Permanent Solutions That Aren’t

I want to thank Gail Z. Martin for putting together the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign.

A friend of mine (I’ll call her D here) killed herself when we were in high school. D was bright and funny and had a sly smile that always made me smile back. I still wish I could see that smiling face, even if just on Facebook, but that smile is gone.

And she was struggling in ways I didn’t know. In fact, I don’t think anyone knows to this day exactly what was going on in her life, and in her head, and that’s the sad part of it all; she was a fairly private person. I knew D and her mom didn’t always get along, I knew that she was frustrated on the girls’ basketball team. I knew she was stressed about school, about being a senior, about graduating that next spring. None of those were unheard of stresses at the time for a teenage girl.

I was younger than she was, and we’d talked about the struggles we’d both had that year. But I never once thought she would do what she had done.

Another friend (I’ll call her L here, as she’s entitled to her own privacy) and I had shown up early for basketball practice that day. When we went into the locker room, we found our friend lying on the floor in front of one of the toilet stalls, where she was unconscious and had vomited. L stayed with D while I ran faster than I think I had ever run in my life, through the gym where the boys were practicing, to the athletic director’s office, where I thought that the coaches might be, and where I knew there was a phone. Luckily both the varsity and the reserve coaches were there; one called an ambulance and the other took off running with me, back into the locker room to see what we could do.

The ambulance arrived, and bundled her into the back of the ambulance on a stretcher. She was still alive at that point. Sometime later in the night, she lost her life. There’s a lot of speculation about how all of that went down among those of us who knew her, but it boils down to one thing; she’d purposely overdosed in the locker room. And within hours, D was dead.

Twenty plus years later, we still don’t have a lot of answers. I will always wish that she had called or talked to someone, anyone, about what was going on in her head, in her emotions, and in her heart.

I haven’t thought about her in a long time. But just in the past year or so, I got word that a fellow writer had taken his own life, and it brought back a lot of emotion from that time. This writer was someone who I had been on multiple panels with over the years, not someone I considered a close friend, but someone I would have been happy to share a drink or a cup of coffee with at a con, someone I knew to be a strong writer, someone who I looked forward to seeing when I traveled for book events. I had no idea that he struggled as he did and had had no idea that things had gotten so bad. I will miss seeing his face smiling from across a convention hall, that small, mischievous grin he had, like he had an idea in his head, an epic idea, one that would twist convention on its head.

I used to hear all the time that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but that’s not true. The truth is that it’s not a permanent solution. For some, it might seem like the only option. I beg of them to seek professional counseling. Suicide leaves survivors, the family and friends, the ones who feel helpless and bereft, the ones who will carry the scar for the rest of their lives. That has led some to proclaim that suicide is selfish, because it only solves the problem for the person who commits it.

My high school friend and my writer friend were neither of them selfish people. On the contrary, they were both kind, funny, friendly, and had so much potential that is gone. I doubt that either of them did what they did to be selfish; on the contrary, I think both of them were probably at a point that they thought the world would be better without them.

The world is not better without them.

Please, if you have thoughts of harming yourself (or others), please seek help. To all of my friends and family, and even if I haven’t met you yet, please remember that even if you believe that suicide will solve all of your problems, remember that it doesn’t solve problems. If you’re being bullied, your suicide does not stop that bully and the bullying is NOT YOUR FAULT. If you’re depressed because you’ve lost a loved one, remember that their loss does not erase your good memories, and their good life. If you’re suffering from depression, it doesn’t solve the reason why you are depressed. Only medication and/or therapy can answer that question. SO GET HELP.

I do not say this to blame those who are victims of depression and suicide; far from it. I only state that suicide is not a solution. It is an end of one person’s suffering, but it does not solve the underlying problem.

You will leave behind friends and family who will ask themselves why, and will always wonder what they could have done to help. Let them help now. Don’t make them wonder. Do you need that extra hand in feeling like you are getting things accomplished? Do you need someone to just provide a hot meal and a warm bed? Do you need a break from your everyday life? Need some babysitting to feel a bit sane again? Feel unappreciated? Ask someone what it means to them that you do as you do.

I’m not trying to be a cheerleader, here. I know life isn’t all rah-rah-sis-boom-bah; I’ve had to seek out medication and therapy to deal with a time in my life that things were not all roses. I was glad that I was cogent enough to realize that there was a problem and look for a solution. Life did get better. In those darkest days, I needed friends and family to be there to tell me that I was worth something. I am. They did. It helped enough for me to see through the fog and reach out for the help I needed at the time.

