Pre-Order the Art Book Nope, Nope, Nuh-uh! and Get Lost in the Art of Emotions


A few months ago, a friend of mine (hey, Ashley!) connected me with kickass artist Karolina Adams via social media. Would I be interested in helping Karolina edit and organize the interior matter for her forthcoming art table book? I took one look at Karolina’s Instagram page and said yes, because 1) her art is simply phenomenal; and 2) her work is deeply personal and explores issues related to emotional and mental health.

As someone who battles anxiety and depression myself, I was immediately humbled by how raw and beautiful and vulnerable Karolina’s work is. Truly, it speaks to you in such an intimate way. And the stories behind certain pieces? Just incredible and human and relatable. I knew I wanted to be involved in getting this book out into the world, and along the way, I connected with Karolina, who is inspiring and lovely and an absolute pleasure to work with.

Now, Karolina’s finished art book, Nope, Nope, Nuh-uh! The Art of Purging Emotions is available for pre-order! (And if you participate in the pre-order, you also get an exclusive print of a new work called “I am Enough”)

Check out the book trailer for Nope, Nope, Nuh-uh! to learn more and get a glimpse of Karolina’s art:

Naturally, to celebrate I had to interview Karolina about her book and everything that led to this exciting moment!


Tiffany Michelle Brown: If you had to describe your art using five adjectives, what would they be?

Karolina Adams: Introspective, quirky, humorous, emotional, relatable.

TMB: Why did you decide to publish your art book now? 

KA: I’ve been meaning to publish an art book for a while, however, between a packed schedule of gallery shows, art festivals, and life, I could never find the time needed to create the book. COVID-19 came, cancelled all my art shows, and gave me ample time to work on this project. The abundant time was the main reason, however, while designing the book and seeing all my pieces in front of me again (some I forgot I created, I have quite a fat inventory I’ve collected over the 8 years that I’ve been a professional artist), I realized that the messages in most of the work are important and needed right now. For example, “Embracing Patience,” “Time to focus on Moi,” “In God’s Hand,” or “I’m Done.” These are messages that are relevant in these uncertain times. We are isolated from each other, so knowing that there is someone out there that has those same feelings creates a connection that people crave.

book pic2

TMB: Are there any pieces in the book that are extra special to you? If so, why?

KA: Yes. My favorite piece is always the last one I created, as I’m usually still working through those emotions, so I’m still very much connected. Once the emotion dissipates, I disconnect. Not a conscious decision, it just happens naturally.

But there is a piece that is just extra special to me. It’s called “Bound by Love.” That piece speaks to my relationship with my dog that passed last December in 2019. He was a rambunctious and loving dog that stole my heart.

TMB: What does your artistic process look like?

KA: I am an introspective artist, which means I live in my head. I’m constantly checking in with myself and reflecting on what is happening with me internally. I examine my thoughts and my emotions and I “talk” about these experiences and how I deal with them in a clean, minimal, and quirky style. Although these stories are personal, they communicate everyone’s emotions. Every one of us deals with darkness, weakness, limitation, as well as happiness and triumphs, while finding strength in it.

I illustrate what it is to be human, I guess.

Karolina Adams

TMB: What inspires you as an artist? How about as a human being?

KA: I’m inspired by growth. I push myself out of my comfort zone all the time to find change. I love change. This is not to say I take the process of change with a happy-go-lucky attitude; it’s scary but the growth that comes from it is priceless. Every time I reach a level of growth I feel more free, more myself, stronger, kinder, more self-aware, etc. I love being it that state as life around me changes with me. It’s the most interesting thing I’ve ever experienced.

TMB: Many of your pieces tell stories about inner strength, insecurities, mental health, and personal well-being. Naturally, these pieces strike a chord with viewers. What are some of the reactions to your art that have meant the most to you?

KA: I’ve had people open up to me about their secret struggles that they’ve lived with for a while without sharing it with anyone until that point. I had an 80-some-year-old gentleman come to one of my shows. He walked around giving each piece on the wall a close look. When I walked up to him, he had tears in his eyes. I asked which work was making him emotional, and he said he felt all of the work. This was during my “dark” period where I was in the midst of deep depression and anxiety. All of the pieces on the walls were draped in those heavy emotions. This older gentleman told me that he fought in the Vietnam War and he has/had PTSD. Back then, no one talked about it. You dealt with it in private on your own. This man never told this to his kids, friends, or wife. This was the first time he’d ever said anything about it to anyone. This was such a raw and beautiful moment that he gifted me and I think, maybe, I gifted to him. I think because I’m open to “talking” about my own struggles publicly, it gives others “permission” to talk about theirs. I’m very humbled I get to share those exposed moments with people.

Book pic3

TMB: Tell me a bit about your pre-sale offer for Nope, Nope, Nuh-Uh!

KA: First, I’m going to tell you how proud I am of this book. It’s beyond what I had envisioned in my head when I first started on this art book journey. The pre-order includes a print with a great and powerful message that everyone should have in their house, even if only written on a sticky note on their computer. The print is called “I am Enough.” The pre-order ends this Monday, August 3, so you only have a few days left if you’d like to get the print with the book.

You can pre-order the book (and print) here:

TMB: What are you hoping people who buy this book will get out of it?

KA: I hope people realize that they are not alone and that no one is without challenges. It’s easy to think that others have an easier life, seeing people’s social media posts. Everyone struggles, but not everyone shows it.

TMB: Where can we see more of your art?

KA: Instagram:



TMB: Any future projects on the horizon?

KA: Nothing yet. I want to do nothing for a bit. The book project was quite the elephant to eat, and I am full for now! But follow me on Instagram or FB for new work. I haven’t created artwork in a long while and I’m itching to purge some new emotions.


An Interview with Seeing Things Author Sonora Taylor


Cover art by Doug Puller.

If you read indie horror, chances are good you’ve heard of Sonora Taylor. In 2019, she released Without Condition, a female serial killer coming-of-age novel, and Little Paranoias: Stories, an engrossing short story collection, both of which have received rave reviews and labeled Sonora as a voice to be reckoned with in the horror community.

When Sonora announced a new novel publishing in 2020 and asked if I’d like to receive an ARC, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. And that’s about how quickly I read Seeing Things after it arrived on my doorstep.

