Author: Artistikem

On Self-love, CrossFit, and Writing

This post is going to deal with a topic that even when it isn’t directly related to writing, in a way, it is.

This last week The CrossFit Games happened and last night one of my favorite athletes, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet got crowned as Fittest Woman on Earth. I was super excited to be able to see her win this because she’s been a huge inspiration and I’ve been following her career ever since I started getting involved in CrossFit.

Which isn’t too long ago but feels like a lifetime away. Why? Let me explain.

At the beginning of the year I fell into a depression that crippled the one thing that worked when I needed to channel my feelings: writing. Christmas 2013 was horrible and it stuck with me for months on end during which I’d find myself not even able to finish my dinner plate because I’d burst into tears. The same thing happened when I reopened the manuscripts for the books I’d been writing before then. It was terrible and exhausting to try and push out words when my whole body was giving up on me. I thought I’d never get out of that slump. That until I remembered a birthday promise I’d made to myself last year that involved gifting myself at least the start of a new body for my 30th birthday. So I started visiting the track and running sprints (which I love) and started feeling better, awakening from that dormant state I was in.

But I can’t just run and run forever, it’s not me.

Back in 2006 I had taken on the idea of getting into bodybuilding. It was something I wanted to do since I was a little girl (yes, I did). My love for lifting heavy things took me to try my hand at this, so hubby helped me purchase some weights and protein powders and shit and, even when I did get some progress, I started bulking up due to not knowing how to tweak workouts to meet my goals. I used programs from T-Nation.com, participating in their forums, reading everything about the subject I could get my hands on, but kept doing heavy sets with no cardio that made me bigger and not leaner. Then I got a full-time job and stopped working out completely.

Very very bad because then the weight started piling up, who knew?

Now, 50 pounds heavier me had to kick her own ass in order to get her gears in motion. I’d wanted to go back to the weights ever since but didn’t really know how. Then I came across CrossFit and thought hey, this looks like all my dreams come true, let’s try it! So I did. At home. No box for me since the fees are out of my reach, so I researched and researched and back in March found this 30 Day At Home Crossfit Challenge over at Life Made Full and started with that, complementing it with some strength training with my old but not forgotten weights and more running.

It was the best decision I’ve made this year so far. It not only got me up and about but I’ve been writing like crazy again. And when I say crazy I mean that some days I can put 2k words into a story, no big deal.

So, what’s up with that renewed energy when it comes to the craft? I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that practicing CrossFit has led to a more confident me. It has taken the blob of emotions I had become and made me blossom into someone I never knew I could be, someone that went to the beach the other day and felt sexy in a swimsuit (until this girl came with her six-pack abs and I told hubby “we’re leaving!” Haha. Nah, I just thought damn, that’s gonna be future me). Even back when I was 50 pounds lighter I never felt this good in my own skin.

It’s because I’ve fallen in love with what my body can do and not with how it looks. Self-love is a word I’ve had to relearn.

Christian Thibaudeau wrote over at T-Nation in his Bodybuilder Goes CrossFit article:

I walk differently. I look more fluid and am more confident. I look like a different person when you see me approaching and it’s not even from the physical changes!

I feel the same way. Even hubby has noticed a little something in my walk that wasn’t there before. I haven’t lost tons of weight but I feel tighter, leaner, stronger, and more importantly, capable.

Of course, I’m not the only one. There are lots of posts out there where people talk about how CrossFit has helped them love themselves, see themselves in a different more positive light. For me, it hasn’t been only about that, it has been about reclaiming what I had lost for a while. Depression was affecting my craft and I couldn’t let that happen. I’m a writer, goddammit, I can’t just stop.

Exactly like when you’re half-way through a WOD, feeling like you’re dying, but you don’t stop, because you’re not stopping until you’re done. I’m not letting anything stop my writing, no sir, I’m not even close to done with that.

Biting the perma-free dust

For some time I had been trying to tell Amazon that the first book of my series The Caregiver was free over at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc., but they kept ignoring me until yesterday morning when I woke up to find my book not only price-matched to free but with over twenty downloads.

third

I had no idea I was in for a very very bumpy ride.

