A Harper Voyager Author SFFChat and Giveaway!

Family is such a comfort. There's your blood family and then there's the family you create through shared experiences. There's no better shared experience than writing, and many of the authors from Harper Voyager have become close. We love to support each other.

And we love to do things together! Like chat about science fiction and fantasy books.

And super lucky for readers, we like to give away books together, too!

HVI_giveaway.jpg

Please check out this collection of magnificent science fiction and fantasy books! Then use the rafflecopter below to enter to win a paperback copy. Or if a book sounds too good to miss, links are included so you can go ahead and purchase.

We will choose three winners/each winner will receive four books. (Note: Winners must provide a US address.) The contest runs from Saturday, March 4th until March 15th. Please remember to tweet about the giveaway for extra chances to win!

And be sure to join us for our monthly twitter #SFFChat at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm EST on Monday, March 6th. We'll be chatting about every aspect of being a writer: querying, editing, drafting, marketing, and much more. We want you to join our SFF Family.

GIVEAWAY BOOKS

WOODWALKER

Goodreads / Amazon

woodwalker.jpg

“What on earth would I gain from that?” I asked him. “Risk my own neck by violating my banishment just to leave you? The sentence placed on me if I return is execution. If I’m entering the mountains again, I’d damn well better get something out of it.”

Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hanged from, she not only feels a duty to aide Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.

UNVEILED

Goodreads / Amazon

Following the events of Elixir, Mabily “Mab” Jones’ life has returned to normal. Or as normal as life can be for a changeling, who also happens to be a private detective working her first independent case, and dating a half-fey.

But then a summons to return to the fairy world arrives in the form of a knife on her pillow. And in the process of investigating her case, Mab discovers the fairies are stealing joy-producing chemicals directly from the minds of humans in order to manufacture their magic Elixir, the dwindling source of their powers. Worst of all, Mab’s boyfriend Obadiah vows to abstain from Elixir, believing the benefits are not worth the cost in human suffering—even though he knows fairies can’t long survive without their magic.

Mab soon realizes she has no choice but to answer the summons and return to the Vale. But the deeper she is drawn into the machinations of the realm, the more she becomes ensnared by promises she made in the past. And in trying to do the right thing, Mab will face her most devastating betrayal yet, one that threatens everything and everyone she holds most dear.

LOS NEFILIM

Goodreads / Amazon

Three brilliant novellas. One fantastic story.

Collected together for the first time, T. Frohock’s three novellas—In Midnight’s SilenceWithout Light or Guide, and The Second Death—brings to life the world of Los Nefilim, Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons. In 1931, Los Nefilim’s existence is shaken by the preternatural forces commanding them … and a half-breed caught in-between.

Diago Alvarez, a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent, is pulled into the ranks of Los Nefilim in order to protect his newly-found son. As an angelic war brews in the numinous realms, and Spain marches closer to civil war, the destiny of two worlds hangs on Diago’s actions. Yet it is the combined fates of his lover, Miquel, and his young son, Rafael, that weighs most heavily on his soul.

Lyrical and magical, Los Nefilim explores whether moving towards the light is necessarily the right move, and what it means to live amongst the shadows.

GRUDGING

Goodreads / Amazon

A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.

BREATH OF EARTH

Goodreads / Amazon

After the Earth’s power is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magical powers to survive in in this fresh fantasy series from the author of acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer Wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills. 

When assassins kill the Wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . . 

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

NINE OF STARS

Goodreads / Amazon

Winter is the most deadly season in Temperance. And it’s not just because of the fierce cold. Evil is stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, killing wolves and leaving only their skins behind.

As the snow deepens, Geologist Petra Dee is staring her own death in the face, while former Hanged Man Gabriel struggles with his abrupt transition back to mortality. The ravens and the rest of the Hanged Men are gone, and there are no magical solutions to Petra’s illness or Gabriel’s longing for what he’s lost…and what he stands to lose now.

Meanwhile, there’s a new sheriff in town. Sheriff Owen Rutherford has inherited the Rutherford ranch and the remnants of the Alchemical Tree of Life. He’s also a dangerously haunted man, and his investigation of Sal’s death is leading him right to Gabriel.

It’s up to Petra, her coyote sidekick Sig, and Gabriel to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being stalking them all – before the trail turns deathly cold.

