Monday, 10 October 2011

World Mental Health Day: Cyclothymia

Cyclothymia is a serious mood and mental disorder that causes both hypomanic and depressive episodes. It is defined medically within the bipolar spectrum. To be specific, this disorder is a milder form of bipolar II disorder, consisting of recurrent disturbances between sudden hypomania and dysthymic episodes.

I have struggled with my mental health since 1996 and a prolonged episode of post-natal depression. Most of the time, I trundle along just under par; neither manic or overly depressed. It's very easy to slip off that fine line, though.

My first major dysthymic episode came a couple of years ago in the form of a fully-fledged panic attacked. Before then (and thankfully since) my downs had simply resulted in lethargy and the odd crying fit.

The difference between Cyclothymia and Bipolar is the longer swings. I will dip down when I'm on my cycle, but I recognise it as that and usually throw it off quite easily. My manic periods last longer and tend to result in a lot of fiction. If you know my LJ, you'll have seen the last one happen - four fanfics in three days, with me up as early as 3am because I simply couldn't sleep (insomnia is a side-effect of both manic and depressive blips, unfortunately).

By September this year, I'll be "celebrating" fifteen years of being Cyclothymic. I'll be 38, which makes it a little under half of my life to date. I'm not extra-ordinary: I'm a wife and mother. I write as an escape and because I love doing so. I'm a fangirl and a geek. I love and laugh, I get angry. Hurt. Upset. I bleed when I stub my toe (more frequently than I'd like).

People with poor mental health are normal. We're not freaks and it's not contagious. Please don't back away or cross the street. Please treat us as you would like to be treated - after all, one in six people will suffer from poor mental health at some point in their lives.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

This is not the blog you're looking for...

After some deliberation as to whether to buy a domain for this blog or get my own webspace and use WordPress, I've gone for the later and my blog can now be found at

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: 27 Mar '11

Today's six (okay, seven) sentences come from Flipside's chapter two. More of Johanna on the alternative Earth, though she doesn't know that yet. She's about to meet the MMC-- and some creatures a whole less pleasant...
The crashed airship lay in a crumple of twisted metal some three hundred yards away. Smoke curled up from several points and the crackle of flames carried on the still air. Had anyone survived? Johanna couldn’t see how, but then she’d not even imagined such a craft five minutes ago.

She’d not imagined the grey-skinned creatures that materialised from the rocky outcrops either. They resembled nothing familiar, were utterly alien, with large black eyes and protruding jaws that housed fearsome teeth. Their hides were wrinkled like an elephants, yet they walked with their weight on their hind legs and the long-clawed fingers of their front curled under like a gorilla.
To those wanting to join in, the rules are simple:

  1. pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published
  2. pick six sentences
  3. post ‘em on Sunday
Further information (and more snippets) here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

From the bottom drawer

A chance mention brought my very first WIP, To Recover the Satellites, to mind. I love the characters in this incomplete space opera epic, to the point I've never really been able to let them go even when I probably should have.

Or maybe not. Reopening the first chapter in roughly a year, I realised that perhaps this messy NaNoWriMo creation isn't destined for the trunk pile after all.

Let's see what you guys think:
The satellite hovered in space, an innocuous grey globe for all intents and purposes, but the red lights that flashed around its centre warned against passing. To defy that warning one would have to be mad, bad or desperate.

Corin Arrack was none of those things, though he had a reputation for hard practicality that bordered on ruthlessness. He knew what he wanted and nothing – not even Protectorate Regulations – stood in the way of his getting it. His determination had gained him a handful of condemnations on his service record. It was also the reason he sat in the captain’s chair, Commander of a Protectorate Cruiser.

“Have we anything further on the signal?”

The young ensign, new to her position and nervous, gave him a frightened look. “No, sir; scans remain inconclusive.”

“Hm.” He propped his chin on one hand, thumb stroking his close-cropped beard. “Send a message to Genesis. Inform the Directorate of our findings and advise that
we are investigating further.”

“Sir?” She stared at him, wide-eyed with shock. “Do you mean to cross the Boundary?”

Corin rolled his eyes. “Yes, Ensign, that’s exactly what I mean. Or would you like to be the one to explain to the Directorate why we ignored a source of potential power?”

“No, sir, but... crossing the Boundary is against regulation.”

“Unauthorised, yes. Hence the need to send a damn message already. Have you done that?”

She bobbed her head. “Yessir.”

“Then raise the shields and proceed at mark two on a direct intercept course.”


The lights on the bridge turned yellow as the shields went up and the grating beneath Corin’s feet rumbled with the power of the ship’s engines. The Cruiser slid forward. At the second the boundary was breached, a siren wailed on the bridge.
Corin threw the communications officer a look and the man silenced the alarm immediately. Corin snorted a breath through his nose and then turned his little attention back to the readout on the screen at the fore of the bridge.

Results from the ship’s scan scrolled up one side, the rest was a projected view of the space in front of the ship. Stars, and nothing more. Not as far as he could see, but out there somewhere pulsed a source of undefined power.

It could be nothing, he thought. Or it could be the most vital find in Protectorate history. Either way, he planned to be the one who found out. Either way, it would be the recommendation he required to demand the Directorate pull him off these long-range guardian runs.