Since writing is a task that requires the use of, guess what? The brain! I was in for a day with no writing because of this new shiny thing that was happening over at my KDP dashboard called sales. Free units, yeah, not exactly sales but it kinda feels like it. It’s more of an ‘I’m broke but yaaaayyyy!’ kind of rush that it sometimes feels like a betrayal to all the hours spent and tears I’ve shed writing that thing that people seem to only care to take notice of when it’s free even though before it was only 99¢ and it has, like, 11 reviews with a 4.3 stars rating and a lot of them are from people I don’t even know and those from people I actually know got no money for them and no, none of them is my mother (she’s still asking where she went so awfully wrong that her daughter writes about gangsters and murder).

Now I don’t know if I want to smile or cry, or do both at the same time.

But that’s life in general.

Now, for the smiling part: The Caregiver got 238 downloads in 24 hours which is more than what it’d get during a 48hr KDP Select promo with me running around in circles all over the Internet promoting it. I did no promo whatsoever because I had no idea that would happen so that’s pretty pleasing. Oh, and it escalated to the 18th position on the Top 100 Free Crime Thriller list thingy.

My mother’s proud of me, the hubby is proud of me, my editor is proud of me, my friends are proud of me.

I’m still working on being proud of myself.

This. Is. So. Damn. Frustrating.

I’m sorry if I’m being too damn sincere because I’m trying to be as logical as I can with this thing since I did maths for it. Yeah, maths! Me!

framed280inbruges

*sigh*

The math was done last November and posted here:

My novella, The Caregiver, keeps hitting the Top 20 and Top 10 in its category when I do the promo thingy. Then, when the free ride is over, it plummets back to the shadows. Meanwhile, The Caregiver Vignettes 1-5, with no reviews, no nothing, doesn’t hit lower than 30,000 in rank in its category. Why? Because it’s free.

As of right now the book has been downloaded 33 times today and that’s an effing record in itself. What’s the thread I’m hanging by? The fact that some people I have not paid or stabbed to get them to read my book have gotten hooked and bought books 2 and 3. I’m crossing my fingers these downloaders actually read it and that they then may or may not want to buy books 2 and 3 and the soon to come prequel and 4th book.

Of course, the fact that books 2 and 3 are already out there was a big part of this whole scheme. I give a little something, they give a little something.

And even if they don’t give me anything I’m sitting here after having not slept well because of OMG OMG OMG ALL THE DOWNLOADS and pondering if hubby will behave during fancy dinner parties surrounded by celebrities. Jaysus, I have to practice how to smile so it doesn’t look like I’m having a full-fledged spasm!

The writer and the photographer

One of the many things I’m grateful in life is my husband. Yes, as cheesy as it may sound, that man is the best thing that’s ever happened to me (aaawwwwee).

Okay, enough of the pink stuff.

Of the many things I wanted to be in life (rock star, marine biologist, stripper, architect, etc.) there were two that were always on the top of my list: writer and photographer. I met my husband thanks to the photography classes I took during my B.A. in Audiovisual Communication. He, a photographer with 20+ years experience, me a student with an expensive camera and what everyone called ‘a good eye’. I love photography and I’m not that bad at it. However, the art that I’ve focused on the most as of late is writing and it has, apparently, taken over the rest of me.

Why do I say this? Let me give you an example:

We have a 6 month old doberman puppy-pony that could give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money. She’s goofy, she’s curious, and she can’t leave our cat alone, no matter how many times Jin-Jing slashes her, she’s always coming for more. One morning hubby walked out to the terrace and saw Carola, the puppy, staring at JJ up on a tree branch. The light was beautiful, the tree leaves looked so green and vivid, Carola’s pose was perfect, you could see JJ clearly through the leaves… “Astrid come out here!” I heard him and, after thinking ‘what does he want now?!’, went to check on what was happening. I was mesmerized by the scene, it was so beautiful. “Where’s the camera!” Hubby cut through my thoughts and my instant reply was “WHY?!”

Why? Because he’s a photographer! He needs to press the shutter on scenes like that to validate its existence. I, on the contrary, assimilate it and store it in my head so I can replay it later.

