Getting Real with Trifles and Folly

by Gail Z. Martin

At the heart of my urban fantasy series Deadly Curiosities is the antique store Trifles and Folly. Trifles and Folly has been run by members of my main character’s family since Charleston, SC was founded nearly 350 years ago, always in tandem with its secret silent partner, a nearly 600 year-old vampire named Sorren.

Trifles and Folly is really a front for The Alliance, a secret coalition of mortals and immortals that eliminates supernatural threats and gets cursed and haunted objects out of the wrong hands. My main character, Cassidy Kincaide, is a psychometric who can read the history and magic of objects by touch.

The books are set in Charleston, SC but the storefront that I picture when I think of Trifles and Folly is in New Orleans, LA, just down the street from the famed Hotel Monteleone. I took one look and knew it was exactly what I had in mind, although I described Trifles and Folly years before I ever visited the Big Easy.

What makes the NOLA store perfect? The storefront appears to date from the 1800s, with black wood, old-fashioned awnings and big windows reminiscent of Victorian style. Two large, ornate carriage lanterns hang on either side of the facade, giving it an elegant but gothic feel. Gold lettering has the ideal old-time feel. Peering through the windows, the inside it suitably gloomy and underlit. It looks like the perfect place to buy needful things.

I grew up going to a lot of antique stores, swap meets, flea markets and yard sales because my dad couldn’t resist them. Most of the stores were dusty and junk-laden, a hoarder’s storage space excused as a business. But then there were the special ones, the ones that sent a tingle down my spine, the ones that I just knew held special–and perhaps dangerous–treasures.

Sometimes those treasures were estate jewelry or old silver tea sets, and other troves were full of clocks, leather-bound books, or vintage clothing. Those stores smelled of dust and mothballs, and hinted at obsession, curated with purposeful madness. They were the dangerously alluring shops where it didn’t seem impossible for an item to harbor magic–or a curse.

I always kept my hands to myself. Some things are best left untouched.

So far, I haven’t been able to take the time to go inside the store in New Orleans. When I do, I assure you that I won’t be handling the merchandise, or making any deals with the owner. After all, I know how these things work.

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Hot stuff! Look at my video for Ice Forged and Reign of Ash https://youtu.be/RPXi27GnSO4

Spooky! Free excerpt from my Deadly Curiosities short story Shadow Garden http://bit.ly/2efTfev

Use your free Audible trial to get my books! The Sworn Audible https://amzn.com/B004KSWCEU

DoubleDragonSampler#3 http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/sample/DDPSAMPLE003.mobi

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Paths to Publication

by Gail Z. Martin

In today’s market, authors have more choices than ever before on how to bring their book to readers. Traditional big publishers, small press, self-publishing–what’s an author to do?

Each path to publication has pros and cons. There are a few considerations to factor in as you’re looking at options. What do you want out of publishing? If you have your heart set on becoming a New York Times bestseller, that’s more likely for a book put out by a big traditional publisher (and even then, it’s far from guaranteed). Likewise, if you’re hoping to pay all your bills with your advance check, a big publisher is the way to go. Large traditional publishers have national (and sometimes international) bookstore distribution, still a factor with today’s readers. You may also find more marketing resources with a big press, though that is debatable as staff cuts continue.

On the other hand, if you want someone else to handle the details of publication (editing, layout, cover design, some marketing) but you’re not worried about fame, bookstore placement or an advance, a reputable small press could be a good fit. Small presses can put out books of equivalent (or better) quality as large publishers, and tend to invest more editorial time in working with authors. Their marketing clout might not be as substantial, but marketing is an iffy proposition even for large publishers. Bookstore distribution and lack of an advance are the biggest drawbacks, but even big houses are paying smaller advances nowadays and bookstores are not as plentiful as they once were.

If you enjoy total control, self-publishing (also called indie) might be a good fit. Or, if you believe in a book and haven’t found a home for it, self-publishing with today’s online tools and Amazon can still make sure your book reaches the right readers. Self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it used to when the only choices were unscrupulous vanity publishers. A growing number of authors who have enthusiastic fan bases are finding it possible to make a living with self-published books (though it is still not guaranteed, even for established authors). The biggest caveat is that when you self-publish, you are both author and publisher. You write the book, hire the copy editor and proofreader, arrange for the cover art and the layout, handle the audio rights, set up the accounts with Amazon, Nook, Kobo, etc. A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into bringing a book to life after the writing is done, and the type of work required is not everyone’s idea of ‘fun’. Succeeding with self-publishing takes a lot of effort and attention to detail, but it’s more possible now than ever before.

Most of us pursue ‘hybrid’ careers, meaning that we play in all three arenas. If you can snag a contract and an advance with a big publisher, grab it. If a small press wants to include you in an anthology or bring out a niche novel, do it. And if you want to bring out some series on your own or self-publish short stories/novellas tied in to your series with other publishers, go for it. Working with big publishers, small presses and some self-publishing makes you more resilient to fate, since you don’t have all your eggs in one basket. I’m seeing more and more authors going this route, and it’s the path I’ve personally chosen because it allows the greatest range and ‘security’ in a highly volatile business.

