Mental Health Monday–PTSD

Since it’s a federal US holiday, I’m reprising a previous Mental Health Monday post. I think it’s apropos because today is Memorial Day–a day of remembering those men and women who died while serving in the military. New research is being conducted identifying how pervasive PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is in soldiers. Below, I’ve highlighted details of the illness and some examples of what it looks like.

Please note, this post is solely for the purposes of writing, and is NOT intended for medical advice or treatment.

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is classified as an anxiety disorder (see NOTE below, commenting on DSM 5). Technically, the person must have a constellation of symptoms for at least 30 days to qualify for the diagnosis. Some people recover, some go on to have a chronic course, lasting months to years. Symptoms can recur several years later as well, with a period of remission between.

An event must be perceived as life threatening or potentially life threateningto qualify as traumatic. Immediately, that lends a LOT of subjectivity. What’s life threatening to me may be different for  you. That being said, I’m sure we can all pretty much agree on the biggies–combat, rape, assault, natural disasters, terrorism, abuse (sexual, neglect, physical, emotional, verbal, whether as an adult or child).

The traumatic event can either be one “biggie,” or it can be the accumulation of “smaller” events over a prolonged period of time (such as child abuse or domestic violence).

Classic symptoms include:

Hypervigilence: The person doesn’t trust others. They may feel uncomfortable in exposed places (malls, crowded places, being around strangers). They will frequently make sure their back is to a wall (so it’s not exposed). They’ll keep an eye on the exits and make sure they can get to one fast if needed. They’ll also show a “startle” response, where they jump at a loud, sudden sound. Some people jump when the phone rings, for example.

Avoidance: This is pretty much self explanatory. The person will avoid triggers and things associated with the trauma. This can include movies, locations, people, even certain subjects of discussion for fear it will lead to symptoms. This, by the way, makes PTSD difficult to treat in some instances, because the very thing bringing a person to treatment, is the thing they want to avoid discussing.

What’s important to know is the brain remembers details about a traumatic event that the sufferer may not consciously recall. Furthermore, an otherwise innocuous stimuli may be paired with the event and become “dangerous.” If, for example, a person’s attacker wore a blue jacket, then the person may experience an anxiety response when confronted with a blue article of clothing. The jacket itself is benign, but the brain “remembers” it as a threat via association.

Another example would be a soldier in Iraq who has returned home and every time he goes under an overpass, he searches for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) tucked under the framework.

Which leads me to my next point. For a soldier in Iraq, being hypervigilent is conducive to survival. It makes her good at her job. BUT, when she returned to civilian life, her sensitive attunement to stimuli in the environment does not return to baseline. That is NOT conducive to living in a non-war zone.

That’s what PTSD is. A state of “hyper arousal” that is above baseline. It’s like drinking 16 cups of coffee and maintaining that level of tension and awareness ALL THE TIME.

Other cardinal symptoms of PTSD include: Flashbacks and nightmares: If someone is presented with a “trigger” (like a blue jacket), they may experience a flashback. Flashbacks can be mild (where the person is able to recognize it as a flashback and they can control it) or they can be severe, where the person actually feels like they’re reliving the event in real time.

Final tidbit: The person who suffers from PTSD is at higher risk of misusing drugs and overusing alcohol. Substance abuse and dependence as a co-morbid diagnosis is therefore common and an important aspect to address.

NOTE: ***Once the DSM 5 comes out, PTSD will be in its own category. I look forward to seeing how this new classification system works and how it encapsulates a very serious and life-altering illness.***

Mental Health Monday–Welcome to DSM 5 (Plus a giveaway!)

First, I’d like to draw your attention to Elle Casey’s Springtime Indie Book Giveaway. You can choose from over 190 titles–including my short story, Tsavo Pride! Click HERE to sign up–you have until WEDNESDAY MAY 15th. 😉

* * * * * * * *

The next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual comes out this week. It’s been about 13 years since the DSM-IV-TR was published, outlining our current system of diagnosing various mental disorders. As its previous version (DSM-IV and DSM-III), it divided mental illnesses in categories such as Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, Affective (or Mood) disorders, Anxiety disorders, Personality disorders, Substance Use Disorders, Somataform disorders, and others. It used the Multi-Axial System, detailing information on five major axes. (Axis I includes the above mentioned disorders, Axis II includes Mental Retardation and Personality Disorders, Axis II includes pertinent medical issues, Axis IV describes stressors such as relationship strain, financial strain, homelessness, etc, and Axis V gives a Global Assessment of Functioning, which is a 0-100 scale that gives an idea of how a person is functioning.)

(Phew, and that was the SHORT version!)