Here’s what I had to say about the book:

I am impressed with how much mystery, creep factor, emotion, and BLOOD Sonora Taylor packed into Seeing Things. For such a slim novel, it packs a punch and leaves you feeling completely satisfied as a reader. Seeing Things is at once an inventive take on ghost stories and a coming-of-age tale that weaves supernatural sightings and real-world, human horrors into a hell of a novel. Get ready to believe in ghosts and come face-to-face with the things that haunt us! Highly recommend.

So, of course, I had to interview Sonora about her latest work…cue the questions!

TMB: What inspired Seeing Things? Did the idea develop and evolve while you were writing, or did you have it all figured out from the get-go?

ST: I first got the idea while walking in my old neighborhood. I used to see an elderly man walking by all the time. However, no one else ever acknowledged his existence. I jokingly thought, what if I’m the only one who can see him?

From there my imagination started to whir, and settled on an idea for a short story: what if a teenage girl discovered she could see the dead, but none of them wanted to talk to her? At home, I opened up Word and wrote the first line: “Ever since she was a little girl, Margaret Grace had a habit of seeing things she wasn’t supposed to.”

I wrote some passages, and had a story in mind that revolved more around grief and letting go. However, I got stuck, and set it aside. That was in 2017. Years and other projects went by, but this little story wouldn’t leave my mind. Then when Little Paranoias: Stories was out for edits last summer, I got an idea. What if instead of grief, the story was about dark secrets? And what if I made it more about the girl’s family? This helped the story take off, especially when I thought up Uncle Keith. I wrote some notes, changed the girl’s name to Abby, and soon realized this story would be a novel. And, here it is!

TMB: What was the most exciting part of writing Seeing Things?

ST: When I figured out how an integral subplot could play out. I needed something to cast suspicion on one of the characters, but nothing I thought of made sense until I had the magic “ah ha!” moment that all writers love. Sorry to be vague, but I don’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t read the book yet!

TMB: What was the most challenging part of writing Seeing Things?

ST: Writing it, ha ha. I was having a stressful 2019, and it was harder to sit down and write this one than my past two novels. I wrote it in pieces between work tasks at my day job. But, it got done. Slow but steady, as they say.

TMB: What was your writing process like for Seeing Things? Was it similar to the process for previous books you’ve published?

ST: In addition to writing it in small chunks at a time, this is the first book I wrote in chronological order. It was an interesting experience because even though I had an idea of the ending, it couldn’t be properly realized unless I wrote it in time with Abby figuring things out for herself.

TMB: How would you describe your protagonist Abby in seven words or less?

ST: Says out loud what many teenagers think.


Illustration by Doug Puller.

TMB: In Seeing Things, there’s an urban legend at Abby’s school involving Locker 751. What is your favorite urban legend? And are there any that are unique to where you grew up/where you live/where you went to school?

ST: We didn’t have urban legends where I grew up. There was a ghost story associated with my old neighborhood in Leesburg, Virginia (well, there were likely several). Our elementary school was near a Civil War battleground. My fifth grade teacher told us that during the war, women would have picnics and watch the battle. Supposedly at night, you could hear the women laughing.

TMB: Seeing Things is as much a coming-of-age story as it is a ghost story. Your previous novel, Without Condition, also follows a young woman who is finding her way in the world and developing into her own person. What attracts you to the coming-of-age narrative?

ST: I’m attracted to character-driven stories, and I think a character advances like a plot when they grow up, come to terms with their situation, or otherwise shift their thinking. It’s funny, I don’t normally set out to write coming-of-age stories, but they almost always end up that way when they’re done.

TMB: Let me set the scene: Seeing Things has been turned into a movie. What’s the song that plays over the closing credits?

ST: 3 Libras by A Perfect Circle — though since the story features a teenager in the present day, it’ll probably be a cover by Billie Eilish or Halsey.

TMB: If, like Abby, you suddenly started seeing dead people, how do you think you’d react?

ST: Well, if they refused to talk to me, I’d probably be as insulted as Abby was! But yeah, I’d be scared at first, but if they weren’t going to hurt me or be jerks, I’d probably just get used to them being around.

TMB: What’s next for you? What are you working on now or want to plug?

ST: I’m writing short stories. I’m submitting them to different journals, and also planning to release a collection in late 2021. It’s called Someone to Share My Nightmares, and most of the stories will feature love and sex in addition to darkness.


About Seeing Things: 

Abby Gillman has discovered that with growing up, there comes a lot of blood. But nothing prepares her for the trail of blood she sees in the hallway after class – or the ghost she finds crammed inside an abandoned locker.

No one believes Abby, of course. She’s only seeing things. As much as Abby wants to be believed, what she wants more is to know why she can suddenly see the dead. Unfortunately, they won’t tell her. In fact, none of them will speak to her. At all.

Abby leaves for her annual summer visit to her uncle’s house with tons of questions. The visit will give her answers the ghosts won’t – but she may not like what she finds out.

Purchase your copy of Seeing Things (available in ebook and paperback formats on Amazon).

Sonora_hs19-32About Sonora Taylor:

Sonora Taylor is the author of several short stories and novels, including Without Condition and Little Paranoias: Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was published in Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Taylor’s short stories frequently appear in “The Sirens Call.” Her work has also appeared in “Frozen Wavelets,” “Mercurial Stories,” “Tales to Terrify,” and the “Ladies of Horror Fiction Podcast.” Her latest book, Seeing Things, will be out June 23, 2020. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.


Visit Sonora online at

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A Case of the Fridays

Case of the Fridays

I used to love Fridays.

But lately, I’ve been dreading them. Like clockwork, since the beginning of our shelter-at-home order, I’ve been starting my weeks with lots of energy—and ending them completely and utterly exhausted. Sometimes, to the point of tears.

Case of the Mondays? Gone. Case of the Fridays? In full effect.

The past few weeks, I’ve recognized that this has become a pattern, and I knew I needed to change something. I wasn’t sure what, but I needed to dig deep and figure it out.

After talking it out with my husband, I sat down and made a list. Instead of traditional pros and cons, I wrote down the things that cause me stress and the things that make me happy. Let me tell you, it was not fun being brutally honest about some of my stressors. But on the other side of the coin, it was also therapeutic to recognize the things that genuinely bring me joy.

