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On Death

Lately it seems there’s death everywhere. Family, friends, friends and family of friends and family, pets, coworkers, coworkers’ families, celebrities… perhaps it’s just the age we’ve reached, but it feels like nobody is safe anymore. It’s also apropos that this would be the topic of my first real blog post on the heels of April, considering April is a hard month for me.

The first Saturday morning of April, Facebook chose to remind me that four years ago on April 2nd was the last time I heard my father’s voice. The last words I heard him speak were “I love you,” and I’d give anything to hear those words from him one more time. April 2nd was the day I began the three-week journey of watching my father die..

My first real encounter with death came at a very early age. My Aunt Bernice passed away when I was seven years old. I have two very clear memories of her. First, I remember going to her house as a small child with one of my other aunts. She was standing on the porch of her house wearing a blue dress, and I remember thinking she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The only other memory I have of her is from her funeral not long after. She’d been sick and nobody knew it until she died. I went up for the viewing with another of my aunts, and I still remember the confusion, not truly understanding what it meant to look at her in the casket. I was small and it traumatized me.

Three years later, my Uncle Preston passed. His first wife, my Aunt Ida, had passed away some years earlier. I loved that little lady, but I couldn’t have been more than five at the time. Granted I wasn’t much older when he passed, but I was still old enough to understand that death was permanent. I didn’t go to his funeral, but I do remember climbing into my father’s lap and crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. I loved him, and I loved taking trips out to his farm.

The drawback of having a big family is that it means dealing with death a lot. Each of my parents was one of twelve. Most of my father’s family is gone now – aunts, uncles, cousins… and my mother’s family is beginning to dwindle in their twilight years. Not long after my father passed away, my step-daughter asked me to take her to the cemetery. It fascinated her to find that walking through that cemetery is roughly akin to a family reunion. I’m related to almost everyone in that cemetery in some way or another, and there are a lot of people I love there.

When I was sixteen, a friend and classmate was murdered. The official report said it was a self-inflicted gunshot from a game, but those of us who knew him knew better. None of us know the whole story, but we’ve pieced together enough over the years to know it wasn’t an accident. The one thing I do remember from the morning we were told about his death was that immediately after being told the news, Jewel’s “Foolish Games” debuted on MTV. As a teenager I slept with the TV on, and more often than not, MTV was the channel of choice…you know, when they still played music. [Coincidentally, I really miss Headbanger’s Ball.] I still to this day can’t listen to that song without thinking of him.

There have been countless deaths over the years, most of which those of people the world will never know save by the beautiful words written in their obituaries. My father, my grandmother, friends, family members, coworkers… the list is long.

A year and a half ago, one of my best friends in the world was murdered less than fifty feet from where I was standing. Her estranged husband showed up at our office and put four bullets in the back of her head because she said she wanted a divorce. [You can read Angie’s Story here.]

When David Bowie passed away in January, it ruined me. I felt like I’d been gutted over the death of a man I’d never met. My heart broke for the loss the world as a whole suffered. He’s one of my biggest influences and even now, four months later, I have a hard time processing the fact that another of my heroes has left this world. Then there was Merle Haggard – who, by the way, I actually sat down and cried over. And now Prince. Another legend gone. I’ve seen many a discussion in the recent months about why we so publicly mourn the passing of celebrities.

The passing of these celebrities in particular, have shaken the very foundation of music. These are the legends, the ones upon whose shoulders the contemporary styles are built. They’re the trailblazers, the gatekeepers of the magical and mystical. Our heroes. And in some ways, our friends. We know them through their voices and their lyrics. They become part of us. So when they die, we lose a part of ourselves. And we mourn them publicly because we know others are mourning alongside us, because talking about it eases the pain of loss and helps us heal. Because it’s once scenario where we know the other person means it when he says, “I know how you feel.” We mourn because we’re sad and because other people get it.

It doesn’t mean we don’t mourn the less famous. I still grieve for my father every single day, but I don’t talk about it because it’s personal. Because it’s not anyone else’s business. And because the rest of the world generally doesn’t care.

Last month I wrote about a friend taking his own life. That post was my way of making sense of the nonsensical, and of making the point that when it comes to depression, death is not the only answer. It was met with a single comment (which has since been removed due to its inappropriate placement and condescending tone) which essentially scolded me and called me a bully for offering an alternative to death. I don’t like removing comments because I don’t like hindering discussion. However, from the tone of this comment, I quickly realized there would be no rational discussion, but rather a dogpile of attacks. Let me point out that yes, I do understand suicide. Yes, I do understand that suicide and depression are not the same thing. I never implied that they were. Having considered taking my own life at one point in the past, I understand all too well the difference. One is a potential outcome of the other. Death is permanent. It’s the endgame. One and done. You don’t get a second chance if you change your mind at the last minute. There are better ways of handling the hardships of life.

 

 

Death is not the only answer. There are alternatives, and as with any important decision, each person has the right to explore EVERY alternative before choosing one so final.  The reason may very well be selfish, too. I’m tired of grieving. I don’t want anyone else to die. I don’t want to lose another friend or family member or pet or person who makes my life better just by being in it. We’ve seen more than our fair share of tragedy these last few months, and I’m ready for a change.