I haven’t seen the DSM 5 yet, but there are some drastic changes…which means mental health clinicians need to learn a new “language” of describing diagnosis, not only to one another but to their clients.

For instance, Roman numerals are no longer being used in the title.

(WHOA. Like, for real? Yeah…


The Multi-Axial System is GONE. Disorders are no longer categorized as above, but are broken into 20 chapters. Categories include Bipolar and other mood disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Trauma and Stress Disorders (essentially, PTSD has been removed from the Anxiety Disorder category and given its own chapter), and more.

(It’s going to be an interesting time for mental health and we’ll likely experience technical difficulties in converting to this new system, so we appreciate your patience and will strive to return you to your regularly scheduled program. ;p)

In what instances have you guys had to learn new nomenclature or a new way of conceptualizing information and how did you get used to it?

Mental Health Monday–Burn Out

In this fast paced world, juggling multiple tasks is not only commonplace, it’s the norm. And it seems things keep on getting faster.

I often wonder:

How much can I handle before I have a system meltdown and my brain stops functioning entirely?

There have been times where I’ve gotten close. The solution was to take a break, give my brain downtime, and refuel by reading or engaging in some other non-writerly, but equally stimulating activity.

Now that deadlines have been thrown into the mix, having a hiatus is not an option.

What’s a girl to do?

No, really, I’m asking, WHAT’S A GIRL TO DO?

I have dome ideas:

  • Handle one thing at a time, one day at a time.
  • Instead of focusing on how much is left to do, focus on how much has been accomplished.
  • Resist the urge to burn the midnight oil and get adequate sleep. (Really, I’ve NEVER been one to pull all nighters…that will ensure my brain failing.)
  • Eat healthy and get some exercise.
  • Take mini-breaks.
  • Listen to invigorating music.
  • Make writing an adventure–remember that enthusiasm that got you writing in the first place and draw on that for inspiration and motivation.

What other tips can you think of to battle burn out?

Mental Health Monday–Cyber Dysfunctional Personality Disorder

My coworkers and I were discussing how much time we spend on social media sites. Since becoming a writer, I’ve delved into social media with enthusiasm (prior to writing, I barely touched my computer and rarely surfed the web) and haven’t once looked back.

Years later, I can’t imagine stepping away from the screen for any length of time.

And I know I’m not alone.

Urban Dictionary defines Cyber Dysfunctional Personality Disorder thusly:

Cyber Dysfunctional Personality Disorder (CDPD) is a non-hereditary, largely contagious, psychiatric diagnosis that describes a mental disorder characterized by abnormalities in the perception or expression of reality. Those who suffer from this condition will go on to create tens, if not hundreds of accounts on social networking and video sharing websites such as facebook, myspace and youtube. They will then converse with themselves across their many accounts in a lame bid to create the impression that they are popular and sociable. Often they will use their various accounts to team up on other internet users who have shown themselves to be smarter than them, in a desperate bid to restore some pride. Currently there is no cure for this ever increasing psychopathic trend, but most sufferers give the game away within a week, such is their lack of concentration and intellect.
Note: The smilie and the excessive use of question and exclamation marks give it away.

Pretty dang accurate, yes?

Are you a cyber addict? When did you realize it?

Mental Health Monday–Suzanne van Rooyen Talks Mental Health and SciFi

I’m SO excited to have author Suzanne van Rooyen here today. She’s talking about the inspiration behind her YA sci-fi, OBSCURA BURNING. I fell in love with this book on page one and I have to say it’s one of my favorite books EVAH!

There’s sci-fi elements, mental heath elements, and a tangle of relationships that pulled for all sorts of emotions. What more could a reader ask for?

Anyway, I’m gonna let Suzanne take over before I get to rambly.

Welcome, Suzanne! Tell us, how did you get into writing?

I’ve always told stories. Even before I knew my ABC’s, I would dictate stories to my mom and she’d write them down for me. Once I started reading and writing, I never stopped. The two were always major hobbies of mine. It was only during my Masters degree in Music that turned to writing as a possible source of income and began writing journalism articles for my university paper. After some success with that, I tried my hand at fiction once more. I had my first short story published in September 2011. After that, I knew I wanted to be an author and started pursuing that goal seriously.

That’s so awesome! I love that your mom wrote your stories down for you, lol! What draws you to YA?

The confusion, the flux, the potential. Teenagehood is a time of immense change – physical, mental and emotional – and this seeming state of chaos, of trying to figure out who you are, where you belong in the world and what you want out of life makes for some amazing character development and incredible stories whether the teens are leading a contemporary life or battling corruption in some distant dystopian future. I also love the innocence and resilience of the YA protagonist, their ability to find the good in the world and to keep trying even when the odds are stacked against them.