Here’s what I learned, thanks to this exercise.

First, there are plenty of things on my stressors list that I have zero control over (hello, shopping trips and paying our mortgage and the damn jungle that has overtaken our backyard due to record rain).

But there are plenty of things I can manage. Like my personal news and social media consumption.

I will admit I’ve been rather addicted to my phone since all of this mess started. Checking on news updates. Reading personal accounts of those who’ve battled COVID-19. Cringing at the terrible decisions being made socially, politically, globally. And let’s be honest, all the existing issues in our society haven’t disappeared in the face of coronavirus; if anything, this pandemic is emphasizing them and showing us how broken so many of our social and political systems are.

All this stuff, it stresses me out. The bad news just continues to pile up. And I’ve been feeding my anxiety with it.

You hungry, anxiety? Here, have a big bag of chips (aka – bad news). Still hungry? Oh, there’s so much more content in this pantry (dumpster fire) you can consume.

So, I made the choice to take a break. Last weekend, I left my phone on my bedside table while my husband and I watched movies, baked banana bread, played games, and napped on the couch. I turned off all my push notifications. I fought the impulse to constantly check in.

I didn’t go cold turkey. I still allowed myself a little phone time, but I limited those instances to a few minutes each. And then I walked away.

This week, I’ve been trying to continue this practice. I’m not perfect. I’ve succumbed to old habits (I mean, I’m human), but something in my brain has changed. When I see something that upsets me on the news or social media, I set my phone down rather than digging deeper into the issue and sitting in the stress it produces. I still post things. I still respond to both good and bad announcements. But I have new boundaries that are keeping my empath heart safe.

Now, let’s talk about the happy side of that list I made!

All those things that bring me joy—reading, baking, playing board games with my husband, exercising, taking baths, watching horror films and RuPaul’s Drag Race, cuddling with the pups, encouraging and helping those I love—I have so much more time to do them now that I’m not consumed by my phone.

I’m making a point to do at least one of these joyful practices every day. On days I’m feeling down, I look at the list and try to do them all. Bring on the joy, baby!

Today is Friday. And it’s the first Friday in a while that I don’t feel ridiculously overwhelmed. I actually have energy. Something has changed, thank goodness.

There’s a lot of talk going around right now about the importance of self-care. It’s incredibly critical, but it’s also easier said than done. Self-care is complex. Sometimes, self-care is taking a bath or drinking a glass of wine. In this particular case, I had to do some uncomfortable work and make significant personal changes to get some relief. It wasn’t easy, but I’m so happy I did it. I feel lighter.

Buh-bye, end-of-week exhaustion. Fridays? I’m reclaiming them, thanks.

A Jerk and a Joke: Shopping Adventures in the Time of COVID-19

Grocery Shopping

When we realized our supply of dog waste bags was dwindling, I knew it was coming. When our fresh veggies, Splenda, veggie stock, and coffee started to go, we began making a list. When my husband announced he needed to pick up an important prescription, well, it was time to face the music. We needed to go shopping. You know, during the deadly upswing of a global health crisis.

The last time we stocked up on groceries, we went to each store together. Oh, how things change in a matter of weeks. Now, it’s too risky. Not just for shopping, but for a lot of things.

Our local officials recommend wearing masks when out in public. We’re supposed to clean everything we bring into our home with sanitizer wipes. There are conflicting reports about social distancing; some say six feet is adequate; in others, it’s nowhere near enough. And COVID-19 has crept too close to home already. My husband and I both know people who are sick.

So yeah, we needed to re-evaluate how to go about grocery shopping. We decided the safest way for us to shop right now is to divide and conquer: my husband goes to the first store or two, picks up whatever he can from our list, and then I make a second trip out to look for the items he couldn’t find. We figure this strategy limits the amount of time we spend as individuals in the world that we once knew laid back, beautiful San Diego and has now morphed into a truly terrifying episode of The Twilight Zone.

After my husband brought home round one of our haul and we’d properly cleaned and stored our groceries, it was my turn. I took my Prozac, strapped on a homemade cloth mask, donned some plastic gloves, hiked up the hood of my hoodie, and drove to Von’s looking like I was planning to rob a bank.

Let me tell you, it was an adventure.

During my hour-and-a-half away from home, I experienced prime examples of both of the goodness and the baseness of humanity. Let’s start with the negatives so we can end on the positives, yeah?

As I moved through the grocery store, it became immediately apparent that either people are quite bad at judging six feet of distance…or fear wins over patience the majority of the time. Sadly, I think the latter is most likely.

With a safety-first mentality and a personal dedication to practicing legitimate social distancing, folks should wait a full six feet away for shoppers to vacate certain areas before reaching in to get the green bell pepper they so desperately need, right? But fear makes us take risks – and it’s way sexier than safety.

It’s human nature to want to get the hell out of a potentially threatening situation as soon as possible. So, despite the invisible elephant in the room that is COVID-19, we get close to each other. We reach around folks to scoop up groceries to lessen our time in the store. Ultimately, we’re risking our health, and the health of others, in order to obtain  things we think we need. Either consciously or subconsciously, we’re putting the sum of its parts ahead of the collective whole.

And while that was more of a philosophical observation, I also observed some straight-up nastiness.

Due to the large number of people shopping yesterday, their larger-than-usual hauls, and the social distancing measures put into place by Von’s, checkout lines cascaded down the vast majority of the aisles of the store. Entirely expected, right?

While wandering down the cereal aisle in search of bran flakes, I heard a male voice boom, “Do your damn job!”

I blinked, startled. But yeah, this was happening. A man in one of the checkout lines was berating the folks working at Von’s. (Who, by the way, were doing an absolutely incredible job. I watched them wipe down the conveyor belts, point-of-sale transaction stations, and all surfaces in between each customer. They were doing their best to keep people distanced. They were hustling. They were offering free bags to those who needed them. I can’t imagine how stressful their jobs are right now.)

Y’all, this man was loud. It was clear he wanted to be heard. But…did he seriously think his complaining would magically transport him to the front of the line? Oh sir, I’m so sorry, I see you’ve been waiting. Please, cut in front of all of these people who are being patient and waiting their turn, because you matter so much more than any of them.

