The Psych Writer on Major Depressive Disorder, Part Two – Treatment Resistant Depression

Welcome to part two of my series on Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). If you’re looking for the introduction to what MDD is all about, you can find that here.

Last week in part one, I wrote about writing a character with MDD, after detailing the symptoms for the disorder (link in the first paragraph). This week, I’m going to discuss Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD), which I still like to pronounce as ‘turd,” because it really is a turd. When you’re writing a character and would like them to have TRD, it’s important to understand what it is.

So rather than go on with a laundry list of how your character may be written, I’ll go through what TRD is and how it is treated. Then you can decide how your character will fit into it or not. Remember, you’re writing your character as a human being, so it’s okay if they deviate a bit. Humans are not their disorder, so neither are your characters.

TRD is defined as MDD that has not responded to a minimum of two antidepressants. Although some literature says only one, in most professional settings, two antidepressants are tried before determining whether  the depression is treatment resistant.

The difficulty lies in determining the threshold for TRD. There is complete remission and partial remission in symptoms, and there is also reduction in severity of depression. So determining what’s enough for the patient is what determines whether depression is treatment-resistant or not. Personally, I prefer elimination of symptoms, and if any are left, then that’s not good enough, so it’s time to try something else or add something to the treatment. But some people are okay with partial remission. It’s sometimes enough to have some relief over no relief, so best practice is to support the patient’s decision if they have good decision making skills.

When a person has TRD, there are things that they can try to get help. Usually treating TRD begins with an increase of dosage or switching medications. If that doesn’t help, then an add-on is usually used. For example, if the SSRI isn’t working, a combination of an SSRI and an NRI may be used.

Sometimes playing around with medications doesn’t help, though, and sometimes it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. But if it doesn’t work and the patient isn’t already in counseling, they can try a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Other treatment avenues are Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), and Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Most people cringe when they hear “ECT,” but that’s because they associate it with what they’ve seen in the movies and in old videos when the treatment was actually horrible. Now, the patient is given a sedative and most sleep through it. I’ve watched it done (on video rather than in vivo) and the experience was underwhelming. Of course, there are risks with ECT, including short-term memory loss, but for some patients it beats the hell out of MDD/TRD.

Now, finally, the numbers. This is something you may want to consider when creating a character. Around 10% to 30% of people have TRD, and that number varies on the spectrum of TRD (whether it’s full or partial remission, reduction in severity, etc.). So when you’re creating this character and you want to give them TRD, consider Special Snowflake Syndrome (SSS).While it’s recently been co-opted as a political inflammatory term, I refuse to use it in that manner. SSS means that your character has become a little too precious. If you give them TRD, make sure that they don’t come out corny and cliched, and actually make their suffering real rather than something they manage to brush off whenever it’s inconvenient to your plot.

If you came here looking for help with depression, please seek the help of a licensed professional in your area. Depression is a horrible, soul-sucking disorder that takes your life piece-by-piece. Don’t let it take control over you. Call for help. It’s out there.


There is little more horrific than what lies in our own imaginations. If you love reading about nightmare worlds and strange happenings, check out my author page. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Goodbye to a Companion Animal | The Macabre Author

I had gone on a short break after learning that my pup was terminally ill in Hiatus for a Companion Animal | The Macabre Author.

I am officially back and am going to stay back. Today, my sweet pup died suddenly (either a blood clot to the brain or heart). We are bereaved.

When I first found out that Tish was terminally ill, I sat down and wrote her obituary. She actually sat in my lap when I wrote it. I like to imagine that secretly, she could read and enjoyed reading it.

I wrote it using a “fill in the blanks” style so that it could be modified with ease when the time came. I have reprinted it below.

21st pic tish

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Chihuahua, Morticia Luanne Hogue-Boucher Strong on Saturday, March 11, 2017. She was a beloved member of our family, and died suddenly of an ischemic attack or myocardial infarction. She experienced no pain and did not cry. She died instantly. This was after a period of home hospice care for five Months. She was 14 years old. Her last meal was a wonderful breakfast of chicken meatballs and cat kibble, which she enjoyed a great deal.