THREE DAYS IN APRIL

Goodreads / Amazon

Anders Jensen is having a bad month. His roommate is a data thief, his girlfriend picks fights in bars, and his best friend is a cyborg…and a lousy tipper. When everything is spiraling out of control, though, maybe those are exactly the kind of friends you need.

In a world divided between the genetically engineered elite and the unmodified masses, Anders is an anomaly: engineered, but still broke and living next to a crack house. All he wants is to land a tenure-track faculty position, and maybe meet someone who's not technically a criminal—but when a nightmare plague rips through Hagerstown, Anders finds himself dodging kinetic energy weapons and government assassins as Baltimore slips into chaos. His friends aren't as helpless as they seem, though, and his girlfriend's street-magician brother-in-law might be a pretentious hipster—or might hold the secret to saving them all.

Frenetic and audacious, Three Days in April is a speculative thriller that raises an important question: once humanity goes down the rabbit hole, can it ever find its way back?

DISSENSION

Goodreads / Amazon

For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.

When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt.

For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill. 

THE DAY BEFORE

Goodreads / Amazon

A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is: 

Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded property? 

Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There's a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it's not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.

The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.

This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a bodybag.

A thrilling new mystery from Liana Brooks, The Day Before will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning what it means to be human.

PROPHETS OF THE GHOSTS ANTS

Goodreads / Amazon

Both familiar and fantastic, Clark T. Carlton’s Prophets of the Ghost Ants explores a world in which food, weapons, clothing, art—even religious beliefs—are derived from Humankind’s profound intertwining with the insect world. 

In a savage landscape where humans have evolved to the size of insects, they cannot hope to dominate. Ceaselessly, humans are stalked by night wasps, lair spiders, and marauder fleas. And just as sinister, men are still men. Corrupt elites ruthlessly enforce a rigid caste system. Duplicitous clergymen and power-mongering royalty wage pointless wars for their own glory. Fantasies of a better life and a better world serve only to torment those who dare to dream. 

One so tormented is a half-breed slave named Anand, a dung-collector who has known nothing but squalor and abuse. Anand wants to lead his people against a genocidal army who fight atop fearsome, translucent Ghost Ants. But to his horror, Anand learns this merciless enemy is led by someone from his own family: a religious zealot bent on the conversion of all non-believers . . . or their extermination.

A mix of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadow of the Apt, Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, and Phillip Pullman’s Golden Compass, this is a powerful new addition to the genre.

AMONG WOLVES

Goodreads / Amazon

Young Devin Roché is about to graduate as an Archivist from the prestigious Llisé’s University, and there is just one more task he wants to complete – to preserve a complete history of Llisé.

The history of Llisé and its fifteen provinces are a peaceful affair, filled with harmony, resolution and a rich oral tradition of storytelling. Nothing untoward ever happens in this peaceful land. Or does it?

Trainee archivist Devin Roché has just taken his finals at the prestigious Académie. As the sixth son of the ruler of Llisé, his future is his own, and so he embarks on an adventure to memorize stories chronicling the history of each province.

As Devin begins his journey with only his best friend Gaspard and their guardian Marcus, he hears rumors of entire communities suddenly disappearing without a trace and of Master Bards being assassinated in the night.

As the three companions get closer to unearthing the truth behind these mysteries, they can’t help but wonder whether it is their pursuit that has led to them.

But if that is the case, what do Llisé and Devin’s father have to hide?

UNEXPECTED RAIN

Goodreads / Amazon

In a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard's Star, a recently hired maintenance man has just committed murder.

Minutes later, the airlocks on the neighbourhood block are opened and the murderer is asphyxiated along with thirty-one innocent residents.

Jax, the lowly dome operator on duty at the time, is accused of mass homicide and faced with a mound of impossible evidence against him.

His only ally is Runstom, the rogue police officer charged with transporting him to a secure off-world facility. The pair must risk everything to prove Jax didn't commit the atrocity and uncover the truth before they both wind up dead.

Brief cyborg report and a new member of the family

I met with my audiologist last week, and she is positively thrilled with the progress that I've made with my implant. I can hear keys jingling (and they sound like keys jingling), the warning bells in my car, the click of the dog's nails on the floor, and a multitude of other sounds. I sat in the backseat of our car and was able to have a conversation with my husband while he drove. I haven't been able to do that in years.

