Interview With An Artist: Kelly Killagain, Tattoo and Fine Artist

My sister is a badass. She makes amazing art, she puts some of that art on people's bodies, and she has lotsa cute animals. You guys have been asking me to interview her for a little while, so here are your questions and mine answered!  Make sure you follow her art and support it when you're done reading!

Kelly Killagain has been tattooing since 2013 at 777 Tattoos in Manahawkin, NJ. She specializes in linework and dotwork, commonly known as blackwork, and also enjoys watercolor/abstracted color tattoos. Kelly also sculpts and paints and sells her work online and at craft shows. Her work can be found at www.kellykillagain.com or on Instagram (@kellykillagain). Be sure to check out her booth at The Makers Festival in Manahawkin on September 16th this year!

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1. Are there any parts of the body you would never tattoo? Why?

Genitals. Because genitals.

 

3. What are some no-nos someone can avoid when booking an appointment/getting a tattoo?

I prefer people to book an appointment because they’ve seen my work and enjoy it enough to place trust in me and my style. That’s a great environment for good art to grow. However, there’s a surprising amount of people who don’t look at portfolios before booking with an artist. That makes it a little hard to find common ground if our style doesn’t match what you’re looking for, so definitely make sure you find an artist that makes sense for what you’d like. Then there’s the hagglers, the timers (also known as the “I swear it’ll only take 15 minutes” people), the micro-managers, and the “I found this online, I want you to copy it exactly” people. Just don’t be those people and have faith in the artist you choose. All I want to do is make great art that both you and I are proud of.                                                                                 

   4. What has been your favorite moment in your career so far?

It’s hard to say. I think I cherish the small moments more. I once tattooed a cancer ribbon in memory of a woman’s mother. During the session we got to know one another and I found out who her mother was—my old English teacher who inspired me to embrace creativity. When we connected the dots, both of us got a little emotional. I think it made the tattoo a little more special for both of us.

5. What is your favorite part of being a tattoo artist?

I have some really amazing clients, so meeting and working with them has been great and it makes it all worthwhile. I also have some of the coolest coworkers that I’m proud to call family.

7. Why did you become a tattoo artist?

Honestly, I never thought I would be a tattoo artist. I felt too awkward, too anxious, and too shy to even talk to a tattoo artist let alone try to become one. I was a fine artist at heart, so I went to art school in hopes of cracking the code of how to be an artist for a living or to simply land a job in the arts. Halfway through, I met the Pallotta’s, the owners of 777 Tattoos, while receiving my first tattoo. They opened my mind to the possibility of tattooing and about a year later I worked for them as a part of an internship/apprenticeship. I’ve been full time since 2013 and it’s safe to say I’m still pretty damn awkward, my anxiety is through the roof, and I’m still shy, but I’m making art every single day and that’s more valuable than trying to look cool while doing it.

8.How does it feel to tattoo someone? Weird or normal or....?

Weird mixed with normal. I draw on people for a living. That’s really weird. I also have no idea what other functioning adults do at their jobs. I can safely say that at this point, gloving up and marking people for life feels way more comfortable than trying to fax something.

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 9. How does it feel to be the sister of an amazing author?
*This was not my question lol*

Nice one, Nikki haha. It feels great. I think all three of us Colligan sisters have been super supportive of one another in each of our different paths. If we ever want to pursue something, we know we have at least two super fans right off the bat

 

 

 

10. If you could tattoo anything on anyone, what would the tattoo be and who would it be on?

I’ve been having this urge lately to do some sort of animal related flash sheet where people can choose what they’d like and a percentage of the profits would go to a local animal shelter.

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11. What other kind of art do you create? What inspires that?

Small sculptures, paintings, drawings. Everything I create sort of revolves around animals in some way and how weird humans can be in relation to other species. I also seem to make a lot of cats. It just happens.
 

  12. What does a typical day in your life look like?

Wake up early, have coffee, finish linework for the tattoos I’ll be doing that day, walk my dog, I’m at the shop from 11am - 7pm. Some days I come in a little earlier, other days I stay a bit later. I either work on one client all day, two clients who asked for medium sized designs, or I can do multiple smaller, simpler designs in one day. I usually get home by 7:30, have dinner, and then I sit on my iPad all night composing designs for the next day. I usually work until I feel comfortable finishing it with fresh eyes in the morning.

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13. How do you balance everything?

Good question. I haven’t really figured it out. I think the only thing that’s proven to force me to balance tattoo art with personal art is by committing to craft shows where I have to exhibit/sell work, which means I HAVE to have inventory, so I have to use my time away from tattooing wisely.

14. What has been your favorite tattoo/client?

Well, that’s like picking your favorite child so I can’t do that. But I do have a few clients that I am too awkward to ask to lunch or go out for coffee with, but I would TOTALLY be friends with them outside of their tattoo appointments. They’re that awesome. And I think some of my favorite tattoos are the ones that I might’ve stressed the most about, so I have to remember that pushing outside of my comfort zone is usually worth it.

 

Follow Kelly

Weak Characters

 

I wrote a piece on "weak characters" a while ago on my old blog, but I've been editing my ass off with this Sci-fi novel and a lot of these points keep coming up. Some of this information may seem familiar to you while some is completely new. Either way, I hope it gives you something to think about and discuss. :)

There is a lot of emphasis on character in writing, and no one knows that more than me. My favorite things about a book are the characters that dwell inside of it and bring it to life. In my own writing, I strive to make not just characters, but people--real and tangible, as if you would meet them at a coffee shop or run into them at the grocery store. These are people you grew up with, people you saw from afar and always wanted to know, your friends and enemies. You. Me.

