Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Character Interview #3: Talsyn Lethar

Good morning again, fellow digressors! How are you today? I'm feeling more productive than usual. I recently finished writing my synopsis for 'The Merchant's Son', and am in the process of editing it. I hope to submit the proposal to my publisher of interest before NaNo starts (GOOD NIGHT, THAT IS IN THREE DAYS, AND I HAVEN'T FINISHED PLOTTING 'THE RESCUER' YET, PEOPLE). 

Anyways, if you were here on Saturday, you know that I opened up my character, Talsyn Lethar, to be interviewed. He's the first antag to be interviewed here, and while he's a bit point-blank and shameless, it was a fun interview, and I did manage to drag some answers out of him. 

Sohrem: I. Want. To. Talk. To. Him. 

I. Will. Not. Let. You. *pushes Sohrem out* Sheesh. Little brothers, huh? *ahem* Now, to the results of the interview! 

Why was your heritage something that made you ostracized? Is there a history there? 

I'm not used to having to answer this question. Shamindo are known for being lawless and taking advantage of their neighbors by thieving, ambushing, playing pranks, and the like. The reputation may or may not be earned. There's that, and the fact that I'm poor and orphaned. No-one wants to deal with orphaned, impoverished troublemakers, as a general rule. And the fact that we live close to the Reshan-Shamindo border doesn't help, because it means we're in contact with foreigners constantly. One of these days someone needs to show them what it's like to be hated just for showing up. 

Oh, I'm sure "someone" will. What are some of your favorite things to do? Do you have any hobbies or pastimes? 

What, are you joking? I'm too busy to eat or sleep sometimes, much less to do anything nonessential. Which is a big part of why I don't think I'll stay here long. 

Are you the hero of your own tale? 

I'm a survivor. Heroes are overrated. 

Come on -- you can't tell me you've never wanted to be a hero. 

I got over it. 

*sigh* What are you most ashamed of? 

I'm not ashamed. Irritated, yes, because someone didn't hold up their end of the deal. And now I have to take the flack for it. Any shame I had about anything faded a long time ago. 

I noticed. What is your happiest moment? 

I don't think we know each other well enough to be sharing details like that just yet. 

Who are you kidding? Just answer the question. 

I don't know. I've had a few. I guess the happiest moment for me was the moment I realized I could actually do something about my situation. 

You made a deal with the devil. Almost literally. 

I made a deal to escape. I'm still waiting on results, but it's still better than sitting around and being powerless. 

What's your favorite color? 


That's it? You're telling me your favorite color, just like that? 

I'd like to get out of here as quickly as possible. 

Okay, then. This question has technically already been asked, but I'd like to see you elaborate: Why did your race mean you were ostracized? 

I don't see why elaboration is needed. People don't like Shamindo because they're unruly. If we go into bordertowns without anything truly valuable to trade, we'll get spit upon, cursed at, and the like. My brother and I and other Shamindo urchins got kicked or beaten sometimes because we stole to survive. Sometimes we wouldn't even have to do anything, because supposedly, the fact that we were Shamindo and in the general area of something that could be stolen meant we were there to steal it. Maybe the stereotypes are generally accurate, but people prefer to stab first and ask questions later, in my experience, so it wouldn't really matter if we were actually decent. They would treat us like scum anyways. 

Ah, yes. Racial tension is so much... fun. What is your greatest asset to success? 

My ability to improvise and get things done when no-one else will take responsibility for the situation. If I don't like the idea of doing something, but it's the only way to solve a problem, I'll do it. Say what you will, but at least I didn't run away and leave Siran to fend for himself when things got difficult. Neither of us would still be breathing if I'd been a weakling about it. 

And the whole "dealing with the devil" thing...? 

I did what was necessary for us to survive. Nothing more, nothing less. 

Right. I guess from your point of view, that's true. So what is your relationship like with your brother? 

He doesn't understand everything I do, and I'd prefer to keep it that way. I don't need his understanding -- I need him safe. And that means I need him to man up and let me do what's necessary. He's overly sensitive and disagrees with my methods. That's his problem. 

Uh-huh. I would beg to differ, but that would mean giving you a glimpse of your future. What kinds of things does the dragon make you do? 

It doesn't exactly "make" me do things. It gives orders, and I follow them. It's easier that way. Resisting is painful, and really doesn't get me anywhere. Sometimes it gives me orders that include inconveniencing or harming someone else. In any case, I do what needs to be done for my own good and for my brother's. And until you've been in my situation and had to make the decisions I've had to make, you are in no position to judge me. 

And there it is, folks! *pushes Tal out of the room before he can set anything on fire* I hope you enjoyed this interview. Please comment below if you have any more questions or just... er... comments. Sorry, my vocabulary has failed me at the moment. Next week, I will be interviewing... *drumroll, please* ...Yannah Delraen! A few of you may be familiar with her. If not, know that she is one of the main characters in 'The Follower', and is apparently on a lot of people's lists of their favorite characters from the book. So stay tuned! 

