Category Archives: General

Tunnels: A #HoldOnToTheLight Post


I’ve debated about what I planned to write for this post for weeks. And the irony? It’s been a bit of a rough summer and some of the things I want to talk about are the very things that have made it difficult to do so.

As my website says, I am a doctor by day and a novelist by night. My evening vocation is what qualifies me to be part of this collection of 100 writers who are reaching out to people who are going through tough times and showing them they are not alone, but as I write this, I will attempt to wear both my hats at once, as I’ve taken care of people having trouble and have been one of those people at different times in my life.

Many of the posts have been about major depression, anxiety, suicide, PTSD. I want to talk about grief and adjustment disorder. Both conditions mimic a lot of the signs and symptoms of major depression and, in fact, adjustment disorder is also known as exogenous, reactive, or situational depression. Both grief and adjustment disorder represent symptoms in relation to a particular stressor. In grief it’s often the loss of a family member or loved one, but we can also grieve relationships, jobs, and financial setbacks. Both of these are considered temporary and definitely related to the preceding stressor.

In my time, I’ve experienced both.

Just like with depression, people who are grieving or going through an adjustment reaction can experience very real, very debilitating symptoms: overwhelming sadness, loss of hope, anhedonia (loss of enjoyment of normal activities), crying spells, nervousness, anxiety, worry, desperation, difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, poor concentration, reckless driving, putting off important tasks like bills or chores, avoiding family or friends, poor performance at school or work, and even suicidal ideation and beyond.

The diagnosis of major depressive disorder requires that these symptoms be present for several months without relenting. Does that mean the person who is grieving or the person experiencing adjustment reaction/disorder aren’t going through something very real or serious? Absolutely not.

As I wrote my first draft of this post, it was 1 a.m. on a Friday night, a night where I didn’t get to sleep till a little after 4:30 a.m. Sure, I’d had a bit too much caffeine in a 24-hour period, but that wasn’t the only issue. My brain just wouldn’t shut off. My thoughts that evening revolved around a pretty specific situation, but that doesn’t change the fact that despite being dead tired, my body just wouldn’t go to sleep. If that had been a one-night issue, it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but in a summer filled with heartbreak, identity theft X 3 (all resolved, thank God), and three surgical procedures in a row to get a particularly large kidney stone out of my left ureter (along with being put under anesthesia three times in a row for said procedures), there have been a lot of sleepless nights. Not to mention a ten pound weight loss, mostly because I haven’t felt much like eating. Also, a lot of anxiety, some focused and some not as much. Bouts of sadness, and yes, crying. Times where it seemed all hope was gone. I even got a bit behind on bills, mowing, cleaning the house, etc. which for anyone who knows me well would agree is a pretty big deal. My job as a family physician suffered, as patients require your energy, your positivity, even your love, but if you are using those things to heal yourself from a psychic wound, it’s difficult to spare any juice for anyone else. To be clear, through all of this, I never considered suicide, but I did develop a better understanding of people who just want to make the pain go away.

And while we’re talking about pain… I’ve had patients with depression, anxiety, etc. tell me about chest pain, headaches, stiff muscles, etc. For me, it’s a cold ache that starts in my shoulders and radiates down my deltoids and biceps and into my forearms. It’s a feeling of dread, of doom, and when anxiety or depressive whatever keeps me up at night, this is the tool it uses.

One of the biggest hits this summer was my writing. Over June and the first week of July, I wrote 26,000 words, an all time high for me. Basically one fourth of a book in just under 6 weeks. I was cooking with gas and was so proud.

The rest of July, August, and September? None. Nada. Zip. This thing that had brought me such joy for so many years had become another chore. Another thing I had to do. Another task I had to complete. And I just avoided it, like a lot of other things in my life, not because I wanted to, but because I simply didn’t have the energy to put into it.

And that sucked.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot better. Sleeping through the night, eating well, feeling hopeful and even happy again, enjoying work, and basically getting back to being myself. Even wrote about 2,500 words in the last week. It’s been nice to feel good again. And I knew I would. This wasn’t my first bout with feeling low.

Med school knocked the wind out of my sails off and on for the better part of two years, but I got better. Being stuck in Iraq for 11 months left its mark on me, but I feel like I’ve recovered from that as well. And this summer’s heartbreak was not my first. I’m coming out of the tunnel, and it’s good to see the sun again.