I pride myself on the realism of my characters. I want you to feel their joy, their sadness, their pain. It is my goal that you think about them long after you close the book and go about your life. Mostly, the people who have read my books realize all the work I have put into them and they often say how they can relate to the characters and feel what they are going through. However, once in a while there is a complaint, which is only natural when you create art for a living. Not everyone is going to like or understand what you do, and that’s okay. It makes us human and different from each other. 

At first, it was hard for me to see where someone was coming from when they pointed out that my characters were weak. I found it hard to not take offense. I research my characters’ traits; I spend months sketching them out and bringing them to life before they are ever in a story. How can they possibly be weak when to me they are made of flesh? It took me a little while to really examine my characters and I eventually came to the conclusion that yes, I do write about "weak characters". In fact, I think I have a weak spot for them.

Without giving too much away, my new story has what could be perceived as a "weak character". This does not mean that this character has no driving force or personality, but rather that they are subjected to a lot of bullshit before they can learn and succeed. This seems kind of hard to imagine--this character being strong yet weak at the same time--but that's because I don't want to give any of it away. Instead, let's look at some of my other books.

In The Sunshine Series, we meet Sophie, who has been loved and criticized for her "weaknesses". She is allergic to the sun, she has a bad past, she doesn't trust people, and so on. For a lot of the book, she mostly hates herself and the world around her. However, she grows. She becomes more than her past and her ailments and that is what makes her weaknesses strengths.

Another character, Ava (from my book Animal), has anxiety disorder and PTSD. She is taken captive and cannot physically fight her attacker, so she has to use her mind--the thing that is so against her most of the time--to escape. 

Casey Williams is the main character in  The Donor, in which she desperately turns to something she never would otherwise in order to help her family.

And then there is Corbin (From The Shadow & Ink Series), who can't trust if Six is a figment of her imagination or real. She doesn't know how to help her mother or how to prevent herself from inheriting the same mental issues.

Many of these details are weak. I can admit that. But just because you are weak doesn’t mean that's all you are. Don’t get me wrong, I love a strong female lead as much as the next person, but my characters do not wield swords or bend steel. Although I write in the paranormal genre, my characters are real people. They have flaws. They bleed and cry and regret things. Most of the time, they have a hard time looking in the mirror, getting out of bed, or leaving the house. They cannot be expected to shoot flames out of their eyes and save the world. They are busy saving themselves.

While I can see how this can be misconstrued as weak, I also think it is a very two dimensional way of thinking that causes this theory of “weak characters”. A weak character to me is someone who has no past, present, or future. They are just a vehicle to tell a story. 

When I was younger, I watched TV shows and read books about heroes like Batman and Buffy, but I connected more to characters when they were vulnerable, when you saw the parts of them that contradicted their capes and special abilities. Many people cannot ever aspire to put on their underwear outside their tights and fight crime. Some have a hard time sleeping. Some have a difficult home life. Some find it hard to escape into things when they aren’t real to them. And then still, some have a completely normal, happy life and want more than the acrobatics.

Flaws are what make us human. While as human beings, we strive for nothing more than happiness and a life that is as close to perfect as possible, perfect and happy doesn't make a good story. Perfect characters are only appreciated when you see their flaws. Flawless people don't seem real because it doesn't occur in the real world. My characters grow as you read, they leave stains on your hands when you turn the pages. You cannot walk away from a book of mine without dirt under your fingernails. My characters stick to your teeth, get lodged in your throat.

They have no time to fight back with brute force. Honestly, they have no interest in it. The mind is a dangerous place, but it is also a source of strength that is often overlooked in today's popular literature. When I was a kid, my favorite books were The Catcher in The Rye, Night, and Running With Scissors.  I loved Ellen Hopkins and Edgar Allan Poe. The more sorrow, the better. The more flaws, the more interesting these people and stories were for me. However, I also loved Goosebumps, where the driving force of the stories are the plots.

 Perhaps the reason I read more stories that were heavy with anguish was because I saw myself in them. I wanted to figure out their problems and see them succeed as much as I wanted these things for myself. They made me feel less alone; like I was human.

I never really could get into all the books my friends were reading. I'm not a Harry Potter or Hunger Games fan. I don't get why people like Divergent or Twilight. I can appreciate the writers and the overall arc of what they are trying to accomplish, but for me, I can't connect. I can't feel anything. It's like going on a date with a really attractive person but being unable to find anything in common once they open their mouth.

That isn't to say that theses stories don't have characters with flaws or real problems. What I mean is that these flaws and problems often take somewhat of a backseat to the main "meat" of the story. These novels aim mostly to entertain and maybe have you think a little, whereas my goal is always to make you think first. One isn't better than the other; they're just different. Just as one person's life cannot be better than yours because they have more or less than you. You're just different and that's what makes the world go round.

When I started writing, I didn't notice that these "weak" things were in my writing. Now it's blatantly obvious. I can only ascertain that I created my characters in the same vein because I wanted this solace for others. The same comfort I found between pages in the library when the world around me was too scary.

When you're learning about plot, one of the first things you hear about is the basic character arc:  

1. Character wants something

2. Character tries to get that something.

3. Character either gets that something or doesn't get that something.

While this is incredible simplified, this is what all great stories have for their characters. Of course they learn and discover things about themselves and the world around them through this arc, but they also change. The most important thing is that they end up somewhere different than where they were at the beginning of the story. I think somewhere in all my creative writing studies, I got hooked on this idea of change. This idea of ending up the same person yet somehow forever different. My arcs are always the same, and I haven't decided if I like or hate it. My characters just want to be normal at their cores. Is that enough to make a strong character? I don't know. I think a better question to ask would be is it enough to make a stronger person?

Every single piece of literature you have ever read has one goal, whether it is a focus of the writing or not: explore what it means to be human. 

As a human, you go through ups and downs. Spirals and endless flat lines. You go through routines. You deal with the unexpected. The hero doesn't always come in right when you need them. You don't fall in love with the people you think you want to fall in love with. No one is coming in with all the answers to your questions. Sometimes, you have to find these things within yourself or in places you never thought to look.

