I’m going on a family trip in November. That in itself displays the privilege I own as a middle class American – there are plenty of people in this country who’ve never taken a pleasure trip with their families, because they’re having to work three jobs just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. They have neither the time nor the spare cash to waste on vacations, and that breaks my heart. This morning I was glancing over my email, and noticed an advertisement from one of the local grocery stores. It was a savings alert, letting me know that certain products were on sale at a special price to people who had the store savings card. At the top of the list were some individual-sized cereal packs, and a thought flitted through my head that these would be handy for my nieces to nibble on in the car on our trip. My very next thought was “No, we don’t need to buy food for the car. There’ll be plenty of places to stop on the way if anyone gets hungry.”
How fortunate is that? On a seven-hour trip, if we get hungry, we can stop in literally any little town on the way and buy something to eat. In many places on this planet, that isn’t true. And I don’t just mean third-world countries suffering from famine or warfare. There are portions of America that don’t fit that description. There are homes in cities right this very minute where mothers are skipping breakfast because there’s not enough for them to eat and still feed their children, and buying groceries is an all-day, bus-and-train process.
Today is Friday, and I need to go grocery shopping because there’s “no food” in my house. You know what no food looks like for me? Two loaves of bread, a pound of hamburger, a pound of chicken, a package of lima beans and two packages of sliced turkey breast in the freezer. A half-gallon of milk, a gallon of sweet tea, three dozen eggs, two blocks of cheddar cheese and condiments in the fridge. And don’t even ask about the pantry with its cans of vegetables and boxes of pasta. For some families, my kitchen would look like a treasure house.
I think I’d like to make a habit of buying an extra bag of groceries every time I shop, and dropping it off at the local food bank. There may be a time or two that it’s impossible, writer’s pay being what it is. But I’d like to be a part of the solution. And I don’t like to think that there’s a child in my community who has to worry about eating when I could help.
Last spring, I attended the mental health panel at ConCarolinas. I hadn’t intended to go, because it was late on Friday night, I was tired, I needed to be up early the next morning and it seemed like it might be a downer. But I went anyway, to support my friends who were speaking.
I spent nearly the entire hour in tears.
The black dog of depression has been a companion my whole life. In high school, it was beside me every day when I walked alone to school and back. It sat next to my desk when my classmates chattered about the parties I wasn’t invited to. It paced the floor of my room when I lay awake, tortured by the crush I had on a boy but could not voice for fear of the ridicule I’d be subjected to. It curled up under my feet while I sat in the library, reading books that other girls would have thought too weird for them. It’s the creature that bounds in whenever I worry that I’ve hurt a friend’s feelings or let someone down. It’s familiar, even while I hate it. When it’s not around, there’s a small voice in my head whispering, “Don’t get comfortable, it’ll be back soon.”
Some of you are frowning at the screen right now, because you’ve met me at a con or a faire. Long ago, I learned how to put on a face that others could accept. It’s a mask. A shield. It lets me laugh at jokes that don’t really sound funny to me, and enjoy music that other people tell me is good, whatever I need to do to feel accepted. Nobody wants to have their good time harshed by a friend who seems like she’ll burst into sobs at any second. So I put on the mask. But it’s not me. Or it is, but only a surface version of who I am. It’s the me you might see if I didn’t have a big black dog twining itself around my legs almost all the time.
I’ve never really been able to ask for help. I always worry that I don’t have the right to share my darkness with anyone else, and that it’s wrong of me to burden my friends with my nonsense. I don’t know whether it’s due to years of being told I wasn’t one of the group, or a hideous betrayal that left me without any friends to turn to for a very long time. Or neither of these things…might just be the way I’m wired. For whatever reason, I will suffer in silence until someone (usually my husband) notices and forces me to accept help, or until it passes on its own. This isn’t particularly healthy.
That night, though, at ConCarolinas, I sat near the back of the room, holding my husband’s hand and letting the tears roll down my face as my friends bravely told the attendees about the struggles they’d experienced. I let my mask fall away, let my pain show. For a while, the dog moved off, because it recognized that there were just too many of us.
There’s no ending to this story yet. The dog will be back. It always comes back. But maybe next time I can be brave enough to ask someone for help chasing it off.
What happens when more than 90 sci-fi and fantasy authors start a conversation about mental wellness, mental illness, depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD treatment and related issues?
We don’t know, but we’re going to find out.
#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.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/.
If you’re still wondering about who to nominate for this year’s Hugo awards, I can share a few ideas. The Weird Wild West came out in 2015, and therefore is eligible for certain categories. I know there’s not a lot of time left, but I also know most people wait until last minute. If you haven’t already sent in your nominations, give the following stories a thought, would you?
