To Love is Instinct. To Hate is Learned.

Yesterday, I took my mother to the doctor. My daughter, Alice, went with us because she doesn’t start kindergarten until Thursday. The appointment ran long. Alice and I had been sitting in the lobby for the better part of an hour when another family came in. This was a grandfather, a mother, and three children, the oldest being middle-school age. A family of that size is sort of like a sideshow going anywhere, what with bathroom trips, preferred seating, and general and boredom. We have three children; I know all too well what it’s like.

A week ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about yesterday’s events. Today, it means something since the family who came in is black.

Given the current political climate, people on both sides of the color divide immediately tense, wondering if the next person to walk through the door is going to be THAT KIND of person. It can’t be helped these days.

The mother, clearly frazzled by her troop, herded them into the corner while the grandfather checked in. As they passed, I offered a smile and went back to working in my notebook. She smiled back warily as she went through the motions of settling them in while the gentleman went back to be seen.

Alice, ever curious, turned around to look at the kids. She loves little people, and never meets a stranger. The youngest of these children was about her size, and they began the kid-introduction ritual of smiling and waving. The little boy was antsy, and he wanted gum. His mother had peppermints. Alice perked up at the mention of candy, so she offered my daughter one, which made her Alice’s favorite person of the day.

Alice showed her Kitty-Cat (her most prized possession) in exchange. She asked Alice if she was excited to start school. Her little boy is the same age as Alice. They’re both starting kindergarten Thursday. Same school district, different schools. We talked about the late release Monday because of the eclipse. Once the ice was broken, we had a lot to talk about and conversation flowed easily.

About this time, Alice decided she wanted her peppermint opened. So her new friend hopped up and came over to tell her it was hot. He was very concerned about it and watched her like a hawk for any sign of distress.

When he realized it wasn’t going to hurt her, he relaxed. She showed him her Kindle where she was playing some kind of baking game, and next thing I knew, he was squishing up between Alice and me on the loveseat. I scooted over. He snuggled right up against me and smiled. His dimples did me in. Cutest little boy ever. So open and trusting…his sweet face brought tears to my eyes.

From that point on, Alice and Jaden were friends. They played together for over an hour, with only one little tiff. Five-year-olds aren’t great at sharing, and I made her apologize for being rude. He said it was okay and apologized for not letting her have a turn. Jaden’s brother got involved then, helping organize the turn-taking and keeping them on point.

When Mom was done and it was time to leave, Alice hugged Jaden and told him she’d see him next time, which made everyone laugh. She always assumes the best.

I watched these children for over an hour as they played together, oblivious to the social conventions/stigmas/whatever associated with skin color. It didn’t matter to them what they looked like or where they came from. It didn’t matter that their mother has an elaborate hairdo and impressive manicure or that I’m covered in tattoos. What mattered was the very important business of having as much fun as possible.

Watching these children reaffirmed my belief that there is still good in this world. They love whole-heartedly, without reservation or prejudice. They don’t see skin tone as a tool or a limitation. They just…are.

Every child starts out open-hearted and naïve. They’re moldable. What shapes children into the adults they become is what they’re taught. Racism and bigotry are passed from generation to generation, often unconsciously. Children mimic the adults in their lives. They don’t really know how to be people when they’re that young, and they gain that knowledge by observing. If a child grows up in a household where hate speech is the norm, they won’t understand that it’s wrong. They’re indoctrinated into a lifestyle they probably wouldn’t want if they knew what it was when they were still impressionable.

But the cycle can be broken. I’m proof of that.

My father was a good man, but he could be hard. He grew up in a time where the races kept to themselves. He wasn’t outwardly racist, but I was much older before I really understood that he wasn’t exactly open-minded, either.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I learned just how many of the neighborhood men I grew up around were legacy members of the KKK. I’d heard my mother mention it a time or two, but I never witnessed the darkness first-hand. It just wasn’t talked about. And being that young, it didn’t really register. The words didn’t mean anything to me. I didn’t see the meetings and hear the worst of the hate speech. Sure, I heard the racial slurs, but I despised those words even then. I refused to say them. Still do. And I don’t allow people to say them around me.

What these men believed wasn’t within the realm of my understanding. It didn’t make sense to me. My father shielded me from their true feelings. He raised me to respect everyone, and to not believe everything I heard.

Those men kept their evil well under wraps, at least around us kids. They were nice to me. Their children were my schoolmates, my friends. I went to their parties, played in their yards, trick-or-treated at their houses. I didn’t know what they were, and I didn’t know any better.

The true weight of that knowledge didn’t really settle in with me until I was an adult. I grew up around terrible people, but I came out the other side with a clear understanding that what they were doing was wrong. I wasn’t like them.

I’m still not like them. It’s why I don’t look back. It’s why I teach my children acceptance and love.

