Thursday, September 29, 2016

Butler's Parables Series: A Fiction We Don't Want To Live In

So the question put in front of me today: what fictional character would you like to be?   There's been that meme of late to define yourself with three fictional characters, and I'm always at a loss with that sort of thing.  I don't know, I just don't think along those lines.  
But-- and forgive me for getting a bit political-- I know one fictional setting that I don't want to live in, and that's Octavia Butler's Parables duology.
If you haven't read Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, a quick summary: it's set in a near future dystopia, where the American government has effectively collapsed to privatization and a fearmongering leadership.  And as opposed to the hip dystopias of Hunger Games or Divergent, this one is disturbingly plausible.  At the time I read it, it felt like a place that we might actually reach, it felt more real from its lack of rules or rigidly defined divisions.  Instead, all the divisions are just the usual Fear of the Other-- someone who isn't one of mine can't be trusted.
It's a frightful vision of the future, and I hope it's not a future that anyone would want to live in.  There is hope in the series, hope spawned from attempts at unity and empathy.  But the point of the series is how fear and selfishness tries to squash hope, unity and empathy.
Choose a bright future.  Choose hope and empathy.  Because that's where I want to live.
And read those two books, because they are excellent.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Be a Character

If I could be anybody else's character who would it be and why...

I've said for years that I was inspired by Jennifer Roberson's character Del in The Sword Dancer series because I wanted to be Del. I still stand by that. Why? Because she's unafraid to set a lofty goal and then she achieves it. It doesn't hurt that she can use a sword as well as the men around her who are taller and stronger and more experienced.

But, if that's the criteria...then a host of other ladies fit the criteria, such as Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, and Hermione Granger.

And hell, I'd be happy to be Han Solo or James Bond or Conan the Barbarian. Just sayin'.

I'm a sucker for the idea of an adventure.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Is It Bad That I'd Want To Be A Brat?

Who would I be if I could be a character from a book...uhm...hmm.

I'll go with Anne Rice's über emo misanthropic brat Lestat. Responsibilities slide off him like oil on Teflon. He's unquestionably bold and daring to the detriment of everyone around him. He has amazing adventures with more amazing people...and gives no shits for how badly he wrecks them. The people and the places, that is. His selfishness lays low immortals and gods (you know that is a special level of It's Always All About Me when you're worse than a god). When he's overcome with self-pity, holed up or buried, wallowing in his bad hair day, one of his Stockholm victims comes to his rescue. Even when his peers attempt to hold him accountable, his charm and insouciant ways somehow lead him to be the hero of the moment or at least of the illusion.

Lestat is so completely who I am not, that it would be a gas to live his life with his utter lack of morals.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Who would I be...?

So the notion here is to say who you would like to be in someone else's world. I rather like that.

There are so many choices.

Superman. he'd be great. Not that sad sack from MAN OF STEEL, but the one that believes in truth, justice and the American way. That one.

Still, let's go a little deeper shall we?

John Carter of Mars had it pretty good Super strong, hottest girl in the universe on his arm. Still. A little too much like Superman when you get right down to it.

I'm going to go with Taran from the amazing Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander.

Tara started off as an apprentice pig farmer with delusions of grandeur. He wanted to be a brave hero. he wanted to fight the ancient enemies of the land, including Arawn the evil overlord who almost ruled the whole of Prydain before.

Seriously, you'd think with that start up that you'd get another mostly generic fantasy, but Taran lived an amazing life. he met incredible creatures and friends. He learned and he grew and before it was all said and done he got everything he wanted out of the world, and all it cost him was his dreams and his innocence.

In other words, he went from being a bratty kid to becoming a man of honor and integrity.

I think that's all anyone can ask for at the end of the day. Also, he got the girl. That's a lovely notion.

Absolutely one of my favorite series of books ever. Absolutely one of the best developed characters I ever ran across.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

I Would Be ... Lessa of Pern!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is what character would you like to be in someone else’s novel and why?

It was an interesting question to ponder. I went through a number of choices before discarding them for various reasons. Like, I nearly said Eve Dallas from J.D. Robb's In Death series - but that's mainly so I could have Roarke. I wouldn't want her tortured past or to be a homicide detective. Similarly, I thought about Kate Daniels (now Lennart!) from Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels books. It would be cool to be kickass like her and have all that magical power, but she's had a sucky life, too, and has a tough challenge ahead of her.

