Monday, 22 August 2016

Three Tricks to Help in a Panic Attack

I've recently decided to add this post to the blog schedule to address something close to my heart and which affects each and every one of us. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, and many of us will experience a problem at some point in our lives. The stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be broken, and the only way that will happen is by speaking out.

So that is what I am going to do. I'm going to be opening up about my own bouts of mental illness so that hopefully I'll be able to help others, the same way I want to help budding writers refine their craft.

I suffer from mental illness. Namely, anxiety disorder. It doesn't sound like a big scary thing - after all, everyone gets anxious from time to time. But there is a difference between being anxious and having anxiety. And for me, everything has the potential to be a big scary thing.

Anxiety is horrible. It's not an excuse and it is not attention-seeking. Believe me, when I'm in the middle of a panic attack, the last thing I want to do is draw attention to myself - and the conundrum is, I know the panic attack is drawing more attention. So that makes me more agitated, which turns more heads, and a vicious circle begins which can quickly get out of my control. Panic attacks are not a pleasant experience, and if you've ever had one, you know you don't decide to experience it. I wouldn't wish these things on my worst enemies.

But there are tricks which I've learned to help me bring myself back under control when an attack does hit. I hope these three can work for you too if you experience them.

1. Hold onto something
When you have a panic attack, reality and your own body can become distorted. For me, the floor moves like a liquid and I am terrified I will fall through it. So when that starts to happen, I grab onto an object to use as an anchor. Holding my arm or clothes doesn't really work, because they are a part of me, and I'm not too aware of myself when an attack is in full swing. So I always have a small stuffed toy in my bag or pocket for emergencies. It's firm enough to ground me, but still malleable enough to not push me away. A beanbag works well too, as well as stress balls.

2. Get out of the situation, but safely
Panic attacks are essentially the fight or flight reaction gone wild. So many sufferers will either strike out blindly or bolt when one gets a grip of them. I'm a bolter. Once the initial attack starts, I'll begin wildly pacing or going round in circles before I run for cover. And this is a defence mechanism for a reason; it's always best to get away from the situation if you are able to. But when you leave, make sure you do it safely, and stay aware of your surroundings - you don't want to run into a busy road or into a rough part of town!

3. Don't forget to breathe
An obvious one, but an important one. It's so easy to hyperventilate during a panic attack, and that will only make things worse, because you'll cut off your oxygen supply and could make yourself faint. Even though it feels your chest is collapsing, make yourself take regular deep breaths. Concentrate on each inhale and exhale; count to three for each one to help get them under control. This is one of the quickest ways to lower the panic, and remind yourself that the attack will end.

I hope these were helpful! If you do suffer from mental illness then please know you are not alone. There is no shame in it, and we will break the stigma.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Age of Steampunk


My Thoughts on All Things in the Creative World

As some of you may know, my current work in progress is a novel called Run Like Clockwork. And you might be able to tell from that title that it's a steampunk story. (If you wanted to be really nitty-gritty, I think it's more clockpunk, but that's going off on a tangent.) And I'm very excited about it - I've been planning it for nearly seven years! But something else which excites me is that steampunk is coming a little more into the mainstream.

A lot of people in alternative subculture have noticed this - and even those who don't identify as steampunks, goths or hippies have probably seen it too, even if they don't know the exact term for it. Me personally, it first struck me last year when I heard about Hullabaloo: a movie project by some of the legends of the animation world. It would attempt to revive traditional 2D animation amid the tidal wave of 3D - and it would do it with a steampunk theme. Then at the beginning of this year, I had a wander around my local Ikea. After I'd finished my typical ritual of fawning over bookcases and knick-knacks, I found a collection of artsy exposed lightbulbs atop brass fixtures. They were rustic, yet modern; I could easily imagine them sticking out of some kind of Nikola Tesla apparatus.

After that, I started noticing brass everywhere. It didn't just stop at the light fittings; many ornaments started popping up. The exposed bulbs showed up on distressed wooden boxes and even reclaimed railway sleepers. Jewellery and accessories here and there started to take on a golden look, often embellished with keys or tiny pieces of clockwork. Clothes, even in some high-street shops, began appearing with a bit of lace here and there, as though gently harking back to the Victorian era.

It is clear to me, as I know it is to a lot of people. Steampunk is coming.

But what exactly is steampunk?

Renowned author G. D. Falksen explains this in his own fantastic post, but in basic terms, steampunk is essentially Victorian science fiction. Imagine if the Industrial Revolution had never ended, and the 19th century ideology never waned. Suppose electricity had never really happened and society continued to rely on steam power, which constantly evolved and improved while never leaving behind its roots.