It’s up to us, the parents of the little ones, to change our behavior, to make a conscious effort to show our children a better way, and to allow them to form their own opinions of the world around them.

My daughters will always be taught to accept people for who they are, not what they look like, who they love, or what they believe. They will be taught to understand that those characteristics are not all-encompassing, and they do not define a person. I could have sent Alice to the charter school here in town, but I chose to send her to public school so not to limit her interaction with people from different walks of life. I want her to know that everyone is equal.

I wish I could erase the hatred from their world and let them live the rest of their lives with only love in their hearts. I wish they didn’t live in a world where the president thinks is okay lie and point fingers, to wave a Nazi flag and run innocent people down for daring to disagree. I don’t want my girls to live in a world where I question how many of my friends will assume the worst and disown be because of uncomfortable events from my childhood.

My girls will be encouraged to be fair, to think for themselves, and to do the right thing. They will grow up with the understanding that they respect all others around them. There isn’t much I can do to help those who are hurting and grieving, but I can do my part to make sure the next generation knows how to play fair.

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Gods & Monsters — Excerpt

Good afternoon, kids! Big things are happening in Camp Roddey…specifically, the release of Gods & Monsters by those lovely folk over at Falstaff Books. In celebration, I’m offering up the first chapter as a teaser. For those who want more, it’s available on Amazon both for purchase and as a KU read. It’s also going to be in print very soon for the paper junkies like me.

 

Gods & Monsters Cover ARt

BUY IT HERE


Gods & Monsters

CHAPTER ONE

Victor Frankenstein is dead.

This startling revelation settled in my mind on a clear day in February as I sat atop a snow-capped mountain and watched the lights of Selfoss wink on in the evening gloom below. Iceland as a whole slept under cover of darkness, soft and secure in the thoughts that monsters did not exist. If only they knew… Though to me it seemed the true monster was gone at last. It had been some time since I looked over my shoulder in search of his maddened visage, and longer still since word of his pursuit reached my ears.

With the revelation came a near-crippling release of emotion. Relief flooded my senses, and had my tear ducts been operational, I might have shed tears of joy. My long-suffering countenance could finally clear, and I might, for the first time in my miserable existence, have the opportunity to experience life without the specter of my past. Time was no longer my enemy. My father could no longer hurt me. I could accept my beginnings and move on from them. In that instant, I made a series of choices.

I chose, to the best of my ability, to integrate myself more with the creatures from whose stock I was built. I chose morality. I chose humanity. I chose to let my demons lie and embrace the things I could be. My scars, my disfigurement…those were things I could not change. But who I was…that was entirely up to me.

I, Adam, Son of Frankenstein, could at long last be a man.

I stood and crept down the mountain. The tiny hamlet contained roughly a dozen buildings, all in varying stages of disrepair. Many had roofs made of straw and thatch; others bore wood plank walls with large pockmarks packed hard with ice. In very few windows did lanterns burn. The only building that could, in fact, be considered habitable by European society’s standards was the inn. A puff of white smoke billowed from the chimney, and inside sat the majority of Selfoss’ inhabitants.

I’d watched them for weeks now from a cave above them. They were an industrious people who rarely saw outsiders. These men and women were isolated from the world by the ice, the mountains, and the waterfalls. It seemed as good a place as any to begin my attempt at humanity.

I took a deep breath and entered the inn. My hood was pulled tight around my face to hide from the occupants. As I crossed the room, I pulled a purse from the pocket of my coat. The innkeeper smiled as I approached, but when I stepped up to the counter, I pulled back my hood. All movement in the building halted as three dozen pairs of eyes turned curiously toward me. A woman’s frightened gasp filled the air as she leaned into her husband’s side.

“A room for a weary traveler, please,” I said in their brusque language. Eyebrows rose in surprise.

The innkeeper—though disturbed by my excessive height, the sharp angle of my jaw, and the angry scars bisecting my face—nodded, accepted my money as if I were an average man, and handed me a key.

“Upstairs,” he replied, then hesitated. He glanced around at his patrons, then back up at me. “There’s stew in the kettle if you’re hungry.” He pointed to the heavy cauldron hanging in the fireplace.

“Thank you,” I said with a nod. “Perhaps soon. I am still frozen from my travels.”

He nodded and gave me a tentative smile. “Of course. Enjoy your stay.”

The ice in my chest thawed a bit at this man’s show of kindness. I would not tell him I did not require sustenance, but to know that it was possible to be treated as any of his other guests was enough. And because of his unexpected kindness, I allowed myself to feel at ease. And because of my ease in this place, I slept. For the first time in my miserable existence, I found myself able to slip into unconsciousness with absolutely no fear of attack.

I should have expected the worst.

