2017 Plans. Wait, I’m actually planning something?

2017 
Is it really almost 2017?

I mean seriously. It seems like yesterday that we were celebrating/hiding under the table as the 21st century began.

Anyway…

I recently read an article for writers about the importance of keeping your Amazon Author ratings up. For those who don’t know, the higher an author’s ratings, the more likely the author is have the Amazon Overlords (ALL HAIL THE OVERLORDS) promote the author through various means. This could mean including your books in the ‘Suggested Reading’ or the ‘Customers who bought this item also bought…’ sections. Which is actually a big deal as it promotes much needed book sales for us struggling writers.

So, the article went on to suggest that authors should plan on releasing a new novel every three months. Let me repeat that. A NEW NOVEL EVERY THREE MONTHS.

Needless to say, the comments section of the article was a rather fun read as authors from around the world were losing their freaking minds at the idea of churning out a new book every three months. But it got me to thinking. I can’t do a full length book that quick, but maybe something else would work.

With that in mind, I’ve set up a tentative schedule for 2017. The plan may be too ambitious, but let’s see what happens. My goal for 2017 is to release something new every month of the coming year. Some will be books that I’ve been working on during 2016 while others will be 99 cent ebooks/short stories. Some will be in print, or ebook formats and some will be in audio.

So, if you are reading this, I expect you to pester me and keep me on track. I’m not sure if I will post a schedule of the planned projects, but I might, just to keep myself on track.

Anyway,

Thanks and Happy Reading

Alan

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Good days and better days

Good days and better days

So, there are days when being a writer sucks. I mean in my case, it sucks the life out of me, draining me of ideas, words, and hope. There seem to be a lot more of those days lately. But from time to time, something happens that shakes up the dreary routine and puts a spring back in my step. I recently had a Saturday that was one of the latter.

Some of you may know that my first novel, The Blood in Snowflake Garden, was optioned by a production company a couple of years ago. I’m not allowed to disclose much, but things are on track and it looks very promising that it’ll be picked up as a television series. If all goes to plan, next year is going to be big.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I met with Brian Buckner about the project and heard about how the TV series will look and feel. While there are certainly some big changes from the book, I’m exceedingly happy they are taking it in the direction he spoke about. The new direction will open up a world of possibilities.

Some characters will change a little, some minor folks will be bigger and while others didn’t make the cut. The timeline is different, but I love the new take on it.

I wish I could share all the detail, but I can’t for now. But when I can, trust me, I’m not going to shut up about it. J

For now, get a copy of the book and see what all the fuss is about.

 
Thanks for subscribing.
Alan

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Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: Jeremy Hicks.

Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: Jeremy Hicks.

As a way of celebrating the release of Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam, Volume 2, I’m interviewing some of the contributing authors.

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Today, we talk with Jeremy Hicks.

 

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started writing.

Born and raised in the country, books became a refuge from boredom early on in life. Writing followed soon after, and thanks to people like my Uncle Danny, I had a lot of encouragement. He used to pay me a quarter per page for short stories, which is the best money I’ve made writing professionally. My first publication came in 5th grade when a short story I’d written about a mummy and an archaeologist appeared in my school newspaper. In high school, I worked on the school newspaper and yearbook and submitted stories to our literary magazine. After high school, college dominated my life, so I didn’t write for pleasure for a number of years. Finally, as an archaeologist bouncing around on the road, I found myself writing cooperative Star Trek fanfiction with a number of people in our fleet. Fanfiction helped me sharpen my dialogue and learn to work with co-writers from around the globe, from active collaboration to back-end editing.

My career as a professional writer evolved from there. In 2008, when my job evaporated and our industry—heavily tied to infrastructure—collapsed, I talked my friend Barry Hayes into pairing his imagination with my own to produce faraway Faltyr and the Cycle of Ages Saga. We started a production company, wrote a few screenplays, shopped them unsuccessfully due to their budget requirements, and then tried to build a fan base for our property. The biggest blow happened when our attempt to have our franchise licensed as an official Dungeons & Dragons product failed because of our representation at the time. But we persevered. As a result, we wrote our first novel, the Cycle of Ages Saga: Finders Keepers, and Dark Oak Press published it in 2013. Since then, we’ve published a sequel novel, and I’ve had a number of short stories published in anthologies or through KDP.