My characters aren’t riding into battle with dragons; they are inching their ways to normal lives just like everyone else. While other characters in other stories are saving their kingdoms, mine are trying to rule their own destinies--to change things for themselves without completely changing who they are. 

They can still solve the crime, figure out the dark secrets, and become a hero. It takes strength to do these things without the aid of magic, muscles, or money. Overcoming fantastic beasts and obstacles put in place over the course of their quest is all well and good, but there is no obstacle quite like yourself. You can do nearly anything if you grow. You can feel more satisfied after you have lived with certain monsters and are finally able to defeat them.

 

15 Things You Shouldn't Say To Someone With Depression

I make it a point that depression and mental illness in general should not be kept a secret. Doing so only creates more ignorance and perpetuates false information. It is something that is unique to each person who has it, and no two people suffer in the exact same way. No two people cope in the exact same way either, but one of my mechanisms has always been writing, so I hope you enjoy and maybe learn a thing or two.

 

1. "It'll be okay."

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Yes, in theory, things will be okay. The sun always rises, tomorrow is another day, and there's plenty of fish in the sea. All of these things culminate into one shoulder shrug of a normal person who doesn't care to get to know how you really feel or how your brain works. Granted, some people have never felt depression personally and it is hard to explain and even harder for someone who has never experienced it to know how to react or what to say. The best thing is to just be there. Listen. Be quiet. Watch TV. Give them a blanket. Above all, be patient.

2. "Stop worrying."

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I never thought my "worrying" was a real problem until I entered middle school. I will worry about any conceivable thing you can think of and about a million others you can't. I will think of that one thing I did in 3rd grade and worry about it. I will wake up in the middle of the night worrying about being late for a job I no longer have. These things I cannot control. My mind is a hamster on a wheel and he's always taking shots of Redbull so he barely ever slows down. If I could just stop worrying, I fucking would. Believe me.

 

3. "I thought you were on medication now."

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This one is something I've been hearing (or it's been implied) more recently. Here's the thing: medication helps regulate the symptoms of my depression and anxiety, but it isn't like waving a magic wand and I'm suddenly happy every waking moment. I have sad days, days where I'm depressed, things trigger my anxiety for no reason, etc. Think of it as taking something for pain. It helps your symptoms, but you still inevitably feel it.

 

4. "I'm glad I don't need pills to function."

Well good for fucking you! You are an amazing person and so much better than me because of how your brain chemistry works. I bow down to the superior specimen of a human before me.

Honestly, if you don't have depression or if you have the type where you only need counseling, a walk in the woods, or more exercise or a routine, that's great. Taking medication sucks. I will be the very first to admit it. You have awful side effects (to name a few: constipation, diarrhea, constipated diarrhea, insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, weight loss, decreased sex drive or inability to orgasm--that one's fun--more anxiety, increased heart rate, and the list goes on), it takes forever to find the right pill (or combination of pills) that work for you, and it's a subtle reminder that you are different than everyone else who can function normally without medical intervention.

This mindset is the sole reason I waited and suffered for so long without asking for help. Once I found the right one, it was like a film was taken off of my eyes and I could see and feel things like I never had. My brain isn't worse than yours, it just works differently.

 

5. "There are people who have it way worse than you."

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Some of my other favorites include: "There are starving people in China", "There are wars all over the world", and "At least you have a roof over your head". Well, first of all, thanks. You just added to the list of things I can worry about while staring at the ceiling late at night (because of course I have insomnia from my fucking pills that you are so above taking). Secondly, I KNOW THIS. We all know this. People think that pain is a contest. Someone is always hurting more than you and so your pain is somehow less in comparison. But pain is something every human being experiences and it is always seen as negative. People put value on happiness and joy because it makes us feel good, and less on what makes us feel bad. However, you need both to live in this world and truly appreciate every little thing. Someone else's pain does not make mine less valid. 

 

6. "You're pretty/young/have a good job, etc. Why would you be depressed?"

A doctor actually said this to my sister when she inquired about medication. A DOCTOR. That's how far this hypocrisy goes. Anyway, no. No, you cannot say that. What the fuck does any of this have to do with my brain and how I feel? Being pretty doesn't help me stop worrying.  Being young doesn't help me think any less about death. Having a good job doesn't make the black cloud following me disappear. Some people honestly believe that you have control over how you feel when you have clinical depression. The simple fact is that, while some things can help, you cannot control when these feelings overtake you.  Depression is a passenger in your body and a lot of times you don't get to decide when it takes the wheel.

 

7. "I was depressed one time in high school when my boyfriend dumped me."

Okay, I see what you're trying to do here: relate to me so I don't feel so alone or something along those lines. While these things could have affected you in a negative way, they most likely were not depression. Sadness is only one tiny part of depression and so many people don't know that. Other things include: anxiety, dissociation, OCD, shaking, hives, aches and pains, headaches, stomach aches, intestinal problems, ulcers, sleeplessness, sleeping too much, helplessness, fear, the crushing weight of existence, looking up at the sky and hating how small you feel and how you aren't even capable of putting on matching socks, buying a house plant because you want to be surrounded by life and then killing it because you can barely remember to shower so why would you religiously water something oh my god no living thing can depend on you, can it?

And the list goes on.

So nope, breaking up with your high school boyfriend of a few months like, 15 years ago is not the same at all.

8. "You just need to get out of the house."

Admittedly, sometimes this can help. Personally, when I'm depressed I want to cocoon myself in my bed and not move. However, sometimes if you force yourself to go for a walk or somewhere there are people, you can distract yourself for a while. It doesn't really make me feel better because I hate people and I don't want to do anything when I'm in the middle of a deep dark hole and outside is where the people are. People always disappoint you when life is pointless so why remind yourself?