The greatest thing about your writing career is that you get to chart your own way, making the decisions that are best for you and your books. Know your options and then pick what works for you. And be sure to enjoy what you do every day!

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Read an excerpt from my Deadly Curiosities short story Redcap http://bit.ly/2eenhgz

Enjoy excerpt from Reign of Ash http://bit.ly/1oCEa5j

DoubleDragonSampler#2 http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/sample/DDPSAMPLE002.mobi

Check out the Iron & Blood book video! https://youtu.be/MZ_0Zm7OSIY

Use your free Audible trial to get my books! The Summoner Audible https://amzn.com/B0032COUQS

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Researching the Macabre

by Gail Z. Martin

When people ask me ‘where do you get your ideas for your books’, I’m never sure whether they are curious about my writing habits or checking to make sure I haven’t been stashing bodies in my basement. (Silly–we don’t have a basement. We have a crawlspace.)

That’s because I write bloody, scary stuff with lots of dark magic and undead creatures. That holds true whether I’m writing epic fantasy, urban fantasy or steampunk. I love ghosts and monsters, and I’ve always gravitated toward the macabre. Finding inspiration is easier than you might think.

Museums are treasure troves of cool, weird, creepy stuff. When I visit a city, I do my best to go through the local museum. To say that I’m excited about going through a museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History in New York City or the Field Museum in Chicago or any museum in Europe is an understatement. I am *giddy*. I like to have plenty of time so I can read all the little descriptions. Inevitably, I wander into the off-jog room that has the creepy death jewelry or the plague artifacts or the collection of Victorian death photography. It can be best if I go by myself so no one gets impatient as I linger.

Lots of museums are building online exhibits with photos, video, audio and descriptions, so this expands the number of museums I can visit. When I go to a new city, I also like to find the cemeteries and dungeons, go on ghost tours, or the ‘scandals and dark side’ tours. It’s all fodder!

I love to read the blogs and web sites on magic, Voodoo, paranormal research and urban exploration. I’ll read urban legends and news accounts of old tragic accidents or weird occurrences. Sometimes I’ll follow up on something I’ve heard about on The History Channel or A&E and then I go down the rabbit hole clicking links from one fascinating strange thing to another. It’s a toss-up whether I know what I’m looking for or being guided by serendipity, but it always works out. I also read a lot of books on myth, the occult, medieval warfare, and related topics. History is the best source for strange-but-true stuff you couldn’t possibly make up. I’ve found inspiration in Ripley’s Believe-it-or-not collections, living history museums and national parks.

Researching the macabre is easier than you might imagine if you keep your ears open, look for the unusual things tucked away in corners, or ask your guide “did anything really strange ever happen here” or “are there any ghost stories about this place”?  You won’t believe what docents will tell you ‘off the record’ if you ask the right questions! Truth really is stranger than fiction!

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight–100+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Steampunk & spooky! Free excerpt from our Storm and Fury Adventure short story Rogue http://bit.ly/2dH4SrR

Hey—did you see the video for The Sworn and The Dread? https://youtu.be/teyvxnIEITg

Use your free @Audible trial to get my books! Reign of Ash Audible https://amzn.com/B00JBD1GRS

DoubleDragonSampler#6 http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/sample/DDPSAMPLE006.mobi

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Happy Winterstide!

vendetta-audioBy Gail Z. Martin

I hope however you spend the Solstice season, that you are warm and well.

holdontothelight-fb-bannerOctober and November were a little crazed finishing up the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign—100 sci-fi and fantasy authors blogging about their own experiences with depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicide, bullying, self-harm, suicide and other mental health issues to help fans and show solidarity. You can read all the posts here: www.HoldOnToTheLight.com. The holidays can be a hard time for folks, and hearing how your favorite authors cope or how they, their work and their characters have been influenced may be just what someone needs to hear.

redcapWe were also busy finishing up the first book in the new Epically-Epic Epic Fantasy (aka E3F).  E3F actually does have a name, and a description (no cover reveal yet) and it’s available for pre-order on Amazon (although it won’t be out until July). If you’re curious, or want Santa to reserve it for you, look for Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst.

And now for something really important! I’m planning to work on books in four new series (with another couple of new series waiting in the wings) and I want to be on top of my game. I need feedback from the people who know my books the best to do that. So I’ve come up with a little survey, and if you complete it, you get a free novella.

Seriously, this is very important to me. I really want to know what you think, and your comments will impact the new books. Thank you in advance. Here’s the link: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07edk6ld2hiwf37whi/start

Holiday stories are always fun—if you haven’t read Spook House (Halloween), Fatal Invitation (Thanksgiving) and Redcap (Christmas) in my Deadly Curiosities series, now’s a perfect time to enjoy a ‘bloody’ good holiday!

