Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Facing the Enemy Within

By now, most of my readers know that I am a huge Rush fan. From my first introduction to them at Presto to their last tour, I have been an avid listener of their music. Their music has always been something that helps me put words to feelings. From “Cold Fire” to “Roll the Bones”, from “Totem” to “Dreamline,” (go listen!), the lyrics help ground and center me - I keep lines from all of those songs on my desk at work.

The lyricist of Rush - also their drummer, Neil Peart - has a way with language that I truly admire. And so whenever I find myself faced with a difficult situation or trying to find words to describe what I am feeling, I fall back on Rush.

A few months ago, I was asked to be a part of #HoldOnToTheLight, a movement of authors designed to bring awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues.  As both a sufferer of depression and anxiety and an author, I volunteered to take part.

And so, as I tried to think of words to talk about how I felt, Rush came to the rescue again, with "The Enemy Within."

Things crawl in the darkness
That imagination spins
Needles at your nerve ends
Crawl like spiders on your skin
Pounding in your temples
And a surge of adrenaline
Every muscle tense to fence the enemy within

I can't remember the first time I had a panic attack or the first time I felt truly depressed. For me both had been a part of my life for so long that it wasn't until I was speaking with my general practitioner about always feeling tired and stressed, that she started asking questions. And eventually diagnosed me.  It's an interesting feeling when you suddenly have words that define a part of you.  Anxiety. Depression. That feeling of always being tired, of going through the motions of the day - Depression.  Or being faced with a task that seems so daunting, so overwhelming, that it makes your head hurt just thinking about it.  Even when the task is as easy as making dinner – Anxiety.

So after being diagnosed and, to quote a friend, with "better living through chemistry," I find that I am not always tired, or always stressed.  It may come in waves - some days are worse than others. But for the most part, since I started taking medicine, my brain has been much more neutral than it was in my high school and college years.

That being said, medicine isn't a magic cure-all and doesn't work for everyone.  I know people who can’t take the same medicines I take because it makes their skin crawl.  It took conversations with my Doctor to find the right balance.  I also rely on my support system - family and friends when things get to be too much.

Every breath a static charge
A tongue that tastes like tin
Steely-eyed outside to hide the enemy within 

Now I realize that for a lot of people who know me in person, this may come as a surprise.  Because I am frequently seen as the happy, bouncy “Minnie Mouse on Speed.”  But one of the things I learned, probably way too early in my life, was that people needed me to be the upbeat one, the one who held it together, the one who could get things done.  And so for the longest time, I hid that Enemy Within.

But I am learning that I can’t be afraid to talk about the fact that I suffer from a mental illness and that medicine helps balance my brain.  That balance means I am able to focus on things like writing (and not feel overwhelmed that my writing sucks) or run a con (and not feel like I'm constantly being judged as not good enough).  For me, medicine is what helps me feel the world around me but in a good way – not overwhelming or lost.

For some reason, between work, child, con-running, writing, gaming, cleaning the house, etc - sometimes my life gets a little crazy and I start to feel like the world is crashing in around me - there is too much to do, too much going on, too many feelings, too many of everything. That's when I know it's time for me to take a step back and slow down.  It's usually in those moments, that I take a little extra help for my brain, and then find a book or a CD and disappear into another world for a little bit.

To you, is it movement or is it action?
Is it contact or just reaction?
And you, revolution or just resistance?
Is it living, or just existence?
Yeah, you, it takes a little more persistence
To get up and go the distance

For me, I have realized that fighting depression and anxiety is a daily thing.  Some days I win, sometimes the medicine helps, and sometimes, things are so bad that I really do just want to go hide in my bed and not get up.

But, one of the things that I realized very early on, was that I wasn't going to let the Enemy Within keep me from doing the things I love - writing, gaming, running cons.

It can be hard sometimes to remind myself not to listen to the anxiety or depression when I am writing, but I try to keep things in mind like Jenny Lawson's “Depression Lies.” And the belief that I can do all the things I want to do with my life, including the implausible dreams.

I'm not giving in to security under pressure
I'm not missing out on the promise of adventure
I'm not giving up on implausible dreams
Experience to extremes
Experience to extremes

About the campaign:

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

Monday, September 12, 2016

Other Authors…and their influence on me!