#TeaserTuesday An Improbable Interview with Yours Truly

Welcome back to the final Teaser Tuesday featuring the authors of An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. 

 

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Is it a bit egotistical to interview myself? If so, I kinda don’t care. See, I love this book, and I love my story in this book. And I want you to buy this book and read my story. So I’m going to talk at you. My tale is titled Worlds Collide, and as it implies, I bring the past to the (Victorian) present and confuse the hell out of our favorite detective.

THE IMPROBABLE AUTHORS: TOM OLBERT

1. What drew you to submit to this particular anthology?

Part of it is the editor, but mostly I love the concept of Sherlock Holmes. He’s a brilliant madman, and he brings with him a whole list of psychoses I’m dying to explore. I’ve always loved the stories and the various visual retellings, and I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do what I’ve done here.

2. Tell us a little about your story.

I like to complicate things (as any of you who know me know very well). It started as kind of a let’s see how easily I can run Lexxx up the wall type thing and ended up taking a turn into completely weird. Sherlock finds himself stumped on a murder investigation and reminiscing after a visit to a fortune teller. The old gypsy woman leads him down roads he didn’t expect and into a twisted scenario where past and present collide. And they say no one lives forever…

3. Who’s your favorite Sherlock?

As with my contemporaries, I love Jeremy Brett…but my favorite Sherlock is definitely Benedict Cumberbatch. I love the way the BBC characters interact. The on-screen chemistry is fabulous between Sherlock and Watson, and I’m in awe of the updated storylines.

4. What else (if anything) have you written?

Take a look in the side bar. You’ll find more than enough to keep you busy.

5. Where can we find you online?

Right here. Also on Facebook (AuthorSHRoddey), Twitter (@draickinphoenix) and at http://www.SHRoddey.com

THE IMPROBABLE TRUTH: WORLDS COLLIDE

I never expected Sherlock Holmes to agree to going back for a second visit to Madame Felicia, yet at 6:00 PM sharp, I found myself standing between he and Mary, staring up at the garish sign. Since our last visit, the gas lamps on either side of the door had gone out, presumably using up the supply from their hidden tanks, and the curtains in the window to the right of the door had begun to fray along the bottom edge. Sherlock turned to me with a put-upon look about his face.

“This is ridiculous,” he said, and I half expected him to stamp his foot. “An utter waste of time.”  Chuckling, Mary bypassed me in favor of taking his arm and leading him up to the door.

“Come on, Sherlock,” she persuaded, tugging at his elbow, “humor me. If you believe she has information you need, simply use your talents to uncover it.”

“But…”

“No buts. Come on,” Mary ordered, and pulled him up the step and inside. Just before the door fell closed behind them, I reached out and placed my hand against the jamb, affording me the opportunity to slip in behind them without turning the latch again.

The building was decorated in a gaudy, garish manner. Tapestries and scarves hung from every surface, and beads jangled against one another in the door frames, caught in the draft creeping in from the top of the stairs. I shivered against the chill and followed diligently along behind my fiancée and her unwilling yet oddly complacent victim. We were led to the same room as before: a tiny, cramped area with a round table and a glass orb on a rusty tin base. In this room, as with the rest of the space, brightly-colored scarves and linens decorated every surface, and cobweb-covered beads hung from the dusty sconces along the walls. Mary guided Sherlock to a seat opposite Madame Felicia, then took the seat beside him, putting me between her and the fortune teller. From his very posture I could see how uncomfortable my flatmate had become, but I said nothing with the hope that Mary’s foolhardy plan would remove this inconsolable frustration from his head.

I took my seat in stony silence, fighting the urge to curse as my fingers slid against the rough surface of the table, catching a rather large splinter in the process. Irritated by this happening, I jerked the offending plank of wood from the side of my hand and flicked it into the air, where it landed somewhere near the old gypsy’s feet with a noticeable clatter. Mary glared at me across the table as I dabbed at my bloody hand with my handkerchief.

“You have returned,” the withered woman said, her voice thick with Slavic inflection. Sherlock immediately leaned into the conversation, his whole attention focused on her.

“I need to know more,” he said. “Tell me where I can find the killer.”

“Sherlock,” I growled in warning, but Mary laid her hand over top of mine, attempting to quiet the ire growing in me. From that point on I kept my mouth shut and listened.

“When past and present collide, only then shall you find what you seek,” she said. “You are drawn to the unfamiliar, the unexplained, the impossible. It is not the answer to the question you crave, but the hunt itself.”…

Read more in An Improbable Truth.

#TeaserTuesday An Improbable Interview: Tom Olbert

Welcome back to another Teaser Tuesday featuring the authors of An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

 

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Please welcome to the stage Tom Olbert, fellow MMP veteran and author of The Arendall Horror.

