In the Shadow of Death: A #HoldOntoTheLight Post


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 and join us on Facebook


Picking Up the Pieces…One Step at a Time.

My last post was on Halloween. I wish I could say I was just being slack since then, but that’s not the case. The last few months have been hard in unimaginable ways. I think I’m finally ready to talk about all of it and start letting some of it go.

It started in Mid-October, actually.

The first hit came when one of my romance publishers handed me the rights back to four of my books. That sucked, but was quickly put into perspective by life itself.

On October 19th, I went to the emergency room because I’d started bleeding. At the end of July, I found out I was pregnant, but all of a sudden, my worst nightmare was coming true. I was losing the baby. The next week was a swirl of doctors and bloodwork and waiting. By the end of October, my doctor confirmed that I had, in fact, suffered a miscarriage. Only my closest friends and family knew, and I wanted it that way. I didn’t need everyone in the world offering condolences and telling me I’d still be able to have more kids.

The simple fact is this: I was devastated. I felt like a complete and utter failure as a woman. Logically I know that’s not the case, but the thought that I was unable to protect that child still haunts me. It will for some time to come, I’m learning to deal with the grief. Or rather, I would have if bad hadn’t gotten even worse.

On the afternoon of November 6th, one of my best friends was murdered. I talked to Angie at 2:45, and half an hour later, she was dead in the parking lot of our workplace. Her husband shot her four times in the back of the head because she’d told him she wanted a divorce. There’s more Angie’s story, but I’m not quite ready to tell it yet. One day, though.

There was an immediate and irrational anger following the announcement that the loud noise was, in fact, a set of gunshots and that yes, Angie was gone. I wish every day I didn’t know what it felt like to want to kill someone, but I do now. Until that moment, I’d never felt that furious compulsion to commit violence before, but I couldn’t help it. It didn’t matter that he’d turned the gun on himself… all that mattered was that I wanted to go outside and stomp his head flat. I wanted to hurt him for hurting her, and in that furious rage, no act was too heinous.

You killed her… you stupid, useless, selfish son of a bitch!

That anger has since subsided, but I wish I didn’t remember the way it felt. It was an adrenaline rush, pure energy and anticipation, and a driving need to destroy. Beyond that anger was numbness and a hollow ache. My heart physically hurt for her. I gave my statement to the police, which is what they used to close the case. I was one of four people in the world who knew the whole story, who understood the reasons why she’d left, and who fought to protect her from him. I always knew this situation would end badly, but I hoped I’d ultimately be proved wrong.

I still have moments of surreality; times when I pick up the phone to call her but remember she’s not there. I find myself crying for her, wanting to scream at him for taking her away. But the screaming does no good. She’s gone and she’s not coming back. And he can’t hear me. With any luck, he’s boiling in oil in Hell.

It feels like the joy has been sucked out of life these last few months. When I got the proof copy of my newest romance release at the end of November, my first thought was to take it to Angie and get her reaction to the half-naked cowboy on the cover. But she wasn’t there to see it. I still haven’t brought copies of that book to my office. I just don’t have the heart to talk about it. It was doubly bad because she was the one I would talk to about these sorts of situations. And not having her here to talk about what happened to her has been the hardest part.

The one bit of good news is that I have started writing again. It’s mostly short horror, and I mostly blame Jerry Benns at Charon Coin Press for it. We’ve become good friends over the last few months, and he keeps baiting me into things. I wrote a story for one of his anthology calls (I really want to be a fly on the wall when he reads it, too. It’s really twisted.), and have since been talked into taking on the role of editor for two anthologies. I’ve got another story in the works which is mostly his fault as well, but we’ll talk about that one when the time comes.

Writing horror has helped exorcise some of the demons in my mind. It’s helping me deal with the frustration, hurt, and anger. Words have always been my weapon of choice, and these last few weeks have been a battle. I won’t say it’s getting easier, but I do seem to be finding a new normal. 2014 was a bad year and I’m glad to see it go.

The goal now is to take it one step at a time. One day at a time. And maybe soon things will fall into place again. It won’t be easy, and I still have a long way to go to get past the events of the last few months, but I’ll make it. I’m like a cat in that respect… I almost always land on my feet.