 

  1. What genres do you prefer writing and why?

Professionally, I’ve written fantasy, horror, and steampunk. My space opera and science fiction tales have been limited to fanfiction for now, but I have a Star Trek novel I’d really like to pitch. Regardless of what I’m writing, I feel like I’m drawn to darker, horrific storylines with good imagery and lots of action. However, I find that my dark, twisted sense of humor works its way into whatever I write, but I doubt most people will ever find all of my weird Easter eggs, paraphrases of writers and works that have influenced us, and private jokes shared among geeks, nerds, or even my friends and family. Like musicians and artists, I tend to imbed my influences within my work works.

 

  1. What drew you to Capes & Clockwork?

I owe my involvement in Capes & Clockwork to one man, our tireless editor and friend, Alan Lewis. He has worked his ass off making sure that these two anthologies made it to publication despite all of the odds. Few people outside of the industry realize the challenges to publishing a single story, much less pulling together a pool of creative talent to submit enough stories appropriate for a themed anthology. It’s been said that herding writers is much like herding cats. Having arranged several dinners for us at conventions and literary events, I believe that to be true. Alan has displayed patience and determination in realizing these anthologies and helped me to grow as a writer in the process. Thanks to him, my catalog contains steampunk stories now. Without him, I may never have taken the plunge into this genre, or injected that element into our fantasy world of Faltyr. For those who have not read my story in the first Capes & Clockwork, it’s called “Deep Diving Death Defying Dwarves of the Deep.” I crafted that story after Alan asked me to submit a story for the first anthology. It really revolutionized my ideas for how to handle our world’s Underworld and Hollow World aspects.

 

  1. Give us a quick blurb about your story?

My story for Capes & Clockwork 2 is my first “proper” steampunk story, although it contains a fair bit of Teslapunk elements too. It’s called “The Fluff and the Fury”, and it’s a simple story about love, loyalty, and the lengths we go to for those we hold close to our heart. My tale takes place in the early 20th century, in the uncertain years before the U.S. is pulled into World War I. When unsavory agents want to lay hands on advanced technologies being squandered on a travelling circus, but they underestimate the determination of one of its smallest performers.

 

  1. Tell us about your hero and what drives them to be a good guy or gal?

I wrote this story as a tribute, to enshrine some of those I love in fiction, so the hero of my story is Ginger, a smart, savvy circus poodle based on our family dog. She is owned by Madame Technique, co-owner and operator of the Carnivale Fantastique, a woman who rescued her and trained her to participate in the extravaganza. The Madame and her primary technical assistant are based loosely on my parents too, though Dad is the mechanical whiz in the family. Mom, like Ginger, is the little spitfire, though. She engenders such love and loyalty from Ginger that the poodle does not hesitate to do whatever it can for her Madame, whether it involves suffering lightning bolts arcing over its fluffy head or hounding those who seek to ruin and steal from her.

 

  1. Were there challenges for you in writing a cross-over genre (steampunk and superhero)?

Enough that I cheated last time and used the closest thing to a superhero on Faltyr, the elven war-mage Yax’Kaqix (Blue Macaw) as a point-of-view character. I figured the story would have more impact if someone as badass as him recognized the courage and sacrifice of the dwarven submariners. For this story, I relied on a lot of research, mainly reading about canine senses, perception, and cognition. For inspiration, I drew primarily on the eccentric behaviors of our tiny dog. But I did rely on every canine hero and ally from fiction, from Benji and Lassie to Scooby-Doo and Krypto, too. Ultimately, I ignored the four-color comic aspect and embraced a more heartfelt, intimate hero whose primary strengths include keen senses and intellect, bravery, unconditional love, and unshakeable loyalty.

 

  1. Who do you prefer writing? The heroes or the villains.

For this story, it was all about the hero. Writing it became an emotional rollercoaster for me, so I hope that effect comes across in the story itself. In my other stories, though, I prefer darker, more flawed characters, whether they are anti-heroes, scoundrels, rogues, or outright villains. It is even more fun to write those character types once you realize most of those baddies or selfish types do not realize those truths about themselves. They tend to be the heroes of their own stories. I find it makes for complicated characters which I feel is much more realistic.

 

Check out Jeremy’s story, The Fluff and the Fury in Capes & Clockwork, Vol. 2

And his story, Deep Diving Death Defying Dwarves of the Deep in the original Capes & Clockwork.