THE IMPROBABLE AUTHORS: TOM OLBERT

1. What drew you to submit to this particular anthology?

The atmosphere, mainly.  The dark, chilling feel of a foggy London night in Victorian times.  The clatter of hooves down a cobblestone street.  I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of combining that with the most horrific forms of science fiction.  I’d delved into the idea before, and I couldn’t resist the urge to do so again, especially when the one and only Sherlock Holmes was the topic.  Who could ask for more?

2. Tell us a little about your story.

Basically, it’s Arthur Conan Doyle meets John Carpenter.  Holmes vs. the Thing from Outer Space.  The set-up is pretty typical Holmes fare.  A distraught young woman comes to 221B Baker Street with a perplexing problem that only Holmes can solve.  Everyone else blames the devil for the inexplicable and horrific events occurring on a country estate, but Holmes follows the path of science, straight to a hideous extraterrestrial life form that absorbs every living thing it touches.  Forbidden clandestine relationships, otherworldly science and horror combine in a dark tale of mystery and alien evil.

3. Who’s your favorite Sherlock?

Jeremy Brett, definitely.  He tempered the cold, intellectual Sherlock with a hint of almost child-like innocence that was endearing.

4. What else (if anything) have you written?

Quite a bit, actually, including “Black Goddess” a dark science fiction/horror novelette about a troubled young man who travels back in time to the beginning of the universe, obsessed with finding the ultimate truth, no matter how terrible.  Now available from Mocha, along with “Hellshift” a sci-fi horror short and “Along Came a Spider,” a steamy romantic science fantasy short.

5. Where can we find you online?

Check out my blog at http://tomolbert.blogspot.com.  Search on my name at Amazon.com, or just Google me, and you should be able to find titles and reviews.

THE IMPROBABLE TRUTH: THE CANARIES OF CLEE HILLS MINE

Sandborn led us through the tunnel, into the caves.  As we all entered, torches lit, I sensed something cold and horribly forbidding in the dank interior of those murky caverns.  There was a slimy, rancid stench as if we were walking into a slaughterhouse.  “What is that horrid smell?” I asked.

“Rats, I expect, sir,” Sandborn answered.  “I saw a few of them down here that night, picking at other scraps of itself that thing had left behind.  Then, I heard the poor vermin squealing in the dark as they died.”

Then, I saw it. The torchlight fell on a shadowed corner of the cave.  Dripping milky-white fibers formed a grotesque nest of sorts, containing three large, ovoid, leathery objects.  They resembled egg pods in a spider’s web, though magnified to scale many thousands of times.  I gasped as the horrid things began to split open, bursting from the inside out.  Sickly, milky-white fluid coated the abominable things that emerged, squealing as they clawed their way out.  To this day, I cannot accurately describe them.  The creatures had long, jointed limbs like that of a giant spider, yet they were webbed, like the wings of a huge bat.  Their heads   were rodent-like and snarling with six-inch fangs dripping .  Their eyes glowed green in the torchlight.  Scarcely out of their ungodly crèche, they were shrieking and swarming at us with inconceivable speed, slithering on multiple tentacles…

Read more in An Improbable Truth.

#TeaserTuesday An Improbable Interview: Robert Perret

Welcome back to another Teaser Tuesday featuring the authors of An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

 

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Please welcome to the stage Robert Perret, author of The Canaries of Clee Hills Mine.

THE IMPROBABLE AUTHORS: ROBERT PERRET

1. What drew you to submit to this particular anthology?

Sherlock Holmes and the supernatural are just such a great fit.  The hyper-rationalist facing off against the irrational is charged by a natural frisson.  I am also a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, and I come at the Canon and the character from the perspective that they are fun mystery adventure stories, and the call for submissions from Lexx Christian definitely had that vibe.  There is a major vein of Sherlockian fiction that is focused on historical accuracy and period verisimilitude and that’s a perfectly fine field of endeavor for those it appeals to, but it wasn’t what Arthur Conan Doyle was doing.  He was writing awesome, amazing stories with this perfect archetype of a character that just happened to be in Victorian London because that is where and when Conan Doyle himself happened to be.  He was very much writing pulpy entertainment, and for me, it is more interesting and fun and true to maintain that spirit of what he was doing rather than myopically focusing on the form of what he was doing.

2. Tell us a little about your story.

I live in north Idaho, where there are actually very few potatoes but lots and lots of mines.  One bit of history that looms large over the area is the Sunshine Mine disaster in 1972, in which 91 miners died from suffocation as the air in the mine was slowly replaced by carbon monoxide and other poisonous fumes as an underground fire raged.  Basically, the people of north Idaho are well aware that mines are places where truly awful, terrible things can happen.  For me personally, claustrophobia is probably my greatest mortal fear, so when I set about thinking of a horror story, a mine was a natural setting to me.  I feel like I can’t say too much more without giving away the story, but I will note that I am more of a fan of retro and vintage horror than modern horror, so my story probably nostalgic in that respect.

3. Who’s your favorite Sherlock?

Besides the original literary character as written by ACD, I assume?  If you mean actors I love all the Sherlocks, yes including Robert Downey Jr, and Johnny Lee Miller.  However, the Sherlock who lives in my head is probably closest to Basil Rathbone.  I think most people latch onto their first Sherlock and for whatever reason Rathbone was mine.  As a Sherlockian writer I think there are elements that can be gleaned and utilized from all of the major depictions of the character.