That’s why I know I’ll never be another one of those things I wanted to be at some point in my life: a photojournalist. Because I’d rather tell you what I saw (write about it to be exact) than show you a photographic reproduction of the moment.

And, to tell you the truth, as long as my readers are okay with that, I’m also okay with that.

So hubby better either carry his own camera or learn to store those images in his mind (and maybe learn to paint?). Yeah.

Read and E-book Week

Read an Ebook Week

You’ve still got today and tomorrow to get 50% off TORN, THE BEAST, and AT THE CORNER OF MARS AND NEPTUNE!

Head over to Smashwords and use code REW50 at checkout: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/artistikem

Or get them from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&field-keywords=artistikem

Happy reading!

Why you must read Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz’s The Caregiver @ Indie Author Land

I was lazily reading my Twitter timeline when I stumbled upon a tweet from Indie Author Land about their author interviews and thought, why not give it a try?

It was super easy to fill the interview form (it’s not one of those super long ones I tend to avoid because they overwhelm me midway) and I love what they did with it. And the best part? It was FREE!

Check out the interview here: www.indieauthorland.com/archives/7299

And go give them some love!

Their website: www.indieauthorland.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/indieauthorland

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IndieAuthorLand

Out now! THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series)

Yay! Happy dances are in order. The Beast has been released!

The Beast

The trip to Puerto Rico proves to be even worse than the nightmare Scarlett thought it would. Adrian’s assassination starts what becomes a series of revelations that will bring her face to face with demons from her past.

Stakes get higher as she learns this is more than a government conspiracy but a personal vendetta led by a man scarred by the same two people who made Scarlett’s early years a living hell.

Everyone she loves is in danger and she’s vowed to protect them no matter what. And they’ve vowed to fight by her side in return. What she isn’t counting on is that in love and war, sacrifices must be made.

Get your copy now!

 

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/395358

Amazon International Links:

US http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
IN https://www.amazon.in/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
DE https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
FR https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
ES https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
IT https://www.amazon.it/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
JP https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
AU https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
MX https://www.amazon.com.mx/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
BR https://www.amazon.com.br/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0

The Beast – Chapter 2 (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) Teaser!

A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!

The Beast

Chapter 2

There was no chair that could contain me inside that hospital, nor a corridor long enough to stop my pacing. Millions of things were bubbling inside me.

We had all been questioned about the incident but Police Superintendent Rivero dismissed us. He was a good friend of Adrian’s and obviously affected by what had happened.

There was a Christmas tree next to the nurses’ station with colored lights flashing to high-pitched electronic carols. I was making my way towards it to rip it apart when Armand intercepted me.

Scarlett, you should eat something.” His hand landed on the crook of my elbow, dragging me to a corner with him.

You shouldn’t be here. I need to get you out of here; take you somewhere safe.”

Scarlett, calm down.” He held on to my upper arms, leaning over to level our gazes. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

He saved you.” I still couldn’t grasp what had happened.

Sit down with me. Let me get you something.”

He wasn’t the target after all. It was you. It was always you.”

They’d be very stupid if they tried to get me here with so many cops around.”

There was so much frustration inside me. I knew I had to calm down before continuing the conversation so I shrugged out of his grip and started walking away when Bobby came into sight.

He stretched out a hand to my shoulder but didn’t touch me, only caressed the air around it. I knew that gesture. He used to do that whenever he knew I was in distress.

This particular kind of distress.

The rifle was remote-controlled. There was no one inside the apartment.”

Then we must get to that second hotel.”

No one there either. No documents, nothing. Superintendent Rivero will get us the CCTV videos.”

He glanced at Armand behind me but I pulled him back. “How’s Raakin?”

Devastated. Mahmoud isn’t exactly cooperating. How are you feeling?”

I’m not sick, just pregnant.”

You know what I mean.”

It was starting to dawn on me that I had been exposed to all of them beyond belief. I was feeling naked all of a sudden and there was no amount of clothes that could cover me up.

Like shooting myself.” I pushed him aside and stormed out of the corridor.

I heard Armand’s footsteps begin to follow me, then stop. Bobby must have been the one to bring him to a halt.

