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In 1986, my 70-year-old mother was asleep in her own bed when a teenaged neighbor broke into her home, raped her, and then beat her to near death and left her face down in a partially filled bathtub. It was a spectacularly brutal, banner headline crime, called by the District Attorney one of the most heinous in the history of the county. On hearing this story, many people ask me, “How did you survive?”

I don't think survival is the question. Although numb with shock and drenched in grief, we get up in the morning. We brush our teeth. In my case, I had two daughters, one almost seven and the other 3 months old, to care for. We cry. We scream. We comfort one another. We go back to work. We take on the trappings of an ordinary life, carrying on in the blind faith that our insides will someday match the artificial normality of our outsides. Or we find our days transformed by what we have lost, not only our loved ones but our belief in the decency of our fellow humans and our sense of safety in the world. Some families dedicate themselves to finding the killer or to participating in punishment. Others become radicalized in other ways.

In other words, we do what seems best to us in order to survive. We do everything except tend to the grievously wounded parts of ourselves.

We know today that post-traumatic illness is not limited to soldiers in battle or the surviving loved ones of murder victims. We know that for most of us, it does not go away simply because we ignore it. Some people live reasonably functional lives by walling off their pain like an abscess, refusing to talk about it and “acting as if” everything is fine. I make no judgment about them; I am the last person to advise anyone else about how to live with something only they can understand. I know only that I was not among them.

I tried my hardest to be strong. Instead, I broke.

The man who killed my mother had pled guilty to a lesser charge, thus sparing my family the ordeal of a trial but leaving many questions unanswered. In 1995, he became eligible for his first parole hearing. There was no question in my mind about attending and speaking against his release. I poured myself into writing a speech, I marched into San Quentin Prison, I stood up in the presence of the perpetrator, I addressed the Parole Commissioners in the strongest possible language, and then I went home.

I thought it was over when parole was denied. I was wrong.

A year later, I went into a psychological and spiritual crisis. A series of increasingly troubling symptoms should have alerted me to my own emotional deterioration, but I clung too tightly to the appearance of normality to pay attention. When the break came, I folded like a house of cards: I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't stop crying. I would look in the mirror and not recognize the person who looked back at me. It seemed to me that nobody was home behind those glassy, deer-in-the-headlight eyes. I've heard almost those same words from other murder victim family members. I call us “murder survivors.” This time, there was no question of “carrying on.” Slowly and painful, with many missteps and amazing, often unexpected, kindness from those around me, I began to heal from the inside out.

Because I am a writer, much of what I experienced — not the external circumstances but the emotions and insights — made its way into my stories. Why fiction? Stories keep our intellects busy while the deeper parts of our psyches grapple with things that are not easily put into words.

I am not a psychotherapist or an expert on recovery from trauma. Nor am I a military veteran or law enforcement officer, or war refugee, or family member of someone who has been executed, so I cannot speak from my own experience about the horrendous stresses those people face. However, I have found that I have much in common with folks who suffer from post-traumatic illness from other causes. I have exchanged support and become an ally of family members of offenders, as well. Their grief and pain is no less overwhelming than my own.

We are all survivors, and all of us are wounded in ways we sometimes cannot name. And there is hope for all of us. One of the most powerful ways we can help one another is by telling stories and listening to each other with open hearts.

You are not what happened to you, and you are not alone.



About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

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

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/

[Jay Lake memorial link salad]

Modern rattlesnakes have pared down their weaponry stockpile from their ancestor’s massive arsenal. Today’s rattlers have irreversibly lost entire toxin-producing genes over the course of evolution, narrowing the range of toxins in their venom, scientists report September 15 in Current Biology.

Tortoises rule! Diego, 100, is a rare breed of tortoise called Chelonoidis hoodensis. These animals are so rare that they only exist on one of the oldest islands in the Galápagos. In 1976, when Diego was living at the San Diego Zoo, scientists realized that this handsome hero in a half shell was actually one of the last remaining tortoises of the Chelonoidis hoodensisas species. Diego then became the dominant male in a captive breeding program in the Galápagos.