4. What else (if anything) have you written?

Recently I had a Robert Ludlum parody, “The Dewey Code”, appear in Two-Fisted Librarians.  I also have a bunch of Sherlockian pieces out to various places that I have high hopes for and a few other odds and ends.  After a long, unintentional sabbatical from creating I’m basically rebooting myself as a writer again, so I am on the lookout for great opportunities. Gentle readers, if you are looking for Sherlock Holmes or pulp adventure type stories for your anthology/website/etc., hit me up!

5. Where can we find you online?

Joining the 21st century on the internets is one of my short term goals, but for now you can find me on facebook and reddit and Google+.

THE IMPROBABLE TRUTH: THE CANARIES OF CLEE HILLS MINE

Perhaps it is the time of year. It could be that persistent chill that compels me to throw more coal in the brazier. Or perhaps the brittle, ashy feel in my hands reawakening those memories that I had thought mercifully dormant, but I hear my friend Sherlock chiding me from across the years even as my shaky hand puts pen to paper. “You mustn’t, Watson. There are horrible truths. Immutable, unfathomable truths that can only serve to destroy mankind. There is nothing to be gained and everything to be lost.”   The voice is but a dull ache in my heart, and I know that if I cannot expunge these memories onto paper and thus finally give my fevered mind blissful rest I shall certainly go mad. None need ever see this account. I shall set it down, bury these papers at the bottom of some long disused trunk in the attic, and then I can rest easy. The icy wind outside rattles the windows of my study, the gas light gutters for just a second, the howling gust subsides, and I feel the story fall from me.

****

It was the autumn of 1901 and a new century had found the same old Holmes up to the same old tricks. We had just recently returned from the Priory School up north where a bicycle tire patch and some novelty horse shoes had allowed Holmes to solve a will dispute, a kidnapping, and a murder all at once. I was reclined upon the couch, my former bedroom long since appropriated for more arcane uses by Holmes. My head was muzzy from too much brandy the evening prior and I was still waiting for the room to cease spinning. I stared in vain at the coffee pot steaming on the range in the kitchen. A cup or two and I’d be all right, I thought, if only I could convince Holmes to bring me a cup. Instead I pursued the more likely course of willing the pot to levitate across the room. “Holmes,” I wheezed. “I don’t suppose…” I waved feebly across the room. Holmes chuckled.

“Now, now, dear boy. When you have put one foot in front of another, traversed the room, poured a cup and lifted that warm porcelain to your lips you will know that you have earned it. I wouldn’t dare take that away from you.”

“Nonsense. You simply bristle at the very idea of service. And what eye-opener has left you so chipper?  Did you earn that little pick-me-up?”

“However I may have opened my eyes this morning I managed it myself. A man who is not master of his own destiny is not a man.”  I was reprieved from replying to this peevish sleight by a swift rapping at the door.

“Ach!  I find a moment of rest and here comes some new devilry,” we heard Mrs. Hudson lament from the bottom of the stairs. “Sherlock, you get poor John a cup of coffee or I shan’t be bothered to ever put another kettle on for you.”  A moment later she ascended in a whoosh of starched skirts with a letter in her hand. “For Mr. Holmes, naturally.”  She held it up to the light momentarily before stiffly holding it out at Holmes. He took it with a slight smirk and held it up to the light himself. Then he carefully examined the front and back of the envelope…

Read more in An Improbable Truth.

#TeaserTuesday An Improbable Interview: Harding McFadden

Good morning, my lovelies! Welcome to to another Teaser Tuesday featuring the authors of An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

 

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Today’s victim is Harding McFadden, author of The Adventure of the Slow Death: from the Scourge Diaries of Emily Watson.

THE IMPROBABLE AUTHORS: HARDING MCFADDEN

1. What drew you to submit to this particular anthology?

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of Doyle’s Holmes stories. There was something about them that just grabbed me, and just wouldn’t let go. I’m sure that I’m not the only one. When I saw the open call for this anthology, it was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I threw myself into this little piece, and gave it my all. I tried to do good service to the legacy of these characters, while still making the story decidedly mine. I hope that I managed to pull it off.

2. Tell us a little about your story.

When I saw that this was a call for a horror-themed Holmes collection, it seemed just right to make everything about it horrific. I think I’ve written somewhere else that I’m kind of a snob when it comes to horror. I want something that will stick with me, that will wake me up at night. I don’t know if I’ve managed to do that with this, but I’ve certainly tried for it. What I’ve cobbled together is an adventure for the Great Detective that puts him not just into a terribly situation, but that drops him into a nightmarish world. I wanted it to be unsettling, self-contained, but with enough action to keep the narrative flow moving. In short: I wanted to entertain anybody that happens to read it. Modern anthologies are a real mixed bag for me. It seems to me that if I can find any collection where about a quarter of the stories in it are worth reading, then it’s a good book. I hope that when the book is read, that the readers hold it up to praise as one of the few without a single clunker in it.

