I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me: A #HoldOntoTheLight Post

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My post is late. It isn’t surprising. I’m always late. I’m one of the world’s greatest procrastinators, but this time it really isn’t my fault. You see, I had a really tough time coming up with something to write for the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign. I don’t identify myself as mentally ill. Nor am I a survivor of domestic abuse, severe bullying, or sexual assault. In fact, friends in college used to tease that I was so well-adjusted that that in and of itself was neurotic. I even have imposter syndrome ABOUT having imposter syndrome. I’m always afraid that I am inadvertently inflating my own little issues and thereby cheapening someone else’s struggles. “I’M FINE” is a particularly favorite mantra. Then something happened on Sunday morning and this post hit me like a lightning bolt.

Sunday morning I was having a perfectly normal conversation about my niece with my sister. Apparently, there’s some conflict between the teacher and some grading policy—blah blah blah—it doesn’t matter. Being a former classroom teacher, I was offering suggestions as to why the grading policy worked out that way and perhaps everyone should just calm down. “It’ll all work out in the end.” Then the conversation took a more aggressive turn and my devils’ advocate position started to close in until I felt that I was two feet tall and being pummeled with sticks. So I just stopped talking. I was irrationally angry and nauseated at the same time. Then later, I was depressed. I spent the whole day either sleeping or being weepy—completely wasting my Sunday. Bummer.

It didn’t occur to me until later that maybe I’d just had a PTSD panic attack.

I always get the question, “Why don’t you teach anymore?” And I always make up some long, noble answer about not believing in the education system anymore. Or sometimes I say something joking and flippant like, “I like being able to go to the bathroom whenever I want.” But the truth is, and it’s really hard to admit, I was bullied out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I never really felt that teaching was a permanent career for me. I got my teaching certificate because my mom and dad wanted me to “have something to fall back on.” So I’d been considering getting out of it for a long time, but in my last year, some things happened that made up my mind for me.

At the very first open house I should have known this person was going to be a problem all year. She flat out told me at this first meeting that she wanted her child in another person’s class. I’m not sure why: my test scores were good, my students had always been happy, I was tech-savvy, and my class was heavily arts-integrated. But she had been told that this other teacher was the bee’s knees with all the best students (they did tend to give me rowdier kids because my classroom was more active) and it was a smaller class and she wanted her child in that class, NOT MINE. Remember, this was the first time this woman met me. But I reassured her that her kid would be happy in my class, went over all my policies, and I thought she left happily. Weeks go by. Her child is a delight, but talkative. I mean, she’s seven—all seven year olds are talkative. She’s a smart little girl, but not a prodigy or anything. I think we’re all having a great year. Then when the first mid-semester report comes out, this woman blows into my room like a hurricane, complaining that her child got an S instead of an E (in primary school we gave Es (excellent), Ss (Satisfactory), and Ns (Needs improvement)!!! An S!!! Her child wasn’t an S! Her child got all Es in 1st grade!! I spoke to her calmly, showed her all of her child’s work and explained the grading policy AGAIN. I also said that if it would make her feel better, I’d send her child’s work home weekly instead of bi-weekly as I had been doing for the last TWELVE YEARS of my career. Again, she was grudgingly satisfied and left.

All was well until just after Christmas. I remember it extremely well. It was the Wednesday after we’d come back from Christmas break. I was happily walking down the hall to the ladies’ room when my principal caught me. She asked me about the student with the nutty mom. How was she doing? What was her reading level? I answered her questions, still oblivious to any problem. She went on to say that nutty mom had been to see her and was very unhappy with me as a teacher. That I never sent home any graded work and that her child was failing and it was all my fault. I was flabbergasted and caught off guard. I explained that I was sending home graded work regularly and that the only reason I hadn’t in the last couple of weeks was that it was Christmas vacation! The principal, nodded and said that’s what she thought (at this point I assumed she was still on my side). A few mornings later, I come into the office to sign in and the principal catches me, beckoning me into her office. She then proceeds to rake me over the coals (with the door to her office open with teachers and students rushing by) about this child’s work. The nutty mom had faxed her copies of all of this graded work (I might add that she had picked and chosen the things that served her case) where the child had made a grade less than what she thought it should be. There was also a math test from before Christmas that had I had mistakenly left out of their graded papers before Christmas (the child had made what equated to an A). Apparently, I should have just thrown the test away rather than sharing it with parents because this was all the evidence she needed to determine that I wasn’t grading papers and keeping track of progress. At any rate, the principal scolded me like a child in her office for about twenty minutes over a policy that was GRADE LEVEL-WIDE and neglecting to consider that I was a TWELVE YEAR VETERAN TEACHER. But apparently my judgment didn’t matter. I was then told that she “just didn’t know how to defend me” on this and that she would set up a conference with this parent and keep me posted. I left her office crying.