A manager came over and told the man he needed to get himself under control and lower his voice. If he didn’t, they would kick him out. This guy was seething. I could feel the bad mojo pouring off him half an aisle’s length away. I honestly was afraid he’d start throwing punches. Luckily, that didn’t happen. Instead, he abandoned his basket and walked out.

To play devil’s advocate, maybe this guy was having a terrible day. Maybe this pandemic has touched him personally. Maybe this Von’s experience was a symptom of a larger issue.

But people who work in grocery stores are literally saving us right now. They are helping. They are putting themselves at risk. They are allowing us the privilege to stock up so we can stay home and hopefully never come into contact with this virus.

I know it’s stressful and scary, y’all. But don’t bite the hand that feeds you. If you do, someday that hand will turn up empty.

Blessedly, my shopping adventure concluded with a much-needed dose of positivity!

As I was loading groceries into my car, a white-haired woman in a RV rolled up next to me, leaned out her window, and asked if I wanted to hear the “ridiculous joke of the day.” Um, of course I did!

And here it is, ladies and gents, a truly corny joke delivered by this sweet stranger who just wanted to spread a little laughter during a crisis.

White-haired woman: Can you name the stinkiest pencil on the market?

Me (after a brow furrow and pause): You know, I don’t think I can.

Lady (after a dramatic pause): The number two!

Y’all, she sang that punchline with unmitigated glee in her voice. She was cracking herself up, and she certainly cracked me up, too! I applauded her as well as I could in my plastic-gloved hands and thanked her for the laugh. After that, she simply wished me a good day and drove off.

It was a brief interaction, a minute tops, but I needed it so badly. I wonder if she could tell. Or perhaps she’s just a woman with a hopeful spirit and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

But her kind gesture reminded me of why we’re staying home, despite how hard all of this has been and will continue to be. Humans can be great. Interactions with other people can make our days. We naturally crave community.

Don’t get me wrong, COVID-19 is making everything really hard. We’ve started losing people. Everyone’s mental health is compromised. Quite frankly, we’re all living with trauma right now. Our existence, individually and collectively, is a fragile thing.

But on the other side of this, I hope there are still sweet souls who approach complete strangers armed with Dad jokes. Because those people, they remind us that this life—this life together—is worth fighting for.

(Re)finding the Light


When I had a panic attack right before bed in mid-November 2019, I knew something had to change. Now, I’m no stranger to anxiety. It’s loomed over me for years like a dense fog, obscuring reason and making me feel panicked in a myriad of situations. But I’ve learned how to clear the fog. I take deep yoga breaths. I replace negative thoughts with positive ones. I distract myself with a game, favorite TV show, or puppy cuddles. I tell my husband I’m struggling so we can have a conversation about it.

But this anxiety attack was different for two reasons.

Reason number one: it was completely unprovoked. I was wearing fuzzy socks, book in hand, ready to climb into bed and relax. I probably had a freshly brewed mug of tea in hand. I had exactly zero reasons in that moment to panic. But my body decided it was time for either fight or flight. My heart started hammering. Adrenaline shot through me. I was suddenly massively uncomfortable. And I was really confused about it.

Reason number two: my usual coping mechanisms didn’t work. I focused on my breathing, willing my heartbeat to slow. I sat down and closed my eyes. I told my husband what was happening. And got no relief. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

It was as if my mind and body had gone completely rogue.


You won’t be surprised to learn that this anxiety anomaly occurred during a particularly stressful season of my life.

My husband and I bought our first house together last year, and our financial situation changed significantly (homeowners, especially those in California, you’ll feel me on this one).

Our dog, Zen, was diagnosed with cancer in his foot after a routine vet appointment, which threw our lives into a tailspin of oncology appointments, impossible decisions, and difficult conversations.

My world as I knew it shifted when my best friend called and said four unimaginable words: “I have breast cancer.”

My dad fell and as a result, required shoulder surgery.

Another dear friend was dealing with important medical tests for her mother coming back inconclusive – multiple times.

There were far too many people I loved fighting battles for their health and the health of their loved ones. (Did I mention these all happened within a month of each other?)

Cherry on top, I had my own bizarre medical condition to investigate, a vein in my armpit that decided to painfully and visibly protrude like an alien ready to pop out of my skin. This required a barrage of tests since my GP took one look and went, “I don’t know what this is.” (Spoiler alert: I’m completely fine and the condition cleared up on its own, but damn, it was weird.)

It’s safe to say stress was wound tightly around me like bubble wrap encasing something fragile. It’s also safe to say I was that something fragile.

Perhaps my right-before-bedtime panic attack was cumulative stress and anxiety. Perhaps the fog had grown so dense and cold and pervasive, I couldn’t see anymore, even if the sun was trying to shine through.

Though I was relatively calm that night everything changed—my pajama pants warm and soft, my little family surrounding me, the comfort of a story in my hand—my body was raging.

Apparently, this was my new normal.


I was really nervous to talk to my doctor. I steeled myself and promised myself I wouldn’t cry. I vowed to keep it together.

I’ve never had anything against medication for mental health. I think it’s vital. It’s life-changing for many. It’s incredible science. So many people struggle with various issues, and personal happiness, executive function, the ability to get through a day without some sort of episode is…well, everything.

But for me, there was something pretty sinister about confronting the fact that I couldn’t control this anymore, even though I tried, and it was time to ask for help. Why is it so hard for us to do that? To ask for what we need without reservation or shame or fear?

Over the phone, I told my doctor about the stressers in my life and my newfound inability to keep my anxiety from swallowing me whole. I expressed my interest in treating my anxiety medically.

I can’t articulate how validating it was to hear the genuine compassion in my doctor’s voice. She quickly made recommendations, and her immediate willingness to help me felt like a warm hug. We talked about possible side effects, how I’d start on the lowest dosage possible and adjust, as needed. My prescription would be ready later than day. She’d call me the following week to check in and see how I was feeling. And if this one didn’t work, we’d find one that did.

When I hung up, I finally felt like I could breathe again.


Fluoxetine sounds like some sort of sexy element on a distant planet, but really, it’s just Prozac. And taking it has improved my life dramatically.

