Christians And Anxiety Attacks

by Alex

No, I don’t mean THAT secret – the one that you would never ever in a million years spill on a public blog.   That one I’ll buy you a few drinks sometime and try to get it out of you that way.

But I was thinking about this as I’m realizing after JT’s post that Thrillerfest is THIS week, good grief, and am now frantically trying to remember the things that I need to do to get ready for this conference, at which I will be performing in the Killer Thriller Band with a dozen other authors who also happen to be outstanding musicians and singers.   

Which really isn’t all that surprising.   Very few authors just write.

I know authors who are doctors (F. Paul Wilson, Michael Palmer, Tess Gerritsen, Phil Hawley), musicians (John Lescroart, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Palmer, Blake Crouch, Scott Nicholson, David Morrell, Ridley Pearson), martial artists (Pari Noskin Taichert, Barry Eisler), dancers (Pari again, Heather Graham, Harley Jane Kozak, Toni Causey) and even debutantes.  😉   

We’ve all had a bunch of professions.   We all seem to have any number of surprising talents.   I don’t know if that’s a balance to writing, or part of the basic training of a writing career, or simple financial necessity – or if in fact it’s true of every human being – that every single one of us has surprising hobbies and talents.

This is obviously a useful character exercise for authors: to ask yourself what avocations and secret pleasures each of your characters has – to design these revealing characteristics and plot where and how in your story to reveal them.   Some of the best characters have a wide range of conflicting interests – take my favorite example, Hannibal Lecter (before the onslaught of too much information), with his cannibalism AND exquisite taste, his acute sense of smell, his eidetic memory, his penchant for collecting news articles about natural disasters.

There are also characters with supposedly character-revealing hobbies that for whatever reason just don’t work for me… I won’t be specific, but often the reveal of a musical talent in a hard boiled detective just falls flat for me, for example.

There’s an art to finding the right avocations for your characters, and an art to depicting them, and I think part of it is practice – we need to be constantly probing people we meet for their secret talents and passions, to see how these details fit into the whole of a soul.

All of which is to say I’m not just being nosy when I ask you this: 

What’s your secret?

Here at Murderati, we know a lot of interesting and surprising details about each other by now.   We know JT is an oenophile, we know Simon’s an engineer, we know Pari’s a belly dancer, we know Dusty is a lawyer, we know Ken has a PhD, we know Mike teaches high school (”Oh, Mr. MacLean!!!”), we know Toni has a construction company, we know Louise was an ad exec, we know Rob knows his way around a camera, we know Naomi did volunteer work in West Africa, we know Billie’s a Jungian therapist, we know Stacey’s a professor…

But I’m talking about something that no one here knows about you – something really surprising.

Here’s something you don’t know about me.

I’m a minister.

Yeah, really.    Church of Mick Jagger.   No, actually, Church of Universal Life, which you too can join – details in the back classifieds of any issue of Rolling Stone.

I got my minister’s license about six years ago when all of my friends started getting married, and heathens that we were, no one was all that comfortable with a traditional marriage ceremony, or a male officiant.   That is, the women were not comfortable with a male officiant, and the men weren’t all that opposed to having TWO women up there on that dais with them.  One set of my friends asked me if I’d perform their ceremony for them, which pretty much shocked the hell out of me, but they were serious, and so I got the license, and we all wrote the ceremony, and it came off surprisingly well, so well that another couple asked me to do theirs, and then people I didn’t know who saw me officiate asked me to do theirs, and I ended up doing half a dozen  (all couples still happily married, thanks for asking).  When the father of one of the brides asked me if I would do his funeral I decided I needed to evaluate my ministerial calling, because it was getting confusing.   It’s also an incredible amount of preparation, quite a demanding avocation when my vocation is already stretching me to the limit.

So, my children, watch your drinking at these cons, because I might just sneak up behind you and marry you off when you’re not looking.   I have the power, vested in me by the state of California.

No, really – what’s my point?

My point is, I – the horror writer, Berkeley radical, actress dancer singer slut who wouldn’t be allowed burial in hallowed ground in some cultures, make a pretty damn good minister, and I bet NO ONE here would have guessed that about me. 

My point is – it’s our job to know these quirky things about people and about our characters.   The more we know about other people’s secrets, the more capable we are of designing complex and unforgettable characters.

So it’s your turn.

What’s your secret?

And what are some of the best – and worst – character secrets/avocations you’ve read?

(Hope to see so many of you at Thrillerfest! – I”m on a panel Sunday morning at 9 am:  "CLOAK OF DARKNESS – Is Horror the Original Thriller?", and of course performing at the banquet Saturday night with the Killer Thriller Band.)