3. Who’s your favorite Sherlock?

Jeremy Brett. Hands down. Nobody owned the part like him. His every word and mannerism was perfect. I can’t read any of Doyle’s stories now without hearing his voice speaking the dialogue. Though it must be admitted that Lara Pulver is Irene Adler.

4. What else (if anything) have you written?

Well, I’ve written a lot of things, but very few that are available to the public. Lucky for the public. I remember writing things as a later teenager, or twenty- something that I thought were  just world-shaking. Bunch of junk. I remember reading an introduction to a Dean Koontz reprint  where he said he found himself making Clint Eastwood faces rereading some of his older stuff. Holy  jeez, do I understand. After fifteen years of rejections, though, I did manage to get printed for  the first time two years ago. Those things that I have gotten printed are available in a few  places. The short story “Trampled” has been published twice, first on everydayfiction.com then in  the August issue of Mystic Signals; “The Last of the Damned” was likewise printed on  everydayfiction.com; one of my personal favorites, “Those Things Held Most Dear,” a story about a dragon named Rainbow that  my wife really likes, is available in Carol Hightshoe’s Dragon’s Hoard anthology; a short  Lovecraftian story, “Casual Blasphemies” is available in H. David Blalock’s The Idolaters of  Cthulhu anthology; and there’s a piece of flash fiction called “The Hen and Jimminy” is due in the December issue of Cyclopean e-zine. Add to that “The Adventure of the Slow Death,” and there’s my complete resume. If you decide to seek out all of these, thank you  very much. I hope that you don’t regret it.

5. Where can we find you online?

Full disclosure: I’m fairly technologically backward. As such, I do not have a facebook account, nor anything for myspace, twitter, whatever else there might be. If you want to look for me, the only real place is on Amazon, where there is a small Authors Page. Well, that’s about it. I hope that you enjoy the book, wherever you are…

THE IMPROBABLE TRUTH: THE ADVENTURE OF THE SLOW DEATH

It was some time after the Case of the Crestfallen Corsair that the great detective allowed me to fill my late fathers shoes as his biographer. This would have been after the Great Scourge left half the globe a charred mass, the other half a sweltering, desiccated nightmare. Those of us in what was left of Great Britain looked fearfully to the dawn, constantly on alert for our own time. Nine months with no Heavenly fire, and still we shook in our shoes.

“It was hardly a Divine fire from Heaven,” he told me over tea one melancholy evening. I had made the error of reporting to him the judgment of many papers of the time, that the sky of fire had been the Judgment of God. “Nothing more than a particularly large ejection from our sun. One with devastating effect, but a natural occurrence, nevertheless.”

In my minds-eye I could hear him saying these words around the stem of his pipe. Now, however, there were no ‘Three Pipe Problems.’ Inquiring as to why one particular day, I was informed that the smoke did nothing to focus his mind of late. I couldn’t help but assume that it was the constant barrage of ash flowing over the world that put him off of his pipe. How does a man willingly spark a match when the charred reminders of half of mankind float by his window on every breeze?

A small charcoal of my late parents adorned a place of honor upon the stone fireplace around which we sat. We both looked upon it through the silence that evening, and many others. No fire burned, nor embers glowed. Even through the deepest winter past, the heat of day was nearly intolerable. It was through habit and emotional necessity that we persisted there. The past may be lost to us, but should never be forgotten.

With a tip of his cup, he said to me, “I find that I miss them more often of late. Never let you think that those friends around you are but passing fancies. They are the spice of life. Without them, our outlooks are simply… Bland.”

Companion though I may have been, I was aware of my position to him. He had known me since birth, though I would never be able to take the place of his fallen friends. I could only stand in their place, not fill their shoes.

The calm of the evening was abruptly shattered when the four black-robed men burst into the detectives sitting room, poor Mrs. Hudson shoved roughly before them. Before the frail woman was able to crash to the floor, the great detective was out of his chair, his hot tea thrown into the face of the nearest attacker, the cup shattered into the wide eyes of the next, while he used his free arm to right his landlady. Spinning her somehow poetically into his own vacated seat, he turned to the last two attackers, but needn’t have bothered…

Read more in An Improbable Truth.

#TeaserTuesday An Improbable Interview: Adrian Croft

Good morning, my lovelies! Welcome to to another Teaser Tuesday featuring the authors of An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

 

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Today’s victim is Adrian Croft, some of our fresh blood and author of Time’s Running Out, Watson. Take a look…before time runs out!

THE IMPROBABLE AUTHORS: ADRIAN CROFT

1. What drew you to submit to this particular anthology?

I really wasn’t planning on submitting to ANY anthologies. I had a longer piece of work that had huge amounts of editing and brutal love to get it into reasonable shape. Which isn’t the funnest part of writing and quite possibly why I was so excited to take a break and write a short story for something that got me excited: seeing a fantasy-themed Sherlock Holmes submission call. It really caught my attention. I love the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, which I’d read a couple of times in my life (although I’m not necessarily an expert on their contents) and I’d just finished binge-watching the BBC’s version on Netflix. Oooh, I thought. That would be so much fun!
 