As a movement, steampunk is relatively new when compared to other subcultures, but its literary roots go back practically to the Victorian age itself. You could argue that the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells were the precursors to what would become steampunk.

In their day, it was plain science fiction, and unlike anything that had been done before. But with the rise of science fiction as a genre came the chance to truly experiment with how colourful the imagination could be. The 1800s were a time of literary greats anyway; the century gave birth to the likes of the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen. And there was a growing interest of what could be achieved, not just in the machine world, but on paper. Such classics as The War of the Worlds and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea created a space where fantasy could get a foothold in later decades, bringing us J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, and all the other authors who could since follow in their footsteps.

In short, it all amounted to be a volatile yet perfect cocktail of experimentation and breaking boundaries. So it seems to make sense that nowadays, in our age of challenging the norm and encouraging change, that steampunk is on the rise. It recalls the tradition and nostalgia of the Victorian era but with a modern twist. It presents something old and reworks it in a new light. It is different, but not too much to frighten people away. Hence why it is managing to easily infiltrate its way into the mainstream, and why it is being so accepted as a new trend.

But, let's be honest, trends are nothing new. They go in circles, with different things coming in and out of fashion through time. Me personally, I find it very refreshing to see remnants of centuries past working their way back into our lives.

So, if you really think about it, we're entering the second age of steampunk - even if, like Verne and Wells - we don't really know what exactly that is until it's here.

Monday, 15 August 2016

The Legendary Llangollen Faery Festival

This weekend I attended my very first public book signing at the Faery Festival in Llangollen, North Wales. It was an incredible experience and I met so many fantastic people - including my fellow Dare to Shine co-author F. R. Maher!

We arrived bright and early on Saturday morning to set up the stall on the edge of the Circle of Storytellers. After I'd won my battle of putting the banner up, I had a quick look around the rest of the Pavilion before the gates opened to the public.

And then, the magic commenced!

It was a long day, but I loved evert second of it, connecting with people and making new friends. And so many visitors were interested in my books and artwork - I was genuinely touched by the fantastic reception I got. And to top it off, I got to do two readings from my books to a crowd of my fellow faeries and elves!

I visited the Festival last year as a visitor, since faeries and fantasy are two things I absolutely adore (no shock there!). But I never thought that twelve months later I would be back, and my words would be welcomed so warmly! This place is a wonderful gathering for such a beautiful community. I have always found myself happiest when I am around people who have no qualms about being who they are; and here there were faeries, hippies, goths and witches galore!

And a pixie pony! I met this cutie on Sunday morning outside the Faery Village and he made my day!

He wasn't the only new mystical friend I made on the second day of the Festival! During my morning wanderings this little fellow took a liking to my pointy ear! He still hasn't told me his name though...

One of my absolute highlights of the weekend though was the amount of money I managed to get for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation through sales of Dare to Shine. That book flew off my stall as though it had wings of its own!

I'm exhausted after it all, but still coming down from the high of such a brilliant time among such a lovely community of people. Inside the Llangollen Pavilion this weekend, there wasn't a single snide remark or hostility - everyone was there to enjoy themselves, soak up the atmosphere, love nature, and be a child again. It all goes to show that believing in faeries always yields great things!

Thank you so much to everyone who came to see me, bought a book or artwork, and listened to my readings! I can't wait to see you again next year!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Summer and 'Easy Reading': Why Change Books through the Seasons?

My Thoughts on All Things in the Creative World
Every Wednesday

This weekend saw the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer. And it's nowadays when thousands of families get ready for their holidays. They will flock to the seaside, lay down their towels on the sand, and pull out a book.

Many of those books will be 'light reads'. Speaking mainly for women, the ones I've usually seen in the hands of tourists are chic-flick style; rom coms dominated by a Mary Sue. They are not heavy or meaty; their underlying goal isn't to act as food for thought or transport you to another place. After all, on holiday, odds are you're probably in another place which you don't want to escape from! Instead, they are mainly there to pass the time and get a few giggles out of their reader. They don't demand anything of us or expect us to become as invested as maybe we would do with, for example, Lord of the Rings.

I say this somewhat sarcastically, since I first read Fellowship of the Ring whilst beside a pool in Greece. But why the sarcasm?

Personally, I think it's because our reading habits fall in with something a lot more primal: our survival skills.