While you’re filling out your list for Santa (or finishing up Santa’s shopping for someone else), don’t forget that all my books except Iron & Blood are available on audiobook! You can even use your Audible free trial!  Here’s the master link: http://www.audible.com/search/ref=a_search_tseft__galileo?advsearchKeywords=Gail+Z+Martin&x=0&y=0

WebAnd if you haven’t already joined my Shadow Alliance street team, you’re missing out on all the fun!  It’s free to join and you get cool stuff no one else does! http://on.fb.me/1ltkpMR

It’s the holiday season of giving, so let’s start with some gifts!

We’ve extended the deadline for free book swag! Goodies from Faith Hunter, Laura Anne Gilma, Jennife Estep and me, for the price of a stamp and envelope. Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/541375496052205/

swag-2016

HoHoHo BOGO! Buy 2 or more of my Ascendant Kingdoms Epic Fantasy books get a free novella! http://conta.cc/2fJlTUe

Buy our Iron & Blood Steampunk novel, get a free Storm & Fury tie-in novella! http://conta.cc/2epRXwr #BOGO

Holiday spirits! Buy my Urban Fantasy novel Vendetta, get a free Deadly Curiosities novella #BOGO http://conta.cc/2fL3lky

I’m also firming up my 2017 con calendar, so here are some places you can find me next year!

  • Jan 13-15  Illogicon, Raleigh, NC (room party)
  • Feb 2-5 Coastal Magic, Daytona, FL
  • Feb 16-19 Capricon, Chicago, IL
  • Feb 24-26 Mysticon, Roanoke, VA
  • Mar 23-24  AZ Renaissance Festival, Apache Junction, AZ
  • April 1  Library Sci-Fi Festival Shelby, NC
  • May Balticon, Baltimore, MD (launch party)
  • June ConCarolinas, Charlotte, NC (launch party)
  • June 21-28  Hawthorn Moon blog tour
  • June   My FB launch party
  • July, Libertycon, Chattanooga, TN (launch party)
  • July 11—new Epic Fantasy novel launches!
  • July Congregate, High Point, NC (launch party)

Happy Holidays to everyone, whatever you celebrate! See you in 2017!

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In the Dark Hours of the Night–a #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Charles E. Gannon

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Hold On To The Light is probably advice that all of us c/should live by. But for those whose lives have been harrowed by one or more mental/emotional/behavioral challenges, this phrase achieves the status—and significance—of a mantra. Because in the dark hours of the night, when sleep does not come to draw its blackout curtain across the notional gargoyle-presences spawned by those challenges, the afflicted have only one recourse: determination and raw guts, anchored to the light of a seemingly distant hope, seen at the end of a long tunnel of isolation.

We all have some experience with that outlook. There is no broken heart, no worrisome diagnosis, or pending medical test, that has not cost us a night’s sleep, somewhere along the timeline of our existence. But I dedicate what I have included below to those who daily awaken to the knowledge that they are once again rising into a state of siege: that the adversary cannot be surgically removed or excised, and that their battle is endless, for that foe is always ready to pounce upon any loss of resolve, any sideways stumble, any weakness.

I have seen numerous family members grapple with many such conditions. And if the bestiary of those adversaries is diverse—depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, any of the conditions now linked under the unified genera “autism spectrum”, more—these variform demons all evince this dark commonality: that those whom they haunt must live with a weight that they cannot shed. Rather, their victims can only carry the burden with as much determination, strength, and grace as human nature allows.

This excerpt from the forthcoming web-serialized novel The Gathering Storm (with Eric Flint, Kevin J. Anderson, and Marko Kloos), is my brief, awkward attempt to honor all their ongoing struggles in the form of one veteran’s battle with PTSD and addiction.

*     *     *

Opium. Reflex turned Conrad von Harrer’s head toward his battered wooden night table. Resting on the stained top, a cracked and yellowed meerschaum imp adorned the Hungarian-made bowl he had purchased for his opium pipe. His two eyes locked on the imp’s one. If only he could outstare it, then he could reject it. But the meerschaum imp was like the opium; the more one tried to defy it, the more one realized that there was nothing to defy except oneself. It was a game, the type a child plays when trying to trick its own reflection in a mirror.

A honey-thick torpor overcame von Harrer while his gaze was still fixed on the pipe. Time passed and the difference between seconds and minutes—or hours—became indistinct, meaningless. He watched as the imp’s face lost its yellowish glaze, gradually deepened to amber as the sun moved from the center of the sky toward the horizon. The one laughing eye still glared upward: puckish, sardonic, leering. A leer like those worn by the fire-bleached skulls outside Mafeking, Kimberley, and in the ruins of Johannesburg: leers which evoked no mirth, only desolation.

When Conrad’s eyes once again showed him the world of the present, he saw that the last light was fading, giving way to darkness. The orange sun had grown larger and murkier, diffusing itself across the light-smeared horizon. On his first approach to Al Qahira, von Harrer had tarried to sit on the sands at Giza and watch the sunset glaze the pyramids: fading triangles that sat squat and timeless on the horizon. His mind’s eye could still make out the cowl of the sphinx, the faint light limning its supine contours. It was an enigmatic posture, a recline that did not suggest rest but, rather, endless watching. A pitiless gaze which had seen the death of many an age, perhaps many a species. It was easy to believe that such blank eyes had always looked out on barrenness, knew nothing else, could augur nothing else.