Fluoxetine is an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety combo and belongs to a group of medicines called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It gives me a daily kick of serotonin, a chemical that is known to transmit messages between nerve cells, is thought to be active in constricting smooth muscles, and (here’s the important part for me) contributes to wellbeing and happiness.

I can happily report that I don’t feel like I’ve been emotionally run over by a Mack truck anymore. I have no side effects. I feel much more like myself. I smile. I crack jokes. I take better care of myself. My executive function is vastly improved. I’m not living in the fear of unprovoked or unexplainable panic attacks.

The moment I knew the medicine was working? When I opened my mouth to sing along with the radio in my car, something I hadn’t done for months. It was this tiny, mundane, seemingly insignificant thing, but for me, it was incredibly profound. Because it was a little slice of joy.

Let’s call this a comeback.


Inevitably, someone (perhaps even a handful of people), will tell me I’m brave for telling my story. The social stigma surrounding mental health and the medications that help it, yeah, it sucks. I’m not sharing this because I have guts; I’m sharing it because, empath that I am, I want everyone to know it’s okay not to be okay. I want all of us to feel better. And I want everyone to know it’s okay to want that for yourself, too.


The fog isn’t gone entirely. To be honest, I wouldn’t want it to retreat completely, even if I had the choice. Why? I still want to feel things. Every day can’t be unicorns and rainbows, because the marrow of life is sticky and complicated and difficult at times. I’m okay with peaks and valleys as long as I know where I am, who I am, and that this life belongs to me, not some chemical imbalance or misfire in my brain.

And if the sunshine is trying to peek through the fog, you better believe I can see it now.

It’s mine.

And it’s priceless.

Little Paranoias Serves Up Creepy Revelations about the Human Condition

It’s officially October, which means everything is available with pumpkin flavoring, there’s a distinct chill in the air, I’m getting excited about boots, my Halloween costume preparations are underway, and it’s undoubtedly the season for spooky tales!

Speaking of spooky tales, I had the pleasure of receiving an advance review copy of Little Paranoias: Stories, the latest short story collection by author Sonora Taylor, and I have to tell you all, it’s atmospheric, unnerving, and addictive. Essentially, it’s the perfect October read. After you put it down, I dare you to not glance over your shoulder every five seconds, listen for those inevitable bumps in the night, and desperately try to discern who around you is, indeed, a monster. (I mean, statistically, this has to be a thing.)

Featuring 20 stories and poems, Little Paranoias turns up the dial on the stuff that scares while also delivering little epiphanies on the human condition. Sure, the book is full of creatures and baddies and horrific happenings, but the most intriguing stories are the ones that cut a little too close to the bone.

“Crust” examines the deadly depths of perfectionism. “Always in my Ear” (one of my favorites in this collection!) explores the sanctity of secrets between friends and our society’s continued obsession with podcasts, especially those of the true crime variety. “Cranberry” explores body dysmorphia and eating disorders. “Hearts are Just ‘Likes’” exposes the dark underbelly of social media and influencer culture. And the opening story, “Weary Bones,” touches on life after death, scientific discoveries gone sideways, and the marginalization of “others.”

Another aspect of Taylor’s writing I consistently enjoy is her ability to craft adept portrayals of nature (and how it bites back at the human race), as exemplified in “Quadropocalype” and “Seed.” In both, her world building is spectacular, especially in light of her brevity. The environments Taylor builds on the page are evocative and cinematic and believable. I would love to read a full-length novel set in nature from her (hint, hint, nudge, nudge), because I’m sure it would be beautiful, immersive, and best of all, freaking terrifying. (If you like “Quadropocalypse” and “Seed,” check out Taylor’s other book of short stories, Wither and Other Stories.)

Other stories in Little Paranoias, particularly “Salt,” “Never Walk Alone,” and “Perfection in Shadow,” deliver on creep factor and smart, twisty endings. The two poems included in this collection evoke the sing-song quality of nursery rhymes—and we all know how dark those can get. Lastly, if you’re a fan of stories that put fresh, complex spins on the trite serial killer trope, this collection is for you.

In short, Little Paranoias is a spooktacular October read from a new and distinct voice in horror fiction. The book will publish on October 22, but you can preorder your copy today!

Also, as a special sneak peek, watch a reading of “Stick Figure Family,” one of the stories in Little Paranoias, by I Am Sterp on her YouTube channel at:

Happy hauntings, boys and ghouls!

About Sonora Taylor:

Sonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was published in Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Taylor’s short stories frequently appear in The Sirens Call, a bi-monthly horror eZine. Her work has also appeared in Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and the Ladies of Horror fiction podcast. She is currently working on her third novel. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Visit Sonora online at

Connect with Sonora on Social Media:

Listen to “Moonshine” on the Manawaker Flash Fiction Podcast

I am officially dubbing 2019 the Year of the Podcast! In February, my paranormal comedic short, “Bad Vibrations,” was read by the incredible Tina Connelly on the Toasted Cake Podcast. And today, you can listen to my darkly sweet modern fairytale, “Moonshine,” on the Manawaker Flash Fiction Podcast, read by the equally incredible CB Droege.

“Moonshine” explores adolescent heartbreak and midnight enchantment and whether or not you should trust fairies. Speaking of fairies, there is fairy dialogue in this story, and CB Droege completely kills it. The moment I heard one of my fairies speak, my face lit up with the biggest grin, and it stayed there for a full ten minutes. Truly, this narration is fantastic! I’m really honored to have a story featured on the podcast. CB, you’ve outdone yourself!

If you happen to have ten minutes to spare and love fairytales, this one’s for you. Listen to “Moonshine” HERE.

And if you enjoy CB’s reading of my tale, consider subscribing to the Manawaker Flash Fiction Podcast or becoming a patron.

Cheers to the Year of the Podcast!

Everything’s Coming Up Superheroes

Divine Five

This week is shaping up to be decidedly super. My husband and I are halfway through the Netflix adaptation of The Umbrella Academy graphic novel series (more fangirling on that later!). I have my ticket to see Captain Marvel this weekend in the fancy Dolby theater at our local AMC (the one with leather recliners that rumble, surround sound, and gorgeous projection). And yesterday, Divine Five: Dawn published, an anthology of superhero origin stories, which just so happens to feature my story “Shock to the System.”