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Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: David J. Fielding

Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: David J. Fielding

As a way of celebrating the release of Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam, Volume 2, I’m interviewing some of the contributing authors.

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Today, we talk with David J. Fielding.

 

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started writing.

 

My name is David J. Fielding, and I’m an actor and writer, most well known for playing the original Zordon on the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers TV show. I got my start writing in High School. And when I say my start, I mean I started copying the style and genres of the types of books I was reading at the time – pulps and Stephen King mostly. Action oriented and adventure stories. I was fascinated with heroes and fantasy and anything that had the smack of ‘magic’ about it – meaning anything that made the real world seem more tolerable.

 

  1. What genres do you prefer writing and why?

 

I prefer to write in those genres that fall under the speculative fiction banner – so pulp-themed stories, paranormal, superhero fiction, all the things I enjoy reading myself – anything that isn’t considered straight fiction really. Why do I like to write stories of that type? Because I find them exciting and enjoyable – it’s great fun exploring other realms and distant worlds or times, letting my imagination roam free and seeing what I find out there in the ether. And it’s a challenge to make it relevant to our real world experiences, and when the two meet up, it’s really a magical moment.

 

  1. What drew you to Capes & Clockwork?

 

The idea of a steampunk setting is exciting to me, it conjures up images of gaslight and fog, a Victorian age filled with airships and robots and contraptions fueled by steam and aether – rich with storytelling potential. Mix that with superheroes and it opens up even more. A Superman-type battling giant Steam-Mechs? Who wouldn’t want to read about that!?.

 

  1. Give us a quick blurb about your story?

 

My story, “Ten Thousand Several Doors” picks up some time after my story that was in C&C 1, and has the same main characters. The plot involves time travel, the question of whether a good deed is good if the consequences are evil and heroic sacrifice.

 

  1. Tell us about your hero and what drives them to be a good guy or gal?

 

My hero, Nate Vance – also known as the Harrier – is a man cut from the same cloth as John Wayne and Doc Savage. He is a man who was born to be a hero and fighter, someone who fights injustice and evil because it’s the right thing to do. He has no other drive or purpose, he’s just a four-color pulp hero. A square-jawed, two-fisted champion.

 

  1. Were there challenges for you in writing a cross-over genre (steampunk and superhero)?

 

I guess the only real challenge was keeping the setting consistent. As this story jumps back and forth through time – I had to make sure steampunk elements were represented in each sliver of the time periods we visit in the story.

 

  1. Who do you prefer writing? The heroes or the villains.

 

I like writing the villains, honestly. The heroes (especially in this type genre) are easy for me – they are black and white, their motivations pretty pure and straight forward. Well, at least mine are. Villains are more of a challenge – they need to be shaded, their motivations and methods need to be dark and twisted, yet also they have to make sense – or at least they need to seem plausible. It would be too easy to write a Max Fleischer type madman… what I wanted was someone whose objectives were for the most part good, but in the end cause more danger and mayhem than was intended.

 

Check out David’s story, Ten Thousand Several Doors in Capes & Clockwork, Vol. 2

And his story, AT the Quiet Limit of the World in the original Capes & Clockwork.

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Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: Christopher Valin

Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: Christopher Valin

As a way of celebrating the release of Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam, Volume 2, I’m interviewing some of the contributing authors.Today, we talk with Christopher Valin.

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started writing.

My first stories came about when I was a kid and I started drawing my own comic books and comic strips. I really didn’t think all that much about the fact that I was writing so much as giving myself something to draw. By the time I was a teenager, I was enjoying writing stories for high school and college classes, including a couple of short plays for a theater class I took. Then I started writing comic book scripts for a company that I was working for as an inker, and realized how similar they were to TV scripts. So I started writing spec scripts for TV shows like Deep Space Nine (which used to accept scripts from viewers back then), and then other shows.

From there I moved on to writing feature scripts, and started winning and doing well in contests. I had a script optioned, but the only thing I’ve ever had produced were shorts. Several years ago, I got the bug to write short stories, and had some published in anthologies (including Capes & Clockwork). Finally, I worked my way up to full-length books, starting with the expansion of my masters thesis into a history book, and earlier this year publishing a YA superhero novel called Sidekick: The Red Raptor Files – Part 1.