She was born in Tampa, Florida on December 20, 2002 and was brought to her adoptive home on February 14, 2003. It is said that companion animals choose their humans, and this saying rings true for Morticia. She quietly sat in her cage while her sister ran circles around her. Anne put her hand in the cage and her litter-mate ran right by. Morticia, however, put her paw in the center of Anne’s hand. The connection went straight to her heart. She was instantly family.

In the car ride home, Tish cried a little at first, but when her parents talked to her and assured her it was safe, she settled right down and began a long love affair with car rides (though sometimes she got carsick on sharp turns).

Her first act in her new household was to greet the cats, Nikita, Pishnook, and Sappawee (all belated now), who all believed she was a large rat. However, a piercing bark and chase convinced the cats otherwise. Instead of viewing her as prey, they knew she was something special. They soon became good friends, and cuddle buddies.

Morticia led a fast-paced, active puppyhood marked by pranks that earned her the title of “Little Clown Dog,” such as putting kibble in Mami’s shoes, and drinking decaffeinated coffee when her mother’s back was turned (which only happened once and thank goodness she was okay).

She was a performer of great tricks, such as the barrel roll, dancing in a circle on her hind legs, high and low fives, and even being able to find the treat in the hand. She enjoyed overpowering a pit bull named Elvis who became her play buddy and platonic boyfriend, and hanging out with the belated Babe Jerkins, a well-loved Great Dane. She was also buddies with the late Lukah Juge-Jerkins, and she taught him to bark for fun, and possibly profit.

Her favorite pastimes were short walks, long car rides, and visiting her Nanda (the late Helene Van Amerongen) and her Abuelos (Dean and Diane Cadoret). Above all, her favorite foods included P-Nuttier biscuits, Cowboy Cookout for dogs, and a special dog food made with Kobe beef, which she ate during her final days to ensure maximum canine happiness. She also loved Milo’s Kitchen chicken meatballs.

When her parents moved to Atlanta, Georgia, she adapted quickly, enjoying her new environment and welcoming three new cat siblings into the family. Though she didn’t get along with Jeff (he is too big and used to try to grab her food), Abbey and Charlie were her steadfast friends. Jeff and Tish kept the peace by occasionally sniffing each other and engaging in non-violent communication. Sadly, Tish eventually had to say goodbye to Sappawee and then Nikita. She ensured to cuddle and care for them in their final days.

Morticia’s life was often about food, but without the pretense of gourmet demands. Her favorite fast-food place was Sonic, especially their tater tots. Yet she managed to keep a trim figure for the most part, shedding weight with ease and the help of her parents.

During her clownish performances, she also trained for Chihuahua races but never engaged in them. She enjoyed zooming around the house at top speed to “Ready! Set! Go!” and reveled in the applause. She enjoyed singing Christmas carols with her family, howling along and making everyone laugh. She assumed all laughter was because she was the entertaining clown of the evening—and to her parents, this is so.

There is so much more to be said about the happiness and joy this little canine brought into her parents’ lives and to all the people she met—it could fill a book. Suffice it to say she was an ideal little dog in a big, imperfect world.

She is survived by her adopted parents and siblings who will miss her more than she’ll ever know.

Morticia, you brought so much joy and happiness into our lives at a time we didn’t expect. We didn’t know if we would be good parents to a tiny dog, but your little paws left big prints all over our hearts. You are the Official Best Dog and we just hope that we were able to help ease you into the transition where all roads meet. We hope that road is paved with yummy dog treats and all-you-can-chase butterflies. May you be free of pain, and free of fear. We hope it is warm and sunny where you are now.

We love you. Goodbye.

The Psych Writer on Major Depressive Disorder, Part One

Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for medical advice and is for educational purposes only. If you read this and any of the below sounds like you, seek the help of a licensed professional in your area.

Depression is a big topic. There are different types of depressive disorders, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which affects about 6.7% of the US population. That’s around 15 million adults.

Last week, we reviewed an introduction to MDD, and I still didn’t even get into all of it. So I’ll do that here, briefly. Because of the many sufferers of MDD, there get to be a whole slew of levels of severity and specifiers. While you’re writing about these characters who have these disorders, don’t forget they are a person and they are not their pathology.