Fun fact: I’m wearing a Wonder Woman shirt today in celebration, but I digress…

This was such a fun project! The editor/publisher, Timothy Pulo, simply provided me with a location (Marseilles, France), a name (Nikolas Travers), and a superpower (but I’m not spoiling that part for you!), and said, “Uh, go for it!” So yeah, the story was completely up to me. I had full reign to create the world, the relationships, the storyline, and the character of Nikolas. That kind of freedom is so liberating! And I had a blast writing my very first superhero story. (Although, I think it’s fitting to apologize to my protagonist, Nikolas. I put the poor kid through the ringer!)

Here’s a sneak peek of my story:

Excerpt of Shock to the System

By Tiffany Michelle Brown

Three blocks later, the métro sign appeared. Nikolas nearly sank to his knees in relief, but the thought of Marceline propelled him onward. He raced down the concrete steps, past a group of figures who wore dark-colored trench coats and argued in harsh whispers—Drug deal gone sideways, Nikolas thought—and into the underground tunnels of Marseille.

He was greeted, as always, with the stale smells of urine, mold, and grit, but the foul odors barely registered, because Nikolas had somewhere he desperately needed to be. There was a short, yet slow-moving line at the métro turnstile, and he briefly considered jumping the barrier, but knew he’d regret the decision later. He stood in line, like everyone else, then fed his métro card into the turnstile and pushed onto the platform. An overhead announcement proclaimed the next car would arrive in five minutes.

Nikolas ambled to the knife edge of the platform, ignoring the yellow safety line, and peered down the track, into the cavernous tubes of the métro line, as if he could summon the car with his mind. Of course, nothing of the sort happened. All Nikolas could see was darkness.

Nikolas sighed. Of all the nights to be late. Though perpetual tardiness was his status quo, he’d promised himself—and more importantly, he’d promised Marceline—that he would arrive at her place at a decent hour that night so they’d have ample time to celebrate.

And he’d broken that promise.

Flushed with disappointment, Nikolas reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone. The time was 8:02. He’d meant to arrive at Marceline’s an hour ago. And, of course, there were a slurry of text messages from his girl.

At 6:45: Still planning to be here at 7? I’m making your favorite! J

At 7:20: I’m guessing the métro is backed up or you left a little later than expected? I’ve got dinner ready for whenever you get here. Give me a call and let me know what’s up?

At 7:50: Nik, if you’re still at the office…

At 8:01: I’m not mad (well, maybe a little). But now I just want to know you’re ok. Call me?

“Idiot, idiot, idiot,” Nikolas muttered. “And for what? A medical app? An email that could’ve waited until tomorrow? You have to make this right.”

Nikolas paced the platform wildly, thinking through what he’d say once he got Marceline on the line. He concocted harebrained excuses—the office was under siege! He practiced over-the-top apologies—I’m sorry to the moon and back! He considered chucking his phone in the trash, so he could explain that he’d lost his mobile and couldn’t have contacted her.

In the end, he settled on a simple apology, coupled with an assurance that he was fine and on his way. They would talk more once he got to Marceline’s. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves, took a step away from the platform—and his ankle rolled.

Suddenly, Nikolas was pitching past the yellow safety line and toward the buzzing tracks of the métro. As he fell, he thought of Marceline—her golden, cat-like eyes, the raspy way she laughed, the way he felt safe wrapped in her arms—and sadness swept through him.

But then he stopped, mid-flight, and was pulled backward with a sharp jerk. Nikolas stumbled away from the rails, gulping in air, his body a patchwork of fine tremors. Beside him, a woman wearing a black trench coat stood calmly, as composed as a statue.

Merci, merci,” Nikolas managed between shaky breaths. “You…you saved me.”

“Yeah, I did,” the woman said. “I had to. You’re him.”

Nikolas frowned. What did she mean? “Have we met?”

“No. This is our meet-cute. Charmant, oui?

Nikolas wondered fleetingly if she was high—and then decided she must be. All the signs were there. She’d been reckless enough to save a man tumbling onto the métro tracks, risking her own life (although she’d seemed preternaturally strong). She was talking in riddles with utmost confidence. And it looked like her eyes were all black—so perhaps her pupils were dilated?

“Sure,” Nikolas said. “Listen, I’m really, really grateful. I don’t have much on me, but can I give you a little something?” He produced his wallet, but the woman caught his wrist before he could offer her anything.

“No,” she said. “You’re all I need.”

“O—kay,” Nikolas said. This exchange had become truly uncomfortable, and the woman still had a grip on his wrist. A really firm grip that Nikolas wasn’t sure he’d be able to break. “Thanks again, but I need to be go—“

“Could you tell me the time?” the woman asked, her black eyes peering into his.

Nikolas lifted his wrist—the one free of the woman’s grip—and glanced down at his watch. 8:05.

Huit heures…” he began, then felt fire in his wrist as the woman wrenched him to the side—not further into safety but toward the humming track.

She’s strong—too strong, Nikolas thought.

And then his feet left the earth and he flew. But this time he knew the mysterious stranger wouldn’t halt his fall. She’d initiated it this time, and Nikolas had no idea why.

As he tumbled, Nikolas heard the screams of passengers waiting on the platform, but they sounded warped, like he was underwater. He felt a sickening jolt as his body struck and bounced like a ragdoll. Heat seared through him, and it ran so hot, he almost felt cold. Nikolas’s back arched and his limbs stiffened as an electric current swept through him, painting his world in pain.

To find out what happens on the other side of Nikolas’s fall, pick up your copy of Divine Five: Dawn today!


kINKED Gets a New Cover!


I will always have a soft spot in my heart (and my loins) for kINKED. Published by Pen and Kink Publishing, kINKED explores the intersection of ink and kink. And it just so happens to contain my story “Begin Again,” a tale that marks the first time I had the guts to publish something really, truly sexy.

Of course, a sexy collection deserves a sexy cover. And y’all, when kINKED first published, it had a cover that’ll make you blush…which proved a little problematic on good old Amazon. The OG cover is, well…visually risqué. And it made finding the collection organically via their search engine pretty difficult.