 

*****

 

I woke with a start well after midnight to a series of bindings crossing my body. Cold hands scrabbled at my wrists and ankles, tying ropes and anchoring chains. Hushed voices whispered around me, frantic, frightened, and deadly. Undoubtedly, I’d slept harder than I thought, as I found myself completely immobilized.

My back hit the floor, knocking the wind from my lungs, and I was dragged from the room. They pulled me down the stairs, my head banging against each step as I coughed and gasped, no doubt carving out divots with the impact. Tables and chairs flew aside, bouncing against my legs and arms as my captors struggled to move me through the deserted tavern by the ropes around my ankles. I didn’t fight. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t hurt anyone else unnecessarily. I wanted to know their plans before I retaliated.

So, I allowed these terrified men to drag me into the cold, through the uneven and sleeping streets to the edge of town where a copse of snow-capped trees stood. The crunch of dirt and gravel muted as they pulled me off the path, their boots sinking deep into the drifts of snow collected at their feet. Even from this distance, I could hear the water rushing over the falls. The air around us was calm and quiet, devoid of any sound except that of the water and their labored breaths. I did not struggle as they dropped me into the muddy snow and kicked at me—I would not risk breaking my promise to myself and injuring another man. I accepted that they were frightened of me, of my face and my size, of the scars and waxiness of my skin. A booted foot crashed down on my nose, breaking the cartilage and sending warm, thick streams of blood across my face. My sinus cavity filled with blood, and I coughed it away involuntarily, holding in a cry of pain as another landed a blow in the soft meat between my ribs and my hip. Perhaps they meant only to drive me from their sleepy, little hamlet. I was an interloper, a thing to be feared. I would allow them to run me away.

Then the rope came around my neck. Boots continued to connect with my chest and ribs. Blood poured from my ruined nose. My bones ached. My skin burned. Then they pulled—six men it took to drag me from the ground—and I realized their true intent: they wanted to kill me. They feared me so greatly that they could not suffer me to exist a moment longer.

My airway constricted under the pull of the rope as my feet left the ground, inch by torturous inch. It was not the first time I’d been hanged, and though I knew it would not kill me, it hurt nonetheless. I had done nothing to these people!

My anger boiled. I wanted to destroy them all, yet I remained motionless and allowed the noose to tighten. I would hold onto my convictions, anger be damned. I would not become the monster they saw.

“Why won’t it die?” one of my attackers asked.

“Because it’s a demon,” another said.

“It’s not a demon,” the first replied.

“It is! Why else won’t its neck break?”

“How do we kill it?” another asked, this voice young—no more than a teenager by my estimation.

“Do we burn it?”

“Stab it!”

“Cut its head off!” came another voice, and the cries of assent rallied around this call to action.

Then the branch snapped, and I collapsed to the ground. Pain flared through my feet and ankles from the impact, and all six men fell backward with a series shouts and grunts. The others moved backward as a single unit, afraid of being within my reach…as they should. The noose loosened, and I flexed my arms, breaking the bindings around them. Even the chains they’d used to drag me fell away. I jerked my legs free and planted my bare feet on the snowy ground. Metal and rope pooled at my feet as I stood, towering over the cowering, crying men. They backed up farther, those with torches holding them toward me as if to ward off an attack. I laughed.

“Shoot it, Agnar!” one screamed, and I heard the cock of a revolver’s hammer.

“Yes,” I replied in their own language, turning toward the gunman. Those who had not been present for my arrival gasped in surprise. I imagined they did not think me capable of intelligent speech. I took the barrel of the gun in my hand and stepped forward, pressing it into my chest to mark my heart. Should it work, I would be out of this eternal misery…and if not, I would continue as I always had: alone.

“Shoot me. End my existence. Prove me human, Agnar.”

The man’s hand shook so violently he could not keep the weapon trained on me. I stared down at him, still as stone as tears poured down his face. His lip trembled. Mucus ran from his nose in slimy strings, and saliva dripped from his bottom lip. He wiped a gloved hand across his face, smearing the mess to his cheek. He blinked away tears, and the trembling intensified. Finally, unable to hold my gaze, the terrified man threw down the gun and turned to run.

I caught him mid-stride, my hand closing around his throat. His windpipe collapsed as I squeezed. His eyes bulged, and when I released him, he fell to the icy ground, dead. Sightless eyes stared up at the canopy of trees. Blood leaked into the soft white snow from his nose and the corner of his open mouth. The rest of the mob remained motionless, stunned into silence as they stared at their dead comrade. The gun lay between them and me, and had any of them thought to grab it, the battle may have ended differently.

Then again, perhaps not.