Nothing is worse than a character whose only interesting thing about them is their disorder. Remember Forgetful Jones from Sesame Street? Even he had more than one dimension. He was a cowboy. So if a cowboy Muppet with amnestic disorder can be more than just a one-dimensional character, Depressive Jones can, too.

When you decide to write from a place where your character has MDD, decide what type they have. This can be mild, moderate, or severe. They can have psychotic features (delusions, hallucinations, etc.). They can have partial or full remission as well. (Partial remission is having some of the symptoms but not meeting the full criteria for MDD for a period of less than two months. Full remission is an absence of symptoms for more than two months.)

MDD also can come with certain specifiers, such as with anxious distress or with catatonia, but there are too many specifiers to go into without scaring you away from the subject forever. I could likely write a book on each of the specifiers. So, in the interest of time and space constraints (which I will now call space-time constraints to either irritate or amuse mathematicians and physicists), I won’t list them all here. You may wish to skip over certain specifiers, but with psychotic features you can often cross it over with supernatural fiction. This should be handled carefully, though, because otherwise you risk it becoming a trope.

Another important thing to remember is that MDD distorts a person’s perceptions. I used to tell patients that their brains were trolling them. This troll brain is part of the illness. It is best expressed through Beck’s cognitive triad. The person with depression has a negative view of themselves, of the future, and of the world. They often don’t believe they’ll ever get better, this is the way it is, and that there is no one or nothing that can help them. This triad does not necessarily apply to all people with depression all of the time, but there tends to be more leaning towards negative and pessimism during the course of a depressive episode.

When writing from a therapist’s point of view, your character would see the person as ill. They would note things such as poor attention to personal hygiene, being tearful, and a depressed affect (they look “sad” or “down”). It’s an ethical therapist’s job to help a patient process their thoughts and reframe things that happen to them–to teach them how to rethink things. They also do things such as medication education and other interventions. Treatment often consists of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

An unethical therapist would do things such as foster dependency, and interventions that keep the patient depressed and vulnerable to manipulate them into doing things the patient would not normally do. People with depression can be quite vulnerable, and so open to suggestion in order to find relief, a therapist without ethics could possibly ruin the patient’s life further.

I’m not sure if it’s as interesting to write about a therapist treating someone with depression as it is to write about someone who has depression, but even then, it’s important to give your characters full dimensions.

No matter what, though, write your character as a person first, and their condition second. Otherwise, you risk making a flat character that’s nothing more than a stereotype.

If you came here looking for help with depression, please seek the help of a licensed professional in your area. Depression is a horrible, soul-sucking disorder that takes your life piece-by-piece. Don’t let it take control over you. Call for help. It’s out there.


There is little more horrific than what lies in our own imaginations. If you love reading about nightmare worlds and strange happenings, check out my author page. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

The Psych Writer: Introducing Depression

This is part of a series of The Psych Writer. I tend to write about pretty heavy topics because they’re mainly about mental illness, and though there are many things we can laugh and joke about to alleviate pain, these topics can be painful for some. So I ask you to stay with me and be tough. Put on your writer’s cap and use one of my favorite defense mechanisms–intellectualize with me.

And now, for a disclaimer: None of this is a substitute for professional medical advice. This is for the sole purpose of writing a character with realistic tones. Of course, there’s always poetic license. If you have Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), note your individual experience may vary. If you see yourself in anything I’m describing, consult with a licensed clinician in your area for help.

This is only an introduction. MDD is a complex mood disorder with several possible complications and offshoots, so in order to keep your eyes from falling out of your head (disclaimer: not responsible for deleterious effects), I am going to have to break it up into parts other than this introduction.

So for now, let’s just get to know what MDD is all about. MDD has a lengthy symptom list. The DSM-5 lists MDD as a mood disorder. I’m going to attempt to put it all into plain English here for you, using the copy I have at home.