  1. What genres do you prefer writing and why?

I tend to jump around a lot, but my favorite genres are sci-fi/space opera and superhero fantasy. I also enjoy steampunk, although I haven’t written quite as many stories in that genre.

  1. What drew you to Capes & Clockwork?

I’ve been a huge comic book/superhero fan my whole life, and I really enjoy steampunk, so when I saw a call for stories that were a mashup of those genres, I couldn’t resist. It seemed like such a great idea that I had never thought about before.

  1. Give us a quick blurb about your story?

“The Yellow Bird Mission” is an adventure in which Agent Eagle, a 19th Century government super-agent, is sent by President George Armstrong Custer to take out a Native American renegade who has escaped from federal custody. It’s a sequel to “Blastbucket,” the story that appeared in the first Capes & Clockwork.

  1. Tell us about your hero and what drives them to be a good guy or gal?

Agent Eagle is a superhero who reluctantly works for the government out of a sense of duty, but at the same time has problems with authority, especially when he disagrees with his mission. He always tries to do what’s right, even when it conflicts with his orders and could get him into trouble. But he stays on the job because he knows that if he doesn’t, someone else will be given the suit and equipment, and that person may not share his desire to work for the greater good.

  1. Were there challenges for you in writing a cross-over genre (steampunk and superhero)?

My main challenge was probably figuring out the alternate history of the world where my stories take place, and Custer survived the Last Stand and was elected president. But it was a fun challenge, considering I have a master’s degree in military history.

  1. Who do you prefer writing? The heroes or the villains.

That’s really a tough one. I guess it depends on the story. I generally write from the hero’s point of view, but one of my favorite things I’ve written was a script for a super-villain story (before Despicable Me and Megamind came out).

Check out Christopher’s story, Yellow Bird Mission in Capes & Clockwork, Vol. 2

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Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: John A. McColley

Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: John A. McColley

john mccolley

As a way of celebrating the release of Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam, Volume 2, I’m interviewing some of the contributing authors.

Today, we talk with John A. McColley.

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started writing.

While I started writing stories down in junior high during a short stories class, I’ve told myself stories for as long as I can remember. My first role models and friends were Transformers, G.I. Joe, and the Smurfs, as well as a host of other, mostly animated, characters. This may seem lamentable, but I’m certain I was making informed decisions about life seeing what was going on around me and contrasting it to the way people dealt with problems in the magic box in the living room. I’ve turned that play time of running alongside the Flash and Bumblebee to constructing my own worlds, my own characters

  1. What genres do you prefer writing and why?

I write across the speculative spectrum, but most enjoy the sense of wonder and freedom afforded by science fiction and fantasy, especially tales involving aliens and superheroes. I want to be more hopeful and writing stories in which good wins out help me, and I hope others, get there. I’ve dwelled enough.

  1. What drew you to Capes & Clockwork?

In addition to the aforementioned love of superheroes, steampunk had always intrigued me from afar. Once I did some research for the original Capes and Clockwork, it drew me in. The characters I built for that first story have gone onto a handful of other adventures and are charging through a novel-length tale even now.

  1. Give us a quick blurb about your story?

Revenge of the Gorgons is a direct follow up to Aeolus, Chiron and Medusa from C&C1. Aeolus is tracked down by other members of that first villain’s emergent race of snake-headed ladies and chaos ensues.

  1. Tell us about your hero and what drives them to be a good guy or gal?

Aeolus has led a sheltered, strictly directed, life. Early on, despite his interest in more creative pursuits, he was forced into being an accountant in 19th century alternate Rouen, France. He sat in his small third floor office scribbling numbers all day, but secretly dreamed that something would happen. Having gotten his wish with the appearance of wind-based powers, he falls back on his love of classical myths for inspiration and seeks to emulate the greats in service of his city and civilization.

  1. Were there challenges for you in writing a cross-over genre (steampunk and superhero)?

My main challenge with crossing genres was incorporating the steamy aspects solidly enough. Not only do I include airships and ray guns, but clockwork devices and pneumatic message delivery. Still, how to tie it into the story? Chiron is the answer, in a wounded soldier who has made himself a steam-powered horse body to get around. The machine also allows him the vaunted higher ground as well as superior reach with his mighty spear, improved running speed and endurance.

