THE VAST LANDSCAPE by Jacqueline Cioffa

Harrison’s back with a new look, nip and tuck, and bonus chapter. She and I have returned to the Cove, where the magic begins.

The Vast Landscape by Jacqueline Cioffa has a new dreamy, beach look, cover design by Yosbe Design Studio complete with revisions, blurbs and bonus chapters.

 

 

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The Vast Landscape

by Jacqueline Cioffa

Genre: Literary Fiction

Cover Design by: https://www.facebook.com/yosbedesign

 

BLURB

Bold contemporary fiction, THE VAST LANDSCAPE shares one woman’s journey filled with doubt, mistrust, fame, and self-discovery. Join Harrison on her quest to find inner peace despite the harrowing obstacles placed in her way. Will she succeed in stripping away her complex armor to unmask the flawed, beautiful, and strong iconoclast kept hidden for so long?

Honest to a fault, Jacqueline Cioffa creates a challenging love story sparkling with narrative originality.

PRAISE

“Once I freed it up to be fiction,” she said, “Harrison could go anywhere. I had a larger canvas for her to stomp on.” – Nicki Gorny, Stars Magazine / Post Standard

“I was always impressed by how courageous a writer Jacqueline is. Keep writing your fine prose.” – Mark Blickley, author of The Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press)

“The magic of Cioffa’s debut novel shines its light on the power of the written word.” – Julie Davidow, American Contemporary Artist, co-author of Miami Contemporary Artists

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EXCERPT

 

Helmets & Hard Hats

 

PRETTY IS PROMPT, bearing wine and a first aid kit.

“How did you know I hate flowers?” Harrison giving her schoolgirl grin. She can’t help it; he makes her giddy. Dr. Pretty makes himself at home, heads to the kitchen.

“Where do you keep the corkscrew? You look nice, Harrison.”

“Middle drawer, there are a few. Um, thanks.” Harrison blushes.

Secretly she’s glad he noticed; spent half the day at a salon. She detests primping. It’s in her contract, makeup and hair must be done in less than two hours, even that’s pure hell. She dyed her roots, waxed the bits and pieces, no landing strip. She hates the LA pre-pub look, disgusting. She’s not a 10-year-old girl for fuck’s sake; a neat triangle. Pale lavender fingers and toes; voila. The poor nail tech didn’t know what to do with her mangled foot. “Don’t worry, keep it out of the water, do the best you can, Chuney.”

Harrison had been coming to the salon for years, since she moved out West. Famous or not famous, those girls gave a great wax and mani-pedi. Rock & Republic black jeans, James Perse tee and La Perla undies. A bit of blush, mascara, gloss, she felt pretty. Sure, he had no fucking clue what she went through to get ready, with a cane no less. She didn’t give a rat’s ass.

“That’s some fancy collection of corkscrews, Miss Harrison,” handing her a glass of wine with a peck on the cheek. He smelled delicious, salt and pepper stubble tickling her cheek. Harrison raised her glass, “Borrow them anytime, on one condition. It’s Harry.”

“Harry it is. Hobble on over to the couch, I need to check your feet.”

“That’s not very appetizing; dinner should be here any minute. Jenny’s on her way with a feast.”

“Precisely. Once I smell food the good Doc. checks out. Foot up,” patting his legs.

Dr. Pretty changes the bandages, cleans the wounds, moves Harry’s feet up, down and every which way.

“No nerve damage, you got lucky, young lady. No more heroics. One week, stiches come out.” He wraps her feet in nanoseconds. Shit, that took her an hour.

“Thanks. Where is that dingbat?”

Dr. Pretty kisses her, slow, soft and wet. He holds her face in his hands, kissing her again on the forehead. “You’re awfully pale, Harrison. Harry. Cat got your tongue?”

“I could be your grandmother.”

Dr. Pretty laughs, the ice is broken.

“My grandmother’s way hotter than you. Don’t worry, we’ll take it slow. You’re the most fascinating woman I’ve ever met. Not the famous part; the girl who blushes and can’t make eye contact. I want to know her. Let’s see, I come from a semi-normal family. They didn’t beat us or chain us in the basement. We ate dinner together every night, spent holidays back East, in Maine. I was born there, left when I was ten. Pretty run of the mill stuff. I like my mom and dad. Dad’s a vet. Mom’s a retired psychologist. I have five sisters, yup, that’s right. I know a thing or two about girls. At least, I thought I did. Until you; everything flew out the window. Went to BU, got my medical degree at UCLA. You know the rest, Cedars Sinai ER, where the crazy celebrities end up.” Dr. Pretty laughs, ruffles her hair. “Fell in love with the climate, hiking, surf and a girl. Girl didn’t stick, California did. Your turn.”

Doorbell rings. Harrison is literally saved by the bell; true confessions have her head spinning. Jenny juggles three bags of food from two different restaurants, sets the bags on the kitchen counter.

“Should I grab plates? Harry?” Harrison looks at the couch, Dr. Pretty sneaks up behind giving her a hug.

“Hi, I’m Zack. We’re good.”