Here are the criteria for diagnosing Major Depressive disorder:

  • The symptoms must be present daily or nearly every day for a minimum of two weeks before a diagnosis can be made. That means it’s persistent and pervasive.
  • The symptoms must be a change from how the person functioned previously.
  • Five or more of the symptoms must be present during that two-week minimum period. On top of that, the person must have either a depressed mood (feelings of emptiness, sadness, irritability) or loss of interest and pleasure (aka anhedonia). They can have both, but at least one of these must be consistently present.
  • You’re not allowed to include symptoms that can belong to other medical conditions. In other words, they want you to make sure it’s not something else before treatment. Other physical conditions to rule out include:
    • Central nervous system diseases (e.g., Parkinson disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, neoplastic lesions)
    • Endocrine disorders (e.g., hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism)
    • Drug-related conditions (e.g., cocaine abuse, side effects of some CNS depressants)
    • Infectious disease (e.g., mononucleosis)
    • Sleep-related disorders
    • Adjustment Disorders
    • Anemia
    • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
    • Dissociative Disorders
    • Hypochondriasis
    • Hypoglycemia
    • Hypopituitarism (Panhypopituitarism)

    Other psychological conditions to rule out include:

    • Dysthymia
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Anxiety Disorders (e.g, PTSD, OCD, GAD)
    • Eating Disorders
    • Personality Disorders
    • Schizoaffective Disorder
    • Schizophrenia
    • Somatic Symptom Disorders

      ET CETERA

Okay, so now, the clinician gets into the symptoms. Symptoms of MDD (remember, there is a minimum of five with depressed mood and/or anhedonia being one of them) include:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks. The person can report this themselves (“I feel sad,” “I feel empty,” or “I feel hopeless), or it can be observed by others (“Patient appears tearful.”). For kids and teenagers, there is often a sharp increase in irritability, although irritability is sometimes seen in adults with depression, too. It’s just more often seen in the young ones.
  • Noticeably losing interest and/or pleasure in all or almost all activities that the person enjoyed before. This can be self-reported or by observation from someone else.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain–within one month, losing or gaining more than 5% of the person’s starting weight–or, an increase or decrease in appetite nearly every day (e.g., the person who used to eat their three square can barely choke down a bowl of pudding every day, or a person who used to eat lightly now eats constantly. In kids, this will be seen as failure to make their expected weight gain.
  • Not sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia) almost every day.
  • Moving around too much (fidgeting) or not moving around enough (lethargy) nearly every day. This criterion is known as psychomotor agitation or psychomotor retardation. It also cannot be self-report alone–this must be observable by others.
  • Lack of energy nearly every day (fatigue). Can be self-reported or observed.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty inappropriately, sometimes to the point of being delusional. This isn’t just basic self-reproach or feeling guilt about an illness. It’s a magnified feeling.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions nearly every day. This can be self-reported or observed.
  • Thoughts of death repeatedly–not just fear of death, suicidal thoughts without a plan, with a plan, or an attempt to commit suicide. This also includes repeated suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

And finally, the criteria for these symptoms has to fit as below:

  • The symptoms cause significant distress or inability to function in social situations, on the job, or anywhere a person needs to function.
  • The episode isn’t because of any of the conditions listed previously or because of drugs.
  • The depression isn’t better explained by another psychological condition as listed above.
  • The depression didn’t come with any mania or hypomania. Clinicians can’t count this exclusion if the mania/hypomania is due to a drug/substance or because of a medical condition.

Did you think that MDD was easy to diagnose? As you can see from above, it’s not always clear-cut. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to symptoms.

Keep all this in mind as we venture into the depths of writing MDD, and again, if you need help, contact a licensed clinician in your area for help.


I am a former supervised therapist with experience in the mental health field since I began graduate schooling in 2003. Now, I write about the things in my head.

Non-Fiction Review: How to Pronounce Drug Names by Tony Guerra, PharmD

One of my promises is not to constantly “sell” you my books on my blog. I like to spotlight other authors, and I have a few queued up to tell you all about, but I like to be about variety. So this week, I bring you non-fiction.

Anyone who knows me understands my love for medicine. I have a passion for science. This week, I’m going to tell you all about my nerdy and strange fascination with pharmaceuticals. Go ahead, laugh. Tell me I’m crazy. I’ve heard it all before. I’m probably accused of being a shill for Big Pharma. If this shill thing is real, though, someone please tell me how to become one! I could use the money. (Pfizer? Merck? Novartis? Anyone?)

No takers? Damn.

Well, back to my fascination, then.