Now, some people have a thicker fog to fight through. Let’s all agree to keep fighting for our loved ones, and ourselves, to fight through that fog of depression and silence, keep from withdrawing into the shadows, and continue to work on the self-worth of ourselves and others.

And remind ourselves on a daily basis that we are all worth it.

 

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 initiative, 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 oens need without shame or embarrassment.

Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SNAE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To fine out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

 

Getting It All Done

I’ve laughed a lot here lately. I’m stupidly busy. I need to learn to say no more, but life is going like gangbusters on all GOOD cylinders. I’m not someone who finds it easy to say no to good things. I also end up on a lot of panels about Time Management for Writers and about Writing with a Day Job. So what all am I doing?

I do work a full time job. I’m a lawyer for a local government agency. I’m no longer doing involved trial work, but I’m in court regularly. It’s a 40 hour a week job, but it’s not one that comes with a ton of overtime.

I also work a part time job. I’m lucky enough to have found a part time legal writing job that, while there are deadlines, it’s a very flexible schedule, and generally involves a couple of evenings and maybe a Saturday morning every week. I’m starting to move some of this work to the hours after The Girl and The Boy go to bed at night.

I’m between book contracts at the moment. THE PERRAULT VOW will be out within the week (!) then my contracts for the GRIMM series are fulfilled. I’m working on a new novel, and while my goal is to have it completed in October, if not before, I do not have a contract for it, and do not have a deadline. In fact, I don’t have any writing deadlines at the moment. I generally write on my lunch break at the moment, and after The Girl goes to bed at night.

The Boy is in high school this fall. EEEK!! He’s on the high school soccer AND cross country teams. Which means that I’ll be there cheering him on as much as humanly possible.

The Girl is crawling. She, however, seems to be unhappy that she’s not making faster progress…she wants to stand and walk and run. She can pull herself up on furniture if it’s low enough to get hold of; otherwise, she keeps doing a very frustrated baby version of downward facing dog and getting ticked off that she’s not getting what she wants.

And The Husband and I are trying to eat healthier on a regular basis, eating out less and cooking at home more. The next step will be to add in exercise, but a lot of times that’s an issue of lack of time rather than lack of desire.

So people keep asking me how I’m getting it all done. To which, depending on the day, I either want to tell them that I’ve given up sleep for Lent (since it’s not Lent at the moment it’s fun to watch their faces as they realize this), or I want to tell them that I’m not getting it all done.

Truth is falling somewhere in between.

There’s a measure of planning required to have this kind of schedule and still be Mom. There’s a whole lot of tag-teaming going on between my husband and I as to getting The Girl fed/bathed/put to bed at night/packed for morning and getting The Boy fed/to practice/to games and matches/to team meetings.

My house is nowhere near where I would like it to be; but the level of cleanliness when I lived alone with one job, the writing, and a cat, is not something I can maintain with two jobs, the writing, four people (including a very active teenager), and the cat. The home improvement projects are coming along, though much slower than either of us would like, because of the aforementioned craziness in our schedule. And fall sports have just started this week.

And the writing is happening around deadlines for my part time job, on breaks and lunch hours at work, as well as after The Girl goes to bed at night. The other night, my husband and I were hunched over my laptop kicking around ideas for upping our game for our convention displays, and coming up with a more cohesive, professional look (not that it looks BAD per se…just how can we make it look BETTER). I’ve talked marketing on a phone call with a marketing consultant while spooning strawberry peach apple baby food puree into The Girl’s mouth one evening. Email marketing will be kicking off soon.

Now you see why I find it funny to be on these panels about Time Management. I swing wildly between wanting to say that if I can find time to write, others can too, and saying that if it’s important, a writer will find the time. And then I realize how condescending that sounds, and I don’t mean it that way. The reality is, however, that there’s some truth there. If you truly want to write, you will write after the kids go to bed, on the commuter train to work, on your lunch hour, or first thing in the morning before the rest of the family gets up for work. If it’s important to you, you will treat it as something important in your life.

Or you can just be me and totally lose my mind trying to do it all…and taking my husband to the funny farm with me…

 

Upcoming Appearances

I will be at the West Liberty, Ohio Labor Day Festival this year, with books for sale September 3-5, 2016. I may or may not have the family with me; stop by and say hi! (ALSO sign up for my email newsletter and there’s a COUPON for anyone thinking about buying books at this event!) Click on NEWSLETTER on the top banner of my website to take you to the signup link!

