Is this real life?

I was just on Amazon Smile (am I allowed to mention brands and “plug” things? I guess so! I’m not receiving any compensation and I would disclose if I ever did) buying an awesome book for one of my clients.

I was sending her the Kindle version, because that is the thing now — plus its instant.  I got a little message that said “Your recepient will receive this email within 5 minutes and will be able to download their gift immediately”.  Wow.  Faster than drones, even!

Anyway, I was sending her a Kindle copy of Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.  Seriously people. Read this book.  Maybe not in public, because you might laugh a lot.  Then you’ll do that thing where you try NOT to laugh too much and you’ll snort.  Hypothetically, of course. You’ve been warned.

This has a point, I promise.  After my gift was sent, I realized I was in the “Kindle Store” section.  I went to close the tab and realized I had NEVER typed Finding Peace With PTSD into Amazon before.  So I did.  Guess what?!?  It is THERE!  It’s not available yet, (December 22 *ahem giant plug*) but its there!  The front cover, the back cover, sample pages!

To quote a viral video favorite “Is this real life?” It certainly feels surreal.



Now what are you working on?

People have already started asking me this question.   Maybe this is a normal question in the writing world.  I know a few writers that have several projects going on at once, so maybe it’s not unheard of to already have a new project developing before your book is even published.

With Finding Peace With PTSD coming out in a few weeks, most of my focus has been on promotion.  Ordering advanced copies, trying to secure advanced readers, promoting the book itself, and trying to find local venues for signings.

That being said, several projects have been swirling around in my head since FPWP was finalized.  Three different topics (mostly of the mental health variety) have been started as non fiction works and then shelved.  I just don’t have the motivation or the fire to write them (yet).

I still feel like I am meant to do more with PTSD and Moral Injury.  While I feel like I just spent a lot of time and research on those subjects, I feel like there is more that could be said.  I also know that some people simply will never read my book because they aren’t into non-fiction.

I’ve started a novel where several of the main characters are dealing with issues surrounding Combat PTSD and Moral Injury.  On a daily basis I’m dealing with clients that have these very same issues, and they say to “write what you know.”

Writing a novel (for those of you that haven’t done it) is a completely different beast than a work of non fiction.  You have to be creative.  This isn’t just simply doing some research and reporting the facts.  I will look up to my literary influences like Wally Lamb, Matthew Quick, Allie Brosh, Jeffrey Eugenides and Gillian Flynn all of whom have paved the way for quality works with a mental health theme.

I’m excited and I’ll keep you updated.








Cover Reveal!

cover reveal full

It’s Black Friday.  For me, it’s Book Friday.  Without any further ado.
Here’s an excerpt:

I didn’t start working with veterans right away. I had to start like anyone else. I went to undergraduate school, where I majored in psychology and sociology. I took a few years off, and then I went to graduate school, where I earned my Masters of Social Work.

I worked various jobs to become licensed (two years of clinical work). I ended up working for the Department of the Army as a Substance Abuse counselor and saw a common theme: young soldiers coming back from war, Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF), and drinking—lots of drinking. They were drinking to sleep, drinking to forget, drinking to numb the pain, and drinking to function.

I never related my dad to these guys. These guys were young. They were separated from their families for fifteen months at a time and seeing all kinds of horrible things. They survived when many of their friends didn’t.

Working with them was such a challenge. I wanted to gain their trust and help them, but as a non-veteran—the dreaded civilian—who had never seen combat, how could I possibly understand?

I began to submerse myself in Army culture, reading books like On Combat and On Killing, both written by LTC Dave Grossman. I listened to the soldiers’ speech and their acronyms. I learned of a brotherhood so strong that it could not be broken by death. I listened to them as they shakily recounted gruesome memories, many that kept them awake at night and on a slightly different plane during the day. Many nights, I’d cry on my way home from work.

Please don’t think that I had any illusions or disillusions that by doing these things, I understood my soldiers. Learning about their culture and their combat helped give me some perspective, but I would never be asinine and say, “Oh, I understand combat. I read some books and watched a few documentaries on Netflix.” I think my honesty and nonjudgmental attitude helped me gain their trust.

I worked for the Army for two years, and then I had some decisions to make. I was now fully licensed. I wanted to break away from the strict guidelines of the Army Substance Abuse Program, mainly the Army’s idea that ASAP counselors were only supposed to focus on the soldiers’ substance use/abuse and not any underlying causes. That was what the Department of Behavioral Health was for. (Army logic at its finest.)

