Continuing Life Education: Alcohol and its Impact on the Brain and Body

I consider myself a lifelong learner. I’m always seeking new, preferably well-researched, information that helps me expand my worldview, make better life choices, or simply enrich my life for now knowing it.

And since I love doing that for myself anyway, I figured a nice feature of this blog moving forward could be sharing the learning I find particularly important, relevant, and sometimes life-changing.

This particular piece certainly falls under the category of potentially life-changing.

This is long…but if you’ve ever wondered EXACTLY what impact consumption of alcohol, at various levels (light, moderate, heavy) has on your brain, organs, cells, and hormones, you should spend some time getting educated by an expert. I HIGHLY recommend this one.

When You Stop Wanting It

No one is more surprised than me to find that, after 20 years of STRIVING, I don’t care about traditional publishing anymore.

I’m not sure if I can describe the shift succinctly, mostly because I think I’m still in the middle of processing it. I mean, after working toward something for two decades, moving away from it mentally, emotionally, and physically doesn’t exactly happen overnight.

But I’ll try my best.

I started to notice the change about a year ago when my last book, The Secret Next Door, was about to release. Here it was, my second book to publish with a traditional press. It was an Apple Book of the Month Pick and Target was carrying it in stores all over the United States. This was, for sure, the MOST success I had ever had with anything I’d ever written.

It was like finally being invited inside. Here I was, on the other side of those pesky publishing gates. Finally! This was damn near everything I had ever wanted. I was so happy.

So happy.

And grateful.

Yes, so very grateful.

So I stood in my moment, reveling in the ‘making it’ and looking around at what my life was like now I was on the inside. Because surely, this was life-changing. Right?


Turns out, the view from the other side of those publishing gates was damn near exactly the same as the outside. What? Why? Whatever does this mean, you may ask.

Okay, some specifics. But before I list them out, know this, I’m not complaining. This industry had been this industry long before I even considered scaling its walls. It’s an institution that many: authors, editors, and marketing professionals, both inside and out, have shaken their fist at, cursed about, and cried over in the bathroom (mostly in private, lest they be perceived as biting the hand that tosses them scraps.) But if you, like me, have imagined that if only you could: land an agent, lure an editor, see your book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, you would finally be: happy, self-assured, confident in your writing…content? Know this, traditional publishing is not the Xanadu you’ve imagined.

Why I’ve decided to let go:

  1. The waiting never ends. Never. You are always and forever waiting in this industry. Now for sure, this is not the case for authors whose publishing houses and agents are TERRIFIED of losing them. It’s true, those authors probably never wait more than a weekend to hear back about anything. And maybe you are THIS author. You could very well be–what do I know? But for the rest of us, we still wait. I’m not talking days, or even weeks. I have waited MONTHS. Others close to a year. Sometimes we don’t hear anything at all–and this is from people you already have an established professional relationship with.
  2. You still need to get a blessing from a whole committee of people, most of whom don’t even know you, before you continue to get published. You often hear the lament among published authors: The only thing harder than getting published is staying published. This is a fact.
  3. You spend a lot of time in the name of your writing career not writing. You spend oodles of time writing things for other publications, blogs, online whatsits that will make you wonder about the validity of spending time doing such things. Does anyone read this? What is the point in doing this? Does this really help me sell more books? I don’t have an answer to this because the other thing about this industry is that…
  4. A lot of time and energy is spent throwing spaghetti at walls with very little quantifiable data regarding the outcomes. And this spaghetti can run the spectrum from the people they hire to the books they acquire–and certainly, marketing, in general, is little better than a crap shoot (and you’re going to be taking most of those shots yourself). I’ve spent hours and hours working on marketing for my book that maybe influenced 100 people to check out my book or 0 people. I don’t know. And I’m pretty sure my publisher didn’t know either. Anything short of a celebrity endorsement, big box store placement, big book club placement, or the ever elusive, completely unpredictable WORD OF MOUTH groundswell that everyone is always praying for–it seems that no one really knows how to sell a book by an unknown author to anyone aside from the community that the author has already cultivated for themselves. So unless you personally know Reese Witherspoon, or you’ve mastered the art of creating non-cringy TikTok videos AND you just LOVE to do it…be prepared to make your own spaghetti and start flinging it. Hopefully, some of it will stick!
  5. Unless you are already independently wealthy, have a partner or parents that will support you, or have figured out how to live happily below the poverty line–you’re not quitting that day job any time soon. And if by the grace of the publishing committee you’ve signed with, your agent managed to garner you one of those six-figure advances (CONGRATULATIONS!! By the way!) realize you must…
  6. EARN OUT. (If you find you need help figuring out how to earn out, refer to the aforementioned spaghetti in #4) Big advances are wonderful. Nothing better signals to the rest of the publishing world that your book is expected to be BIG than your publisher laying some fat cash out at your feet. However, that book better WORK. And by WORK, I mean SELL. Because, in all likelihood, you have the sales cycle of this one book (maybe two or three if your agent convinced the house to sign you under a multibook contract) to sell enough copies of that book to pay for that advance. So what if you don’t? Of course, every case is individual and somewhat predicated on how much LOVE your editor has for your work and how much POWER they wield at their particular house–but for most authors, not earning out can equal the kiss of death. Low sales numbers can hang on an author like a shitty GPA–the Ivy Leagues aren’t going to come knocking anymore (unless you’re winning some HUGE awards–one of the few situations where extreme talent and gravitas will supersede the need to earn money.)
  7. All of this may make you feel tired, sad, depressed, jealous, fed up, powerless, and the worst…like you don’t even want to write books anymore.