A study of a well-preserved Chinese Psittacosaurus fossil shows it had a light underside and was darker on top - an arrangement called counter-shading. This suggests the species lived in an environment with diffuse light, such as a forest.
Thunderlord.jpgAcross genres, we accept the importance of bonds between brothers; I would argue that in speculative fiction, at least, we give less weight to the loyalty and emotional intimacy between sisters. This may be due to the domestic setting for sisterly concerns. Brothers march off to war together, but sisters hold hands when one is giving birth. If one or both is unmarried, sisters set up housekeeping together, often living their entire lives under the same roof. Yet the relationship between sisters opens many fascinating and challenging story possibilities.

I’ve found that once I step away from the models of male-bonding or male-female romantic love as the only possibilities for central relationships, my stories get a lot more interesting and also emotionally powerful. They don’t necessarily have to be the sole or pivotal bonds in a story. Just as in real life, they form a critical foundation for any social setting.

Thunderlord’s emotional heart is the relationship between the two Rockraven sisters, Kyria and Alayna. This being Darkover, I also included plenty of action and adventures — banshees and laran and bandits, oh my. Through all this — and a love story or two — the sisters are so integral to the tale that at times I felt as if I were channeling Elizabeth and Jane from Pride and Prejudice (or Marianne and Elinor from Sense and Sensibility). Sisters are not always close, but when they are, the relationships are complex, rich, and enduring. Lovers may come and go, the saying goes, but sisterhood is forever.

I didn’t set out to write “The Bennett Sisters on Darkover.” I began with a few pages of Marion’s notes on a sequel to Stormqueen, almost all of it backstory, and the title of the proposed book. I didn’t want to repeat the general plot of Stormqueen or its tragic ending, and I also wanted to experience whatever adventure the story took me on through the eyes of fresh, new characters.Read more...Collapse )

Although the Rockraven family isn’t anything like the Bennetts, I kept finding similarities: a noble but impoverished family, the pressure for one or both girls to secure the family’s financial future by their marriages, their wistful longing to marry for love, how the sisters are different but devoted to each other, and so forth. There are no balls in the neighborhood, no mother with imaginary illnesses scheming to “make a good marriage” for her daughters, no problem about the inheritance of the estate, and certainly no Mr. Darcy to be unpleasant to everyone. Practical Kyria deals with her family’s poverty by donning her brother’s clothes and trapping animals for food. Romantic Alayna dreams of love stories while understanding that such a happy ending means they must be parted, most likely forever. Distances on Darkover are much greater than in Regency England!

Kyria and Alayna made their entrance in my first draft as fairly conventional characters: the tomboy and the dreamer. I added Kyria – but not Alayna -- having inherited the Rockraven storm-sense laran into the mix, along with family legends of scandalous Great-Aunt Aliciane (who was Lord Aldaran’s ill-fated mistress in Stormqueen) and “The Rockraven Curse.” Kyria developed pretty much along the lines I’d initially set for her. When, for instance, she leaps on the back of a banshee, armed only with a knife, that does not present a radical departure from her character, as it would have been for Alayna.

Alayna, initially less interesting to me, nevertheless led me down some unexpected twists and turns. She grew more in the course of her adventures, in part because she had a longer distance to cover in terms of becoming her own person. She didn’t astonish me when she moved from timidity to desperation to heroism. Her compassion and her bravery in standing up for the people in her care did take me by surprise. I had no idea of her inner strength, a strength that comes from depth of heart instead of muscle and will-power.