  1. Who do you prefer writing? The heroes or the villains.

This is a tough one. Both heroes and villains have their fun aspects. I suppose I’ve always identified with the underdog super hero more than I’ve allowed myself to accept the darkness in my life and let it twist me into the villain. They say you can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. Characters are a writer’s company. You have to be careful to keep balance in your influences.

Check out John’s story, Revenge of the Gorgons in Capes & Clockwork, Vol. 2

And his story, Aeolus, Chiron, and Medusa in the original Capes & Clockwork.

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Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: Andrea Judy

 Capes & Clockwork 2 Author Interview: Andrea Judy

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As a way of celebrating the release of Capes & Clockwork: Superheroes in the Age of Steam, Volume 2, I’m interviewing some of the contributing authors.Today, we talk with Andrea Judy.

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you got started writing.

I think like a lot of other writers, I started writing when I was very young. I told stories from the moment I could string together a sentence. There’s something so universal about storytelling and I latched onto that very early. I moved around a bit as a kid and had a turbulent home life so story telling was the constant in my life.

  1. What genres do you prefer writing and why?

I love reading and writing in a wide range of genres but my favorite genres are probably mysteries.  When I was a kid I watched so many true crime and cop shows that my parents would joke that I was either going to grow up to be a detective or a murderer. Instead, I became a writer so I could be both!

  1. What drew you to Capes & Clockwork?

I’ve loved superheroes for ages and having the opportunity to build a hero in the world of steam was too good an opportunity to pass by. I was thrilled for the chance to create a hero not shaped by the same world, who could have all kinds of amazing gadgets to help along the way.

  1. Give us a quick blurb about your story?

My story is called “Wishing Well” and it stars superhuman detective Rowan. In this case, Rowan has to figure out how someone could have been seen alive in the morning then be discovered as a badly decomposed corpse by dinner.

  1. Tell us about your hero and what drives them to be a good guy or gal?

Rowan wants to do the best she can. She’s out to prove herself to the world. She’s got a bit of an ego that keeps her moving forward, but the core of Rowan is her heart. She cares deeply for the world around her and wants to make a positive change.

  1. Were there challenges for you in writing a cross-over genre (steampunk and superhero)?

The biggest challenge was thinking with steam. Coming up with all the things that could be run on steam and how they would work was a big challenge but it was a lot of fun. I got to sketch out what I thought the devices would look like and that was a blast.

  1. Who do you prefer writing? The heroes or the villains.

I’m going to say, heroes because everyone is a hero. Even the villain thinks they are the hero of their own story.  I actually love villains and coming up with a wickedly devious villain is one of my favorite things in the world!

Check out Andrea’s story, Wishing Well in Capes & Clockwork, Vol. 2

And her story, Catching Steam in the original Capes & Clockwork.

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The New Deal: Masks and Mutations

It was over four years ago when Sean Taylor asked me to submit a story for a zany anthology he was putting together. As a newbie writer, it was my first time being asked for a story, so, of course, I said YES!!!

It took a while but the book is finally here.

new deal

The Jazz Age is over and the Great Depression and Dust Bowl are ravaging across the United States. People need someone to blame. Luckily for a population who needs a scapegoat, the next wave of human evolution has begun, and it couldn’t have chosen a worse time to be born. Men and women with amazing powers now fly across the sky, turn their skin into gold, and block bullets with their bare hands. Some take to crime. Some hide their powers for their own safety. Some seek the Underground Railroad for safe haven and a new life in Mexico. Some try to fight the good fight and turn the tide of public opinion as heroes. All of them are in the wrong place at the wrong time in a wounded, terrified, and violent country. In this collection from Pro Se Productions, several of the top writers in New Pulp Fiction spin history ’round like a top to create an alternate reality both comfortably familiar and strangely new for readers of action, adventure, and crime stories. THE NEW DEAL: MASKS AND MUTATIONS. From Pro Se Productions

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Congrats to the winners!

Congrats to Susan Cowan, Jake Robbins, Glen Houghtaling, Terry Irvin, and Alisha Marshall for winning the Bishop’s Diabolical Give-a-way drawing.

bishop contest

 

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Writing, Depression, Logan and Me.

Writing, Depression, Logan and Me.

‘A tortured soul has moved on. I hope he finds the peace he couldn’t attain here.’


Those were the only words I could find to say on the morning after I learned of my friend’s death. I wanted to say more, to write an emotional tribute or something, or maybe just scream the words ‘Why did you do it?’ to the heavens, but nothing seemed right, nothing felt right.