Eligible for Best Novelette:
R S Belcher- Rattler
Scott Hungerford – Fifteen Seconds
Gail Martin and Larry N. Martin – Ruin Creek
Jonathan Maberry – Son of the Devil
Ken Schrader – Haven
James Ray Tuck Jr – From Parts Unknown
Robert Waters – Mungo Snead’s Last Stand
Eligible for Best Short Story:
Tonia Brown – Frank and Earnest
Liz Colter – Sundown
Diana Pharaoh Francis – Grasping Rainbows
John Hartness – Redemption Song
Faith Hunter – Eighteen Sixty
Misty Massey – The Faery Wrangler
Francis Rowat – Abishag Mary
David Sherman – Rocky Rolls Gold
Bryan Steele – Via Con Diablo
Wendy Wagner – Blood Tellings
Nominations are due March 31st. If you’re not sure about whether you can nominate, here’s all the information you’ll need
And you’re welcome to share this link on Twitter with the hashtag #hugoeligible.
Anthology Set in the World of Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage Series
Charlotte, N.C., Feb. 1, 2016
Bella Rosa Books is pleased to announce two e-book anthologies and a trade paperback omnibus set in the world of Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage series.
Editor is Spike Y Jones. Writers contracted to write short stories for the anthologies are: Diana Pharaoh Francis, Lucienne Diver, Tamsin L. Silver, Ken Schrader, Lou J Berger, Christina Stiles, Spike Y Jones, Melissa McArthur, Jean Rabe, Misty Massey, and Faith Hunter.
The two ebooks are titled Trials and Tribulations, and the trade paperback omnibus is titled Triumphant. They will be published by a new line of original and reprinted spec fiction and fantasy, through Bella Rosa Books, called Lore Seekers Press.
The agent of record for the project is Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency.
For trade queries, please contact
Lucienne Diver at firstname.lastname@example.org
For editorial queries please contact
Spike Y Jones at email@example.com
To arrange author interviews please contact
Faith Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org
For sales / distribution info please contact
I had to make a hard decision this week.
When I’m not writing, there are other things I like to do. I lift weights with my husband and son. I cook. And I belly dance. Yes, you read that right. I’m 52 years old and nowhere near a size two, but I belly dance. I’ve performed solo in a number of shows, and I’ve danced as a member of a troupe. Learning to move my body in ways that properly interpret music has been one of the joys of my life, and I’m not at all ready to stop.
A few years ago, I discovered that I was feeling burnt out, so I resigned from the troupe and took a break from dance. When I was ready to return, however, I discovered that the troupe didn’t want me anymore. I went through the tryouts that all new people have to participate in, and was turned down. I can’t even explain how shattered I was. I had practiced hard, and put every ounce of my soul on the floor at the audition. Afterward, nearly everyone I knew in the world of belly dance made a point of telling me how cheated I’d been. I suppose that should have made me feel better, but it didn’t. I stopped dancing for a while after that, feeling that I needed to grieve on my own. Slowly I found outlets to allow me to express my dance again. But the one thing I’d lost that I could not retrieve was the chance to dance at the Renaissance faire.
Dancing at faire is different. You can see every single audience member, because there are no stage lights to blind you. You can encourage them to have fun, by smiling and winking at them, drawing them into the show. It was the highlight of my year for a long time, and when I lost the chance to dance at faire, I wasn’t just upset. I was broken. I couldn’t watch my former troupe dance without weeping from my spot in the audience. I wore a smile, of course, because I was damned if I was going to let them see me suffer. But it was never not crushingly painful.
About a month ago, I was alerted that there’s a new troupe director, and she would be having tryouts for this year’s crew. At first I was delighted. Here was my chance to get back what I’d lost! I started working on an audition video. But the more I practiced, the more I began to realize that perhaps I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I don’t want to perform to spite anyone, nor do I need to prove that I’ve still got it. This fall I have at least two cons to attend, and possibly a weekend-long book signing – it would hardly be equitable to the other troupe members to join up only to have to ask for at least two weekends off out of an eight-weekend run.
So I decided not to pursue the spot in the troupe. Instead of feeling sad about it, I feel somewhat peaceful. You can’t go home again, they say, and they’re right. I can’t recapture that old feeling. It’s gone, the same as my belief in the Easter Bunny. But it’s okay. I think what I really wanted wasn’t to get back in, but to know that I could if I wanted. So I wish the auditioners well, and I hope the dancers who are chosen enjoy the magic that comes from dancing with a wonderful troupe in a marvelous venue. And perhaps this year when I go to faire, I’ll be able to watch the show without tears in my eyes.