By far the biggest revelations came from the minor women characters, in particular Ellimira and Dimitra. Ellimira, wife of the heir to the Rockraven estate and therefore chatelaine of the house, began as a fairly standard scolding, demanding older kinswoman. Not quite an evil stepmother (or, in this case, sister-in-law) but one laboring under the responsibilities of making too little stretch too far while somehow tending to her own children and husband. Yet when she bid Kyria and Alayna farewell, she presented me with a moment of insight: she has not seen her own family since her wedding, and if I knew nothing of whom she missed and what she had left behind, it was because she was such a private person, she would never volunteer that information and no one would ever think to ask, they were so busy either scrambling to obey her orders or trying to escape her notice. She never did tell me, but as this was not her story, I left her secrets for the reader to guess. Perhaps she will, in between counting the holes in the linens and nursing the baby who surely must have been born by now, suggest that I write it.

Dimitra made her entrance as the lady-in-waiting who takes Alayna under her wing upon her arrival at Scathfell Castle: competent, motherly, a bit chatty. Very quickly, it became apparent that she had a mind and agenda of her own. What was she up to with Dom Nevin? And why – money? a secret passion? rebellion against Lord Scathfell? When Nevin’s scheme was unveiled, Dimitra became the catalyst for Alayna’s kindness and sense of justice to overcome her timidity, and this later returned in a much more powerful way when Dimitra fell ill. Although a secondary character, Dimitra had a pretty remarkable story arc, moving from motherly guide to traitor to dying woman to loyal accomplice.

I hope you enjoy reading about these wonderful women characters as much as I did writing them. I lack Jane Austen’s wit and keen social insight, but if you hanker to read about women’s relationships and growth (along with adventure, thunderstorms, a banshee attack, and a couple of love-never-did-run-smooth stories), I hope you’ll check out Thunderlord.

Supporting a New Writer 1: Introduction

Recently, I received this letter from Wendy, a fan with whom I’d been corresponding. It spoke deeply to me, and rather than answer it alone, I asked some of my writer friends to join in a series of round table blogs on the issues raised. If you’ve been there, too, I hope you’ll follow along and offer your own wisdom.

I've been trying to reconnect with writing friends after a hiatus from the creative life. I've spent the past year or so taking care of my mom and working to pay the bills. Mom passed away in October.
When your last parent passes away, it changes you in many ways. That foundation you always relied on -- even as an adult -- is gone for good. Whether you're ready or not, you are truly on your own in the world and must somehow carry on without their nurturing presence. One of the most difficult aspects of my mother's final days was the fact that she had so many regrets about life. She once had goals and dreams, but left them behind out of fear and a belief that these dreams were just not possible.
I'm 54 years old. More than half of my life is over. Writing has been a dream/goal of mine since childhood. My mom was the only one who believed in me. I don't want to leave this world regretting the fact that I never pursued this dream to the fullest. To be honest, my writing "career" never took off. I let fear, doubt and the negativity of others keep me from my dreams. I want so much to be brave, to take risks with my creative life. I truly wish for a group of fellow writers who are willing to give me the encouragement and support I need to write with my heart and soul, to grow as a writer and a human being. And I want to be a support for others as well.
How do I get back into the writing life after leaving it on the back burner for so long?



Effie Seiberg: I hear you. Writing is such an inherently lonely business, spending that much time in your own head, that a good support group is critical. When I first started writing I went though wild mood swings ranging from "OMG this is the most hilarious thing ever" to "Why did I ever think I could English? This is total crap," and I began to fear that I wasn't emotionally stable enough to write. It was only after I found a community of supportive writers that I understood that this is just how writing works, and the only thing that improves is your ability to enjoy the highs and survive the lows. A good support group bolsters you through both.

Effie Seiberg is a fantasy and science fiction writer. Her stories can be found in the "Women Destroy Science Fiction!" special edition of Lightspeed Magazine (winner of the 2015 British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology), Galaxy's Edge, Analog, Fireside Fiction, and PodCastle, amongst others. She is a graduate of Taos Toolbox 2013, a member of SFWA and Codex, and a reader at Tor.com. She lives in San Francisco, recently and upcoming (but not presently) near a giant sculpture of a pink bunny head with a skull in its mouth. She likes to make sculpted cakes and bad puns. You can follow her on twitter at @effies, or read more of her work at www.effieseiberg.com.



