"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Journey 2015 – Depression & Dreams

Maybe because in January I try to take the time to look back over my life, count the blessing and build hope for the future, or maybe because I spent last night chatting with an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever, or possibly because semi-sleepless nights while my husband is in Poland have given me too much time to think, whatever the case may be, I was inspired to update my story, how I got to be where I am, who I am, what I’ve been through. The beginning has been posted before, but I’ve now so much more to add to that original post. My husband and I have spent a lot of time lately talking about all we’ve been given. This isn’t to brag, as anyone that knows me knows I’m not like that. It is meant to inspire, I hope.  I may not have it all, but in choosing to be grateful for every gift of family, friends, career, and yes, even depression as you will see if you read on, I have everything I need and am rich beyond my wildest dreams. Been feeling on top of the world lately, and I want to pass on the positive energy to everyone I touch, virtually or in person. So, here goes…

Being blatantly honest here, I grew up with my nose stuck in a book and what they’re now calling a depressive personality.  I was determined that I’d never get married, would be an English Teacher/Writer, and I always saw the glass as half empty. Well, life started laughing at me about the end of college.  During student teaching, I met my husband and became a believer in love at first sight! Of course, in true English Teacher fashion, of which we both were, we wrote letters for almost eleven months before even going out on our first date.

From there, life became a whirlwind.  October 1994 – First Date, February 1995 – Engagement, August – Wedding, March – Pregnant and on Bed Rest, November – Eight Pound Preemie. Quite a year!  Two years later, my second high-risk pregnancy ended that with another eight pound Preemie, and thus begun my battles with diabetes and severe depression among other things. My road to healing, which still continues today, is long and varied.  Often even, two steps back for every step forward. During the worst years of my depression, I read a lot of self-help books, studied quantum physics and even became a certified Feng Shui practitioner. 

In all of my desperate searching, I found that I held a lot of the power to obtain the happiness and the success that I wanted. I don’t say all because if you’ve ever experienced a depression at the hands of your brain that doesn’t make enough of this or that chemical, then you know that some days no amount of positive thinking will change things. I don’t say this to bring anyone down or be a pessimist, in fact, it is the exact opposite. For me accepting that as fact went a long way to accepting and loving me for me, flaws and all, as well as helping to still find the good even in a poor situation. I count the blessings I have had due to the depression, and I believe that a lot of my writing benefits, is born of it.

During that time I was also blessed to become a stay-at-home mother. And, as I look back on that decade or so when my boys were little, I realize what a blessing it was to get to have so much time with them, to have gathered so many memories. While I miss their childhood days, I don't feel like I missed them. It makes a huge difference as that empty nest stage keeps taunting me with coming soon.

On our ten year anniversary, my husband and I read those letters we’d sent each other after college. I’d written a lot about my writing in them and realized I’d not written in over a decade. My husband encouraged me to get back into it. Then, he went on a two week trip to Israel.  One phone call with an explosion in the distance, and I didn’t sleep well, not much anyway, for the next two weeks he was there.  At the time, my husband had given me a book of writing exercises to spark creativity. I’d been poking around on the internet looking at different publishing houses, and I read a call for a short story series called Celtic Love Knots with Whiskey Creek Press. Being Irish, my maiden name, Quinn, I let my mind wonder. Wicca had always fascinated me, so I started to research it. Plus, I'd had a few of those unexplained instances, that even now with research, I'm not sure I believe myself some days, or maybe I just don't want to, but all of that lead me to writing paranormal fiction. Long story getting shorter, I promise, the two stories I wrote for that series both got contracted. Commence second whirlwind in my life.  That was November 2007.

Now, here in 2015, my days are getting my youngest, now 15, off to school; homeschooling my oldest son, who is 18, due to medical conditions that took him out of brick and mortar schools, yes a whole other story and of itself; and then writing and promo; dinner; and whatever small amount of housework I can get away with before indulging in some family time or reading or watching TV or knitting for the night. There are the occasional nights where I’m completely absorbed with a story and stay up most of the night writing.  Of course, life doesn’t like to play be schedules either, so I am learning to roll with the punches these days.

Each of my stories are like little trophies to me, and they mark parts of my life, putting a part of me into each one of them, some big and some small. So, indulge me here to share about my writing process, and the ones that have come to mean so much to me and why. They come to me in so many different ways. For example, sometimes in research, something I’ve read, inspires the plot, and that has led to a whole slew of stories about witches.  Other times I come up with plot after hearing about a situation that bothers me, and I find it cathartic to write a story with a similar situation but a happy ending. I wrote my novella Rituals that way. Of course then there are the times when my writing is just an escape, pure fun, where I can let my imagination run wild. Like with The Witch’s Beast, a Twisted Fairy Tale, one of my first stories, which retells the Beauty and the Beast entirely from the witch’s point of view. It was written more to settle a score with the Grimm Brothers because even as a kid, I didn’t think it fair that the witch who started the whole tale only got one line in the story.  Sorry, a tangent that could not be stopped. I’ve even been challenged by publishers to write certain types of stories. My first ever trilogy, At War in the Willows came about that way. While I’ve written primarily paranormal, erotic romances for wonderful publishing houses like Excessica Publishing and Naughty Nights Press, I’ve recently, even self-published a few mainstream, paranormal tales.

