippers so it’s been an adjustment process. Being back in my small hometown isn’t my idea of a great time, but it’s where I am for now and the foreseeable future.

I’ve addressed mental health on here before. COVID19 is messing with my head sometimes. Logically, I know social distancing, staying home (haven’t left my front porch since Saturday), good hygiene and all of that is the best I can do. On the other hand I’m a writer, so my brain is going crazy with possibilities if I’m not working/reading/gaming. So, I’m finding ways to stay busy. Working is my favorite way or will be once I can start book 9 of the Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga. Yes, I know, you guys want book 8 first (The Crow King’s Heir.)

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I’m really excited to share this one with everyone! Yes- this reveals Micah’s fate for better or worse. This has been a challenging book to write. Heart wrenching, even at times, but I’m happy with how things worked out. I only have 2 chapters of rewrites left to do tomorrow. Then my lovely editor will start the next round of edits.

I hope to be more regular on the blog as staying home more gives me more free time. Coming up should be if my schedule doesn’t change: A list of readathons taking place over the next few weeks and similar things. We’re all stuck home alone together and I hope to fill in at least a bit of the gap we all have in our lives right now.

Stay safe and healthy and flatten the curve.




Self Care for Writers (7 Self Care Tips I Learned From Living Alone)

Before anyone says it: Yes, I should be working on my novel. I’m 30 chapters into a 42 chapter holiday novel. I just need a little change of pace today. I’m tired. I’m brain dead. (Probably from my attempt to cut the soda. That will be remedied soon.) In the mean time, I thought I’d share some self care tips for writers. Though, most of these will be useful for everyone.

1. Do Helpful Things for Your Future Self

Yeah, you don’t want to wash those dishes tonight. Or maybe you don’t want to put the laundry away tonight. Whatever it is you’re putting off doing before you go to bed – do it now. Future you will thank you. There’s no worse feeling than waking up with chores waiting for you.

2. Make Your Own Stress Measuring Scale

Mine is based on those silly little face charts you see in hospitals when doctors ask you how much something hurts. I measure stress the same way and provide appropriate care. If it’s below five I carry on with the day as normal and just make sure to squeeze in some downtime to myself that day. 6-7 I stop right then and do whatever I can to fix the problem (sometimes there’s nothing. It’s just what it is.) If I can’t fix the problem I take some downtime. For me usually half an hour of reading will level me out enough to get back to work. I know this isn’t the case for a lot of people. You can’t just stop working and take a break whenever you like. I write full time at home and have this privilege. Anything above a 7 and something has to change big time. Honestly, since moving I’ve only hit a 8 once and just needed to take a step back and get a new perspective.

3.Schedule Your Goals

I know this one might belong more on a success guide, but for me having a schedule of what I need to do every day to make my goals happen keeps me level headed. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy every step or even want to do that piece everyday, but with everything outlined it’s easier to remember why I’m doing it. The why is what makes the world go round.

4. Meal Prep

I recommend this to everyone, but if you live alone and work a lot of hours this can be a life saver. Cook a lot on day and eat on it over the next few days or longer. Your freezer is your friend. Some days I’d skip lunch if I couldn’t throw something in the microwave and chow down quick and get back to work. I know, mindful eating people, that’s not good, but it’s better than not eating at all.

5. Set aside ‘headspace’ time and stick to it.

There’s this meme all over the internet about spending more time ‘imagining’ or thinking about your story than writing it. This is a healthy part of writing and creativity. Though, if you want to do it long term you really need to get a handle on it. Sure, if you’re laying in bed thinking about your story as you fall asleep you’re probably fine.If you sit down at the keyboard and imagine instead of write you’ll only be frustrated with yourself later. Set a time limit on this and write. For me this is a self care tip, because I write to pay the bills and if I’m not writing the bills don’t get paid. If they don’t get paid there is no such thing as self care in my life.

6. Track your time.

I write professionally. Well, full time and it’s my sole source of income. After I moved, I started tracking my time. No, not limiting my activities, but tracking my working hours to see where my time was really going and what wasn’t working for me. As I’ve perfected the schedule I get more writing done than ever. Last week I wrote for 12 hours and 22 minutes and came in at around 26.5k words. Yes, I write faster than some people and I’m not saying you should aim for any certain time. Before that I was writing about 15 hours a week and pulling in about the same in word count (15-17k.) Tracking my time and making sure I had enough time to do all parts of my job (writing, editing, rewrites, marketing, social media, cover work, etc) allowed me to focus on my writing during my writing time. This has allowed me to have a lot more free time to unwind by focusing on one task at a time instead of being in the middle of a sentence and remembering something else I needed to do.