Barb Caffrey: For now, though...I can say this much to Wendy. It's never too late to do what you feel you must, as a creative artist. I have often felt like it's too late for me due to how my husband passed away suddenly; I'm now trying to carry on his work, and mine, and sometimes this seems like an overly heavy weight.

The important thing is that I'm doing it. No matter how long it takes, no matter what is up against me -- bad health or family health issues or foreclosures or anything -- I keep on working. Some days, all I can do is look at my works-in-progress and say, "Hmmm," and do a little fiddling but add nothing tangible. The next day, or maybe the day after that, the dam bursts and I have more new words again.Read more...Collapse )

The most important thing you can do -- and it unfortunately is also the hardest -- is to believe in yourself, and that what you are doing is valuable. No matter what anyone else says, no matter what anyone else does, you are going to do what you feel you must.
I wish I had a better answer, but persistence has mostly worked for me.

Barb Caffrey has written three novels, An Elfy On The Loose (2014), A Little Elfy in Big Trouble (2015), and Changing Faces (forthcoming), and is the co-writer of the Adventures of Joey Maverick series (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey) Previous stories and poems have appeared in Stars Of Darkover, First Contact Café, How Beer Saved The World, Bearing North, and Bedlam's Edge (with Michael B. Caffrey).



Alma Alexander: I'm roughly of an age with you, Wendy, and I think ours is now the generation which has to grapple with some of life's truths. I’m technically only "half" an orphan at this point - my dad left us three years ago, my mother is still around, in her eighties now, frailer and more fragile than she's ever been before, both physically and psychologically, and it's something that it's up to me to deal with, I am in full defend and protect mode with her, often, and it takes up a huge swathe of mental and physical resources. But there will come a time when she too is gone and at this point it will be as you say - the foundation is gone. Until that moment you can always "go home". Afterwards, that first home, the foundation home, is gone, forever, and it takes a shift of thinking to adjust to it. So before anything else is said... there's that. There's the acknoledgment, and the understanding. We've been here, or we're coming up on that milestone, and we can look into that shadow and know exactly where you're coming from.

You haven't said if you've pursued your writing before in any focused way other than it having been a dream of yours - you use air quotes around your "career" so I don't know if you tried, and didn't meet with immediate success, and that was why you took the hiatus, or if your fears of not succeeding have prevented you from trying at all. But the first thing that needs to be said is something I've been telling people for a long time. If you want to be a writer, nobody can stop you. If you don't, then nobody can help you. The first impetus, the first urge, the first passion, the first demand, must come from within. If this is your dream, then even if you cannot lay aside your fears you must learn to write while juggling them with your other hand. Do you have stories whispering in your ear as you fall asleep at night, stories that desperately want to be told? Then tell them. At this point, pursuing your dream to the point of a "career" (and now I am using the air quotes) starts with the first step of actually sitting down, and writing. Something. Anything. Starting with an audience of one, yourself. THEN, you build out.

Alma Alexander is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. Born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, she has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), and the story of her life so far has included climbing mountains, diving in coral reefs, flying small planes, swimming with dolphins, touching two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon.


Pat Rice: After thirty plus years of publication, I’m here to tell you that doubt and negativity never go away. First, we have to accept that self-doubt is part of our process, decide our goals are more important than our fears, and push on to the next step. For most of us, the next step is to write. Write and write some more. Throw out the first efforts and start over, because we all have to learn somehow, and it’s fine not to be perfect.

Support groups can be useful, but they’re only what you make of them. You can go to meetings and talk about your goals and expectations and brainstorm your plots. You can listen to others speak of their failures and successes. The camaraderie and support is often necessary -- but it won’t get you to your goal unless you take that energy back to your computer and WRITE.

