Self-Love, Recovery and a Thriller Freebie!

body image

Embracing our physical selves can be one of life’s toughest feats. My personal battle with low body image started at age 5 and lasted into my late 20s, and in my years of eating disorder recovery and the thriving that’s followed, I’ve encountered hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women whose battles run deeper and longer. It’s not fair or right that so many of us loathe ourselves, or that we’re taught to place our personal self-worth on factors as trivial as dress size, facial features or weight. But all of that’s too easy in today’s world.

If there’s one thing that my personal journey has taught me, it’s that the cliche holds true: True beauty really does radiate from within. When we strive to fulfill our hearts’ and souls’ desires rather than expectations set by diet trends, the media or the entertainment industry, we feel and appear more beautiful in EVERY way. LIFE becomes beautiful, and so does our place in it. 

Anyone who’s overcome eating disorder will attest that coming to terms with this is the most difficult and important work one can ever do. Those who’ve found their way through darkness to the sunshine called full, forever recovery (I consider myself recovered) also know a special kind of glory that can be all of ours.

In honor of the beautiful folks who are grappling with eating disorders or related issues (disordered eating, depression, anxiety…), I’m running a freebie promotion of my novel, In Her Shadow, today through Saturday. Since my last freebie promotion boosted sales afterward significantly, I’ve decided to donate 10 percent of my profits for the month following to the National Eating Disorders Association. I’m so excited to support this wonderful organization.

In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s a glimpse at my novel’s story:

One woman locked in a basement, nearing death and longing for escape. Another baffled by the inexplicable symptoms wreaking havoc on her life. Both are lost and alone, yet somehow connected. And time is running out…

In Her Shadow cover_med

Near the tenth anniversary of her parents’ unexpected death, Claire Fiksen, a lovely young Harvard-grad and gifted psychologist in Minnesota, develops bizarre symptoms of an eating disorder that threaten her fledgling career, her relationship with a handsome young medical student, her grasp on reality and, soon, her life.

When her beloved grandfather reveals that there may be more to her parents’ death than she’s realized, Claire’s pursuit of healing becomes a desperate search for answers as she delves into her family’s sordid past. Meanwhile, someone is watching her every move, plotting to draw her into her own twisted web of misery.

Claire has something he needs, and he’ll stop at nothing to obtain it. Every step Claire takes brings her closer to the truth and danger. And her life, she discovers, isn’t the only one at stake.

 “As McLaughlin, a certified nutritionist and health writer, slowly reveals the mysteries behind Claire’s illness, as well as long-hidden truths and snippets of memories, the novel’s darkness gathers like storm clouds. An engaging story with an inventive structure and an intriguing focus on body-image issues.” — Kirkus Reviews

To nab your free e-copy, visit IN HER SHADOW on Amazon.com today through Saturday, August 10th at midnight.

*****

SPECIAL EVENT! I’d also like to invite you all to a virtual party taking place on Facebook tonight from 6 – 8:30pm PST. I’ll be sharing an abbreviated live recording of my story, “Does Dirt Have Calories?,” sharing highlights from my recovery, taking and posing questions and keeping the virtual empowering drinks flowing! I hope you’ll stop by and join the fun.

For details, to RSVP and to join in once the party has started, visit BEYOND THE SHADOWS: A SELF-DISCOVERY/RECOVERY PARTY!

Thanks, all, for your ongoing support and overall awesomeness! You’re total bright spots in my day. ♥

IN HER SHADOW Paperback Release and Giveaway

As a kid, my mouth seemed to house only sweet-teeth. I’d eat sugar cubes by the handful, given the chance, and once trick-or-treated in the heat of July (dress up plus free candy: a total sweet-o-holic win-win). Years later, when disordered eating set in, sweets became the bad boyfriend I had to resist, or face punishment. It’s a beautiful thing to be past all of that, particularly since it’s allowed me to recognize and pursue my writing dreams.

Good thing nature makes "candy," too.

