For the last 7+ months I’ve been fairly open about my struggles with writing and depression, and more recently, the mystery illness that landed me in the emergency room and countless doctors’ offices over the last month (and has yet to be identified). Those of you who follow this blog or are friends with me on social media have doubtless seen some of my posts. I decided to be open about the depression in particular for two reasons:
1) The stigma that surrounds depression/mental illness is seriously upsetting, and I feel the only way to change that is through open discussion and for the people who suffer from depression not to feel forced to hide it like it’s some shameful secret.
2) Out of respect for my readers. See, I do 100% believe I’m entitled to my privacy and I don’t blame any author who might be in a similar situation for keeping it quiet. This is a decision every individual has to make for themselves. But, for me personally, because my depression affects everything in my life, including my writing, I wanted to be upfront about it. I didn’t want my readers to think I’m just taking some extended vacation and hanging my unfinished series out to dry without a care that people are waiting for more books. Authors are human—we need breaks sometimes, it’s true—but the reality is I want to be writing, and the fact that my words have seemingly abandoned me is a pain I deal with every day. I’ve written since I was around eleven, since the time when the only people who saw my stories were my friends in junior high, and I didn’t even entertain the hope that I might be able to make what I loved a career someday. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and being unable to write for over half a year now makes me feel like I’m missing some critical part of myself, my soul. Believe me, I didn’t make the conscious choice to stop writing, and I’m fighting to get through this block every day.
The TL;DR version of what happened is that back in October I got hit by the worst bout of depression I’ve ever dealt with. I experienced suicidal ideation, nearly ended up in the hospital, scared my family and close friends, and had to seek the help of a therapist for the first time since childhood.
I am only now, nearly 8 months later, getting to the point where I’m started to feel excited about writing again and hopeful that I’ll be able to break through this block and start putting words on the page. Still, I’m taking things cautiously. When the words do start flowing, I want to allow myself to write without any pressure. I’ve realized lately that I can’t write on a strict schedule. I have to focus on the story that is calling to me most strongly, and yes, that does mean that sometimes it’s a long wait between books in my series. I apologize for that, but I just can’t force myself to work on a project simply because I know I should try to keep series releases consistent, not if in my heart of hearts, I’d rather be working on something else instead. Forcing myself to try to write what I should be writing only stresses me out and makes it feel like a job. And while, yes, this is what I do for a living, I started writing for love and for fun, and I don’t want to lose that feeling—the happiness I experience when I’m working on a project I’m truly excited and passionate about.
So, with all that being said, I’ve had to make a tough decision, and trust me, it’s not one I made lightly. Tears were shed. But being that I’ve received dozens of messages, tweets, and questions about the Portland Pack Chronicles, I know it’s a series that readers are eagerly awaiting more of. My coauthor, Kenzie Cade, is also eager to get back to our boys and continue writing. Unfortunately, due to my current circumstances, I’m the one holding things back—and I don’t think that’s fair, not to her, and not to the readers who’ve enjoyed the series so far, not when she could keep writing and get the stories to you faster than if I stayed involved. Because right now, with the lingering depression and the health issues that have plagued me over the last month or so, the only answer I can give about when I’ll be able to return to the Portland Pack Chronicles is “I don’t know.” So, sad as it makes me, I feel like this is the best decision for the future of the series. I’m sure Kenzie will more than do justice to the Portland Pack boys on her own. She’ll rock it—I’ve told her so—and I wish her much success!
As for my other in-progress series, fear not! The series I’ve started on my own will be completed eventually, even if it takes me much longer than I ever anticipated. I will break through this! I have so many stories I want to write and projects I’m excited about. I’m not giving up. Definitely not. Watch this space, because I’m sure, in time, I’ll have a much happier update to post.
In the meantime, thanks for your patience and understanding!
In the grand scheme of things, Avery Babineaux didn’t have very many secrets from his friends, or his mate. Especially Dylan. Sharing a house, living together day in and day out—it was hard to keep secrets under those circumstances unless you made a real effort at deception. But there was one thing Avery hid. One thing he’d never live down if Dylan or his friends found out.
