In the Shadow of Death: A #HoldOntoTheLight Post

Published October 27, 2016 by administrator

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Last year, I told a very painful story, one I wish for the whole world to read, then read again. It’s hard, so please forgive me if this post carries all the tact and diplomacy of a sledgehammer through a plate-glass window.

I’m still hurt, still angry. Still seeking vengeance. Still praying that by shoving Angie’s story down the throats of anyone who will listen, her tragedy might open some eyes…might save someone else’s life.

AngieOn November 6, 2014, I lost a good friend to domestic violence. She died sixty feet from where I stood, face-down in a parking lot, four bullets neatly in the back of her head at the hand of her estranged husband. This was the climax to a three-week long horror story wherein he burned their house down, tried to turn their children against her, stalked her, tormented her, stalked me trying to get to her, and then blamed her when his sorry ass lost his job for not showing up to work. Then the son of a bitch turned the .45 and put it in his mouth before any of us had a chance to see him properly punished.

I know what you’re thinking.  You want to know why I’m being so selfish and conceited, right? Why I think my thoughts and opinions should matter.

Simple. Because I’m still here. And because I hurt, goddamn it. I LOST SOMEONE I LOVE.

I miss her.
I love her.
I’m lost without her.

But I’m not the only one. Angie left behind two sons – two handsome, well-mannered, intelligent young men who are now orphans. They’ve been left to fend for themselves at the mercy of their father’s family…the same family who has tried desperately to canonize the murderer they call son and brother. And you know what? I understand that. I can accept their need to rationalize his behavior…because you never want to admit someone is capable of cold-blooded murder. It’s hard for them.

But it’s also partially his family’s fault. With multiple family members in law enforcement, he used bullying tactics to keep Angie at bay. Her attempts at a protective order were blocked. He was a good guy, just ’cause he was someone’s brother in the department.

That, my friends, is a disgusting misuse of authority. I blame his family for her death as much as I do him. They could have stopped him, but they enabled his behavior, enabled his abuse. Because they didn’t want to see him as something capable of unspeakable evil.

But back to those boys – they’re both adults now. Thankfully, despite the trauma of their loss, they’re okay. One is in the military and the other is making a good life for himself out of college. I still think about them, still worry about them all the time. I want to be there for them since she can’t be…it’s the least I can do.

So the point I’m trying to make here… Domestic Violence hurts more than just the victim. It hurts everyone involved. Angie left behind two beautiful children. Her mother and brother – estranged from her or not – were devastated by her death. All of her friends, our coworkers…everyone that knew her. We all still hurt. There are still days, even two years later, where I pick up the phone to call or text her, but then I remember she isn’t there. Her number is still in my phone, no doubt passed on to someone else by now. I have a recording from a commission meeting that took place about two weeks before she died where she filled in for me. I still listen to it from time to time just to hear her voice. As long as I can hear her voice, she’ll still live on in my memory. I wouldn’t trade that ten-second soundbite for the world.

You would think after two years, the tears would have mostly stopped by now. But they don’t. They keep coming. It’s hard to see the screen as I write this because my vision has blurred almost to the point of blindness.

In closing, I ask this of anyone living in an abusive situation: Take Angie’s story to heart. GET HELP. Get away. Go to the police. A shelter. A friend. Just leave and don’t look back. Have children? Take them with you. Save their lives and yours. It’s okay to be afraid. But the longer you stay, the harder it is to cut those strings.

He only hit me once, but he apologized. That’s how it starts. It ALWAYS escalates. By the time you’ve had enough, you’ll be well on your way to dead. I don’t want you dead. I probably don’t know you, but I’m here for you. I’m in your corner.

He’s connected to the law. SO? Report his ass anyway. Then go to a neighboring jurisdiction and report him again. Then go to a shelter and get a lawyer.

He’ll try to kill me if I leave. Possibly, but he WILL kill you if you stay. Shelters and counselors are equipped to handle this kind of situation.

Angie left and she died anyway. And let me tell you why… Our staff panicked when he showed up. She went outside to keep him from killing all of us in the office. She protected us. She sacrificed herslf to save us because she knew he wouldn’t stop until one of them was dead. Her situation escalated to an unstoppable conclusion. Yours doesn’t have to.