I think it all started when I was a young woman and a pharmacist saved my life. It wasn’t anything terribly dramatic, but it could have been. The pharmacist caught a potential life-threatening drug interaction, told me to wait, and then called my doctor. He got an answer right away (because that was one hell of an organized office), and found me an alternative drug to take. When I asked him what that was all about, he stopped everything he was doing and showed me exactly what happens chemically between the drug I was currently taking and the Rx I needed, and explained that I could have had sudden cardiac arrest.

He treated me like a peer, did not speak down to me, and made sure I understood to not ever take that one med while I was on the other one. Sadly, I don’t recall his name, but I know he saved my life.

Fast-forward about 20 years, and here I am, fascinated by chemistry, biochem, and human biology. People tell me I should go to med school or become a pharmacist, but I prefer to write.

One day I was searching on how to properly pronounce “metoprolol” because I had heard it two ways. Well, I like to pronounce things correctly, so I looked at google, and that’s when I found the coolest pharmacist ever.

His YouTube channel is Tony PharmD, and he is a teacher. He teaches Pharmacy Technicians, and I like to imagine all of his Pharm Techs graduate at the top of their classes. Because his videos are informative and they keep one’s attention, I can only think that his classes must actually be a lot of fun.

So I subscribed right away to his channel and I have not been disappointed.

Recently, Dr. Guerra (he has his doctorate in Pharmacology) posted about some books he’d written. Of course, now I’m drooling. Books? Books that can teach me? I love learning. There are two: Memorizing Pharmacology, and How to Pronounce Drug Names. If you are a student of pharmacy, whether you’re a tech or going for your doctorate, get them both. They will help you, especially if you struggle with chemistry.

Tony was kind enough to let me have a code for a copy of How to Pronounce Drug Names. I have finally made it all the way through the six-hour audio-book, and I have to say, it’s tempting me a great deal to go to school to become a pharmacist. I’m looking forward to listening to Memorizing Pharmacology–that one is seven hours and sixteen minutes long, so I’ll have to devote my evenings to that one soon when I’m not editing.

For any student who has English as a second language, has difficulties with pronunciation, and/or who struggles with chemistry, I believe they will find How to Pronounce Drug Names helpful in their studies. If you aren’t a student and just a nerd like me who likes to pronounce things correctly (it’s “lore-at-a-deen,” not “lore-at-a-dine”), you’ll enjoy it, too.

I especially enjoyed Tony’s choice of Ann M. Richardson as a narrator. Her voice is as smooth as silk. I thought she was a computer, at first. She keeps your attention with succinct pronunciation, although the anecdotes don’t carry much emotion. You have to watch Tony’s videos first and then listen to How to Pronounce Drug Names second to get a feel for the anecdotes in the introduction. But overall, that’s a minor shortcoming to Richardson’s reading, because it’s an educational piece and it’s more important to focus on learning than pure entertainment.

This is an excellent supplement to learning, but it can be useful for anyone. One copy is only $19.95, too, so it’s not even expensive, either–you get 6+ hours of learning out of it, and that’s worth the price.

Happy reading, or in this case, happy listening!


There will be more reviews to come, and a return of The Psych Writer is soon. In the meantime, follow Anne on Twitter and Facebook. It’s always a learning experience.

On Writing Reviews – The Dude

Have any of you read Food with the Dude? Well, it’s not your average food critic site, where someone who’s all stuck up their own ass gives a review/critique of the service in relation to their own personal snobbery.

If you want to become a reviewer and food critic, I think you need to follow The Dude. His unique approach is fair and covers multifaceted aspects of a restaurant, including accessibility, sanitation, food quality, and service. What I like most about it is that he keeps it fair.

Take a look at one of the more negative reviews about a restaurant that couldn’t quite get his mother’s steak right. Now, some of these food snobs who call themselves “foodies” because they’re too afraid of the word gourmand and couldn’t spell it if they tried could really afford to take a lesson from The Dude. He uses tact and thoughtfulness to express why service was not up to par, or why the food wasn’t as tasty as it could have been. Blame isn’t assessed, it’s analyzed.

The Dude keeps a rule of “Be Nice, Be Respectful,” and it works. When I read his reviews, I feel like I know exactly what to expect when I visit the restaurant he’s reviewing. He follows ethical critique which is a refreshing break from the bombastic style of “food critics” who just want to be crabby, snobbish bitches.