Speech and communication are getting much, much better. To give you another idea of how my communication has improved: when my audiologist and I first met, her voice went entirely out of my hearing range. In order to discuss the results of my exam and my options, she had to pull up a word document and type everything she wanted to say for me. When we activated the implant, I could hear her voice, but we still had to rely on typing to make sure I understood everything she wanted me to do. On our last visit, the only time she had to type to me was when she turned my processor off to map it.

At this point, I have essentially gone from no ability to communicate with her to being able to hear and understand her words with visual cues (i.e. lip-reading). I still don't have a lot of speech discrimination without visual cues, but I am beginning to pick up random words here and there. My audiologist said to be patient--that word discrimination will come. Given everything else, I believe her.

I am doing listening exercises and working to distinguish sounds so that I can improve. And if I haven't said it often or loud enough: Dr. Eric Oliver, Carolyn Wilkinson, Au.D., and the staff at Wake Forest Baptist absolutely rock.

In other news

For those of you who have been following along, you know that last fall, we lost our boxer Bruce to cancer. He was a good dog and my husband missed him terribly--and even though I'm the cat person in the family, I missed Bruce too. So we decided to work with a boxer rescue group to find another dog.

Enter Dimie-girl.

Her official name with the rescue group was Diamond, but she doesn't answer to any name. Her last foster home called her Dimie-girl, and she seems to respond to the Di in Dimie ... sometimes. We're working with her.

Dimie is somewhere between three and five years old. Don't let the picture fool you, she is huge. Macavity seems to like her just fine, or as much as Macavity likes any dog, which is to say he hasn't started peeing on all of his favorite sleeping spots to keep her away. She isn't as bouncy as Bruce, which also makes Macavity happy, because bouncy dogs upset him, especially bouncy dogs that like to give him big licks on the side of his face.

Dimie is reticent, but she is slowly warming to her new environment. She still hasn't mastered the stairs. Unfortunately, she sometimes tends to get excited coming downstairs, and she slips. Unlike Bruce, who would catch his balance and keep coming, Dimie tends to freak out and she locks up. Her front legs shoot out in front of her and she essentially slides down the stairs on her belly. When this happens, it sounds like my house is falling down, the cat thinks she coming to kill him and hides behind the sofa. We run to see what happened to find Dimie standing at the bottom of the stairs somewhat stunned but in one piece. We're looking at getting some stair treads to help her with traction.

She seems a bit forlorn in the picture, but don't let that fool you. She has forgotten herself on a couple of occasions and acted happy. She is not a barker. She whines, so I get to practice distinguishing pitches based on her whines.

So ... say hi to Dimie.

On Writing

As for me, I spent some time this weekend tweaking the website. I wanted to start 2017 with a new look, and I'm happy with the new header and color scheme. It might not seem important to many of you, but for me, playing with pictures on the website is an outlet for my creativity that relaxes me.

Quite frankly, the last portion of 2016 and the first part of 2017 were a bad time for me emotionally. I had to force myself to write and often spent more time staring at the screen than actually writing.

Since my audiologist wants me to practice listening with visual cues, I decided to open a file and see if I could use my text-to-speech program in Word to edit what I'd written. For the first time in about five or six years, I could hear the words as the program read my text. Before I knew it, I was cleaning up clunky sentences and fixing logistics while practicing my listening.

Last night I opened the file, thinking I would just tweak a couple of sentences and then go to bed. I ended up writing for two hours.

I'm becoming more operational by the day, so let the world know: I'm back and I'm angry and there are stories to write ...

Book review: Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939 by Volker Ullrich

I usually don't review history books here, nor do I review books before I've finished them, but I made some comments on my Facebook page regarding Ullrich's biography of Hitler and the parallels of Trump's rise to power. People asked for more detail, but Facebook is somewhat limited in the scope of formatting quotes so here we are.

A caveat before we begin: this not a review in the usual context of a review, where I tell you about the book and whether I think the book is good or bad. I'll be overlapping my discussion of Hitler with Trump's rise to power. I have shut off comments, because this isn't really something I want to discuss; however if I don't get all of these thoughts out of my head, my brain might explode.

With that said ...