Occasionally, when no one else was around, he liked to shift into his hedgehog form and play. Not the sort of playing he did with Dylan and his buddies when they ran the forest in shifted form, and Avery investigated scents in rocky crevices or hollow logs, snuffled at the leaves and the soft, loamy earth, or drank from the cool, rushing creek. That sort of behavior was expected from shifters.
This… well, this was the sort of playing domesticated animals did. Cats with their catnip-stuffed mice, dogs with their tennis balls, hamsters with their wheels… and hedgehogs with their toilet paper rolls. And sometimes dinosaurs.
See, every once in a while, he needed to be mindless and Zen, like when he filled the bathtub, went spiny, and floated around in mellow circles for an hour or so. Other times, he needed to be silly. To scurry and burrow through tunnels and chew on crunchy cardboard. That’s when toilet paper rolls came in handy.
He waited for his days off when Dylan was at work. Then he dug his toys from the trunk in his den, stripped naked, and shifted into his hedgehog form.
Nose quivering, he pounced on the plastic stegosaurus and chomped down on one of its back plates. He shook his head and sent the thing flying, taking unholy pleasure in the clatter it made as it skidded across the hardwood floor. If hedgies could smile, he’d be doing it now. But the joy of trouncing the toy dinosaur was nothing compared to his love of empty toilet paper rolls. He gnawed on the edge of one, enjoying the squish of cardboard between his tiny teeth. Then he stuck his head inside and peered around the room, viewing his bookshelves and record player through tunnel vision before shaking the tube off and nudging it in a circle with his snout.
This went on for a while and never lost its appeal… until he stuck his head into one of the tubes and then couldn’t get it back out again. He scrabbled at it with his paws, which ended with him losing his balance and tipping over backward. He tried to pry it off by rubbing against the couch—only to succeed in wedging it on further. He pressed the end of the tube to the floor, hoping to pop it free. Nothing.
Hissing in displeasure, Avery tried once again to use his paws. The problem was, his legs weren’t very long. He could catch the edge of the tube with his claws, but mostly he scraped ineffectually at the cardboard and rolled from his side to his back. The tube didn’t budge and the sensation of being trapped intensified.
Lost in his distress, he didn’t think to try to shift. He forgot that the thin tube would shred apart the moment he started growing. And he totally missed the sound of the den door swinging open. Until a startled laugh froze him in place.
Dylan was home, and Avery was caught, his shameful secret revealed.
Avery plopped onto his stomach and huffed as Dylan kept laughing. All he could see through the narrow tube were Dylan’s motorcycle boots.
He heard the camera click of a picture being taken. There Avery was, trapped and pathetic, and Dylan was using the moment as a photo op?
Avery hissed in annoyance and sprang to his feet. If Dylan posted it on Facebook, he’d be one sorry wolf. A sorry wolf who would be living without blowjobs for a month. No, a year! That would teach him.
Finally, the laughter died down to a chuckle and Dylan pulled the tube free. Avery shook his head and sneezed at the sensation of cardboard tugging his spines in the wrong direction.
Dylan knelt beside him, a huge grin on his face. “Something you want to tell me?”
Avery sniffed and pointedly turned away. He wanted an explanation for why Dylan was home early, but he didn’t want to shift back to ask. Not yet.
Dylan’s big hand appeared in front of him as he set the toy stegosaurus on the floor. Avery’s entire body heated. In human form, he’d be blushing bright red. Oh, the shame. Dylan was never supposed to find out about his little pastime. Not even Jaden knew. Avery could only imagine the ribbing he’d get from Dylan’s friends if Dylan shared the picture with them. Lucas would mock him for the rest of eternity.
Avery bolted toward the couch, intending to curl up and hide underneath, but Dylan caught him before he made it very far. He lifted Avery and turned him so they were face-to-face. Despite his grin, Dylan’s eyes were soft. He was laughing at Avery, sure, but without any malice. Just good-natured teasing and… fondness? Yeah, that was it.
“I’m not going to post it anywhere,” Dylan said. Because, naturally, he would guess Avery’s worry. “It’s for me.” He leaned forward and touched his nose to Avery’s snout. “I think it’s adorable,” he added with a chuckle.