As word spread, our mutual friends spoke in barely audible whispers and informed the rest of the local and Facebook communities of his death. Stunned, we simply told one another that depression had finally taken him, but I hated saying that. I didn’t like giving depression that much power, as if it were a monster, a demon lurking in the darkness waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting, breaking their spirits until suicide seemed the only answer. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to give the depression that took my friend credit for claiming another life.

But that is exactly what depression is, a demon drawing us down into the darkness when we’re at those points of being the most emotionally and psychologically venerable. It exhausts our supplies of the mental fortitude that keeps us willing to fight and drains the will to live right out of us. It is something that always sits, not in a corner of some dark room but in the back of our minds, tucked away in some shady section of our brains and constantly whispering words of doubt and despair.

While some folks – the lucky ones – never hear the voice or have that blessed gift of being able to laugh off the negative thoughts, others are not so fortunate. The demon preys on our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities and tells us there are no options, no escape from the torment except the final one.

My friend was a writer, like myself. In fact, we’d met at a writers’ critique group in Nashville, ten years ago or so. His attitude toward writing, as well as toward life in general, fascinated me. He wasn’t the type to whitewash his opinions, especially about his given art form, which he was passionate about. While most in the group would diplomatically find ways of overlooking the errors in a particular piece being critiqued, he would tell it like it was. With a determined (if not the occasional grimacing) expression, he’d flip through the manuscript pages, making scores of red pen marks on each page as he exclaimed, “This is crap, this is crap, and this is mega-crap.” Then he’d always hand the papers back to the writer and follow up with positive comments. And always ended his critique with, “This has promise. You have promise, keep working on it.”

And a decade-long friendship took off.

My friend Logan appeared to most as a tall and imposing figure, with long ‘hippie’ hair, at least one Wiccan or Pagan talisman dangling around his neck, and on most days wearing a beaten and battered RUSH t-shirt. There were some who, shortly after his death, described him as the strong silent type. They talked about him being hidden away from his friends and suffering in silence alone with his depression. One blogger wrote about the masculine silence, that notion that real men never speak of the ailments that afflict them, physically or mentally. For those who knew him best, that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, Logan was just the opposite.

Logan quiet often spoke about his depression to his friends. In fact, the idea for an upcoming book dealing with the subject originally sprang from a conversation between Logan and the publisher, Tommy Hancock. Logan and I often spoke of the various treatments he’d tried, some conventional and some not so much. Medications, relaxation, and stress relief, along with some drug treatments, were discussed, mulled over, and in some cases, tried with some or little success. That silver bullet that’d cure all our troubles never came to be.

He suffered, knew others that suffered, and wanted to bring attention to the issue that seems to afflict so many fellow writers. And while he spoke a lot about his own struggles to those who’d listen, he, more importantly, could recognize the symptoms in others and would always offer an ear. That was one of the great strengths in our relationship – he knew that I have had my own on and off struggles with depression.

For creative folks, especially writers, depression can be a debilitating illness that strikes at the very core of who we are and what we do. It saps the imagination, leaving us with the inability to move forward with our tales. It dulls the sharp edge we need to carve something good from the jumbled mass of incoherent thoughts and ideas. This is the case for most artistic folks, but for writers, there are other factors that attract the demon and allow its claws to dig deeper into the flesh of our psyche. While anyone can suffer from depression, it seems to hit artists harder and more often. Nothing could be more of a nightmare for a creative person than to have that artistic spark extinguished.

The factors that can trigger an episode, if that is the correct term, can come from many different directions – poor sales, harsh or mean critiques and reviews, or the inability to even break into the publishing world. Sometimes, it feels as if we writers are attacked from all sides with negativity. So many people telling new and aspiring writers that they’ll never succeed. So many folks saying that you’ll never finish your first book or never get it published. And what if you make it? Then the struggle to match your first success comes into play. The writer suddenly needs to pump out more and better work, just to prove that their first book or works weren’t just flukes.