Oh, and, uh... please keep watching my back, will ya? I think Sohrem still has it out for me. Actually, I'm pretty sure he does. Especially now that I've interviewed his long-lost brother and not let him get a word in edgewise. He might not be too happy with me. 

But, of course... I digress. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Ask Talsyn! (If You Dare.)

Hello again, fellow digressors. As you know, for the past couple of weeks, I've been doing a series of character interviews, in which you ask questions, and the characters have to answer them. Today, I bring you a rather interesting character -- Talsyn Lethar. (Hang on -- I just need a second to revel in how perfectly this picture I found on Pinterest fits him. It's almost exactly how I imagined him. *takes a deep breath* Okay.) 

Talsyn Lethar 

The eldest son of Shamindo parents, Tal has always been used to living without, and to being ostracized for his race and social status. But his life took a turn for the worse at age fourteen, when his parents -- Sylm and Asyra Lethar -- went journeying and never came back. Despite his efforts, Tal was unable to find his parents, and even found evidence (which he refuses to discuss) indicating that they were dead. This tragedy left Tal and his younger brother, Siran, as orphans, and as Tal was not deemed capable of caring for both of them, they were assigned to live with a caretaker. Far from fulfilling the responsibilities tied to her position of caretaker, or of the name she took on, 'Mother' made them do all the work she did not feel inclined to do herself, leaving them to fend for themselves when she wasn't beating them. Tal, unable to shield his brother and provide for the both of them at the same time, searched for an escape but found none that would not involve abandoning the only family he had left. All this made him eager to accept an offer of power and freedom from a dragon who seemed to possess magical abilities, but far from being empowered, Tal became a slave to the creature and did its bidding at the expense of everyone around him, including his little brother. Still, something at his core knew that he made the wrong choice, and still longed to shield his brother from all that he had become. (Let's just say Tal is/was a very conflicted person, and stirred things up quite a bit in 'The Merchant's Son'. I kinda miss having him around, as he's not in my current project.) His skills include thieving, sneaking, intimidation, and knife-throwing. 

Sohrem: Carissa, I want to talk to him.  

I already said no. Go away and let other people ask the questions. 


I KNOW THAT. THANKS FOR FINALLY ADMITTING IT. *shoves Sohrem back into the character closet* 

*sigh* Sorry about that. But on a side note, if you notice Sohrem sneaking up behind me with a knife, warn me, okay? Feel free to pose your questions for Talsyn (or Tal, as he's commonly called) in the comments below! I'm not sure what state he'll be in during the interview, especially considering that he's pretty much an antag most of the time. I'll try not to let him drink anything given to him by a dragon for a while beforehand. He'll probably be cranky. Anyways, have at it! I'll post his answers on Wednesday, as per the usual schedule. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

'Captives' by Jill Williamson is free this weekend!

It's here, it's here, fellow digressors! The sale on Jill's YA dystopian novel, 'Captives', is finally here! From now through Sunday, you can get it in eBook format at your favorite online retailer for FREE. 

As I said in my previous post, it is rare that I find Christian dystopian books on the market, much less interesting ones, and Jill is one of my very favorite authors. You don't want to miss this! And hey, it's free, so where's the risk? 

Here are the links to download it at your retailer of choice: 

Kindle (Amazon): 
Nook (Barnes & Noble): 
iBooks (iTunes): 
Google Books (Google Play): 
CBD (Christian Book Distributors): 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Free eBook This Weekend! (USA only)

Exciting news, fellow digressors! Remember a while back, when I posted my review of 'By Darkness Hid' by Jill Williamson? It's one of my favorite books ever, and even my mom, who doesn't normally read fantasy (well, except my books), is reading and enjoying it. Jill is a talented writer, and her genius work in the 'Blood of Kings' trilogy convinced me to purchase 'Captives', the first book in her dystopian trilogy, 'The Safe Lands'. Here's the blurb: 

In a dystopian future, eighteen-year-old Levi returns from Denver City with his latest scavenged treasures and finds his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many -- including his fiancee, Jem -- taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe. 

Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago... and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar's dreams. 

Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and my be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands' walls. Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands' facade before it's too late? 

I started reading it recently, and I have to say that it is amazing so far. It's inspired by the book of Daniel, which adds an extra layer of awesomeness on top of the rich worldbuilding, compelling characters, and page-turning plot. Oh, and it has 'The Princess Bride' references in it. Seriously, how can you say no to that? 

Anyways, the exciting news is that Zondervan is offering the eBook for free this weekend! The sale begins tomorrow, and will last through Sunday. 

You guys, it is rare that I find Christian dystopian books on the market, much less good ones. And I can already tell that this is soon going to join the list of my favorite books. And for this weekend, you can read it for free. Don't miss out! I'll post again tomorrow when the sale officially begins, Here is a list of retailers who will be participating (USA only; sorry, internationals): 

Amazon (Kindle) 
Barnes & Noble (Nook) 
Google Play 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go retreat to my fangirl cave and wait with bated breath for the eBook to go on sale, even though I already own a signed paperback of the book. Stay tuned for further news! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Character Interview #2: Jorthen Lavahr

Hello again, fellow digressors! On Saturday, I opened up my character, Jorthen Lavahr, to be interviewed by you, and today, I present you with his answers. I apologize if he comes across like a politician sometimes; he's been trained to do that. 