Don’t stay. Leave while there’s a chance. Tomorrow might be too late.


there is a way out

SC S.T.O.P. Domestic Abuse Program

Rock Hill Area Safe Passage

Safe Harbor Domestic Abuse Center

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

Give and Take: A #HoldOntoTheLight Post

Published September 29, 2016 by administrator

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I’m a Giver.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t know how to say no, who thrives on making people smile, who will run herself into the ground trying to do everything without asking for something in return. We take care of the unwell. We volunteer for all manner of unsavory tasks. We’re fixers, problem solvers. Nurturers. We’re natural-born victims, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

We do it all at our own expense. We don’t know how to say no. Seriously…if something is asked of me, my first inclination is to say okay, to take on yet another task or project (even if I’m already so backed up I’ll never see light again), and try my hardest to accomplish it not on time, but early. This mentality leads to emotional drainage and breakdowns.

givetakeHence my comment about natural-born victims. We aren’t abused in the standard “you suck and you’ll never accomplish anything” way. We smile and nod and even though we’re dying inside, we continue to take on everything, because we live in fear of letting someone down. We allow ourselves to be abused.

Enter the Takers.

The Takers are the ones who give the orders, who make the requests, who feed on our emotion without returning the investment. They’re predators. Parasites. Many people don’t even know they’re takers. They don’t realize what they’re doing, that even though there’s a “thank you” attached to the back end of the request, it’s still a burden which has been placed on someone else. They don’t realize they aren’t giving back.

Some people are just selfish. Those kinds of Takers are the ones who generally inflict the abuse on the Givers. Takers will take until there’s nothing left, just as Givers will give until they’re empty. Takers – the chronic abusers – don’t care who they have to stomp on to get what they want. Don’t get me wrong, Takers can be generous. They can be extremely generous, but it’s done in such a way that it gets them something in return. They give just enough to get it back tenfold. They know how to work the system, to keep the Givers coming back, even if they do it unconsciously.

Takers feed on the energy of Givers to fuel their own selfish desires, to fill their own souls. Some of the closest friends I’ve ever had have been Takers. Those friendships flare bright and burn out fast.

Over the years I’ve learned to identify the Takers pretty quickly. I’m in a position now in my life where I know I need to distance myself from them, and if someone is only interested in what I can do for him or her, then that person is toxic. I’m learning to say no. I’m learning to balance my emotions with others’ expectations. I’m learning to stop apologizing. I’m learning to just walk away. But it hurts to lose friends, because I genuinely care about people. That’s the rub.

Givers will hold onto a dying situation until their light is fully extinguished. It hurts like hell to see I’ve been unfriended on Facebook, particularly by someone I’ve met in person. I’ve had episodes of emotional drainage that have thrown me into serious depression. I’ve contemplated hurting myself over it. I’ve cried so many tears over people and situations that don’t deserve them. But it’s a long game, and I don’t let it win. I know the rules now and I know I’m better than that, and I know that there are others out there who appreciate what I have to give and are willing to give back.

I love to cook, to test and create recipes, and see the satisfaction on the faces of my test subjects when something is good. I’ve taught myself to make all manner of delicacies and sweet treats because those things bring happiness. Even if it’s fleeting, the taste of a warm, flaky croissant with butter will put a smile on anyone’s face. From time to time I bring hand-made cinnamon rolls to work for everyone for breakfast. I like making people happy.

But I’m a busy woman – I have a day job and two little girls who depend on me for everything. I’m running an administrative office by day and a household by night, so there’s little time for just me. I’m pretty damned tough by anyone’s standards, but I can – and do – break. When writing becomes a chore, I know it’s time to step back and reassess. I’m at that point now.givetake2

Confession: I have not completed and published a new piece of fiction since October 2015, when An Improbable Truth came out. Last year I was very pregnant and very sick for a very long time. Subsequently, I only wrote the two short stories last calendar year, and one of those is currently dying in an anthology that was never really promoted. I love that story, and I’m sad that first publication rights were wasted.

I realized too late I was involved with a Taker. I was invited to submit a story to fill a hole in an anthology he was publishing, and asked to step in as a co-editor for one anthology and the editor of another. I jumped at all three offers, excited to be involved in something again. I solicited work from most of my literary friends. Then when the sickness started, I was offline for long periods of time because if I wasn’t at work, I was either caring for my older daughter or sleeping. I tried to meet my obligations, and for reasons often beyond my control, I failed. I lost touch with a lot of people last summer because of that, but afterward I got nearly every one of them back.