I suppose I could take a lesson from The Dude, myself, as I’m a bit crabby. But in all seriousness, I enjoy reading his reviews and am looking forward to a road trip to try out some of these places. If The Dude ever comes to Atlanta, I’ll be pleased as a pig at the trough.

This review style is the kind of succinct, straightforward writing I enjoy seeing in a review. He cuts out the nonsense and presents you with the real experience.

It’s a great example if you’re looking for inspiration on how to write your own reviews.

Nicely done, Dude.


I like to write about writing, and I do a little writing, myself. If you’re looking for something to read that’s a fun scare and enjoy Lovecraftian nightmares, check out my author page on Amazon. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Written From A Dream

I have Nightmare Disorder (along with Night Terrors which is not so much fun), and a lot of my dreams and nightmares make it onto the page in some shape or form. If you’ve read Now Entering Silver Hollow, you’ve met a creepy character by the name of Undaga (OON-dah-gah). Undaga came springing right out of my nightmares to where I remembered him vividly three months later.

Another character from my dreams is a woman named Kathryn Cross. She has many purposes and has been alive in my mind since I was about sixteen years old. So she has been a lot of things–in RP, in fan fiction, and in original fiction.

Awhile back I had a dream about her (she is British, or in the Silver Hollow world, Albionian), and in this dream, the UK was still intact. But I was so moved by the melancholy nature of this dream, I thought it would be fun to share it. Perhaps, if you enjoy reading it, I’ll do a series of short fictions with this story. Perhaps it will develop supernatural elements. This doesn’t take place in Silver Hollow’s world, though. Kit has a gift of traveling into other dimensions. She’s in Now Entering Silver Hollow, in fact. You’ll see her more in the sequel, too.

Enjoy. (I used UK spelling, so if it looks unusual to you, that’s why.)


“Is there a spot here where we could be assured we won’t be overheard?” Kit sat forward in the round-back chair. The plush office reminded Kit of her days in the Headmaster’s office at boarding school. The mahogany-panelled walls, the thick burgundy carpeting, and the scent of old books and fresh ink transported her back to a time when Headmaster Herrick, the short balding blond man, was telling her that if she didn’t bend over that desk, he would ensure she was sent out on disciplinary action.

Her call to Father rather helped with that bridge troll.

Now, though, here she was, clearly not being invited to bend over the desk—he wouldn’t dare and likely didn’t have the inclination—sitting in the best school in the UK for boys, being told that her son, Thomas, was close to being expelled. ‘Non-compliance with the boys’ internship programme,’ he’d said.

Her stomach churned. Headmaster Winter, a man in his sixties, was as glacial as she appeared to be. He surprised her by leaning forward and giving her a small smile, his chair creaking softly against the quiet hum of office equipment and the ticking of the grandfather clock that had likely been there since the 1700s.

“Indeed. Please, walk with me, Your Ladyship.” He stood up and motioned to the door.

Kit held up her hand as she rose, smoothing out her skirt with the other. Her hand was almost the same cream-colour of the suit she wore, but her knuckles were white from having clenched her fist. “Please, Headmaster, call me ‘Doctor.’ That title I earned, and I prefer it to the one I inherited.”

Headmaster Winter opened the large mahogany door and allowed her through first. “Yes, of course, Doctor Cross.”

The secretary kept sneaking glances at Kit until she caught the doctor’s eye, where Kit glared at her until the assistant shrank—a delicate flower in the hot sun, or mould creeping away at the dry heat coming from her eyes. The last thing that Kit needed was this little personal assistant running to the press to chit-chat about all the internal crises the family was facing.

Headmaster Winter led her up three flights of stairs to the building’s rooftop. Ornate gargoyles and intricate mason work stared back at her, matching the grey skies above and the grave faces upon it. A chill, unrelated to the weather, settled over her. She would be able to speak freely, and she wasn’t so sure she wanted to, now.

A stretch of silence ticked out between them. Kit gave the Headmaster a stern look.

“Should any of this leak to the press, Headmaster, I will know it was you, and I will do everything in my power to ruin you. Despite what you’ve heard in terms of scandals since my husband’s death, I am well-connected and can assure you that I’ll make your life more miserable than mine. Are we clear on that point?”