Von Harrer let his own gaze slip from the window and back into the room, rolling like a lazy ball from one empty corner to another. His eyes touched the spaces that had once been occupied by his possessions: a lamp with crystal pendants, a little mahogany liquor cabinet, a roll-top desk, and a dresser. Faint shadows on the floor marked their old territories, darker where the boards had been spared the bleaching stare of the sun.

All gone now. All gone to the same place. He turned his eyes back to the meerschaum pipe-bowl. All gone there.

Cravings jumped up at the thought, the sight, of the pipe. The meerschaum eyes laughed, invited: just once more.

He turned away, looked at the bare wall on the opposite side of  his bed. He could still feel that mocking leer boring into his back, the dull ivory eyes promising: you’ll almost forget.

You’ll almost forget the clusters of dart-shaped steel rods that screamed down from nearly twenty miles above Johannesburg, glowing with heat when they impacted, the ground vomiting upward in waves, shot through with flame—right before the blast knocked everything flat.

You’ll almost forget the airships hovering out of rifle range, dropping bomb after bomb, only leaving to get more from Rhodes’ secret arsenals of death, hidden safe behind the British lines.

You’ll almost forget the endless litter of civilian dead on the retreat back through what was left of Johannesburg, particularly the children, their little bodies blown apart by the concussive forces, their little heads—blonde, brown, and black—rolled up against walls or into ditches like those of decapitated dolls.

You’ll almost forget the defeat, the camps, the dysentery, the hunger, the vengeful African guards and, finally, the stumbling silhouettes of the internees who were evicted due to disease or frailty. Within the first one hundred yards, each one unfailingly attracted a loping cluster of cape dogs or jackals, whose patience was invariably rewarded by a taste of human flesh.

But opium’s promise of forgetfulness was a lie. The memories never evaporated; they were simply disordered. Even when his head was filled to the point of nausea with the musk-sweet fumes, visions of the past always trespassed upon the present. But instead of complete scenes of the so-called Greater Boer Insurrection, they came as splintered flashes of carnage, each image frozen onto a shard of the shattering mirror that was his mind, his memories.

*     *     *

For those interested, The Gathering Storm is set in 1903, but in a world where a single alteration of physics—that the Michaelson-Morley experiment at Carnegie Mellon did in fact detect the expected existence of aether—began changing history in the 1880s. The aether-assisted air-craft and even space-craft changed history in this universe where alternate physics has created a Dark Edwardian downturning. Characters as diverse as Churchill, Tesla, Wells, Roosevelt, Rhodes move among the shadows of a past tinctured by both streampunk and hard sf sensibilities.

I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it, starting in 2017.    ——Chuck Gannon

cegannonprofilepicAbout the author: Dr. Charles E. Gannon is a Distinguished Professor of English at St. Bonaventure University, where he was the Director of Graduate English until he became a full-time author in 2007. A Fulbright Senior Specialist in American Literature and Culture from 2004 to 2009, his most recent non-fiction book is “Rumors of War and Infernal Machines: Technomilitary Agenda Setting in American and British Speculative Fiction.” Now in second edition, it won the 2006 American Library Association Award for Outstanding Book, and was the topic of discussion when he was interviewed by NPR (Morning Edition).

Among various media appearances, his most recent was as an expert commentator on The Discovery Channel’s second installment of its premier series “Curiosity”.  Along with 45 other SF writers (such as David Brin, Ben Bova, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Bruce Sterling), he is a member of SIGMA, the “SF think-tank” which has advised various intelligence and defense agencies since the start of the millenium (including the Pentagon, Air Force, NATO, DARPA, Army, the Department of Homeland Security, and several agencies which may not be disclosed). For more information on SIGMA and its work, go to www.sigmaforum.org .

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The Other End of the Situation–A #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Stuart Jaffe

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When I was first asked to write this blog post for #HoldOntoTheLight, I agreed without hesitation. Then I tried to write this thing. But it hurt, so I put it away. I tried again, sitting in my office, thinking, staring at the screen. But I couldn’t. Not yet. Put it away, I thought. I’ll get back to it. By the time other authors had started posting, I should have had this done. I read their blogs, saw how open and honest many of them were, but still, I couldn’t.

I finally decided that hey, I’m a writer. I should be able to do this in some form that works for me — like fiction. So I wrote a thousand-word piece about a man and a woman reaching the point where they realized they had a trauma to deal with.

And I shelved it.

See, the problem here isn’t that I’m embarrassed or ashamed or anything of the sort. The problem is that the depression I deal with on a daily basis is not mine. I don’t want to betray a trust. I don’t even know if I have to right to discuss the issues of a depression that isn’t mine.

What I can discuss, however, is what it is like to be on the other end of the situation. I can reach out to the spouses, parents, and friends of those who suffer.

Because we suffer, too.