Fuck. ZACK? You could’ve introduced him, dumbass. Too bad you didn’t know his name. Goddamn Jenny, tight-ass 20-year-old pain in her butt. She’s efficient though, got to hand her that. Harry comes off the bitch, rude and arrogant. Gives Jenny their get lost signal.

“Thanks, used my card, right?” Jenny nods. Harrison hands Jenny a fifty, she looks puzzled. “Go on, scoot.”

“Off your feet missy, get in that chair,” Dr. Pretty points. “Don’t think for a minute you’re getting off Scott-free. I expect a bedtime story.” What? What happened to taking things slow, his words not mine. “Knock it off with the shock and awe. People do lots of things in bed, like cuddle, kiss and sleep. I told you slow and steady.”

“Where the hell did you come from besides Maine, Zack?”

There it is, Zack. Not Doc or Pretty or Dr. Pretty, just Zack. Sounds weird yet completely normal at the same time. The food tastes amazing. Zachary. Zack. He sure is Pretty. Zack rolls a summer roll, adds a mint leaf, dips in sauce and feeds it to Harry.

“Sure hope you’re not allergic to peanuts.”

Harrison swats him on the bicep, spitting the summer roll on her plate, grabbing her neck. “Hope there’s an Epi-pen in your bag of tricks.” Laughing uncontrollably, tears stream down her face.

Zack runs to his backpack, rummaging frantically. He heads to the couch and Harry is casually eating the summer roll, roaring.

“I am an actor, ya’ know.”

Dr. Pretty takes her plate, sets it on the table. He bends down picks her up effortlessly, heads towards the bathroom depositing her on a cushy, red velvet bench.

“Wash your face, brush your teeth. PJs and bed for you, missy. Knock when you’re done, no pressure on those feet. I’ll come to collect you.”

Harrison’s nerves are shot, her tummy’s in knots, she does what she’s told. She’s had sex before, millions of times. This feels different, terrifying, exciting, new. She cares, the stakes set high. Teeth brushed, face washed, sexy undies and t-shirt, Harrison sits on the toilet to pee. Great, this could take hours, when all of a sudden a steady stream of yellow flows. Goddamn it. What kind of spell has he cast?

Dr. Pretty grabs the bottle of wine, glasses, matches, and lights some candles in Harrison’s bedroom. Knock. He playfully pretends not to hear. Knock. Knock. He opens the door and grins, leans in to kiss Harrison.

“Aren’t you on-call?”

Pretty shakes his head. “Traded for 3 all-nighters.”

“Should I be flattered, or insulted? Bit presumptuous?”

“Both, I’d say,” taking his shirt off. Jesus H. Christ. He looks just like Jesus H. Christ, twelve-pack, biceps and that face. The stubble, tousled brown hair, the piercing hazel eyes. Harrison is in big trouble. Dirty, scruffy brown boys are her favorite kind of trouble. He places her gently on the bed, tight arms hovering inches above. Pretty lies next to her, scooping her up, unexpectedly kissing her neck. They make out like teen-agers. Harrison usually skips this part, gets down to business. With him she doesn’t mind, he’s so comfortable with himself he puts her at ease.

Dr. Pretty gets up, blows out the candles, removes his boxers and hops into bed. “I sleep commando, babe, you good with that? Wow, blushing again? Remind me to get naked more often. Sweet dreams. Wake me if you need to pee. No hobbling in the dark on my watch.”

Zack wraps his arms around Harrison careful not to touch her foot, caressing her head. She wants to ask why, why her? The killjoy, ever-suspicious voice in her head will not win. Harry closes her eyes, blocking out the noise and drifts.

When she wakes, there’s a wild flower from her garden on his pillow and a sticky note with a heart. She checks her phone. 10:00 a.m. Holy hell? Twelve voice mails, what the crap? It’s him, Dr. Pretty. #1 I had… #2 an amazing… #3 night. #4 You are lovely… #5 when you sleep. #6 Your… #7 guard comes down… #8 thank you…#9 well, you know, off to work… #10 3-day, 24-Hour ER rotation… #11 Better miss me… #12 Stay off that foot. I’ll know.

The ‘Call K’ reminder, the forgotten days-old promise now a black smear illegible on her wrist. Harrison’s stupid, high school grin returns, permanently glued to her face.

 

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AUTHOR BIO

Jacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in the anthology, Brainstorms, and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness. She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth and film lover who’s traveled the world. Her work has been featured in the anthologies Brainstorms, Feminine Collective’s Raw and Unfiltered Vol. 1, and numerous literary magazines.

Jacqueline pens the column, “Bleeding Ink” column with Feminine Collective.

Her poignant, literary fiction debut, The Vast Landscape, gives new meaning to intense, raw and heartfelt.

Fans of the emotional, soul stirring first novel will not be able to put the exciting sequel, Georgia Pine, down.

The essence continues because you do. Harrison leaves the door open a crack. I seize the opportunity to revisit my whole, healthy self a bit longer, live in the mystic beach home I adore, dream eyes open. Hope is our greatest asset. To choose hope against the worst possible odds is the true measure of life.
~ Georgia Pine, by Jacqueline Cioffa

Please find links to the revised edition of The Vast Landscape on Amazon and all of your favorite booksellers soon.