Does your job ever annoy you because you could sometimes end up stuck working with some rather immature/annoying people? 

The short answer is yes. Ideally, those who enlist in the Guard are at least mature enough to know when to keep their mouths shut. For instance, they ought to realize that when their commanding officer is speaking, any remarks about a fellow recruit's behavior the previous day or, say, their instructor's physique, would be inappropriate. Unfortunately, the people who know about those social rules are in the minority among the recruits I usually train. It can get quite irritating. 

Heehee. Like with Dehlara... So how do you feel about fangirls who might really like you? 

...Based on the general definition of "fangirl" that I've gathered, I'm used to them. It's not as enjoyable as one might think. It was flattering for the first few months. After several years of it from nearly every female recruit I've ever trained, it's gotten a bit old. Not to insult anyone, but in most cases, I would rather be left alone. 

I bet. I don't get nearly the amounut of attention you get, and I still feel awkward about it sometimes. But then, I'm an introvert. We do, however, share something in common: Perfectionism. Does the perfection you and other expect from yourself ever feel confining? 

You have no idea. But on a more positive note, higher expectations mean higher motivation. I am more likely to perform a job well if I am expected to put in a superlative amount of effort. Stress is a natural byproduct, but one I can handle. 

Uh-huh. Sure you can, Superman. What is your relationship like with your father, Atrin? 

...It's cordial. 


I'm not lying. We're not on the warmest terms, but we speak when we must, I do as I'm told, and for the most part, we mind our own business. As long as he sticks to his own affairs and I stick to mine, and the two don't intersect too much, we're fine. He's even stopped openly trying to make me cut ties with Sohrem. Which is a bit surprising, considering that Sohrem did punch him once, but I'm not complaining. That's one less bit of stress to handle. 

Do you believe the stories about your mother? If so, what do you think about the choice that she made?

I believe that she's gone, and that she's not coming back. That's really all that matters. With all due respect, I'd rather not make a comment on that situation where my father might read it. 


Let's just say my father guards his reputation with a jealousy that I'd rather not arouse again. If my mother left the way Atrin says she did, then I have to say it was out of character, especially considering that she'd expressed an intent to take me with her. But she might have decided just to make a clean break and leave me behind to avoid facing Atrin again. In that case, I can't say I fully blame her. If she didn't leave... I'm sorry, but I'd really rather not discuss this any further. 

I notice you called Atrin by his first name and called Kyndra "my mother." A little favoritism there, maybe? 

I have no comment. Insinuate what you will. 

Psh. Fine. Okay, why did you accept the enemy's offer? 

...First, let me give some context. We were trapped. Everyone was turning on everyone else. Sohrem had just attempted to murder Sheth, claimed he didn't know how it happened, and insulted me to my face. It was a messy situation, and the resulting stress had become a health hazard. The Saethen offered a way to restore order, and I took it. I know it was a selfish, idiotic move. But it seemed much more reasonable at the time. 

And it was what Atrin would have done. 

I have no comment on that, either. Next question, please. 

Fiiiiine. How did you meet Sohrem? 

I'd just spent a long day as a trainer's assistant, and followed up by having an argument with my father. I was stressed and angry, so I took a break and went for a walk outside Jaern. I saw a horse and rider coming, but didn't think much of it until they got close and I saw the shape the rider was in. I didn't get a good look at him, but I could see he was dark-haired, rail-thin, and looked as if he'd been in a fire. 

Okay, um, Jorthen... I know you're a detail-oriented person and all, but could you not resort to describing the scent on the air, the exact hour of the day, or the chill in your heart this time around? For now, we just want to know the gist of what happened. 

...Right. My apologies. He fell off of the horse, and when I went to him, he was badly burned, scarred, and unconscious. I could see he needed medical attention, so I took him to the physician on duty at the base. He was in obvious need of treatment and recuperation, so I took responsibility for his supervision for a while. I assumed that once he was well, the council would deal with him and he wouldn't be my problem anymore. He didn't say more than two words during his recovery. He wouldn't even tell me his name; seemed to think something terrible would happen if he did. Eventually he gave the name Sohrem Terahl, probably just to get me off his back. By that point, he was well enough to be on his own, if a bit erratic, so I tried to move on, but then people started targeting him, accusing him of outlandish things. I caught a group of male recruits assaulting him in a hall once. Back then, he couldn't fight very well. He was a lot less intimidating, and it wasn't hard to peg him as a scared runaway. He'd panic when they went after him, try to get away, then just sort of freeze. If he did lash out, they'd only get more aggressive. I couldn't watch it happen, so I stepped in. I did that a few times before he finally got comfortable enough to attempt to irritate me. And yes, I did say he attempted it. It's like a defense mechanism for him, or a filtering method. The more crass and rude he is with you, the more likely it is that he's just testing you to figure out how much you'll take from him. 