And there it is. The tunnel analogy. So many times, when my patients have been going through a tough time or a dark period in their life, I’ve told them that they are simply going through a tunnel. Tunnels may be dark while you’re in them, but there was light before you went into the tunnel and there will be light when you are out again. All one has to do while in the tunnel is hang on and know that whatever is happening to you, be it internal, external, or both, the pain is temporary and will pass.

Funny. In a way, I’ve been telling people to hold onto the light for years, and didn’t even realize it until I wrote this paragraph tonight.

And now we get to the important part. First, and MOST IMPORTANT, the tunnel thing is NOT Darin telling you that when things get bad, just pick yourself up and brush yourself off. If you are going through anything like what I’m describing, and I don’t care if you call it depression, adjustment, grieving, the blues, a bad day, or whatever, get help. If you are hurting, tell someone. Tell a family member. Tell a friend. Tell your doctor. Talk to a counselor or a clergy person or anyone who will listen. Get the help you need.

I did.

I will leave you with three thoughts.

First, tunnels have beginnings, middles, and ends. Keep driving. Second, even if you are not okay at the moment, you will be. And third, you are not alone. If you need help, get help. If you need to talk, talk. If the person won’t listen, keep talking till you find someone who will.

About the Campaign
#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, Hope 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 (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

I just ran a 5K! (Well, sort of…)


A productive day, indeed. It’s taken the better part of ten hours, but I have pounded out 5,000 words today, pretty close to a personal record. I might even be able to keep most of them, but I won’t know for sure until I hit the editing phase.

How many pages is 5,000 words? Well, with the average being about 250-300 words per page in your average paper back, that’s 16 – 20 pages. If I could write like this every day, I could complete a book a month, but the contrary nature of my muse in concert with the demands of the actual job make that a bit of a pipe dream, at least at the moment.

Suffice to say that today was a very good day, the characters and story both definitely moved forward, and I feel like I am back in the saddle. Manuscript now sits at 54,453 words and climbing!

As a quick side note, today’s plot twist comes to you all by way of Micki Knop and her insightful comment from ConCarolinas regarding “PATW”. BTW, that particular piece is Prokofiev, not Tchaikovsky, but I’m totally using it anyway – I think that actually makes it work better in the long run, as a matter of fact. Thanks, Micki!

Back at it tomorrow!


Where’s Darin?

IMG_3048Doesn’t Darin have a blog? I mean, he used to do that Mussorgsky Mondays thing, right?

Hi, everyone. I’m still here, just been busy working on the new WIP, a sequel to The Mussorgsky Riddle, which I must say is coming along a lot better than I anticipated. Funny how these books sort of write themselves sometimes.

Except they don’t, in the very real concrete way of thinking about it.

I do my best to write, blog, social media, all the things a writer is supposed to do in addition to eat, drink , sleep, work, see family, friends, girlfriend, etc. but my daily words are precious and of late, I’ve been spending most of them on the next book. Wish I could find a way to get in more blogging, facebooking, tweeting, pinteresting, tumblring, etc., but I just can’t and get this book written. Never was that great at juggling, anyway…

The writing, on the other hand, has been pretty exciting of late. Right now, it feels like it did when all the little strings (pardon the pun) from Mussorgsky started to come together as we headed for the big finale. I’m excited to sit and write these days, and it shows in the recent word count. As I near the end of this current WIP, I’m really gearing up. But this is nothing new. I always start to accelerate toward the end. Happens every time.

For instance, I started this book the day after Christmas, 26 Dec 2014, or for all intents and purposes, January.

Jan – May – 42,247 words total

Jun – 56,308 (up 9,061 words) Also, June usuallyeats me alive every year.

Jul – 69,397 (up 13,089 words)

Aug – 81,875 (up 12,478 words – and still with 14 days to go!)

I did stop and knock out two short stories along the way, the first 5K and the second 7K, which, while cool, is a bit frustrating as I’m pretty sure I’d be knocking on the door of my two favorite words (The End) right about now if I’d just kept going, but those stories were both fun and hopefully will be published someday in the not too distant future. Meanwhile, the novel was allowed to gestate/marinate/other metaphor ending in -ate during these two times away and now I’m back at it with a vengeance.

There are many reasons why I seem to be picking up speed. As always, Aug and Sep are typically when my life calms back down a bit at work, but I think the biggest reason this time is I can’t wait to see how this story ends. Truth be told, I know what’s coming–Trust me, I do–but do any of us REALLY know exactly how the story will end until we actually get there?