A heartfelt thanks to Rachel Thompson from Bad Redhead Media and Kate O’Connell from BookTour.Tips for their marketing expertise and advice.

Editor: Justin Bogdanovitch

Proofreader / Formatter: Wendy C. Garfinkle

YOSBE DESIGN STUDIO: http://www.yosbedesign.com

YOSBE DESIGN Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yosbedesign

 


AROUND THE WEB

Jackie Cioffa bio

AUTHOR SITE: http://jacquelinecioffa.com

BLEEDING INK with Feminine Collective:  http://femininecollective.com/category/articles/columns/bleeding-ink/

GOOGLE+: https://plus.google.com/115714635145035610121/posts

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/JackieCioffa

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/authorjackiecioffa

LINKED IN: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jacqueline-cioffa/4b/3/5ba

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/choff777/

INSTAGRAM: https://instagram.com/choff777/

GOODREADS:https://www.goodreads.com/…/show/7755032.Jacqueline_Cioffa

TUMBLR: http://greatpaperyouth.tumblr.com

MAKE UP TO MODEL CITI ZEN BEAUTY BLOG: http://modelcitizenmakeup.blogspot.com

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Jacqueline-Cioffa/e/B00H4EZKVE

 

I support #TheLoveEffect film – ‪#‎SuicideAwareness‬ ‪

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As an Advocate, Buddha Collector, Spiritual Seeker, Author, Being, and Human how could I not stand up in support of #theloveeffect film?

Living with mental illness, suicide and the dark are the all too familiar unwelcome visitors, and close companions.

Experiencing the personal devastating loss of someone precious, brilliant and beautiful to suicide is unbearable, impossible to comprehend. And, yet somehow we manage to go on.

Not without help, none of us can do life alone.

I use my voice. Everyday. Every single day I make a promise to write the hard unspeakable truths, insurmountable pains and blinding bliss. To choose hope, not fear.

To always seek out the light.

I support #theloveeffect because the film shares uncomfortable truths, ones that matter.

Every life matters. Suicide and depression are real, they aren’t going away.

The time to #StartTheConversation is now without shame, only courage and joy.

The sea, sun, and the elements make soothing, stunning backdrops in #theloveeffect trailer.

The perfect setting to vital, important topics.

One love.

Kickstarter: THE LOVE EFFECT – Film Launch!

by Drue Metz

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/druegrit/the-love-effect-film-launch

“SUICIDE AWARENESS – A CALL TO ACTION

• Over 1,000,000 people die by suicide every year.

• There is one death by suicide in the world every 40 seconds.

• Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

• Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15 – 24 year olds.

Why aren’t we discussing this? As filmmakers, we have an opportunity to be fearless, vulnerable and open by sharing a story that’s both universal, dramatic and ever so poignant.

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A film dealing with suicide and pain is never easy. Especially when it hits so close to home for so many of us. With the support of many celebrities, organization groups and people around the world, we have decided to take this head on – connecting our own struggles and pain with suicide, loss and depression to make a film that poetically expresses the importance of LOVE and its EFFECT. Short films are a difficult thing to create, however with suicide being such a relevant topic, we feel this story is a voice that needs to be heard.”

Waves of Insecurity by guest author J.C. Hannigan

I’m over the moon to have J.C. Hannigan here as guest author. I have much respect for the intelligent, gifted, smart as a whip woman, author, mother, wife, colleague and friend… She is efficient, funny and the first to extend a hand to a fellow writer. That speaks volumes about her persona, her willingness to help while managing a chaotic busy life, various blogs and successful writing career. I bet J.C. makes ridiculously long to-do lists and knocks them off with a big smile. She is a human tornado with sweet-scented rain and wind inviting you into her magical world of words. When I first read Waves of Insecurity, I took pause. I almost forgot she lives with Multiple Hereditary Exostoses, a debilitating chronic pain bone disorder. That is not how I see her, I imagine envious endless locks of chestnut hair, inquisitive blue eyes and a bold red lip. It’s funny and not funny at all the (mis)perceptions we are ‘learned’ about ourselves. Ms. Hannigan is not defined by society or the weight of the disability she carries with such grace. She is beauty-full.

Meet J.C. Hannigan. She’ll tell you in her very own raw, real, heartbreaking, eloquent and inspiring words.

JC Hannigan

Waves of Insecurity by J.C. Hannigan

I have always been an insecure person, uncomfortable in my own skin. When people look at me, I feel on edge and antsy. It’s like their eyes are burning me, making my skin shrink so that everything feels tight. I can’t help but wonder if they are taking in the scars on my body and my oddly shaped limbs and wondering what in the hell happened to me.

I know how harsh and judgemental people can be about appearances. Hell, there are entire shows that are dedicated to ripping individuals down for how they dress. If society judges people so profusely on a silly thing like clothes, I can only imagine how harshly they judge based on scars and physical “imperfections”.

