Depression Feels Like…

I’ve been sort of beige and muffled lately, mildly depressed. I’ve been functional, for the most part. My mood is lifting, and I’m grateful. While I was sifting through some files today, however, I found something I wrote while in the midst of one of my worst depressions. A lot of people don’t seem to understand what clinical depression feels like. To me, if feels like this:

I feel numb. I get out of bed in the morning because I know my husband expects it. All I want to do is sleep. Everything seems difficult–little things like brushing my teeth and hair feel arduous. I don’t want to be around other people. I cringe from my friends. Just attending a social function physically hurts–I have to escape to another room or outside to make my skin stop crawling. I have so little energy that I feel like I could fall asleep standing, like a horse. Everyone around me seems to be moving at eighty miles an hour while I stumble through a sea of gelatin.

I know it wasn’t always like this, but I can’t remember feeling normal or competent or whole or anything. I can’t feel anything but the overwhelming numbness. I am a hollow tree or a frozen landscape, something empty and barren, something dead–a waxwork of the person I distantly remember being.

A few weeks after I wrote this I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. My variety tends more toward Bipolar II, which is characterized by long, deep depressive episodes. The antidepressants that work so well for many people with unipolar depression can actually drive bipolar people into manias or suicide. I had tried different antidepressants in the past and none of them worked. I believed the fault lay somehow with me, never realizing that I had been misdiagnosed with chronic depression and that I simply hadn’t been given the right medications.

I still have low moods, but I rarely feel the level of emptiness that I felt in the throes of my worst depressive episodes. Medications are not for everyone, but I credit a combination of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotic medications with saving my life.

Making a New Ceiling

My wonderful, geeky friends are excited about the new woman Doctor in Doctor Who. They were thrilled to see Wonder Woman do so well at the box office and many are hoping that the Black Widow in the Marvel Universe will get her own movie. They’re excited that the new Bond might be female or black. Although I share in their excitement, as a biologically female, genderqueer writer, I find myself wishing we weren’t just rehashing characters written by cisgender, cissexual white men in the middle of the last century.

I wish we were celebrating new, original characters created by people living here and now. I want to hear from diverse voices. I want to know about the characters and worlds created whole cloth by women, people of color, and LGBTQIA people. Diverse writers in the here and now are brimming with stories and characters that are every bit as exciting as anything from some comfortable franchise.

Breaking the glass ceiling is fine, but I would rather create an entirely new ceiling. Something unique and profound. Something from this century. Something created by many points of view–prisms through which we might see ourselves in a new light.

 

There’s Only One Way…

No. There isn’t. There are as many ways of doing something as there are people on the planet. I hate writing instructors (or reviewers) who act as if there is only one way of writing or one kind of book. (I know, I know. You’re not supposed to get upset with reviewers. They are entitled to their opinions, and I believe that wholeheartedly. That doesn’t mean I can’t feel butt hurt when one doesn’t understand the difference between a character-driven story and a plot-driven story.)

But back to writing tips. Years ago, I was in a writing group where one writer berated another for saying she couldn’t control her characters. I knew exactly what the ‘I can’t control them’ writer meant. To some extent, that’s how I write. My characters come to me in an organic fashion. Writing often feels more like an archeological dig than a creative process. I feel like I’m discovering the characters, discovering the story. There’s something profoundly Jungian about it.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to step in more. I’ll have a flash of inspiration for a plot point or an attitude shift and insert them and watch the story reorder itself. Or I’ll give the protagonist a nudge in the ribs. I can’t even fathom the sort of rational mind who views the characters as chess pieces and feels in control of everything. I’m not arrogant enough to think that person is wrong. I realize they are different. It’s okay for people to be different. Why do so many of us have a problem with that?

I was thinking about Kite from Lover, Destroyer today. I pick on him a lot, but I feel deeply sorry for him. As soon as I thought that, I wondered what the Vulcan from that writing group would have said. “You created his backstory! You created him–how can you feel sorry for him? That’s insane?”

Well, yeah. But I didn’t intentionally create him. He came to me that way. Damaged, possessing a frightening power, manipulated into doing something that preys on his conscience for the rest of his life. Technically, I created him. But I swear, he was broken when I found him.

There are many ways to do the same thing. Mine just happens to be a bit insane. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Elarhe and Kite

LD book sample I love contrast. I can’t resist unusual pairings. Elarhe and Kite, from my new erotic romance, Lover, Destroyer, are the perfect match, in my opinion, because they’re polar opposites.

Elarhe is a young, idealistic prince who left his kingdom to learn how to wield his magical powers, powers that are considered evil in his homeland. He discards everything to follow his dream and enters the Grandimanderian Empire disguised in rags. He is confident and passionate, spirited and kind. He is a creature of heart and fire.

Kite lives like a prince, but was actually an orphaned goatherd until, at thirteen, he developed a horrific magical power capable of destroying an entire city.  As an adult, he lives alone aside from his dogs and a few servants, surrounded by his wealth and a pervasive, brooding darkness. He is like a lake of still, black water hiding secrets and skeletons beneath its surface.

Lover, Destroyer explores how two such different men learn to love and understand each other while exploring BDSM and learning to appreciate each other’s boundaries.

 

Violets

Every time I write a piece, I have a favorite chapter or scene. This excerpt from Lover, Destroyer is my favorite, partly because, even in a smutty book, I like to sneak in symbolism. In this passage, the soon-to-be-lovers Elarhe (aka “Squirrel”) and Kite have been flirting and verbally sparring for several encounters. Here, the normally dark and brooding Kite gives Elarhe a violet. Violets can symbolize humility, everlasting love, or death. In some way, all three apply here. Death, because death represents change, and this scene marks a turning point in how each views the other.

