ConCarolinas Wrap-up Thinky Post

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.


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:


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.


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.


A Writer Without Words

Witer's Block

Writer's BlockThere comes a point in every writer’s life when he or she has that moment. You know what I’m talking about…that second of sheer terror when a rogue thought appears and begins planting seeds of doubt.

“What if I can’t write anymore?”

It’s a very real, very common fear among us literary types. In Bag of Bones, Stephen King addressed it. His main character had been attempting to publish stockpiled manuscripts for years only to find none of them were any good. Each of us has a moment where we look at our in-progress folders and wonder what’s going to come of the things we’ve started but have yet to finish. We wonder if the legacies we’ve created to date will be enough to sustain us (and in most cases, we know they’re not). But most of all, we wonder about the reality which could accompany that hypothetical loss of words.

Let me tell you what it feels like.

Witer's BlockI have twenty-three unfinished works in my In-Progress folder. Twenty-three of these little monsters are things with mostly- or fully-formed plots in varying stages of completion. Some are short and some are long. They could be something one day. If we expand that to all of the unfinished things I’ve started over the years, we jump to somewhere above eighty. Granted not all of these are marketable things. Many of them are bits and pieces of things that have come and gone and will likely never see the light of day. Some of them are stream-of-consciousness writing, or scenes from dreams… things which could one day be used to fill in gaps in a plot somewhere. My point is, there’s a lot of stuff just hanging out there in the bowels of the cloud, waiting for a day in the sun.

It used to be I could write 6,000 words or more every day. I could rip through a short story in a day or two, a novella in a week. I used to have that writing stamina. Case in point – I wrote my paranormal romance novella, Blood Doll, in four days sitting in my grandmother’s hospital room in September 2011. It was what I did to keep my mind off the fact that she was sicker than we realized and would ultimately land in a nursing home for the last three years of her life. But back then I could do that, and the words coming out of me were good.

But the last four years have seen me on a steady decline word-wise. It really began in April 2012 with the crippling depression following my father’s death. Losing him changed me, and not for the better. I got very, very lost, and if we’re being perfectly honest, I’m still doing a little bit of searching. Not to find who I was, mind you…but who I am now without him in my life.

From April 2012 to December 2014, I completed and published two novels, a co-authored novella, and five short stories, each with longer lead times in between. Also during that time, I had the rights to four works returned to me, which on top of the nightmare that was my life for those few years, was a blow to my writerly ego. They were doing pretty well, but my publisher chose to go in a different direction, and I had no control over the fate of my beloved books. Couple that with the multiple times I’ve been burned by independent presses, it sort of put me off the idea of submitting anything. Frustration and heartbreak suck, y’all.

Since January 1, 2015, I have completed two short stories. Only one has been contracted. I have two publishers waiting on novels which aren’t written. I have two blogs languishing by the wayside while I sit here paralyzed by my own self-doubt. I have ideas, sure. Lots of them. I even have notebooks full of outlines and scribbled notes for various plots and scenes, but I can’t find the words to properly execute what’s in my head.

There’s real, physical pain associated with this type of writer’s block. Anxiety hurts, and the tension it causes in my body brings headaches, muscle pain, and all sorts of other aches and itches. The Pavlovian response to those negative stimuli is enough to break any writer of the habit. The thought that doing something I love will come with that sort of physical pain has put me off even trying lately. I know, I know…that’s a stupid way to look at things and I’m only hurting myself in the end. Logically, I get that.

Emotionally…that’s another story. So rather than sitting down at my computer or with my tablet and actually doing the writing, I find all manner of things to fill up my time. Yes, it’s a bad habit, but it’s one I’m trying to break. I know better than to let it get the best of me, but sometimes I can’t help it.

Having attended multiple conventions since my “professional” writing career started five years ago, I’ve heard every argument imaginable both for and against the concept of writer’s block. Some people say it doesn’t exist and is an excuse to procrastinate. Some say it’s real and is deadly. Others waffle between the two extremes. Personally, I believe it can be some of both. Having survived nearly a year of it, I can say it’s certainly not always an excuse. Has it been in the past? Yes. But right now, it’s not, and it’s horrible.


That man is my literary hero, in case you didn’t already know. It’s those very words above which have kept me plodding along all these months, adding words here and there to the various and sundry things in my collection. As a matter of fact, yesterday was the first day in months I actually made some sort of headway. Two-thousand words in one day is nothing short of a miracle for me right now and while I’m very happy with yesterday’s session and the outcome, I still find myself worrying about what today and tomorrow will bring. Can I do that again? Can I top it? What happens if I never finish that story?

The next time I sit down at a keyboard, there’s a good chance I’ll not get out but 100 words. Maybe even less. I can’t control the output these days. At least, not with any real consistency. I’m self-doubting and second-guessing. It sucks. It’s hard. But it’s also life.

My point here is that we aren’t always procrastinating. Sometimes we really are stuck. But it’s a phase, and this phase, like any other, will eventually pass. I’ll find my words again one day. And if you’re stuck like me, you will too.