Winter nodded, face pulled into a deep frown. “Doctor Cross, I’ve kept the confidences of many and will take their secrets to my grave. During the war, I was tortured and still not revealed a word of what I know. Rest assured there is nothing you can say that will shock me, frighten me, or otherwise cause me to reveal anything to anyone about what you’ve said to me today—and I do believe that you could ruin what has been my spotless career. I cannot assure you any greater than that. My greatest concern is for your boys—Thomas, Damien, and Klarion, and my only wish is to help them.”

A hint of relief washed over Kit’s body, mixed with its usual cynicism. Could this man truly be an advocate for her children? Could she really trust him with the internal family scandals?

Only one way to find out.

She’d start with the things the public already knew.

“When Malcolm was murdered, the public vilified him, calling the investigation a waste of the taxpayers resources. Though I tried to shield my children from the press, they became increasingly rabid—and hearing their father was ‘not worth the money for the investigation’ was devastating to them. The Press—mad dogs, the lot. They began badgering my two eldest daughters with intimate questions, getting worse by the day. I didn’t realise that Malcolm had been such an impressive shield for the children. Phillip—their uncle—intervened as well, and the two of us were able to stop the harassment, but by then, the damage was done.”

Kit took in a shaky breath and looked over at Winter, who gave her a nod. He said nothing, prompting her to continue.

“Alice began to take drugs to cope with the loss of her father and the terrible things the press had bombarded her with day after day. I had to bring her to the U.S. for rehab at Betty Ford.” She would not allow tears to fall. Instead, she detached from the emotion. The tears could come later. “Hermione began to fail classes. She lost her concentration, her focus. She’s sullen and rude, though she’s picked up her grades, she simply isn’t the same. Kate is vicious to the girls at school. She gets in fights. And now you tell me that Thomas is not attending his internship. Klarion and Damien are barely holding it together … and I’m alone.”

Phillip was back in the U.S. so he could keep an eye on Alice as well as run the corporation’s new base in NYC. He frequently came home to check on the family, but he was of little help with his cool demeanour and seemingly uncaring reception of his little sister’s problems. Not that she burdened him with them. These days, they were the patch-up duo. They kept the scandals out of the papers as best they could, and ignored the press as often as possible.

“I have staff. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not alone in the sense that I have and entire team of people to assist me and the children, but I am alone in my misery. I took Malcolm for granted. I didn’t think I did, but now I realise it’s so.” She paced to the edge of the roof and looked down. For a fleeting moment, she wondered how quickly they’d clean up her body.

Kit turned away from the ledge and back to Winter, her shoe making a crackling echo on the concrete of the roof. “The bottom line is this: I will do whatever it takes to keep Thomas in school and improving. Clearly without his father he’s asea, and I can’t reach him. So I’m turning to you, to air the dirty laundry of my family so that you’ll be able to understand where he is right now, and help him.”

Winter took a step closer to Kit and put a finger over his lips for a moment, in contemplation. “I believe I can help the boys, Doctor Cross, not to worry.”

She feigned relief in her expression and thanked the Headmaster, but inside, she was more worried than ever. Her family was slipping away from her, spiralling downward into an abyss, and she couldn’t save them.

End of Part I.

From My Quora Blog: The Existential Crisis First-Aid Kit™

This post first appeared on my Quora Blog, where I write about things unrelated to writing. I hope you will enjoy it. Of course, I also hope you’ll keep reading because I’ll be back soon with more installments of The Psych Writer.

Also, for those who asked–my dog is still alive. She is doing well and the terminal illness is still there, but we are enjoying all the time we have left with her. Thank you for asking.

Okay, so I get a lot of questions about the fear of death, so I’m making a corral where you can read all about it if you’re having an existential crisis. I think it’s important to know that you’re not alone.

These five links are proof you’re not alone:

Anne L. Hogue-Boucher’s answer to I am 21 years old and i started to get panic fear of death, what is the problem? Should i go to psychologist ?

Anne L. Hogue-Boucher’s answer to How can I help someone who’s afraid of dying and who’s obsessed by the idea of disappearing?