7. Sleep. Seriously – Get Some!

Before I moved work was my number one priority. I’m a classic workaholic and I’m not happy unless I’m working. BUT I’m not happy while I’m working if I’m dragging ass and brain dead. So now, sleep is my top priority. Sure, it annoys my friends that I disappear so early in the evening and turn my phone on do not disturb, but me and my pillows have improved our relationship. Also, from time and word count tracking I’ve discovered the better sleep I get the more I write the next day.


Writing, Book Covers, and the death of my last nerve

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Because I should be working on the book cover for Omega Rebellion ((AKA Cody and Micah’s story), but my last nerve has just died.

If you haven’t caught up with the Hemlock Wolf Pack Saga they are all free on Kindle Unlimited. If you haven’t checked out the program they’re always running some first month free or some sort of promotion. If you read a lot and haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a great source to save you some money on your reading habit. I swear by it which is why my books will remain in it for as long as it works.

Like a lot of people, my adult life has been one big ball of anxiety. Not always the normal sort either. Today is the two month mark since I was attacked by my intoxicated brother. That’s not what killed my last nerve, though. It wasn’t moving across the country while recovering from injuries or the mental aspects of recovery that are still ongoing.

It was tornado sirens last night. Here I was getting ready for bed thinking about what sort of cover Omega Rebellion called for and the next thing I know I’m in a closet pretty sure I’m going to die. Sure, the city I live in is rarely affected, but it only takes one. I see another move in my future, because I have no nerves left. Just none. Zilch. Zero. I know life is never 100% peaceful. I lived here before and knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t know how bad my nerves had gotten.

So, today I’m running way behind schedule and feel like crap. As a writer, I’m pretty good at filling in the blanks in life of what could happen. It’s great for storytelling, but sucks when my brain tries to apply it to real life. I haven’t asked other writes, but I can’t be the only one who thinks like this. lol

Either way, the coffee is ready and I need to go stare of screens full of sexy stock photos to make the cover for Omega Rebellion.


The Real Tea Behind Saving Cinder & Omega Rebellion (AKA Micah and Cody’s Story)

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I absolutely should be writing on Chapter 13 of Omega Rebellion right now. Everyone keeps asking what comes after Claiming the Shaman and I do plan to tell you all – eventually.

Omega Rebellion uncovers the secrets of both main characters: The playboy drummer from the boy band Grim Howlers and Cody, an omega who’s constantly found himself in tight spots.


To be honest, before writing this book I knew next to nothing about these guys. Yes, really. Only I didn’t know it until I started writing. That’s how it usually goes with me and characters.

I knew from the moment Lee Knight walked onto the page he belonged with Bane Hemlock. I just didn’t know how the hell to bring them together. Then I did. Some readers loved it others not so much. Eh… That’s the way of life and I’m okay with that. I’m happy with how Healer’s Oath turned out.


Micah Gilmore and Cody Denton are my distraction and my obsession right now. I’m in love with both of them for different reasons that reads will discover soon. With war looming on the horizon for our beloved Hemlock Wolf Pack they’re going to need all their skills and the aces they’ve hidden up their sleeves.

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But what are they distracting me from?

Nothing important. Maybe I shouldn’t call it distracting me as much as I should call it healing me. A lot of you know I unexpected moved across the country at the end of August. Some days I’m still sad about that. I miss my pup more than anything or anyone. Without him I feel like part of me is missing and I don’t know that the feeling will ever go away.

I miss the members of my extended family sometimes, but I’m completely off from them by choice. It was a tough call to make, but it had to be done. In August, a family member who struggled with addiction for years violently attacked me. I’m okay now – physically. Mentally it’s just more baggage to lug around. You know how that goes. I cut ties with the family who continued to support him knowing he has no intentions of getting clean and staying sober. I won’t get into the debate of addiction choice vs. disease, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. When someone is a danger to themselves and others, to your personal safety, you have to cut ties. Just because they’ve strapped a ticking time bomb to their chest doesn’t mean you have to die trying to disarm it while they’re batting your hands away from the control panel.

If you or someone you know need help with domestic violence please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233

Writing Saving Cinder was really hard for me. I knew the moment I chose Seth as the next main character (or he stepped forward for the job I should say) it would be difficult and that was before the night everything exploded. I almost scrapped the book after what happened but I decided I needed to tell the story more than ever. I’m not the only one affected by an addiction of those they love. Not everyone gets a happy ending, but I felt I owed Rhett that ending with his brother. It wasn’t Rhett’s story to tell, but he was part of it. Seth’s story affected his in ways that changed him forever. Saving Cinder is the ending I wanted in my life and writing it for my characters helped me more than I could ever say.