24 thoughts on “Christians And Anxiety Attacks

  1. billie

    Mine is this: somewhere deep inside there is a real estate agent trying to bust out.

    I LOVE looking at houses/farms/properties for sale. I love looking at land, walking the property lines, scoping the possibilities. I love the houses best if they’re empty, but it’s also fun walking through them while still occupied, seeing the trappings of someone’s life.

    Everywhere I go I pick up those little real estate for sale booklets and peruse the listings.

    Late nights if I run out of energy to write but still can’t sleep I troll all my real estate links. I’m on an email notification list for castles for sale in Europe.

    I think part of this is that while I am in many ways a homebody, I’m also part gypsy. I would love to have multiple homes in favorite places and travel between them during the year.

    I’ve ended up being a resource for friends looking to buy or sell.

    It would be a blast to be one of those agents people call and say “I’m moving to X. Find me the perfect home.” I’d interview them in great depth and then I’d do the search. Someone else would have to do the paperwork, though. 🙂

  2. Alex Sokoloff

    Oh, I am already so glad I asked this question!

    This is a character hobby that I think so many people can relate to, Billie, and you describe your passion beautifully.

  3. J.D. Rhoades

    Sister Alex, I too have been called to the ministry through the very same Universal Life Church. I knew we shared a spiritual connection for some reason. Look me up at Thrillerfest and we’ll enjoy a little mystic communion together to fortify our souls amongst all the heathens.

    Did you know, that for the low low price of only $10.50, our Blessed Mother Church will bestow upon you any of the following titles:

    Abbe , Abbess, Abbot, Ananda, Angel, Apostle of Humility, Apostolic Scribe, Arch Deacon, Arch Priest, Archbishop, Arch cardinal, Ascetic Gnostic, Gothi, Bible Historian, Bishop, Brahman, Brother, Canon, Cantor, Cardinal, Channel, Chaplain, Colonel, Cure’, Deacon, Dervish, Directress, Disciple, Druid, Elder, Emissary, Evangelist, Faith Healer, Father, Field Missionary, Flying Missionary, Free Thinker, Friar, Goddess, Guru, Hadji, Healing Minister, High Priest, High Priestess, Imam, Lama, Lay Sister, Magus, Martyr, Messenger, Matriarch, Metropolitan, Minister of Music, Minister of Peace, Missionary, Missionary Doctor , Missionary Healer, Missionary of Music, Missionary Priest, Monk, Monsignor, Most Reverend, Christian Mother Superior, Mystical Philosopher, Orthodox Monk, Parochial Educator, Pastor General, Pastoral Counselor, Patriarch, Peace Counselor, Preacher, Preceptor, Priest, Priestess, Prophet, Psychic Healer, Rabbi, Rector, Religious Preacher, Revelator, Reverend, Reverend Father, Reverend Mother, Right Reverend, Saintly Healer, Scribe, Seer, Shaman, Sister, Soul Therapist, Spiritual Counselor, Spiritual Healer, Spiritual Warrior, Starets, Swami, Teller, Thanatologist, The Very Esteemed, Universal Rabbi, Universal Philosopher of Absolute Reality, Universal Religious Philosopher, Vicar, Wizard.

    There are even certificates.


  4. pari

    Alex,You did my ego good today.

    I probably have bigger secrets, but I’m still reeling from being included in the same parantheses with the likes of Barry Eisler and Harley Jane . . .

    I’m a media literacy nut and especially love studying commercials and analyzing what they’re really trying to sell. All the cultural and consumer messages fascinate me. This isn’t a pass-time; it’s an obsession. My poor daughters can’t watch THE SIMPSOMS without me there commenting on the commercials.

    Ah, here’s another one:I despise direct mail campaigns — all those credit card companies, magazine come-ons and, lately, nonprofit orgs. This is odd, considering my work in pr and marketing.

    There’s a tremendous satisfaction in ripping off all the personally identifying parts of a credit card offer and then stuffing that postage paid envelope with all my mail trash for the day. Really, I put catalog pages in them, those fake plastic credit cards, envelopes . . .

  5. Alex Sokoloff

    Reverend – (or is that Most Reverend?) – I have always secretly wanted to be an Abbess. You have just made that possible.

    A lot of my friends are going to be getting certificates of

    Universal Philosopher of Absolute Reality

    for Christmas.

  6. billie

    I want to be a dervish and a flying missionary!

    Funny story – I have to pay an annual county revenue tax for having a therapy office. When you first file, you fill out a form describing your business and pay, and they send you a little certificate to post in your place of business. Mine came back saying my business is “The Art of Healing.” :0 I freaked. No one else I know has ever seen one that says this. They say things like Psychologist or Psychiatrist or Clinical Social Worker. I tried to explain to the revenue office that this category doesn’t quite fit, to no avail. So now, 15 years later, I am still doing “the art of healing.” I’ve come to like the phrase.