I will be at Oktoberfest in Urbana, Ohio on October 2, 2016 with books for sale near my usual spot, as long as the weather cooperates. Hoping to have copies of Book Five THE PERRAULT VOW for sale at this event, but that depends on timing of release (I don’t have a specific date just yet) and shipping speeds. By the way, this event has rained out in the past, and there is no rain date or backup location. If this event is cancelled for weather and you want signed books for Christmas presents, etc., watch this space. I’ll post a way to contact me to make those arrangements.

I will also be at World Fantasy in Columbus, Ohio October 27-30, 2016. I will not be setting up a book table, although I may have a copy or two in my bag if you’re interested. Please email me at addiejking AT gmail DOT com if you will be at World Fantasy and want a signed book…I’ll bring it with me and we can make arrangements, but I’m not lugging around a ton of inventory; I’m going to this con to network, and hopefully pitch a new book!

*I’m also not signed up for panel participation at this event. It will be the first time in a long time that I’m not doing panels at a convention. I’m hoping to just enjoy and meet new people and see old friends and do some business chatting…

These are my last three events of the year. Planning is already in the works for 2017. I am planning to do a bit more travel next year than I did in 2016, but still not too crazy. Drop me an email if you’re interested in me appearing at your event/school/library/conference in 2017…the sooner the better to get on a schedule before I fill it up!

Seeing Red

So someone repeated a statement to me today that’s got me a little perturbed. I’m not upset at the person who repeated it; I’m a bit frustrated that it was said at all. And my heart breaks a little that anyone thinks that way; this should be something that individual families decide for themselves.

I go back to work tomorrow, having been on maternity leave since my daughter was born in January.

Today the statement was repeated to me, “I thought Addie wanted that baby so badly, I’m surprised she’s going back to work.”

Cue the Donald Duck-style temper explosion in my head.

I made a comment about us needing my salary (we do), but there’s way more to it than that.

I’m the daughter of a working mom. My mother taught elementary school for thirty years. I can remember helping her set up her classroom and grade papers as I got older. I remember being proud of her when former students came up and told her how much they loved being in her class. I have many friends who have gone back to work after having kids.

I’m also friends with several stay at home moms. I know for a fact that they don’t sit around all day eating bon bons and watching Dr. Phil reruns. I didn’t on my maternity leave. Caring for small kids full time is a job and a half. I’m grateful to the stay at home mom who is going to be caring for my kid in her home while I work.

None of the working moms I know wanted their kids any less than the moms who were able and wanted to stay home.

I have enjoyed every minute of every day that I was home with The Girl. I’ve watched her grow from newborn to a nearly two month old baby while I was off. No matter the number of diaper blowouts, snot sucker drama, colic, reflux, getting peed on, getting pooped on, her spitting up while being burped, being an overstimulated baby refusing to nap, or any of the other more gory parts of new parenthood, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it. I’m glad that I was able to take a maternity leave with pay so that I could be home to experience all of it. I wish all moms could have that luxury.

I think all moms out there want to set an example for their kids. And we pick and choose what traits we model for them.

  • I want my daughter to know that she can have a career that fulfills her and still be a mom; and that sometimes having a fulfilling career can make you a better mom. 
  • I want my daughter to know caregivers other than mom, even though that breaks my heart a little. I want her to learn that there are loving people in this world that are outside of our home.
  • I want my daughter to know how good of a father she has because of how much he supports her mother in chasing her dreams; which would not be possible if I stayed home full time (we couldn’t afford some of the extra expenses I’ve incurred chasing this writing thing).
  • I want my daughter to know that she has value over and above being a mom; that she can contribute to the world more than just what she can give birth to.

And yes, we do need my salary. If I stayed home, I’d still have a mortgage and student loans and other bills to pay. And I have a stepson that will be in college in just four or five years. There’s no way we can afford to have me stay home.

Even if the money was there, I would still go back to work, because I need to, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. I’m not cut out to be a stay at home mom; I tip my hat respectfully to those who pull off that job. It’s one of the hardest jobs there is.

That’s not to denigrate stay at home moms. These are the things I’ve chosen to model for my kid. Others choose differently, based on their family and their circumstances. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of it is based on the individual moms and their desires, sometimes it’s based on the needs of their families.

BUT THAT CHOICE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW MUCH YOU WANT OR DON’T WANT YOUR KIDS!

I’ve seen moms with unexpected pregnancies who stayed home with the kids and loved every minute of it. I’ve seen moms with planned pregnancies who couldn’t handle a Mommy and Me sing a long without losing their minds, and Pinterest gave them hives.

Yes, I wanted The Girl with every breath of my being, and well, I’m so grateful to have her. But don’t feel bad for me working, or think I wanted her less just because I go back to work in the morning.