Flannery O’Connor said it best: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Speaking of the end, it’s nearly midnight and tomorrow is coming whether I’m ready or not, so I will sign off for now. As always happy writing, and I hope to be back around these parts sometime soon!




Launch Day for Matthew Saunders’ Daughters of Shadow & Blood – Book I: Yasamin


Today is the launch day for my friend Matthew’s debut novel, Daughters of Shadow & Blood – Book I: Yasamin. A tale of the first of Dracula’s three brides, it’s Dracula meets The DaVinci Code with some elements of Interview with the Vampire. Definitely a great read and worth checking out.

Available on Amazon (link) in paperback and ebook as well as many other places.

Find Matthew at his website, Write, Wrote, Written, on Twitter @jmattsaunders, or on Facebook.

Happy Sunday, everyone!



The First Day of May… or Why is it so hard to find time to blog?


I don’t have time to write. I don’t have time to exercise. I don’t have time to create a blog post.

I don’t have time to do whatever.

I think many of us say some permutation of this on a frequent basis, and the truth of the matter is sometimes it’s true. We all have a ton of competing things jockeying for top spot in our lives.

Relationship. Family. Children. Job. Sleep. Eating. Exercise. Writing. The list goes on and on and there are only twenty-four hours in a day.

And yet, as my friend John Hartness pointed out two nights ago, it’s also bullshit. We all have time to do exactly what it is we want to do. Simple fact.

We have to work. We all require some sleep. But for writers, we can choose whether or not to open up our word processor or put pen to paper, or as Stuart Jaffe recommends, even dictate into a recorder. Unfortunately, as I have discovered, books don’t write themselves.

The truth is we all want to write. And sleep. And see our significant other. And spend time with our kids. And. And. And.

For writers, especially those with day jobs (which is a big majority of us) I think it’s sometimes rough to find time to do all the things we are told we are supposed to do.

Put down 2,000 new words on your WIP per day. Be active on Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram / Tumblr / etc. Blog. Make appearances at conventions / bookstores / writers groups. Be available.

Life is a pie chart. For writers, our writer life is just one piece of the pie. We have to decide how much of our day/week is “writer”. Then, that pie piece gets divided as well. If we spend it all promoting, when do we write? If we spend it all writing, when do we promote? And especially when there’s no guarantee our WIP will be picked up or our social media message will be seen, sometimes I think we feel like we’re shouting into the void.

Trust me, I’d love to have my 2,000 words every day and write a novel in 2 months AND have a daily blog AND get out a significant heartfelt message every 2-3 hours to all my Tweeps and Facebook friends. But I can’t. Even with Hootsuite. 😉

So, today, I spent the morning with my girlfriend who I’ve barely seen in a week, and this weekend I’m going to go see Avengers 2 and share a meal or three with a good friend who is coming into town so we can watch the Hulk and friends beat up some robots, visit a couple friends at their various book signings, get at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night, and try to knock out some words in the space between. Just crossed 39K last night on the #WIP last night, and am about to enter a very cool fight scene!

But first, I thought I’d leave a few words here. Just where my thoughts went this morning. To my fellow writers out there, if you don’t do it all, or don’t even want to this week, that’s okay. Enjoy life. Kiss your children/wives/husbands/significant others. Get your sleep. But don’t forget to write. As they say, that’s what makes you a writer.

Officially as all over the place as I’ve ever been. Have a great Friday, all!


And now…

Avengers 2

Launch for Jordan Elizabeth’s New Book – Treasure Darkly


Looking for a little Steampunk? Then look no further! Jordan Elizabeth’s new book, Treasure Darkly is out. Beautiful cover, great story, awesome writer.

Here’s the blurb:

Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe…until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead. A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged, mining tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he.

Sixteen-year-old Amethyst Treasure loathes the idea of spending the summer away from her bustling city life to rot on her father’s ranch, but when a handsome young man shows up claiming to be her secret half-brother, her curiosity is piqued. He’s clever, street smart, and has no qualms jumping into the brawl between the Treasures and Horans. Caught in the middle, Horan kidnaps Amethyst, and all she gets is this lousy bullet through her heart.

When Clark brings her back to life, however, the real action starts, and Amethyst joins him in his fight against the Horan clan—whatever the cost. Defeating the Horans may seem easy at first, but going up against men with the same fighting vengeance as Clark, and a Senator with power he’s obtained by brainwashing the masses? Well, Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.