You hit the nail on the head with that one–that’s exactly what draws me to YA too. Where did the idea for Obscura Burning come from?

Honestly? The ether! I was listening to music by Explosions in the Sky and this image of a boy walking through an arid landscape just popped into my head. That was my first glimpse of Kyle and so his story grew out of the dust. I think what prompted the idea of the split realities was my inability to decide whether Kyle should have a male or female love interest – so I gave him both.

Ha! Love it! Isn’t it great when characters just “show up?” What draws you to write LGBT characters?

I’ve always been around LGBT people from my gay uncle and lesbian sister to bisexual, gay, lesbian and even trans. and polyamorous friends. It seems unnatural to me not to include LGBT characters in my stories. Personally, I think one’s sexual preference is about as relevant and consequential as the colour of one’s hair – just another aspect of who that person is. Sadly, many places in the world don’t quite see it the same way, making life unfair and difficult for many LGBT people. Perhaps this is what attracts me to LGBT characters, that they can overcome prejudice and intolerance with the power of rainbows.

Agreed. There’s a decidedly “mental health spin”–and it’s extremely well-crafted!–to Obscura Burning, from substance use, to grief, even depression, and more. What inspired you to include these themes in your story?

Thank you! I didn’t make a conscious decision to include these themes at all. It was simply how Kyle developed. He’s an amalgamation of several boys I knew growing up and so his mental state started to emerge without me having to try too hard. I didn’t even know he was a problem fire starter until I had almost completed the first draft. His affinity for fire just happened. The fact that he self-harmed just seemed a natural consequence of his circumstances and emotional response to the world around him. I never intended my book to take such a dark turn, but the characters took my down that path and I went where they led.

And therein lies the inherent nature of the psyche. It’s everywhere! Any tips for writers who are looking to add psychology to their characters?

Don’t ‘add’ anything to a character. A character should be a very close approximation of a real person. A real person doesn’t just spontaneously sprout psychological issues. Those develop due to circumstances and life events. That’s the way it should be for a character. Their mental and emotional state needs to stem from their life experiences. Adding psychological issues to the character mix isn’t like adding salt to a stew. If you want to write a character with psychological issues then do research, read case studies, understand why a real person develops certain psychological hangups and then create a character with a believable backstory. Don’t be afraid of digging deep. An author friend of mine once said that if you want to write an issue-driven story that touches others, you have to open a vein and bleed a little.

YES! EXCELLENT advice. Well said, indeed. What’s next for you?

I’ve currently got two books with my agent, one’s on submission, one’s waiting on revisions, and another book nearing first draft completion on my computer. They’re all YA, but in different genres, and feature an array of troubled characters from angsty androids to disenfranchised demons. Not sure what’ll come next. I’m waiting on my Muse for inspiration.

So awesome! Best of luck with all your projects–angsty androids and disenfranchised demons? Sign me up! 😉 Thanks for stopping by and sharing all this great info! 

Here’s some information about OBSCURA BURNING and Suzanne:


Book Blurb:

The world’s going to end in fire…and it’s all Kyle’s fault.

Kyle Wolfe’s world is about to crash and burn. Just weeks away from graduation, a fire kills Kyle’s two best friends and leaves him permanently scarred. A fire that Kyle accidentally set the night he cheated on his boyfriend Danny with their female friend, Shira. That same day, a strange new planet, Obscura, appears in the sky. And suddenly Kyle’s friends aren’t all that dead anymore.

Each time Kyle goes to sleep, he awakens to two different realities. In one, his boyfriend Danny is still alive, but Shira is dead. In the other, it’s Shira who’s alive…and now they’re friends with benefits. Shifting between realities is slowly killing him, and he’s not the only one dying. The world is dying with him. He’s pretty sure Obscura has something to do with it, but with his parents’ marriage imploding and realities shifting each time he closes his eyes, Kyle has problems enough without being the one in charge of saving the world…



Suzanne van Rooyen

Author bio:

Suzanne is a freelance writer and author from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Suzanne is the author of the cyberpunk novel Dragon’s Teeth (Divertir), the YA science fiction novel Obscura Burning (Etopia) and has had several short stories published by Golden Visions Magazine, Space and Time and Niteblade. Her non-fiction articles on travel, music and other topics can be found scattered throughout the Internet. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance to ninth graders or playing in the snow with her shiba inu.

Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.

Suzanne is also a publicist for Entranced Publishing.




Mental Health Monday–Developing The Kabrini Message

Marie Carhart is an amazing person. She’s amazing because she took her brother’s manuscript–something he’d toiled over and nurtured–and brought it to life. And now it’s published! How cool is that?

Today, I’ve invited Marie (and she, in turn, invited another crucial player in this MS, Amy Bell) to discuss the development of The Kabrini Message–from hand typed to ebook.