A new combatant appeared from the mass of trembling men, brandishing a knife. A second followed him. One after another they attacked, driven out of fear—knives and guns, sticks and rocks. Each man charged, fueled entirely by the instinct to destroy, and each died with a look of shock upon his face. I crushed one man’s skull in my hand, broke another’s neck. A third I slammed face first into the very tree from which they’d attempted to hang me. One fired a round at me and missed, hitting his comrade in the chest and knocking him backward into a snow drift. I tore those men apart, leaving their bloody carcasses scattered beneath the trees. Still, the rush of water over the falls in the distance sang out, uncaring of the carnage.

At last I stood in the grove, the powdery, white ground stained muddy red beneath my feet. Blood soaked into my clothing. I needed to return to the inn and retrieve my boots and coat. I needed to leave this place before I was found.

It wasn’t until I started to walk away that I recognized the face of the innkeeper among the dead.

You know you want more… click here to get it.

And remember… if you like it, or if you don’t, please leave a review. We love to hear from our readers, no matter what you think.

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Blog Tour: Alexandra Christian’s “Naked”

Good morning, my lovelies! I have a special treat for you today. The lovely Alexandra Christian is put and about promoting her new book, Naked, and I have the info for you!

First and foremost, let me just say that this is a hell of a book. I think I’ve read it in every version from conception to publication, and I still love it just as much as I did the first time.  Everyone should read this book. Right now.

Yes, even you.


BLOG TOUR

Title: Naked

Author: Alexandra Christian

Series: The Phoenix Rising Series

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian and Paranormal

Release Date: April 13, 2017

Add to Goodreads

 

 

Librarian at one of Earth’s last paper libraries, Phoebe Addison is about to have a romantic and interplanetary adventure wilder than anything she’s ever read.
OUT OF THE STACKS
Librarian Phoebe Addison has lived her entire life within a seventy-five mile radius of her small Louisiana town, but when she receives a strange medallion from her adventurous, off-world sister, reality tilts toward the bizarre. Everything Phoe thought she knew is…well, wrong. Dead wrong. But bone-numbing fear has no place in this brave new world—nor by the side of the dangerous, exquisite man who saves her life.
…AND INTO THE FIRE
Following the tragic slaughter of his family, operative Macijah “Cage” St. John understands evil in a way no man ever should. He traded happiness for a magnificent and terrible power, and fate isn’t done with him yet. He wasn’t looking for comfort. He didn’t need tenderness. But today he’ll play hero to a damsel in distress, and his quest will deliver him to the uncanny Martian colony of New London—and his heart to the demure Phoebe Addison. The bookish beauty’s hidden talents and deep abiding love just might save Cage from himself.
Phoebe could tell he wanted to say more but wouldn’t. She held his gaze, but he looked away, as if he were hiding a weakness he couldn’t stand for her to see.
“What are you talking about?” she said. “Help me understand.”
“I can’t,” he said, pulling back and shaking his head as if to clear it. “I won’t.”
“But why?”
He rolled back on his heels and stood quickly, and in an uncharacteristically clumsy movement, his shoulder brushed against the bedside table and nearly toppled the glass of tea.
“Just leave it alone, Phoe. My demons are my own.” The weakness was gone, and now that hard-edged, barely contained anger had returned.
She knew if she pressed him he would lash out. She was starting to understand, to be able to read his moods that had seemed so random and mysterious when they’d first met. There was a scab, healed over, but beneath the surface it still burned in his soul.
“Rest up,” he said, turning to walk away. “We’ll leave at sunset. Sadie has a car.”
Swallowing her nausea, Phoe threw back the blanket and stumbled out of the bed toward him. “Wait. Cage.”
He stopped but didn’t turn. “Look, I don’t know what’s happened in your past, but we all have demons. Some of us more than most. I get it.” She laid a hand on his shoulder, feeling the quiver of muscles pulled tight. The sensation of gentle touch had evidently become foreign. His head turned, staring down at where her fingertips rested against him. Such a profile, his eyes gazing downward and the faint glisten of a single tear resting just under his eyelashes. “You can trust me.”
“I do trust you, Phoe.”
She slid her arm along his shoulder, and he turned, enveloping her in a gentle embrace. He brushed a hand over her brow, smoothing back the stray locks that fell around her face. Being so close to him, she felt small and skittish. If he loosened his grasp even a little, she feared she would retreat.
He took her hand, bringing it to his lips then pressing her palm against his cheek. Instantly his body relaxed, as if her touch were some sort of calming drug. Phoebe could actually feel the tension melting from his muscles.
His eyes were full of fire and his breathing labored. Phoe couldn’t believe that it was her doing this to him. That all of this was for her.
“I don’t trust me,” he muttered in a low growl.
She was mesmerized by the curves of his lips as he spoke, and without even realizing, she’d moved closer. Only a breath between them, and then their lips touched.
At first he kissed her lightly, but when her tongue slid across the seam of his lips, he became insistent. His sumptuous mouth caressed her lower lip and it made her bold. Instinct kicked in and she kissed him back with equal intensity. Cage stole her breath and then offered his own. His arms tightened around her waist as he pulled her in against him, his hands rested on her hips as their kiss deepened.
Alexandra Christian is an author of mostly romance with a speculative slant. Her love of Stephen King and sweet tea has flavored her fiction with a Southern Gothic sensibility that reeks of Spanish moss and deep fried eccentricity. As one-half of the writing team at Little Red Hen Romance, she’s committed to bringing exciting stories and sapiosexual love monkeys to intelligent readers everywhere. Lexx also likes to keep her fingers in lots of different pies having written everything from sci-fi and horror to Sherlock Holmes adventures. Her alter-ego, A.C. Thompson, is also the editor of the highly successful Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series of anthologies.
A self-proclaimed “Southern Belle from Hell,” Lexx is a native South Carolinian who lives with an epileptic wiener dog, and her husband, author Tally Johnson. Her long-term aspirations are to one day be a best-selling authoress and part-time pinup girl. Questions, comments and complaints are most welcome at her website: http://lexxxchristian.wixsite.com/alexandrachristian.
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Building the Book — Gods & Monsters