Good thing nature makes “candy,” too.

In his book How to Write a Damn Good Thriller, James Frey describes concern over social injustice as the reason authors write certain thrillers, such as Blood Diamond, Dr. Stangelove, Serpico and The Constant Gardener. The authors feel compelled to shed light on and perhaps help correct these injustices, he says, thereby improving the world. I certainly relate to that motivation, and in my own meager way, that’s one of the things I’ve tried to do with In Her Shadow: shed some light into what eating disorders feel like from the inside. From understanding stems growth.

Since my e-book release last month, there have been exhilarating highs and proverbial dips. One day after I received praise from Kirkus Reviews, a reader called my novel unedited, and my use of the acronym  E.D. “lazy” and mistakable for erectile dysfunction. (You can laugh. I have. :)) Like all books, mine is not for everyone, nor is the rocky ride known as publishing. When our work resonates with readers, though, WOW. It’s a remarkable feeling that makes bumps seem bearable and sitting down to the empty page again and again a near given. (Every one of you who posts reviews for books you enjoy, give yourself a big ol’ hug!)

I thought about sharing the worst and best reviews today, but Mr./Mrs. Erectile Dysfunction included spoilers. Instead I’ll share two of the most touching:

I was breathless from the first word I read!, January 28, 2013

This book touched my heart before I even turned the first page.

Ms. McLaughlin’s writing is elegant, gentle, subtle, and drew me into her story by the heart, stirring concern and compassion for her exquisitely vulnerable characters. She writes about pain without assault or brutality. Whereas the stories of many authors leave one feeling bruised and hurting, August evokes caring, tenderness and a deep empathy.

Of special note is the sensitivity with which she dealt with the dynamic of an eating disorder, bringing me into the experience in such a vulnerable way that I was allowed to live it, sharing the anguish of it, not just looking at it and “understanding” as an observer. This is not only incredible writing, but a gift to those who struggle with eating disorders, unable to find the words to describe their torment to a culture that cannot comprehend the “illogic” of their behavior. — Psychologist/Author, Jan Harrell

The other came via email from a woman who’s struggling with bulimia. With her permission, here is an excerpt:

I’ve read lots of books about eating disorders, but this is the first time I was like, “Yes. The author gets its.”  I gave it to my boyfriend to read. I think it’s helping him understand it, and me… Thanks for writing In Her Shadow. It gave me strength. I also had fun reading it, which is saying a lot. (It must be good to distract me from my freaking disease. :)) I hope you always keep writing. — J.

And here is the brand-spankin’ new back cover, by the ever-fabulous Steena Holmes:

IHS back

In celebration of my paperback release and in honor of J. and her courageous battle, I’ve decided to offer a fun little giveaway. To qualify, follow these two steps:

1. Pop over to Amazon between now and February 2nd—and order In Her Shadow.

2. Email me your purchase confirmation (august at augustmclaughlin dot com) and where you’d like your LOVE YOUR BODY affirmation magnet sent. Yep! Everyone who orders within the first two days can claim one.

Thanks so much for the continual support, all. It means more to me than healthy or sugary sweets ever could.

What’s your main writing motivation? Any funny/horrible or rave reviews of your work you’re up for sharing? What feedback or compliment has taken you by surprise?

My Birthmas Wish and E-Release NEWS!

Dreams shouldn’t have ceilings. Lucky for me, my parents never imposed them.

Some things haven't changed since I was 6.

Some things haven’t changed since I was 6.

This Sunday marks my 34th birthday—birthmas, as I like to call it. Each year for as long as I can remember, I’ve asked myself whether I’ve earned the numerical upgrade. If I’ve prodded further toward my dreams, the answer is yes, this year being no exception. With the release of my first novel underway, I’m feeling exceptionally grateful, particularly since a few months ago, publishing seemed far off.