He smiled to himself, imagining their faces. They didn’t like him or his methods: he was too much of a loose cannon for their comfort. But those methods worked, as proved by the rods on his uniform.

He was still smiling when the proximity siren screamed its warning.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: 20 Mar '11

Six sentence from Flipside, continuing from last week's snip:
She thought of the earthquake. "I hardly think so."

"No time to argue."

With that, he grabbed her hand and dragged her back down into the excavation. Johanna tried to tug loose, but his grip was like iron. She tossed a nervous glance over her shoulder. The things swarmed to the edge of the pit... then stopped. She frowned in puzzlement, wondering why they'd done that, but a yank on her arm made her attention shift.

And six from the Steampunk Western that arrived in my head over last weeked (described as Pride and Prejudice meets Wild Wild West), simply because I want to share the fun:
Steam belched into the sky like a twisted version of the Indians’ smoke signals. From her vantage point on the ridge, Samantha Bennett eyed the ugly black engine - and the parallel steel tracks that carved a scar through the countryside - with severe distaste. The foreign and unwanted sound of hammering as workmen fitted another length of rail echoed off the embankment, drowning out birdsong.

Another tree crashed down, causing her roan mare to snort and paw the ground with one hoof. Sam patted the warm neck.

“I know, Madison. I know.”

To those wanting to join in, the rules are simple:
  1. pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published
  2. pick six sentences
  3. post ‘em on Sunday
Further information (and more snippets) here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Shades of Grey

Bonnie Tyler once sang "I Need A Hero" and I suppose it's the Great Romantic Fantasy - the tall, dark and handsome stranger on his white stallion - but it's not actually mine. Heroes are... well, predictable. Good guys are the ones your mother likes, and while they make great friends, they're not exactly lust fodder (that was almost something much ruder, lol).

Guys that I do lust after have several things in common, but the largest factor is they're not portrayed as good. One of them not be a very long way, but I digress. They are antiheroes. Unpredictable, morally ambiguous, complex, complicated and deeply layered.

 The first character I remember being like that is one most people consider a hero - the Doctor. But he stood with his hand on the Big Red Button that would have wiped out the Daleks and considered genocide. Not particularly heroic, is it?

However it's dealing with uncomfortable moral issues that makes the antihero so much greater than the gun-slinging hero who would cut a swathe through the Armies of Evil and come out the other side with his hair untouched (but his shirt torn) and the line "It's what I do."

Oh, please. It might be, but kindly go and do it somewhere else. You are not the hero I'm looking for.

Bialar Crais, however, is.

I have mentioned him before, but I'm going to do it again because his character epitomises the antihero for me. His was the one that made me look for more than surface actions, that taught me that bad isn't monotone, that every character has a story they are the hero in.

Up until his last moment, the viewer was never truly sure whose side he was on. His character arc is, in my opinion, the best in sci fi. Possibly in television history. He grows and develops and becomes complicated enough that even eleven years on, I still find aspects I've not seen before, that surprise me, that wrench my heart (Crais remains the only character to reduce me to a blubbering wreck)

He was also indirectly responsible for my current crush.

Because without learning to see all the shades of grey in the dark characters, I'd not have realised how layered Baal truly is.

He's supposed to be bad - hell, he's supposed to be evil. Fortuntely someone failed to read that memo and what we're given is a character that most definitely breaks out of the given box.

Without a doubt, there are things Baal does that are bad. He is self-serving, determined to survive and quite frankly doesn't give a damn as to what measures that takes (which tends to be explosive).

However there are a lot of things he does that, on reflection, pose questions not only on his motivation, but on the nature of his species. The bad things are a given, putting himself in the line of fire for the greater good of the galaxy really isn't. He's not supposed to do that, he's not supposed to care. But he does, and he does it more than once.

The trick with the antihero is to make the audience think they know what's going on, then turn it on its head. It's Han Solo leaving the Rebels to fight the Death Star, only to charge in as the proverbial cavalry. It's Mr Darcy disappearing in a righteous huff, only to be shown to rescue Lydia. Bialar Crais apparently betraying Crichton, only to put into action the sacrificial plan to save his friends. Baal risking his life to help his "mortal enemies" save the galaxy.

We all expect the hero to fight the dragon, rescue the princess and save the kingdom. Sometimes though, it's more fun to have the less heroic guy do it, grumbling all the way.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Six Sentence Sunday: 13 Mar '11

Still with Flipside, my steampunk sci fi romance. So far, our heroine, Johanna, has accidentally discovered a portal to an Alternate Earth in the ruin of a temple in Giza. After witnessing a flying ship crash, she saves the pilot by fighting off creatures she's never seen before. But they're not giving up that easily:
"We need to run," she said and started towards the Sphinx, not sure if Sir William would be there or not but having no idea what else to do.

"No," gasped the pilot. He pulled away and looked at her. Half a head taller, he had short black hair, brown eyes and a vicious-looking gash down the left side of his face. "The temple is our only hope."

To those wanting to join in, the rules are simple:
  1. pick a project – a current Work in Progress, contracted work or even something readers can buy if you’re published
  2. pick six sentences
  3. post ‘em on Sunday
Further information (and more snippets) here.