Interestingly, I found that flipping through a few pages of the original books on my Kindle as I was writing would allow me to keep some of the “voice” of Watson fresh in my mind. The writing is slightly formal, even though it’s sharp and concise. I enjoyed working in it, as it gave a very “Sherlock” feel to the story.
 
All in all, it was great fun, and I hope everyone enjoys the final product!

2. Tell us a little about your story.

I love writing fantasy pieces and I also wanted to introduce a mystery into my story, in the traditional Holmes and Watson fashion, that they could then discuss (with Holmes imparting his insights to Watson, as is often the case). It struck me that a cool mystery to solve would be one where a thief abused a time-changing device, to go faster than the eye could follow. And of course, facing off with the architect of any such device would surely stretch even Sherlock Holmes’ talents! He he. The rest just unrolled from there…

3. Who’s your favorite Sherlock?

I enjoy all the variations of Sherlock that I’ve seen, in one fashion or another. Can I cheat and say the original, in the written word? Because, as we all know, if you read a book before a movie ever comes out, you form your own mental image of the character which no actor will ever quite match, no matter their talents. And I think the heart of this enduring story’s appeal is exactly that: the character that was painted on those pages…
 
But if you really pushed me, I’d say Benedict Cumberbatch. Because his image is nothing like I’d pictured it and yet he does it so well…

4. What else (if anything) have you written?

This is my first published piece, but I’ve written a few things, hopefully improving as I’ve gone along. I’ve written three pieces of novel length work, one of which I’m now trying to go back and improve (the second one). The first was a middle grade humorous novel about a brilliant but frustrated small town boy who advertises himself as a Mastermind for Hire, and the complications that ensue when criminals track him down to take him up on his offer. The second (the one I’m rewriting, very very slowly) is an adult fantasy novel about a one-time gunfighter and fledgling detective who lives in a magical city that jumps through time and place, and his battle with the Earth gods who want to steal his most recent client. (Can I say that one struggle I had with this story was finding a concise one-liner to describe it? J ) And most recently I wrote a young adult fantasy about a boy and his brother who train in magic and secretly plot the murder of their Emperor, in revenge for the assassination of their mother.
 
To reiterate, all three of those were great to write and could use some extra editing now that I have buffed up my writing skills slightly (hopefully). But maybe one day, people will see a version of these that make it out into the public!
 
And beside that, I have a ton of other new and cool ideas. J Mostly fantasy related. You might see some of those too!

5. Where can we find you online?

You can find me musing about writing techniques, fantasy writing, and my writing journey at www.adriancross.ca. Hope to see you there!

THE IMPROBABLE TRUTH: TIME’S RUNNING OUT, WATSON

The papers appeared filled with dense curling script, from edge to edge, except where mechanical diagrams were detailed with exact care, some figures so small that I could barely make them out in the dim light. Along the top border was printed: ‘Seven Cycle Temporal Centrifuge’. The rest of the words might as well have been ancient Macedonian, for all they meant to me.
Baffled, I gave them back. “What are they?”
Holmes let them drop. “Clues, Watson. These were found in Mr. White’s rooms.”
I frowned at him. “But a clue to what? What do they mean?”
He looked pleased with himself. “Oh no, I cannot show my hand now. I am expecting a visitor. Do you have your pistol?”
“Do you expect to be in danger?”
“Very much so,” he said cheerfully. “I expect the Engineer to try and kill me this very night. Would you like to leave?”
I drew my pistol. “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Splendid Watson. Come then, let us wait together.”…

Read more in An Improbable Truth.

Stay With Me

[Note: I started this post over a week ago, but couldn’t quite find the right words until now. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to unlock thoughts. It’s a long, rambling miasma of thoughts, too, so hold on tight.]

Depression is real.

It, like so many things we don’t take seriously, is a disease. It’s a terrible, crippling disorder that, if left untreated, can destroy even the strongest person. When a person suffers from depression, there are two possible outcomes: get help, or die.

It’s treatable. It can be overcome. It can be beaten. Friends, family, doctors, and medicine can help. Doing nothing…well, we all know how that turns out.

The indie literary community is struggling this morning. We’re still reeling from the sudden and very much unexpected death of Logan Masterson Tuesday evening. One the surface, he’s just one more in a shockingly long list of creative types who have succumbed to this beast. To the world. he’s just a statistic now.

Fuck you, no he isn’t. He’s a person.

Upon learning of his passing, I had my own moment of weakness. We weren’t as good of friends as I’d have liked – we only met in person once – but I cried for him, for his struggle, and for his loved ones. He was a kind-hearted, gentle person with a beautiful smile and kind eyes. He was soft-spoken, but intelligent, and a damned fine writer. And he gave great hugs. A few of my coworkers questioned my emotion, and the first thing out of their mouths, each one of them, wasn’t a word of condolence, but a question:

How?

We’re so desensitized to violence that we don’t understand the gravity of death anymore. It doesn’t matter how he died. What matters is why.