The point being, of course, that once he started to get comfortable, he started challenging me. A muttered comeback here, a glare there, and sometimes he would just say things outright to see how I would react. He was surprisingly observant. It got uncomfortable sometimes, I'll admit. But he was quick on his feet, so I started training him. We got to know each other through the training sessions, mostly, and transitioned into more normal pastimes later. At some point, he stopped deliberately testing me. That was helpful. It made it that much easier to resist the temptation to throw him into lockdown when he got into trouble. Which he did a lot, but we don't have to get into that. 

Yeah, uh-huh. Sure. How about the time he punched Atrin? 

That was not my idea. But I can't say it made me particularly upset. 

How have your health challenges affected your life? 

I don't know what you mean. 

You know, your heart condition which I have yet to equate with a real-life problem...? Well, I know it's some sort of congenital defect. I'm still working out the details. But you do have it, Cappy. 

Please don't use that nickname again. Ever. 

All right, so I do have a heart condition. I've had it my whole life. As a child, it only meant that if I was excessively active, I would tire out. As I got into adolescence, it became a bigger problem. I got involved in... extracurricular activities, which involved a fair amount of exertion, and sometimes it would feel like my heart was going to collapse. I was supposed to rest, but back then, I wasn't the best at doing as I was told. Atrin found ways of conditioning me to push past my problems so that they wouldn't interfere with the job at hand, and my mother taught me methods for coping with them. Their methods weren't usually consistent, and Atrin usually won out. I've become exceptionally good at acting over the years. At this point, with a combination of caution and concealment, my condition doesn't affect me too badly. 

Um, didn't you cough up blood...? 

That was due to an unusual set of circumstances, and I wasn't coping well. It won't happen again. 

One of these days, I'll figure out how to tell the difference between when you're lying and when you're telling the truth. It's confusing. Okay, so what is your definition of perfection? 

My definition? I suppose I'd define it as a combination of consistency and responsibility. Perfection, to me, involves living up to expectations, and making up for any times when you didn't quite meet them. It means stepping up and doing what needs to be done without complaint, whether you want to or not, and ensuring that everyone in your jurisdiction does the same. Anything less is a problem.

Who is your example? 

...My example of perfection, or someone I hope to emulate?


Somehow, I knew you would say that. The closest to a perfect person I've ever met was probably my mother. That might seem strange, considering that everyone believes she left, but she was loyal, kind, and strong in ways most people wouldn't understand, even when she had every right to give up. She always knew what to say, what to do, and was rightfully admired for it. Yes, she's gone now, but for many years, she was my role model. Now... I'm not sure who I'd name as my example for today. Probably still her.

Aw, that's sweet. Incidentally, I want to write some short stories involving Kyndra; she really was pretty awesome. What was your biggest failure? 

I'm not sure. I can think of two incidents where I failed miserably, and I haven't redeemed myself from them yet. One is the time I took sides with the enemy. I have to confess, I'm still not sure what I think of the whole situation. They made more sense than they should have, but I would like to believe that if they approached me again, I would refuse them. The other... incident... involved someone I once cared for. We grew up together, but were separated when I left for Jaern. We met again a few years later, but I made a mistake that changed everything about our relationship. They left, and I haven't seen them since. I never got a chance to make things right, and I don't expect to ever see them again. I don't think I'll ever stop regretting that.

Ah, yes, that little... slip-up. *ahem* Who are you most afraid of disappointing? 

My father. I've been working to live up to his standards for so long that I don't quite know how to stop. But then, I'm used to disappointing him. I suppose if either my mother or the friend I failed came back into my life and disapproved of what I'd become, it would feel like another failure.

What is your greatest success? 

Probably convincing Sohrem to become a functional member of society, and getting everyone else to give him a chance to do that.

Wow, that one didn't backfire on you at all. 

Are we done here?

Yup. You can go now. Maybe check to make sure Sohrem is keeping out of trouble. 

Sohrem can take care of himself, I think. But thank you. I'd appreciate being given something to do besides answer questions soon, though.

Oh, don't worry. You will. *cackles* 


Aaaaand there you have it, folks. Another fun fact about Jorthen: His name was originally Jorthen Delraen, but a friend saw his name and that of Yannah Lavahr, and suggested that I switch the names. I did, and so the characters became Jorthen Lavahr and Yannah Delraen. I must say, I like the altered names better.

Thanks for your questions! This is fun. Well, at least it is for me. Maybe not so much for the characters. Have any questions you didn't get to ask Jorthen, or ones stirred up by what he said in the interview? Feel free to pose them in the comments!

This weekend, I'll be bringing in a slightly lesser-known character, Talsyn Lethar, for an interview.

Sohrem: Wait, what? How is that even possible?

Sorry, bud, you're not allowed to come out during this one.

Sohrem: I want. To talk. To. My. Brother. 

Nope. And anyways, he won't be here until Saturday. Go away.