We are just as caught in a world of silence and sadness. We are the ones making excuses for our loved one’s absence at parties, events, and family gatherings. We are the ones running interference between our loved one and the demands of the world. We take on the tasks and burdens of two. And we hurt when we see the dark place our loved one has gone to, when we reach out to help and nobody reaches back, when day after day turns to year after year and it gets harder to maintain a connection.

It’s like watching an enormous ship — a life — slowly sinking in the ocean. We want to help. We try to help. But we rarely have the ability to jump aboard and patch the holes. Even when it seems like we can succeed, those holes reopen the moment we step away.

We’re stuck watching.

I’ve been fortunate, so far. My loved one is still alive. But for many, that ship sinks. Many watch as depression ends in suicide. And regardless of what outcome we find ourselves in, we feel guilty. Because no matter what, we always think we can do more than watch. No matter how often we try, no matter how often we are rejected, no matter how many slivers of good days we cling to, in the end, we can only stand there, hold out our hands, and hope that our love will raise a hand to reach back. We can watch and wait.

And we do.

That is the thing I want those of you with depression or PTSD or any mental illness to understand. We are there for you. We are holding your hands. We want you back. So much that we’ll suffer for you, too. We don’t give up on you. Ever. So, you shouldn’t either.

Because that’s the way love works.

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 http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

stuart-jaffe-headshot2014About the author:

Stuart Jaffe is the author of the Nathan K fantasy-thrillers, The Max Porter Paranormal-Mysteries, The Malja Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic fantasy series, The Bluesman pulp series, the Gillian Boone novels, FoundersReal Magic and After The Crash as well as the short story collections, 10 Bits of My Brain and 10 More Bits of My Brain. Numerous other short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

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Unlocked–a #HoldOnToTheLight guest post from Tracy Chowdhury

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“Are you big, hairy, and scary?”

I’ll never forget those words as long as I live, words asked to me by the meanest girl in my class back in 5th, maybe 6th grade. I don’t really recall anymore since I’ve long forgotten most of those two years of my life.

“Well? Are you?”

“N…no.”

The girl laughs. “So you don’t have any pubic hair yet? You’re not developing?” More laughter.

My face becomes red with embarrassment. Of course I was. Wasn’t everybody at that age?

A few days later the same girl approaches me. Her eyes twinkle. “Are you big, hairy and scary?”

I know the right answer this time even though it seems so wrong. “Y…yes.”

The girl laughs raucously. “Eeew, that’s gross.” She leans in close and deepens her voice. “You are BIG and HAIRY!” Other kids standing nearby snicker at my expense and I crinkle my nose because her breath stinks.

The girl approaches me for a couple more days after that, but I ignore her. Finally she leaves me alone, but those aren’t the only taunts I received as a young girl in elementary school. Rather, they were only one of many, meted out by both the kids, AND the teachers.

I think back on it now and I’m sad. I was that puny kid that let everyone pick on her and kick around like she was a piece of trash. I was that ugly girl, the weird one that liked unicorns, dragons, and faraway places. I was the girl who wore her mother’s old clothes because they made her feel better during the hardest days at school, the one who daydreamed in class, praying that one day she would be away from that place. I was that dumb girl that made bad grades and felt like she was nothing.

Looking back, I realize that I just didn’t feel like I was nothing. I WAS nothing.

Fast forward to the end of my senior year in high school. Somehow I had managed to drag myself out of that hole. I was on the honor roll, had friends, and had even managed to bag myself a college boyfriend. But in my eyes, I was still that dumb girl because I had to study so hard, and I wondered what was wrong with my boyfriend because he liked someone who wasn’t all that pretty.

Fast forward through college, the first years of my marriage, and having my children. I knew I suffered from bouts of depression because I was medicated for it after the birth of my first son. That was scary, because I was either unable, or unwilling, to take care of myself.

Fast forward a few more years. I had my fourth child….and I became terribly ill. The stomach pain was hideous, and I was in the bathroom all the time. I went to the doctor. They ran multitudes of tests only to finally settle on IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I saw a couple more doctors and they determined the same. However, it was one of the last ones that told me she wanted me to do something other than take a bunch of meds. She wanted me to do something about my mental health, determined that much of my problem was because of that.

I resisted. I mean, who wants to believe they have a mental illness? But I did it. I went to see a psychiatrist. It was only in his office that I remembered my struggles at school, not just with the kids and my grades, but my anxiety. Every day was an epic battle to talk myself up enough just to function. Everything was stressful, especially how I’d deal with the other people I’d see there. I always felt like I was alone, with no one to tell my fears. And I was sad.

I never told Mom and Dad. I didn’t realize I had anything to tell them.

I’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder. Instead of getting those manic highs I get intense anxiety. My lows are clinical depression. I’ve been taking medication for a few years now, and it feels like a part of me has become unlocked, the part that was always afraid to stick up for herself.

The days of being kicked around like trash are over.

I’m glad that someone finally told me to seek help. My IBS isn’t gone, but it’s better because I’m not struggling with debilitating anxiety every day. The depression is still there, but manageable.
For everyone out there like me- never give up. You never know what may lie unlocked within you, just waiting to be freed.