Maybe a walk would help me clear my mind. A walk that, if I let myself go with how I felt, would never end.

I didn’t get far though; Kathy had arrived with Eliza and Oksana and her arms went around me the moment I was within her reach.

I can’t, Scarlett…” She cried as she buried her fingers into my aching back. “I can’t lose him.”

I wrapped my arms around her and filed my thoughts for later. “It’s all right.”

He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

I shut my eyes for a second. “I think yes.” I was good at omitting information but never at lying, not in situations like this one.

She trembled and sobbed against me and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for making her go through this.

Sit down. We’re waiting for the doctors to come out and tell us how he’s doing.”

I gestured Eliza to get her into a nearby waiting room. However, when I pushed Kathy off me, she clasped my hand.

Don’t leave me.”

Kathy, I…”

Please?”

Dammit. I obliged. It was the least I could do. Armand was relieved to see me walk into that waiting room and sit next to Kathy, our hands entwined. Eliza sat on the opposite side and took her other hand. Bobby, Armand, Rhys, and Rooney each took a seat at the other end of the room.

I encountered Armand’s gaze the moment Kathy put her head on my shoulder. The amount of love in his eyes made me shiver. How could he look at me after all the shit that had been stirred?

George walked into the room, followed by Larry and, you guessed it, a doctor wearing scrubs and a face of pure defeat.

Everyone stood to hear the detailed explanation of the fatality of Adrian’s wound. I couldn’t listen; as much as I strained my ears no sound made it in. All I felt was Kathy’s hand squeezing mine before going limp and sliding down. I pulled her up with the help of Eliza and George and we set her back in her seat.

Adrian Lang was brain-dead. Breathing with the aid of machines.

A surge of anger ran through me and I tensed under Kathy’s half-dizzy wailing. She was pressing herself further against my chest, her face hidden under my chin and her hands making fists on the collar of my jacket.

I gathered her in my arms. For a moment I wished I could join her, that actual tears were forming in my eyes, but all I could conceive was an immeasurable anger. I couldn’t comfort her. I couldn’t comfort myself. I should’ve felt happy or, if not happy, at least okay with it. But death and murder have one unwavering characteristic: they never feel as you imagine.

The doctor asked if we wanted to see him and, of course, Kathy jumped to say yes.

I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to see anyone. Dead or alive.

Armand put a reassuring arm around my shoulders and I had to suppress the sudden need to duck away from it.

We were led into a room smelling of disinfectant. The constant beeping of monitors and the rhythm of the ventilator served as background music. Kathy kept an arm around my waist as we entered together, leaving the rest to watch through a glass window.

Her breathing hitched as we inched towards the man who lay on that bed. His blanched, lifeless face struck me. He looked so peaceful. Not even his signature frown was left.

The crying subsided when Kathy was able to touch him. I studied her profile and she bore no resemblance to the young woman who had sashayed her way around the party the first night after our arrival. No, this was someone else altogether. It was a woman who was slowly landing on the realization that there was an invisible knife stuck in her chest.

Adrian,” she whispered, her hand sliding away from me to caress his face.

There was movement outside and I saw Jin-Jing pushing through to peek into the room. I shot her a warning look, shaking my head, and she understood that it wasn’t the right moment.

He loved you.” I rubbed Kathy’s arm.

I know.” Then she turned to me. “He loved you, too. Even though he wronged you, believe me, he loved you. There were too many conflicted feelings inside him about you.”

I wasn’t catching her drift and, sincerely, I didn’t know if I wanted to.

We’d have a conversation about this later. It’d be more prudent to let the body get cold before we started hashing out truths about him.

I glanced at the window and there was only Jin-Jing now. Kathy saw her and beckoned her to come in.

The small dark eyes framed by the cascading black hair were filled with tears. She took a couple of shy steps then halted, obviously taken aback by the sight of the man lying on that bed. She exchanged a glance with me and I pressed my lips together into a thin line.

Kathy took Jin-Jing’s hand and gently tugged her forward. To this, I stepped back. Not that the latter complained. We were both trying to drop the snideness but failing miserably.

We were sharing a moment of silence when the door opened and a black woman in her late twenties sporting a beautiful mane of curly brown hair peeked in. The moment her eyes fell on Adrian she brought one hand to her mouth, the other to her chest.