Welcome, ladies!


Marie: Thank you for having us today Laura.  I’ve asked Amy Bell of WritePunch Inc. to join me since we will be discussing the process of bringing The Kabrini Message to life, and I could not have done it without Amy.

Amy: Aw, shucks. You are too kind, Marie.  I feel honored to have had an opportunity to work with you—and Joe, at least in spirit.

Marie: As you know, The Kabrini Message is a novel written by my late brother, Joe Egles, back in 1987.  I only recently discovered Joe’s manuscript (hand typed by our mother) in a box in my attic.  It was in a manila envelope labeled “Joe’s Book” in my mother’s handwriting.  You can read the full “story-behind-the-story” in the two-part blog post I wrote:

But I loved your suggestion, Laura, to take this opportunity to discuss what it was like to bring The Kabrini Message to life and get inside Joe’s head via his manuscript.

First of all, I have to say that I could never have done it alone.  I had a lot of help from a very talented writer, Amy Bell of WritePunch Inc.  I asked Amy to polish the manuscript, flesh out the characters, elaborate on the ending (with more details), describe locations in more detail, etc.  We also needed to update the technology and certain references to the present day.  There were also two areas, as I recall, that Joe had written as the characters discussing what happened after the fact, and Amy revised both of those situations so that the reader is taken through those actual stories.

Amy: As soon as Marie contacted me and described how she’d stumbled across her late brother’s manuscript, I knew I had to take on this project. It was such a compelling, poignant story, and I truly believe that Joe and Marie’s mother led her to his manuscript. Then I actually read The Kabrini Message. I was absolutely blown away. For a book that was written back in 1987, it was incredibly timely and insightful—a unique mixture of buddy comedy action adventure (a la Indiana Jones) and deep space sci-fi.

Uh-oh. Sci-fi. When I realized the book ventured deeply into the sci-fi genre, I was suddenly petrified. Before Marie reached out to me, I had ghostwritten and edited an array of books—everything from religious memoirs to southern fiction novels to business books. But I had never so much as dabbled in the realm of sci-fi. And then, it dawned on me. I happen to be married to a rabid sci-fi fan. My husband Rob has been reading sci-fi books since he could reach his dad’s book shelves, and I can’t tell you how many sci-fi movies he’s dragged me to the theater to see. So, with Marie’s permission, I lent The Kabrini Message to my husband, who devoured the manuscript in one night. He was hooked, and he promised to help me with the project. At that point, I realized there was no way I could turn it down.

Marie: As far as getting into Joe’s head while working on the manuscript, I guess Amy had to do that more than I did – which had to be challenging, since she never met Joe.  Somehow she was able to pull it off, though, because I could not tell who wrote what unless I got out the original manuscript and compared it to the edited chapters as she sent me each one.

Amy: Thanks, Marie. Now I’m blushing! Believe it or not, it was fairly easy for me to mimic Joe’s writing style. That’s because his style is actually quite similar to my own: simple, to-the-point and at times gritty and sharply sarcastic.

Although Joe had not written back stories or detailed physical descriptions for most of the characters, I could imagine who they were, what they looked like and where they’d been simply by reading their dialogue. (As a side note, my husband and I both agree that Joe’s direct, witty dialogue is some of the best either of us have ever read—especially in the sci-fi genre. He was a truly talented author.)

Marie: In fleshing out the main character of Jeffrey Driscoll, most of that is fictional. However, we gave him some of Joe’s background particularly regarding his love of astronomy, building telescopes, and hanging out at an observatory for fun during high school and college years.

Amy: Yes, and we enjoyed imagining Driscoll “as played by” Bradley Cooper. Not a bad vision to have in your mind all day.

Marie: No, definitely not!

Amy: For me, fleshing out the characters and modernizing the story was the easy and fun part. The most daunting task was elaborating on some of the stories and expanding the ending, which involved writing new content from scratch. This included a few chapters and stories that dealt heavily with futuristic technology, deep space realities and other sci-fi topics. That’s where my husband Rob saved the day. Not only is he a self-professed sci-fi nerd, but he’s also a veteran who spent a year in Afghanistan and currently works in federal law enforcement. There’s no way I could’ve pulled off this project without his vast knowledge of military, technology and national security topics. I can’t tell you how many times he researched bizarre tidbits for me, such as “what would happen to a dead body in outer space”? We’re probably on some government watch list after a few of those online searches! Google was definitely our best friend throughout this process.

Rob and I also spent a few nights brainstorming together over cocktails, debating over how to connect the dots and fill in the missing pieces for The Kabrini Message. I could not have done it without him…which is another reason why I think Joe “chose” me, or should I say us, for this project.