Fast forward a week or two. Nothing else had been said about the incident, no contact had been made from nutty parent, so I’m hoping that it’s all blown over. I’m walking down the hall after having taken my students to P.E. class. The school secretary rushes up to me and says, “You have to get up to the office RIGHT NOW for your conference!” Naturally I’m surprised. I didn’t have any conferences scheduled that day and no one had told me about any meeting. The secretary notices my stunned expression and says, “that nutty woman is up there and Ms. So and So wants you to bring the kid’s portfolio and your grade book.” I almost threw up right there. I was blindsided. No one had said anything to me about this meeting. At all. I go into the meeting alone, sitting on one side of the table where nutty mom and her husband and my principal are all facing me. What transpired was a forty-five minute session wherein my principal scolded me in front of these people. I wasn’t allowed to defend myself, so I just sat there silently. Feeling about two feet tall and like I was being pummeled with sticks. When it was over, I picked up my class from P.E. and tried to pretend nothing was wrong. Another week later, the principal came in during my planning period to tell me that she was moving the kid out of my class. That I had made her parents feel that I didn’t care about their child’s education and moving the child would be in her best interest. All I could say was, “Whatever you think is best.”

For the rest of the year, I avoided the office. I made copies after school when I knew the principal would be gone. Every time I saw her in the hallway, I’d keep my head down and pray she didn’t stop me. I started getting sick before school. I cried often. The kid that got moved from my class came to see me every day, hugging me and saying she wished she could come back. I hid in my classroom. Every time I had to go to the office, my heart would pound in my chest and I’d break out in chills. Meanwhile, I asked the new teacher how my former student was doing and her comments were exactly the same as mine. I began counting down the days until I never had to darken the doorway of the school again.

I left my twelve year career with no plan whatsoever (not wise, btw). I thought about applying at another school, but the thought of going into the classroom again was sickening. And still is. I miss the children. I miss my old friends and the community that I just don’t feel part of anymore. But I still dream about sitting at that conference room table, alone and feeling worthless. I don’t miss that. And I’ll never be in that position again.

I never considered the fact that I had PTSD from that experience. Isn’t PTSD something that only happens to soldiers and abuse survivors? It never occurred to me that well-adjusted, boisterous, always in control Lexx would have PTSD from being bullied by two small-minded idiots. As an adult. And I think that if I had actually done anything wrong in that situation, I’d be over it now. Sometimes I second guess myself and think that maybe I did. Maybe I wasn’t doing enough for that child. Maybe I should have tried harder. Maybe I was just overly-sensitive. Maybe.

But one thing’s for sure. I’m still shaking while I write this. I still cry when I try to tell someone about it. I still feel like a failure sometimes when I think about it. And the other day when I was talking to my sister about her child’s teacher, I was right back there. Feeling just as small and powerless as I did that day. Will it ever go away? Will I ever just forget about it? I don’t know. But maybe me telling you all about it is the first step to getting over it.

Maybe.

****

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

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

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

GUEST POST: Horror, Suspense, and Urban Fantasy by Gail Z. Martin

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I’m so privileged to have the talented Gail Z. Martin today talking about horror, suspense, and urban fantasy as part of her Days of the Dead Blog Tour!


How do you decide whether a book is horror, suspense or urban fantasy? Does it matter? Do you care?

I categorize ‘suspense’ as something like The Woman in Black or Rose Red—creepy and atmospheric with a lot of implied threat and monsters in the shadows so that your imagination does the rest. Personally, I favor these over the blood and gore fest kind of movie. I like the way the tension builds.