This kind of thing is true for many characters who capture my imagination, and I'm a believer in looking at the entirety of a person's life. This is a great remedy for envy of all kinds, by the way. Whenever I find myself wishing I could have some other author's book success, I make myself consider everything about them and if I'd tried the whole of my life for theirs. Even with the most awesome people the answer is always no, because I like MY life and who I am.

So, using this rule of thumb, I ended up discarding most potential characters. I finally ended up with...

Lessa of Pern!

If you don't know, she's the heroine of Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, the first of the Weyrs of Pern trilogy, and she appears in many of the connected books, too.

And yes, yes, yes - I KNOW. Lessa had a majorly sucky childhood, too. And nasty challenges to face.


It would totally be worth it to have a queen dragon. And F'lar. Plus she was the first heroine who really resonated with me. She's more interested in getting things done than in being nice. Her force of will and determination are qualities F'lar loves about her and made me believe I could be loved for that in myself, too. (And I am!) She's frequently bitchy and not afraid to be angry - but she's also widely appreciated and has a soft heart under it all.

Totally my role model!

~waits for dragon~

Saturday, September 24, 2016

It's Fall Play Ball Excerpt from Trapped on Talonque

Tiny confession: we're supposed to do flash fiction about the equinox, I think. I'm not a real big fan of writing flash fiction nor am I well versed in the intricacies of the equinox PLUS I did a flash fiction with the titles of classic books just a couple of weeks ago in this very space. Moving merrily onward, I'm flash fictioned OUT.

(Saturday SFF7 person is a bit rebellious this week. Been having visual migraines the last couple of days, which are kind of stressful.)

So here's an exclusive excerpt from my latest novel Trapped on Talonque, in which the heroes are observing the local ball game, sapiche. They have to learn to play, well enough to win and save not only their lives, but also the alien sleeping beauty. (Ball game=football=Fall, right? Unless you want me to talk to you about the eleven seasons of "Making the Team" about the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders that I've been bingewatching lately....but so, I'm staying in the theme of Fall. Somewhat.)

Fall is my favorite time of the year!

The story:
Will an alien sleeping beauty awaken to save him, or destroy everyone around her?

When a Sectors Special Forces soldier and his team crash land on an alien planet, they’re taken captive and given a challenge–win at the violent ball game of sapiche and live. Lose, and they die, sending a mysterious, alien beauty to an even uglier fate. To survive, these soldiers must win the game and find a way to free the dangerous prisoner from her locked chamber.

Nate Reilly and his team are in deep trouble. Prisoners on a backward alien planet, they’re brought before an alien ‘goddess’, sleeping in her high tech seclusion. Nate is astonished when she awakes and establishes a psychic link with him. But her news is not good–he and his men must win a brutal challenge set by their captors, or they will die. She’ll give her aid, but in the end their courage and strength must win the contest.

Bithia sleeps in her chamber, as she has for thousands of years, since her own people unaccountably left her there. Viewed as a goddess by her captors, she must hide her ancient secrets to survive. But only the bravest of men may free her. Can she use her psychic powers to keep Nate and his men alive long enough to help her escape, or will her only hope of freedom die with them?

The excerpt:
The ensuing game was exciting, engaging Nate’s attention despite the circumstances. Opposing teams of four players each strove to capture a black leather ball as it shot at random, apparently, from one of the wall openings. The men fought to ram the sphere into one of the openings on the other side of the court. The other team did its best to steal the ball and inflict maximum damage on the other players in the process. Violence and aggression met with roaring approval from the crowd.

The game progressed rapidly, limited to three scores. Whenever one team or the other managed to get three balls into the wall despite the defenders’ best efforts, the proceedings came to a halt. The winning team paraded around the court, arms held high, accepting the cheers of the crowd, eventually moving out of sight into the holding area under the amphitheater. The four members of the losing team were dragged to the middle of the sand and knelt in a line, facing the king and queen.

As the last man on the winning team left the arena, a complete hush fell over the crowd. A quartet of black-clad priestesses escorted by guards marched onto the court. Moving quickly, each woman looped a heavy golden chain over the head of an unresisting player before leading him out through a different exit. Servants carried anyone too injured to walk.

Groundskeepers emerged to rake the sand, hiding the bloodstains from the rough play of the previous round. The crowds fell to animated chatter and wagering, coins changing hands. Servants brought the nobility refreshments. Harsh-voiced vendors hawked food and drink on the commoners’ side. At first nothing was offered to the prisoners, although their guards accepted free drinks from vendors willingly enough. Later in the afternoon, as the games continued, two servants appeared with flagons of watered wine. 

