Dirty Words: Finding Hope in Honest Writing

Photo credit: Jennifer Jones

My book is about a man who has sex with another man in a cemetery near a Catholic church.

My book is laced with profanity and the difficultly digested truth that darkness can worm its way through a weakened heart.

My book deals with piss and bleach and infidelity and marriage and drunkenness and slurred words and dried mascara and manipulative sex and co-dependent love and all those other things that would never work as a Facebook status or yearly Christmas letter.

My book is honest. It is real. It is humanity in its dirtiest form.

So how, then, can it be Good?

We’ve been indoctrinated to believe certain things about Goodness, especially about those who attempt to live in the name of it. They are close-minded, judgmental, bitter little individuals who would rather wallow in their self-righteousness than actually give two cents about you.

For some people is this truth? Unfortunately, yes. But is this what REAL Goodness is all about?

Fortunately, no.

This is the thing: the world hurts which means we hurt. My characters are hurting in their own world. They feel disconnected and cut off and unloved. They feel alone and embarrassed in their attempts to connect. They feel scorned and hopeless.

They just want to be truly themselves and respected for it.

And my hope is that this book is a testament to what I believe. That even when things seem the most heartless and scary and downright suffocating, there are still Good people who want to lift you up and bring you to the light. They want to be the shoulder, the rock, the way. They just want to help, no strings attached.

This is what I want my book to teach. I want my writing to be a reminder that those same feelings of unworthiness boil in the bellies of all of us. And that no amount of make up and staged photos and new cars and cool clothes will ever be able to wash away that fact.

Because when we’re reminded of our humanity and seek it in others, we’re more apt to do the Good thing, the only thing: love.

dear hearts

This post brought to you by the discussions I had in the comments of this post with Jay Wilson and Michelle Terry. And a book that I hope brings peace to anyone who reads it.

I’ll Admit It: I’m a C-Word

girl dancing in the rain
Photo credit: Michelle on Flickr

Why is this the hard one to write?

Why is this one freezing up my fingers and slicking my skin with ice cold sweat?

Why is this the one I think you’ll stop reading me over when I have no issues whatsoever talking in detail about my poop, my period or the color taupe. (Gross, man. Taupe is just gross.)

But guys, I have a confession: I’m a Christian.

This is kind of exploding every single brain cell in my skull right now because sometimes when I even say it out loud, I think, No you’re not. You’re a cat glitterer, you crazy woman. You’re a car keyer and avoider of all office situations. You’re the person who lies on the floor in Target and puts nacho cheese in her bra.

You’re Ericka, gosh darn it.

But see, that’s the thing.

I’m still Ericka. I’m still Ericka “What Did Her Mother Put in Her Bottle?” Clay. I still love cats and glitter to the point that I’m not allowed in the state of Vermont anymore. (Spluh, like I need their stupid cheddar…sniff.)

But even more than that, I’ve taken to re-sculpturing my life so that it can support a more loving and open heart. I’m taking steps that have left me less lonely, less dark and more willing to smile and ask you your name than write you off as something you may not even be. Because fear is easy. Fear and misunderstanding is the name of the game in this world.

But I’m learning it doesn’t have to be. And man, does that feel good.

So really, this whole Christianity thing isn’t taking me away from Ericka. If anything, it’s made more Ericka-like, so much so my face won’t stop sticking this way. It’s okay. I have amazing teeth.

And no worries, you guys. I love you for you. There will be no requests to follow me down this journey because everyone has the exact road they need right beneath their feet.

All I ask is that you accept me for me. That’s it. (And to smuggle me some cheese from Vermont.)

Because “me” I fully am now, and I can’t wait to unleash all that I’m on this amazing world.

Cats, I’ll give you a five minute head start.


Watch Me Write: Stick With What You Know

Watch Me Write: Stick With What You Know

watch me write

I’m all for new. New is good. New is exciting. But I’m also for the concept of “comfortable” which is why I live in yoga pants with a pillow strapped to the back of my head.