Kathy smiled at the weeping woman. “Daniela. So glad you came.”

Reluctant, calculated steps took the woman from the door to the bedside, from where she stroke Adrian’s cheek with trembling fingers.

Bloody hell, you’ve got to be kidding me!

Meet the Characters: Armand Sayer

“Even the strongest and wickedest of us need to find solace.” He whispered, as if not to disrupt her peacefulness. “And I won’t let anyone destroy ours.”

Armand Sayer

Born in London, England, around late July 1948 (don’t have an exact date but he’s a Leo) which makes him 65 years old at the time of book 2. Fathered Briony with his first wife, Marie. I haven’t come up with too many details about his upbringing but it’s mentioned that he comes from an upper class family. No sad or troubled past here. Went to Oxford, where he met business partners Rhys Owen and Eamon Rooney. He got into drug dealing like anyone else enters a business and that is the reason why he conducts it as so. His two closest allies in London at the time of the series are Max MacGowan and Rafael Cisneros.

More than try and come up with details about Armand, I’d like to tell the reasons behind the character. With Armand I wanted to create the kind of bad guy every woman would fall in love with. He’s loving, caring, charming, he’d be the kind of guy you’d bring to your mother… if he wasn’t a drug lord. And that’s the thing about him that I like the most, that he deals in a world ruled by coldness and violence but hasn’t let it turn him into a cold-blooded monster. He’s nicknamed The Beast because of how ruthless he is, however, his inner circle knows how much of a softie he is on the inside. Which is exactly what Scarlett needs. A man that understands her line of work and can love her without trying to change that.

Also, it was what people like George, Ollie, Bradley, and Cat needed. Armand has been a guardian angel for them; someone that has come to their lives in order to rescue them from whatever mess they were in and give them a second chance. All of Armand’s men are loyal to him thanks to this, the fact that he’s been there for them when they needed him.

When it comes to family nobody feels as strong about it as he does. Maybe Vincenzo Pietri does, but that won’t be explained until Book 4. ;-) The biggest dilemma in Armand’s life was the fact that Marie didn’t approve of his business and that went on up until when Scarlett came in and dragged him into her own mess. And it is that same love he’s expressed towards everyone around him that makes him follow her and try and fight the fucktards wanting to hurt her.

In summary, Armand is the villain we all hate to love because he has so many redeeming qualities even I forget he’s a drug lord every now and then.

Want to know more?

You can read THE CAREGIVER (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series) for free at The Caregiver Series Blog and Wattpad, or get it from Smashwords (free), Barnes & Noble (free), Kobo (free) and Amazon (99 cents).

TORN (Book 2 of The Caregiver Series) is available through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will be available mid-January through Smashwords and Amazon (the rest of the retailers will come later).

The Beast – Chapter 1 (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) Teaser!

A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!

The Beast

Chapter 1

Arms. Around me.

Hands. Reaching out to me.

George’s face inching closer. Bobby’s eyes, wide as saucers, as he runs towards me.

Someone touched my shoulder and I cringed, even though I couldn’t feel a thing.

It didn’t take long to realize I couldn’t hear either.

Hands helped me to my feet, coaxed me to follow.

At first I wasn’t sure whose hands they were; all I knew was that they were warm, that they felt safe. I focused my eyes and it was Bobby who was dragging me away, walking against the current of police and paramedics rushing to the scene.

Ollie welcomed me into the van, sat me on a seat next to his, and covered me with a blanket without uttering a word. Then Armand climbed in with Bradley and we started moving. The rattling of the wheels on the cobblestones and the swaying of the giant metal cube added to my discomfort. I wanted to puke, to run, to scream, to snap in some way, but I had no strength.

The only time I lifted my eyes was to meet Armand’s. Even when I tried, I couldn’t get the tears to flow. It felt as if they were flooding the inside of my face but encountering a dam when they reached my eyeballs. He noticed and held me in a tight embrace.

Adrian Lang, my grandfather, was dead. My teacher and tormentor had given his life to save the man I loved.

I, on the other hand, hadn’t saved his life in return.