He died because he was tormented by his own mind. He believed he was worthless. He couldn’t see himself as the gentle, beautiful soul he was. Because he cried out for help and none of us saw it for what it was. We, the outsiders, never believe a person is capable of the unspeakable until it happens. It’s human nature. Even when we ourselves struggle with the same pain, we don’t see that final cry as the one.

This is a problem. A big one. When you’re depressed, you can’t be strong. You can’t just suck it up and move on. You. Can’t. Forget picking yourself up off the floor; it takes all of your energy just to breathe.

Imagine, if you will, a constant, nagging voice just behind your left ear. You wake up with it. You go to bed with it. All day long it chants its horrible mantra: You suck. You can’t do anything right. Nobody loves you. You’re a terrible human being. You suck. Nobody cares about you. You destroy everything you touch. You’re wasting your time. Your life is a lie. You suck and you’ll never be good enough. No one will miss you when you die.

Most people would tell you to ignore it and go on. “Don’t worry about what others think,” they say. And it’s true…what others think shouldn’t be important. Other people’s opinions of you have no weight when it comes to who you are.

Now imagine that voice is your ownNo matter how hard you try not to, you’re always going to listen to yourself. Your own voice is inescapable, and with enough taunting, you’re eventually going to convince yourself there’s no point in trying anymore. Your voice will always win, and there is nothing you can do about it. And you have to suffer the torment alone. It’s hard to believe you can be totally alone in a crowd of people, but when your own psyche is working against you, it’s very much possible.

Which is why those of us who suffer from depression need help. We have to learn to manage it. It’s never going away, regardless of how much we do, but we can take control back from ourselves. We can get help.

I know the desperation and desolation that drove our friend to end his life. Desperation makes people reckless and irrational. It makes them do things against their nature. I’ve been there a time or two myself. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s true. I’ve listened to my own voice too much in the past, let myself get into my own head and screw myself up. It’s easy to fall into that trap because you’re supposed to be able to trust yourself, trust your instincts. But sometimes instincts lie. I got lucky when I figured that part out. I also have the benefit of having two small children who need me, and the last thing I’d ever want to do is let them down.

Many people over the last 24 hours have referred to Logan’s struggle as “losing the battle with the beast” or “losing the war”. Those are beautiful, poetic terms for the situation, and in light of how many of these situations we’ve faced in the last six months, I’m tired of the niceties. I don’t want pretty, flowery words because goddamn it, this situation IS NOT PRETTY. It’s harsh and it’s ugly and it’s cruel.

In a single act of desperation – a way of making the pain and the voices stop – our friend took his life. He committed suicide. No matter what words you use, it amounts to the same thing: he’s dead and he isn’t coming back.

Sugar coating it makes it seem like it’s an okay option, that there’s a beauty in that swan song, but it isn’t. This was avoidable.  This was treatable. This was a complete waste of a beautiful life. Could any of us out here in Internetland saved him? Who knows. Maybe. Maybe what he needed was that one person to call and say “hey, tell me what’s wrong. I’m coming over.” Or maybe not. Maybe he was too far gone to see reason anymore. Maybe there were other circumstances behind his actions that we don’t know. We can sit here and speculate all day long on the what if and the why. But it won’t change the fact that it is.

And it happens all day long, every day. A person dies by their own hand roughly every 13 minutes. That’s more than 110 people per day. That’s over 40,000 people per year. Granted, not all of these people suffer from Depression. Many of them have other reasons for doing the things they do. But do you know why so many take their own lives? It’s because most people don’t want to seek treatment. There’s a social stigma against people on mood stabilizers and psychotropics. There’s a belief by the general, “healthy” contingent that people who needs those drugs are all nuts and deserve whatever they get.

Bullshit.

The people who need those drugs are you and me. Normal, everyday people who can’t battle their demons alone. We need to put this stigma to rest. We need to embrace our friends, neighbors, and strangers. Those of us who can need to help even if we don’t understand why our friends are struggling. It’s up to us to save their lives because they don’t always know that they can save themselves.

I’ve been battling depression for the last four years. Losing my father nearly destroyed me, and I’m still learning how to be me again. My battle has been nowhere near as severe as Logan’s was. By no means am I comparing my fight to his. But I do understand the pain, the sense of hopelessness, the guilt for breathing air best suited for someone else. The difference is I know what I’m facing because I’ve overcome it before and I learned how to control that negative voice in my head. I got help. I know how to focus my anxiety into something constructive and work through it. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. Not everyone can do that.

It doesn’t help that there’s inevitably some asshat waiting in the digital wings to pile on and abuse us because doing so makes them feel big. Those people are the true monsters. Those bullying sadists are the reason for so many deaths. Those people are the reason our friends are suffering in silence until they make the decision to stop the pain.

So to all the bullies, the internet trolls, the liars, the users, the abusers…I say this: the next time you open your big mouth to destroy someone for daring to have a thought or opinion, just remember that person’s death may be on you. It might be your fault that the trans girl you just ripped apart overdoses on sleeping pills. It might be on your conscience when the depressed young man who just lost his mother puts a pistol in his mouth because you were the insensitive asshole who told him to “buck up and don’t be a pussy”. YOU are the one who needs to sit down and shut the hell up. I’m tired of you and your ilk, thinking you can run the world from the anonymity of your computer chair without suffering the goddamned consequences of your actions. When you hurt someone, you become responsible for that person. You need to leave.