After our wine and beer-fueled brainstorming sessions, I would sit down at the computer the next morning and breathe a silent prayer. I asked God to let Joe speak through me. I know it sounds strange, but I was absolutely terrified that I would somehow screw up Joe’s manuscript. I realized The Kabrini Message was unfinished when Marie handed it over to me, and I wanted to stay true to Joe’s original story. I kept thinking, “If I wrote a rough draft of a manuscript and then died, and some random ghostwriter took it over and completely screwed it up, I would be livid! I would come back and haunt them!” Obviously, I didn’t want that to happen to me. So, I literally prayed to get it right, and I also asked Joe for guidance. When I struggled with the new content, I would take pause and ask, “What were you trying to say here, Joe? What the hell did you mean by this? How would Driscoll have handled this situation? How did you plan to connect these dots?”

And miraculously, the words would flow again. I can’t explain how it happened, but it did. Every time I asked Joe for help, the words came to me.

Marie: Thanks to Amy, by the time the manuscript went to the publisher, it was so polished that the only changes the publisher made during final edits all had to do with punctuation.  They really did not change one word!  Wait…I take that back. They did change one word.  Everywhere it said “mankind,” they changed it to “humanity.” I guess “mankind” sounded sexist perhaps?  But that was it!

As far as bringing The Kabrini Message to life, we were diligent to change as little as possible.  We expanded the novel, but really took nothing out.

I couldn’t wait to read each chapter as Amy would complete the editing and send it to me!  I made notations of questions and comments in red and we would go back and forth working on them.  It was so much fun!

Amy: I would wait on pins and needles after sending Marie each chapter. “I’d always wonder, “Is she going to hate it? Is she going to say it sounds nothing like Joe and ask me to rewrite the entire thing?” But she was always ecstatic. Her excitement and enthusiasm was contagious, and I grew increasingly confident that I could actually pull off a sci-fi project.

Not only did I genuinely enjoy working with Marie, but at times we actually read each other’s minds. I would think something like, “We really need to change that one part about the Genie Drug,” and suddenly I’d get an email from Marie expressing the same opinion or idea.

Marie: Yes, the drug Athenium was originally called “The Genie Drug” and it was a serum discovered inside a crystal.  We thought that should be changed, as drugs are not really named “The ‘something’ drug.”  For example, Viagra is not called “The Impotence Drug.”

Amy: Actually, in the example I used, I’m pretty sure I called it “The Boner Drug.” Classy, I know.

Marie: Joe had also written that the drug was a ruby serum inside the crystal stone, but we figured the serum would have dried up after thousands of years. We decided to change it so that it wasn’t the actual serum in the stone, but the directions to make the serum inscribed on the stone. We chose the Tiger’s Eye as the stone itself because Joe described it as a large, football shaped crystal, which is also the shape of an eye.  Also, Tiger’s Eye is one birthstone (in addition to Topaz) for November, Joe’s birth month.

Amy: Yes, that was a pretty major change from Joe’s original story, but we were worried “The Genie Drug” concept might come off as a little hokey in this day and age. We wanted to appeal to a modern audience of readers. I still worry that Joe might be mad at us about that one! After all, I spent this entire project trying to get inside Joe’s head and fill in the blanks in the way he’d originally intended. However, at times, it was challenging to walk the line between staying true to his story and ensuring The Kabrini Message is a huge hit today—25 years after Joe conceived the original manuscript.

Marie: I guess if I was able to get inside Joe’s head at all, it was the fact that I can hear him in the dialogue between his characters.  It’s totally his sense of humor, and the conversations between the characters just sound like him to me and to other family members as well.  In fact, the entire book just sounds like him, and we can hear his voice as we’re reading it!  It was very important not to lose any of that in the editing and revisions, and we were completely successful – it is still 100% Joe’s personality and sense of humor.

Amy: Again, Joe wrote some of the funniest and most realistic dialogue I’ve ever read! As we worked on the book, Marie kept pointing out lines that “sounded just like Joe.” Even though I never met him, I feel like I know him, like we’re old pals. I’d love to sit down with Joe and share a few stories over drinks. Maybe I’ll have the chance one day.

Marie: Joe did weave a few personal things into the story.  For example, Chapter 16 takes place at a radio station called KUX radio.  Joe did work at radio stations and was also into ham radio, and his call letters were K2UX. Also, the character of the news reporter at the station is named Gwen Jones, the name of Joe’s real life wife!

There was a line in Chapter 31 that struck a chord with me, too.  Mark Ranier (the Chief Extrusion Technician), tries to console his girlfriend Marla about the fact that it appears they will be stranded in space for several more years. 

