Driving Through Panic: A #HoldOntoTheLight Post


I drove around the curve of a two-lane road only to find a car crossing the centerline, headed straight at me. Panicked, I swerved the few feet I could on a road that had no shoulder, a small dirt bank, and a stone wall to my right. The other car returned to its lane and drove on, but not before my panic blossomed into a full-scale meltdown.

I gasped for breath on the verge of hyperventilating. Tears in my eyes, I couldn’t see. I faced a half-hour commute home in DC rush hour traffic, and I was a mess.

I stopped in a parking lot to pull myself back together. No damage to my car, and I was unhurt. A few months before, I’d hydroplaned a 360 on Rock Creek Parkway driving too fast on rain and wet leaves. No such emotional distress then. I struggled to explain why I had such an over the top reaction to that small incident.

That was the start of a period of time where I would freak for no reason, with no warning. Walking into a grocery store. Going to work. Sitting at home, doing absolutely nothing.

I finally mentioned what was happening to my Mom, who without missing a beat informed me that my panic attacks had begun. Women in my family are prone to panic attacks that appear in our twenties, gradually waning as we get older. Mom didn’t warn me earlier, because she didn’t want me to talk myself into having them.

When I was invited to join the #Hold the Light campaign and write a post on mental health issues, I didn’t know what to write.  I considered describing my sporadic depressive fits where I stare at the walls for a day before I pull myself out of the funk and move on, but compared with the deep depression others live with that seemed trivial. I ran through the list of other mental health issues, deciding that while I could write on some of them, I could always think of someone who had a worse experience. Mine were so mild in comparison. Finally, it hit me that I was thinking of mental issues as a contest. Who had the worst PTSD? Who had been hurt worst by a suicide? Whose depression was deepest?

So I shook off my misgivings about whether my experiences had value. I happened to run into someone recently having a panic attack and that decided me on talking about mine.

As an introvert, one of the most difficult things for me to do is the “first” of anything. The first meeting, the first day of a job, the first time I visit someone’s home. To a certain degree it doesn’t matter how much  I think I will enjoy myself. What matters is the newness, the unknown. When a depressive fit slams me, doing something for the first time is daunting.

The cynic in me wondered how much good this campaign will do because one of the things we repeatedly call for is for people, who are struggling to reach out, to contact their friends, to contact help centers, to know they are not alone.

I know when I am depressed that reaching out is difficult.  Calling a stranger on a help line would seem comically impossible.

But maybe if people become more aware of how common mental health issues are, they will seek help coping before they are overwhelmed. Perhaps introverts will not face the double struggle of coping with the newness of a problem and the requirement to dial a telephone and ask a stranger for help, if they’ve seen others discussing the same issue. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but we should at least try.

A great deal of time has passed since my twenties, and I had to search my memory to remember the fear and the emotional whiplash of those days. In the end the panic attacks disappeared, just a freak of biochemistry that played havoc with my life for a short time period and then faded away.


#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 http://www.HoldOnToTheLight.com and join us on our new Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WeHoldOnToTheLight

The Kraken in the Aquarium

The Kraken has been released! A new paper I am co-author on looks at questions that need to be addressed that are  being ignored for any number of reasons and that will require shifts in current thinking to solve. This article stemmed from a series of workshops where a diverse group of marine conservationists met to determine important questions in marine conservation that we thought were being inadequately addressed. “Seventy-Important Questions for the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity” by Parsons et al. discusses the more straightforward questions. “The Kraken in the Aquarium: Questions that Urgently Need to be Addressed in Order to Advance Marine Conservation” tackles some of the more daunting questions such as research funding cycles not being aligned with ecological cycles and entrenched special interests. Check it out!


Cigliano, J. A., A. Bauer, M. M. Draheim, M. M. Foley, C. J. Lundquist, J. B. McCarthy, K.W. Patterson, A. J. Wright, and E. C. M. Parsons (2016). The Kraken in the Aquarium: Questions that Urgently Need to be Addressed in Order to Advance Marine Conservation. Frontiers in Marine Science. 3: 174. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00174

Parsons, E. C. M., B. Favaro, M. Draheim, J. B. McCarthy, A. Aguirre, A. L. Bauer et. al. (2014).  Seventy-one important questions for the conservation of marine biodiversity. Conservation Biology 28, 1206-1214. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12303.

ConCarolinas 2016

I have just returned from Charlotte where I attended ConCarolinas, a multimedia convention  focused on speculative fiction – fantasy, horror, and science fiction. This year’s guests of honor were  Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Nana Visitor, Ursula Vernon, This Way to the EGRESS, and Rich Sigfrit. The convention organizers  seem to have a deep commitment to creating a safe and welcoming environment for the attendees.

This is one of my favorite conventions, because of the quality and variety of their offerings: writing and publishing panels; a film festival; paranormal panels;  gaming room; costume contest and cosplay panels; author tables, signing, and readings; Dealer’s and Art rooms; Charity Auction; SCA people;  and more.  I immerse myself in the writing/publishing tracts, and my husband finds plenty to occupy himself. I’m still hearing about the hour of conversation he enjoyed with Michael Hogan in the hotel bar last year while I was at a panel!