Sohrem: Carissa, so help me-- 

Uh-uh -- no threats. *stuffs Sohrem back into the character closet* Anyways, Tal will be here and taking questions starting this Saturday, so stay tuned! He and Sohrem have similar personalities, but let's just say they've ended up at different places in their lives. Getting Tal to talk should be as easy as threatening Sohrem. Hopefully, he's not too jaded for it to work. As always, thanks for reading! Don't be messy.

Wait... Uh, sorry, that's not my tagline, is it? That's Jordan's tagline on Jordan's Messyges. Incidentally, check out Blimey Cow, and their show, Messy Mondays, if you haven't already. They put out some truly amazing satirical videos, largely talking about faith, relationships, and popular culture from a Christian perspective, and they're hilarious. But be prepared to go on a video-watching marathon. They have a lot of great videos waiting to be discovered.

But, of course, I digress. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Depression and the Psalms

Hey there, fellow digressors. Recently, a friend and I admitted that we had been slacking with our Bible-reading, so I've purposed to read five Psalms each day. (Obviously, that plan will have to change a little when I get to Psalm 119.) Yesterday, I read Psalms 6-10. One of them really got to me, and I thought I would share it here:

"O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long?
Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.
The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.
Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly."

Psalm 6, KJV

"Well," you might say, "that's a rather depressing scripture to share. Is there a point to this?" I'm glad you asked. Here's the thing: I think this psalm is just about the most accurate portrait of faith-filled depression I've seen in a long time. And it was written millennia before clinical depression became a widely-accepted illness, before there were support groups and social networks where people could share their stories and compare notes on their struggles. Did King David have clinical depression? Who knows? But the Psalms have always been a great encouragement for myself and for others who struggle with depression. 

Okay, wait -- let me back up for a second here to clarify: Yes, I do have depression. I've never gone in for a medical diagnosis, but given its persistence, its recurrence, and its correlation to my Lyme timeline (I started having depression problems around the time I started having health problems, and it gets worse at times where it would make sense for Lyme-related symptoms to worsen), my guess is that it is clinical. It's not something I generally broadcast to the world. In fact, it's something that I tend to hide as much as possible. Depression is an isolating illness, and has this way of convincing you that you're alone in your problems, and that you should be. 

Let's just say a depressed brain is not a normal brain. At all. 

Also, I should clarify the differences between feeling depressed and having depression. If something bad happens and your mood takes a turn for the worse, and you have depression symptoms in the short term only, it's generally not indicative of a clinical problem. For example, if I'm generally happy/normal, but my dog gets hit by a car and I cry for a while then get on with my life, I probably am not clinically depressed. On the other hand, if my dog gets hit, and I start to internalize about the situation, blame myself, cry a lot, and my depressed mood lasts a long time without letting up much, there might be a problem. (Not to minimize the trials of people who aren't clinically depressed; your problems are perfectly legitimate. It's just that pain tends to be processed differently by depression sufferers as opposed to "normal" people. We're not as good at getting past things or accepting that things aren't our fault.) 

Generally speaking, if your depression symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, it is considered indicative of some chemical imbalance that needs to be dealt with. Some of the symptoms, according to the CDC, include: 

- Depressed/sad mood 
- Diminished interest in activities which used to be pleasurable 
- Weight gain or loss 
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation (either restlessness or a slowing-down of thoughts and movements due to stress and/or sadness/depression) 
- Fatigue 
- Inappropriate guilt 
- Difficulties concentrating 
- Recurrent thoughts of death 

According to the American Psychiatric Association (in the article I linked to above), five or more of these symptoms must persist for at least two weeks to constitute a diagnosis of depression. Anything less might still be a problem, and especially if you are having recurring thoughts of death, I recommend you talk to someone you trust IMMEDIATELY, whether you fully meet these criteria or not, but officially, this is what it takes to be diagnosed with clinical depression. 

When people hear "depression," they tend to get a certain picture in their mind. A common idea might be that depressed people wear dark clothing, cry a lot in public, engage in some kind of self-harm, and probably have at least considered killing themselves, if they haven't actually tried. There is a lot of stigma involved. But the truth is, most people with depression might look and act normal. They might go to parties, laugh at your jokes, and even get good grades in school. They can be the most devout people you know. They might have never harmed themselves, and it's almost certain that most of them will not openly discuss their struggles with you. And in fact, many people with depression never attempt suicide. You could know them for years and have no idea of their problems, and it would be perfectly understandable. 

There is also a popular opinion floating around that says people who have depression, self-harm, and/or attempt suicide must not be Christians, and must have chosen to be the way they are. If they would just read their Bibles, pray a little more, trust God more, then all their problems would go away. They could be happy, productive people again if they would just try a little harder. 

To combat this idea, I will refer you back to Psalm 6. Or almost any of the Psalms, for that matter. 

"Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O Lord, how long?
Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies."

Psalm 6:2-6, KJV

King David, one of the great men of the Bible (though he was still human and certainly imperfect), struggled with depression (though whether it was clinical or not, I couldn't say), and was not afraid to admit it. He says plainly that he is weary of groaning, that he makes his bed swim and his couch wet with his tears all night. He is worn down by his trials and pleads for relief. This can be found elsewhere in the Psalms; for example, in Psalm 42: 

"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say to me, Where is thy God?
When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance."