And here’s where we return to my personal processing: #7 is where I was hanging out for a while. I loved writing and had always dreamed of a traditional publishing career. So how horrible that obtaining that dream was the demise of the thing I loved to do most–create books. For months I spun my wheels, unable to decide if it was worse for me to keep trying to stay in the publishing ring or throw in the towel. Neither decision felt right, good, or motivated me to set my fingers flying on my current work in progress.

I missed writing, so much. But knowing what I know about the business end of this thing I love, I didn’t know how, or even if, I could return to it.

That is until I started thinking about publishing my future books myself. After all, I had done it before (my first six books, mostly young adult, were self-published.) I knew it was hard. I knew you didn’t generally sell many books. I knew I would probably be throwing away any chance of ever traditionally publishing again.

But the more I thought about it, the more excited I felt about returning to the thing I loved–creating books. And that excitement grew and felt more positive and self-fulfilling than anything I had encountered throughout this last year in traditional publishing. So I made the decision, for better or worse, to handle my own work from now on.

Maybe it doesn’t sound like it, but I really am grateful to every individual I’ve worked with over these past few years in the traditional swimming pool. This post is not about my former publisher or the amazing people there that work really hard. This is simply the nature of this industry. Some people are made for it.

Some of us are not.

Cover Reveal: Once Upon a Lie

Dear Reader,

I am so happy and proud to share the title, cover, and blurb for my new book with you today. Thank you for continuing to support my writing career. I appreciate each and every one of you.

The title of my new book is Once Upon a Lie which will be published on February 21st, 2023. I hope you love the cover as much as I do!

I would dearly love for you to add Once Upon a Lie to your Want to Read list on Goodreads. Here’s the link. Thank you!

Mia Strauss is trying to be a good mother. She’s worked hard to build a stable life since losing her memory at eighteen when the assailant, who shot and killed her famous father, pushed her from the third-story landing of their gold coast mansion. But lately, Mia is losing control and feels she’s being watched wherever she goes. The eyes…they are everywhere. She is trying to keep herself together and is taking more and more of her prescription drugs to quiet the rising panic and anxiety. But when her husband, Alexander, comes home to find her face down on their living room floor, she’ll need to make some drastic changes, or risk losing her girls.

Alexander Strauss, neurologist and professor at Columbia University, can no longer trust his wife. Her behavior and moods have grown evermore erratic since the birth of their twin girls six years ago. She has lost too much weight, covers herself from head to toe in only black clothing, and has removed every mirror from their home. She has a cadre of doctors that supply plenty of medications but don’t help her make any progress. She has become a danger to herself, and their children. It has long been believed that Mia will never be able to remember her life prior to the assault, but Alexander has other ideas. Based on her recent brain images, and the things she says in her sleep, Alexander is confident Mia’s continued amnesia is purely psychological. Whatever the reason, she doesn’t want to remember. He gives her an ultimatum, either she gets real help, or he’ll leave her and take the girls.

Desperate to save her marriage and keep her family intact, Mia signs up for one of the few therapies she’s never tried before–an experimental treatment that hypothesizes psilocybin may help traumatized patients process and recover their forgotten lives. But as Mia makes progress and her history begins to take shape, it becomes apparent that those closest to Mia never want her to remember what happened that night.