And I’ve realized the idea of “comfortable” is what’s made me excited to write again. I had been playing with the idea of writing a story called Marilyn Winters but it just wasn’t sticking. I then tried to turn it into a screenplay and that just didn’t get the job done either. I then attempted to put in my BLT, but that just made me cry and drunk dial an ex-best friend.

So “new” hasn’t been working for me.

But do you know what I’m good at? First person narratives. And you know what else? Being funny when I don’t mean to be. And you know what else again? Yoga. I’m actually standing on my head right now.

But the first two things? The first person/funny part? That’s what’s lighting the fire under my ass. As much as I want to get all literary and profound on your backsides, I know deep down that sticking with what I know and who I am is going to make for a much better read than forcing something that just doesn’t taste right.

For the Love of Chuck

So what’s this new story about. Let me fill ya in!
Toby Yates is a twenty-eight-year-old college drop out who still idolizes his old best friend, Chuck, and is currently living off his sister’s dime. When she threatens to kick him out of her apartment, Toby decides to get a job as a janitor at Burling Gates High to reconnect with Chuck who’s a popular guidance counselor at the school.

While cleaning the girls’ bathroom one day, Toby meets Wren Reynolds, one of the troubled students Chuck counsels. As their friendship progresses, Toby learns that Chuck is having an affair with Wren and must decide if he should keep Chuck’s secret or out him, putting his newly reformed friendship with Chuck on the line.

Humorously told from both Toby and Wren’s perspectives, For the Love Chuck will tug at your heartstrings and have you rooting for a very unlikely hero.

Watch Me Write: The Series

And just to give you the inside scoop, “Watch Me Write” is a brand new series I’m doing here on the blog.

I’ll be writing about my progress on For the Love of Chuck plus giving you the week’s BRAND NEW CHAPTER. This way, you can read my story for free on my blog and you can even read it on Wattpad, too!

So without further ado, here’s the first chapter of For the Love of Chuck! Hope you love it!



Now Chuck’s your buddy, your pal. The dude who mops up your vomit after a late night at Los Gallos that turns your bathroom ranker than a three day pair of underwear. He’s the guy that has your back and he’s the guy that had mine until Grace Anne nosed the toe of her dirty Keds between us. One second we’re on the bleachers watching our loser friend Kryptonite Chris make an ass of himself on the mound during a baseball game at Burling Gates High and the next, there’s this curtain of hair sitting between me and Chuck and I end up spending the rest of the game counting the dandruff flakes in the curtain’s scalp.

Grace Anne Delahoy. A real ugly thing whose tits didn’t quite pass inspection. But Chuck? You’d think she’d invented the chili dog the way he looked at her. And there he went placing his arm around her smoother than a shot of tequila while I plucked her shedded skin from my Royals hoodie. He hadn’t even asked her name yet.

That was senior year. Ten years ago. When life flies, it zips like a mother fucker.

Shit, I have to pinch myself now.

I’m doing this new thing where I pinch my arm every time I say or think or something bad. It’s what my sister Tammy calls “physical awakening” or some shit – ow – that she heard over at her yoga studio. She’s just there to fold the towels and wipe sweaty DNA off the yoga mats, but you’d think she’s a bonafide yogi the way she yaps about spiritual enlightenment and all that crap.

My arm is starting to look like an eggplant.

“Ah, underwear, cold pizza from a Ziploc bag. I have to admit, it’s no yesterday’s half-shirt/milk from the carton combo, but I think it has real potential.”

That’s another thing about my sister. She’s a real smartass.

“Excuse me, Zen Queen, but some of us are looking for an actual career.” She plops down next to me on the sofa and my bag of pizza hits me in the junk.