 

9. "You just need to get more sun. I go to the beach every day in the summer and I'm always happy."

 I actually do have a pretty bad Vitamin D deficentcy, but it isn't really tied to my depression. For some people, maybe that's the case and it's that simple. For me, if I went to the beach every day in the summer I would:

A: hate people even more because we're a tourist town and all the shoobies drive me nuts.

B: Get burnt within an hour despite how much SPF 150 I slather all over myself.

C: Worry the entire time I'm outside that A and/or B are going to inevitably happen.

 

10. "A lot of people care about you and you're being selfish thinking you're all alone and sad."

Well thank you for clearing that up for me! I had no fucking clue that the stress and turmoil I put my loved ones through by simply being alive affected them at all! Thanks for bringing that to light and making me aware of it. Otherwise, I would have just continued being "selfish" the rest of my life.

Fuck off. For real.

I am so painfully aware of the people who care about me that it hurts. It hurts even more than if I was completely alone. When I'm depressed and nothing can make me feel better, the guilt that you feel at not being able to allow your loved ones to help you is worse than the depression itself. We honestly don't need someone to remind us of this. We think about it constantly and hate ourselves enough. But thanks, dick.

 

11. "Are you off your meds?"

Mood swings are another common occurrence with mental disorders. I have spent years working on it and can usually stop them before I lash out on anyone, but of course I have my days. If someone asks this question genuinely, if they are truly concerned, they will frame it in a better way and ask when you're not in the throes of a mood swing. Most of the time, the person doesn't really care about anything other than the fact that your pesky passenger is ruining their relaxing Sunday and they want you to stop so this is the logical conclusion. You angry. You need pill.

No. I am not off my meds. If I was, trust me, you wouldn't need to ask. You would know.

 

 

12. "Stop being so negative."

Negativity is just as important as positivity. People say this to me a lot because they mistake my honesty for negative thoughts. If I hate something, I'm going to let you know. Depression, as I've said, affects people in different ways. One way it has affected me is that I have been on both sides--happy and depressed. Hopeless and full of joy. It gives you a unique perspective and as a result, I've realized that just going along with things and acting like they don't bother you is a crock of shit. You're only hurting yourself in believing that the world should only be positive all the time. That isn't how things work. 

 

13. "You went out with your friends last night and had fun. I thought you were depressed."

Yes. People who are depressed, can, in fact, be happy. We can pretend to be happy too. But we can also genuinely feel joy when we're around our people or doing things we enjoy. How about instead of criticizing us for feeling what is most often rare in our lives, you be happy FOR us. Just because I don't fit into your "box of sadness" does not mean I am faking or dramatizing how I feel. Just because I have a night of fun does not mean my illness is gone. 

So kindly go suck an egg.

 

14. "It's all in your head."

Well you don't fucking say!

The whole point is that it's in your head, asshole. People can't see what you're struggling with, how you want to jump out of your skin, etc. However, things in your head can also affect your body. I get aches and pains, migraines, intestinal issues, and so forth. Depression, yes, is a mental disorder, but just brushing it off like this is harmful in more way than one.

 

15."Happiness is a choice."

This is by far the thing that I most often hear and probably the thing I hate to hear most. Sure, in theory, you can always "choose to be happy" (I will cut you if you say that to me, btw), but just because you choose something doesn't mean you get it. When you have depression, you can't control your happiness any more than you can control when you have to go the bathroom: to an extent you can hold it in, but at some point, you gotta go or you're going to make a mess of yourself.

 

 

 

Tea and Their Benefits

It's that time of year where the weather keeps changing. Will it be a bright sunny day with the promise that summer is on the way or a blast of Jack Frost's snot? It's anyone's guess these days. However, I find that tea is good no matter the season, and if you find yourself feeling a little sluggish, sick, or stressed, maybe this post will help. 

*stay tuned till the end to get a special chai tea recipe from yours truly! ;)

Black

This is probably one of the most common teas you can drink. It's often the only option at diners and restaurants, but that shouldn't discourage you! So many people go for the fancy tea, but plain old black (with milk and sugar, lemon, or honey if you want) is a staple for any tea drinker. It has caffeine in it most of the time, which is good but not as strong as coffee. It also has health benefits such as helping with digestive problems, lowering blood pressure, and even helping with asthma.

 

Green

This is the drink that comes to mind whenever someone mentions "antioxidant" and for good reason. This type of tea actually comes from the same plant as black tea; it's just processed in a different way! There are endless benefits with this one, so I'll name a few: anti-aging, it's detoxifying, it helps lower cholesterol, and helps with weight loss, and most importantly, at least for me, it boosts your immunity! I still get sick from time to time,but I find that when I drink green tea regularly, I get sick a lot less. I haven't had the flu ONCE since I started drinking it. 

 

Jasmine

You might not know this, but Jasmine tea is actually just regular tea with dried jasmine flowers in it. It might sound strange, drinking flower water, but it tastes amazing and it's pretty easy to come by. This one is good for stress relief in particular without sacrificing that all-important caffeine. The smell is relaxing and the actual tea is soothing as well.

 

Oolong

This is the tea that is most often served at Chinese restaurants (if it isn't green tea that is). It helps boost your matabolism, makes you alert, is good for your hair and skin, and even helps prevent osteoperosis! 

 

Lemon Ginger

I drink this one quite often. If you're sick, this a good one for sinuses and sniffles as well as tummy issues. If you drink a cup in the morning, it helps get rid of bloating! It also soothes pain and is good for ovarian cysts! This saved me when my cysts were a nightmare and I wish more people knew about it.

 

Peppermint

This is the tea I always reach for when my stomach hurts. It helps easy any pain or gas and it tastes great too! Peppermint tea is also the one I choose when I want to get stuff done because the scent is strong and trains my brain that whenever I smell it, it's time to write. In addition, peppermint tea is good for bad breath and respiratory problems, and even fevers!