I found out through the grapevine I was blamed for many of the issues surrounding the press. I was used as a scapegoat for a failing business that had nothing to do with me. I wasn’t “pulling my weight”, I was told. Then I discovered one day I’d been unfriended. Now because these anthologies and the press itself have withered away into obscurity, I’m trying to get over the fact that I’ve let my friends down, and I led them into disaster. The unfriending just pissed me off.

Bridge burned.

A little of that guilt has been lifted, though. Another publisher friend has started negotiations on something similar, which gives me new hope and eases the pain in my heart. That offer gave something back to me. This same publisher friend has been a ray of light in my life over the last six months, and he will never, ever know how much I love him for his kind words and off-the-cuff encouragement. I need more friends like him in my life. We have the kind of give-and-take relationship we both need.

In closing, my advice for the Givers is this:

  • Learn to say “no”. It’s okay. It’s your right, and your only method of self-preservation. You don’t need to make the world happy, so stop trying. If you can’t do it, admit it and move on.

  • Stop apologizing when you fail. You’re human. Failure doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re going to lose a friend. And honestly, if it does cause a friendship to end, it means that person wasn’t a friend to begin with and you’re better off without them. It’s hard when it ends, but it’s even harder when you hit bottom and your giving gets gone.

  • Assert yourself. DO NOT LET A TAKER BULLY YOU INTO SEEING THINGS THEIR WAY. It’s unhealthy, and Takers need to be put in their places. Have your own back, because there won’t always be someone there to rescue you.

  • Accept Help. When someone offers, take it. It’s hard, yes, but accepting assistance will help refuel your soul. It puts something back so you can refresh and give more.

  • Just Do You. What we need more than anything is emotional balance. Surround yourself with people who care. Do things that invigorate and inspire you. Put yourself in positive situations with positive people. Enjoy yourself and your life. You are worth it, and you spend so much time making others happy that you deserve your own happiness.

 

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

Just Pay the Writer Already!

Published June 10, 2016 by administrator

There’s been much controversy this week over whether artists should be paid for their work. Until now I’ve remained silent because I didn’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction. I wanted to know my facts and present sound evidence as to why these arguments are so ludicrous.

Some of those arguments include:

  • I can’t afford to buy books because I don’t make much money. [Understandable, but not an excuse. KU is cheaper than Netflix, btw.]
  • I deserve to read any book I want without paying for it because I’m a special snowflake [yes, I’m paraphrasing this one specifically to be spiteful].
  • Authors shouldn’t make the same amount for the first copy as they do for the 500th since each copy isn’t a new item. [Let’s address this in a minute.]
  • Art should be free for everyone to enjoy. [And some art is. Enjoy that.]
  • If an artist wants to be paid he/she should get a patron. [Ha!]
  • I’m not really stealing. I just downloaded it from someone who did steal it.

Let’s address that last point:

Yes, 95% of us on the internet are guilty of downloading illegal content at some point in our lives. My point here is not to villainize those who don’t know any better. It’s to educate people so they understand why what they’re doing is wrong. Sadly, the majority of those involved in this self-entitlement hoohah are too young to remember the Napster incident. I admittedly still chuckle at the Napster Bad videos and comics making fun of Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield from Metallica. On a serious note, while they may appear more Neanderthal than man, they do have a point. File sharing sites are bad, because they subvert the system.

First and foremost: COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS ILLEGAL. ACQUIRING PHYSICAL OR DIGITAL GOODS WITHOUT PAYMENT UNLESS RECOGNIZED AND PROVIDED AS A GIFT BY THE OWNER OR CREATOR IS THEFT. It does not matter if you’re just getting it from someone else; you’re still stealing. You can go to jail for this, and you will deserve it.

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, sweetness, but that’s the cold, hard truth. Your “innocent” actions are breaking the law. You aren’t special. You can’t break the rules and expect preferential treatment [We are not even going to talk about that little jackass rapist in the news right now or I will have a stroke.]. END. OF. DISCUSSION.

PoePoe

Because we need some levity. And because the police are coming for you, you damned, dirty thief.

MOVING ON.

I sat down and did something very unusual for a literary type: I did math. [Insert awestruck gasps here.] Anyone who has a job should be able to appreciate what’s coming. This is a salary breakdown for writers. We as artists would love nothing more than to make our art our full-time jobs, but most non-artistics don’t understand just how much work goes into the things they think don’t deserve a price tag. So let me break it down for you.

THE NOVEL:

Let’s assume I write one novel which tops out at 80,000 words, and I’m going to publish this novel in a traditional manner (i.e. through a publisher, small or otherwise). This means I’m not paying for edits, artwork, or formatting.