It took me nearly ten years to put a pair of shorts on in public. I used to wear shorts and dresses all the time, back when I was a kid who didn’t know any better…back before the curious stares of strangers made my skin feel tight and unpleasant. In high school, I wore jeans and long-sleeved shirts all the time. I couldn’t imagine showing off the angry raised scars on my arms and my shoulders. I feared that my peers would make fun me the way they made fun of so many others for their differences. I couldn’t stomach that too. I feel naked when I show my limbs, as ironic as that is to admit. I feel stripped bare when my scars are on display. I feel like people can read my struggles and that they will categorize me in some way that I simply don’t want to be categorized. I don’t want the pity; I don’t want to be defined as that girl with the scars and the bone thing. I was defined by that for so long that I started to associate myself as that person. But as desperate as I was to hide those parts of me, they could never truly be hidden. Observant eyes still picked out the misshapen limbs through my layers. Observant eyes still detected the limp and the uneasy way I held myself.

Observant eyes still questioned and probed.

Being sexual when you have a physical disability and an abundance of emotional issues and insecurities is so difficult. I felt naked when I wore short-sleeved shirts – imagine how I felt the first time I presented my body to a boy? Imagine how badly that stung when that same boy decided my bone thing was too gross and freaky? It only added to the abundance of emotional issues and insecurities. It only solidified that the cruel, taunting voice in my own head was right.

Now, ten years later…I know that disabilities and scars do not have any weight in someone’s beauty. I don’t count those things against others when I look at them (and I never did); I see people as people. I define them by their actions and the way they treat others, not whether or not they are marred with scars and carrying the weight of a disability that can feel as if it segregates them from others, from the healthy people.

And for the most part, I have learned to love myself. I wear shorts now, and while I can still feel a lot of discomfort when eyes are upon me – I hold my head high. I know I am beautiful, I know that I am even desirable. Most importantly – I know that physical beauty does not have any weight in my accomplishments or who I am as a person.

But every once in a while, I still feel that suffocating wave of insecurity that crushes my spirit and makes me want to hide within myself…

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Author Bio:

J.C. Hannigan’s love of reading was spawned from a very early age. She inhaled novels with an unquenchable thirst. Eventually, that love of reading turned into a love for writing. She started to pen stories at the tender age of nine while sitting at her white desk, pencil posed over lined paper, writing countless stories about a girl, her best friend, their horses and the adventures they’d have going on trial rides together. Born with a chronic pain bone disorder called Multiple Hereditary Exostoses, she didn’t get to play sports or run amuck like her siblings and peers. Writing kept her company amid a world of surgeries, bad pain days, and isolation.

She started a blog when she was fifteen-years-old, chronicling the challenges of high school, dating, and coping with her chronic pain bone disorder. That blog went on to win a Bloggie for Best Teen Weblog, and J.C.’s ego inflated quite a bit over it (enough to continuously mention it even today).

J.C. currently resides in a small town in Ontario with her husband, their two sons, and two dogs. When she isn’t trying to wrangle kids and dogs, she can be found writing. In addition to writing new adult romance and suspense novels, J.C. writes a blog for the MHE Coalition, discussing the struggles of living with Multiple Hereditary Exostoses. She also contributes to several other websites, including her personal blog, the OCH Literary Society, and she is the content manager for Stigma Fighters Canada. Through her writing, J.C. brings to light awareness of mental health and social challenges. Her writing has been described as edgy, bold, poignant, and raw.

Other hobbies of J.C.’s include hiking, camping, binge-watching shows like Outlander, Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, and The Walking Dead, eating dill pickle chips and daydreaming of travelling around the world. J.C. adores interacting with readers, so don’t hesitate to reach out and say hi! She tries her best to respond to every message. To learn more, visit her on Facebook and follow her personal blog of random ramblings.

Title: Collide (Collide Series Book 1)

Author: J.C. Hannigon

Publisher: Booktrope Publishing

Re-Release: May 11th 2015

Purchase Link: COLLIDE

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Synopsis:

Harlow Jones has a troubled past, and a questionable future. Surrounded by death, tragedy, and intrigue, she is forced to mature long before her time. Plagued by anxiety and depression, she hides her inner turmoil with spite and sarcasm. Her thick skin is impenetrable…or so she thought. Until she becomes involved with her grade twelve English teacher. In this exclusive entry into the new adult genre, with raw style that is as dark as it is poignant, Collide presents the ultimate choice: forbidden love or doing the right thing.

Connect with J.C. Hannigan:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jcahannigan

Twitter: @jcahannigan

Google +: J.C. Hannigan

"I have always believed there is indeed room for us all." Authors inspiring authors

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Authors supporting authors is groovy!

I have learned so much from some fierce, fabulous authors and continue to be inspired by their talent, words and willingness to share.

Thank you for being cheerleaders, kind motivators, smart and courageous trailblazers.

I have always believed there is indeed room for us all.

To grow, to learn, to get inspired, to dream bigger.

Get ready to meet some pretty spectacular writers, and human beings.

Inspiration is happening right now.

“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

CHOSEN ONE is 604 pages of hold your breath Science Fiction and Fantasy sweeping adventure from the gifted imagination of author Steven Sutherland.