Historians watched the 2016 presidential election with horror, just as we are currently watching the political climate ... also in horror. We tried to warn family, friends, and associates, only to be ignored and castigated when anti-intellectuals derided us. Of course, this isn't the first time the 'intelligentsia' has come under attack because we didn't tell people what they wanted to hear.

Hitler's inferiority complex ... led him to excoriate "the so-called 'intelligentsia' who ... in their never-ending arrogance look down on everyone who hasn't been run through the obligatory schools and been pumped full of the necessary knowledge." [Ullrich, 82]

Trump doesn't like us either.

Frankly, 2016 was so wretched for me, I couldn't read any history from July through December. It was like watching a high-speed train wreck while clinging to the cowcatcher. From that perspective, I guess ignorance is bliss.

For those who don't know me, or missed the other eight hundred times I've talked about this, my father was fascinated by the events surrounding World War II. He was a child in the thirties and forties and lost a brother due to the war. His interest in history was infectious. I caught the bug and have been reading histories of World War II since my teens. Needless to say, I cut my teeth on biographies of Hitler and his entourage.

Like every other student of the era, I asked that enduring question: how did a man who was described by one eminent magazine editor in 1930 as a "half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” a “big mouth” rise to power?

*coughs*

Now we know.

And if you read Volker Ullrich's biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939, you will begin to note conspicuous similarities between Hitler's and Trump's rise to power, both in socioeconomic terms and in their political rhetoric. Given that so many members of Trump's entourage, now known as his Cabinet, are affiliated with the Neo-Nazi movement in America, their understanding and blatant reproduction of Hitler's techniques comes as no surprise to anyone who has studied the Nazi movement in the thirties. The parallels are so striking that you can take sentences from Ullrich's biography, change "Hitler" to "Trump", "the Treaty of Versailles" to "NAFTA," and "Jews" to "Mexicans and Muslims" and be talking about precisely the same populist attitudes that led to the rise of each politician.

Ullrich promises in his introduction that his biography will 'normalize' Hitler; although, according to Ullrich, "this will not make him seem more ‘normal.' If anything, he will emerge as even more horrific." Thus far, I've found Ullrich to be a man of his word.

By juxtaposing passages from Mein Kampf with actual events, Ullrich destroys the myth of Hitler's meteoric political rise and brings it into context with the times. The mix of economic insecurity, the public's resistance to social change, and post-war trauma came together in the perfect storm to give Hitler the necessary ladder to work his way out of obscurity and into politics.

The circumstances at the time played into Hitler's hands, and he was more skillful and unscrupulous about using them than any of his rivals on the nationalist far right. [Ullrich, 92]

Hitler was an obscure figure on the political front until he joined the DAP (German Workers' Party), which he eventually molded into the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party). The DAP was a far right (alt. right in twenty-first century parlance) group of men with chauvinist-ethnic theories, who met periodically to discuss politics. When Hitler attended DAP meetings in the early twenties, the group consisted of a handful of members with no strong leadership, and Hitler saw a moment ripe for exploitation. It was also during his days with the DAP that Hitler discovered his talent for rhetoric and speaking.

Hitler was "someone seduced by himself," someone who was so inseparable from his words "that a measure of authenticity flowed over the audience even when he was telling obvious lies." [Ullrich, 97]

During his days as speaker for the DAP, Hitler cultivated his performances in the beer halls with live bands playing music prior to his events in order to rouse the people's spirits. He also had a deliberate habit of showing up a half hour late to raise the crowd's anticipation. The same format was used by Trump at his rallies with loud music and late appearances as Trump capitalized on the fragmentation of the Republican party during the 2016 election cycle. Trump could have learned the art of mastering a crowd from Hitler, whose events were said to combine "the spectacular elements of the circus and the grand opera with the uplifting elements of the circus and the grand opera with the uplifting ceremony of the church's liturgical ritual."

A master of the moment, Hitler played on Germans' widespread bitterness over the Treaty of Versailles in plain-spoken speeches ("plain-spoken speeches" can be translated to:"tells it like it is" for the twenty-first century crowd). He claimed the Treaty brought Germany to its knees and subjugated the nation to the whims of other countries just as Trump rails against NAFTA and NATO, claiming that both are out to constrict the will of the United States and its people through unfair trade agreements and treaties.