In many ways, I think the suspense movie is the darker cousin of a mystery. You think something is wrong, but you don’t have the information to prove it, so no one believes you, not even you—until it’s too late. Usually, there’s an old scandal or injustice awaiting long-delayed vengeance. Often, the protagonist is drawn in against his/her will but not actually kidnapped or taken by force. The main character doubts intuitive warnings, and by the time he/she is convinced that something bad and spooky is going on, it’s too late. Suspense specializes in the movement you almost see out of the corner of your eye, the shadows that are a little too dark, the chair that rocks by itself. The individual images aren’t horrific in and of themselves, but they play on your nerves, building a sense of impending doom from an enemy you still haven’t seen so you don’t know how to fight.

I’ve heard it said that horror creates a sense of helplessness which is key to the impact. The monsters are bigger, the blood flows in rivers, and especially toward the ‘goreno’ end of the genre, too much is never enough. Horror plays on revulsion as much as helplessness, with a dependence on the demonization of physical deformity that may cue primal reactions but doesn’t live up to our enlightened best.

Horror is also often heavily moralistic. Teenage sex leads to dismemberment. Not reading your map carefully leads to death by cannibal hillbilly. Not being where you belong results in really bad stuff. Teenage girls should never answer the phone when they’re alone in the house. In that sense, they are the inflated version of the warnings you probably got from your mother. Lock the doors. Don’t talk to strangers. Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged. Check your gas tank and tire pressure. Don’t be alone in dark places. Break the rules and bad things happen.

Some experts say that horror is one way we as a culture deal with DEADLY CURIOSITIESuncertainty. (I’ve never heard if it’s just Americans, or everyone. We might just be weird.) Supposedly there are studies that prove that when the economy is bad, monster and horror movies come back into vogue. Maybe it’s a way for us to project our real-world worries (that we can’t do anything about, thus making us feel helpless) onto the silver screen, where we still feel helpless but it’s okay because it’s just a movie. Gotta love catharsis.

And then there’s urban fantasy. To me, urban fantasy borrows a lot from suspense (as well as noir/detective) and adds in elements of horror. That can be played for laughs, as with Kevin J. Anderson’s Dan Shambles zombie detective, or played with British wit, like Simon R. Green’s Nightside, or played for straight horror, like the early Anita Blake books and some scenes in the Harry Dresden books. (One reviewer who read my Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy complained it gave her nightmares!) Urban fantasy plays on our uneasiness about the big city (or our qualms about how well we really know our neighbors, even in a small town like Sookie Stackhouse’s Bon Temps).

Urban Fantasy gives us much worse explanations for the movement in the shadowed alley than a mere purse snatcher. The genre tells us that while we might be safe in the light, the night is still ruled by beings much older and hungrier than we are. The use of ancient mythological figures and monsters as well as beings like the Fey and vampires reminds us that humans are a young race and that we don’t know nearly as much as we like to think we know.

To me, I think the scariest thing that suspense, horror and urban fantasy provides is knocking our pride down a few pegs. We don’t know everything. We don’t have it all figured out. We aren’t really top of the food chain. Money, power and privilege isn’t worth a flying rat’s ass if you can’t outrun a zombie. Gated communities won’t keep out the walking dead. The things we put our trust in to save us can’t rescue us from the worst situations. Maybe now and then, we need a horror movie to remind us of that.

Pass the popcorn.

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors http://on.fb.me/1h4rIIe before 11/1!

Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here http://bit.ly/1ZXCPVS Launches Dec. 29

Treats not Tricks! Enjoy a super-scary excerpt from my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventure Monstrosities http://bit.ly/1ZG0TMW

Trick Or Treat from my friend John Hartness’s Quincy Harker series Raising Hell Chp 1  http://bit.ly/1MEMFSQ

More Treats! Dragon’s Lure excerpt http://www.sidhenadaire.com/books/DLEmberling.pdf

Plenty of tricks! And excerpt from my Retribution Deadly Curiosities short story in the Athena’s Daughters anthology http://w.tt/1sipN0O

About the Author

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Martin, Dreamspinner Communications

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the upcoming novel Vendetta: A Deadly Curiosities Novel in her urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC (Dec. 2015, Solaris Books) as well as the epic fantasy novel Shadow and Flame (March, 2016 Orbit Books) which is the fourth and final book in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. Shadowed Path, an anthology of Jonmarc Vahanian short stories set in the world of The Summoner, debuts from Solaris books in June, 2016.