 

Chamomile 

This is the stuff that sleepytime tea is made of. I drink this whenever I have insomnia and while it doesn't exactly knock me out, it does help me relax. It is also good for menstrual cramps, rashes, swelling, and if you put it under your eyes, it can help with dark circles.

 

Lavender

Lavender is another calming flower that I often add to my tea. It helps with insomnia and anxiety, and when you add lemon, it's great for migraines!

 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is anti-inflammatory, so I often drink it when I have aches and pains. It also helps that cinnamon is one of my favorite flavors and I love anything with cinnamon! You can buy tea bags or simply add some sticks to your tea kettle with your regular tea. It also helps with bad cholesterol, improves circulation, and is rich in polyphenols, which help naturally stabalize blood sugar.

 

Matcha

Matcha powder is, in fact, just green tea. The leaves are ground up and you actually drink them along with the hot water instead of steeping them like traditional leaves, which makes it 10 times more powerful in antioxidants than regular green tea! One of the reasons I like this one so much is because it is the only type of caffeine (that I know of at least) that is both calming and makes you more alert without jitters. It's packed with good things unlike any type of coffee, and it doesn't make you crazy if you drink too much of it.

This type of tea is not for the casual green tea drinker. It's very strong, and packs a punch! But if you're adventurous and like green tea, I say give it a try! It's one of my favorites. :)

 

Rosehip

Rose hips are actually the rounded parts of the rose underneath the petals. They are high in Vitamins C, A, and E, and also have iron, magnesium, and potassium. in addition, this magical concoction can help improve mobility, reduce pain and joint inflammation, and is good for reducing cholesterol--particularly in people who don't use medication for it!

Like Jasmine tea, you can brew the rosehips by themselves or add it to your regular tea of choice. I like to mix in a little vanilla or almond extract, and it really makes it so you don't feel like you're drinking perfume.

 

Calendula

Another herbal tea, calendula is from another flower: marigolds!

This tea is crazy-powerful and packed with anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. As a result, it's great for bug bites, rashes, eczema, small cuts and bruises, and sores. It speeds up the healing process while at the same time protecting against infection! How cool is that? 

*disclaimer: this tea can promote menstruation, so you don't want to drink it if you're pregnant or trying to get pregnant. However, if you suffer from super long or intense periods, I would give it a try!

 

Nikki's Spicy Chai Recipe!

This is my go-to drink for when I want something nice and warm--especially in the fall and winter. It has a ton of spices and things that make you feel all fuzzy inside, so if you try to make it, let me know what you think!

*All of these measurements are pretty rough. After you make it a few times, you can tweak it more to what you like!

What you need:

  • 1 inch of ginger root
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper (or 6-10 whole pepper corns)
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2-3 bayleaves, torn
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (or 3-6 crushed cardamom pods)
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 3-4 cups water
  • milk substance of your choice (I use almond milk, but any will work!), however much you want
  • sugar (however much you want)
  • 3 black tea bags (or around 3 tbsp of black tea of your choice)
  • a pot
  • a blender (optional)
  • some kind of small strainer

How you make it:

  • Pour water into the pot and add all of the herbs and spices. Wait for it to boil for around 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add the tea bags. Cover and let steep for however long you like. The longer you let it steep, the stronger the tea!
  • Strain liquid.
  • Add however much milk and sugar you like to some of the chai liquid (I usually go by color with the milk--a nice light brown. Then around two teaspoons of sugar).
  • You can add this mixture to a blender to make it like a foamy Starbucks drink or just stir it like the rest of us mere mortals.
  • I usually store the leftover chai liquid in the fridge and it keeps for around a week! It makes around 3 or 4 cups, depending on how much of the liquid you add to your milk or sugar.

*This version that I make may be too spicy for some, but I like it that way. If you don't like spice, just tweak the pepper and bayleaves!

Monthly Goals: March 2017

So...February pretty much sucked. I was sick for a few weeks, well for a few days, and then sick again. I fell behind in a lot of stuff and then finally caught up. But I have some new goals and I'm trying to look at things with optimism for March, so let's see what they are and how I did with last month's goals!

 

1. Figure out where the hell we're going to live.

I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but it's one of the only things I've been thinking about lately. Right now, we're (me, my sister, and Al) basically all between homes, house sitting for one woman and going to our other residences when we can. This means we're basically paying rent to not live somewhere solid, which I HATE. Since I was a kid, I have never felt like I lived in a stable place--it was always going to be taken away or disappear in some way. Now that I have a chance to make my own place with people I love, I am really eager to get the ball rolling. My dad's house was sold, but the closing keeps getting pushed back and we have no idea what small chunk of change we'll be getting, so once we do, we can make a plan and I cannot wait!

2. Get at least 30,000 words in the Dark Contemporary Book.

I was writing in this religiously before I got sick, so I'm proud to say I hit 21,000 words! I am loving this story and I cannot wait to get more of it done. However, I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself because when I do that I get burnt out. Also, I will be focusing most of my free time on editing the Secret Sci-fi Project, so I think 30,000 words is a good goal to start. 

3. Confirm at least 50 reviews for one book.

I started asking reviewers if they would like to review my book(s) again, and I am overwhelmed with the feedback already. I plan on querying a bunch each month, so 50 might seem small but it's a lot for me.

4. Solidify release schedule.

Right now, I do have a loose schedule, but I haven't cracked down and made it more solid. Right now it goes: Dark Contemporary in the summer, the next Shadow & Ink book in the fall, and a Sunshine novella or short story in the winter. If at all possible, there will be more between, but that's all I've got.

5. Read at least 3 books.

I met this goal last month with ease, so I hope I can keep on the reading train this month as well.