In my case, I’d wanted to start writing many years before I actually did but didn’t because I listened to those around me. Phrases like, ‘don’t bother, you don’t know what you’re doing.’ Or, ‘there will be time to write when you retire, right now you should concentrate on making money,’ or, ‘we know this is just a phase and you’ll never really finish an actual book.’ I felt like family and friends were constantly bombarding me with negativity. Every time I tried to talk about the books in my head, stories that increasingly grew restless, wanting to escape, I was met with blank stares. That was why having a friend who also wrote became such an important factor in my writing career and proved to be the best way for me to battle the demon. I didn’t feel alone in the battle. I had someone in the same boat who understood my problems.

For Logan and me, the constant attempts to write, produce something new and fresh, and to find a home for our stories in the publishing world became an unofficial and seemingly never-ending struggle. Each year had its own ups and downs and we counted on one another for support and help. When Logan began sinking down into the dark places because of his writing, I was there to pull him back to the surface and he did the same for me. Sometimes, it felt like a see-saw, when one of us was in a good place and the other was not. But our see-sawing teamwork kept each other from dropping too far into the darkness – for a while, anyway.

There have been multiple occasions over the years when I’ve considered giving up on a writing career. Every few months, when I get a royalty check or an indication of my book sales, I wonder why I am bothering to waste years of my life on something that only a handful of folks will bother reading. Logan would always remind me that even the big names in writing started off small, that everyone makes mistakes, and that everyone can succeed if they stay positive.

There was a dark time for Logan in 2012 when he stopped writing and had all but given up. I, along with others talked and encouraged him to get back to it but nothing seemed to help. Then good fortune struck for me later that year. A publisher who’d taken my first novel agreed to let me edit two anthologies.

Okay – in all honesty, I’d pitched two ideas for short story anthologies, not thinking they’d pick them up. I ended up getting tapped to be the editor and put the books together. The themes of the books, steampunk superheroes and werewolves, were right up Logan’s alley.

Without a second thought, I picked up the phone and called, insisting that he submit stories to both collections. Knowing the quality of his work, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind. I knew I’d be happy with what he’d produce. At first he was reluctant, to my surprise. He didn’t seem thrilled at the opportunity, but, as the idea of actually having his work in print and his name in the credits sank in, his attitude changed. In quick succession, he banged out two great stories and then put on his editor’s hat and volunteered to help me edit. With the number of stories that came in for the werewolf collection, the publisher decided to produce twin volumes, so I went from editing two books to three. Personally, I started feeling overwhelmed and, without missing a stride, Logan jumped into the fray to help me, snatching up stories and in customary Logan fashion exclaiming, “This is crap, this is crap, this is … oh, this one is good.”

I had worried at first about whether Logan would come back from the depths and write again. For many artists and writers, there is a point of no return when it comes to their creative nature. Once reached, they doubt their abilities so much that they give up completely and attempt to find solace in other endeavors. That creative spark gets snuffed out. But having a real chance to see his stories published worked and brought him back to life. His attitude changed and the purpose that all writers have, that need to tell stories, didn’t just resurface – it exploded out of the dark waters of self-doubt on to multiple pages in multiple books.

Logan didn’t just jump back with a couple of stories. Instead, he threw himself back into creating, churning out story after story and getting himself a contract for his first book. And nothing made me happier than to see my friend succeed.

The act was repaid in kind, however, a couple of years later when it was my turn to start a downward spiral in my personal and writing world.

In 2014, the demon came after me. In January of that year, I lost the woman who’d raised me. Lu Lewis may have been my grandmother, but she was the only one there for me during the majority of my life. My mother disappeared from my life when I was very young, followed shortly afterwards by the death of my father. Losing the person who’d always been my rock felt like a sucker punch to the kidneys. Then two more events in February pushed me down even farther. First, the woman I’d loved for a couple of years decided that our time was over. Secondly, my new novel was released with the first review denouncing it as the worst-copyedited book in history. As it turned out, the publisher had mistakenly uploaded the wrong file, the unedited version, to the printers. After a year and a half of work, my new book, which was to become a series that’d I’d hoped to build a writing career on, had been trashed by critics, not because of my mistake but because of someone else’s.

Thing is, uploading the wrong file issue with my second novel wasn’t new for me. A different publisher had done exactly the same thing with my first book. And they say that lightning doesn’t strike twice. HA!

Stunned, shocked, and traumatized by everything, I just sat back and stopped working. “What was the point,” I figured. If I could spend months or years on a book only to have it screwed up, ruining any chance of it being a hit, then why bother? And it wasn’t just a one-time thing. This was my second book and with both novels that same thing had happened.