UnknownAuthored by Mr. Steven Daniel Sutherland
Edition: First

Click>PB http://bit.ly/1zYS8kw D http://amzn.to/1KMik7S After>You Will Get It So You Can>Arrive

Be amazed and see with your own eyes…

“Sir Stephen along with lifelong friend Sir Brent take off on a dream adventure to find the promise land and to live significant moments… Can their hearts desire lead them to where they want to go, or does it already? Will they discover if they are a Chosen One or not? You will climb the highest mountains and weep with them in their lowest valleys. Prepare yourself today, for The Chosen One.”

“My hope is readers walk away with an appreciation of their significant moments and take a step back if necessary, to avoid regrets and aspire to thrive. I believe Chosen One will become the one novel they go back to time and time again for their life’s ride.” Steven Sutherland

10641218_291425140981489_8647661716077407041_nFollow Steven’s author page on Facebook

Visit Steven Sutherland on Twitter

CHOSEN ONE  Trailer youtube.com

CHOSEN ONE on booklaunch.io

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When Sarah Fader, CEO and Founder of the mental health non-profit organization Stigma Fighters asked me to write “It hurts, Ya’ Know,” an essay for Stigma Fighters I was overjoyed. How often is it that someone is acknowledged for talking about difficult, life-saving topics like mental illness? Sarah Fader does not shy away from challenge. She is a force with the uncanny ability to bring people together while making each person feel individual. An important, collectively part of a group that needs to be seen and heard. Sarah also blogs for The Huffington Post and writes a column called Panic Life for Psychology Today.

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Sarah Fader’s recently released Stigma Fighters Anthology, “a compilation of personal perspectives, the first volume of the Stigma Fighters Anthology features essays from real people living with mental illness from around the globe.”

The first volume suggests there will be others. I sure hope so, and cannot wait to continued to be inspired by the light Ms. Fader shares and shines on others.

Authors inspiring authors and I have a feeling Ms. Fader has much to say and joyfully shares her talent and tales.

“Once upon a time Sarah Fader wrote a blog post called 3-Year-Olds Are Assholes. It went viral on HuffPost Parents with over 400,000 shares on Facebook.”

THREE-YEAR OLDS ARE A**HOLES, is the funny and touching little gem that can be enjoyed by mommys’ and non-moms’ alike.

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Follow Sarah Fader on Twitter

Sarah is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters

Find her books here Stigma Fighters Anthology

Three-Year-Olds Are A**holes

Sarah Fader on Facebook

Sarah’s website Old School New School Mom

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I cannot wait to discover the witty, gifted world of J.C. Hannigan

COLLIDE by J.C. Hannigan (KILLER cover)

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Harlow Jones has a troubled past, and a questionable future.” –collide

Visit J.C. Hannigan’s Facebook Page

Follow her on Twitter 

Visit her on her personal blog

Follow her on Google Plus

Check out the Bumpy Bones Blog

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This week, we have the very groovy, sensitive, gifted and kind Rachel Thompson. Blogger, Media Consultant (guru), founder and creator of #SexAbuseChat, Director of Social Media at Stigma Fighters, creator of the wildly popular hashtag #MondayBlogs, Director of GRAVITY IMPRINT for Booktrope Publishing, passionate, empathetic sexual abuse advocate and eloquent, gifted author. Rachel truly epitomizes the phrase “authors inspiring authors.” She was the first person I met in the daunting world of self-publishing, and first to extend a hand with a smile. Thank you, fiercely inspiring fellow red.

I’ve written about Rachel Thompson’s and “Broken Pieces” in a previous post Actual Extraordinary Women. She is an actual extraordinary woman and pretty awe-inspiring.

The sequel to “Broken Pieces” by Rachel Thompson “Broken Places” is available, and happening now.

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Visit Rachel Thompson’s Facebook Pages

Follow her on Twitter

Director of GRAVITY IMPRINT for Booktrope

Visit her on her personal blog and Social Media Consulting BadRedhead Media

Check out the link to Rachel’s poignant, raw award winning books

"Because you, more than anyone I have ever known loved being alive." L.B.H.

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Lupe and I must have walked the loop at Hoopes Park a thousand times, or more.

In ten-degree freezing black ice, navigating lethal dangerous walkways (and fallen more than once), on grey-cloud, weepy wet gloomy days.

You name it. We’ve dredged through it.

It helps, ya’ know. The walk.

To free the brain from the pressure, dark and dangerous thinking.

Easing up, releasing the unrelenting anxiety.

When we walk past the white pristine house with the red door, I have to fight the urge not to run up and knock.

Or barge in.

She’s not there.

I know this to be true in my head, but my heart searches for her.

Missing every puzzle piece and all her silly ways. Her sage advice, too.

The water fountain, Buddha and Zen room she created, so proud to show me the space.

Her home with the red door is just a dwelling now, somebody else’s house we pass on the walk.

Suicide was never her choice, she just couldn’t stay.

I don’t believe there are coincidences, I choose to believe there are signs along the way.