When I was deciding whether to go the indie-with-an-agent publishing route, my dear friend Bill posted a blog comment that struck me straight in the heart:

Remember the big benefit concert you and your band mate put on, oh, 16 years ago, with a bunch of different local bands? I remember it because that was the first time, out of very many, that I was like, “holy ****, this person is my age, and she decides she wants to do things and just goes out and…like…DOES them!” So, yeah. I don’t know whether I could ever have the willpower or drive to do everything a self-publisher needs to do, and I know for a fact that most people don’t, but I’m pretty sure you’ll rock it in your usual way.

While I was already leaning heavily toward self-publishing, Bill reminded me of a vow I made at the ripe young age of 15. My mother was enduring a brutal battle with depression related to horrific abuse she experienced as a child. A friend in my church’s youth group had been kicked down the stairs by her abusive mother. And my best friend, Kellie, and I had recently learned to play guitar.

These events collided when Kellie and I took a dream I’d had about a song called Matarrah Taray as a sign. The otherwise nonexistent phrase quickly became a real song, the names of our beater guitars (mine Matarrah, hers Taray) and the title of a regional benefit concert to spread awareness regarding child abuse.

Matarah

Matarrah

Many people deemed our mission sweet, but unrealistic. Fueled up with others’ skepticism and passion for the cause, we worked harder, producing press kits, a pasta charity dinner and local coffee house gigs featuring none-other-than us, while talking non-stop about all of it. Gradually, people started paying attention, and no longer in “That’s so cute!” type ways. We were featured in the morning news, a PBS documentary and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and sang the national anthem at a Minnesota Twins game dedicated to non-violence. Matarrah Taray became a two-year anti-child abuse campaign, culminating in a 16-band concert. In 1996, Kellie and I were awarded the Minnesota Peace Prize for our efforts.

You know what strikes me the most about the experience to this day? The vast number of people who described our “youthful” enthusiasm and belief that anything’s possible, notions they seemed to believe that everyone inevitably outgrows. At one point, I borderline scolded a reporter for referencing our “childlike fervor.” We’ll NEVER stop believing, I told her. Ever. Growing up doesn’t necessitate settling for non-starry skies. I still believe that.

While the accolades were lovely and we raised valuable funds and awareness for a worthy cause, Kellie and I benefitted most. Of the lessons I learned, my favorites still apply today:

  • Genuine goals and dreams are never foolish.
  • Goals and dreams are only meaningless if we withhold them.
  • People will listen (and stuff happens) if we speak up loudly and long enough.
  • Passion trumps know-how, though both are important.
  • Support and skepticism can function as high-grade fuel.
  • Music and words can change the world, if not the whole world, someone’s.
  • There’s no point in stopping dreaming and endless promise in keeping on.

Creating fiction, poetry, music, performance or visual art when our hearts say DO is among the most admirable and important work anyone can accomplish. Publishing our work traditionally or independently when our hearts say DO can turn “childlike” dreams into reality. Dreams are only meaningless when we withhold them.

My birthmas wish is that all of you reading this will take a step toward your wildest dreams. Step into your authentic self and do something awesome. (If you report back later, I’ll bake you a healthy cake.)

I’d also like to extend special thanks to my friends, family, mentors and readers for helping my most recent dream come true. My first novel hit the e-shelves this week! Talk about surreal…

If you’d like to purchase or otherwise support In Her Shadow by sharing links or “liking,” visit:

In Her Shadow on Amazon.com (Kindle version)
August McLaughlin on Amazon.com (my author page)
In Her Shadow on GoodReads

Thanks in advance for any support. ♥ If I can cheer you and your ventures on, please let me know.

***My official release, including the paperback, will take place in January. We’re going to party hardy!***

I’d LOVE to hear from you. What dream are you striving for? If you have trouble conjuring an answer, complete one of the following sentences: If I weren’t afraid (or alternate negative adjective), I would ______________________. If I could take a magic wand to my life, I would _______________________. What extra dream-seeking step are you willing to take? If still nothing pops to mind, I hope you’ll stay open to the possibilities.