The receptivity of large masses is very limited. Their capacity to understand things is slight whereas their forgetfulness is great. --Hitler, Mein Kampf

From attacks on treaties, it was but a short step for Hitler to sow distrust among the people against their own government. He ranted against the democratic Weimar Republic by calling the representatives "a republic of scoundrels," a "Berlin Jew government," and a "criminal republic." He portrayed everyone, including Reich President Friedrich Ebert as "incompetent and corrupt." Likewise, Trump questioned the legitimacy of President Barack Obama's birth certificate, and thereby the legitimacy of his presidency, painted his political rivals as corrupt, and seized "lock her up" rants to fuel people's anger.

Effective propaganda must restrict itself to a handful of points, which it repeats as slogans as long as it takes for the dumbest member of the audience to get an idea of what they mean. --Hitler, Mein Kampf

Hitler [and Trump] repeated the message of politicians selling out the people ad nauseam, and the people in Germany in the early thirties bought it all hook, line, and sinker just as the people in America bought the same lines in 2016. Nuance was as non-existent then as it is now. Political rhetoric was driven by series of propaganda points. Hitler's speeches from 1920-22 attracted larger and larger audiences, because he kept hammering home mantra-like vows of revenge, accusations against politicians, and promises to fix everything.

Like Trump did in 2016.

I am about a quarter of the way into the biography, and I can assure you that Ullrich keeps his promise to horrify. Although at times, I'm not sure if I'm repelled by Hitler or by my internal comparisons to Trump. Either way, I'll continue to read ... even though we all know how Hitler's Reich ended. If nothing else, I'm looking for the sign of things to come in the hopes that we can somehow mitigate the damages.

In terms of the biography, I highly recommend Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939. It is an excellent starting point if you have never tried to read a Hitler biography. Ullrich is a journalist as well as a historian, and his journalist approach to the facts brings together large amounts of information in a very methodical and easy to read format. Don't be intimidated by the size. The actual biography is only 758 pages, the rest is Ullrich's extensive notes. It even has photographs for the anti-intellectual in your family who just wants picture books.

If you're into rating systems of stars: 5 out of 5 stars.

Cyborg report ... ghosting the disabled

Ghosting isn't just something that just happens online. Over the last few years, because of my hearing loss, many people in my social and professional life found communication with me so difficult, they simply stopped talking to me. Not everyone, by any means, but quite a few people found interactions clumsy, and I'm sure part of their discomfort came from not wanting to offend me through some inadvertent faux pas.

I'm not even sure if they were aware of the ghosting. These are all good people, and I don't for a moment believe that their intentions were malicious. However, their uncertainty paralyzed them and often led to inaction.

Of course communication is a two-way street. I didn't help matters, because I was so nervous about mishearing a conversation I rarely interacted with them. In many ways I ghosted myself.

My sense of isolation grew and turned into depression. I felt trapped within my circumstances and my job. I was desperate to escape the haunted house my body had become, so during the first part of the year, I ramped up my online communications, because at least here, I felt like I could talk to people and understand their responses. 

Then over the summer, my audiologist's office recommended I try a new captioning phone that enables me to answer the phone in my home as well as place outgoing calls. With that phone came a new taste of freedom. However, the face-to-face communication issues remained. I've worn hearing aids since my mid-twenties, and my current audiologist has been with me for over twenty-five years. He had nothing to help me and has been advocating a cochlear implant for a couple of years.

Meanwhile, our library director has a friend who had recently gotten a cochlear implant. Like me, this lady had zero percent speech discrimination prior to acquiring her implant. I wrote to her online early in the fall of 2016, and she graciously shared her experience with me. I took the first steps to see if I was a good candidate for the implant. I knew if I hesitated, I might never go forward with the surgery. One thing led to another, and then things cannonballed in good ways.

In just the two weeks since my implant has been activated, I have known a remarkable difference in how I am able to interact with other people. I don't catch every word, and mumblers are still to be feared, but I feel much more confident in face-to-face interactions.

Last week, a lady spelled her name out loud for me, and I managed to pull up her record on our computer system. Prior to the implant, I never could have accomplished that simple task. Right now, I still use a combination of lip-reading and visual cues, but I have interacted with cashiers in the grocery store and students on campus in ways that I have not been able to do in years.

While these incidents might seem insignificant to many, the confidence induced by these interactions has lifted me out of the depression that engulfed me in 2016. I feel more empowered to take control of my life.