Thirty years ago when I was lost in the wilderness of doubt, I turned to Writers Market magazine for advice. These days, advice, critique groups, support groups, and everything you might need are all online. You can check Romance Writers of America’s website for the nearest chapter if you need to meet in person. The greater risk is that you’ll get lost in the mass of voices.

So my advice would be to support yourself first. Make the choice to write, find a time of day or grab whatever free minutes are available and scribble down your stories. Do it every day. Feel free to throw it out every night. You are building a habit that will build a career. When you are finally ready to invest in yourself, then look for others who can read what you’ve written and encourage you. And if they try to discourage you, go back and read what you have and decide for yourself whether they're right or not.

It takes a spine of steel and the perseverance of a saint to be a writer. It’s never too late to exercise and put those muscles into shape.


With several million books in print and New York Times and USA Today’s bestseller lists under her belt, former CPA Patricia Rice writes romance, mystery, and urban fantasy. Her books have won numerous awards, including the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice and Career Achievement Awards. She has also been honored as a Romance Writers of America RITA® finalist in the historical, regency and contemporary categories.

Book Release Day! Thunderlord

It's book release day! Let's party!


Lots of places to buy it: your local bookstore (yay!), Powells, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

[Jay Lake memorial link salad]

Human eye spots single photons. Human eyes are capable of detecting a single photon — the tiniest possible speck of light — new research suggests. The result, published July 19 in Nature Communications, may settle the debate on the ultimate limit of the sensitivity of the human visual system, a puzzle scientists have pondered for decades. Scientists are now anticipating possibilities for using the human eye to test quantum mechanics with single photons.

M13: A Great Globular Cluster of Stars . M13 is a colossal home to over 100,000 stars, spans over 150 light years across, lies over 20,000 light years distant, and is over 12 billion years old.

A Crazy New Species of Beaked Whale Has Been Discovered in the Pacific. On Tuesday, a team of scientists announced the discovery of a brand new species of beaked whale. The findings, published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, detail the lengthy process of finding and identifying samples from 178 beaked whales in and around the Pacific Rim. Previously, there were only two known species belonging to the genus Berardius—Baird’s and Arnoux’s beaked whales—but these new findings indicate there’s another species hanging out in the North Pacific.

How Much You Need to Exercise to Make Up For Sitting All Day. There’s been a lot of finger-wagging of late about the health risks associated with sitting at a desk all day, or binge-watching our favorite TV shows. Now couch potatoes can rejoice because a new study has found that just an hour of moderate activity a day wipes out all the negative impacts of sedentary behavior—contrary to some prior studies claiming exercise didn’t help much at all.

Badass New Dragon Ants Remind Us Nature Is Cooler Than Fantasy. Writing today in PLOS One, a team of entomologists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology has just described two new species of Pheidole, the most diverse ant genus on Earth. The distinctive feature of the newcomers is a crop of fierce-looking spines jutting out of their dorsal plates. The scientists couldn’t help but notice how this spiky armor afforded their specimens a dragon-like appearance, which is why they judiciously tossed out traditional Latin naming conventions in favor of Pheidole viserion and Pheidole drogon.

Distinctions blur between wolf species. Wolves are having something of an identity crisis. Gray wolves and coyotes might be the only pure wild canine species in North America, a new genetic analysis suggests. Other wolves — like red wolves and eastern wolves — appear to be blends of gray wolf and coyote ancestry instead of their own distinct lineages. Red wolves contain about 75 percent coyote genes and 25 percent wolf genes, an international team of scientists reports online July 27 in Science Advances. Eastern wolves have about 25 to 50 percent coyote ancestry.


Big-footed dinosaur
. A tourist guide working in Bolivia has stumbled upon an enormous dinosaur footprint measuring nearly four feet wide. Experts say it’s one of the largest prints ever found of a carnivorous dinosaur, and a record for South America.