Psalm 42:1-5, KJV

Whoa, hold up there. We just heard David express how his soul is cast down within him, how he no longer takes as much joy in going to worship with others, and cries day and night. But did you catch what else he said? "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God." "Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance." And in Psalm 6, he said something else:

"Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.
The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer."

Psalm 6:7-8, KJV

Time and time again, the psalmist contrasts his own struggles, his own weaknesses with God's strength, faithfulness, and glory. Does he suffer? Absolutely. Does he stumble and fall? That much seems clear. Does he ever feel hopeless, abandoned, and guilty? Does he plead fervently with God for deliverance? Yes, he does. 

But he also turns all that pain, all those trials and all that desperation around to praise God. He trusts in Him, even when life is hard, even when the world has turned on him and everything within him wants to give up. 

"In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.
Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me.
Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth.
By thee I have been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.
I am as a wonder unto many: but thou art my strong refuge.
Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day."

Psalm 70:1-8, KJV

The hardest thing about depression is that it paralyzes you. There are a million things you want to do, and about as many that you know you need to do, but it keeps you frozen or just slows you down so that it doesn't seem worth it to try. It tells you that you're alone, and that you shouldn't bother other people with your problems. It makes you feel guilty more than you should, might make you lash out and give more cause for guilt, and overall it just makes life not seem to matter as much as it should. It tries to steal your joy, and can even steal from you the desire to get that joy back. It is a monster, and it is not your fault. 

If this sounds like you, please get help. No matter what "real" problems you may or may not have, if you struggle in these ways and feel like you are slipping, please talk to a parent, doctor, or a trusted friend as soon as possible. Admit that you are struggling, and don't be afraid to ask for help. There is no shame in the struggle, and Christ did not die for you just so you could beat yourself up and suffer in silence. He loves you, and He is always there, no matter what you might be feeling. And despite how it might seem, there are people out there who understand (to at least some extent) what you are going through, and are ready and willing to help. Blogs such as The Hope Movement offer support and encouragement to those suffering with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other difficulties, and if you are in crisis and contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or talk to your parents or a trusted friend IMMEDIATELY. 

I won't try to tell you that if you read your Bible and pray more, your problems will magically go away. That's not how it works, at least not always. Depression has a physical side as well as a spiritual one, and if not addressed, it can eat you alive. God never promised us that we would live easy lives, that we would never be discouraged or struggle to hold on. But He did promise that He would always be there. 

"Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Isaiah 40:28-31, KJV

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:35-39, KJV

Life is hard sometimes. But we can be sure of one thing: If we have trusted in Christ, if we have confessed our sins to Him and accepted His free gift of salvation, we are His forever. Nothing, not even depression, is enough to drive God away. Everyone else may leave, may laugh at you or accuse you of faithlessness or abuse you with their words and actions, but God will never leave. He is faithful to the end, and beyond. Even when you feel like giving up, God won't. Even when you think you are hopeless and beyond redemption, He will stand by you and give you strength to continue. Human strength fails, but God's strength never does. Depression is real, and it is crippling. But it is not the end. And if we trust in God, we can be sure that He will work everything out in the end. All will be brought around to His glory, and if we endure in His strength, we will learn and grow in ways that we could never have imagined. And that, in and of itself, is enough reason to keep fighting. 

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28 KJV

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."

Jeremiah 29:11, KJV


"I remember
When my eyes were too tired to see
I remember
When I choked on my sadness and failures
And I couldn't breathe
The yoke on my shoulders was heavy, and I couldn't stand
And if only I'd reached out much sooner and taken Your hand,
I would have realized

That You were there through it all
That You were ready to pick me up whenever I'd fall
When I was weak, You were strong
And when I couldn't breathe
You were my song
Before I heard Your call
I was weak and I'd fall
But You were there through it all

I remember when my mind turned on me
And I stopped believing in Your love
I remember
When the pain was too much
And I cried and I screamed that I'd had enough
Because the night was so dark and my eyes were so blind
I was blind, but now I can see
That You were there,
There with me

Though friends may desert me
Though foes may beset me
Though the pain, it still stabs at this heart of mine
Though my spirit's not willing
And my flesh, it is weak
And I turn on myself every time
Lord, I know every time

You'll bring me through it all
And I know that You hear me
Whenever I call
When I'm weak, You are strong
You're my breath, You're my song
And You pick me up whenever I fall
Lord, You pick me up
And You carry me through it all."

'Through It All' - Original Song
(Copyright 2014 (c) by C. F. Barrows)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ask Jorthen!

Good morning, fellow digressors! I bet you didn't know I could wake up this early, did you? Well, normally I don't. I tend to stay up very late and wake up at about noon. Sometimes later. But today is an exception, and therefore I shall bring to you, at this early morning hour, the next character for your consideration. 