“It’s not forever,” Mark said, lacing his fingers in hers.  “It’s just a continuation of…well…a different part of our lives.  Or something.”  It didn’t come out right, and he knew it was probably of no consolation to Marla.  He hated how every time he tried to be sensitive, it just came across as awkward.

Something about that last line was, I believe, very telling.  Joe was never one to show emotion, even though I know he loved his family very much.  I think that line came straight from the heart.

Amy: I’ve always loved that line. It makes Mark, the ultimate tough guy, seem so vulnerable. When Marie told me it reminded her of Joe, it gave me chills.

Marie: All along, step by step, everything fell into place just as it should and just when I needed it to. There has been a very strong sense of guidance through the whole process—some subtle signs and some not so subtle!

There have been a lot of strange things happening around my house…lights flickering, computers going wacky, etc.  Especially right before publication – that week my computer was going crazy, my fax machine wasn’t working right, my TV upstairs was turning off by itself and my TV downstairs had a picture but no sound on three different occasions! The night before publication, I was reading through the final proof from the publisher, and I remember thinking, “Please don’t mess with my computer tonight, I have to get this done.” I didn’t have one problem. (I guess I should have just asked sooner.)  But as soon as I finished and thought to myself, “I’m done for tonight,” the lights flickered twice!

Amy: My computer also completely crashed a couple of days before publication. I was working on a few final edits to the back cover blurb, and my screen went completely black—something that’s never happened with this computer. I figured Joe didn’t like the direction I was taking with the synopsis. When I emailed Marie with that concern, she assured me that he was just excited.

Marie: Oh, then there’s the author’s photo.  Joe hated to have his picture taken so there are not many of them in existence.  I asked my brother Bob, who has most of the family photos at his house, to try to find a shot of Joe from around the time the book was written.  He managed to find one and tried to scan it and send it to me, but for some reason, it would not scan. Bob said that has never happened before, and he scans things all the time.  The picture looked fine, but when you scanned it looked like a negative.  So Bob physically brought the photo to me, I scanned it and it seemed to work.  Do you know that somehow that photo managed to not make it into the ebook?  The publisher apologized (I’m sure it was not their fault, I think someone intervened!) and promised to make sure it will be in the print version.  I guess we will see who has the last say on that!

What a great chat! I’m so impressed with all the work you’ve done, Marie and Amy. Impressive and such a wonderful tribute to Joe. *applauds*

I’m happy to share pictures of Marie, Amy, and her husband, Rob. 😉



Amy Bell headshot 2010


Amy & Rob

Amy and Rob

To learn more about ghostwriter and editor Amy Bell, visit

The Kabrini Message Blurb:

An alien race. A shocking message…

During an archaeological dig in Greece, Jeffrey Driscoll stumbles upon a miraculous find: ancient crystals with celestial coordinates that will connect humankind with the Kabrini, a highly advanced alien civilization. His discovery leads him on a quest from the jungles of Africa to the

Islands of Greece, from the streets of London to the tombs of Egypt, from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles, Jamaica, and Vienna, and finally to the deepest depths of space and Earth’s first global space effort, the Legacy mission.

When Driscoll Mining and the U.S. Army complete deep space construction of the Kabrini communications network, the Legacy mission is deemed a success. But a dangerous terrorist group hungers for revenge, and Driscoll will stop at nothing to save the project. As his obsession with the Legacy mission spirals out of control, he risks losing everything—his company, his grasp on reality, and the one thing he’s ever truly loved: his wife. And when humankind finally makes contact, they discover the Kabrini Message isn’t exactly what they expected to hear…



Buy Links & Follow Info. For The Kabrini Message.:

Barnes and Noble



YouTube Video Trailer



Mental Health Monday–Jessica Bell Talks About Mental Health and The Book

I’m thrilled to have Author Jessica Bell here today. She discusses her new book, The Book, and its links to mental health.

Take it away, Jessica!

jessica headshot

When I was a child, my mother, Erika Bach, and my father, Anthony Bell, wrote in an illustrated journal by Michael Green called A Hobbit’s Travels: being the hitherto unpublished Travel Sketches of Sam Gamgee. This journal is the inspiration for The Book.

Since reading this journal, and realizing how different my parents sounded in the entries compared to how I know them in real life, I often thought about writing a book which explored how differently parents and children perceive and respond to identical situations. Now, I know this concept isn’t ‘new’. But I certainly felt I had a unique bent to add to it. I hoped by using journal entries and therapy transcripts, in conjunction with a 1st person point of view of a five-year-old girl, it would make the story a little more intimate, make readers feel like they are peeking into the lives of real people. This way, it’s like you are reading memoir rather than fiction.