With the release date right around the corner and book two in full production, I’m excited and want to talk about what has become one of my favorite pieces to date.

Everyone that knows me knows how much I love Frankenstein, and how I like to completely warp the tools I’m given. When John approached me about writing this part of his Shadow Council Case Files series, I was beyond ecstatic. And then I was terrified.  Coming up with the idea was easy. It was the execution portion that had me almost paralyzed with fear. For months, I panicked, thinking there was no way I was ever going to be able to pull this off. I hadn’t written anything substantial in quite awhile (the last novel I completed was Homegrown Hearts, if that tells you how long ago it was), and the majority of the short fiction I’d submitted over the previous year had been rejected. I’d begun to believe I needed to just give up and let this pass.

Then I wrote the first big, bloody fight scene to Pavarotti singing “Ave Maria”, and the world was suddenly right. That was the point where I realized what was missing from my process: Music.

I couldn’t find the movement in the words because I didn’t have movement around me. I couldn’t feel the story coming to life. I didn’t have a title, either. For weeks, I referred to it as “that stupid Frankenstein thing” in conversation.

Finally, after about a month and a half of waffling, I sat down with Spotify and started listening for the right tone. The right movement. Because of the time period, I began with classical and choral chamber music – things I learned to love working at the Cathedral in Charleston during Spoleto [coincidentally, hearing Philip Glass perform live was one of the most moving experiences of my life].

It wasn’t until I happened randomly upon Lana Del Rey’s Gods and Monsters that the whole picture solidified in my mind. Granted, the song itself doesn’t paint a pretty image, but the first verse spoke to me about Adam’s character. Then the light went on and I remembered… Adam isn’t the villain. He’s the victim.

While driving, songs would filter in that intensified images in the story, so I added them to the list. Song by song, I built a mood with the same crescendos as the story. Some of the songs are used more than once throughout the story.

After a few passes, I had something I thought was readable… and apparently I was right. John’s editorial comments were fun – as any good editor should, he pointed out the weak spots and I responded in my traditional, snarky way. One day there will be a director’s cut of those conversations. Maybe when the four novellas are combined into print.

All in all, I’m happy with how this turned out. I love the character, the darkness, and most of all…the hope. The ability to take something so twisted and turn it into something beautiful. In a lot of ways, I see myself in Adam. No, I don’t have scars running down the center of my face (yet…give me time), but I know what it is to be broken. I poured a lot of my own emotions into building him into what he becomes. I just hope it comes through for the reader.

For those interested, the soundtrack is embedded below, and you’re welcome to stalk me on Spotify anytime. Enjoy!

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New Cover Goodies!

Good morning, ladies and germs! It’s that time again…time to unveil awesome new cover art! This one is for Gods & Monsters, the first of four Shadow Council Archives novellas, coming soon from Falstaff Books.

Gods & Monsters Cover ARt

“My scars, my disfigurement…those were things I could not change. But who I was? That was entirely up to me. I, Adam, Son of Frankenstien, could, at long last, be a man.

Decades after the death of Victor Frankenstein, Adam returns to Ingolstadt in search of answers and acceptance.  What he finds is not what he expects: a beautiful woman spiraling into insanity, a murderous cult determined to harness the power of creation, and his worst fears coming to fruition. An offer of assistance from a mysterious stranger turns his world on end and sets him on a path toward both salvation and destruction.

Stay tuned for release information and updates on book two in the series!

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It’s Okay to Ask For Help.

Being a person is hard.