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.

A Love Lost

A year ago today, I lost the love of my life.

I didn’t realize it until he was gone. I knew I loved him wholeheartedly and unconditionally, but losing him is ultimately what it took for me to realize that I will never love another man as much as I love my father.

Wedding Photo - Dancing

The last year has been awful. I’ve cried almost every day. I miss him terribly, and everything reminds me of him. There’s still pain, and a lot of it. I know it’s going to take time to move on, but right now it feels like that moment will never arrive. It’s hard to want something so much and know that you’ll never have it again.

He was my hero.

And worst of all, my little girl won’t remember him. She won’t grow up with the constant taunts and torment, the silly comments and the bags of candy from the gas station. She won’t get to ride down bumpy, old dirt roads in the country or go looking for deer tracks. She won’t have the wonderful memories that I wanted for her. I can tell her about him, show her pictures of him holding her, but it won’t be the same. Yes, it’s easier for her being so young… she doesn’t have to feel the loss and she’ll be too small to remember me being a wreck of a person, but even that sadness would be a small price to pay for the joy.

In the last twelve months I’ve struggled through paralyzing grief, bouts of manic rage, and long stretches of crippling depression. I know it’s all part of the process, but it isn’t me. I’ve never been one to cry. I can’t focus long enough to write, and anything even remotely resembling responsibility scares the hell out of me. I don’t think I can handle the disappointment of failure right now.

RDevil's Daughter coveright after he died, I used writing to deal with the immediate grief. I wrote Devil’s Daughter in just under a week, and I don’t remember writing large portions of it. When I go back and try to read it now, it’s extremely hard to do. A large part of me is in the story, and it hurts to see what I was.

I’ve come a long way, but I know I still have a long way to go, too.

Today has to be my turning point. I’ve been miserable long enough. And if I know anything, I know my Dad would kick my ass for crying over him. Then he’d kick my ass again for being such a sucky human. And then he’d probably give me a box of Andes mints, because that was what he did.

Crawling Out

I finally feel like a writer again.

That’s something I haven’t been able to say in a long time. I honestly haven’t felt like much of anything lately. Ever have one of those bouts where it feels like the whole world is crashing down around you and you can’t do anything to stop it? Yeah, that’s how things have been. Between the real job (because “starving artist” is great but it doesn’t pay the bills), the financial chaos, and the all-out shitstorm that has been the last seven months, I’m probably lucky to be crawling out of this as soon as I have.

I haven’t been writing much, and it has really hurt the balance in my mind. It isn’t that I haven’t wanted to write… it’s that I haven’t been able to. Whether it’s writer’s block (and the know-it-alls from various conventions can bite my butt on that “It’s another term for being lazy” argument) or the simple fact that there aren’t enough hours in the day, I haven’t gotten many words on paper at all.

Plus the two short stories I finished have been rejected at every turn. That doesn’t help.

In the last seven months I have been to five funerals. There have been eight deaths close to me. It hasn’t been fun.

Losing my Dad in April really screwed up my world. Things haven’t been right since then, and I don’t think they’ll ever be right again, truth be told. I miss him a lot, and I really don’t know how to cope with the fact that he’s gone. Everything reminds me of him, and I still find myself crying on almost a daily basis. Logically I know he wouldn’t want that, but it’s not something I can help. It’s a reaction to the situation and to multiple levels of grief, guilt and resentment toward the general nature of life. I wasn’t ready for that. We didn’t have time to prepare and in all honesty we really didn’t have the opportunity to say good-bye.

The grief has been eating away at me a little at a time for months now, and several weeks ago it got to the point where I completely stopped functioning.  My body shut down, and it was one of the scariest nights of my life.

All of that having been said, it’s probably obvious by now that I’ve been battling serious depression. It never got to the point where I couldn’t function and wanted to hurt myself, but it got pretty bad. I threw myself headfirst into the real job – not that I particularly wanted to, mind you. A coworker passed away under very unusual circumstances and it turns out that I was the only person in the building that knew his job, so guess who inherited it? That’s right… me. That was at the beginning of July. I just dug out of that mess this week.

The cooking and cleaning and general childcare duties have eaten up the rest of my time, leaving the writer-part of me out in the cold and starving.

Well, not anymore.

The fog is finally starting to lift and the world has a little bit of color in it today. Turns out I didn’t lose as much of a story as I thought when my flash drive went missing. My mind is full of thoughts and ideas and characters and situations, and I have enough in the “in progress” folder to keep me writing for years. I have family that cares and great friends who are behind me all the way. My girls are both healthy and my husband and I both have jobs. Yes, there are aspects of this picture that could be better, but over all I think I’ve got it pretty damn good. I’m thankful for what I have (and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better time to discover that?), and it’s nice to finally be able to see that silver lining again.

I’m not one-hundred percent back yet, but I’m getting there. Bear with me guys, because I still have a very long road ahead of me.