So one of the things that went around recently was a “name 7 authors who influenced you.” I decided that rather than do it on FB, I’d do it here instead.

  1. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – I first read the Dragonlance Chronicles in the 5th grade. Now, 5th grade was one of those formative years for me. I had an amazing teacher who had a passion for literature (we put on Shakespeare’s A MidSummer Night’s Dream, and he would leap on to his desk reciting The Jaborwocky!) but it was also the year my father spent in Korea. So it was a year that had a lot of changes. One of the things I most admire about Weis and Hickman’s writing is their ability to make you care for the characters. From the moment of introduction, I felt a connection to the characters and wanted to follow their adventures. To this day, they still hold the record as the only book I have ever thrown across the room at the wall – when one of the characters died. And I still come to tears when I reread that scene.
  2. Anne McCaffrey – my first introduction to Pern came through the Harper Hall trilogy (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums). From there I devoured everything in that series I could find. And then expanded into her other novels – the Crystal Singer trilogy still being one of my favorite non-Pern series. I think what I love the best about McCaffrey’s work is that it doesn’t fit genre niches very well. I know I read the Pern stuff as Fantasy for years before I realized it was probably a truly SF series. 
  3. The Narnia Series by CS Lewis – Right, so I can’t ignore this series as it was in all honesty my introduction to the genre of SF and Fantasy. I had to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for school in the 4th grade. I loved it so much that I checked out from our school library the rest of the books and from there got introduced to The Black Cauldron as well. 
  4. “Carolyn Keene” and Julie Campbell/“Kathryn Kenny” – ie the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden Mysteries. I was a huge fan of these two mystery series. Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden were very much the brave and impulsive teenager that I always wanted to be. Not that I ever was. It wasn’t until YEARS later that I found out the books were all ghost written by a variety of authors. I think that was one of my first moments of “disillusionment” at the world of writing. 
  5. Ray Bradbury – I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Bradbury at DragonCon before he passed and to this day he is one of the authors I aspire to be when it comes to fans. He would sign every book possible even as he was walking out to the car to get to the airport. He talked to every person who walked about to his table. Of course, his stories are influential as well, but I think it was his way of interacting with the fans – he always seemed truly thrilled to interact with someone - that I admired most.
  6. “The Big 3” (Star Wars) – Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston. Heir to the Empire came out when I was still in High School. I don’t know if I stole it from my Parents or if I got it as a gift but I remember devouring it and waiting impatiently for the next two to come out. Zahn managed to capture the essence of the heroes for me – I could hear Harrison’s voice in the words that Han Solo spoke; I could see the looks on Leia’s face when she talked to him. He captured the feel of the movie and put it into words. Stackpole and Allston then introduced me to a whole new world of characters in the Rogue Squadron. Characters with personality and history and while a lot of them were never part of the movies, you felt that they could have been. They captured that “Star Wars” feel in their writing. And while it was there SW books that introduced me to them, I think it is some of their non – SW stuff that has been most influential. Zahn writes amazing SF Mysteries – where by the time you finish the story you can go back and see where all the clues were. Stackpole’s fantasy worlds are rich and detailed – and like no one else’s. And Aaron Allston – Aaron’s sense of humor comes through in everything I’ve ever read.  And it this point, more than anything, I consider them friends as well as influences.
  7. The Con Writers – there are a bunch of writers who I met because I run conventions. And whether it’s their stories or just their personalities or their way of doing everything (Gail Martin!), I have found myself influenced by them over the years. So here’s a quick list:
    • Val Griswold-Ford – bought my very first story!
    • Michael Ventrella – invited me to write in his world!
    • Janine Spendlove - overworked mom, marine and inspiration!  And invited me to the Athena's Daughters Anthology which was an amazing experience!
    • Gail Martin – OMG, she is so organized, and writes, and does social media and does so many other things…
    • Misty Massey – who is a pirate at heart, (yarrgh!) and unfailingly kind.
    • Faith Hunter and David Coe – Two authors whose works I admire but more than that they “pass it on” – incredibly encouraging to new authors and always willing to share via blog posts or panels writing advice.
    • Edmund Shubert, Stuart Jaffe, Stephen Mark Rainey – “con authors” who are great panelists and great authors as well as always encouraging to new authors. Stuart to this day asks me where I am on my novel every con he sees me
  8. I know I’m supposed to stop at 7 but here are a few more influences. Looking around my bookshelves, they are filled with lots of books that in same way influenced my writing.
    • Kathryn Kurtz – her ability to merge history and fantasy is amazing.
    • Niomi Novak - her alternate history is a wonderful take on dragons!
    • Jack L. Chalker and Joel Rosenberg – I love their takes on taking normal folks to new worlds.
    • Simon Hawke – Simon’s series were so much fun and a light hearted take on Fantasy and SF.
    • Mercedes Lackey – Valdemar is one of my favorite worlds to visit regularly. She was also one of the first authors who wrote about LGBT characters in way that made it seem like it was just part of the world and I loved that! 
    • Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, Jim Butcher – author’s whose storylines cross from book to book and whose series’ I eagerly anticipate(d) each new volume. 
    • JRR Tolkien – yeah… well, come on.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Good afternoon my friends.