An opportunity arose that I couldn’t refuse, opening my own private practice at a really low overhead rate. I leapt before I looked, and six months later, I was a twenty-nine-year-old with her own practice, two phone lines, a couch, a nice therapist’s chair, and no clients.

Luckily, word spread. Several soldiers that I helped at ASAP were back from deployment and found me in the phonebook. Several doctors on Fort Bragg knew me from my ASAP days and sent referrals my way. My mentor and officemate, Pat, referred clients. Former ASAP colleagues who still worked at ASAP or in other departments on Fort Bragg referred soldiers. My practice slowly grew.

About a year into the practice, I began seeing an Army wife each week. She was in her late thirties, had three children, and had weathered her husband’s multiple deployments. Her husband was showing all the symptoms of PTSD (per her report), and it was starting to affect their family life.

One day in a session, she said, “I know that {my oldest daughter} remembers what he was like before deployments, but my young sons will never know their dad pre-war.”

She went on to describe his harsh criticism of all the children, his intolerance of even the slightest infraction, and the constant arguing that went on. It was like all the air got sucked out of the room for me. It suddenly clicked. She was describing my dad. I didn’t know what my dad was like before the war. I knew the post-Vietnam shell of a dad that I had been given, however.

What was he like before two tours? What was he like before his twenty-three years of Army service?

Maybe he hadn’t been this mean, ornery, or demanding all of his life. Maybe he was just like the young soldiers I saw at ASAP, once full of life and freedom, but now with a certain haunted look about them. They had restless nights, no quality sleep, lots of alcohol, spice, or illegal drugs to function. They were happy to be alive, but angry at their survival at the same time.

Was that my dad? Seeing that we didn’t have the most loving and open of relationships, how was I supposed to find out? I thought it would be pretty awkward at the next family gathering to pull him aside and say, “Hey, Dad. How have things been? Really? That’s cool. What were you like before Vietnam?”

Growing up, he NEVER talked about the war. I was four when he retired, so my memories of his Army life are pretty vague. I remembered his retirement ceremony, mainly that he had to give a speech and that there was a huge cake. I remember watching planes land and take off at Pope Air Force Base (now Pope Army Airfield) with him on rare occasions. I saw pictures of him in Korea, in uniform, in the field, but all of that meant nothing.

And then, my dad began to drink.

Author: Joanna Nunez

Release Date: December 22, 2015

Publisher: Peaceful Musings Publishing

Genre: Nonfiction, Military, Military Life, PTSD

Dreaming of my book- literally.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had an anxiety based dream.  One of those dreams were (despite the fact that you graduated two years ago, in real life) you get a letter from the registrar’s office saying that you have been absent to a class that you never remembered signing up for.  Due to the fact that you have accumulated so many absences in this forgotten class, you are now not eligible for graduation. You panic, maybe even break down in the dream.  Then you wake up, realize that you’ve been out of school for years, and relax a bit.

No? I’m the only anxious person around here.  Let’s hope so.

Over the weekend, I had my first anxiety based dream about the book (Finding Peace with PTSD). It’s nice to be able to say the name of the book.  Anyway, I digress.   I dreamed that a person that previously did not want any involvement in the book, now wanted to be involved.  I interviewed them and typed everything up.  I was so happy until I realized that this meant this part now had to be edited, corrected and sent to the publisher, which would ultimately slow down my release date.   I’ve already approved the final edits!  Now I have to add all this new work- oh no!

I was mentally composing the apology email to the publisher, with new material attached, when I woke up.  Phew!

I will update you when I know more, but no last minute additions or edits, I promise!

Totally judging my book by its cover

Another step in this lengthy process of publishing a book is complete- I picked my book cover.  I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but everyone- from a little kid to a marketing genius can tell you that first impressions are important.  The cover is the first thing everyone will see and might be a deciding factor in reading it.

The night my publisher sent the first few proofs of the cover, Dad was in Arizona with my Mom visiting some family. I had to text the images to Mom to show Dad (Dad has a smart phone but says he doesn’t know how to access texts).  She responded that he was “ok” with them. (That’s the seal of approval from Dad, it’s not going to get much better than that).

So that is a big part (at least to me) of this book being another step towards being on the shelves (or in your e-reader).