“Well, if it isn’t Darelock’s proudest urchin? How are you this fine evening, Squirrel?”
Elarhe tensed. “I’m fine.”
Kite walked up to him, smiling coldly. “You look like you’ve been rolling about in a dung heap.”
“I’ve been working. Doing an honest day’s labor. What have you been doing—buying posies all day?”
“I’ve been all day in the stacks, researching spells of the darkest nature.” He sniffed the bouquet. “The flowers are to remind me that this often dreary world is also beautiful.”
Elarhe watched him, disarmed. “The world is always beautiful,” he said softly, slowly. “Even the rain, even the mud. Everything can’t be flowers.”
Kite’s pale blue eyes seemed to mirror the violets. He gazed at Elarhe as if seeing him for the first time. After a long moment, he broke eye contact, shaking his head. “I need the flowers.” There was no pretense in his voice this time, just something quiet and melancholy. He handed a flower to Elarhe. “Sometimes we need something pure and good.”

 

Remembrance

I’m depressed. I’ve been trying to hide it. I’m still writing (a comedy of all things), but everything is kind of hard, my body feels heavy, and I want to sleep more than I want to be awake.

I know one of the reasons is that today is the birthday of someone I loved very much who is gone now. She died of an overdose, but I don’t know if it was intentional or not. She was beautiful, kind, and generous. There aren’t words that describe her well. This is an excerpt from an autobiographical short story I wrote when she was alive about a trip we took to Galveston. She was a heroin addict and had just been diagnosed with hepatitis C. This was about four years before she died. Names have been changed.

Alice and I puttered along the seawall and bought two hermit crabs and some waterguns at a souvenir shop. We shared a love of animals and trash—anything the rest of the world considered useless.  She was tired and wanted to go home, but I coaxed her onto the beach, telling her we needed sand and shells for the crabs, so they would feel at home in our apartment.

I loped along the beach, trying to entice her into the waves with me. She lagged behind, finally stopping to stand by herself.  I backtracked to stand with her, wondering if she was okay.  She stood at the water’s edge and took off her baseball cap, unleashing about two feet of blonde hair.  No emotion showed on her face. The wind swept up from the ocean, tossing her hair and unfurling it behind her. Her open white shirt billowed about her taut body like a waving flag, the thin camisole beneath it clinging to her skin.  I stopped a little behind her; she twisted her fragile neck to greet me as I approached.

“Do you want to get in the water?  Cool off?” I asked.

“No, I just want to go home,” she said listlessly. She turned her face skyward and squinted into the white sun. “The doctor told me I was lucky I didn’t have HIV.”

I dug my toe into the wet sand. “Yeah, she’s right. It could’ve been a lot worse. I mean, god, look at Geoff—that could have been you.”

She was very quiet.  In the bright sunlight, her face was yellow with greenish overtones; she looked like a faded bruise. “Yeah, everybody thinks I’m lucky—that it could’ve been worse.  That’s just what my mother said, too—look at Geoff.” She stared at the ocean with such longing that I thought she might dive into it.  “I never looked at him and thought he was unfortunate. We used to talk about it—about how it was better for his parents than if he had just hung himself.”

“I don’t see how—“

“Sure there’s a stigma, but it’s not as bad somehow as suicide. You know, your kid gets sick, and, yeah, that sucks, but there’s a safety there, like a buffer. It’s not their fault their kid was a junkie. They aren’t responsible. It’s society or music or friends or whatever.  It’s better that way, you know.  It’s kinder than suicide.” She stared out at the ocean, her voice a little wistful. “Much easier for everyone concerned.”

I nodded silently and felt cold in the ocean wind. Her suicide wishes were nothing new.  We had both been enamored with death since childhood. I could have told her that I loved her—that I would be devastated if she died, that I couldn’t imagine a world without her, that was she was my sunlight, my hope, my only and truest friend—but she already knew these things, and none of that really mattered. I possessed no tether that would hold her should she choose to go, but I would have chased her anywhere. My feelings were trivial, my desires were lurid, selfish.  I let them scatter like sand in the wind, let them rain down on the turgid waves to mix with the oil and mud, the plastic soda rings and dead fish.

Lover, Destroyer

Lover, Destroyer is available for preorder on Amazon. Although it is a fantasy romance, it contains adult content.

Can he build his dreams with a destroyer?

Beautiful young Elarhe, crown prince of Ayklinn, leaves his homeland disguised in rags because he wants to learn how to use his magic. He travels to a border city in the Grandimanderian Empire, where magic isn’t forbidden. But that land isn’t fond of immigrants; fear permeates its streets, and cruel things lurk in its shadows. One of these cruel things is a man who wields a terrible magic that—instead of healing or mending—deals only in death…. And Elarhe wants to rule his heart.

As a child, Kite destroyed an entire city with his dark magic. Now, he serves the Overfather of Grandimanderia. Feared and alone, Kite is content with the ice in his veins…until a talented young immigrant challenges everything he thought he knew.

This gay erotic romance depicts two lovers testing each other’s boundaries and discovering new experiences together. It contains sexually explicit scenes, including scenes with BDSM and various fetishes such as bondage (cuffs, suspension, straitjacket), pony play, spanking, flogging, gut punching, wax play, and others. Some scenes are extreme. (But there’s actually a story!

It releases July 11th. To reserve your copy, go here.

LD book sample