“I’m sorry, but don’t you need a college degree for one of those?” She slants her eyes at me like she’s been doing since we were kids. I almost forgot this part but when she was six and I was two she stole me and took me to the park and fed me the broken bread Ma used to give us to feed ducks at the pond. When Ma finally found us, she had to remove a knuckles-worth of carbohydrates from my windpipe. So that proves it. Tammy’s a whackjob so you really can’t trust anything she says.

“I’m sorry, but aren’t most of you friends married by now?”

“Don’t change the subject, asshat. You keep putting it off and putting it off but I can’t support your lazy ass anymore. Ma kicked you out because she’s smart and I may not be no Stephen Hawking but I need you to start pulling your weight. Lord knows it seems to be multiplying,” she says and jabs her bony yoga finger into my stomach.

“Ah Christ, Tammy.” She gives me those slant eyes again so I give myself a pinch.
“Listen I don’t even need no stupid degree. You know Chuck used to say-”

‘Yes. Exactly. Used to. But Chuck’s getting married, Toby. And doesn’t he go by Charles now? New wife, new house, new name? Chuck’s moved on. I suggest you do the same.”

I hear her and it hurts to hear her even worse than my bruised up arm. Chuck’s moved on. Chuck’s changed and is better and newer and different and here I am, naked-er, fatter, and lazier and in major need of a shower.

But here’s the thing I can’t say to Ma or Tammy or the entire world the way I want to: I love Chuck like the brother I never had. Screw Grace Anne if she thinks she’s going to steal him away and imprison him in her tract castle. I refuse to give him up.

My gut groans, scraping chewed up pizza through my bowels and it echos the sound of my life swirling down the drain.

I’m gonna have to get a fucking job. Ow.

How Book Reviews Make You a Better Writer

How Book Reviews Make You a Better Writer

How Book Reviewers Make You a Better Writer

Hi. My name is Ericka Clay, and I’m still learning to write.


I know. It’s quite difficult to admit. As much as I want to wave my fancy Creative Writing degree over my head as proof that I know ALL THINGS WRITING, alas, I don’t.

Not even a little bit.

And I know this to be true not only because I can practically see it plastered across my forehead when I look into the mirror (I also see perfectly arched eyebrows. It’s a genetic gift), but I’ve also heard it from book reviewers who have read Unkept and Dear Hearts and have critically broken down where I’ve gone “wrong.”

Ouch, right? NOPE!

What I love about book reviewers is that they’re not my mother. What I mean by that, is that they’ll never tell me I’m the best writer that has ever existed and that I look mind blowingly fantastic in these JCPenney’s jorts (another genetic gift). What they WILL tell me is that there are a few things I need to work on.

So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite critiques I’ve received in no particular order:

“…I was confused in a few places with the way she integrates flashbacks and memories…”

“The characters are all complicated, as is the writing. Don’t pick up this book, if easy reading is what you are looking for.”

“Nearly every principal character is incredibly flawed, in some cases to the point of being deeply unlikeable.”

“The novel has a somewhat unclear start as the opening chapters are overloaded with a barrage of character names and too many unanswered questions, making it difficult to settle in until the third or fourth chapter.”

“There are a lot of metaphors, back story, and flashbacks in Unkept that often interrupt the flow and clarity of the story.”

“The alternating POVs don’t always take the story forward.”

“However another part of me just can’t seem to truly believe Mitch as a character.”

Now granted, these same reviewers had some amazingly wonderful things to say about my books, too, which I deeply appreciate. But the critiques above are exactly what I needed to hear.

So what does this mean? I get back on that writing horse and do it again, only this time much better.

Those thoughtful critiques are the very reason I’m taking a BRAND NEW JOURNEY and writing a novel chapter by chapter on Wattpad – about a small town transvestite trying to “win” her best friend back of all things! I’ll be changing my style a bit, getting to the meat of the story and using flowery language in teeny tiny doses. I’ll be working on the “here and now” and try my best to refrain from mind boggling flashbacks.

I’ll be taking these reviews to heart.