The even better news is that Dad is back from AZ and I look forward to being able to see him for lunches again.

(The picture above is a picture I found online of a pin Mom & Dad found for me in AZ. I will wear it proudly).

FOOD (one of our favorite topics!)

When you read the book *coming out in December- woot!*, you’ll notice Dad talks a LOT about the food in Vietnam. He goes into the Army provided rations, the local fruits and vegetables and the taco stand.  Yes, the taco stand.  In Vietnam.

So during our usual Thursday lunch meeting, I suggested a new place.  An aside about Dad, you will see that he was very adventurous with food in his younger days.  Now, not so much.  He finds a place, decides he likes it, and wants to go there EVERY week.  Sometimes I have to throw out different suggestions.  95% of the time, he loves them.  If I go too outside of the box, it’s a failure.  There is a great fusion taco place in downtown Fayetteville.  You don’t take a 75 year old man that’s been raised on traditional Mexican food to a fusion taco place.  “Tacos?!  These aren’t tacos!” he said, quite loudly.  He feasted on their side orders of chicken wings and fries that day.

I digress.  I decided to try out of the box again, and I found a Vietnamese restaurant that had good reviews. While I know that my dad LOVES Asian food, especially Thai food, we have never had Vietnamese food together.  I was worried that it might trigger something.

We got to the place and Dad studied the menu. I knew what I wanted- Bahn Mi.  For the amount of Vietnamese restaurants Fayetteville has, they don’t usually serve Bahn Mi, so finding it here was a treat. (Bahn Mi is a sandwich- pickled veggies, usually pork,  and some heat- peppers).  I opted for their Chicken Bahn Mi and  he decided to try  Bun Bo Xao (vermicelli steak).  As we waited, I asked him if he had eaten any Vietnamese food in Vietnam.

He replied, “Well not really.  There were no restaurants, except in the bigger bases like Long Binh, but we were never near the big bases except to fly in and out.  We mostly ate our rations.  When we were near Michelin, there were some locals that sold ham and cheese sandwiches.  I was skeptical at first, but some of the guys in my platoon ordered them.  They were $2 or $3.  I laughed when I saw the sandwiches, when they were delivered by a young boy on a bike. They were white bread, with slices of ham and cheese.  We figured they were somehow breaking into one of the food supply points and stealing their supplies.  I ordered them occasionally, when I just wanted something different than rations.”

Dad and I will always bond over food.  Except fusion tacos.

So the edits are in…

Much to my dismay as a 1) first time writer 2) impatient person, there are MANY steps to writing.

Of course I wrote the book, then it was edited (approximately 97 times).  Then there was the agent and publisher queries (aka begging).  Then the magical moment when I got picked up.

Now the publisher has sent their edits.

“More edits?” you’re probably thinking. (If you’re a seasoned writer you’re laughing at me.)

Yes, more edits. So this makes like, 98 times the book has been edited.  I would be insulted, but we all know my tagline is “I’m not a writer” so I’m blissfully unaffected.   My goal is to have them back to the publisher by Saturday.

That was the PLAN.  I sat down around 1030 pm last night (after a full day of work) to “just glance over the RC”. (The read copy, with the edits incorporated into it.)

I shouldn’t tell you this, but I will.  I made it for about 19 pages and then I was out.  Fast asleep.  Mouth open, phone on the floor kind of sleeping.

IT IS NOT BECAUSE THE BOOK IS  BORING!  (I’m saying this part really loudly)  I think it’s the fact that it was the 900th time I had read it, 1030 pm at night, and already kind of tired.

So now I will stop procrastinating and go back to reading, while I’m wide awake!

Cruising and writers

Maybe it’s the idealist in me that thought that a vacation on a cruise ship would be the perfect spot to write.  I’m glad I didn’t think I would get anything seriously accomplished.

  1. There are no freaking outlets ANYWHERE on a cruise ship.  We had one in our bedroom.  ONE.  Not a double one. Just one.  Thank goodness for the internet, because I was prepared for this and brought a power strip.  So, theoretically, I could have typed all day in my cracker sized cabin.  If I wanted to see the ocean, or not appear to be a hermit though, I would have had to type in a public area where I found ONE double outlet, on 6 decks.
  2. Writing on paper sounds romantic, but since high school I’ve been composing everything on a computer.  I was able to jot down some ideas on a tablet (the paper kind, not the $199 ipad kind) but other than brief ideas and where / what to research it didn’t go very far.
  3. The constant sway, sway, sway, of the boat will put you to sleep no matter how long you slept the night before and how awake you feel when you stretch out in your lounge chair.