About the author: Tracy Chowdhury is the author of Shadow Over Shandahar – Child of Prophecy and Warrior of Destiny. She is the co-author of Dark Mists of Ansalar – Blood of Dragons, and is a contributing author to the anthologies, Missing Pieces – Volume 1 and Missing Pieces – Volume 2.

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 http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

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One Rock at a Time–A #HoldOnToTheLight guest post by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

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In ancient times one form of execution was to pin the accused down and pile rocks on them until they died. Until they were literally crushed and the breath squeezed out of them.

This is an excellent analogy for depression. Elements of life pile on to a person until they just cannot bear up anymore. It isn’t always constant, and for each person the “rocks” are something different, heck…for the same person the “rocks” can be different each time, but the one consistent factor is the lack of control. The inability to cast those “rocks” aside or get out from under them.

It is akin to someone suffering chronic pain. You might learn to adapt, to function past the pain, but there are times it is just too much for you and no amount of “pain” killer helps. Because it is not the “pain” that is the main problem. It is the sense of hopelessness. The persistent fear that absolutely nothing will ever change to take that “pain” away. The knowledge that people or circumstance—either knowingly or unknowingly—continue to pile on those rocks until you cannot breath.

Until you have no inclination to breath. That you are certain you are a failure at the most basic function – Living.

It is irrational, but unavoidable.

I’m going to share something with you. One rock in my cairn. Something no one would ever guess about me. Something completely at odds with anyone’s perception of me. I do not want to grow old.

Let me ‘splain.

I don’t write poetry very often anymore, but here is one I wrote about five years back that lays out my meaning in implicit detail, so there is no confusion, so there is no doubt, exactly how heavy depression can be, and how hard it can be to recognize from the outside. All but one of my friends will be blindsided by this.

May I die young and quickly
That I may never know
The burden I would be, unwanted
Were I to grow so old
Alone and not what I once was
Needing another’s care
A duty…obligation, to those not e’en my own.

May I die young and quickly
At once here, then gone.
That I be remembered fondly,
Rather than endured.
Better that than linger long,
Unwanted or alone,
Marking time upon this earth until I can go home.

Now if you know me, don’t panic. I don’t believe in suicide. I would not want to cause such trauma, pain, or heartache to those I love—or even the perfect strangers—who would potentially find me or have to deal with the aftermath. I would not be one of their “rocks”. But you know, I truly do not desire a prolonged life. Because I am terrified of being that person someone else is forced to take responsibility for. Someone else’s children, or worse, a stranger overworked and underpaid. I have seen this up close and personal, and terrified may not be a strong enough term for what I feel at the thought of ending up that way.

See, I have no children. I have a loving husband and plenty of family and I have never felt unloved. I have no doubt they will rally around me if needed, but I have always felt different and not quite connected. Always on the outside. Things would be even more uncomfortable if I were to become dependent as I wouldn’t only feel out of place, but a burden. I am sure some of them might read this and be hurt, and I’m sorry if that is the case. It is not my intention. Please recall, depression is nothing if not irrational. Again, I will repeat, I do not and have never felt unloved. That is not what this is about.

Now, I don’t share this with you because I need reassurance. That isn’t what this is about and to go there would be to overlook the importance of our message. Believe it or not I have faith that God will provide for me, though I may not be able to see the how of it right now. At the risk of being repetitive, depression IS irrational. You can’t control it. I am lucky. My depression is not a constant and is mostly hormonally triggered. We only do battle occasionally, and it has a loose enough grip I need only ride through it and remind myself the hopelessness is an illusion. This isn’t true for everyone. They face the darkness every day. Sometimes it can be managed with medication, or therapy, but many people never get help. Maybe they are ashamed, or they do not have the means, or they just don’t know where to turn. Maybe they feel they should be able to handle this on their own, or that they are weak and deserve to suffer. Maybe they just feel it won’t do any good. I know…that’s a lot of maybes, but depression is a very personal thing, each experience unique to the individual. There are as many potential reasons as there are sufferers. For me, I have remained silent to all but a few because I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad, or make them uncomfortable, or maybe, if I’m honest, because I didn’t want to appear like a failure. For whatever reason way too many do battle alone until they can battle no more.

That is what this message is about. We need to increase awareness. We need to form ranks around those we care about. The most important weapons against depression is awareness and support. Understanding from friends and loved ones, not admonitions to snap out of it. Not impatience or annoyance or platitudes that do nothing to strike a blow against the darkness. Are you ready to fight?

In the TV show Firefly there is a scene where Tracey, a character who served under Malcolm Reynolds during the Unification Wars, recounts what a soldier must do to go on:

Tracey: “When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, when you can’t do that … ”
Zoe: ” … you find someone to carry you.”

danielle-amMake no mistake, depression is something people do battle with every day. Let’s be a part of their support, not a part of the problem.