Set in the late 1970s, early 1980s, Bonnie, the five-year-old protagonist, was born prematurely. I hint, through the journal entries of her mother, Penny, and the transcripts of Bonnie and Dr. Wright, her therapist, that due to her premature birth, she has trouble learning and significant behavioral problems. However, I try to juxtapose this through Bonnie’s point of view. The reader is able to see how differently she perceives things in contrast to the adults in her life. 

Bonnie is very smart. And she understands so much more than she chooses to let the adults see. So, at what point does one draw the line when it comes to defining poor mental health? Can anyone really see what is going on in a child’s mind? What right does one have to assume a prematurely born child is going to have difficulty learning or mental instabilities? What signs does one have to show to prove they are having difficulties at all? The Book raises these sorts of questions, hopefully offering readers a lot of food for thought.

It took me fourteen years before I could spell father properly. No matter how many times I was told, I still spelled father as farther and friend as freind and finally as finnaly. To this day I still have to look up the different conjugations of lie. For some reason they just don’t stick.

What’s that say about me? Could that mean I am dyslexic? Have a learning disability? Perhaps I’m just being selective with what I feel is important to store in my long-term memory. I’m sure there are lots of reasons one could come up with. But when it comes to mental health, I don’t believe there are any definitive answers. This is one of the themes I explore in The Book.

What ‘signs’ do you think define stable mental health? And is there really such a thing?

You bring up a lot of excellent points, here, Jessica. I really think you’ve captured how complicated human beings are and how people (children and adults alike) cope with challenges.

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the book

Here’s my review of The Book:

I’m a paranormal girl by heart, so I haven’t read a lot of contemporary or literary fiction. Despite this, I’ve followed Jessica Bell’s work with interest. She creates such vivid, REAL characters and stories that a reader gets pulled in, no matter what. AND her stories linger long after the last page.

It was the trailer for The Book that really made me head to Amazon to download an ecopy. And I didn’t regret it.

Watch this and see if you can resist it. Bet ya can’t. 😉

The Book is a compilation of journal entries, therapy sessions, and the POV of a young child. It’s gripping, strikingly emotional, brutally honest, and breathtakingly genuine. I read it in one sitting and am still thinking about it. Its multilayered construction begs for multiple readings, pondering, and mulling over.

I’ve only ever read a handful of books like that. Well done, Jessica! I look forward to reading more of your work.

The Book on Goodreads

The Book on

Jessica Bell–The Alliterative Allomorph


Just wanted to leave youse guys with a little Shifting Pride info. Reading To Penguins is reviewing Shifting Pride TOMORROW. 🙂

Mental Health Monday–Periodic Reassessment

Anachron Press is hosting a pre-order special to the first 50 folks who pre-order the URBAN OCCULT anthology. Pre-order now and get a copy of Day of Demons for FREE! My story, City of Lights and Stone is in the Day of Demons anthology. 😉

Here are the deets:

Urban Occult Limited Pre-Order

Limited to 50.

Behind urban life, weird and horrific things fester. 

The whispers and chills of things long gone… the promise of power from the darkness… the seduction of those that lie in the shadows… the occult is all around us: in town houses, in mansions, and in your very own street.

Editor Colin F. Barnes collected together fifteen stories by a cast of critically acclaimed authors from around the globe who look into the stygian gloom, explore the dark corners of our houses, and peer into the abyss of human temptation.

Featuring stories by: Gary McMahon, Ren Warom, Gary Fry, Mark West, K.T. Davies, Nerine Dorman, Alan Baxter, Adam Millard, Julie Travis, Jason Andrew, James Brogden, A.A Garrison, Jennifer Williams, Sarah Anne Langton, and Chris Barnham.

Special Pre-Order Edition Limited to 50.

This pre-order edition means you will get the book at least a week to two weeks ahead of general release and:

A FREE ebook version (for any eReader)

and A FREE ebook of Day of Demons. (eBooks will be emailed to you on the 4th of March).

Just £9.99 (+£2.99 shipping anywhere in the world).

Pre-Order here:


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Time is money and us spread-too-thin multi-taskers have to spend it wisely.

For me, I spend around 50 hours a week doing day job stuff, and sometimes work weekends (those 12 day stretches really exhaust me!).

That leaves nights and weekends for writerly stuff. Encompassed in that time is blogging, visiting blogs, social media-ing, marketing, reading, reviewing, critting, writing, and editing. I tend to reserve reading and critting for weeknight stuff and writing and blogging for weekends, when I’m fresher.

Note the placement of each item.

It’s quite scary that writing and editing are last.

I’m a writer who writes after everything else is done. Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Gosh, admitting this makes me sad.