Jorthen Lavahr

Captain Jorthen Lavahr joined the Reshan Guard at the age of fourteen, a good two years before the technical age of eligibility. The son of a domineering officer, he has been raised to be the ideal soldier and diplomat, charming, authoritative, and invincible. As such, anything less than perfection is insufficient, especially for himself. Even his own health troubles are not enough to hold him back from his duties, even when it puts his own life at risk. His mother disappeared shortly before Jorthen's father, Atrin, enlisted him in the Guard; no-one saw her go, but the story goes that she left Atrin and Jorthen to find a better life. At twenty-five years old, despite his tendency to be very social and to take it upon himself to keep everyone else in line, Jorthen does not have many close friends. Contrary to the dictates of his father and of his social position, Jorthen formed a close friendship with Sohrem Terahl. That friendship has gotten him into trouble several times, but he has yet to disband it. However, he himself put it and all other relationships in jeopardy when he accepted an offer of power from the enemy and turned on his companions. He has now been retrieved, and is again traveling with his true friends, but many no longer trust him. The loss of authority, and also of assignments to follow, might be enough to drive him over the edge. We shall see. (Also to be noted is that, despite being pursued by multiple female recruits at Jaern, Jorthen shows an unusual lack of interest in such relationships, and has not deigned to explain why to the general public. And even if he did, it is a known fact that Jorthen lies if he thinks it is in his best interest or in the best interest of his subordinates. It's just part of his position.) 

From now until Wednesday, you can ask Jorthen anything you like, and he'll answer. I'll torture the answers out of him if I have to, but since he's been conditioned to obey authority, he shouldn't give me that much trouble. Oh, and I should also note that Jorthen and Atrin have a very strained relationship, and that Jorthen doesn't like to talk about it. So either avoid that topic, or ask about it if you feel like making him squirm. As Sohrem might have indicated in the previous interview, watching Jorthen squirm is a rare privilege. 

And now I must be off. The day's activities await. Ask your questions in the comments below, and on Wednesday I'll post the results. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Character Interview #1: Sohrem Terahl

Hello, fellow digressors! On Saturday, I opened up my character, Sohrem Terahl, to be interviewed, and some of you came up with some really great questions. Today I bring you the resulting interview. I'm rather surprised he actually answered the questions, but hey, somehow it worked. Enjoy! 

If you had the choice to either save Sheth and die, or let Sheth die and you live, what would you do? 

Not that I really care, but I'm tired of being a liability, so I'd probably just go ahead and die. Might as well save someone in the process, I guess. And I don't think Sheth deserves to die. Get slapped, sure, and maybe have someone put a gag in his mouth every once in a while, but die, no. 

Finally, he admits it. Do you listen to music? What kind do you like? 

I've never been all that interested in music. Especially the bright, cheery kind that twitters and rings and flounces all over the place. It gives me a headache. Keep it mellow, and I'll probably tolerate it. No ballads. 

You know, bud, not all ballads are the same. You'd probably like some of them. Anyways, what color best represents your personality? 

Seriously? What is this obsession with color among people in your culture? All right, fine. I guess I'd go with a sort of dark, rusty blue, infused with electric green (whatever "electric" means). Maybe some dots of red or black. Don't ask me why. 

Very specific. Let's just say you're green. That's your eye color, and it's close enough. When did you start keeping a journal, and why?  

I started when I was eighteen. At first, it was because I'd just learned to read (don't judge me), and I needed practice. It's also a way to vent, I guess. But touch it, and you die. 

I bet it's a riveting read. I know you had a very hard childhood, but do you have any happy memories? 

I suppose I had some, but they're kind of hard to remember. My memory is a little skewed, in general. I think I enjoyed spending some time with Motre and messing around in the rain. And once upon a time, Tal and I got along and had some laughs. But that was a long time ago, so I don't think I can be much more specific than that. 

Oh, quit being a grumpy nihilist about it. You must have at least one good memory from recent years. 

...Fine. I guess one of my best memories from recent years was the first time I beat Jorthen in a sparring match. He spent weeks trying to convince me that it was a fluke, or that he meant to let me win. He ended up beating me in the next match, but the time from wounding his pride to experiencing his revenge was priceless. Nobody beats Jorthen. And when they do, it's hilarious. Well... Okay, I could state an exception to the "no beating" norm, but we made a pact about that, so I won't say anything more. Just ask him. 

When did you and Jorthen become friends, and why? How did you meet? 

...Ah. Long story there. When I was seventeen, I got into some trouble. Or rather, the trouble got so bad that I had to get away, so I stole a horse and rode off into Reshan territory. I didn't really have a plan. It was kind of stupid, looking back, but I just figured I'd keep riding until there was no more distance to cover. I was in bad shape physically and mentally, and ended up falling off of the horse outside of the Jaern military base, where Jorthen lived. Jorthen was the first person to find me. I guess I must have looked pretty pathetic, because he took me to a physician and took responsibility for me during and after my recovery. He made me nervous, to tell the truth. I didn't really talk for the first few months, and just wanted to be left alone, but he kept following me around and checking up on me. 