So…kINKED has a new, slightly less steamy cover. Check it out!


And here’s a little teaser of “Begin Again”:

“When the blue door swung open, Melissa lost her ability to speak as her gaze swept over the man she presumed to be the tattoo shop owner. Warm, amber light outlined his lithe yet strong figure, his dark, unruly hair, and the tattered jeans precariously slung about his narrow hips. He wore a gray t-shirt that clung to his chest as if he’d been standing in the rain, and where cotton ended, color began. Every inch of his muscular arms were covered in radiant koi fish, dark, twisty woodlands, long-dead rock stars, and lines and lines of block letters and script.

Melissa’s fingers tingled as an overwhelming desire to sketch him stretched through her arms. As far as drawing subjects were concerned, he was her type, someone who would be more at home on the battlefield than lounging nude in the heavens flanked by angels. Well, the nude part would be okay.

Melissa reached for the pencil she routinely kept in the back pocket of her jeans. But having forgotten where she was and what she was wearing—a black pencil skirt and a sequined top—she grasped nothing but air. Coming up empty, she clutched the arm nearest her, unsure of which friend it belonged to in the moment. She was afraid if she didn’t hold something, anything, she’d reach forward to trace her fingertips along the elegant arcs of color on this stranger’s forearms.”

If you’re looking for a steamy read, you can easily search for kINKED on Amazon…or you can use this direct link.

Happy reading!

My Bloody Valentine: An Interview with Sonora Taylor

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers! Today, I bring you a special treat to celebrate dark and deadly love, an interview with Sonora Taylor about her newly published novel, Without Condition.

I was a first reader of Without Condition, and I devoured it! The story is incredibly unique, unrelentingly dark, at times, sexy as hell, and just an altogether fun read.

Before we dive into the interview, a little about Without Condition:

Cara Vineyard lives a quiet life in rural North Carolina. She works for an emerging brewery, drives her truck late at night, and lives with her mother on a former pumpkin farm. Her mother is proud of her and keeps a wall displaying all of Cara’s accomplishments. Cara isn’t so much proud as she is bored. She’s revitalized when she meets Jackson Price, a pharmacist in Raleigh. Every day they spend together, she falls for him a little more — which in turn makes her life more complicated. When Cara goes on her late-night drives, she often picks up men. Those men tend to die. And when Cara comes back to the farm, she brings a memento for her mother to add to her wall of accomplishments. Cara’s mother loves her no matter what. But she doesn’t know if Jackson will feel the same — and she doesn’t want to find out.

Let’s get right to it. What inspired you to write a serial killer coming-of-age love story?

Something that had nothing to do with any of those things, ha ha. I was first inspired when I read an article about Tobias Forge, the lead singer of the band Ghost. Previously, Forge performed under an alias. He said one of the reasons he decided to come forward with his identity was because his mom wouldn’t stop bragging about him to her friends and neighbors. Forge typically performs in full Satanic priest costume, or in full skeleton makeup while wearing a suit. I couldn’t stop laughing at the thought of this man’s proud mother walking around saying, “That’s my son!”


From there, I thought about what it’d be like if a mother was like that for a child who was actually doing bad things — nay, criminal things. I’m drawn to extremes, and thus thought about what that’d be like if the child was a killer. I went first to a son, but to change things up, I had the child be a daughter. I started thinking of how this mother-daughter dynamic could play out, but it wasn’t until I came up with the daughter meeting a man that the story really took off in my mind. It became less about the absurdity of one mother’s pride and more about testing the limits of unconditional love.


What is your writing process like? Was there anything particularly unique about the process of writing Without Condition (anything that surprised you, was funny, was brutal, etc.)?


I try to write once a day, and to carve out a little time each day. I usually do a section a day for a short story, and 1000 words a day for a novel. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more; but having a number to aim for helps give me a goal to meet, and thus makes it easier to complete the task each day.


Without Condition was unique in the context of working on this novel versus working on my first novel, Please Give. For the latter, it was very easy for me to sit down and write. I often surpassed my 1000 words a day goal, sometimes writing 2000 or even 3000 words in a sitting. I had lots of ideas and, while writing Please Give had plenty of challenges, sitting down to write it wasn’t one of them.


With Without Condition, while I wanted to sit down and write, I found it harder to sit down and do so for long stretches of time. Some scenes would flow like butter in a hot skillet, while others would spread like cold butter on bread — ie, either not at all or else with a lot of torn bread.


Still, I found that when I went back and read what I’d written so far in Without Condition, more often than not, I found myself reasonably satisfied with the first attempt. Not satisfied enough to leave it unchanged, of course; but with Please Give, I must’ve revised some passages several times over before I was even close to satisfied. With Without Condition, I always felt like I had something good, even when I knew I could have something better. That was a pleasant surprise I encountered with this one.


In my opinion, you’ve written a protagonist who, yes, is a serial killer, but the circumstances surrounding her are much more terrifying than her propensity to kill. You cover a lot of horrifying topics in this book, many that are freakishly mundane and a little too close to home. Tell us a little about the themes of Without Condition (without spoilers, of course!).


The biggest theme, as alluded to in the title, is the idea of unconditional love. We often tell our loved ones that we’ll always love them no matter what. But what does that mean when someone is doing something heinous or wrong? Does that still apply? I wanted to explore that, and at a deeper level than the absurdity of that level of unconditional love from an outsider’s perspective. I wanted to look at it from the perspective of a mother’s love and from romantic love, and I found it more gratifying to do so from the point of view of Cara, the subject of both of those types of love.


Another theme that cropped up was enabling, especially through inaction. Rather than confront notable problems that Cara displayed, she was often dismissed or ignored. I consider that just as bad as the active antagonism she faced as a child, especially from some of her teachers.


One final theme I enjoyed exploring was the inability to let go, be it voluntary or not. I think especially of Cara hearing the insults of her classmates over and over in her mind, and well into adulthood. Some of that is involuntary, but other times, it’s a deliberate undertaking on her part to feel anger — a way to keep herself company that, in turn, ensures she’s often alone. It’s also dangerous company, both for herself and for the people around her.


I feel like the setting of Without Condition is very important for both the plot and the characters. Are you drawing from environments that you know well, or did you create the setting purely to support the story?