(Though leaving her tomorrow will probably still be one of the hardest things I ever do, so do have a kind thought for me in the morning, why don’tcha?)

 

On Productivity

How much time does it take you to write a book?

I get this question on a regular basis, and it’s not always easy to answer.

A novel of mine generally runs somewhere around 90,000 words.

I can comfortably write 2000 words a day while working the day job, the part time job, and keeping up with the kids. If I’m working, I can get 1000 of that on my lunch hour from time to time. If I’m chasing a deadline, I’ve done as much as 3000-10000 per day, depending on the day and how the story is cooking.

But this assumes you’re talking about the rough draft. I can have an entire rough draft done in 30 days if I really push myself; I’ve done it before. That doesn’t mean it’s polished and ready to turn in, and my brain is truly mush at the end of that time. Which means, of course, that no writing will happen for a couple of weeks after that, because the brain cells need time to recharge. And, if I’ve been pushing that hard, I’ve been spending evenings typing instead of paying attention to the family, and it’s their turn for my attention.

I try not to schedule myself to turn in more than a single novel and a couple of short stories in a year. If I get more than that done, it’s gravy.

But remember, too, that I can’t always write on a daily basis. If The Boy has a soccer game that’s an hour drive away in the evening, I can’t write that night, because we won’t get home until late and will still need to feed everyone. If I have work from my part time job, that has a deadline, that takes precedence. Obviously holidays don’t work, either, and we do have a house with constant, ongoing renovation going on, so work needs done on that, as well.

The short answer? I can write a novel in a month. If it’s to be a good novel, I need a bit longer than that, and that timeline can vary if real life jumps up and bites me.

 

This Year

Okay, so most of you know that I had a baby in January. I go back to work for the day job here in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been struggling to schedule author events and balance the day job, the part time job, The Boy’s activities and keeping in mind a baby (who will be known here as The Girl) who is still technically a newborn.

IMG_0684The Girl, contemplating another nap…

So I will say that I’m not scheduling much in the way of travel this year, and what is scheduled will likely not be terribly far from home, and will likely not start happening until June or so.

So far, I’m planning the following…

Origins                                       Columbus, Ohio            June 15-19, 2016

Art Affair on The Square      Urbana, Ohio                  July 16, 2016

Art on the Beach                     Indian Lake, Ohio         August 6-7, 2016

World Fantasy                         Columbus, Ohio            October 27-30, 2016

There are more on my list that might get added, but these are the ones I’ve committed to so far. I may (or may not) have The Girl with me; the Husband and The Boy may make appearances as well, as we do tend to combine writing events with family events when possible.

I may also be planning a couple of giveaways in the next year, so stay tuned for more information.

As for the writing?

Are you a fan of Bert, Janie, Aiden, Mia, Jonah and the rest? Book Five is headed for the publisher soon, wrapping up the series.

I will be diving into two projects when that is complete, the sequel to Shades of Gray and Girl versus Demon; Demon Deadly Sins. Both have been on the back burner for a while, and will be headed toward the front burner for completion this year.

I do have a short story coming out in the Origins conference anthology entitled “The Stupidest Robot”. It’s really cute, and I hope you check it out!

 

 

Guest Blog; Terry W. Ervin, II

So, I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus lately while real world and real life stuff has been taking over. If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I’ve given birth to a daughter, Olivia, and am home on maternity leave. I’m learning how to blog and type with a highly cranky infant glued to my chest (and I don’t mean just to eat, but wanting Mommy All.The.Time.) 

While I’m getting settled into the new reality of learning to be productive and a good mom (or at least a mom that gets some of it done and some of it right some of the time), I’ve got an interesting post for you from my friend, Terry Ervin. 

Terry and I live in the same area of West Central Ohio, just a few miles (about fifteen) apart, and we both enjoy science fiction and fantasy. In fact, we end up talking at different local book events all of the time about the genre, about publishing, and about a whole lot of other things. It was interesting to see his take on this topic, one we’ve discussed before. Also, Terry’s got a new book out there, so go check it out and see what he’s up to. Here’s Terry…

 

Fantasy and Science Fiction: Good for Movies but Not So Much for Books?

What got me thinking about this topic? Talking to teen readers I’ve met at libraries, book festivals and similar events.

It started a while back with conversations similar to this:

Me: “Do you like fantasy?”

Teen: Shrugs. “I liked the Lord of the Rings movies. Did you see them?”

Me: “Yes, They were pretty neat.” Smiling, I continue. “I’m an author, so I have to ask, did you read the trilogy?”