6. Get back on gym schedule.

I am actually starting that today. My medication makes it hard to lose weight in the first place, and after basically a month of not working out, I am less than pleased with my size and my health and my sister is getting married in the fall so I would really like to not feel awful in a bridesmaid dress. I'm also going to invest in some more workout gear, since I literally own one pair of pants and one shirt.

7. Save more money!

Every month I plan to save 500 dollars and every month I come up short. I think it would work better if I set up automatic withdrawals either once a day or once a week. It wouldn't be much, but it would definitely be better than nothing.

8. Write a guest post for at least 1 other blog.

I really enjoy being featured on other blogs, so if you run one and have something you'd like me to write about, hit me up!

9. Go on a date with the Mr.

Between work, stressing out about where we're going to live, both of us being sick, and all kinds of other stuff, me and Mr. Boo have not had a lot of time for just us. I would love to go on a date or stay in just the two of us one night. ;)

10. Clean up my social media.

There are so many people and pages that I don't know. There are groups people have added me to that I wasn't aware of, and I'm tired of getting notifications of things I don't care about and seeing negativity on my feed. Time to weed out the nonsense and make it simple again.

11. Post more consistently online.

If you've noticed, my author page as well as my editing page on Facebook have been more active than usual. That's because I am FINALLY taking advantage of the schedulig a post feature I've somehow neglected all these years. It helps me engage with readers/clients more and makes it easier to reach them when I have something important to say, so if you see one of my posts, give it a like so more people can see!

12. Turn off all electronics after a certain time each night.

I've kind of been forced to do this simply because my phone has been slowly taking a nosedive and I can't be bothered to fix it. Once it dies for the night, I don't recharge it because it takes forever and when I do plug it in, I leave it in the living room, away from where I'm sleeping so I'm not tempted to look at it and I have more time to read and just relax without being bombarded with technology.

13. Finish first read through of Super Secret Sci-fi Project and print it out.

I've been working diligently on filling in holes and submitting it to my workshop friends for feedback. I'm really close to having an actual rough draft with all the details filled in and once I do I can print it and edit it by hand (which always helps me way more than staring at a computer for some reason). That way, I can start researching agents and publishing houses the closer I get to being finished. I plan on having a synopsis and query letter by the end of April at the latest if all goes according to plan.

14. Get a new freaking phone!

Yeah. I hate this piece of garbage. It's cracked, it's slow, and just last night I broke the only charger I have for it (which I had to wrap around the phone to get even the slightest charge). I've been trying to get a new phone forever since I'm up for an update, but Sprint has awful customer service and so we need to go to an actual store with the person in charge of the plan, so it's just a matter of coordinating our schedules.

15. Get at least 10 clients for Metamorphosis this month.

I currently have 7, so I don't doubt this is doable. Even if it isn't, it's just a nice goal to have. 

 


1. Write at least 15,000 words in the Dark Contemporary Book.

Did it. As I mentioned above, I broke 20,000 words--5,000 more than my goal!

2. Eat slightly better--or just remember to eat.

Yeah, being sick completely threw off my diet too. I basically ate whatever I felt like eating because I didn't feel good and usually all the fast stuff is unhealthy, so I don't look forward to hopping on a scale anytime soon. However, I've been eating a lot better since.

3. Go for a hike.

This is just one of those things I didn't have time for last month. Also, any nice day I was sick and when I wasn't it was snowing. Maybe as it gets warmer I'll have more chances to do it.

4. Look at houses.

We started tentatively doing this just to see what was out there. There are definitely a few affordable options for renting or buying, but we can't look too seriously before we know what our funds are like.

5. Work on abs more at the gym.

I started doing this before I got sick and I actually saw some small results. I plan to get back to it this month. 

6. Try a new recipe.

We did this one night. The recipe itself was pretty meh, but we made it together so it was fun.

7. Start and stop working around the same time each day.

While it's hard for me to stop sometimes, I have been more consistently stopping my work around 6 every day and it has done wonders for my brain.

8. Stop going on my phone in the middle of the night.

Like I mentioned before, it's been a lot easier to do this with a broken phone. Instead, if I wake up in the middle of the night I read and it makes me way more tired than staring at a bright screen. I plan to keep leaving my phone in a separate room when I go to bed.

9. Start back at workshop group.

Doing it. Although I actually missed the Skype call because I was on a Nyquil journey, I did send in my story and got feedback, so I'm looking forward to doing that more.

10. Query some book bloggers and/or promote books.

I did both last month and I have definitely seen a small shift in sales, so I'll probably continue to do this in March.

11. Get Sci-fi book ready for hand editing.

Yup. Still doing that.

12. Start thinking about a new realistic release schedule.

Did it. See above.

13. Do something with the poetry collection!

Yeah, that didn't happen. I just forgot. However, someone at the signing this past weekend saw my prints with some poems on them and really liked what they read, so that was encouraging.

14. Work on Newsletter list.

I decided to wait until people got to sign up at the signing this weekend, so I'll probably get to this sometime in the coming weeks.

15. Gather some guest posts for the blog.

I got my first guest post last month from the lovely Shirley. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you do!

 

And that's it for this month. What are some of your goals?

Monthly Goals: February 2017

Is it just me, or did January go by really fast? I can't believe it's already time to look at the goals I accomplished/didn't get around to in January and what my goals are for February. 


1. Write at least 15,000 words in the Dark Contemporary Book.

I have been slowly working on this one every week and I am so excited to share it when it's finally ready. It's so, so different from anything I've done before and I am falling in love with it more and more every time I enter its world. Hopefully it won't be too hard to get this goal done.

(Pssst. There's a teaser of it in Nikki Rae Fans.)

2. Eat slightly better--or just remember to eat.

I really have to work on having appropriate meals. Most days, I eat like a toddler without parents and an endless supply of junk simply because it's easier than cooking something in the middle of working or writing. A lot of days I don't eat anything besides tea until four and it's bad. I'm going to try and make designated break times during the day, so hopefully that helps.