Avery huffed. He wasn’t adorable. He was Mother Nature’s cruelest predator. Hadn’t Dylan seen that “True Facts About Hedgehogs” video on YouTube? He was fearsome and deadly… to insects and other tiny creatures. So what if he’d just gotten his head stuck in a toilet paper roll? It happened to the best of hedgehogs.
Dylan’s grin widened. “But don’t think I won’t use it for blackmail.”
Avery snorted. Of course he would. But two could play at that game. He’d get something on Dylan eventually.
Dylan laughed as if he’d read Avery’s thoughts. “Come on, brat. I forgot my wallet in my jeans from last night. Let’s go grab lunch before I head back to the shop.”
He set Avery gently on the ground and Avery shifted to his human form. He took a moment to gather himself, dizzy from the change, as usual. Then he grabbed Dylan’s proffered hand and got to his feet.
Dylan slapped him on the bare ass. “Go get dressed. But stay away from the toilet paper. Don’t want you getting stuck again.”
“Haha. Laugh it up, big guy.” Avery huffed and spun away so Dylan wouldn’t see his smile. It really was funny. If it had happened to anyone else, he’d have found it hilarious. And maybe he would’ve even shown the picture to their friends.
But Dylan didn’t need to know that.
Want more of Avery and Dylan? Buy Prickly Business now!
Hi, all! Prickly Business, the first book in the Portland Pack Chronicles series by me and Kenzie Cade, is currently under contract by DSP and entering the editing stage. It’ll be out some time in July or August and we’re currently hard at work on the sequel, Prickly By Nature. If you’ve never heard me mention Prickly Business before, it’s a paranormal shifter romance set in contemporary Portland with mystery elements and a healthy dose of snark. Here is a peek at the tentative blurb:
Some people might call Avery Babineaux a prick. He’s a hedgehog shifter from an old money Louisiana family with a penchant for expensive shoes and a reputation for being a judgmental snob. His attitude is why he and his fated mate are estranged. Not that Avery cares. He doesn’t want to be mated to some blue-collar werewolf anyway. Or so he keeps telling himself.
No werewolf likes to be looked down upon, least of all Dylan Green. He doesn’t need a mate, especially not some snotty hedgehog who sneers at his custom motorcycle shop and calls him a grease monkey. But when Avery gets into trouble with a shady loan shark, Dylan can’t stand by and let him be hurt—whether he wants the brat or not.
Yet once Dylan steps into Avery’s world, he realizes it won’t be so easy to walk back out. There’s more to Avery than his prickly exterior, and that unexpected vulnerability calls to Dylan’s protective instincts. Not to mention Avery’s habit of landing himself in hot water. The sassy little hedgehog needs a keeper, and despite their horrible first impressions, Dylan starts to believe he just might be the wolf for the job.
And here is an (unedited) excerpt from the story. 🙂
Avery rolled his eyes and slid off his stool. The room went blurry, and he reached out to steady himself on the bar top. Whoa. Those four glasses of ale had snuck up on him. Maybe ordering another wasn’t the best of ideas.
Once his vision re-sharpened, he wove his way to the back of the pub, passing the pool tables as he went. Broderick had apparently missed his shot since his companions were heckling him about not being able to aim his stick. Avery smirked, slowing subconsciously. Had he been clearheaded, he wouldn’t have lingered, not wanting to draw attention. But even as he went to move on, his presence was noticed. One of the big, bearded wolves elbowed the one next to him and lifted his chin.
“Well, if it isn’t our favorite little prick,” Glenn called, his beer bottle dangling from his fingers.
The guy beside him laughed. “I thought I smelled a rodent.”
Avery narrowed his eyes. “Here’s a zoology lesson, Rover: hedgehogs aren’t rodents.”
Glenn shrugged one beefy shoulder. “I’m sure if I ripped off your quills, you’d look plenty like a rat. Wanna test the theory?”
Avery opened his mouth to respond, but Broderick’s rumbling voice cut in: “Leave him be, Glenn. You know the Alpha doesn’t like pack members harassing each other.”
Glenn scoffed. “He’s not pack.” He refrained from saying more when Broderick turned a disapproving look on him.