Leslie is a fictional town in North Carolina (as are Pinesboro and Egret’s Bay), but I drew on actual places I lived for inspiration. I lived in North Carolina for eight years. My family lived in Chapel Hill, I went to school in Durham, and I went to college at NC State in Raleigh. While none of the places I lived were as small as Leslie, the towns I lived in were a hop, skip, and a jump from more rural areas. I spent a lot of time visiting places with lots of farmland and forests, and I based the look and feel of Leslie on the time I spent in those places.


One tidbit I’d love to share here, if you don’t mind: Leslie was originally a placeholder name for Cara’s hometown. I named the town after Bill Leslie, a reporter in Raleigh who also has a career as a New Age musician. The name stuck as I kept writing. So, thank you, Bill Leslie, for the inspiration!


Without giving too much away, I will say that there are some very sexy scenes in this book. To you, what are the most important things to consider when writing sex scenes?


To me, sex scenes are at their best when they’re focusing on the sensations and feelings — some feelings of deeper emotion, like if someone’s happy or nervous; but more so feelings of lust and desire. Many romance novels focus on the longing, then end the scene before any sex happens; while a lot of erotica or straight sex scenes focus mostly on the actions. I prefer sex scenes that infuse both. I also like implications as opposed to direct references to certain body parts. Not dorky euphemisms, mind you; but not clinical terms either. It’s not that I mind seeing the word “penis,” it just seems to throw off the sexiness when I’m reading or writing a good sex scene.


I’m also not a big fan of sex scenes that refer to a vagina as a pussy. I’d sooner say “entered her” or something like that — I think most readers will know what that means, and can fill it in themselves (heh). But I think focusing on sexual emotions first, and then how the characters act on those feelings and desires directly after, is most important; letting each move and flow in rhythm like … well …


I’m definitely getting some Mommy Dearest vibes from this book. Are you a fan? Are there other works that have directly inspired either Without Condition or your writing in general?


I am a fan! “Tina! Bring me the axe!” But funny enough, I wasn’t really thinking of Mommy Dearest when I wrote this. I can see where those vibes would come from, though. Both feature overbearing mothers, as well as mothers who scar their children with their own fears and traumas.


I’m inspired equally by dark humor and mundane takes on things that are dark. One of my favorite authors is Augusten Burroughs. His humor is so biting, and he talks about some horrific things in his life with both humor and … like, he knows it was awful and traumatizing, but he also presents it as just so, because it was his life (and a large part of his life). He doesn’t hammer his readers over the head with what was shocking, bad, or wrong. He just shows it through talking about it and letting the events speak for themselves. I think that’s a rare gift.


In fiction, I’m similarly inspired by Flannery O’Connor. The way she tells a story about murder in “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is horrifying because of how casually she tells it. It’s just something that’s happening. I like horror that’s unsettling. It stays in my bones longer than a quick jump scare.


If there was a movie poster created for Without Condition, what would its slogan be?


She’s hidden the bodies. Hiding her heart is a little bit harder. (I love cheesy taglines)


Okay, this is a fun one for horror writers. We write horror, in part, to terrify others, but what are you afraid of?


My top 5: enclosed spaces, being bound or trapped, upsetting people (especially people I care about), slipping on ice, and the Extra-Terror-estrial ride at Magic Kingdom (it’s now closed. Good riddance).


I love that you published Without Condition so close to Valentine’s Day and during Women in Horror Month! What are your thoughts on being a woman writing in the horror genre – and also, what are your thoughts on Valentine’s Day?


I’ve always been drawn to dark fiction and horror in the stories I read and write. While I read a variety of genres, the darker stories hold a soft spot in my heart. My favorites tend to be less about monsters, the supernatural, and gore; and more about the darkness of people and their minds. This is the type of horror I like to write, and also the type of stories I like to write, period; be they straight horror, slice-of-life, romance, or other genres.


I like being able to write horror, and I like how much the genre has opened up to women writers over the past several years, especially in the indie scene. There are still barriers, but it’s really great to see women’s contributions to the genre being recognized and appreciated. Like any genre, horror is at its best when we get a variety of voices telling the stories.


I actually love Valentine’s Day. Growing up, it was always a friendship and family holiday for me. My parents gave me candy and a card (they still send me a Valentine’s Day package each year), and my friends and classmates gave each other those cartoon cards. As such, I never found it overly mushy, or felt anything against it; even though I was always single on Valentine’s Day until I met my husband. I still like to get cards for my friends, and candy for myself. And yes, I did intentionally release Without Condition close to Valentine’s Day because of its dark romantic nature.


Who is your favorite character in Without Condition? What’s your favorite thing they say in the novel (no need for context!)?


I like pretty much everyone (except Amanda and Mr. Murphy), but if I had to pick a favorite, it’d probably be Jackson. My favorite thing he says — the gravity of which will make more sense in context — is, “You would?”


What is your favorite line in Without Condition?


“She couldn’t help but think of Jackson as a small boy feeding a bobcat in his backyard, trusting that this wild animal would always be his pet.”


What do you hope readers experience when they read this novel?


This is always kind of hard for me to answer, because I don’t want to guide people’s feelings when they read my work (beyond what I establish in things like the book description). That said, I hope people will consider the sources of darkness, of what horrifies them, and what’s unsettling them as they read. I consider the serial killer aspect to be the surface — it’s horrifying, but there are also more dark and terrible things below that surface, some of which we might be uncomfortably more familiar with.


What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?


Right now, I’m finishing some short stories that I’m including in my next short story collection, currently titled “Little Paranoias: Stories.” It will include my flash fiction, some longer pieces, and a little poetry. Once I send the manuscript to my editor, I’m going to take a crack at my third novel.


You can purchase your copy of Without Condition HERE


About Sonora:sonora-taylor-26771109472762677651.jpg

Sonora Taylor is the author of The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was included in Camden Park Press’ Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Her work has also been published in The Sirens Call and Mercurial Stories. “The Crow’s Gift” will be featured on the horror podcast “Tales to Terrify” later in 2019. Her second novel, Without Condition, is now available on Amazon. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.

Find Sonora Online:

Facebook author page:
Amazon author page: