Fear of Flying

I loved to fly on airplanes until I was on a flight that experienced wind sheer, or something like it in the middle of a flight coming back from Mexico. One minute, the nice flight attendant was serving us all coffee and soft drinks, and the next minute the plane was diving for the ground so hard that the flight attendant was plastered against the ceiling of the plane above us. People were screaming, and then people started to pray. I had a death grip on my then husband’s hand, and the woman beside us began to recite The Lord’s Prayer in German. I don’t speak German, but I knew the rythmn of the prayer. I offered her my hand, we locked eyes, and she took my hand, because in the end, when you think it is the end, you offer a hand to the person next to you, because that’s what you do. I started saying the prayer in English with her. There were other languages reciting in the plane, in among the screams.  
 Then, as suddenly as it began to dive, the plane righted itself. The flight attendant dropped to the floor of the plane, shaken and covered in coffee from chest to almost thighs. She staggered to her feet using the seats to stand, some people offered her a hand. She said, “I’ve flown for six years and I’ve never seen anything like that.”
 The Captain came on the speaker and said, “I don’t know what just happened, but we seem to be fine now. I’m going to keep heading for our original destination. If it happens again I’ll set us down somewhere closer.”  
 The rest of the flight was perfect, other than the crew kept commenting to the passengers about it. When the flight crew is saying how scared they were, and yes, thought we were going to die – you know it’s a rough flight.

 

A picture out the plane window on a much calmer flight.
A picture out the plane window on a much calmer flight.
 
 I never really liked to fly after that. I didn’t like how few options I had if things went critical. Fast forward a couple of decades and another flight, this time for a book tour. We took off, and there was a loud mechanical knock that shook the plane a little. It happened just as the landing gear went up, so I thought that had gotten stuck. I’d researched planes by then in a vain attempt to get over this phobia and I did not want a belly landing for the plane – I really didn’t. I prayed, just let the landing gear work. Like many times in my life, I should have asked Deity for more.
 The plane never gained much altitude. I’ve flown out of St. Louis a lot, and this was not how you did it. We barely cleared some trees and then it was too quiet. I realized, we’d lost an engine. But I also knew that this type of airplane could fly with the engines it had left. We were okay, but we never gained the sky, not really, we were too low and we began to circle back towards the airport. “Please, let the landing gear work,” I whispered, and then the smoke began in the cockpit. They had to open the door to keep the smoke from filling the cockpit so I could see white smoke and them using a fire estingquisher on the general direction of the smoke inside the plane. More smoke began to come out of the engine that had ceased to function, when I say we lost, I don’t mean it fell off, it just stopped working, and now apparently it was on fire. Perfect. Now, did the landing gear work?
 We got lower and lower, people were beginning to freak, and the Mississippi River was there way closer than I wanted it to be. I started praying, “don’t let it be a water landing, please not the river.” I don’t know why, but that thought really scared me. But we made a runway; yay!
 They taxied the plane to the far reaches of the airport. People were asking, “Why aren’t they taking us back to the terminal?” “Why are we in the empty part of the airport?” Here’s where too much research can hurt you: I knew why the plane was sitting in the middle of no man’s land. We were still on fire, or they thought we were and they won’t take the airplane near the terminal and endanger more people until they’re sure it won’t blow up. The fire trucks and ambulance came whirring towards us and stopped at a safe distance. Each airport only has so much equipment, and again they aren’t going to risk it getting blown up with the airplane. Finally one smaller truck drove slowly by us, while other passengers asked, “Why aren’t they letting us off?” It was like you were bleeding in the Emergency room and the doctor walks by and says, “You look fine,” and just keeps on walking. Finally they started spraying the plane with white foam, which meant they thought we weren’t going to blow up – Yay!  
I still don’t have the words for how relieved I was to step off that plane and be back in the airport in St. Louis. My first thought was, “I’m going to have whipped cream!” Because I’d refused to get a rich, creamy Starbucks coffee drink (Lets just call them what they are, a coffee shake), I’d been all virtuous and not gotten the extra whipped cream I’d wanted and after the adventure we’d just had my first thought was that damned whipped cream, so I went to Starbucks and paid full price for a cup of whipped cream. Yes, the barista was confused.  
I don’t know what it said that the first thing I thought after I realized I was safe was something sweet and creamy, maybe it means I don’t drink. It would take six and a half hours to get another plane and arrive in Chicago where the next tour event was scheduled for the next day. I could have driven faster, but I got there and the tour went on as scheduled, but the whole plane on fire thing didn’t help my fear of flying, though weirdly I hadn’t panicked either during or afterwards. I think I’m always more surprised that nothing goes wrong when I fly, so when something happens it seems like, “Oh well, of course.” Either that, or I have nerves of steel and I don’t think that’s it.
 
So, my fear of flying is trauma based according to the therapists I’ve seen about it, and phobias that originate in trauma do not respond to typical phobia therapy. In fact, I saw my current therapist before we left and she had no strategy to share that I hadn’t heard before, so I’m stuck with being afraid of flying. I could live my life without flying, but that would mean most touring for my books wouldn’t happen. You guys wouldn’t see me much, at all, but I could do the whole recluse thing, I guess. But . . . there are places in the world that I want to see that flying makes possible.

 

 I’ve seen Rome and stood in the beautiful ruin of Palatine Hill, I’ve stood in the museum hush of St. Peter’s with all the mummified pope bodies with their begging boxes next to some of the most amazing architecture in the world. I was finally able to weep for my grandmother’s death in Milan at the Basilica at the Mary altar with it’s hundreds of candles. Paris is actually as romantic as its supposed to be, which I didn’t think was possible. Having my husband, with me may have influenced me on that, but it really is a beautiful city. We found the Parisians friendly and happy to help as we spoke our few words of French to them. Apparently my pronunciation of French is really terrible, but they appreciated my effort. Jonathon’s accent was so good that if I kept my mouth shut no one realized he didn’t speak the language even better than he sounded. He has a real ear for languages and I seem to be tone deaf unless I’m singing.
 I’ve stood on the white sand of a tropical beach and seen the ocean roll out to the offing until sky and water merged into one blue line. I love the warm ocean spread in turquoise, and aquamarine waves. It’s like magic to this midwestern girl. It was so worth the planes rides to get to spend weeks staring out at that view while I finished my latest book.

 

A picture from that trip
A picture from that trip
 
If I wasn’t willing to get on a plane I couldn’t go back to England and do my first ever signing in London on August 8! I’m so excited to sign books for all you patient fans across the pond. You’ll have another chance at seeing me on panels at Nine Worlds Con on August 9th. This is your chance to see me in person and hear what you’ve been missing at the American conventions I attend. There will be other great writers on the panels with me, as well. I’ve been to England twice before, once on a family trip with our daughter and Jonathon’s parents. If I hadn’t faced my fear of flying I’d have missed Trinity when she was so small she could curl up completely in the Devil’s Seat at Avebury, or climbing the Tor together, and having tea at the Abbey Tea Room across from the Abbey Ruins at Glastonbury. Hampton Court was fabulous and the Tower of London is a must see! The British Museum is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. We’ve had two days there on different trips and we’ve only seen portions of the treasures inside each trip. The sun really didn’t set on the British Empire.
As we prepare to fly back across the pond, I’m just as scared as I was last time, but I know that it’s worth the it. Every time I’ve gotten on a plane the destination has been worth the trip. I just have to hold onto that thought and keep moving forward. Somehow we missed Stonehenge both times, so maybe this time.
 

A Dog always Breaks your Heart, at least once

I’m sitting in the sunshine on our patio listening to our water garden sing down the stones, with our pug, Sasquatch in my lap. He’s been my office dog since he was twelve weeks old. He’s fourteen years old now, and will be fifteen this summer. He’s the oldest dog I’ve ever owned from puppy to now. We had a rescue, Jimmy, that we got at age ten, and he made it seven more years, but we never saw him when his paws were soft, and he was all uncertain of the world. Jimmy was decidedly himself when we rescued him on his last day from a kill shelter. Sasquatch was all puppy uncertainty as we let him sniff his mother good-bye and took him with us in the car.    Sas helping us on game night. 
He is an old dog now, our oldendogger. I can’t imagine waking up without him in the house, but I know it’s coming. Even now his heart beats frantically against my hand, the rhythm of it is unsteady and unfamiliar. I know his heart beat almost as much as I know my husband’s, and this is not it. We took him with us to lunch and sat outside at a table with him. The four of us took turns holding him so the others could eat. Yes, he got scraps and probably got more chicken than he normally does at a meal, but that’s okay, roast chicken and a little bit of chips won’t hurt him. He’s always been a good dog, easy going, letting us use his paws to do the YMCA song by the Village People when he was a puppy. Yes, I’m that kind of dog person. If you don’t do silly things with your dogs then we are not the same kind of dog people and you may want to skip the rest of this essay, because much sentimentality may ensue.  
I wrote the above on a day when we thought Sasquatch would pass on his own, in his own time, but it turned out to be an upper respiratory infection and antibiotics helped him get better. Every day after that has been a gift, but today is the last day. Today will be Sas’s last day. He’s stopped eating, even his favorite treats cannot tempt him. Any of you that have ever owned a pug know that a pug that will not eat is a very sick pug indeed. Pugs will eat until their stomachs explode, no joke, but Sas is only taking water, lots of water. He continues to lose weight, and for the first time ever he has a wasp waist, stylish if you’re a Weirimer, but pugs are meant to be square, not round, not fat, but blocky and solid. When I pick him up now he is too light, I can feel his bones and tendons under my hands, against my arms. He is wasting away and we cannot save him.

  Our puggy boy.
We knew something was wrong, but finally got tests back a few weeks ago that is was cancer. If he’d been a younger dog we would have risked the surgery to remove his spleen and take a bigger sample of his liver, but the chances of him surviving the anthestia was very low, so we chose to treat the symptoms, but not actively treat the cancer. He’d already been losing some control of his bowels, but there are doggy diapers, not sure how he felt about his curly pug tail sticking out of the ridiculous things, but he took it like he takes most things, patiently, good naturedly, trusting that his humans know what they’re doing. I hope we do. I know we try to be worthy of the level of trust he places in us. 
His back legs have been giving him trouble for awhile, but now they are going out from under him. He doesn’t so much lay down as collapse. He woke my husband, Jon, and I up about every hour from 1:00 AM this morning. Jon got up twice, and so did I. The first time I came back to bed I put Sasquatch up on the bed, which I knew was a bad idea, but I wanted him to sleep in the bed one more time, he loves it so. By the time I could no longer sleep about 5:30 he was deeply asleep on the corner of the bed. We had two of our younger dogs with us, too. Mordor and Keiko, both Japanese chins, good naturedly went out every time we took Sas out, but this time they were solidly asleep, too, so I left them with Jon and went downstairs to start tea, breakfast, the day.
Unless the veterinarian tells us some miracle later today, I know this will be Sas’s last day, because I called and made the appointment when I got up with him about 4:00 or 5:00 this morning. His vet isn’t on duty today, but she won’t be in until Friday, and it’s Thursday, we can’t make him suffer for another day just for a different doctor to help us, it wouldn’t be fair to him.  
Jon texted me about thirty minutes later that Sas had thrown up. He’s been doing that for a few days now. By the time I came upstairs with new paper towels he’d also lost control of his bowels on the bed. Why wasn’t he in a doggy diaper? Because I knew this was his last time to sleep on the bed with us and somehow I just wanted him to be as comfortable as possible, and the diapers are for our benefit, not his, so I didn’t put it on him. I started cleaning up the blanket and Sas, Jon took Keiko and Mordor downstairs, and then came back up to help strip the bed. The bed clothes are in the washer now. Sas is asleep at my feet in my office with me, which is one of his favoritest places in the world. He’s always loved coming to work and has spent many a dawn and late night at my side while I wrote. I’ve already carried him to his favorite dog bed in the family room, and put him in his favorite bed here, but he’s chosen to lay on the floor which he almost never does. I even put a dog bed under my desk so he could use it, but he chose the floor at my feet. Keiko is in the bed, because chins are just as comfort loving as pugs. Mordor stayed in the kitchen with Jon which is unusual, because both the chins love to come to the office. Heck, the two big dogs are learning to love it, too, and there are days when I have all five dogs curled around me as I write. The two big dogs are with Genevieve and Spike in another bedroom. We all discussed it, and there’s no need for all of us to have this kind of disrupted night, but more than that we still don’t have a bed big enough for four adults and five dogs, and last night was about Sasquatch. He needed his corner of the bed, and just the little dogs, because sometimes the new bigger dogs are just too physical for him now.  

  Sas helping me write in better days.
Pugs are very stoic dogs, they don’t show pain much, so we have no way to be certain how much pain Sas is in, but he’s started staring into space in that way that some animals have when something hurts as if the pain is something they can see off in the distance, or maybe they see the end of the pain, I don’t know. This morning we carried him downstairs every time, because the stairs are beyond him now. For his last morning in the office with me I carried him up the stairs which I hadn’t had to do since he was a very little puppy and couldn’t quite manage them safely on his own. Now, as our oldendogger, he can’t manage them safely again. 
Our daughter, Trinity, is home from college, so she’ll get a chance to say, good-bye. She got to dog sit Sasquatch this long weekend past while the four of us went on a retreat. It gave her some serious quality time with Sas. The other four dogs went to the puppy spa, but we wanted Sas to be at home with familiar things and people.  
I’ll sit on the couch with him later today in his favorite spot which is a combination of mom’s lap and the corner of the couch near the arm. He’s on his third couch for this lifetime and he always chooses the same spot no matter if it’s the original green couch, or the red couch, or the new gray one. They all have arms and a spot where he can tuck himself in, so he does, with, or without a lap to snuggle into, though Trin informed me that he found her lap a suitable substitute, so maybe it’s not mom’s lap, but just whoever sits in his spot. Maybe to Sasquatch it’s never been him sharing my spot on the couch, but him sharing his spot with me, or whichever of his people was sitting in his spot. 
Tomorrow his spot on the couch will be empty, his favorite dog beds filled by the other dogs, no eager pug face waiting for treats, cuddles, pets, and to curl up beside me. We will be a pugless household, for me that will be a first in almost thirty years. I don’t know how I will bear it. 

New meds helped Sasquatch to recover himself for a few weeks after I wrote this blog. He never had another night where he threw up, or lost control of himself. He started eating again, though only soft food, and only certain foods. He liked cooked green peas mixed with his meat, not sure why, but we fed it to him, because that’s what you do. But now, we are back to him refusing all food, even cooked peas and chicken. For the first time he’s not even drinking water, so that’s it. We might find another round of miracle meds to help him limp on a few more days, but to what purpose? There comes a point with a beloved pet where you have to ask yourself, am I doing this for them, or for me?  

  One of the last pictures I took of our boy.
I’ll carry Sas over to the office one last time, because he can’t get over here by himself anymore. It’s not just stairs now, but even walking across the floor is hard for him. We’ll all say good-bye today, and this evening we’ll take him into the vet and it will done. I’m trying to be very unemotional about it all, but what I wrote earlier is very true. We will be a pugless household by tomorrow and even with four healthy, wonderful dogs remaining to give doggy kisses, beg for belly rubs, play with their favorite toys, fill the dogs beds, go for walks, its not the same. For all of you that have found “your breed”, you know what I mean. YOUR BREED, should always be in capital letters, because it is a profound bond not just to a particular dog, but to all the dogs everywhere that look like your dog. Genevieve and Spike are members of the Church of Dog, but they are new to our denomination of Pugdom. They brought two wonderful mutts into our lives, but neither of them has found “their” breed for certain. Jon, Trinity, and I have been pug owners for a lifetime, literally in Trinity’s case, and tomorrow we will not be. Japanese chins are a close second for us, but we always saw us with chins and pugs, never without our snoring, snuffling, wrinkly faced, rolling-gaited, curly-tailed, pugs. It somehow makes losing Sas feel even more awful, because there is not another pug to come home to, once we say, good-bye to our fuzzy pug boy.
The End: All five of us went with Sasquatch on the last trip to the vet. When the time came, I held him in my arms, made sure my skin was close to his nose so he would have my scent, and know for certain that I was there. He went very quickly, so fast the vet was surprised. She double checked his vitals, but he was gone, so ready to go that he didn’t even wait for all the anesthetic to be administered. She used it all, just in case, but Sas wasn’t there. He was already somewhere else, where nothing hurt, and he could be reborn to a time when he was younger, healthy, happy, his cast iron stomach back and puggish appetite back so he could be the shape a pug is meant to be which is barrel shaped. Multum in parvo, much in little, a big dog in a small package, true of every pug I’ve ever known and certainly true of our Sasquatch.    

Angels, Demons, and the Writer

The hardest thing about writing is that you are alone with your personal demons. Now let’s define terms; when I say demons, I mean personal issues so large, so painful, so intimately damaging, that it either cuts your soul to face them, or heals it. You don’t have to be writing about the issues that make up your personal demons to have them torment you as you write. Oh no, it’s more insidious than that, just as writing will call the muses to you, the angels come to dance around you in shining choruses, so creativity calls the demons. I’m sure there are writers out there that are so mentally and emotionally healthy that only angels come to dance around them when they create, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met one of those writers. Most of us are fairly self-torturing, emotional angst seems to come with the job description. I don’t mean we all go through life doom and gloom, oh woe is me. Some of us are fairly cheerful people, actually. What I mean is that when we sit down to write we are alone with our thoughts.

 

If the idea of being alone with your thoughts doesn’t give you a twinge of panic, then I’m not writing about you, but for most of the writers I know we both crave to be alone to create and dread it. Some days it’s all muse-driven inspiration and the pages flow like the proverbial water from the cleft rock. Those are the days that I love the best. The days that make me think being a writer is a great career and all I was ever meant to do, or be. Then there are days when nothing is coming down the muse-highway. I sit and I stare at the screen for hours, literally sometimes, or I write and erase, or I write and rewrite, and its all terrible. Or the writing is good enough, but it’s like dragging each word out of the void one painful inch at a time. Those are the days when I think, maybe I should have bought that horse farm, or become a field biologist, or . . . runaway and joined something, somewhere, anywhere but in this one room in front of this damned computer, trying to draw words out of thin air.

  

 “If you can’t stand your own company alone in a room for long hours, or, when it gets tough, the feeling of being in a locked cell, or, when it gets tougher still, the vague feeling of being buried alive–then don’t be a writer.”

― Graham Swift

 

Your angels tell you positive things and hold hands with your muse, or sing behind her like upbeat backup singers, but your demons . . . they sing other songs. They start out with actual issues from your past, and most writers have things that haunt them, its part of what fuels most of us, but after they hit the real issues the demons move onto other things, false things, lies. Demons are those voices in your head that tell everyone, “You’re not good enough. She’d/he’d never go out with you. You’re too fat, too thin, too short, too . . . something. Your thoughts aren’t important enough to fill a whole book? That’s boring, you’re boring. People will hate your writing. They’ll reject you. She/he will reject you.” See, everyone has those negative voices in their heads that I call demons, its just that some of us have louder ones, or more persistent ones, or maybe we just don’t know how to shut them out as well as you do.

 

I never sweated rejection either in dating, or in writing, I accepted it as a given in both. But it was just one boy saying, no, he didn’t want to go out with me. Okay, there, done.  Now I knew he wasn’t interested so I could move on and find someone who did want to date me. I always saw it as their loss, not mine.  Dating you have a fifty/fifty chance, but writing is much harsher odds.  Writing is designed to get you rejected.

  

  “My first Anita Blake novel, Guilty Pleasures, was rejected over two hundred times.”

 

“The first thing you have to learn when you go into the arts is to learn to cope with rejection. If you can’t, you’re dead.”

― Warren Adler

 

 

I like writing quotes, they help me realize that what I’m feeling is felt by a lot of wordsmiths. I am not slogging in the literary salt mines alone, or at least while I’m digging in my mine, I know others are getting just as tired and discouraged as I am. I find that comforting, and one of the reasons I’m doing this blog is to reach out to other writers, especially the beginning ones and say, “Look it’s hard, even for me, but if I can do it, you can do it.” You are not alone.

 

 

But we are alone while we create, and most of the time that’s great. In fact a certain amount of solitude is absolutely necessary for most of us to write a novel, or even a short story. We need to be uninterrupted by real flesh and blood people while we play with our imaginary ones. But the rub is, alone with our thoughts means there’s no distraction from what’s in our heads, our hearts, our souls. We try to pour all that onto the paper and turn into fiction and share it with others, but . . . You knew there was a but, didn’t you? But the personal demons come like vultures on days when the writing is slow, and the muse is reluctant or missing in action. On days when the writing flows and shines, and it feels like magic, you can almost feel the brush of angel feathers on your cheeks, but on the other days, the hard days, if there are feathers anywhere around you, they’re black. Black isn’t a bad color necessarily, Odin’s ravens are black and He is a God of inspiration, poetry, language, and magic, so black wings can inspire and lead you to greatness, but they can also pick over the corpses of your dead dreams like carrion crows.  

 

My demons don’t have wings of any color, or pitchforks, or any of the traditional Western ideals of devils and demons. My demons are the voices in my head that tell me, I can’t. That I’m turning perfectly good paper into garbage, or back in the day when there was no internet and everything had to be printed and mailed, “I was killing trees to no purpose.”

 

 

Those are the days when I’m most likely to post things on twitter about fighting dragons, but dragons are not demons. The latter come wherever they smell hesitation like blood in the water for sharks, they gather when they feel you weaken. A moment of doubt is all the negative voices need to whisper horrible things in your ear. One of the ways I chase them back, force them to shut up and leave me alone to create is to pick up my metaphorical shield and sword and go hunting the dragon. I see it as taking the fight to the monster, rather than letting the monster have the upper hand. On a bad day, the dragon wins, but I know that I will take up my sword, my pen, my keyboard, the next day and I will fight on.  

 

I’m going to stop writing the blog now, because that can be a distraction from the actual purpose of writing novels. Blogs are so fast and so much easier than writing a novel, especially on days when the demons are loud in my head. I’ll leave you with some more quotes that seem appropriate for the topic of inspiration, personal demons, personal Angels, and dragons.

 

“If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.” 

― Tennessee Williams, Conversations with Tennessee Williams

 

“An artist is a creature driven by demons. He doesn’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why.”

 

 

― William Faulkner

 

 

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

 

– Jack London

 

 

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

 

― G.K. Chesterton

 

 

People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.

– Harlan Ellison

Happy 4th of July!

 Today is a national holiday here in America, we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and becoming an independent country, though declaring ourselves so didn’t make it true. There would be several more years of fighting before England gave up its rights to the colony that would become the United States of America. If we’d lost the war then every man who signed the Declaration would have likely been hung. So, while you’re grilling meat and veggies, consuming potato salad, cole slaw, chips, and other traditional goodies, think about what we’re really celebrating. This is the date that marks the birth of our nation. In the history of the world America is a very young country, we’re a teenager. If the world were different we’d be in the Imperial expansion stage and probably have colonies of our own now, but by the time America got to that point the world had changed too much. Can you imagine what the other world powers would do if we started conquering and keeping other countries? Before anyone says, well America is conquering other countries. No, we aren’t.  
  
Our men and women are serving their country on a lot of foreign land, but we have not kept anything we’ve fought and died for in the last two centuries. Unlike France, England, Spain, Portugal, Germany when their countries were the same age that we are now, America has kept nothing. Thousands of American lives lost in wars, peacekeeping actions, and just when other people call our military in for aid. Everyone that complains that America is tyrannical and aggressive don’t know their world history. This teenage country has been better behaved and more peaceful towards other countries than any “superpower” or world leader that I’m aware of, and that includes, Russia/The Soviet Union.  
 If you think the above paragraph sounds like I regret that my country hasn’t kept some of the soil we’ve fought and died on, you’re right. If we pay with blood and death for a piece of land, we should get to keep it, that’s the way countries and empires work, but America came of age in a world that no longer believes in empires. Would it have been a good idea for our country to keep more of what we’ve bled and died for, probably not, but I am beyond tired of other countries accusing us of aggressive behavior when we seem to have behaved ourselves better than they have in their pasts. But America was created on the principal of freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to protest, freedom to bitch, and heaven knows Americans are good at that last part. It’s almost a national characteristic to complain about government, politics, social issues, you name it. Today there are groups that are going to express that Freedom of Speech by burning the American flag, because they say it is a sign of tyranny, abuse, and aggression. I do not agree with this, but I am an American which means I will fight for their right to say what they believe, because that’s what Freedom of Speech means. They are free to burn our flag, as much as I hate it, and I am free to put up a flag pole in front of my home and fly that same flag proudly.
Is America perfect? No, but then name me a country that is, and if you’re honest you won’t be able to, because nothing and nowhere is perfect, but I live in a country where people can burn the national flag and not be arrested, or shot, or disappeared. Thats more rare than you think in today’s world, but we, Americans, forget how good we have it in this country. Again, not perfect, and if they gave me the magic baton tomorrow I wouldn’t know how to fix the economy, but I know I’d concentrate on bringing jobs and manufacturing back to America. What I’m hearing across the country is that Americans need jobs that pay enough to support a family. All the other issues maybe important, but I believe in the end they are smoke and mirrors by the politicians on all sides of the aisle to divide America, when what is needed is to bring us together. We live in a country where we can disagree vehemently with each other, and that’s okay, that is a gift. This year has divided our country along so many lines, over so many issues, to the point where I’m against any issue that is divisive, and am trying to find things that are inclusive, because we are all more alike than we are different. The same hopes and fears are in most hearts. We hold our children’s hands, we dry their tears, we try to explain that the world is not a fair place, but you can still try to be a fair person. We try to teach our children to be kind in a world that is often unkind. Should we teach them harsher things? Some people seem to be doing just that, and I don’t know what to say in the face of such hate. Except perhaps this – hate is not the opposite of love, disinterest is, anyone that’s gone through a bad divorce will know what I mean, so everyone that is burning the American flag today here and abroad, remember that only love can spark such hate. America is loved for what it promises to be, and hated when that promise is not fulfilled.  
I’m not sure what to do about all of it, but I know this, I will fight for your right to do something that I find repugnant – burning our National flag. I will fight for your right to do something I don’t approve of, because that’s what Freedom means. It doesn’t mean freedom from being offended, or disappointed, but freedom of belief, speech, and actions within the law. Enjoy your flag burnings if it makes you happier, but I see it as the same as someone’s ex-wife burning the husband’s car. It’s a way of saying, I am hurting so much, and I want you to hurt, too. I hope we find a way in the coming months to help everyone stop hurting and find a way for all of us to start healing.
Now, I’m going to join my family and raise the flag of our country, so that all our neighbors can see it, because I do love my country. I don’t always love the politicians, or their policies, but they are not the country. Sometimes I think the politicians forget that America is two things, the land itself and the people, all the people, that inhabit it. Sometimes I think we, the people, forget that we are the nation and every time we let politics, or economics, or anything divide us, then we are weaker for it. As a group the American people can do anything we set our minds to, I truly believe that, but we all need to remember that we are the United States of America, not the Divided States of America. United we stand, divided we fall, isn’t just a saying, it’s the truth.  
I don’t agree with any of you that are protesting and burning our flag today, but I will defend your right to do it. I hope you will give me the same courtesy and support my right to hoist the flag high and honor it. 

Triggers

Triggers, trigger warnings, have been in the news a lot lately. Talk of trying to keep everyone safe in college lectures, panels at science fiction conventions, news items even, as if the world should be wrapped up in cotton wool and bubble wrap like your great-grandmother’s china so it doesn’t get scratched, cracked, or broken; but people aren’t dishes that only come out at the holidays. People move through the world every day to go to work, to school, to vacation, to . . . life. If you spend all your time trying to be protected from anything that could possibly upset you, how will you ever grow strong enough to overcome it? A trigger doesn’t go away but we can grow to the point where it no longer controls us. We can master our triggers and own ourselves to the point where we are no longer subject to the word, phrase, events that once made us so afraid, or angry, or upset. We can take back ourselves, our lives, all the words, all the memories, and we can own them again rather than them owning us. I swear to you that this is true because I’ve done it, but here’s the trick – you must not hide from your triggers.  
   
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  ​If you hide from them and avoid them forever, perhaps you’ll never be “triggered” again, but you also give up parts of your life and yourself forever. Whatever made you feel like a victim, or took your sense of safety, will forever win, because you haven’t faced your demons, you’ve given ground to them. Old maps used to come to the edge of the known lands and then write two phrases, “Here be Dragons,” or “Here be Demons,” which meant that beyond that point the map makers couldn’t guarantee safe passage because the unknown was full of monsters. If we avoid triggering events and allow people to keep us “safe” from everything then the maps of our lives are not edged with monsters, the maps of our lives have sections right in the middle of them where a sign says, “Here be Demons,” right in the middle of our life. The middle of our life is full of places we pass through on a regular basis, so we pass that sign every week, maybe everyday, a sign that reminds us that here is a place that was once a part of our life and now it’s too scary to enter. To me, that was a constant reminder of what frightened me and made me feel like a victim, every time I stepped around that area of my life rather than walked through it I would feel a little more scared, a little more unsure that I was strong enough to do what needed doing, because the demons had won, they’d claimed a piece of my life forever.  

 

​How I faced my triggers was by walking into that place, those words, that moment with the big glaring warning sign over it, and I faced my demons. Was it scary? Yes! But every time I faced something that triggered me I got a little bit of myself back, I reclaimed pieces of my life, of me, from the demons; and every time I did that the “demons” got smaller and weaker, which meant I felt bigger and stronger, because that’s what triggers are, they are ways for things that hurt us to make us feel small and weak forever, but we aren’t trapped with our demons anymore, we survived, we moved forward, we built a life. I refuse to let the bad things control me by making me avoid parts of my life. I will reclaim all of it, every last bad word, hurtful phrase, frightening moment, all the pain, all of it is mine and helped make me who I am today. One of the things I discovered as I faced the pain was amazing to me – I didn’t die. Even having to live through the painful event by facing the trigger didn’t kill me, and Nietzsche had it right, that which doesn’t kill me really does make me stronger. My goal is to live the quote a little differently, “That which does not kill me had better run, because I’m coming for it.”

 
“Destroy your personal demons, use their corpses as fuel to light your way.” LKH

For those of you who may need help, please see the following links, courtesy of Dr. R. Kieran

http://www.apa.org/topics/trauma/index.aspx

http://www.nationalcenterdvtraumamh.org/

Father’s Day 2015

​The photo with this blog is of my husband, Jonathon, and our daughter, Trinity. Sometimes I forget how very small she was when I divorced and was suddenly dating again. Jonathon was the only boyfriend I ever introduced her to, because he was the only one I was ever serious about. I think we married within a year of this picture. My second, his first, and he became a stepdad before he was ever a dad. He became Daddy-Jon because Trinity wanted a way to keep her two dads separate when she talked about them, so it was Daddy-Jon and Daddy-G. Trinity truly feels she has two fathers, and Jon felt that he had a great kid and there was no need for a second one, because biology doesn’t make you a dad. Being there daily makes you a dad. Jonathon watched the Barbie Nutcracker movie twelve times in a row when Trinity had the flu once. Only a parent does that for his sick kid. He taught her how to fence using boffer weapons so that she was so deadly in stage combat at drama camp that she had to bow out. “The other girl just kept dropping her guard, mom, I couldn’t help myself.” A dad is the person who comes limping in with the limping child after that infamous bicycle riding lesson. A dad is all that and so much more.

  
It is through watching first my ex, and then Jonathon, with Trinity that I began to understand what a father does because I never had one of my own. I was a fatherless child, and by age six I was a motherless one, too. My grandmother raised me without any men around the house, so I had no clue what a father, or a husband for that matter, was supposed to do. I always felt very left out on this holiday as a child. I think it was one of the reasons I worked hard to make sure my ex stayed invested in Trinity’s life, so that she had two dads where I’d had none. The three of us even went to parent-teacher conferences for Trinity. There was no fighting amongst us at school events, because my ex-husband and I both agreed that our daughter didn’t divorce anyone, that was us, so we vowed never to bad mouth each other in front of her and to act like civilized grownups at school functions or anything that involved our child. I am happy to say that with almost no exceptions we accomplished that. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it for our kid? Yes.
Trinity is twenty now, but she still has two dads for Father’s Day. I’ve now watched dear friends dance with their fathers at their weddings, and thanks to Genevieve and her father, I’m learning that even when you’re very grownup, a dad is still important to a daughter. Thanks to Jonathon and Spike I’m learning about sons and fathers, too. A dad is someone you can turn to for advice, someone you just want to keep involved in your life, because you love them.
People keep asking me why I haven’t shown my fictional character Anita Blake on stage with her dad, and the honest answer is because I didn’t know what a dad was for, or how a grown child interacts with one. I would take my character Jason back to visit his father in Blood Noir, but that father was dying of cancer and their relationship was strained at best, so it didn’t really force me to show a healthy father/child relationship. Then in Affliction we went back home with Micah and it was his father who was dying in the hospital of a mysterious disease. Micah loved his father, but the dad spent most of the book unconscious, so I didn’t have to deal with it on stage much. It would take me a year after I wrote Affliction and had fans complaining that I had another father in hospital like Jason’s father, before I both realized that it was similar and understood why I’d done it. The short answer is that I don’t know what a father is for, and I certainly don’t know what a healthy father/daughter relationship is supposed to be. I realize now that is why Anita’s family has never been on stage. I don’t know what a family is for like that, not a dad-mom-sibling kind of family, because I never had one of those. Maybe as Trinity gets older, I’ll understand it more. Maybe watching Jonathon, Spike, and Genevieve interact with their families as adults will help me understand what it’s supposed to be like to be a grown woman that still has a relationship with their family of birth – the family that raised them.

Zombie Day! 

​It’s zombie day! No, it’s not a new book, it’s the first day after tour. It was great seeing all of you across the country for the Dead Ice Tour! You guys let me know just how excited you were to have the newest Anita Blake novel in your hands, and that was a lot of excitement! I loved answering your questions in Atlanta, New York, Houston, Dayton, and Lexington. You asked for me to tour some cities we hadn’t done in a few years, so I talked to my publisher and we did it! You guys came out in amazing numbers in every city, and we took selfies so you could see yourselves being awesome! (Okay, I forgot to take a selfie in a couple of cities; my bad.) But thank you for showing us so much positive energy! Thank you for loving Anita and all the rest of my imaginary friends so much!
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​But no matter how wonderful the tour was, there is always a zombie day after we get back. What is a zombie day? It’s a day after some major event like finals week, or finishing that huge project at work, or typing, ‘The End’ of a novel, or coming home from tour. Shorter tours are easier to recover from but no matter what there is always a day when I stare off into space at nothing in particular, can’t concentrate worth a damn, and am more tired than I thought possible outside of the first few weeks of a newborn baby coming home. All important decisions should wait until this phase of post-tour recovery is past, trust me on that one. Sometimes I try to ignore zombie day and muscle through, or at least try to ignore it, but I’ve learned that’s a mistake, so now I just let myself be as exhausted as I actually feel.
​The best use of zombie day is to sleep in, maybe take a hot bath, and a hot tub is a bonus, drink lots of water and juice, take more Airborne and Emergen-C, and rest. Now, add that Jonathon and I both usually catch some bug on tour, so we’re actually sick on top of it all . . . and the only thing to do is nothing much. Dozing on the couch covered in sleeping dogs with a movie I’ve seen before playing as background noise is one of my favorite things to do when I’m this tired and sick. I usually do mysteries for the videos, but today a David Suchet Poroit, “Five Little Pigs,” actually had me crying, even though I’ve seen and loved the movie a dozen times. (Did I mention I can be a very emotional zombie on zombie day?) I needed a true feel good movie, so “Despicable Me” fit the bill. “Despicable Me 2″ is currently playing, because it’s one of the few sequels that’s just as fun as the original.
​I’m still occasionally trying to cough up a lung, but I’m feeling a little bit better than last night when I got off the plane. Happily, I didn’t catch whatever this is until after I hugged the last fan, shook the last hand, and answered the last question. So, whoever shared more than a hug with Jonathon and me, I hope you’re feeling better today, too. A lot of you asked why I’m not doing more cities, and the answer is simple: the longer the tour the more zombie days at the end of it. Shorter tours mean I can be back to writing pages on the next book, and that’s what all of you wanted the most on tour – the next-next book.

Dead Ice: Anita Blake

This is the last blog before Dead Ice hits the shelves here in America, you lucky fans in the U.K. already have your copy, but on this side of the pond we’re still waiting and in anticipation of that wait here is Anita. Because if there’s just one more blog left before the pub date, it’s got to be Anita.

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Question: How did you come up with the character of Anita?

Answer: The summer after college I read my first hard-boiled detective fiction, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, Sue Grafton, Sara Paratesky, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett. I’m sure there were other male writers in the genre I read that year, but that’s the list that sticks out in my mind. What stood out in my mind then was that the male detectives got to cuss, have sex, and shoot people pretty much without remorse. The female detectives rarely cursed, sex was either nonexistent or sanitized and off stage, and if they had to shoot someone they had to feel really, really bad about it. The difference between the two hard-boiled genders was so unbalanced that it pissed me off, and out of that anger I decided to create a female detective that could even the playing field. At the same time I read a short story with zombies in it, several articles on real life voodoo as a religion, one on Sanataria, and . . . the idea that Anita would be more than an ordinary detective began to take shape.
Secrets to Share: In retrospect I may have done a bit more than just evened the playing field, but then if something is worth doing, it’s worth overdoing? *grins* The seed that would eventually become Anita Blake, and spawn a #1 New York Times Bestselling series, began with that sense of outrage at the gender inequality in hard-boiled detective fiction. If I’d stayed with that original idea then I would have tried to sell a seriously violent detective series with a hard talking and sexy female detective, and respected editors in the mystery genre have told me that they love Anita Blake, but the series would never have sold if it had been straight mystery. We may have come a long way, baby, but apparently mainstream mystery hasn’t come far enough to have a female detective that can play as hard as the men. In fact, Anita gets to play harder than most of the men in the plain mystery section. If I hadn’t read the pieces about voodoo and zombies at nearly the same time as the mysteries, then I don’t know if I would have thought to have Anita raise the dead for a living. Adding the horror genre to the mystery was what allowed me to be as violent as the crimes Anita was investigating needed to be; and horror also lets women fight back right alongside the men, more even than mystery.
The zombies came from reading the right things at the perfect time, but I’d already decided to put the supernatural in the series because I thought I’d get bored with just straight mystery. I read a lot of mystery series after those initial ones, not just hard-boiled, but cozy, and everything in between the two. What I found was that most writers seemed to get bored with their series between book five and eight. You could watch them fall out of love with their characters and their worlds. Some authors rallied and were able to find renewed energy and fall back in love with their series, and some were selling too well to stop so they struggled on for more books, but the lack of joy in their work showed through on the page. I decided I’d give myself enough toys so I would never grow bored. I’d read fantasy and horror most of my reading life and I loved old horror movies, especially the old Hammer vampires films. I’d watched them as a child on the late night creature feature show and been enthralled. I’d read all the real life ghost stories and folklore that I could get my hands on from the time I could read, so I decided I wanted a world where everything that went bump in the night was real. More than that though, I wanted it to be modern day as if we went to bed one night and got up the next day with all the monsters being real and everyone knew about them. I wanted to see modern day America have to deal with vampires, zombies, and shapeshifters as a reality, not as a rumor or a ghost story, but real. I wanted to mix the fantastic with the mundane in a serious way and see what happened. That was one of the main things that interested me at the beginning and is still one of my favorite things to write about today.
The fact that I then added relationship tropes to the series just helped me push the writing in any direction the story took me.

Question: Will we ever meet Anita’s family on stage in a book?

Answer: I think so.
Secrets to Share:
I actually wrote the first chapter and planned the mystery plot for a book where Anita goes home for Thanksgiving. The original idea was she would take Richard to meet her family, but by the time I sat down to write the first chapter it was Micah and Nathaniel. Why not Jean-Claude? First, vampires don’t travel as well by car, and that was the original plan. Second, Grandma Blake is crazy religious and prays for Anita’s soul because she’s sleeping with a vampire. We don’t trust her not to do something like open a window so sunlight hits Jean-Claude. The original idea was that Anita would stay in the house she grew up in, like most of us do when we go home for the holidays. Nothing like being surrounded by family and staying in your old room to throw you back into old childhood mindsets. Not sure how much of the plot would change, but every time I try to make it the next book it just doesn’t work. My muse and I aren’t ready, or maybe Anita isn’t ready.

Question: Is Anita you?