“Doesn’t bode well for the losers, you think?” Thom asked as the same grim ending repeated after each round.

Nate shook his head. “Our captor has to be showing this to us for a reason. Are you paying close attention? I’m watching for any kind of strategy at work, or is victory obtained primarily by brute force? I thought I noticed a pattern to the passing, especially when the red team was working their last ball.”

“You think we’re going to be the visiting team?”

Nate sighed and stretched as far as the chains allowed, settling on the bench with a satisfied chuckle as he realized the guards were getting nervous. “Not today, I hope. But why else drag us out here?”

“Reminds me of soccer, or Betyran tisba,” Haranda said, clearly enjoying himself.

“You play?” Nate asked.

“Tisba. I was lead wing on the varsity team at the Star Guard Academy, two years running.”

“Don’t get cocky,” Thom said. “I don’t think you had the same kind of rules. The Sectors Star Guard generally doesn’t want its recruits killing each other. These guys are out for blood.”

The day stretched on. Nate watched four more matches, each as rapid and as brutally played as the first two. The final match was played late in the afternoon, and the team in red shirts and shorts was clearly the crowd favorite as the chanting rose to a high volume. “Do you think Kalgitr is the team name or the guy who scored the goal?”

“I’m guessing the man. He’s a bruiser, all right.”

Nate nodded. “Plays dirty too. I think he broke the other guy’s arm.”

“Win at all costs or die,” Thom said. “Nice rules.”

Buy Links:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Flash Fiction and Giveaway

Blog tour and giveaway! I'll get to the flash fiction. Hold your horses. You want to win free stuff, right? Of course you do! Damned If He Does is up for grabs (3 copies) at the end of this blog tour - each stop allows an entry into the giveaway - an internet raffle, if you will, that cost you no actual dollars.

September 19
A Writer's Mind 

September 19

September 20 

September 21
Supernatural Central

September 22 Review
Romance Authors That Rock

September 23
Mello and June, It's a Book Thang!  

September 26
BookBoyfriends and Booze

September 26
My Book Filled Life 

September 27
Share My Destiny

September 27
The Book Junkie Reads 

September 28
T's Stuff  

September 28
Whiskey With My Book

September 28
Rising Indies United

September 29
Fang-tastic Books 

September 29
Infinite House of Books

September 30
Traci Douglass

September 30
Ramblings of a Book Nerd

October 3
The Silver Dagger Scriptorium

October 3
Fantatical Paranormal Romantical

If you'd like to win a sopy fo Damned If He Does, visit each of the site in turn and you will be entered. Books will be given away after 10/3

You were very patient. Thank you.
I'm sick. Got nothing to say, mainly brain fry. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Dark Road: a #HoldOnToTheLight post

Over the past few years, I’ve read the accounts of many of my writing peers as they confessed their mental health struggles on social media. Each time, I felt glad that they were brave enough to be open about it…and wished I could be as bold and confident because I have also walked the dark road holding hands with that specter.

Twice, I've sought medical treatment and been diagnosed with depression. The first time was 2007. The second time was more recent, February 2015, and it was coupled with anxiety and insomnia.

Allow me to set the stage. -gulp- I’ve never been this open in a public forum. Here I go.

A (now-estranged) family member had moved in “temporarily,” refused to get a job, and began bullying me to the point that I did not feel safe in my own home. Early in 2013, this person returned to find the entirety of their belongings on the porch and the locks changed. I wish I could say that ordeal had ended there. 

In 2013, I began seeing a counselor because I was starting to question my sanity; she helped me see that I wasn’t crazy. I ended a relationship with a man who was abusive in a way that she never formally identified but -thanks to book research afterward- I can call it gaslighting. It hit me hard when I realized he’d had nearly all of the classic traits. Months later, I had to file bankruptcy and I lost my car. (I’d never missed a payment on it but the bank took it anyway because they could.) So I walked to work for a while and bummed rides when I could. 

The day before my birthday in January of 2014 a father-figure passed away and suddenly it felt like I hadn’t grieved my own father who had died in 2008. This was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” I had my first real anxiety attack when I was supposed to leave work and go to this friend’s funeral. I made it as far as the front entrance of my workplace, then I found myself back in my office, door shut and sobbing because I COULD NOT GET IN THE CAR AND GO.