Check out Jordan’s new book on Amazon. Available now on Kindle and soon in Trade Paperback.


Russian Fairy Tales Brought To Life


Photo-based artist Uldus Bakhtiozina has created through photography visions from various Russian fairy tales, with one in particular that is near and dear to my heart. I came across this article last night and wanted to share it with all of you. Definitely worth a perusal. I especially liked the reporters last line, as it’s something I touched on throughout The Mussorgsky Riddle: “Uldus invites her audience to speculate on the ambiguity and dualism of each character in Russian folklore.”

Enjoy the photos! Here is a link to the original article so you can check all of these fantastic pieces of art!


BookMarks Movable Feast – 25 Jan 2015


Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of being one of the 22 featured authors at the 3rd Annual Bookmarks Movable Feast in Winston-Salem, NC. Basically “Speed Dating for Authors”, this event has authors moving from table to table filled with readers every 10 minutes so we could introduce them to our various books. There were authors from as far south as Florida and as far north as Vermont and they were a great group of folks to hang out with. I didn’t get to hear their pitches, but I’m sure it would have been a lot of fun to see what everyone else was doing.


Over the course of two hours, I had opportunity to meet with ten tables full of excited readers, two friends of mine from college, a lady who lives less than a mile from my mom and dad’s house (I’m a native Winston-Salemite), and some nice folks from the Greensboro Library system. Every presentation was a bit different, but the common denominator was that every group was so much fun and so gracious, even if paranormal thrillers weren’t necessarily their thing.


After the two hours, the readers were allowed to go to a table at the back where the author’s various books were on sale. I found several new readers at this event, and only regret I didn’t get to meet with the other half of the crowd. I did get to meet Debbie Harlee, the founder of Bookmarks, who kindly bought a copy of The Mussorgsky Riddle and plans to read before passing the book on to a friend who is a fan of the genre.


Afterward, the President of the Bookmarks Board, Charlie Lovett, himself an author, had all the authors who didn’t have to bust a move over to his house for a fantastic dinner and socializing. The man has the largest collection of Lewis Carroll / Alice in Wonderland books and paraphernalia that likely exists. We all had a great time enjoying some great soup and desserts while getting to know each other before we all had to return to the hotel, or in my case, drive back to Charlotte.

After all, today was a work day… 😉

I hope to do more with Bookmarks in the future. This was a fantastic event. If you’re reading this, maybe I’ll see you there next year!

Link to original Bookmarks Movable Feast announcement.

Link to the Winston-Salem Journal article on the event. If you watch the video, you may see someone familiar gesticulating wildly at Table 19 a little under a minute in. 😉

Link to the Bookmarks website.

Link to the Bookmarks Facebook page.

See you all at the next event!


Raising Hell – The new Novella from John G. Hartness


My good friend, John Hartness, has created many cool characters.

He’s brought Adam from Genesisto the present day in The Chosen.

He’s created a pair of geeky vampires in The Black Knight Chronicles.

He somehow distilled the essence of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and mixed with eau de Larry the Cable Guy to create Bubba the Monster Hunter.

And now, he’s come up with another concept that tickles that part of my brain when I hear about something that’s going to be awesome.

Raising Hell

Straight out of the pages of the legendary vampire novel Dracula

comes a demon hunter for the modern world.

Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker had a son.

They named him Quincy.

His guardian angel calls him Q.

Dracula calls him nephew.

Demons call him The Reaper.

“There are things in this world that men and women aren’t meant to understand.

We aren’t supposed to know these things exist, much less how to fight them.

The things that go bump in the night, the monsters in the closet, the shadow out of the corner of your eye — that’s where I live.”

This exciting new series from the author of The Black Knight Chronicles and the Bubba the Monster Hunter short stories is a walk through the dark side, where things go bump in the night, and somebody has to bump back.

Quincy Harker is that somebody.

Cover Reveal for J. Matthew Saunders’ Daughters of Shadow & Blood


On May 3rd, 2015, J. Matthew Saunders will unleash his debut novel upon the world.

The Daughters of Shadow & Blood Trilogy will tell the tales of the three women who became the Brides of Dracula.

Book I: Yasamin is a story of love and betrayal, duty and honor, past and present.

A link back to Matthew’s actual cover release blog post from a few days back is here. I was honored that he released the cover during my Online Release Party and am glad to give him a shout out here in return. This book can’t get here fast enough.

Not to mention, he’s just started Book II… Prepare to be scared.