Late last week I saw in passing on Facebook that another writer friend made an attempt on his own life. This is a man I’ve only met once, and to which I am not close, but that one of our tribe was so lost that he hurt himself hits very, very close to home. Over the last few years, so many have succumbed to that darkness. No, I didn’t know all of them. Some deaths I learned of through mutual friends. While they didn’t have a direct effect on me, I watched people I love suffer in the wake of those losses. There’s too much of this, and it’s getting hard to watch.

Which is exactly why I’m writing this now. It’s hard as hell to do. It sucks. It’s not pretty, and it’s not fun. But until we take this monster to task, it’s going to continue to consume us.

So…where have I been, you ask?

I’ve been depressed.

In the past, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to detect these bouts of misery and overcome them on my own. I’ve always been the one to showcase a strong front, to make people believe I’m okay and that I don’t need help. I’m good at hiding that part of me away so that the vast majority of people don’t know anything is wrong.

Then I realized something: this behavior is how people die. That need to be tough drags people under and smothers them. That purported “strength” is our biggest weakness. The true test of strength comes when we make the decision to ask for help. To admit we aren’t perfect. Flawed. Broken.

And I am. I am still very much broken. I just didn’t realize how badly until I started to come out of the worst of the darkness. I’ve been here for five years, and I’m still not out of the woods yet. I have a long way to go to get back to me.

Five years ago next week, my father died. I know I talk about it a lot, but for those who haven’t been through that kind of loss, it’s a big deal. His death changed me on a fundamental level. 2012 was a hell year. I had exactly one month of the most amazing happiness between the time my daughter was born and the day my mother called me to tell me my father had to have bypass surgery. Then it was a month of worrying. And another month of uncertainty.

And then a funeral.

See, it didn’t just happen all at once. He had his surgery, which he came through well, except for his lungs, which were ruined from years of smoking. After a little over three weeks on the ventilator, we lost him. What I’ve spent the last five years denying to myself is that from the moment I learned of his surgery, I knew it would be the end. The grieving process really started for me the day Mom called, and I’m still not done.

For a long time, I cried every day. But I did it where nobody could see. I pretended to be okay and kept up appearances with social obligations and offers of help to anyone who needed it while I became a workaholic and put all of my focus into the new infant in my life. I can safely say now, five years later, that Alice is the reason I survived. She was my tiny miracle.

I still have moments of pain – April is a particularly bad month – but they’re fewer and farther between. I still miss him every single day. It tears my heart out to know Alice is too young to remember him and Lily won’t ever know him. He’s supposed to be here to torment them and tell them silly things. To spoil them rotten. He should be here. But he’s not, and I still have a hard time reconciling that.

So losing my father sent me into a tailspin that continued for several years. In that time I helped set up and organize a convention, wrote two novels, contributed several short stories to various anthologies, and pretended on the outside like nothing was wrong. As a result of said convention, I made some new friends. I met a LOT of new people and reconnected with some old friends, and the darkness finally started to lift.

I was invited to participate in a couple of projects, which helped to bolster my fragile ego. I was starting to feel human again, and I was excited to be working with new people on something exciting.

In October 2014, I had a miscarriage. Then in November,  one of my good friends was murdered 60 feet from where I stood and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. Those two massive blows came back to back – within two weeks of each other. Back into the tailspin I went. But I still pretended like nothing was wrong.

Then I attended MidSouth Con in the Spring of 2015. I’d recently found out I was pregnant again, so I was a nervous wreck about that. On top of that, the convention was an unbelievable mess. Poor organization, no signage, panels not well-attended…no sales. What was supposed to be my triumphant return to the con circuit was a flaming disaster.

About a month after that, I started to have problems with sickness as a result of the pregnancy. Between the illness and the depression, I was either at work or asleep with little in between. Sciatica joined the party, so I hurt all the time, too. We were also having issues with phone and internet service at the time, which meant I fell out of touch with people for large chunks of time. Not because I was ignoring them, but because  I was physically unable to sit up and be on the internet.

Then two projects I was excited to be working on imploded. I spent months BEGGING for the stories so I could edit them while I was lying in bed being miserable – I could still read, and I did a lot of it during that time – but I kept getting excuses. I got run around in so many ways…then I found out through the grapevine that I was being publicly blamed by the publisher (someone I thought was a friend) for the project going to shit.

I would get snarky messages on Facebook about how he wasn’t able to get in contact with me while all of my many emails were going unread. My text messages and phone calls were ignored. I was shut out.

Oh, and I’ve never been paid a penny for the story I gave him to fill out an anthology that had several last-minute rescissions.

That tipped me over the edge into a seriously dark place. Even my friends had begun to turn their backs on me. So I withdrew. I came off Facebook. I wasn’t sure how to help my friends who had their own mental things going on. I couldn’t deal with stress. I lived with the constant, nagging voice telling me I wasn’t good enough and everything I touched turned to shit. I stopped talking to pretty much everyone that didn’t directly contact me by text message or show up at my house. I didn’t want the world to know how hurt I really was by that betrayal.