Yeah, some days I’m still sad, but I’m moving forward a bit more everyday.

If you see me posting silliness on Facebook when I should be writing or writing without posting just know I’m healing and finding a way forward.

Now that’s off my chest for a bit it’s time to write. Thank you all for you support and love of my book characters. It means more than I can ever say.

P.S. I haven’t forgotten that I still owe you guys a readers Q&A post. It’ll likely be out closer to Halloween.


I’m Bad at Taking Time Off: Confessions of a Workaholic

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I don’t identify as the classic type-A workaholic/perfectionist personality, but I’m a self professed workaholic. In school, I was the kid who actually used study hall to do homework. I loved the proficiency and having my afternoons and weekends free.

This habit didn’t always carry into my adult life. Before I started freelancing (and eventually transitioned into indie publishing) I’d put in just enough effort at jobs not to be noticed in good or bad light.

Now, I wake up on a morning I was planning to sleep in with a thunderstorm raging outside. I’m annoyed with mother nature and sit down at the computer to work. Then it hits me I finished the first draft of Claiming the Shaman yesterday. It’s now off with my editor for the first rounds of edits. I planned to take today and tomorrow off before starting another book or to work on the cover of the one I just finished. Sitting down this morning annoyed and ready to work I realized that somehow over the last nine years of being a a professional writer first in freelance and then in indie publishing I’ve become a tried and true workaholic. (See this blog as proof. I needed to write something this morning or my routine would be broken. Not working makes me antsy.)

I started freelance (and some ghostwriting) writing when I was 21. A weird set of circumstances brought me to it at a time of need. (That’s a story for another blog.) Then, I got addicted. I mean, I always wrote or had a story running in my head for as long as I can remember. In high school, I thought I’d eventually publish if I could. That was back before indie publishing was what it is now. But life went on and eventually I wrote less and less until I started freelancing.

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Eventually, after years of freelancing it wasn’t enough to write what others wanted me to write. No, I needed to tell my stories. I’ve written under a few different pen names over the years until I found a genre I really loved and didn’t get bored of. I’m a Gemini so bored is my number one enemy. Is that why I’m a workaholic? Maybe. Likely at least partially.

Now, almost everyday I write. I have to. It’s like breathing. In fact, it was my lack of writing over the fall/winter of 2018 that let me know something was indeed wrong with my health. I was always too tired to write. Friends told me it was burnout. Others said I was depressed. They were all wrong, but it wasn’t until my random exhaustion kept me away from the keyboard that I told my doctor about it. I figured with my luck I was probably dying. Morbid? Nah. Practical. Or so I thought. Mostly, I need to quit smoking (something I”m still struggling with) and my vitamin D was super low. I should have guessed given the symptoms, but there was a reason I became a writer and not a doctor.

Recently, I took my last medical dose of vitamin D. I’m feeling better than ever even if I’m still smoking about a pack a week when people piss me off. Why didn’t I go to the doctor sooner? Well, two reasons really. Okay, three: The first, the circumstances that led me to freelancing also left me with a distrust of most doctors. Two: I have an over active imagination. I was sure he was going to tell me I was dying. I had some sort of rare disease eating away at me. Probably related to smoking. The third: I needed to work. I didn’t want to take the time off my schedule to call and make an appointment. Then have to keep the appointment and take a morning off. Then take another morning off for blood work results and a follow up. I probably lost more time by not calling the doctor, but hindsight, you know. Eventually, I did, but not until writing 1k words a day was a problem for me. Yeah, that’s the reason I thought I was dying. Moral of the story is get your vitamin D checked before you need to. lol

Now, I’m starting a daily vitamin and made a few lifestyle changes to assure that’s not going to happen again. But it also made me realize I’m a workaholic. I write most days of the week. I am for 3k+ on those days now that I’m back to myself. I usually end up somewhere between 4.5-6k words a day. I take Tuesdays off for errands, but usually squeeze in some work anyway.

Now, with all of that said: I don’t hate my job. I love what I do. I love sitting down at the keyboard and pouring my heart out into a story. Sure, some days are harder than others. Some scenes more belligerent than others. But at the end of the day, I want to write. I want to write more than I want to play video games or have that extra time to do whatever it is people want me to do. The thing is I probably work about 4-5 hours most days. Even if I worked everyday I’d be working less than a traditional full time position. So, when people tell me I work too much I always roll my eyes. Yes, I’m a workaholic, because I don’t know how to start the day by doing nothing. No, I’m not a workaholic because I work too much.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’ll be off writing a few more blogs to schedule so my brain believes I squeezed in a decent word count.