Answer: No.
Secrets to Share:
I made Anita my size, because it was easier to choreograph a fight scene if my main character was my size. If I’d made her taller, or in any way that different from me physically, then I’d have had to find a friend the size of my character anytime I went gun shopping or looked at a shoulder holster. She’s my size because the hand I have is the hand I need to fit. It just made sense to me at the time. I gave her my hair because I like my hair, and I figured if I was going to screw her life up with terrifying mystery/horror plots that I should give her something that she might like, too. I’m told that Anita’s attitude is tough, strong, masculine, not very feminine, and in many ways, it is my attitude; but I didn’t think of it in those terms until readers and interviewers started telling me. Anita’s personality and mine were closer to the same at the beginning of the series, but it’s a first person narration so making her sound and think like me was easier as a new novelist. When I sat down to write Merry Gentry years later I would make sure she didn’t sound like Anita, which meant she didn’t sound much like me, and made writing her a whole lot harder. I think it’s one of the reasons that Merry writes slower than Anita, because I don’t think like Merry does, and yet she’s a first person narrator, too. Anita and I have diverged as people because our experiences have been very different. She’s gone on to have one of the highest kill counts in fiction outside of war novels, and I married, moved to suburbia, had a child, dogs, and did a much more traditional approach for the first decade I wrote Anita. She was anything but traditional by any standards. Anita is now decades younger than I am, because I read an essay by Agatha Christie years before where she complained that she’d made both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot too old, and if she could do it over again she’d have started them off much younger. I took that bit of advice to heart and Anita was twenty-four when she stepped onto the page, as was I when I wrote the first short story with her in it. Seven to eight years is all that’s passed in Anita’s world, while much more has passed in the real world.
Anita and I both lost our mothers in car accidents as children. She was eight when her mother died, I was six. Why did I do that? Because when I was twenty-four my mother’s death was still so traumatic that I couldn’t imagine understanding a character that hadn’t had a similar experience. That early tragic loss made me understand just how fragile life was, and took forever the ideal that the adults around me are omnipotent and could keep me safe, because they couldn’t keep themselves safe. That knowledge at such a young age has made me a different person than I might have been, and it’s so intimate to who I am that I gave the viewpoint to my main character, because again, first person narration. They say, write about what you know, so what did I know? I knew death and loss, monsters and lovers, small town American lost in the big city, I knew how to be a strong woman in a man’s world, I knew not to ask for mercy for there isn’t much to go around, save the mercy for someone who needs it more.

Sneak Peek from Dead Ice:
Lita looked at me, head slightly to one side. “You didn’t worry that it’d make men not want you?”

“No,” I said.

“You didn’t worry that it made you look like a victim?” Kelly asked.

I frowned at her. “No, every time I look at my scars I think that I lived, and I killed what hurt me. These are victory marks, not victim,” I said.

Dead Ice: Nathaniel

Dead Ice: Nathaniel

We’ve only got two blogs to go until Dead Ice hits the shelves on June 9th here in the United States, but in UK today was your day to get Dead Ice; no spoilers!  But since we’re running out of time for the blogs on our side of the pond, it’s got to be Nathaniel Graison, the other third of Anita’s live-in threesome.

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Question: Is Nathaniel based on a real person?

Answer: No, but he’s one of the few inspired by a true life event.
Secrets to Share: I tackled researching BDSM, bondage and submission the same way I did guns, police work, or vaudun/voodoo: with respect and thoroughness. This was before I realized that BDSM was a part of my own lifestyle, so it was all brand new to me. I learned about dominants and submissives, it would be years before I learned about tops, bottoms, and I was still being told switches, people who can be both dom and sub, didn’t exist. I learned that healthy kink is all about safe, sane, and consensual. But I learned about a man who had vanished from the community after losing his dominant to a breakup. This individual was someone who didn’t play safe, or sane, but kept the consent; but what he would consent for was beyond what most dominants wanted to do with anyone because he wouldn’t safeword before he was hurt. A dom trusts his submissive to either call safeword before they are truly hurt in a scene, or to tell them upfront, “Sometimes I get caught up in the scene and I won’t safeword in time, so please help me keep an eye on me and call it for me if you think its needed.” Or words to that effect. The man who was missing wouldn’t do either, so most people didn’t want to play with him, let alone have a relationship with him. In a world where how much pain you can take could be a mark of pride and attractive to people, this man worried people. They’d actually encouraged him to get therapy because bondage isn’t a replacement for it. You should do bondage because it’s part of your sexuality, not because it’s part of your pathology.
The missing man was named Nathaniel, or that was his name in the kink community because most people use a nickname. Now, don’t get excited, I have no idea what this man actually looked like, I never met him, never talked to him, never had him described to me – honest. But the idea that someone was so lost that they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, protect themselves during scene play to the point where they would allow people to do irreparable damage or worse, really disturbed me. It disturbed the dominant who was my guide to the world, he was afraid that this Nathaniel had found someone who didn’t stop in time either from lack of knowledge, or desire for darker things than are acceptable in the community. BDSM is not a replacement for good therapy, if that’s what you need, go get healthy, and then once you’re better if BDSM is still something that interests you, come back with a better outlook and a healthier mindset. For some people bondage is a sign they need help, for others it’s just a part of their life. That this Nathaniel might have gone off with a stranger, which you’re not supposed to do, either you get people to recommend people or vouch for them, and let himself be . . . lost for good . . . It bothered a lot, just the concept that a person could be so . . . out of the confusion and dark fascination with the entire concept of someone doing that came my fictional Nathaniel. I kept the name and the dilemma, but my Nathaniel’s background history, physical appearance, personality, is all made up. I have no idea how it matched up with that long ago and long lost, person who planted the seed that would become my fictional Nathaniel. I didn’t need to know, because my imagination had taken that seed and run with it. In fiction I saved Nathaniel, and he got therapy and helped save himself. I was able to write a happier ending for my fictional character than seems to have happened to the story that inspired that first seed.
Question: Is Nathaniel based on your husband Jonathon?

Answer: See above, and no.
Secrets to Share: This is probably one of the most persistent rumors, that my husband is either Micah or Nathaniel or they are based on him, but neither is true. Sorry to disappoint everyone, but I do not base characters on the real people in my life.

Question: Is Nathaniel your sexual fantasy? Is Micah, Jean-Claude . . . etc . . . your sexual fantasy? Are the men in your books your sexual fantasies?

Answer: No, sorry, but though I find the men in my books interesting, and hot, because it’s hard to write a good sex scene if I, as a writer, aren’t attracted to the characters, but other than that, no. The closest to being my fantasy is Nathaniel, but not because of the great sex and his beauty. He is my fantasy husband/wife because he enjoys domestic duties like cooking, cleaning, and organizing a household. All of which I am terrible at, and Jonathon isn’t much better except for the cooking part. That he’s a domestic goddess is a wish fulfillment for me, because it’s something I’ve been wanting/needing in my life but couldn’t find romantically for a very long time. That Nathaniel is beautiful and in great shape is due in large part to his job as a stripper, he has to look good on stage. I now know the time and energy that you need to put in to look as good as he does, and it’s almost another full time job. If he wasn’t having to look that good for his job, then he probably would look a tiny bit less fierce, but he would still be beautiful. Of course, Anita works out too, both to stay healthy and to be able to run away or after the bad guys and fight if she has to, it’s a matter of life and death for her, which is a great incentive to hit the gym. She works out more than I do, because my job is to sit here and write. Sedentary jobs are so bad for the body. Both for health and my doctor’s urging I keep trying to add back in more exercise, but I actually hit a time a few years back where the amount of exercise was impacting how many hours I could write in a negative way. It was weird to realize how much time it takes to look a certain way. I’m not sure it’s possible for most people to dedicate that kind of time to it. One of the reasons Anita never does “normal” daily things is between her jobs, her relationships, and hitting the gym there really isn’t any time to do anything else. Staying in fierce shape is almost another job, and the way you have to watch your nutrition . . . it is a level of discipline and time management that boggles the mind, or it boggles mine.