L.B.H., I believe you threw me one today.

It’s the perfect sixty-degree, pretty blue sky day with sunshine peek-a-booing through the clouds.

Like a child playing hide and seek, giggly and covering their mouth to contain the excitement.

Just like a happy child, exactly like you.

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http://standagainstsuicide.org

Thanks for the Buddha, water fountain, precious memories and luminescent magic that was your life.

The Zen room has a new home, with me.

I’ll do my best to keep them safe.

I’ll do my best to keep you safe, using my voice.

I stand against suicide, because your life matters.

Because you, more than anyone I have ever known loved being alive.

You, and your gypsy-free spirit, brilliant, bold, courageous, compassionate, goofy, non-judgmental, all-encompassing, curious, big beautiful love would be walking right beside me.

You are.

I can’t see you, but I feel your presence in mine.

I did not forget.

2 days and eight years gone is too long.

You were, and continue to be forever loved.

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cool like that

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I love this. Because inside these words says a whole lot about me.

And because I did not make it. Someone I respect and admire did.

#werk

Because she’s cool like that, I’m cool like that.

"We are left with the prisons of our own minds and that is heavy enough." J Cioffa #MentalIllness #Treatment 

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One in Four. No, not Really. 

The very real, gut-wrenching mental illness statistics remain not far off from fifty years ago when pyschiatric institutions were the solution, lock them away.

As long as my beautiful chaotic mind and the words don’t betray me, I use my voice.

I am Three in Four even Four in Four, hit the mentally ill genetic jackpot. The reality is I could snap at any moment, I pray won’t.

Please, don’t judge. Don’t judge the ‘crazy,’ the insane, the unfit, the unwell, the lunatic that is me. Help us instead.

We are left with the prisons of our own minds and that is heavy enough.

From the Washington Post, “A shocking number of mentally ill Americans end up in prison instead of treatment.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/30/a-shocking-number-of-mentally-ill-americans-end-up-in-prisons-instead-of-psychiatric-hospitals/

I Am Adam Lanza

By Jacqueline Cioffa

A decade ago I lived a frivolous, spoiled, privileged life. An International fashion model, I worked in more countries than I can count. Freedom was something I took for granted, until the earth fell from under me and my whole world shattered. My first psychotic breakdown took away everything I knew to be true and buried me whole.

The paranoia, delusions of grandeur, mania, the irrational and out of control behavior. I wanted to die, too exhausted by the fragile, broken mind. I wanted to let go of the rage, the fear, the despair, I wanted to end my life. The slicing of the wrists, my escape and a way out. Dancing in the streets, in stores, I was too out of my mind to be ashamed, by my behavior. The shame and isolation would come later, as thick and heavy as a steel beam, freight train crushing my soul. I lived with my brother, exasperated, helpless, not knowing what more he could do, he put me on a bus back home to my mother. My Irish, stubborn, loyal, family first, capable mother. She had experience dealing with Mental Illness; my family had been plagued by the unlucky 1 in 4 gene pool.

My sick, wracked mind betrayed me, no longer mine to control. The whole and intact me, I used to know now gone forever. The carefree, compassionate, strong, independent person is living her worst nightmare. Even on the hard, horrific days, the dark evil thoughts dominating my brain, I fight desperately to regain control. If you have not been exposed to Mental Illness, please do not talk to me about it. You are out of your league, cannot begin to comprehend the exhausting toll it takes. On a family, friends, that is if you are lucky enough to have any left. Mostly, you are left with isolation and shame, your own.

My second breakdown brought black days, numbness, and a shell of a person. The depression and anxiety, so crippling I was forced to leave the big city, retreat back home to the safety of familiar surroundings. The pain so deep, so heavy, the fear immense, death seemed my only option. A welcome release from the demons, the evil lurking in the corners of a tortured mind. I work hard to beat the beast daily, as soon as my feet hit the floor, shaking. I take the psych drugs, Lithium, Xanax, Valium, the shock treatments and practice alternative medicine. I do yoga, eat healthy, exercise and live simple. I try to avoid the triggers, terrified of the next episode.

I never know when the outbursts will come, when paranoia will convince me the man in the park wants to kill me. In my heart and my soul, I know this is completely irrational. But, the mind plays tricks. I have to fight, every minute, every second to control the grappling Illness I must live with. Day after day, in constant fear of what I might do next. I don’t own a gun, I would be afraid to have one in close proximity. I hate violence, I find it abhorrent, but I do not trust the beast.

There is no concrete help for the Mentally Disabled; there is half hour, once a month consults with the overworked, underpaid psychiatrist, who spends your time glancing at a clock. There are no solutions, into the mysteries of a broken mind, they throw pills at you. Pills that may very well be your undoing, send you deeper into depression, trigger manic episodes or worse an acute psychotic episode, and the killing of innocent souls. Those are the worst breaks, the psychosis, and the hardest to come back from. I have visited them firsthand.