Other than that, it was a great trip, I accomplished a great tan and some marketing ideas and lots of sleep.

I’m eagerly awaiting edits from my publisher and then it’s on to the next step! (which is….?)

Raise your hand if you know a published author!

So….the small press publishing company responded and they would love to publish my book!  I can’t say too much  until everything is finalized.  Also, the book won’t be available for 4-6 months (queues, last minute edits, etc.).

I thought waiting for the answer would be the hardest part.  I was wrong!  Knowing that I’m going to be published but having to wait for all of the red tape is even worse.  There is so much I want to do to start marketing, but I need to have the cover design first.  I have ideas, but once again, can’t say anything 🙂

The only good news in all of this (well, besides the being published part) is that I can start working on my next mental health non fiction work-  it’s about Borderline Personality Disorder- scary stuff!

Thank you so much for your support!  I’ll continue to keep everyone updated! 🙂

An Open Letter to Children of Combat Veterans (take 2)

Happy 4th of July Weekend!

I remember being a child and loving this weekend.  It was the best weekend of summer!  I was already well established into my sleeping in late/staying up late, lounging around, playing outside and swimming schedule, so 4th of July just meant parties!  Parties and Fireworks- and food!

There will be plenty of awesome activities this weekend- cookouts and barbecues, block parties and pool parties.  People will grill burgers, dogs, ribs, chicken and steak.  Watermelon, cake (often decorated with strawberries & blueberries to resemble the flag) and ice cream will be consumed by the ton.

Still, if you’re a kid of a Combat Veteran, this weekend might be a little different for you.  Dad might not want to go to the barbecues and parties,  he might want to stay in the safety of your air-conditioned house.  He might not want to scroll through his Facebook feed and see all the pictures of people eating the aforementioned hot dogs and watermelon.  Worst of all, he might not want to go to the fireworks show.

We all know how awesome fireworks shows are, especially on post.  I can only speak of Ft. Bragg’s, but I’ve been going as long as I can remember.   The 1812 overture with cannons, the Golden Knights jumping in,  the parade of flags, and of course, the fireworks, once it’s dark.

And Dad.  Sitting in the cab of the truck, ignoring the excited demands that my sister and I would shout- “Dad, get out here, you’re missing them!”

See, 4th of July might not mean the same thing to your Dad as it does to you.  He likes the barbecues and the watermelon and the long weekend, but he doesn’t like the memories that he might associate with the day.  Independence Day (4th of July’s REAL name) is about gaining our independence from England. It’s also a lot more than that.  It stands for freedom.  You might have heard “Freedom isn’t Free” or “Some Gave All” growing up.  While we formally remember fallen Service Members on Memorial Day (in May);  it’s hard not to think of all the brothers and sisters in arms you went to war with when everyone is talking about freedom, America, and waving the American flag.

Your Dad might even resent some of these people.  He might feel that their patriotism only comes one day of the year, when he and his fellow Service Members fight for our country EVERY day of the year, in many countries and many different situations.  That’s ok if Dad feels that way.  He still loves YOU.

You are one of your Dad’s most prized possessions.  He wants to protect you and make sure you’re safe at all times.  This is why he might seem overbearing at times- not giving you the freedom that your other friends have.  He loves you, trust me.  Despite the yelling and the arguing, he loves you.

So what about that fireworks show?  Why doesn’t Dad want to go to that? Being courteous when it comes  to fireworks & Combat Veterans has gained a lot of press this year.  It might not just be the fireworks themselves.  It could be the heat, the traffic, the having to go on base.  All of these things could be triggers, or make your dad uncomfortable.  All of these reasons might also be why Dad isn’t excited about all the cookouts and parties this weekend either.

It can be difficult to be the kid of a Combat Veteran, trust me, I know.  Never forget that your Dad loves you, and that you mean the world to him.

4 July 2015

(Author’s Note: as in my previous version of this, the Combat Veteran is “Dad” not Mom.  While this may seem sexist, I assure you it’s not.  While I understand that many females are Combat Veterans and serve, females are less likely to express their PTSD towards their children, or aggressively.  Females’ PTSD tends to look like depressive symptoms.)