To everyone else… pay attention. Please. If you see someone struggling, reach out and say hi. Offer a hug and a friendly ear. It may be the one thing that saves your friend’s life. Let them know they aren’t alone, even when it feels like it. But know this – you won’t always know until it’s too late. Some people don’t show signs and symptoms. Some don’t reach out. Some just do it.

And finally to those suffering… you are not alone. You may be wandering in the darkness, but all you have to do is reach out. Someone will be there. I’ll be there. I’ll be your friend. Your shoulder to cry on. Your sounding board and your whipping post. Tell me your troubles, and we’ll work through it together. If you don’t talk to me, just talk to someone. Please. Get help, then use your story to help others.

Logan’s family needs help with his final expenses. If you can, please donate to their GoFundMe.

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#TeaserTuesday An Improbable Interview: Katie Magnusson

Good morning, my lovelies! Welcome to to another Teaser Tuesday featuring the authors of An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

 

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Today’s victim is the lovely Katie Magnusson. Her story Sherlock Holmes and the Hungry Ghost is a lot of fun. Please take a moment to meet her, then meet her ghost.

THE IMPROBABLE AUTHORS: KATIE MAGNUSSON

1. What drew you to submit to this particular anthology?

I love supernatural and paranormal pastiches, and here was an anthology asking specifically for paranormal Sherlock Holmes stories. It sounded like fun!

2. Tell us a little about your story.

The title is “Sherlock Holmes and the Hungry Ghost.” The term “hungry ghost” appears in Buddhism and Chinese ancestor worship, as spirits driven by intense needs. It’s also been used as a metaphor for the cravings of a drug addict. So this isn’t exactly a stereotypical ghost story. It’s very internally and mentally focused; I wanted to tap into that primal fear of losing one’s mind, the idea that ghosts are very real – they just don’t haunt houses.

3. Who’s your favorite Sherlock?

Jeremy Brett in the Granada TV series, hands down. Brett had a perfect mannerism about him, this great mix of the flair for theatrics and restrained reasoning machine that is so essential to the character. I remember flipping channels one day and coming across a rerun of “The Norwood Builder” episode on PBS.There’s this scene where Holmes is walking around the area where a huge fire was, and he sort of leaps up onto a low ledge to gaze down, and I thought, “He moves like a cat!” I was so fascinated by the performance, just this simple act of examination, I watched the rest of the episode and every single one afterwards.

4. What else (if anything) have you written?

This is the first story I’ve published, but there’s a series of short stories I’ve been working on for a few years. I’m currently trying to put them all together into a book. They’re cyberpunkish Sherlockiana — a doctor with a cybernetic leg meets a man who’s modelled himself around Sherlock Holmes. Adventures ensue.

5. Where can we find you online?

Send a tweet to @mrskatem, or watch me post random things on kaelma.tumblr.com. People who’re interested in my cyberpunk short stories should go to thediaryofdrwatts.com, or follow the Facebook page (facebook.com/TheDiaryofDrWatts)

THE IMPROBABLE TRUTH: SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HUNGRY GHOST

He opened his eyes, lying on the floor. He’d fallen asleep. His body had finally rebelled and forced upon him the rest he sorely needed, much to his amused chagrin. He stood slowly, stretching his long limbs, and beheld his correspondence scattered across the room. The jackknife that usually held it in place on the mantel was gone.

He turned, scanning the room. The knife was easy to spot, embedded in the opposite wall from the fireplace. He didn’t remember throwing it there.

“You’re going mad.”

“Who’s there?” He looked around and saw no one. He was alone.

“They’ll leave you -.”

“Where are you?”

“- just like everyone else.”

It was a woman’s voice, and it seemed to come from everywhere at once. She laughed as he searched, and a tingling feeling crept across his skin as if an insect were crawling down his spine.

His head felt as if his skull was being hollowed out with a red hot poker. His chest was tight. He couldn’t breathe. “Voices that aren’t there…” he wondered aloud. Could the damage to his mind be so great?

“No. I refuse to believe it,” he pressed his hands to his ears as the woman laughed again, taunting, though it did nothing to dull the sound. “I am sane! If I were not, then I would not recognize my decline! These experiences have nothing to do with the cocaine,” he stalked over to the knife in the wall, yanking it out and firmly sticking it back in its proper place in the mantel, “I refuse to believe it,” he said again, softer, slowly absorbing the significance of his statement. “If I am not mad, then what is going on?”

He applied his mind to the problem at hand with feverish fervor. It was almost a relief. Here was a problem he could ponder at last, but he didn’t like the only possible solution.

“No man could do these things. No member of humankind at all. It is physically impossible. If I am not mad, if this is not the cocaine, and it is not the result of mortal effort, then the solution must lie in the supernatural.”

He would have preferred insanity…

Read more in An Improbable Truth.

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