So book reviewers, thank you, thank you, thank you a million times over for these! You’ve helped me in more ways than you know. And writers, leave discouragement at the door. A good critique helps not hurts, and if it is blatantly hurtful, ignore it and move forward.

We’ve got this, you guys! We’ve got this!

Have you received a “bad” review? What did it teach you?

http://bit.ly/DearHeartsIt’s officially official! Today is the RELEASE DATE for Dear Hearts! Even better news? If you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, you get this baby for free! Be sure to snag your copy today!


Marilyn Winters by Ericka ClayThere’s a new girl in town, but looks can be deceiving! Find out why Marilyn Winters is an unlikely heroine in my latest novel – that you can read FOR FREE!

read for free

How to Contact Book Reviewers

How to Contact Book Reviewers

how to contact book reviewers

After publishing a book, there’s this tricky little problem most authors have to overcome: getting people to read and review it.

Fortunately, there’s an entire segment of the blogging populace that not only does this very thing but can help you build your author street cred: book review bloggers.

The key to getting your book into reviewers’ hands? Sticking to these main steps:

  1. Follow the book reviewer’s guidelines for contacting them about a review. This is THE BIG ONE. Don’t start shooting off emails willy nilly before first making sure you’ve thoroughly met each one of their requests. Reviewers receive A LOT of requests to read books, and if it comes down between an author who followed their directions and an author who didn’t, guess whose book will get chosen.
  2. Find a point of contact and spell their name correctly. I know this one seems like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you the number of times someone has contacted me as the editor of Tipsy Lit and has blatantly spelled my name wrong even after receiving an email back from me! You want to come off as both professional and respectful, which means taking those two seconds to make sure you’ve literally crossed every “t” and dotted every “i.”
  3. Set yourself apart from other authors requesting a review. In my contact email (see below), I always add in my subscriber count for Tipsy Lit because I want the reviewers to know that I’ll most certainly be sharing their review with my audience. I figure if someone is kind enough to read and share their thoughts about my work, then I can most certainly be kind enough to show their review blog some love!

Below is an introductory email you can work from that I’ve sent to a number of reviewers (many who have read and reviewed my books). Just be sure to replace my details with your own!

Email to Send to Book Reviewers

Hello Awesome Book Reviewer!

My name is Ericka Clay, and I’m the author of Unkept and Dear Hearts. I’m also the creator of Tipsy Lit, a literary blog that has amassed over 12,000 subscribers. I’m contacting you to request a review of my novella.

TITLE: Dear Hearts

GENRE: Novella


AMAZON LINK: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00V2C3WM8

WORD COUNT: 32,059

BLURB: From the outside, Mitch and Elena Reynolds are a typical White Smoke family: married, raising a daughter, running a local business, attending church on Sundays. But their happy family image starts to crack when Mitch has an affair with local White Smoke resident, Aaron Hooper.

Mitch and Elena’s tumultuous relationship is further tested with failed attempts to get pregnant again, forced AA meetings to curb their alcoholism and bitter therapy appointments to try and “fix” their daughter, Wren. It’s not until both Mitch and Elena trust in their love for their daughter that they begin to rekindle the connection they first formed as kids. But is it too late?

From the author of Unkept, Dear Hearts is an exquisitely told tale of love, loss and human connection in the wake of darkness.

I am submitting the book via both mobi and ePub files that I’ve attached to this email, as well as the cover art for the book.

If you’d like to learn more about my background, you can do so here.

Thank you for your time, Awesome Book Reviewer, and I hope you’re interested in reading my work!


Ericka Clay

*Remember to attach all files before hitting”send”!

Book Review Blogs

If you search “book review blogs” in Google, you’ll come across a number of great finds, but here are a few I love:

Your book is your baby and now you’re sending that baby out into the world. Do it justice by contacting the right reviewer for your work in the best way possible!

What book review blogs do you love? List them in a comment below (including your own)!