Other books include The Jake Desmet Adventures a new Steampunk series (Solaris Books) co-authored with Larry N. Martin as well as Ice Forged, Reign of Ash and War of Shadows in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven, Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn, The Dread) from Orbit Books and the urban fantasy novel Deadly Curiosities from Solaris Books.

Gail writes four series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, The Deadly Curiosities Adventures, The King’s Convicts series, and together with Larry N. Martin, The Storm and Fury Adventures. Her work has appeared in over 20 US/UK anthologies. Newest anthologies include: The Big Bad 2, Athena’s Daughters, Realms of Imagination, Heroes, With Great Power, and (co-authored with Larry N. Martin) Space, Contact Light, The Weird Wild West, The Side of Good/The Side of Evil, Alien Artifacts, Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens.

My Love Affair with Sherlock Holmes, or How I Became a Sapiosexual

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CLICK HERE to be sure and visit the other participants in the Tour!

As is pretty obvious from my blog, I’ve written a lot of romance in my day.  Of course anyone who knows me personally thinks that my romantic endeavors is pretty funny.  I’m the girl who prefers gory horror movies to RomComs.  My husband and I express our love usually through a series of expletives.  So the fact that I’m a closet romantic is a source of much jocularity for my family and friends.  Of course, the one thing I have in my corner that makes my romances unique is my love of super geniuses. No, I’m not being affected by a full moon.  Yes folks.  My name is Alexandra and I am a sapiosexual.

A sapiosexual is defined as a person who is sexually aroused by intelligence.  A lot of women are obsessed with meatheads that have rock hard abs and powerful thighs.  Not that those things aren’t nice, but I do love a man who can read.  And if he has a really big….. vocabulary then so much the better.

Which brings me to Sherlock Holmes.  Now, Sherlock would scold us all soundly for being affected by the moon OR sexuality.  However, my new release this month ISN’T a romance. I’m not actually the author.  I’m the editor of a new book of paranormal Sherlock Holmes stories called “An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.”  The reason why I was so excited to do this project was because I’ve been in love with Sherlock Holmes since I was ten and saw Nicholas Rowe in the Spielberg movie “Young Sherlock Holmes.” And what’s not to love?  He’s super-intelligent, funny, irreverent, and physically adept. It’s also one of the only portrayals of Holmes that contains a plausible romantic storyline that also explains why there hasn’t ever been a romantic storyline.  I think that part of the reason for the popularity of Sherlock Holmes these days (other than the inexplicable beauty that is Benedict Cumberbatch) is that intelligence is a rare commodity at the moment. At least it seems that way given the barrage of reality TV, Kardashian updates, and freakshow television we’re assaulted with on a daily basis.  Sherlock is a breath of fresh air in a world that stinks of stupidity.  Our anthology seeks to highlight Holmes’s genius while at the same time calling him out on the fact that sometimes– shit happens and there’s no viable explanation.  And I think my authors accomplish that goal quite effectively.


If you love Holmes or are a sapiosexual– check out the teaser below:

Click me to PREORDER NOW!!

Click me to PREORDER NOW!!

In An Improbable Truth:  The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 14 authors of horror and mystery have come together to create a unique anthology that sets Holmes on some of his most terrifying adventures.  A pair of sisters willing to sacrifice young girls to an ancient demon for a taste of success, a sinister device that can manipulate time itself, and a madman that can raise corpses from the dead are just a few among the grisly tales that can be found within these pages. 

You can also hit up the “An Improbable Truth” tab for excerpts!


Be sure to visit the other ladies on the Full Moon Blog Tour!

Now, down to brass tacks.  The ladies over at Broad Universe are hosting a little contest where you can win books, swag, and all manner of goodies.  All you have to do is click the Rafflecopter widget below to enter! Winners will be chosen on NOVEMBER 10, 2015.

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