Danielle Ackley-McPhail is a fantasy author, editor, and publisher of eSpecBooks. Her published works include the urban fantasy, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, A Legacy of Stars, The Literary Handyman, the chapbook, Children of Morpheus, No Longer Dreams, and contributions to numerous anthologies and collections worldwide, including The Defending the Future series, The Fantasy Writer’s Companion: The Author’s Grimoire, For Better or Worse and Passings, Dark Furies, and Hear Them Roar. She is also the senior editor of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries series, as well as several other anthology projects.

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 http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

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The Ship ‘Cruelty’–a #HoldOnToTheLight post by Wendy S. Delmater

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The ship “Cruelty”

Leaves selfishness as its wake

It swamps your boat. Swim.

 

In 1989 I was diagnosed with chronic depression. And I had no idea I was depressed. I just thought I was sad, and lonely, and lazy.

My mother was ill most of the time I was growing up. As the eldest, I bore the brunt of the extra housework she could not handle and childcare for my sisters and brother.  My father was a teacher, who tutored in the evenings—and he got mad a lot. He drank a six-pack of beer every night,  an alcoholic who kept a steady job but terrorized his family on the emotional downswings of that addiction cycle. He’d moved us away from when I was a toddler. The move hid his addiction from family members. It isolated us.

So my mother slid further into depression. And we children were not only terrorized and abused by an active drinker but could not get what we needed from a depressed mother. I think it would have been enough to trigger depression in a healthy person.

Of course, I had no friends. When I played over another  child’s house I was expected to eventually ask them over my place. But I could not bring them home: Mom was sick and dad worked two jobs and was tired was my excuse.  We were also poor—“debt poor.” Much of that was the fault of my father’s inadequate  insurance, but even more of it was due to my parents’ overspending. Mom bough clothes to make herself “feel better,” and dad bought big-ticket items we could not afford, like new cars.         

At an early age I found I could not make my parents happy, and I could not make my peers happy. So I stopped caring what anyone thought of me.

   Shell-Shocked

You can’t do a good job

When you are constantly panicked

Always looking over your shoulder

For the next shoe to drop.

 

Shoes were dropping

The whole time you grew up

Paranoid defenses were a necessity then

But they get in your way now

And old habits die hard.

 

Constantly worried

Hyper-listening

“Did I do something wrong?

Will I be yelled at?”

Probably not,

But that’s what you’re used to.

 

The hell of it is

That you feel more at home

In abusive companies

Than in ones that treat you well.

The more unpleasant the circumstances

The better your coping skills work.

 

You can set yourself up,

Thinking you heard what you didn’t hear

Worried that the rug will be

Pulled out from under you.

(But it always has been before)

 

Emotional paraplegic—

You haven’t a leg to stand on.

 

My isolation got worse when I hit puberty. And I wonder how differently my life would have gone if I had gotten a straight answer out of the Sunday School teacher when we were studying the 10 Commandments and I asked, “What’s adultery?” She was too embarrassed to tell me. I was 12.

I was a victim of sexual abuse by a relative for three years.

You stole my smile, and

Left staggering darkness,

Then blamed me for it.

 

All of this caused me to shut down, to sleepwalk through the motions of living and be emotionally “dead.”  We lived in constant fear of my father’s temper. Dad would break things to hurt our feelings and control us. I learned not to tell my parents when I wanted something because it would get used against me. (Eventually, I learned to stop wanting things at all.)

My parents’ chaos still infiltrated my life; I managed to get away from them for a year of college, but dad lost his tutoring due to a bad economy and mom nearly died, so I came home and paid their grocery bills and nursed her back to health. I cried every September—school meant so much to me. But I was unable to get back to college for 20 years.

I was still damaged by my past, and it mostly manifested itself in my relationships. I carried this into my first marriage, where I married a man who had been raised by the daughter of two alcoholics. My ex-husband was not Darth Vader, but he taught me that the opposite of love was not hate, it was apathy.

Then my ex abandoned us. My doctor finally diagnosed depression. I  spent about seven years using Prozac, and then Zoloft, until 1996 when I finally beat depression and my body started making the correct neurotransmitters on its own. And counselor finally told me that my father dinking a six pack of beer a night was not normal. He had been an alcoholic, and I should join Al-Annon’s Adult Child program because I needed to deal with something called codependency.

I tell you all this so you will not dismiss the symptoms of depression as mere “sadness.” You or the person you love may not have been through things like this, but I want to state that the biochemical disease is the same. It’s an invisible illness, but an illness nonetheless. Just like a diabetic lacks insulin, depressed people have neurotransmitter chemicals out of whack. Telling a depressed person to cheer up is like telling a quadriplegic to stand. But you can get better, and life will go on, beautifully.

(All poems from Plant a Garden Around Your Life, by Wendy S. Delmater.) Wendy S. Delmater is the long-time editor of Abyss & Apex Magazine of Speculative Fiction. Poetry quoted is from her chapbook about dealing with depression, Plant a Garden Around Your Life.

 

 

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Starting the Conversation—A #HoldOnToTheLight Update

By Gail Z. Martin

100 authors are now part of the #HoldOnToTheLight conversation! Our authors span the globe, from the US to the UK to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Even more exciting is that as the campaign picks up traction and visibility, more authors want to join, meaning a growing, vibrant dialog about mental wellness and coping with mental illness.

