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.