Logan jumped in and talked me off the ledge when I talked about ending my writing career. He kept pointing out that my third book, which had been released shortly after the second, was free of issues, as well as all three of my anthologies which had been successfully released and were selling well. But, more importantly, he pushed me to see that I would hate myself in the long run if I just stopped doing something I loved. After all these years, I see that the last point would be used over and over again by both of us, reminding one another of that fact. A fact that always won out.

Logan’s belief in me kept me from doing something that I’d regret – quitting and walking away from the writing world. But he also kept me from doubting myself and my abilities. While he’d bitch about my use of grammar, word choices, and my inability to ever understand the differences between ‘then’ and ‘than’, he always found the positive in whatever cringe-worthy first draft I inflicted upon him. I found him to be the perfect foil to bounce ideas off of, since I never had to worry that his viewpoint would be skewed, and he did the same for me.

For ten years, he and I danced around our depression. Luckily, we never suffered episodes (again, if that is the appropriate term) together. Instead, when he was in a dark place, I was there to help pull him out. And vice-versa, when he was in a good place, he stood ready to pull me out of the darkness when I started sinking. In reflection, having someone in the same boat of trying to be a writer turned out to be what we both needed to make it in the biz. Well, I should say, we both have been published and both saw some success, but we were hoping that ‘the big time’ was right down the road. We both knew that we had to keep walking to get there and pushed one another along.

While no one has a specific number or percentage, researchers know that writers are more likely to suffer from depression and manic-depression than non-writers. All of the reasons for this are not known for certain, although we have ideas of some things that may trigger depression in the typical writer-type. Like many things in life, we may never know what they all are – what triggers the dark emotions and who is more likely to be effected.

The life of a writer is typically a series of ups and downs. The promise of rewards, riches, and self-satisfaction can elevate the soul. The joy of finishing a first draft of a novel can make a writer’s heart swell with joy and feel like they are on top of the world. And then that feeling can be completely crushed when that novel is repeatedly rejected by publishers or denounced by critics.

These feelings tend to stay bottled up inside due to the lives of most writers. In many creative endeavors, there are multiple folks involved, all of whom are sharing the joys and heartbreaks. In general, they support one another. But writing… writing is a solitary effort. Most writers sit in a room alone as they create their works, rarely interacting with others. This lack of social interaction doesn’t help when depression is creeping in on the writer. There may not be anyone around to share ideas with or who will listen as you vent your frustrations. More importantly, family and friends of writers typically don’t understand the many ups and downs that the creative types deal with. They don’t understand and, therefore, don’t know to look for the warning signs or how best to support the individual.

And social interaction is only part of it. In the course of writing a good tale, a writer can and usually does run through a series of emotions, ranging from terrifying anger to sheer happiness. When in the groove, so to speak, a writer is in the mind of his characters and experiencing their heartbreaks and joys, feeling everything they do. A character can be far more than just something in black and white. Writers pour so much of themselves into their works, into these characters, that, when one is forced to kill off a character, it can be a traumatic experience. A non-writer just can’t understand the connections between a writer and their fictional friends and loves.

Writing about misery, suffering, and death can take an emotional and psychological toll on anyone, especially someone who is already dealing with depression. It isn’t a negative reflection on the individual if they have a hard time dealing with something they’ve written. In some cases, a certain character’s pain may reflect the writer’s own emotional state or delve deep into traumatic events from the writer’s past, dredging up long-buried anger or fear. I know from my own writings that at different points in a story, when the stress or heartbreak levels are high, that my emotions will be effected.

The circumstances around his death are known only to a handful and, out of respect, I’ll keep it that way. Logan and I had been out of contact for a while, with him temporarily living in Texas while I remained in Tennessee. I had reached out before his death, before he chose to end things, but my attempt came too late.

Moving forward, I’ll not have my friend to pick me up when things are down. At the time of this writing, the shock and pain have subsided, the anger over his actions has diminished, and I’m left with a profound sense of emptiness. The tragedy that was Logan’s death brought a lot of folks closer together. We’ve rallied to one another’s side, ensuring that we all make it through, that no one is suffering in silence, and we’re all working to learn more about depression so as to watch for the warning signs in our friends.

And is there a better way to remember him then using his death as a wake-up call, declaring that depression is real and capable of taking those we think are strongest?

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