#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.

We’ve also been talking with conventions to encourage them to add, expand or promote their panel programming about mental wellness issues. ConCarolinas, GenCon, Capricon and ContraFlow have let us know that panels are in the works for 2017, and both Capclave and Atomacon are looking at options!

How can you help spread the message and broaden the conversation?

  • Read the blog posts by our participating authors and share on your own blogs and social media
  • The links below to the newest author blog posts double as tweets you can cut and paste. Easy!
  • Visit the authors’ blogs and like, comment
  • Tweet or email about the campaign and tag bloggers, podcasters and genre media
  • Ask your favorite genre convention to add panels on mental wellness
  • Volunteer with or donate to one of the campaign charities listed at the bottom of this post
  • Join the #HoldOnToTheLight Facebook group.

Latest blog posts/Tweets to share

One step at a time #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by RowenaCoryDaniells http://bit.ly/2c49ZTW @Rebellionpub

Gaslighting myself #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness. @LAGilman on #PTSD http://bit.ly/2ciIOlu

Ride the storm surge #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness. @JimMacAuth #PTSD http://bit.ly/2cFvUgN

#HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @GailZMartin on #PTSD in epic fantasy http://bit.ly/2cqrXvq

Helping a loved one cope #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @Emily_Leverett  http://bit.ly/2cqrmtE

Becoming the mean girl #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness @Jean_Marie_Ward http://bit.ly/2cqTqka

Fighting the urge to jump #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @ChrisKennedy110 http://bit.ly/2cCL2jd

Anxiety & asking for help #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @JoshVogt http://bit.ly/2c6qMRo

The black dog of depression #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness @MistyMassey  http://bit.ly/2c6PqRU

Suicide leaves scars. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @Mudepoz http://bit.ly/2cIdvmd

The bittersweet sustains. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by  @bishopmoconnell http://bit.ly/2cMaAKw

Focus on the good, and fight for that. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness  post by @LS_Taylor http://bit.ly/2chroqC

How do you tell someone what it feels like? #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SFF authors blog on #MentalWellness @JenniferBrozek http://bit.ly/2d3jl2e

Identity and masks. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @RickGaultieri http://bit.ly/2cBrfM2

Fandom takes care of its own. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors blog on #MentalWellness post by @GailZMartin http://bit.ly/2crcdOs

I wrote my way out until I couldn’t. #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @nataniabarron http://bit.ly/2cCnNCi

You are not alone #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @almaalexander http://bit.ly/2cPeEKe

The courage to ask for help #HoldOnToTheLight 100+ SF/F authors on #MentalWellness post by @jreizes http://bit.ly/2cuoHVA

Among the authors participating so far are: Robin Hobb, Jody Lynn Nye, Cat Rambo, Seanan McGuire, Laura Anne Gilman, Chuck Gannon, Kameron Hurley, Catherine Asaro, Gaie Siebold, Karen Miller, Rowena Cory Daniels, David B. Coe, Marc Tassin, Jonathan Oliver, Jeanne Adams, Nancy Northcott, Aaron Rosenberg, Jennifer St. Giles, Mark Van Name, Juliet McKenna, Jennifer Brozek, Darynda Jones, Christopher Golden, Clay and Susan Griffith, Gregory Wilson, Josh Vogt, Darin Kennedy, Jon Sprunk, James Maxey, Karen E. Taylor, Justin Gustainis, Misty Massey, John G. Hartness, Gail Z. Martin, Jean Marie Ward, Jaym Gates, Laura Taylor, Weston Ochse, Ron Garner, Kathy Lyons, Mari Mancusi, Leanna Renee Hieber, Davey Beauchamp, Cheryl Wilson, Rod Belcher, Travis Heermann, Cara Santa Maria, Michael J. Allen, Trisha Wooldridge, Alyssa Day, J. F. Lewis, Joshua Palmatier, Keith DeCandido Mindy Mimudes, Emily Leverett, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Tera Fulbright, Tamsin Silver, Stuart Jaffe, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Eric Asher, Rick Gualtieri, Chris Kennedy, Ken Schrader, Samantha Dunaway Bryant, Valerie Willis, Alexandra Christian, Jake Bible, Matthew Saunders, Jay Requard, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Kelly Harmon, Sascha Illyvich, Kelly Swails, Bishop O’Connell, Sherwood Smith, Peter Prellwitz, Tracy Chowdhury, Trevor Curtis, Leo Champion, Alma Alexander, Natania Barron, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Addie J. King, Joelle Reizes, Gabrielle Faust, Selah Janel, Whitney Evans, Tom Leveen Deborah J. Ross, Tally Johnson, Calandra Usher, Jada Diaz, Harry Markov, Brian Rathbone, Robert Greenberger, Linda Robertson and more.

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 https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/. Recaps will also be posted on http://www.MagicalWords.net and http://www.DisquietingVisions.com

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