I've got a long way to go in my hearing therapy and a lot of hurdles to surmount, but right now everything feels possible. That little bit of hope sustains me. I don't shy away from social interactions, and while I'm not always one hundred percent successful all of the time, each interaction allows me to test my progress and adapt myself to new circumstances.  I am hoping that as my self-confidence increases, then maybe others will feel more comfortable being around me.

And while all of this is a marvelous success story in the making, I still want to talk about the ghosting. This post isn't about blame, because I don't think a lot of people even realize they're doing it. I'm hoping that if I talk about my experience, others might recognize ways they can help their disabled friends.

Living with a disability of any sort is already daunting enough. When you have an invisible disability like a hearing impairment, people often make assumptions: that you're dumb, or you're obfuscating to create problems, or that you're ignoring people because you're a snob. Those assumptions take a life of their own and become labels.

Frustration is already high given the amount of daily obstacles that must be navigated, so what the able-bodied might see as a minor slight--the lack of closed captioning on a movie trailer, or a closed handicapped ramp, or signage without braille--the disabled person, who has spent years staring down obstacle after obstacle after obstacle, sees the final straw that breaks the camel's back. Frustration causes us to lash out, and while sometimes we're heard, often we are ignored, and that just increases our distress.

When I become frustrated and cry out, it's not about you. It's about my own feelings of helplessness. The same is true of many disabled people. We talk and talk and talk, and when no one listens, we scream. Not all of us are famous enough to be heard. So we shout and watch our words drown and when no one responds, we withdraw and become ghosts.

We tend to forget we're worthwhile. We live on the margins. Sometimes we become depressed and that causes us to withdraw even more. We become ghosts.

But there are a few exorcists among you, dear people in my computer. There are the podcasters who, although they knew I am deaf, invited me to be on their shows nonetheless. Even though most of the time, I've had to turn folks down, the fact that people thought to ask me didn't offend me. You made me feel included with something so simple as an invitation.

There are the well-intentioned friends who have listened to me when I become frustrated. Others have offered me solutions--some of which have worked and others I have known about. No matter if I've tried the same thing dozens of times without success, the fact that someone took time from their busy schedule to alert me tells me that you are kind. It truly is the thought that counts. Still others have championed my cause with something so effortless as an RT when I advocated for change. Those small kindnesses add up to daily dosages of hope, and hope keeps the ghosts at bay.

I can only speak for myself, but it's okay for you to acknowledge my disability. You may ask me questions. You may ask me how you can help me. I am not ashamed of my disability any more than I am ashamed of my hair color or my height. Being deaf is a part of me, and I'm delighted to teach you ways to keep myself and others from becoming ghosts, because take it from me: ghosts are unhappy creatures and isolation is no fun.

Cyborg report ... activation

This morning at 9:00 a.m., we activated my implant and programed my processor. Things are interesting right now. I think my brain has forgotten how certain noises are supposed to sound, so it's filling in the blanks with a ringing sound very similar to tinnitus. According to my audiologist, this is not unusual. Some people report hearing a wah-wah sound, others hear a very mechanical sound.

Me ... I get ringing.

For example, the dial tone on my phone sounds like an episode of severe tinnitus. If I listen hard, I can distinguish the buzzing of the dial tone from the ringing noise. Initially, typing gave me little spurts of ringing that is now turning into clicks. Speech is still difficult, because voices come with that annoying ringing.

Except for the ringing, people sound natural to me and so does music. I watched Flamenco, Flamenco on Netflix and I can hear the clapping and the softer taps ... guitars and pianos ... fingers snapping ... a woman's voice ... a sigh.

I heard my cat cry. There is a humming sound in my house ... maybe the refrigerator ... I'll figure it out.

I went for a walk on our nearby walking trail. I was reminded of Mark Lawrence talking about a young boy, who had just had his implant activated. He ran down the hospital halls, making noise to hear the sounds he could make. That was me on my walk today.

Today I heard leaves rustling in the wind, and the wind roaring through the trees. I heard the swish and crunch of leaves underfoot ... water rushing over stones ... leaves ... footsteps on the soft earth ... from somewhere nearby, a tractor ... the wind, rustling through the trees.

And ringing ... although I think the ringing was the sound of birds ... I can't remember how birds sound, but I might someday soon.