Now, let’s assume I’m an average-speed writer, fairly clean. I’m going to write 1,000 words per hour for decent copy. First novel draft: 80 hours of work.

Now we have revisions. Assuming clean copy and minimal self-editing is required on my part, we’re going to estimate another 15 hours for reading and revising. Accumulated total: 95 hours.

Then I hand my labor of love over to the publisher. I will then have at least one, possibly two or three, more rounds of edits with a professional editor. Let’s assume two rounds of edits at another 15 hours each. That’s 30 additional hours of work for this one book. Then it’s released into the wild.

Final total: 125 production hours.

For one book. Base rate. We aren’t going to factor into this the endless hours of promotion which goes with the successful release of a novel. Right now it’s irrelevant and the cost will increase so exponentially it will outweigh the benefit of writing the book. Today we’re figuring out how a writer can be full-time based on today’s financial standards JUST BY WRITING BOOKS.

THE CONTRACT:

Say my publisher is a generous one and offers me 40% of the net royalties for my book. If we list this ebook on Amazon at $3.99 (which, by the way, is MORE THAN FAIR for an 80,000 word novel), Amazon is going to pay the publisher at a 70% royalty rate, or roughly $2.80 per domestic copy. This, in turn, means I’m going to see approximately $1.12 per copy sold.

US LABOR STANDARDS:

Minimum wage in the United States is currently $7.25. This means the average full-time minimum wage worker brings home $15,080 per year, pre-tax. Net income is going to hang out somewhere around the $12,000 mark.

Now, let’s compare minimum wage standards to a single title, shall we?

THE UGLY TRUTH:

125 hours at $7.25/hour is $906.25 pre-tax. Once we make it, we’re going to have to put back 20-30% to pay our taxes because we’re contractors, not on payroll.

Assuming we’re steadily selling books, that’s 809.16 copies sold in a year JUST TO BREAK EVEN.

Now there’s a national movement to raise minimum wage to $15/hour because we’ve firmly established that American inflation rates make it impossible to support a family on $15,000/year. Let’s revisit the numbers under this new standard.

$15/hour means a gross annual income of $31,200 pre-tax.

125 hours at $15/hour is $1,875.00

That’s 1,674 copies I have to sell in one year. 140 copies per month.

This means an author making minimum wage writing full-time (while only being reimbursed for the time accrued by writing and editing) would have to publish 16 ½ novels a year. That’s 1,320 hours of work to produce enough fiction to make a living.

Unless an author is already established with a wide following, selling 1,700 copies of a book will take longer than a year. The average indie author is selling somewhere between 5 and 50 copies a month. Which means assuming the best (50 copies per month), we have to triple our output to 49 books per year. 

3,920 hours of work in one year to make a lower-middle class salary.

Let me point out here that a full time job consists of 2,080 hours of work per year. 40 hours per week for 52 weeks. That means to break even at “minimum wage” standards, we authors have to work 1,840 hours more per year than the average fry slinger at Mickey D’s without receiving overtime pay. That’s 75.39 hours of work per week to make the same money you make in 40… with no guarantees that we’ll even meet that minimum.

So please allow me to call bullshit on this self-righteous notion of art for art’s sake. You can take that shit back to MGM and let them keep it on their logo.

To those who want to say an author’s work should be prorated and they should make less per copy the more copies they sell, I pose this question to you: how would you feel if your boss approached you today and told you the following: “Yeah, we really like your work but you’ve been here several years and we’ve already paid you your value. We’re going to start paying you less money for each hour you work.”

You’re pissed just thinking about it, aren’t you? It’s unfair, right? Well guess what, sugarbritches… THAT is EXACTLY what you’ve suggested for us. It’s disgusting. It’s despicable. And to us, you’re now an asshole.

These epithets aren’t coming from the minimum-wage crowd, either. This is coming from the middle class – people who have the luxury of cars, cell phones, blu-ray players, coffee addictions, and expensive hobbies. You can pay $5 for a cup of coffee to enjoy once, but you’re too damned cheap to spend $3 on a book which will last forever? If that’s the case, then you don’t need the book. And if you’re willing to go to jail over $3, then please have a nice life, wherever it may lead you.

By the way, the days of patrons are pretty much over. The plebeians don’t need the support of the patricians because they can do most of the work themselves. That and the patricians tend to be the ones demanding freebies, so your argument is invalid.

This is why you need to stop poor-mouthing and pay the damned writer.