Turns out it was a good thing, because a lot of people at the base thought I was a Shamindo spy. Let's just say that their idea of a fair trial and punishment is extremely harsh. Protesting wouldn't have done anything but given me more bruises and humiliation. Jorthen saved my hide a few times, and at some point I accepted that he wasn't going to leave me alone, so I started training under him, and we somehow ended up friends. I'm not sure how, considering that he was always covering for me and cleaning up my messes. I basically just knew how to mouth off and muss things up. I also picked up on a few things about him that he thought he'd hidden well, which I think piqued his interest. I'm good at noticing things. I guess I made a decent wing-man, but that's another story. Most of the effort was on his part. You'd really have to ask him why he thought it was worth it, because I've never figured it out. 

I'm sure he had his reasons. Jorthen doesn't trust much more easily than you do, really. He's just better at acting calm. What is the darkest thing you feel you might be capable of? 

Probably killing someone. Well... all right, I guess killing someone in the heat of battle or in self-defense wouldn't be all that dark by most standards. I guess the thing I'd be most afraid of doing would be... I don't know. Probably going after someone I care about, doing something horrible to them that would prove I was some kind of monster. Not that I care about a lot of people. But if I snapped, and went after one of those people, and no-one was there to stop me... 

Wait... Seriously, Carissa? This is not fair play. Stop squeezing answers out of me. 

I'm not squeezing answers out of you. I'm just asking the questions and letting you answer. 

Control freak. 

Just answer the questions. Like this one: How do you feel about all these fangirls that seem to really like you? 

I think they're all insane, but as long as they don't try to hug me or anything, I can live with it. 

I wouldn't bank on the "no hugging" thing, if I were you. What exactly is a demon-dragon, and how did it feel to be possessed by one? 

...You know how I feel about this, Carissa. 

Answer. The. Question. I'll give you a break from flashbacks if you cooperate. At least until I need to raise the stakes again in 'Rescuer'.  

Fine. Demon-dragons aren't really dragons, or at least not the ordinary kind. They just usually appear that way to people. Or at least, they do when they don't feel like they need to be especially tricky. They sometimes look like people. The Shamindo call them the Vansar, and the Reshen call them the Saethen. I guess other people have other names for them, but those are the only two I know. We each have our own legends about them. The Shamindo legends say that the Vansar are creatures that lurk in dark places and near rivers, that they lure people to drink their tainted water, and then either drive them insane, possess them, or kill them and take on their forms, depending on who you ask. I guess the nearest equivalent to a Vansar in your world would be a siren. Maybe a vampire, minus the blood-drinking part. But that's just a story. If staying away from dark, wet places was all it took to evade them, they would be much less of a problem. 

Honestly, I don't remember half of what happened when I was possessed. Sometimes the dragon would use a lower level of coercion, and I'd just get a chill up my spine and a sudden mood change or odd thought. I did a lot of lashing out without really knowing why, but I didn't question it. Well, I did the first time it happened, but at some point I got so used to it that I barely noticed a change. Let's just say it did a lot of "conditioning" with me during my adolescent years, then managed to trick me into thinking I'd escaped, so half the time I'd assume my own personality was just asserting itself and that it wasn't a problem. And then, if the dragon didn't want to have to deal with my input, he'd just shut me down and take over. I'd be doing something one minute, then come to myself hours later and someone would tell me about some odd or horrible thing I'd done, and I would honestly not remember it. I got a reputation for sleepwalking when I was at Jaern. I even got up, grabbed my roommate's copy of his "Holy Scriptures" and tossed it onto a trash heap outside. I didn't remember it in the morning. For the record, I didn't really want to kill Sheth, either. I just had another odd thought and got suddenly very angry, and somehow I just ended up following him and attacking him. And the other time I attacked someone, the dragon was in charge. I fought back, believe me. But it didn't work. I still don't know why it ended up letting go. All I did was scream at it. 

Sometimes I would notice the dragon's influence and try to fight back, but then it would get angry, and I'd feel like it was digging its claws into my skull. It made it impossible to think unless I followed its lead, so a lot of times, it was easier to do as I was told, even if I didn't want to. The most unnerving feeling, though, was when my body would do things without my consent. It was like I'd been demoted to a passenger while the dragon drove my actions. And then there were the torture sessions. Those were fun. Overall, I think it's impossible to be possessed even once and come out as the same person you used to be. I know I'm not. Next question. 

There are no more questions, but I'll ask one anyways: What would you do if the Saethan that possessed you came back? 

...We're done here. 

No, wait, just answer the question. Come back! Buddy? ...Well, he's gone. 

Well, there you have it, folks. I'll be bringing in Jorthen Lavahr, Sohrem's best friend, to be interviewed on Saturday, so stay tuned! He's a very busy person, but more amicable than Sohrem, so it shouldn't be too hard to get him to answer your questions. Thanks for reading, and for participating in these interviews! I hope you enjoy getting to know my quirky characters. 

So what did you think of this interview? I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you have more questions, or didn't get to ask any before the deadline, you can ask them in the comments below, and I'll drag Sohrem back in here to reply. He doesn't really hate it as much as he lets on. He just has a reputation of indifference to uphold.