When I first started writing, that’s where most of my time went. Sure, I’d spend some time on forums (like QueryTracker), but for the most part, my brain was hyperfocused on writing and that’s what I did.

With time came critting.

Then I started this blog.

Then I joined Facebook and Twitter.

Marketing came after New Pride and Shifting Pride were published.

With each added item, writing got shoved further down the list.

I’ve been feeling the pain about this for a while, but now it’s time to admit I need to do something.

I need to reassess where I’m at.

My goal is to incorporate more writing and editing into my routine. I will continue blogging, but may do only two posts a week. There will be the odd week with the same M-W-F routine, based on previously scheduled posts. 😉

I’m getting back to basics.

What about you guys? Do you engage in periodic reassessment? What have you learned by checking in with your routine every so often?

Mental Health Monday–I’m A Winner

I don’t care how many writing failures you think you’ve had, I challenge you to read this post and turn things upside down!

You’re not a failure.

You’re a WINNER.

Lemme ‘splain.

At a meeting last week, the speaker focused on switching negative self-talk to positive self-talk. The concept is from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and challenges the participant to listen to that running commentary–that dialogue we all have running through our heads–identify the negative thoughts, and swap them out with positive ones. The result is improved mood and confidence.

  • An example of negative self-talk: I suck at writing. I’ve written seven novels, sent hundreds of query letters, and been rejected EVERY SINGLE TIME. Yep. I suck.
  • An example of positive self-talk:  My crit partner had more smiley faces than frowny faces on my latest draft. She was totally blown away by the plot twist I added. An agent (or small press) asked for a full MS. It’s been a struggle, but I’ve grown so much as a writer. I’m getting pretty darn good at it.
  • Another example of negative self-talk: I’ll never get the attention of that press or that agent.
  • Another example of positive self-talk: Writing is subjective. This press LOVED my MS and wants to pub it. I’ll be a published author!

Each of us has our own quibbly demons telling us how awful we are. I challenge you to grab those demons by their throats and tell ’em where to go.


  • Remember the successes, no matter how small you think they are.
  • Remind yourself what got you writing in the first place. Hold onto it and let it propel you forward.
  • Consider how far you’ve come. Is anybody an expert the first time they do something? NO. It takes practice.
  • Accept that every time you fall down and get up to try again, that’s a WIN.
  • Ask yourself, if it was easy to do, would it be worth doing?
  • Think about how awesome you are by writing a short story, novella, or novel. YOU ARE ACCOMPLISHED. YOU ARE AMAZING.

In the comments, I want you to share a negative self-talk statement and how you can switch it to a positive self-talk statement. 


Mental Health Monday–Imaginary Friends AND A Giveaway!

shiftingpride_bylauradiamonddraft-coverBefore I get to the topic of today’s post, I’d like to share a giveaway. Author Brinda Berry is hosting a giveaway and if you enter, there’s a chance to win an ebook of SHIFTING PRIDE! Please enter and/or spread the word. 🙂

Here’s Brinda’s Amazon author page, so you can take a gander at her work. It’s FAB!

Brinda’s website

Brinda’s blog






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I feel as if my poor Mental Health Monday tradition has been ignored. Starting in November, my regular blog schedule got commandeered by release blitzs, blog tours, and holiday fun. Now that things are settling, I’d like to get back to it.

If you have a character that needs shrink-wrapping, please don’t hesitate to ask me and I’ll feature your question on Mental Health Monday.

Today, I’d like to share an oldie, but goodie post from a couple years back. It still gets hits and comments, even after all this time!

I often hear writers liken their characters to imaginary friends. Heck I do it too.

What’s interesting to me is that imaginary friends during childhood are quite normal. It’s a phase of development where the child is learning creativity and how to integrate their personality.

But what about imaginary friends in adults?

I’m not talking about our characters. I’m talking about adults who actually have imaginary friends. There’s not a lot of research on this (can you imagine getting a sample of people who’d be willing to share such information?), but the studies that are out there seem to link imaginary friends with dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personality disorder). This disorder occurs when a child faces severe neglect and abuse (sexual or physical) and the only defense they have is to “fragment” their personality. Doing this compartmentalizes the trauma away as a means to protect the self.

As adults, people with DID note missing periods of time, the feeling that other people are inside them and these other people can take control, and they can hear voices (generally inside their head).

Another theory of imaginary friends in adults comes from attachment theory. Some kids (maybe single children or neglected children, for example) don’t get enough emotional nourishment and develop imaginary friends as a support system.

It’s important to remember that as long as there’s no distress or disruption of functioning (work, play, relationships, emotions, etc), then it’s NOT considered a disorder.

Interesting, huh?

Remember: These posts are for writing purposes ONLY and are NOT to be construed as medical advice or treatment.