Anne L. Hogue-Boucher’s answer to I have this extreme fear of death. I have heard many answers, but none of them could convince me. What do I do?

Anne L. Hogue-Boucher’s answer to If I always have constant fear of death, should I seek a Psychologist?

Anne L. Hogue-Boucher’s answer to How do I get over fear, emptiness and other negative emotions?

I think if you go through each one and read them completely, you’ll see common threads such as a fear of isolation, the unknown, and feeling trapped. You’ll also see that it’s a fairly common fear to have.

Use these tools in each of the links to help you overcome your existential crisis. If that doesn’t work, seek the help of a licensed therapist in your area who is trained in this particular field.

All materials included in this post are intended for informational purposes only. This post/information is not intended to and should not be used to replace medical or psychiatric advice offered by physicians or other health care providers. The author will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages arising therefrom.

If you’d like to read about two people with the ultimate existential crisis, pick up a copy of Exit 1042. Or, if you’d like to scare yourself into being glad you’re alive, grab a copy of Now Entering Silver Hollow.

Hiatus for a Companion Animal

hiatus, noun: pause, interruption

via Thesaurus.com.

Indeed, I am on a hiatus for the moment as I attempt to get myself together after a long previous month of NaNoWriMo and having to say goodbye to my beloved dog, Morticia, who has terminal cancer that we’re watching carefully. Please bear with me, and I will return soon. Possibly even next week. It’s all going to depend on what’s going on with our sweet Morticia, who is still with us at the time of this writing.

Breaks are necessary for good mental health. I hope you are all doing well and taking the necessary pauses you need to be well, too.

In the meantime, why not browse my about page to keep you entertained?

The Writer’s World v. The Real World or: Suspension of Disbelief

I read a lot of fun and funny articles written by virologists, engineers, physicians, firearms instructors, and others in STEM careers who like to educate on real science versus what you see in the movies. I enjoy those articles because they’re useful and they teach valuable lessons to the masses about the wonderful world we all live in at the moment.

But does that mean writers are stupid? That we don’t get it?

Well, maybe.

I can’t say that I have a PhD in anything. I know psychology up and down and can work with writing mental disorders from both sides of the couch. I do that in The Psych Writer series quite often (and that’s something I’ll be writing about again soon, I promise). But when it comes to firearms, virology and immunology, physics, chemistry, veterinary studies, pharmacy, or any trade requiring an expert, I don’t know squat.

So I do research, and I learn. But sometimes what’s real and what’s proper just isn’t going to fit my story. I might need something to explode when my character shoots it and you’ll never know if she used regular shot or whatever. I might need someone to catch a bullet mid-air and be relatively unscathed from the experience. Those things aren’t real. They’re not going to happen. That’s probably a good thing.

Also there are not giant tentacle inter-dimensional monsters the last time I checked, nor is the country I live in divided into Territories rather than States. Also in my world women were recognized for their scientific achievements early on, and white people didn’t dominate the planet with colonialism.

The writer’s world is not often our same (or sane) world. For me, I purposefully divorced the Silver Hollow world from this real one so that you’d know you weren’t in Kansas anymore. Or wherever the hell you are while you read this. You get the point.

Sometimes writers just have to make it up as we go along, too. I’m currently writing a story that takes place in my world in 1902. Paper cups weren’t invented in our world until 1907. But guess what? My main character is using paper cups. That’s not a goof. I write things this way on purpose. I have to sit down and ask myself what the world would be like in a place where germ theory was accepted earlier because “sin” wasn’t a concept. I have to wonder about a world where money is king rather than the false construct of race. I need to think about how ways my world differs from my real one.

So if you read something that isn’t accurate, seems strange, or is otherwise wrong in this world, please, consider that it was likely done with a purpose. As a wonderful scientist friend of mine (and cracking good writer, by the way) said: “As a scientist, I am fine with this. I don’t want to read a technical bulletin. I do enough of that 9-5. I want to escape.”

As a writer, I’m happy to provide readers with an escape.


I like to write often about things that hopefully couldn’t ever happen in our world. If you’d like to point out how inaccurate my writing is (because it is, most likely), you can do it on my Facebook or Twitter page. I might just refer you back here, though.