And let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? That was a damned betrayal. That was someone thinking they could make a buck off of me. Opportunistic bullshit, really. And in the end, I was unfriended on Facebook, run down in multiple social circles, and treated like a goddamned pariah for daring to succumb to a situation beyond my control.

Since that point, I have done very little on the artistic front. I fell into freelance book formatting jobs to supplement my income. I wrote a second Sherlock Holmes story for the Improbable Adventures series. A submitted and had rejected three horror stories. I self-published Loki’s Game after Sugar & Spice closed. But that was it. In fact, Crippled Playthings was the first story I finished since handing over the rights  to The Memory Remains two years earlier.

In the middle of this, John Hartness more or less strongarmed me into writing for Falstaff Books (I say strongarmed me because he hit me with a “do you want a contract on this or not” email on a project we’d spoken about several months earlier as a hypothetical thing). I agreed, then promptly panicked. Thankfully, he ignored me.

My 35th birthday pretty much sucked. My birthday falls right in the middle of a pair of big cons in my circle, and several other birthdays are stacked on top of it, so mine usually skates by unnoticed. That this one was unavoidably missed by several people close to me wasn’t anything new or spectacular…it just hurt more this year because of how bad a place I was already in. There was only one person who really knew how badly it hurt because by that point I couldn’t keep everything contained anymore. It wasn’t the truth at all and while the logical, rational part of my brain understood the extenuating circumstances, lack of money, illness, and other reasons behind it, I still felt unloved and unwanted.

It’s that crippling self-doubt that makes us do bad things to ourselves. I know my people love me. I have never doubted that…but that nagging voice screams these things inside where only I can hear it. It tells me all the time that I’m not good enough. That I’ll never be anything.

I didn’t see just how deep into the mire I was until a month or so ago. It was dark, and it was scary. I didn’t realize how much weight I gained, either. That didn’t help.

So after Christmas, I changed my eating and exercise habits. I’ve lost 26 pounds so far, but I still have a long way to go. The exercise helps clear the cobwebs, too.

Another part of the reason why I’m starting to come out of it now – no…the WHOLE reason why I’m starting to come out of it now is because I have amazing friends. A lot of people stuck by me and have loved me unconditionally, even when I didn’t love myself. They believed in me. Selah, Lexx, Crymsyn, and Amy – my writing buddies, cohorts, and partners in crime… they don’t put up with my shit and tell me to stuff it when I get all morose and whiny, and I love them all that much more for it. I think they knew what was wrong with me even when I didn’t.

I’ve written more in the last four months than I have in five years. John offering me that contract was the beginning. I agonized over that first story. I almost threw up after I sent it because that fear that he’d hate it and never want to talk to me again took control.

But he didn’t. He actually liked it. The edits are almost done, and the more of his comments I read, the better I feel about it. I almost feel like I can do this again.

And then there’s Melissa… my twisted, little guardian angel. She’s pushing me to keep writing. We signed on to do this crazy serial, and I think it really was the kick in the ass I needed to make me come back around. We’re working on Episode 3 now, and that project is starting to pick up steam. I’m excited again, which is something I haven’t been in a very long time.

I’m writing every day. That should tell you something.

Things are getting better. They’re not all the way there and, as a writer, I don’t know that they ever will be. But I’m beating it for now. I’m winning. And I realized that any time I need it, all I have to do is ask for help. My people have my back.

But this is my request for help. Be patient with me. Understand that I’m not quite back yet. Continue to love me as I am and for what I am. There’s not enough love in the world today.

I aldo want everyone else who suffers the way I do to understand that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to hurt. But it’s also okay to ask for help. Hell, if there’s nobody else around, come to me. I’ll help if I can.

I may not know you, but I love you.

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Wanna Play a Game?

Cupid Connection S1 Cover

Authors Siobhan Kinkade and Melissa McArthur bring you a new series, THE CUPID CONNECTION!

THE CUPID CONNECTION is a rollicking good time, following the adventures of a young woman looking for love. The Bachelorette meets The Truman Show in this serialized saga sure to light your fires.

Beginning April 11, 2017, a new episode will be released electronically each week. After the ten-episode season is finished, the stories will be collected into a single volume.

With a mix of humans and paranormals—including Asmodeus himself—as potential matches, who will the world choose as Sadie Anne Monroe’s new beau? Find out, in THE CUPID CONNECTION!

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The Writing Advice I Received, and What I Wish it Was

Every author has “advice” for new writers, and every new writer wants as much of it as they can get, for obvious reasons. We don’t know what we’re doing when we get started. This is a hard business that, for the most part, doesn’t pay well considering the time and effort we put into it. Those of us who stick with it long-term do it more for the love of the written word than the paycheck because seriously…if we relied on it as our main income source, we’d all be pretty hungry.