Sneak Peek from Dead Ice:
“When Gabriel first introduced me to Jean-Claude I thought I was there to sleep with him, instead I was there to audition for going onstage at Guilty Pleasures. I thought I knew how to take my clothes off onstage, but Jean-Claude showed me the difference between shaking the moneymaker to the music and getting naked onstage, as opposed to a true striptease. I can still hear him: ‘One is an art, and the other is cheap and tawdry, and nothing cheap dances on my stage.’ God, Jean-Claude was so elegant in everything he did. I’d never seen anyone like him.”

“He is pretty unique,” I said.

Nathaniel laughed. “He was always a perfect gentleman with all the dancers. He said he couldn’t be a good manager if he played favorites, so first he taught me how to be elegantly sexy onstage and then he taught me which fork to use, and not to tuck my napkin into my shirt collar.”

Dead Ice: Micah

Micah blog:

Micah Callahan came on stage mid-way through the current books, almost literally half-way at book #10 Narcissus in Chains. The book was a game changer in a lot of ways for the Anita Blake series, but one of the biggest for her personal life was the addition of Micah.

Direct frontal shot of a Black Leopard snarling with isolated background,
Direct frontal shot of a Black Leopard snarling with isolated background,

Question: Why did the sexual content go up in the series once Micah was introduced?

Answer: It didn’t really go up that much.
Secrets to Share: The Meredith Gentry series was actually created, at least in part, to give me somewhere to put all that literary sexual frustration that wasn’t happening in the Anita Blake novels. I had written and finished the first Merry book, A Kiss of Shadows, and set a much higher sexual content from the very beginning. I think that’s why no one ever complains about it, because it was the dynamic from the start, but with Anita it wasn’t. She started out a very old-fashioned good girl, in that I’m-waiting-for-my-white-dress-and-picket-fence kind of way. So, after nine books where she had managed to have sex twice, three times if you want a more open definition than just intercourse, I’d decided to stop arguing with her. If Anita wanted to keep both Jean-Claude and Richard at bay and continue to cling to her commitment phobia, then so be it, I was done. Not done with the series, but done arguing with her, with Richard, with everyone. Merry didn’t argue about sex, or even commitment, because the whole idea was for her to find a prince/king to her princess/queen. Narcissus in Chains is a solid mystery with a villain that is still one of the most original ideas I’ve ever come up with for a bad guy; but to listen to the haters you’d think there is nothing but sex in the book. In fact, there is only one full-blown sex scene in the entire book. You could make a case for two, maybe three, if intercourse, or oral isn’t your sole criteria for definition of sex. One of those scenes amounts to metaphysical foreplay scene with Richard, Jean-Claude, and Anita, but the other two scenes are with Micah, who was a brand new character introduced in this book. There is actually no more sex in this book than in Blue Moon or The Killing Dance, but what is different is who the sex is with.
I had so many people complain about the sexual content in Narcissus in Chains that I almost accepted that there must be more sex in the book than I remembered writing, but no, no, there isn’t. It has only been recently that I realized the problem was that the first metaphysical foreplay scene was with Jean-Claude and Richard, the two men that Anita had dated for most of the preceding nine books, so fans had become wedded to the idea that this was it – her two guys. They were also convinced she would pick one guy to finally settle down with, and then suddenly Micah comes out of left field and wins the day, the lady, everything, because that’s what some fans seemed to think. They would have to wait for the next novel, Cerulean Sins, to discover that Anita hadn’t dumped both the other men. She’d date and still be lovers with both Richard and Jean-Claude, but she would also continue to date Micah. It would take me almost ten years to realize why some of the anger directed at Micah existed and by then it was too late to change things, even if I’d wanted to, which I didn’t. My series, my books, my characters, and they tend to date/sleep with who they want to with very little input from me, actually. Micah was supposed to be a bit player, in fact he was supposed to be a bad guy henchman for the main villain. He wasn’t supposed to date Anita, let alone have sex with her. Which leads us into the next question.

Question: Did Micah rape Anita the first time they were together?

Answer: No. Not to me, but to my great surprise this was one of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten over the years about that first scene.
Secrets to Share: This question totally caught me off guard at first, and the people who asked it in a hateful way, or were just haters in general, I pretty much ignored. If you want me to pay attention to you, be nice. Some very sincere women, who were very nice, were upset about the scene. It turned out that the scene had seemed like rape to them because Anita had not said a fully spoken, “yes.” I swear that I remembered her saying yes in the scene. I swear that I wrote her saying yes in the scene, but so many women were genuinely upset by the scene that I went back and reread it. One thing was true, Anita doesn’t say an out loud yes. *head desk* Sometimes when you write a book, things are so crystal clear in your head that you think they are on the paper; you actually begin to read them into the words, but that doesn’t mean they’re there. The problem is copyeditors and editors in New York can’t see what’s in my head, only what’s on the page, and if what I “see” in my head never got onto a version of the page, then they can’t help me remember it.
I went so far as to add a “yes” between the hardback and one of the paperback versions of Narcissus in Chains, but honestly I can’t remember which print run the change was in, and when the next print run came out the publisher had reverted to the master print file, and the “yes” was missing once more. *head wall* If I could do this scene again I would rewrite some of Anita’s interior dialogue to make it more acceptable to the women who saw/feel the scene as rape. All I can say is that I did not write the scene with that in mind, but having listened to enough polite fans explain their point of view over the years, I can see their point. My apologies to those that were genuinely upset by the scene as written, and I have endeavored not to fall into ambiguity in any other sex scene with anyone since then.

Question: Is Micah going to become king of the wereanimals in America, the way that Jean-Claude is king of the vampires?

Answer: I don’t know.
Secrets to Share: Micah is one of those characters that changed completely between character building notes and stepping on stage. The moment he interacted with Anita for “real” on paper he was someone new, someone I hadn’t planned. He was honorable, determined, as ruthlessly practical as Anita, and in many ways the near perfect helpmate that Anita had been needing. I had no idea he was a leopard king, a Nimir-raj, or that Anita would be his leopard queen, Nimir-ra. I had to come up with vocabulary for that, and so much more, after Micah announced who and what he was in the shapeshifter community. Since I didn’t know any of this when he first stepped into fictional reality I had no idea that he and Anita would create The Coalition for Better Understanding Between Lycanthrope and Human Communities, or that Micah would be called all over the country when there was a conflict between lycanthrope groups, or between humans and the shapeshifter community. Here’s a freebie insight, in Affliction I thought it was clear that Micah only interferes with out of state animal groups when those groups call the Coalition in to solve a dispute, or violence has already broken out, but not gotten to the attention of human authorities, but apparently not. Again, with Micah, people thought he was just traveling the country forcing groups to join our larger group – no. The Coalition goes only where, and if, called, but once you call in help if we pay in blood and pain from our people to solve your problem, then you and yours may end up joining the Coalition whether you like it or not.
Sneak Peek from Dead Ice:
Micah came through the door like he came through every door, as if the room were his room, or at the very least he was thinking of purchasing it. It was a surety and security in himself that he’d had since I’d met him.