I am trying (again) to get back to writing on my blog more regularly.  The biggest challenge for me in blogging is that once the con is over, any free time I have I want to spend writing.  And the blog isn't (for me) true writing.

I know that blogging is one of the ways to increase my audience but since I actually don't have anything new published this year, I'm not sure how much audience drawing I want to do - unless maybe draw people to the con.

Writing-wise - my biggest goal for the rest of the year is to finish the edits on the Steampunk novel so that I can get it to the editor for editing.

I do have two short stories in process that I'm playing with - both actually using the main characters from the Steampunk novel.  One I am hoping to finish for the Second Open Call for Weird Wild West.  Another one is a ghost story that I've been playing with but I don't have a place to send it.

Of course, the catch to both of those, is that I need to finish them.  I also have a story sitting with Michael Ventrella's Fortannis series but I'm not sure exactly which next anthology that's due to be in.

I also really want to put together a Sherlock story for Mocha Memoirs anthology.

Anyway, I'm going to try to write more often.  Even it's more personal and less writing.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Special Guest Post: Interview for "An Improbable Truth"

Good morning, beloveds!

I'm back from the craziness that is con-season and with a special guest post today.

Author Melissa McArthur joins me today to talk about her story in the Sherlock Holmes Anthology  "An Improbable Truth," edited by A.C. Thompson and published by Mocha Memoirs Press.

Your Name:  
Hi! I’m Melissa McArthur. Thanks for having me today. Blog interviews are the best thing ever!

Tell us a little about yourself?
 Starting with the hardest question, I see.
I was born and raised in Harlan County, KY, but I moved to South Carolina when I was 17. So I’ve spent about half my life here now. Wow. I didn’t realize that until I’d typed it out. I do lots of things. I teach college, I work as a freelance editor, I write twice monthly for Magical Words, I tell stories. I have a large orange cat named Garfield, but he does not like lasagna. I am utterly fascinated by books. There’s something just magical about holding them in your hand and watching as the words disappear and the story unfolds before your eyes. I hope I can do that for readers. That’s my ultimate goal as a writer: to create stories that engulf you, change you, scare you, bewilder you, make you laugh, make you cry. Through stories I hope to reveal a deeper truth.
Well, that got weird fast. Next question, please?

What made you want to become a writer?
I am not sure I had any specific moment or realization that made me want to become a writer. It’s something I’ve wanted to do as long as I can remember being alive. I’ve always loved reading, and I had great role models in my parents and my grandmother who all emphasized the magic and importance of reading, so I suppose it was a natural progression. Stories float around in my head all day, every day. If I didn’t get at least some of them down on paper, I think my head might explode. Well, probably not, but it would certainly feel like it could.
In a different direction, I have focused more on the act of writing than the dream of writing in the past few years. I have had some really amazing folks who have mentored me, encouraged me, helped me through the process of publishing, and answered my (sometimes ridiculous) questions with great grace and patience. I am forever grateful for them. Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, John Hartness, David B. Coe, Alexandra Christian, Tamsin Silver, and so many more.
Probably the thing that most solidified that I wanted to make my dream a reality is the wonderful community of writers that I have met and now call friends.