Of all of them, though, I do have a few stories that were more personal to me, and served as challenges outside my typical genre. One was writing my novella, 
The Sorcerer's Songs. I wrote The Sorcerer’s Songs using my husband's song lyrics to create the plot. It was a lot of fun to write, and a great writing exercise! I think I was so inspired by his music that the story practically wrote itself.  The Senior Editor who accepted the story wrote these wonderful words about it: "I also want to note that you write about magick with a heart and understanding that's pretty rare.  There's a ritual feel to the music performance in your story." To listen to a medley of three of the songs included in the story, sung by my husband, go to 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6t6LbuBZ0E Sorry, can’t help but to brag brag the guy. In the video, the panoramic is of the small town I grew up in, Martin's Ferry, Ohio, taken by a friend from back home, Missie Tong, who has helped me out with her amazing photography a few times in my career.  And, the guy with the guitar is my husband, Steven Howell. I am just so excited, and so grateful to him for letting me use his music!

My other fun, and more personal writing project was my children's picture book, What is a Witch Afraid Of?, where each image in the book are pictures I took of my dogs in costumes. The book deals with children's fears, and includes a parent's note about why dealing with them in the right ways is so important to creativity and thus compassion. To me right now, both of my dogs now gone, it is an amazing tribute to their selfless lives. 

Even now, when depression mostly losses to my new positive outlook on life, I’m still oversensitive to others emotions.  I still struggle with the realities of life and watching the effects they have on my children, for a big example.  But, I have an outlet, a healthy escape.  I truly believe, with all my heart, that everyone needs one.  I may have already known mine, but I lost it for a time, and had to re-discover it.  Whether buried or hidden, you have one too. I’ve now written over fifty different stories of various lengths about vampires, demons, witches, ghosts and shape shifters, etc in historical and contemporary settings, and so on, thanks to my escape.  They appear in anthologies, ebooks and trade paperbacks.  So, I believe that if I can, anyone can obtain their dreams. For me, a big part of that journey back to happiness, back to me, was pursuing my dream of being an author, and I believe it makes me a more complete person, who can then be a better wife, a better mother, and a better friend. I pray if nothing else, I’ve taught my sons that any dream can be obtained if you work for it, and that sacrifice is a big part of it.

“A destiny unfulfilled is an affront against the universe.”
~Anonymous Greek Philosopher

At this point, as far as my publishing dreams go, so many things have happened. In May, 2011, I was chosen as an Ohioana Book Festival author for my historical novel, 
Torn Asunder. This novel holds another huge highlight in my career right on its cover. NY Times Bestselling author, Hannah Howell, did the cover quote for me. FYI: we are not related. Long before I took the name Howell, she was one of the first paranormal romance authors I’d ever read. To have her have read and liked my novel, well it leaves me rather star struck to think about it. The quote reads, "Kiki Howell spins a wonderful tale of passion, magic, betrayal, and a love that conquers all. Enjoy."  Can’t explain how my heart flutters still when I read that. I've also had three flash fiction stories win writing contests. In the fall of 2013, my novel, Hidden Salem, one also very personal to me, and thus my hardest to date to write, in that it meshes real life and fiction in relation to those unexplained events I mentioned earlier, made the Amazon Top 100 Bestsellers Lists in Paranormal, Suspense and Ghosts; and in the fall of 2014, my Irish set novel. What Lies Within Us, made the Amazon Top 100 Best Sellers Lists in Gothic Fiction and Occult Horror. So, the dreams coming true continue.

Going into this year, I’m very excited to be a part of the very first Erotic Romance StoryBundle with authors like Selena Kitt, Sommer Marsden, Alison Tyler and Skye Warren. I’ve also gotten other good news that I can’t wait to share, huge things happening this year already, and I working as a ghost writer as well, building that college fund and help you out as you go off on your own fund. As well, I’m grateful to finally see my dream of editing an anthology come true. With the help of family and friends, as well as many authors, We Go On, a Charity Anthology for Veterans, will be published on my father’s birthday, March 9, 2015.

I know this was long, so if you got to this point, I thank you kindly. I find it healing to see where I have come from and re-evaluate where I’m going, something I learned from celebrating The High Holy Days with my husband. If I’ve encouraged anyone, to keep going after their dreams, regardless, then I’ve done my job. There is so much more I could go on about, and I’m just so grateful for all that has happened to me. Gratefulness, Hope, Having Dreams, I find these things so important to life. And, even sad I can be on top of the world, if that makes any sense at all. I am well aware of how blessed I am!

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In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.