The variety of offerings could be overwhelming, but the convention organizers have taken steps to mitigate the potential chaos. The panels are clustered by subject, so for example, the writing and publishing panels are usually in two rooms and the book tables of the authors and editors who sit on the the panels for those tracts are set up close to those rooms, minimizing the running around for the panelists and allowing the panels to run right up to the hour. Those interested in writing and publishing quickly learn where to hang out.

The experience wasn’t perfect. A few glitches occurred in the schedule, leading to a little confusion but given the clustering of the panel rooms it didn’t seem to cause too much trouble. The hotel air conditioning gave out, and Saturday got more than a bit hot in some of the event rooms and hotel rooms, but convention organizers can only do so much where hotel problems are concerned.

I was impressed this year by the quality of panels I attended. I can’t speak for them all – I mostly attended writing/publishing panels,  but the ones I saw  were  on topic with the panelists offering quality insights. The moderators this year seemed particularly well prepared. They had questions or structure in mind before the panels began  and took pains to include all of the panelists in the discussions. One of my pet peeves involves one panelist speaking so much they dominate the panel preventing me from hearing  a variety of views, but that didn’t happen on any of the panels I saw.  So kudos to the panelists, moderators, and organizers!


Myke Cole: Military and Magic

Myke Cole is rather infuriating but I mean that with all admiration. Each book I’ve read of his was better than the last, and the first was excellent. He is the creator of the Shadow Ops universe (first trilogy: Control PointFortress Frontier, and Breach Zone) and the second, which is set previous to the events in his first (Gemini Cell and Javelin Rain). Mr. Cole draws on his experience as a military officer, security contractor, and cyber warfare specialist to imbue his books with a gritty military realism that is reminiscent of Griffin’s Brotherhood of War series and Bunch and Cole’s Sten series, the difference being that one was realism and the other science fiction. The Shadow Ops universe is military and magic.

What happens when humans in the world as we currently know it discover how to use magic? How would our government and military react? How would people, both collectively and individually, react to a sudden influx of magical power? The military aspect of the books interacts with a creative magical system to form a compelling backdrop, but the soul of these two series is how people cope when everything they thought they were changes and everything they thought they had is gone, often with no warning. The books in the Shadow Ops universe are entertaining and thought provoking, and I highly recommend them. For more information, check out Myke Cole’s website.



Islands from Shells

A study just published in PLOS One sheds new light on the Calusa tribe of southern Florida and how they used their discards. A hunter-gatherer tribe who subsisted primarily on seafood, the Calusa used the discarded shells from shellfish to form habitable islands.

Mound Key was the capital of the South Florida Calusa when the Spanish first interacted with them in the 1500s. Thompson et al. ran a series of radiocarbon dating tests on the midden (or discarded trash) on Mound Key and discovered that the island was deliberately formed and shaped from discarded shells and bones, an early form of landscape engineering.



Victor D. Thompson, William H. Marquardt, Alexander Cherkinsky, Amanda D. Roberts Thompson, Karen J. Walker, Lee A. Newsom, Michael Savarese. From Shell Midden to Midden-Mound: The Geoarchaeology of Mound Key, an Anthropogenic Island in Southwest Florida, USA. PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (4): e0154611 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0154611

Shadow’s Blade by David Coe

Happy upcoming Book Birthday to David Coe! The third installment in the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, Shadow’s Blade, will be released Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016. The series begun in Spell Blind and continued in His Father’s Eyes follows the adventures of Justis Fearsson, a private investigator and runemyste. The full moon robs him of his ability to use his magic just like his father who eventually went mad.  Will Justis follow his father into insanity? Head over to David Coe’s site for more information.


I read once that one of the best ways to get a following for your blog is to focus on one topic. Explore that topic in depth and post regularly. That’s what I should do, so of course I won’t.

I do intend to post on a regular basis, but I’m interested in too many different subjects to stick to just one.  As a writer, I get to research whatever strikes my fancy, and I’ve discovered that my writer friends all seem to share a love of learning random things. Who knows what’s going to spark an idea or trigger a solution for a sticky plot point? So besides book reviews and thoughts on writing or conventions, I will post random bits of history or information I find interesting.

I have a deep love of science but discovered I lack the obsessive nature necessary to be a good research scientist. I don’t have that ability to hyperfocus on one area and be passionate about it for years, but I do enjoy reading science and discussing it. I know a great many scientists and hope to use this page to communicate interesting findings I run across or share work from my friends who are researchers if they want another platform to post on.

Why Story Currents? I wanted a title that would reflect my interest  in literature especially science fiction and fantasy writing plus science, history, and the fluid way that everything in the world interacts. So visit for the book reviews, science tidbits, or musings about current events. I’ll try to keep things mixed up and maybe help generate a few more stories along the way.

Oh — and because the Internet runs on cats, random cat pics will happen. I’ll try to keep them under control.