And they’ll do whatever it takes to stop the truth from being uncovered.

Colorado Book Award Finalist: The Secret Next Door

I am so happy and honored to announce that The Secret Next Door has been selected as a finalist for the 2022 Colorado Book Award in the Thriller category. Thank you to Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book and to all the judges who give so much of their personal time to make events like this happen for our community. I’d also like to send out congratulations to all the other finalists!

There will be a live reading for the thriller finalists on June 3rd at 7:00 PM at BookBar here in Denver. Unfortunately, this date coincides with the International Thriller Writers Organization national conference in New York, which I am scheduled to attend. But the winners will be announced on June 25th (at an in-person event!) and I will be sure to be there!

Louis Vuitton GM Agenda Flip Through

Hello! Today I’m flipping through my Louis Vuitton GM Agenda set up for March. I’m currently halfway through writing my next book and have high hopes that the rough draft will be completed by the end of March. In this video, I share how I’m staying organized and focused as I work to finish this novel as well as a new tool I’ve created for myself (I’m calling it my Daily Index). You’ll probably be seeing more of this document, and its revision, in future videos. Thank you for watching and please don’t forget to subscribe.

My No-Goals Approach to 2022 (sort of)

My new desk! Still tidying up cords and the rest of the office, but we got this beast through the front door!

I usually start my year off with a litany of promises that I make to myself about how I will be better this year. They are almost always variations on the same themes.

  • I will work out more
  • I will eat less crap
  • I will drink less alcohol
  • I will keep my house spotless
  • I will write more (always, always this one!)

I generally get very excited about doing this because every year I truly believe that this year is the year I will become a completely different person once that clock strikes midnight on December 31st. And often I’m able to maintain this new personality for about 2-4 weeks, then something will come up, or I’ll be tired, or just feel like giving up because life is actually kinda hard and all I want to do is sit on my couch eating Chick-Fil-A with a glass of cabernet while watching Ozark on Netflix.

So it was odd when this New Year rolled around and I found myself unable to feel my usual excitement about all my usual false promises. Would I be entering this 2022 new year without any goals?

Well, yeah I guess. Because we are now over halfway through January and I don’t have any big proclamations written down on either my planner or my whiteboard. I feel okay about this and here’s why.

It’s not as if I’ve stopped working on things. Quite the contrary I’ve actually been pretty busy for the last month. I’m working on my new book, still blogging, still trying to build awareness for my books that are already published. What’s different is that there aren’t any S.M.A.R.T. goals around any of these activities. I’m not promising to hit 1000 words a day. I’m not swearing on my life that I’ll blog three times a week. I’m not sacrificing my mental health to the social media gods in the name of building “my brand”.

I’m just doing these things because I once actually enjoyed them for the sake of simply doing them–and I’m finding that with the removal of all my self-imposed “you should dos” the love is still there. Apparently, it’s been hiding behind my chore list.

I find the same has been true for other areas of my life. I actually haven’t had any alcohol (except for a small, shot-sized glass of sake at a sushi restaurant) since the middle of December. Not because I’ve committed to Dry January, or never, ever drinking again, but because I feel 150% better, physically, mentally, emotionally when I don’t have any alcohol. I sleep better, have more focus and energy, and my mood is stable and positive (in spite of the current state of the world–which I actually feel better prepared to face when all my other systems aren’t crashing.)

And because I feel better, I’ve been exercising more consistently. Not every day. Not crazy pushing myself to the point of exhaustion. But I find that my body wants to move. It craves the exertion of swinging my kettlebell, stretching, and riding the Peloton (best home exercise equipment I’ve ever invested in, BTW). I’m not weighing myself, counting calories, or stressing about carbs this year.

I’m just trying to find a little happiness, peace, a return to joy in all the important areas in my life. So while there are not any measurable goals posted in my house, I am keeping track of the one thing I do want to achieve this year–happiness. I just want to be happy, that’s it, the only goal I really have. And I think I’m starting to figure out the authentic building blocks that make up my own version of personal happiness. Health, love, creativity, safety, security, recreation…the question in any given moment is: Is this something I want to do? Is this something that will make me happy right now?

For example, writing this blog post is making me feel good right now. I’m doing it because I want to, not because I feel like I should for my career.

And it’s making a big difference in how I’m showing up in my life.

Until next time,


To buy my book on the darknet use the archetyp market.