I think the largest problem I had in my first years was that I tried too hard to listen to the advice of others and emulate them. And you know what? It didn’t work for me at all. It put me in a bad place that I don’t ever want to go again, and after all this time I’m just starting to dig myself out of the funk and figure out who I am as a writer and where I want to be in ten years.

So for those looking for advice on how the system works and what to do, let me offer you my advice: don’t take anything I say for the rest of this post too seriously.

Sh*t People Told Me

Advice: You don’t need to worry about grammar and punctuation. That’s what editors are for.

My Response: First of all, this is the one piece of advice every single one of you SHOULD listen to, because it’s the truth and pretty much any publisher and/or editor worth his salt will agree with me: YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND HOW THE TOOLS WORK IN ORDER TO USE THEM PROPERLY.  If you don’t understand the basic mechanics of the language, then you are in no capacity to be using it in a professional manner. You, as the writer, cannot rely on an editor to “fix” you. An editor is there to make you better, not rewrite your shit. They can write their own books without your assistance.

Oh, and if you write poorly and chose not to use an editor before slapping it up on Amazon, then you really don’t need to be part of the writing community because you’re not presenting a professional product. Sorry, kids, but them’s the breaks.

Advice: Just write every word that comes into your head without editing. You can go back and do it later.

My response: Uh, no…but thanks. That might work for some people, but it also opens the door for lots and lots and LLLOOOOOOTTTTSSSS of mistakes. I am very much a proponent of “write how it feels right to you”, but I want to caution against letting your creative side get too far ahead of your technical side. Freewriting is fine, but remember, kids, it’s much harder to self-edit because your brain automatically fills in the blanks and reworks the things your eyes take in because you know how it’s supposed to work.

I wish someone had told me to forget all the BS about the best way to write and just told me to do what comes naturally to me.

Advice: Read a whole bunch of brand new things on the market and write just what’s trending now.

My Response: Nope, nope, and nope. Here’s the problem with this scenario: trends change quickly. It takes at least three months start-to-finish to write, edit, and publish a book. By the time you get your book out and into the ring, the trendsetters will likely have moved onto the next bizarre and frightening new “thing”.

My advice…write the book you want to read. If you love it, you’re going to be more inclined to give it the care and attention it needs. If you love the final product, other people will love it too.

Advice: Just write the same book and change the names. People won’t notice.

My Response: Yeah, someone actually said this to me. No, I don’t think it’s fair. I never underestimate my readers. I like to think you’re all at least as smart as me and will notice if I plagiarize myself. I write a new story every time.

Advice: Write sex scenes with all the detail you can. People really like it when it’s dirty.

My Response: Guys, I don’t want to smell the smegma. I am a voracious reader – we’re talking a book a day most days – and nothing pushes me away faster than an overly complicated sexual act with too many limbs and way too many sensory triggers. I have a good imagination, so when you start talking about tastes and odors like you’re reviewing a new restaurant… yeah, I’m gonna put that down and walk away.

Seriously, it’s okay to not be up in the chick’s hooch while they’re going at it. Again, I say do what works for you, but I much prefer a carefully crafted scene that presents the illusion of beauty and pleasure without being able to count pubic hairs.

Advice: The format isn’t important. You just have to tell a good story.

My Response: Yes…yes, it is. Speaking as a formatter for multiple publishers and self-published authors, I can tell you that writing in the proper format is ESSENTIAL to being a good writer. Refer to statement one and the “know how to use yer shit” requirement. Proper manuscript format gives you a clean presentation, makes you look like you can follow directions, and ultimately shows you what your book is going to look like in print…to a certain extent. You need contact information so the person you submit it to can reach you – ’cause lemme tell ya…they don’t sit there and read your work with the email browser open so they can immediately praise your brilliance.

We’re slush, guys, and if we don’t give the ones potentially buying the rights to our books what they want to see, they’re going to kick us out and move onto the next one who can follow directions.

THIS SITE has a fabulous example for you to follow. It’s easy…just read it.

That Having Been Said…

The best advice I can give you is this: Do what works for you. Write at your pace in your style with your voice. There’s only one you, and you have to make your writing work. You can take my advice to the letter, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  And for the love of Pete, please follow the directions.

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Almost…Maybe…

We’re finally getting somewhere! So the important stuff is done and back in place, but the pretty bells and whistles? NOPE. Not yet. Working on it.

I do at least have my books up. I know who I am again. You can also sign up for my mailing list…not that I have anything interesting to say at the moment.

Though I’m thinking about giving stuff away. If I decide to do that, I’ll let you know. That having been said, stay tuned. I’ll be back.

In the meantime, watch the trailer for the new Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures. And in case you’re wondering, the mad surgeon is mine.

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