But you still want free books because somewhere five years ago your mama told you that you were special and you can have anything you want. Well, you can. And you want to know how to get them?

Become a book reviewer. Reviews are a form of currency in the literary world. Most authors and publishers are more than happy to hand over free books to reviewers – to people who actually leave reviews. Unfortunately, Amazon’s system is built on a review-based algorithm, meaning books with more reviews receive more visible promotion space. If you leave a review, good or bad, you’re helping that author.

Even if you insist on stealing the book to read, the least you can do is review it. If you refuse to pay money, you can significantly lower your douchebaggery level by giving two minutes of your time. And for god’s sake…don’t tell the writer you think all of their stuff should be free and pirate sites are a good thing.

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll get punched in the face.

ConCarolinas Wrap-up Thinky Post

Published June 7, 2016 by administrator

It’s Tuesday after ConCarolinas, and I’m finally out of the post-con coma. I’m almost human again, too. Conventions these days wear me out almost as much as the day after. Yesterday was spent buried beneath my little girls while they wallowed all over me. It was our first time away from the little one, and two years since we had an extended weekend away from the big one. I admit, I slept like the dead this weekend, but it didn’t really do much to make me not miss my babies.

So, ConCarolinas.

First of all, a huge shout-out and love-filled thank you to Carol Cowles, Jada Hope, and Misty Massey for being the most awesome con mistresses ever. You guys are my heroes.

I love this convention. Not only is it the closest one to home, but it’s also one of the best. It isn’t a huge con, but it’s got a good crowd full of great people. We’ve all been together for so many years that we really are a family now. It was huge fun getting to play with Alexandra, Crymsyn, Nicole, and Melissa at the table. In case there was ever any doubt, we ARE the party at a convention. We have a big old time, and we give people candy. I really enjoyed Mom-talk with Sarah and getting to meet her family. I didn’t realize how much I missed talking to Faith since our days in the CC dungeon behind the escalator. The extended family – John, Jay, Misty, Gail, Tamsin, Emily, and all the rest that I’m forgetting to name… I love these people. I’ve made so many friends in the eight or nine years I’ve been attending, both as fan and as guest, and that roster continues to grow every single year.

The panels were a blast, and I really enjoyed this year’s Writer’s Workshop. It’s nice to see so many talented people coming up through the ranks as compared to all the nonsense floating around the interwebs these days. I didn’t sell much, but then again that isn’t really why I go to ConCarolinas. I went for the reasons mentioned above. These are my people, my tribe. Even the readers are so freaking awesome it makes my heart sing. It was well worth the cost of the hotel room. And the food… OMG. There’s a blog post coming later on truck food. It makes me hungry just thinking about that lobster dog.

All in all, and despite the issues with the A/C, it was a good weekend.

This year’s shindig is particularly significant as it marks my return to the con circuit after a year off. My con-going ended abruptly after MidSouthCon last year, and did so on quite the sour note. Then I spent the last twelve months pregnant, sick, depressed, and all manner of other things which are not conducive to the creative lifestyle. Suffice it to say I approached this event with no small amount of trepidation.

Social anxiety has been a growing problem over the last few years. I started out on a high note, publishing my first book in May 2011 and following it up with multitudes more. Conventions were big fun and I was just really starting to get the hang of this being-a-writer thing when my world collapsed. We won’t get into the psychological trauma of losing my father again (we all know we’ve been over that too much), but it was the primary catalyst for my withdrawal from society and, almost completely, from writing. And the tragedy didn’t stop there. The last few years have been an onslaught of sadness coupled with the all-consuming NEW MOM tag. My girls take up most of my time, and between them and the why-bother feeling from the general state of the writing market, it’s been a tough trek getting my mojo back.

I have to say, though… ConCarolinas has done wonders for my writer’s soul. I came out of it renewed and inspired. And the September deadline I acquired Saturday night can only help. It’s ambitious for me since I’m a slow writer, but I think having that project and the expectations of a publisher waiting on it will help me to drag myself out of the dirt and get back to it.

Which brings me to my last, and probably most important, comment: I just wanted to say thank you to John Hartness for being a great friend, and for believing so strongly in me even when I don’t believe in myself. And for calling me out on it in public. I needed that kick in the ass.

So enough of this. I have a book to finish.

On Death

Published May 4, 2016 by administrator

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

Published May 3, 2016 by administrator

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: S.H. Roddey

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

Published April 26, 2016 by administrator

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

Published April 19, 2016 by administrator

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.