Nose bacteria fight Staph, even MRSA strains. The human nose harbors not only a deadly enemy — Staphylococcus aureus — but also its natural foe. Scientists have now isolated a compound from that foe that might combat MRSA, the methicillin-resistant strain of S. aureus. “We didn’t expect to find this. We were just trying to understand the ecology of the nose to understand how S. aureus causes problems,” bacteriologist Andreas Peschel of the University of Tübingen in Germany said at a news briefing July 26 during the EuroScience Open Forum. Investigating the intense interspecies competition in the nose — where microbes fight for space and access to scant sugars and amino acids — might offer a fertile alternative to searching for new drug candidates in soil microbes.

Meme -- 1969

Stole this from sartorias, who labeled it "high school." But I graduated from Reed's Fine College in 1968, so here's what my life looked like the next year.

1. Did you know your spouse? Married hubby #1 in '69. Both of us were way too young to realize we were exactly the wrong people for one another.

2. Did you car pool to school? I lived in the dorms in college, but drove to grad school. High school, I mostly walked.

3. What kind of car did you have? After college, a Saab, one of those old 2-stroke engines where you added oil directly to the gas. Probably polluted like crazy.

4. What kind of car do you have now? Rather battered 2004 Prius and not-so-battered 2002 Mazda Van for hauling dog and garden stuff.

5. It's Friday night...where were you? Folk dancing, where else?

6. What kind of job did you have in high school? Babysitting, helping out in my father's print shop. In college I worked in the Bio stockroom, taught folk dancing, and was a dorm advisor. In grad school I typed up dictation for a psychologist.

7. What kind of job do you have now? Writer, and I'll be working at it forever.

8. Were you a party animal? You have got to be kidding.

9. Were you a cheerleader? See above.

10. Were you considered a jock? See above.

11. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? See above.

13. Did you get suspended or expelled? Not even close (high school).

14. Can you sing the fight song? "Epistemology Forever"? Sure can do!

15. Who was/were your favorite high school teacher? College favorite was Lloyd J. Reynolds, calligrapher extraordinaire, who pushed us to see the white spaces inside the letters and think outside the box.

16. Where did you sit for lunch? With a gaggle of similarly geek-minded friends in college. Grad school varied.

17. What was your school mascot? College - gryphon. We had a high school mascot?

18. If you could go back and do it again, would you? High school, never. College I'd love to re-do, but not at my age. Grad school ditto.

19. Did you have fun at Prom? Nobody asked me, either school. Now I look at that and say, Yikes what losers to not see the spectacular person I am. But maybe I wasn't back then.

20. Do you still talk to the person you went to Prom with? see above.

21. Are you planning on going to your next reunion? Just went to college reunion. May go back when it's our 50th. Went to 50th high school and was amazed how many people remembered me (see #19) (and gloated at how good I look).

22. Are you still in contact with people from school? High school, recently got back in touch. I met my best friend in college, but she died in 2013, so I'm much less in touch. My life has moved on.

23. What are/were your school's colors? No idea, either one. I have better things to clog my memory up with!

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In 1776, whether you were declaring America independent from the crown or swearing your loyalty to King George III, your pronunciation would have been much the same. At that time, American and British accents hadn't yet diverged. What's surprising, though, is that Hollywood costume dramas get it all wrong: The Patriots and the Redcoats spoke with accents that were much closer to the contemporary American accent than to the Queen's English.

It is the standard British accent that has drastically changed in the past two centuries, while the typical American accent has changed only subtly.

Why Do Americans and Brits Have Different Accents?
What if science was presented with the same dramatic flair as a thriller movie trailer? I'll be following this one closely!

Brexit thoughts

Dear friends in the U.K., I send you condolences and hugs. Prompted by Cliff Winnig, here is a quote from one of your many great writers:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.

"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

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