Could you tell us a bit about your story?
My story, “The Chase,” is about a case that Holmes thinks is really not a case at all, just a crazy woman with a crazy story.  But, when a young girl starts mysteriously haunting him, leaving wet footprints in his apartment and speaking to him, he realizes that there may be more to the case than he first thought. Watson thinks, at least at first, that Holmes has been using drugs again and has imagined it all. Once the chase begins, they both realize that this is not a case like any other they’ve solved.

What gave you the inspiration for your story? 
When I was working on my undergraduate degree at Winthrop University, I took a class on the Neo-Victorian novel. One of the books I read for that class was The Seven Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. Reading that book was the first time that I realized the role drug use played in Holmes’ stories. I’ve been fascinated ever since. The mystery of it intrigued me because I began to question the stories entirely.

What aspect of Sherlock did you change or focus on?
I focused on the idea of perception versus reality and how drugs can blur that line. Or do they? One thing that I really wanted to show was the questioning that Watson does of Holmes’s grasp on reality, particularly when Watson realizes that he’s been using the drugs again.
 The juxtaposition of illusion and truth is something that I have always found fascinating.

Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? 
Sherlock is real, right? And Watson? Moriarty was definitely real.
 Otherwise, no. None of my characters are based on a real person. Actually, unless you count the dog, there’s really only one other character in my story besides Holmes and Watson. That character is entirely from my imagination. Thank goodness.

What is your favorite writing tip or quote?
 I have to pick just one?
My favorite thing that has been said directly to me was said to me by David B. Coe.
“Finish the damn book.” – David B. Coe
My favorite writing quote in general is actually in my email signature so I see it all the time!
“People think there is something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.” – Harlan Ellison

What else have you published?
I have published three short stories in my Maggie the Gatherer series: The Weaver’s Fate, The Magician’s Secret, and The Water’s Edge. The fourth in that series, The Gatherer’s Power, is scheduled to come out in November. In this series, we find ourselves in a world where magic is real—but it’s also dangerous, powerful, and finite. Maggie’s job is to gather loose magic as magic users die and return it safely to the Guides, those ethereal beings who control and distribute the power to the worthy.
I have a few other projects in the flux phase as well. Hopefully I can announce those before too long!

Tell us a little about your plans for the future.  Do you have any other stories or books in the works?
Yes, always! I am actively working on three projects: the planning stages of a short story for an upcoming anthology, drafting the fourth Maggie story, and working on a novel as well. The novel is quite different from the paranormal things I usually write. It’s a mystery with no supernatural things at all! So far…
I am also looking for places with open calls for short story submissions!

Where can we find you online? (please cut and paste links):
I love the internet, so I am all over the place!

Melissa McArthur grew up in Harlan Co. KY, but now she lives in SC with her husband, daughter, and fluffy cat, Garfield. She teaches writing at her alma mater and works as a freelance editor at her company, Clicking Keys. She loves writing because she believes that through language we can create magic in our otherwise mundane world.