    Pari, that is hilarious about sending the junk mail off in those envelopes!!!

  7. Stacey Cochran

    I have a lot of secrets.

    Probably one that nobody here knows about (kind’a similar to yours, Alex) is how spiritual I am. I don’t go to church, but I get on my knees as soon as I get out of the bed every day — literally — and I pray.

    I do this kind of intense prayer/meditation on average 3 or 4 times every day, and I’ve done so for about seven years.

    Even if I’m some place where it’s not comfortable, I’ll find a quiet corner where nobody’s really paying attention to me. And I’ll pray.

    I used to suffer from wicked anxiety attacks in my mid-twenties, and this is the only thing I’ve found that calms the intense panic that my mind seems in endless supply of.


  8. Josephine Damian

    My secret? In botanical circles I’m famous for being one of three people in the world to have any success sexually propagating certain rare African and Madagascan orchid species.

    These plants are reluctant to produce in the wild (not that there’s much “wild” left anymore) and are considered impossible toget seed from in cultivation – but not for me.

    I am first and foremost a grower of plants -second, an artist – third, a writer.

    Good point about characters needing interesting hobbies.


  9. Louise Ure

    Amen, Sister X! And, having been witness to one of Brother Rhoades convocations, I can attest to the power of that certificate.

    Not many secrets from me, today. I put it all out there.

  10. Alex Sokoloff

    That’s a hell of a talent, Josephine!! I love it!

    I know, Pari’s envelope stuffing is a great revenge and character trait. And I know exactly what Stacey means about meditation relieving anxiety – it sure does for me.

    We talked recently about authors having to constantly collect characters – we also have to be constantly collecting interesting occupations and hobbies.

  11. JT Ellison

    Alex, what a wonderful post. I can see you as a minister. You exude spirituality anyway, so I’m not surprised.

    I wish I had some great secret to impart, but I’m more like Louise, what you see is what you get. I don’t have any fun secret talents, my interests you guys already know all about. I am a political junkie, and have a dizzying array of incomplete medical knowledge from pre-med and psych, but that’s nothing special.

    So fine, here’s a little something that not a lot of people know. It’s kind of stupid…I have a belly button ring. I pierced it over 10 years ago. Don’t know why, but I like it. Mum and hubby, on the other hand, thought I lost my mind, but they’ve come to accept it.

    I think I need to get out more…

  12. MF Makichen

    Hi Alex,I wish I was going to Thrillerfest, but alas I’ll just have to be content to hear reports from the Murderati gang. Have a great time. One of my secrets–I’m a certified yoga teacher. I haven’t taught in a number of years now. I keep thinking I should put together some kind of yoga for writers program. Something to get creativity flowing and the kinks out of necks and shoulders–maybe someday.

  13. JT Ellison

    B.G. we need to start a club…Ellipses… Abusers… United…Meets… Three… Times… Daily…

    I use exclamation points in my emails too. Phew. That felt good!

  14. Mike MacLean

    I reveal different sides of myself to the different groups of people in my life.

    My high school students often find it difficult to believe that I’ve studied martial arts longer than they’ve been breathing.

    I don’t go advertising my love of comic books to my co-workers, or my preference for very loud, angry music (Nine Inch Nails, The Clash, Helmet, The Rollins Band).

    Until recently, most of my family didn’t know that I wrote fiction.

    My wife? She knows everything.

  15. Naomi

    Despite my lack of grace and physical inflexibility, I used to be a dancing queen. To the shock of my classmates, my mother, and myself, I won my friend Eric’s dance contest at his birthday party in Altadena when I was in the first or second grade. I don’t remember much, only that I danced to the Jackson Five’s ABC.

    In college, I was a ribbon dancer behind a scrim for David Henry Hwang’s early plays, “House of the Sleeping Beauties.” (DHH had gone to Stanford before me and started a theatre group there. Another secret is that I’ve done my share of acting.)

    But except for going out with my girlfriends on occasion (now practically never), I don’t dance at all. (Wes is not into dancing.) It’s really sad. So I hope that I can be on the dance floor with you someday, Alex!

  16. toni mcgee causey

    Alex, I don’t know if I’d have guessed it, but it definitely fits you.

    When we were married, we felt the same way about various ministers marrying us, so we turned to a friend who’d intended eventually to go into the ministry and informed him he’d better go get a certficiate because he was marrying us. His name is Jimmy Stewart.

    As for secrets? Aside from oil painting, some piano, my biggest secret is probably that I love singing. I’m not anything near professional, but it’s a fun way to blow off some steam.


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