3. Go for a hike.

While my depression has been a lot better, my anxiety has been rearing its ugly head more lately. I used to go on hikes in the woods a few times a month and it helped a lot to just take in the outdoors and not be so much in my head. On nice days, I want to try and do this more.

4. Look at houses.

Since the whole apartment thing fell through, Al and I have been leaning more and more towards just taking the plunge and getting a house. We don't have a huge budget and we'll still need at least one roommate, but that's where we are as of now. I don't want to make any big commitments just yet, but just looking and seeing what's out there can't hurt.

5. Work on abs more at the gym.

I've been concentrating mostly on the bike and weights, but I want to tone my lil belly more.

6. Try a new recipe.

We've been cooking a lot more lately and I would love to try something new that won't frustrate me. I don't really like cooking because it's so unorganized and makes a mess but I am TRYING.

7. Start and stop working around the same time each day.

I have the start time sort of tackled, it's the stopping that I can't seem to get the hang of. Once I'm done with one task, I start working on the next--even if it's reserved for the next day. It makes it that much harder to shut off my brain at night when I want to go to sleep and it leaves zero time for me to relax, which can't be good for my anxiety either.

8. Stop going on my phone in the middle of the night.

When I can't sleep, I have this awful habit of going online and looking at news articles that make me upset or more awake in general. Instead of doing this, I'm going to make a more conscious effort to click on my Kindle ap when I reach for my phone at 3 a.m.

9. Start back at workshop group.

I took SUCH a long break from my workshop group this past year and I am dying to get back into it. I miss my writing friends and their projects and it really motivates me being in that mindset with like minded people.

10. Query some book bloggers and/or promote books.

Pretty self explanatory. My reviews have basically dropped off the face of the planet since I stopped promoting and I miss seeing them.

11. Get Sci-fi book ready for hand editing.

It's done, but it is far from perfect. There are details missing and a few holes I have to fill. Then I'm going to print it, give it a little time to rest in my head, and look at it with new eyes next month.

12. Start thinking about a new realistic release schedule.

I have been writing more than ever and have finally decided what order to release books, just not when. I don't want to put unnecessary pressure on myself but I also want to have more of a schedule for my readers, so hopefully I can come to some kind of compromise.

13. Do something with the poetry collection!

I finished it more than a year ago and I got the edits back from my super patient editor months ago, and still have yet to look at them or work on them at all. I don't know for sure if I'll be publishing it or just working on paintings for the illustration part because I really enjoyed it, but I want to do SOMETHING.

14. Work on Newsletter list.

I do in fact have a newsletter. I made it a long time ago and never did anything with it. I have a list of people who have signed up at signings and I still have yet to add them and send a single letter to anyone. It's going to come in handy once I start regularly releasing things again so I should jump on that.

15. Gather some guest posts for the blog.

I already have one, and I would love to feature more on the blog this month and in the coming months, so if you have something you want to say, hit me up!

 

 

1. Publish at least two blog posts a week.

I think I've been doing pretty well with this. I haven't missed one week!

2. Read a book.

I read AND listened to two books this month, which is way more than I have been reading/listening to. I recommend Renea Mason's Good Doctor trilogy. ;)
*also started re-reading 1984 and a book on conspiracy theories and secret societies for the Dark Contemporary book. 

3. Wake up earlier.

No comment.

4. Go to the eye doctor.

*Making an appointment this week

5. Find an apartment with the gang.

This one is no longer in the cards, as our roommates have moved on to other plans. However, Al and I are thinking of looking for a house in the coming month(s) so stay tuned.

6. Finish writing Super Secret Sci-fi Project.

I. Did. It.
The very rough draft is done and ready to be workshopped with my buddies!

Also have a small teaser up in Nikki Rae Fans. :)

 

7. Move up in weights at the gym.

DONE. I can now lift/press 50lbs on most of the machines. 

8. Submit at least one short story or poem to a journal/anthology.

I just forgot about this one honestly. I was working so hard on the Sci-fi book and Dark Contemporary that I didn't think of much else.

9. Reach 200 members in Nikki Rae Fans.

Didn't quite reach this goal, but I did make it to 180 members, so not too shabby!

11. Film/vlog more.

I attempted to vlog at least 5 times this month and none of it was at all interesting. Maybe if something cool happens I'll document it and I plan on filming a video or two in the near future, just not sure about what yet.

12. Throw out useless shit taking up space.

I haven't really been home this past month, but when I am I am throwing shit out.

13. Save around $500.

Just waiting on a few more payments at the end of the week and then this will be DONE.

14. Do taxes.

I didn't get to this just because I haven't gotten my paperwork from Amazon yet. Not much I can do but wait for them. 

15. Go to Divergently launch (and maybe read).

It's this Thursday and I'm going AND reading. I'll also be speaking on a panel before it!

16. Print copies of The Snake Den.

Like the anthology thing, I forgot about this too. I REALLY want to at least start this week so I can have them with me at the signing in March.

17. Start a loose outline of the next Shadow & Ink Series book.

Nope. Didn't even think about it. But I do have some ideas.

18. Start journaling again.

DONE.

19. Spend more time with my sisters/family.

DONE.

20. Make a new planner

Oh yeah, I totally did that. It's yellow and has gudetama all over it and I am so in love.

January's score: 10/20 Not too shabby.

 

 

15 Things Writers Are Tired of Hearing

For the most part, people are really awesome and they appreciate that you're a writer. However, there are always those times you want to punch someone for saying certain things, so I decided to make this slightly salty post. 

 

1. "I don't read."

Okay, good for you. I really don't understand why people feel the need to brag about this fact--even more so when you tell them you're a writer. It's like you're telling them you're a baker and they hate cake. I just don't get it. 