“He lives here under Alpha Odell’s protection. He might as well be pack.”
Avery bristled at Broderick’s assumption that he couldn’t handle himself in an argument with this overgrown asshat. “You don’t have to defend me. He’s right. I’m not pack. Hedgehogs aren’t pack animals. Another lesson for you.”
“How about I shove your lessons up that little prickly ass of yours?” Glenn snarled.
“Aiken!” Broderick rounded on him, the word grated out on a growl, his muscles seeming to swell as his anger flared. “One more time and I’ll take it as a personal challenge.”
Glenn instantly dropped his gaze and tilted his head, exposing his neck to his beta. Avery wanted to say something snide, but Broderick cut him a glare that sent a cascade of goose bumps along his spine.
Avery wasn’t predisposed to submit to a stronger shifter—there was no hierarchy in hedgehog culture, and males could be notoriously aggressive with each other when provoked—but he also knew when to pick his battles. He was too drunk to defend himself. Even if he hadn’t been drinking, well, not even a supernatural hedgehog stood much of a chance against a wolf in a physical fight. It wasn’t as if he’d shift into a man-sized powerhouse of spines, claws, and fur. He’d be the same size as any wild hedgehog—puny.
With a haughty lift of his chin, Avery stalked off toward the restrooms. He did his business and glowered at himself in the mirror above the sinks as he washed his hands.
What the hell was he doing here with these ignorant dogs? Jaden excluded, of course. He was the only respectable, intelligent wolf in the bunch. Much like the Cajun wolves Avery knew from back home in Louisiana, these were volatile, quick to anger and just as fast to laugh it off, except when it came to him. They reveled in every primal pleasure—feasting, fucking, and fighting.
To Avery’s family, werewolves were undisciplined heathens who ran the woods surrounding the bayou, terrifying the smaller shifters and keeping everyone awake with their howling during full moons. Avery’s parents despised wolves. His father had hated having to ask Alpha Odell permission for Avery to live on pack land. He’d done it because Avery wouldn’t let him rest otherwise.
Avery had fallen in love with Oregon when he’d visited the summer between his junior and senior year, but despite his fondness for the city of Portland and how it called to his soul as home, the Northwest was a veritable breeding ground for werewolves. Their numbers were concentrated here where there were forests aplenty and natural wolves to help disguise their presence from humans should they be discovered while in shifted form.
This was really no place for a small-species shifter like himself. Yet, regardless of his upbringing, he might have tried to make a place for himself in the pack, if it wasn’t for—
No. Avery shook his head. He wasn’t going to go there. He wasn’t going to think of him.
Avery paused at the dryer for a few seconds and left the restroom with his hands still damp. Distracted by unwanted thoughts, he collided with something hard and unmoving as he exited the hallway that led back to the main bar area. Avery stumbled back and nearly lost his footing, but even as he struggled to stay upright, the familiar scent struck his nose and made his entire body react. His skin heated, pulse quickened, cock filled, and that ache inside him—the one that longed for its mate—returned with a vengeance so strong it robbed him of breath.
Avery gaped as Dylan Green tossed him a glance over his shoulder. The musky scent of this particular wolf burned in his nostrils, made the animal inside him stir. He both loved and loathed it in equal measure. His eyes greedily took in the broad back beneath the lines of Dylan’s leather jacket, the long legs encased in form-fitting denim, the strong, square jaw. Dylan’s light brown hair was wet from the drizzle outside and shorter than the last time Avery had seen him, but it worked with his high cheekbones and bold features, and his dark stubble emphasized his well-sculpted mouth.
Dylan turned away, dismissing Avery without a word. It was then Avery noticed he had his arm draped over the shoulders of another guy. A human from his scent. A good-looking human who looked mighty comfortable all snugged up against Dylan’s side, as if it were his right to be there.
Avery fought back a hiss. Fuck that. No one else had the right to—
He cut off that line of thinking. How dumb could he be? It was as though his thoughts in the bathroom had somehow conjured Dylan just to torment him.
Dylan, his destined mate. The wolf who’d rejected him and their potential bond two years ago. The one who Avery should most assuredly not be staring at or admiring because there was nothing between them and there never would be.