From “The Chase” by Melissa McArthur
Her laughter echoed through the night; she longed for the chase as much as the detective himself. Holmes jerked his head to the left and broke into a run.
I straightened and tried to follow him, but he was gone. I ran in the direction he’d headed, stumbling over fallen branches and ruts in the earth. I cursed the man and the girl. How they could navigate the night woods was a mystery to me.
The woods broke and I emerged from the forest into a clearing, the mist of the night hanging low over the dead leaves and grass.
She waited for us. Hovering in the center of the clearing, she held her arms out to her sides and threw her head back as she twirled around, laughing as she spun. Holmes stood near the center of the clearing, facing me, eyes trained on the ghastly child. Her bare feet dangled below the hem of her stained cotton gown. Her golden hair fanned out around her head. She’d allowed him to find her. A twisted game of cat and mouse where she was both predator and prey.
Holmes looked over her shoulder and found me. His eyes locked onto mine; I knew he had a plan and I wouldn’t like it.
Breaking eye contact, he snapped his gaze back to the girl and reached out to touch her arm. His hand passed though without grasping her as she moved far too quickly for him to catch. He stumbled forward and fell to his knees. Her laughter filled the clearing as she lowered herself to the ground, once again to look into his eyes.
“Cursed child. What are you?” Holmes sat back on his heels, turning his head to the side and looking at her. She was a puzzle to him, a nightmare to me.
“I am nothing. I am everything. I am the darkness cloaked in light.” Her singsong voice belied her words, words shrouded in danger and born of evil. She lowered herself to the ground and turned to run again.
Holmes slumped to his side, the dried leaves crushed beneath him. “Holmes!” I shouted and ran toward the center of the clearing. I dropped to my knees beside him and put my fingers to his throat. He pulse was racing, his breathing shallow and quick.
“My left breast pocket. It’s there.” His words were soft, strained. I felt his coat pocket and pulled out a small leather case containing a syringe and a cork-topped vial. The seven percent solution. His only weakness.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Have got find a better way to write regularly

So I have come to the conclusion that writing blog posts is definitely not something I'm good at scheduling.

::looks askance at the fact her last post was 8 months ago::

I have been completely slack about writing too.  Though i did get some great advice on story from the last con.

Real work just kind of took over for the last few months.

I'll be at Atomacon in Charleston in November.  And of course, we'll be pirating at the Renn Faire but other than that things are quiet until 2016

I'm working on updating my new planner for 2016 to try to balance work, writing and running programming.

Somehow I need to create a planner that allows me to track everything.

Well,  I'm off to go work on that. ;)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Frosty VoxBox and Influenster

So I got my first #VoxBox in the mail right before the holidays.  So the basic premise is that by joining Influenster, I get the box for free and then share my thoughts on social media and on my blog.  I figured it would be a good way to get my name out there a bit more and perhaps pick up some new followers for the blog.

The box included:

Rimmel Gentle Eye Make up Remover ($7.49)
Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal Eye Liner ($4.49)
NY Expert Last Lip Color in Sugar Plum ($1.99)
Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane Decaf Green Tea (sample)
Boots #7 Protect and Perfect Advanced Serum (sample)
Fruit Vines Bites Strawberry ($1.28-$1.79)
Eco Tools Hair Brush ($10.99)
McCormick Gourmet Thyme ($4.79)

First up...the NYC Expert Last Lip Color in Sugar Plum...okay first off - I really love the color.  It's this pinky brown that looks very natural.   It also is very smooth and moist, I really like how it felt.  Given the price range, if all of their lipsticks are this nice, I may be switching.

Next up I tried Rimmel's Scandaleye's Waterproof Kohl Kajal Eye Liner.  Holy Cow does that stuff last.  I put it on about 6.45am and it was still on when I took it off at 10pm that night.  I can see where it would be great for pirating in the summer!  The only downside which I think is a factor of the waterproofness is that it doesn't smudge well.  So it's definitely more for defined eyelines.

Next up, I made some broiled porkchops with the McCormick Gourmet Thyme. I use Thyme frequently in my cooking and so loved having a fresh bottle. The minute you opened the bottle the warm slightly spicy scent fills your nose. The thyme itself is crisp and has a bit of bite. It adds a great flavor to meat without overpowering.

Next up is the EcoTools Volume Hairbrush.  I was a bit unsure about this but it turns out to be really cool.  I'm not sure about the whole drys faster thing but I really liked how it dried my hair without getting tangles

Then the Geeklet and I tried the Fruit Vines Strawberry.  They were sweet but honestly not as good as Twizzlers!

Anyway, that's all I've managed to review so far.  
Disclaimer: I received these products complimentary for testing purposes.

Friday, January 9, 2015

At illogicon this weekend

So I'll be hanging out at illogicon this weekend.  I've got three panels and then you can pretty much find me at ConGregate's table!

The panels I'm on are:

Witches - 10am Saturday
Mother Matron Crone - 5pm Saturday
The Sports Geek - 1pm Sunday

If you are going to be at the con, stop on by and say hi!  (oh, and pre-register for ConGregate!)