I knew it was irrational. I knew something was wrong. And I lied to myself about it just as I had been lying to myself about a host of other things.

Looking back, having all this on top of regular stress and responsibilities, I can see how that specter was holding my hand, whispering to me long after a decent bedtime had passed, night after night after night.

**You do not have to have such troubles or upheavals to suffer with mental illness, but I believe that in my case, these things were definitive factors.**

At this time in my life a good, true friend would have been invaluable to me, but (perhaps due to the burns received from the ‘friendships’ of my youth) I never learned the skills to be ‘good at’ friendships, to hold on to them and nurture them. Instead, I became skilled at crawling inside myself and being satisfied with the solitary act of putting words on the page or making music rumble from my guitar’s amplifier. Though I’m ‘good at’ being alone and staying busy, solitude in excess isn’t healthy. At least not for me.

When I wanted to pick up the phone, the specter would say:
Who will you call? They might be busy. Besides, you didn’t call when you were happy. No one will want to hear you whining.

When I thought to stop by to see a friend, the specter would say:
People don’t do that anymore. It’s an imposition. It’s rude. Besides, you didn’t stop by when you were happy. No one wants to listen to you talk about how much you hurt inside.

When I considered going out to where my friends might be, the specter would say:
You can’t possibly go out alone. A woman walking into a bar alone sends a bad sign, worse if she’s not meeting friends quickly inside. You can’t have a drink. You aren’t safe out there. Stay home. Alone. You’re safe there.

It cut me off every time I tried to reason my way out.

My own family didn’t recognize how I hurt. They thought I was in my own space writing and being creative. But the creativity was meager at best. The part of me I adored most was slipping away and that hurt most of all. The self-doubt from that is the most pervasive and yet-lingering part.

I would drive myself up to the Mt. Jeez overlook when the house was too constricting {read as I needed some place new to cry}. I often checked-in from there on Facebook, silently hoping someone I knew would recognize the truth and come talk to me. Isn’t that a horrifyingly pitiful, selfish, and stupid bit of behavior? I see that clearly now. I feel ashamed to admit that I thought that way, and equally so to admit that I had no idea how to reach out to others without also feeling immeasurable shame for simply thinking about reaching out.

That shame is the specter's punishment, one I wanted so much to avoid. Via hindsight I can say that I now see the choice I could not see then. It was: Avoid the shame and stay in the dark alone and stagnating, or face and accept the shame and take the chance of reaching out and growing.


I made an appointment to see my doctor in late February 2015. He prescribed something to help me sleep and another something for depression. We had a bit of trial an error but by summer I was feeling much better, if lonely. The sleep was so good. The loneliness was there, but it didn’t hurt. Because it didn’t hurt, I was able to move slowly back into the light where the loneliness finally began to fade.

After about six months, I quit taking the medicines. I had discussed the exit strategy with my doctor at the beginning and it was important for me to know if I needed a kick to straighten out, or if I needed medicine as a daily part of my life. Maybe it will come to that someday but for now I haven’t been on the medicine for over a year. I feel good. I sleep 97% of the time good and naturally.

Every day of life is a learning opportunity. Good days and bad days alike.

I learned to know me better and recognize my warning signs. The shadows remain, and probably always will, but I have learned that there is truly no shame in seeking treatment. If I find I’m not kicking the occasional lows, or if the anxiety is unmanageable, or if the sleep stops again, I will not wait or argue with myself about going back to my doctor because I know that specter is out there, and I know what it does: It tricks you into the lonely dark and into stagnation where confidence dwindles and self-doubt grows to monstrous proportions.  

I don't want that. Not again.

Telling all of you this private stuff about me, I believe, is part of helping myself keep the specter at bay. 

I've told it because the #HoldOnToTheLight initiative brings awareness, the kind that not only helps people with mental health issues, but will help other people recognize mental health issues in their loved ones. If someone in my family hadn't been ignorant of the signs, perhaps they could have/would have done something and I might have gotten help so much sooner.  

I’ve told it because I remember seeing my peers and being encouraged by their admissions. 

I’ve told it because if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, I want you to know without a doubt that YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Do not listen to that specter’s lies; things are not hopeless and you do not deserve this

Do not let it convince you that it is shameful to  ask for help. 

Do not stagnate, you must keep growing and learning and doing and being. 

Don’t wait. Take the initiative, please. It IS worth it. Reach out, let people help you.

Neither you nor I have to walk the dark road holding hands with that specter.


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, Home 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 and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to