2. "I wish I had time to write."

Yeah, me fucking too.

In all seriousness, you most likely do have the time to write. You just have to sacrifice some things like with anything else you want to do. Cut out drinks with friends or surfing the internet for hours on end. It gets easier the more you get used to writing as an aspect of your life rather than just something you want to one day do.

3. "Can I get a free copy of your book(s)?"

No. Unless you win it or it's your birthday and I forgot to get you a present, nope.  You don't go to a book signing and ask an author for a free book, right? Here's the thing: writers make their income (at least part of it) off of their writing. It isn't just writers who face people asking them for art for nothing or "exposure" or some other bullshit reason. If you want to show an author, artist, musicain, etc. how much you appreciate their work, how about ensuring they can feed and clothe themselves?

4. "You know, publishing is dying. You wasted your college career on a degree that doesn't matter."

This is usually from someone who knows absolutely nothing about the writing community or writing as a career. Publishing, if anything, is being reincarnated as an even more awesome version of itself. More and more readers are picking up indie books over traditional because of the accessibility and frequency of how many books are released in a year.  If anything, it can be more lucrative to certain authors and certain books than if they were only able to put out a book every year or so with traditional publishing. And if you're a writer, taking matters into your own hands is the ultimate freedom.

5. "Writers don't make money." 

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Yeah, so buy my fucking books.

I joke (but no, really, you might like my books and I need to keep buying tea). You are absolutely right. Most of us don't make a lot of money if any money at all. It might be hard for the person saying this to grasp (since they probably don't read either) but get this: the majority of us don't write to make money. We write because we love writing and sharing our work with the world. Not every measure of success is based off of money, so fuck off. 

Also, a lot of writers do make a shit ton of money. So fuck off.

6. "Can you write my book for me?"

Uh...can you be my personal chef and pay my bills and clean my house for me? 'Cause I barely have time for all the books I have churning around in my head--seriously, as soon as I'm even partway into one idea/book, up pops another wanting my attention. I wish I was a ghostwriter. I would LOVE to be paid them Dan Brown dollars. However, I think I would slowly go insane if I started making more time for books that weren't mine when I already edit them as my day job.

7. "Will you write my biography, book description, will, obituary?"

Same thing here. Only, since it's shorter than asking for a novel, people think you're being rude when you say no. Listen, if you want to pay me for it, sure. Honestly, I'll do it for the money. The thing is that most people who have asked me these things expect it of me. "You're a writer so you should write this."  Yeah, and you're a nurse so you should pick up my prescriptions and you're a painter so you should paint my house. It's the same principle as people asking you for free books. Writers get paid to write. If I'm writing you something for you, it's because I care about you and want to do something nice. Don't expect this of someone just because they have a skill that you don't. 

8. "I found a typo in your book."

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Listen, writers are not infallible. Editors also, are not infallible. Chances are, they are far more aware of typos and mistakes in their published books than any one else. I know I am. There are famous authors who have typos in their published books (I mean, have you read Twilight? And that shit is an international bestseller). I think it's focused on more in the indie community because people automatically assume you didn't have an editor, but it's usually the opposite. You're just being more of a knit-picker because you saw that I wasn't with a publishing house and you want to start shit. Stahp.

9. "I'll review your book for $50.00 or your first born. Oh, and I only read print copies."

This one seems to be fairly new to me. A few bloggers have the usual guidelines of what they like to read, how they review, etc. on their site and then when you email them they say they'd love to review it but they only read paperbacks or want to be compensated in some way. I can kind of see where they're coming from in that they want to make a little money off of their hard work, but if I paid everyone for my reviews (with money or books), I wouldn't know they were authentic and neither would anyone else. 

10. "You should write books about..."

I don't write kids books for example. If I did, they would be real fucked up and I would probably get into a lot of trouble with parents asking why their children are crying. Different writers have different strengths and preferences for their subject matter. You wouldn't ask Stephen King to write a teen drama, would you? "Writer" isn't a blanket statement that means "I write anything".

11. "Are you ever getting a real job?"

THIS. IS. MY. JOB.

12. "What publisher are you with? Oh, you publish yourself? Wow, I wish I had a hobby like that!"

Yes, writing starts out as a hobby. The difference between the writer who writes as a hobby and one who writes as a career is that it takes WORK. I can't throw up my hands and say screw it when I don't want to write. I can't blow it off and go out for drinks at the end of a long day. We put in the time (lots and lots of time) and then we put in even more to publish it ourselves and get the word out. It most definitely is more than a hobby.

13. "Writing must be such a fun job!"

On most days, yes, writing is amazing, fun, and fulfilling. On a lot of days, when you have a million and one real life things going on, it's a looming thing in the background demanding to be noticed. It takes care and it takes research. It takes reading, proofing, more research, and revising. I love writing more than anything else in my life, but I'll be the first to admit it can be a pain in the ass when I have other shit that needs to get done. People tend to look at authors like they get to pet puppies or pick flowers all day but it just isn't always like that.

14. "Can you get me groceries/come over/walk my cat since you're home all day anyway?"

No.

To elaborate, NO.

Yes, I am home. No, I am not available. Let's put it this way: you work at a pet store. I would never call you at work and ask that you drop everything to bring me a hamster, now would I? It sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn't it? Yeah. That's 'cause it is.

15. "I've never heard of you."

A few people have said this to me in a way that was supposed to insult me. "Well, I'VE never heard of you so you can't be THAT good of a writer." 

There are millions of books out there with millions of writers. There is no possible way you can hear of every single one of them.  The authors who are well known are just a small portion of the amazing things there are to read out there. I'm not offended. Honestly, it's just reality. But to say it in a way that is meant to tell me how much you don't CARE that you've never heard of me is just plain rude and you can eat it. ;)