I watched, helpless as my beautiful, brilliant, Yale educated, compassionate cousin ended her own life. She was a Dr., the smartest person I know and she could not find a way out of the Mental Illness that plagued her. My own father, who endured 17 years of Mental Illness, endless pills that made him worse, psychiatric hospital visits, a dementia ridden mind at the end. My mother, who fought every battle with him, and for him when he couldn’t. His daughter who would always be in my memory, his adored, precocious, funny face, happy and intact child. He died not knowing my name. Although, in my heart and my spirit, I know exactly what I meant to him. His last breath I was beside him, holding his hand and on his heart. I felt the unbearable pain and destroyed mind, set free as he floated up to heaven. He was a good man, the kindest, most selfless I know.

I am a good person, who doesn’t deserve this fate. I am not a violent person, but I am Adam Lanza. He may have committed a horrific, unspeakable EVIL, act. Did he start out evil? He must have been an innocent, child himself at some point. When did his broken mind take over, when did he lose all rational, self-control? It’s too hard to grasp, too big to think about without immeasurable faith.

When are we, as an empathetic society, going to care about the Mentally Ill? Fight for them; stick up for them, as eagerly as we fight against gun control. When will we do something about the fact that there is no place for ‘us’, when the evil, mind disease takes hold? They send you to the ER, push a pill, perhaps a 72 hour hold to the Psych Ward. There is nowhere a parent with a disturbed, sick child can turn. We are in trouble, as a society. Take the guns off the streets, a mentally disturbed individual will find another way to kill. Help us fix them, with more research, better facilities, more culpability from the Government and its people, for the Mentally Ill.

I weep for those children, the families, the unimaginable depths of pain and sorrow. I rejoice in my youth, safe, happy and healthy. I’m grateful for that. I expose myself, sharing my story. Perhaps it can help bring insight and perspective. I don’t believe human beings are evil, I believe they are defective and commit violent, unspeakable acts.

Mental Illness has afflicted me, but it could’ve been you or a loved one. One in four is not great odds. I am alone, completely and utterly alone with my Illness, even while surrounded by an empathic family. I am not a child; I am an adult, who’s better equipped to manage this bastard disease.

Please, don’t judge me. Don’t judge the Adam Lanza’s. Don’t judge the ‘crazy,’ the insane, the unfit, the unwell, the lunatic that is me.

Help us instead.

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It hurts, Ya' Know: reblog from @stigmafighters

I am honored to be included on Stigma Fighters.  No matter who we are, we cannot face Mental Illness alone. Sarah Fader and Stigma Fighters are doing important work sharing, discussing and opening the conversation.

Say NO to Stigma, YES to empathy, understanding and kindness. The time for positive change is right now.

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Stigma Fighters : Jacqueline Cioffa

 

It hurts, Ya’ Know
by Jacqueline Cioffa

The earliest picture I have of me lives in the stories I’ve been told. The image of a sweet, loveable, desired baby girl with sparkly hazel eyes and an infectious, bubbly grin. Can you picture her? In her white crib with pastel yellow and blue painted sheep, beaming inside out, her delicate arms wide open. I can if I squeeze my eyes real tight, I can feel her eight-month bright-eyed wonder, innocence and exuberant joy. The stark white blank slate possibility and endless adventure of a life that is still to come. She could color it neon green, bubble gum strawberry, juicy purple, azure sea, sunshine yellow, paint any color she chose. I’m guessing in her mind this baby believed she could fly. Shimmying up the wooden bars, tugging with determination with strong legs she would hurl herself over the edge, not caring where she might land. Her distraught mother would find her on the cushy rug clapping, giggling and intact. No one ever figured out how the mischievous darling managed to thrust herself out of that crib.

I have a funny deja vu feeling her new-new untainted soul; unspoiled heart and bare canvas spirit were the perfect tapestry for the little human being who trusted she could fly.

They placed a net over the crib for her own safety, and in the dark when she lifted herself up feeling the bouncy cord hitting the top of her head, her spirit broke. As hard as she tried, willed her tiny limbs life would become less and less colorful until black was the dominant hue in her jumbo box of Crayola crayons.

It was no one’s fault, you know. Slowly, and all at once her sunny colorful mind dimmed and became dull. The dark that is the all-consuming fear of living a life with no color is her reality today. She cannot reconcile the diagnosis, “insanity runs in the family.” She does not know how to keep the child safe, keep that wondrous piece with her. She doesn’t understand how her broken mind can ask her to be separated from the most exquisite, adventurous, kind, funny, lovable parts of her. She refuses to believe in a world where the only light she sees is through a pinpoint hole in the deep, dark recesses of the fractured mind where science has no tangible answers, where she is forced to battle. She prays the flicker of light that remains, that is all she has left and trusts and believes in does not dim and burn away.

She cannot reconcile the two living embedded inside one mind. They are so very different, and yet they are the same. She trusts the muscle that is her bursting purple heart that her chaotic misfiring brain plays tricks on her. She is blinded, consumed with the pain of staying sane. When most days she’d really rather be the child whose arms are extended to the wonder and magic that is the beautiful gift called life.

She is I, I am she. Together we fight the insidious, solitary grown-up war that is mental illness. When exactly it happened, the particulars, the precise moment I went insane who cares.