Teen: With a shake of the head, frowns. “I tried reading the first book. I couldn’t get into it. I don’t like reading fantasy.”

To tell the truth, I’ve read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There were parts that were difficult to get through. They were written for another time, possibly a different audience.

The conversation continues:

Me: “What do you think of science fiction?”

Teen: A small grin. “I like Battlestar Galactica.”

Me: “The new one, right? Not the one from the 70s.”

Teen: “Yeah, but I don’t like reading science fiction either.”

Me: “Maybe fantasy and science fiction aren’t for you. Or maybe you’ve tried the wrong books?”

Sure, fantasy has elves and orcs, dragons and wizards. But fantasy also has vampires and fairies…and superheroes and ghosts, and more. My novels? They have earth wizards battling panzers, and Stukas engaged in aerial combat with fire breathing dragons. (Yes, I’m sort of a World War II history buff)

Science fiction? It’s as varied as fantasy, if not more. It has space ships and wormholes, aliens and androids, time travel and pandemic viral diseases, dinosaurs and, well, the sky…or the rim of the galaxy is the limit. My SF novels? They have brass knuckles and shotguns mixed with magnetic pulse pistols and taskforce sized space battles, and alien species like the Umbelgarri, Chicher, Crax and V’gun.

Are you interested in reading but not sure about Fantasy and SF? Like any other novel, they can have humor and romance, mystery and revenge, horror, hate and redemption, heroines, heroes and villains, average guys and gals, treachery and…well, you name it, even talking frog princes. (aside from Addie…yes, they can! wink, wink).

My first serious dip into SF was in grade school and Jr. High, where I read “A Pail of Air” by Fritz Leiber and “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury. Through them my mind began asking questions, about the survival of humanity, and the consequences of traveling back in time.

Then, I read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Some might say it’s sort of like ‘Lord of the Rings light.’ That opened the door to Lord Foul’s Bane and the rest of the Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever books by Stephen R. Donaldson.

Those titles just rang for me. Does that mean they’re right for you? Maybe. And maybe not. Just like The Lord of the Rings trilogy…they’re good books, ones that have withstood the test of time, but aren’t for everyone.

Teen: Holds up a copy of Flank Hawk. “So what movie is this book like?”

Me: “It’s like Lord of the Rings meets Gettysburg, meets Saving Private Ryan.”

Teen: Points to a copy of Relic Tech. “And this one?”

Me:Babylon 5 meets Starship Troopers, meets The Rockford Files.” I smile. “You might have to look a few of those shows up. They’re good…almost as good as my novel.”

My advice? Don’t automatically turn away from fantasy and science fiction. Take a look at the cover, and read the back of the book, and maybe a few pages. Look up reviews if you’re so inclined. With the vast variety of stories fantasy and SF encompass, there’s certain to be something in there for you, something to challenge you…capture your imagination like nothing ever has before.

 

Terry W. Ervin II is an English and science teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. His First Civilization’s Legacy Series (fantasy) includes Flank Hawk, Blood Sword, and Soul Forge.

The Crax War Chronicles, his science fiction series, includes Relic Tech and Relic Hunted (his most recent release from Gryphonwood Press).

In addition to writing novels, Terry’s short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies, magazines and ezines. Genre Shotgun is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at www.ervin-author.com and his blog, Up Around the Corner at uparoundthecorner.blogspot.com

Upcoming Appearance at Origins Game Fair!

SO very looking forward to going back to Origins this year! I love going to this convention, and can’t wait to see what all is coming out new…what all is going on in the gaming world and meeting new readers and old…as well as writer friends!

My schedule is as follows;

THURSDAY JUNE 4

10 am Time Management and the Author

12 pm A Writer’s Group is not Just a Group of Writers

1 pm More than Black Hats; Creating a Villain

6 pm Story Hour (reading)

FRIDAY JUNE 5

1 pm Writing from a Feminist Perspective

SATURDAY JUNE 6

12 pm Learning to Tell Stories through RPGs

1 pm Social Media 101

4 pm Flash Fiction

SUNDAY JUNE 7

10 am Researching Your Story

11 am (Upgraded Game Play) Wordariffic!

1 pm Humor in Fiction

ALSO…there’s going to be a pretty darn cool giveaway in the Library for all who buy books from our authors…stop by and check it out in the Dealer’s Hall.

When I’m not on a panel or playing a game, I’m likely to be at a table in the Dealer’s Hall, selling books and talking to writers and readers. If the Dealer’s Hall is closed, I’m probably in a game or stuffing my face at North Market…Don’t be shy…come say hi!