It happened. To me. And her. Mental Illness is the agonizing, paralyzing, uncompromising, anxiety-ridden, paranoid, numbing fear, night terrors in the daytime. It is the hideous, unforgiving, relentless, tedious, Ad nauseam unknown. Mental Illness is the unwanted safety net that stops me from believing I can fly.

Well fuck you disease, it hurts anyway. I don’t care if I break a few bones, act stupid, and say inappropriate things, scream and cry. The hazel eyed, precious baby keeps me dreaming colors and alive.

I won’t lie.
It hurts, ya’ know.

* * *

JackieCioffa

Jacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in “Brainstorms, the Anthology” and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness.
She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth and film lover who’s traveled the world.

 

Jacqueline lives with manic depression, anxiety, paranoia, agoraphobia, depression, mania, med. resistance in a tidal wave of symptoms the best she can. Some days that means coping by counting the seconds. Writing saves her from the brain chaos, the respite mini sanctuary spa vacation from the harsh reality of living with mental illness. By sharing her voice, truest truths, struggles and wins she hopes others facing heartbreaking challenges find solace, solidarity and serenity. Jacqueline is her own best advocate, fighting a broken healthcare system, researching alternative treatment as well as traditional medicine. She champions anyone who is fighting hard to survive.

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Say NO Stigma, YES to empathy understanding and kindness. The time for positive change is right now.

FOLLOW THE LINK: http://stigmafighters.com/stigma-fighters-jacqueline-cioffa/

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Thread the Needle

lavender, peppermint healing

Authenticity. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the word, gargling, swishing it around in my mouth and spitting it out.

If I only show you the photoshopped, concealed, makeup pretty me you’ll never understand the underbelly. The crunchy grit, rawness hidden beneath. The really good stuff, the honest kind that matters. Most days I can only see how my illness defines me. Every single piece that’s been stolen, the immeasurable, inexplicable loss of self. The shame, self-hatred, feelings of worthlessness, doubt, insecurities, paranoia, fear, inappropriate remarks, irrational behavior and the myriad of negatives that live inside my broken, chaotic mind. Not to mention the physical excruciating pain, dizziness, anxiety, numbness, sweats, chills. Or the forty-ish pounds of added weight, the personal fuck you reminder of the crazy scales. Matters of life and death, I stopped counting the pounds. There are the ‘friends’ who conveniently vanished, stopped calling, texting. I admit, I’ve cried, hid my face in shame, lived with resentment and assumed the worst. It must be my fault.

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truth. same me.

That’s not what this day or this post is about. Today is about threading the needle and the incredible luck I’ve been dealt. Yes, luck.

Somewhere in-between psychosis, wanting to die and twelve years of psyche meds, twelve years of disappointment, fight, agony, fear, mania, depression and feeling sorry for myself, I forgot. The crucial element. Luck.

My therapist, whom I adore talks it out with me. She said something that kinda’ stuck, “you’re not the norm.” I didn’t quite get it. “Most of my patients (mentally ill) don’t have anyONE. You have more than one, you are not alone.” It’s so true, I am never alone while living with this solitary, suck-ass, fuck-off, bite-me disease. It’s authentic no doubt, there is no room for false illusion.

I am lucky. I’m lucky I have a home, a comfortable safe haven. I’m lucky to have a kindred spirit animal, Lupita lovely who comforts me when I am buried inside the madness, teaches me patience, moral responsibility and makes me smile more times than I can count.

I’m lucky no one asks too much of me, no conventional job, financial stress triggers. Don’t worry, I own that guilt. Guilt is a wasted emotion I excel at. I am lucky I still have the capacity to have a clear thought, battle the bad ones. I’m lucky I live with someone who does not let me wallow and knows when I am not wallowing at all. I’m lucky I have the one who puts her aches, pains and disappointments under her tongue and bites down hard dealing with the crazy that is her daughter. I am well aware even when I’m not gracious, nice, and pretty goddamn awful. I’m lucky there is more than one person checking in, wishing me well. I’m lucky for the ones I didn’t expect with the kindest hearts.

I’m lucky my heart is the bigger muscle and my mind the smaller one. I’m lucky I have a wicked imagination. I’m lucky I can still lose myself in the words, writing and dreaming on the page. I’m lucky god, buddha whoever sent me and gave me some gifts to share. There is something beautiful in the ethers, beyond our fixed expiration date. I’m lucky I believe in that. I’m lucky I’m sensitive enough, intuitive enough, aware enough and kind enough.

I’m lucky I have a stubborn, ugly mean streak too. It keeps me alive.

I could go on and on but that might seem manic, crazy, mad. Stirring up all the uncomfortable feelings, words and foreign adjectives that swirl inside your mind. Forget it, I didn’t write this for you.

I’m lucky if my experience helps the solitaire, lonely person  struggling like me feel less alone.

I’m lucky I choose authentic however scary it may be, I am the lucky in-between.

I’m learning luck is not a state of mind but one of heart.

Labels, I am lucky I’ve plain worn them out.

Walk it out
Walk it out
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End the Stigma      http://bringchange2mind.org