Since antiquity, humankind has lived with and understood nature well enough to structure our cultures around it. In many civilisations, this was expressed in the form of acknowledging the seasons. Spring was the time of new growth and the birth of animals; autumn was the time of the harvest and preparation for the cold days ahead. Indeed, many religions honour these changing times and their associations in their holidays. And even today, with all our modern conveniences, we are still ruled by and surrounded by nature. Just like we still hold the fight or flight reaction from the days of our ancestors, so too are we aware of the seasons.

For us modern people, summer has kept a lot of its original basic associations. Strip away the barbeques and sprinklers and you find this is the time of year when many feel we can finally relax. The days seem endless, the heat is delicious, kids are off school and everyone can be together. Millennia ago, it was the breath of fresh air when weather-related danger was less likely to strike, so people could allow themselves to enjoy this time before preparing for the long dark winter.

Even though we no longer rely as heavily on nature as our ancestors would have, the sensibility remains. This is, of course, the time when we are most likely to switch off and go on our holidays. We still allow ourselves to relax in the sunshine. And like nobody wanted to spend this time working hard for the harvest, why burden your mind with a heavy story?

I know reading books and bringing in food from the fields is different, but our culture has ensured their appearances share a common psychological root. There is a time and place for everything to ensure wellbeing and, in the most primal part of our brain, survival.

In a sense, the light summer reads you can commonly find is the flipside of the coin to winter. Even though many people dislike the cold season, it is also Christmas time: arguably a calendar point even more important than summer. But this was not always so. Winter was an ominous time, full of darkness and danger, when people would pray for the sun's return and the promise of summer.

The way our ancestors stockpiled their food is mirrored in our saving every penny we can to buy presents. To keep their spirits high, people would gather together and tell each other stories. And today, we do the same. Christmas is hailed as a magical and carefree time in the midst of the harshest season on earth. Not just from our own tales and legends that dominate the festival, but also because our modern lives protect us from many of the dangers our ancestors would have faced. Now, it is safe to frolic and relax in winter; there is a much lower threat of imminent death or food running out.

So once again, we find the light reads return. The ones that bring us close to our families and awaken nostalgic memories. But even though these types of books usually market themselves to a specific season, they do not necessarily dominate it. The increased knowledge of our own safety against nature has meant we can expand our horizons - and essentially go for the heavier stuff because our brains tell us it's safe to do so.

I was reading Lord of the Rings in Greece simply because I can't stand chic flicks. No matter whether I'm home or not, I like my stories to be the meaty kind. But that's just me. I have seen many other people reading more involved books on their holidays - everything from horror to sci fi, memoirs to historical fiction. I have also seen many keeping to the bright Confessions of a Shopaholic type books.

Good on them - both of them. Read whatever you want, whenever you want. The market might still play on our old primal psychology, but that's just part of advertising. Whether it's summer or winter, we can all find time now to relax, and enjoy something light or heavy when we open a book.

Happy Midsummer, everyone!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Bat Returns

Hello there, Batties!

(Any Studio Ghibli fans will probably notice what I did with the title there!)

As you might have gathered from the sudden barrage of updated posts, I am back!

To cut a long story short, I moved my blog from here to my (then) new website, to try and keep everything in one place on a single central hub. But even though aesthetically it looked very nice, it's been an absolute pain to maintain behind the scenes. I updated it a few times, including giving it a new makeover and structure, but I found I just wasn't enjoying it as much as I did on here - what was technically my first ever author site.

While my main website is still up and running and will remain that way, I've moved the blog back here, reborn as E. C. Hibbs' Writing Desk. So I've dusted off the cobwebs and have a whole bunch of new and exciting content to offer!

What can you expect from the new blog?

BOOKISH RAMBLES - Every Wednesday
The centrepiece of Writing Desk, this weekly post will cover anything and everything from the creative world. There will be books, movies, my thoughts on storytelling, and more! Past posts that I've moved across from the website blog include:
and more...

WRITING TIPS - First Friday of the Month
A new YouTube series tackling some of the problems faced by writers.
(I take requests for subjects to cover so please let me know if you have any!)

TOP SHELF - Last Monday of Every Month
A book of the month feature, these posts will highlight a story I have read and present it with an honest review.

DESK LAMP - First Monday of Every Month
Here I will shine a spotlight on a fellow author and post an interview about them and their books.

In addition, I will also occasionally post cover reveals, book releases, and blog tours.

Outside of book-related things, there will be posts regarding my artwork, modelling with Alternative Fashion Fest, snippets into my daily life, and general news/announcements.

I hope you'll enjoy what's coming and that you'll stick around for more! To access the main website, please click the link at the top of the blog to be whisked away!

 It's great to be back!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

UV Photoshoot with Stephi LaReine

Ever since I was a teenager, I've been an advocate for breaking stigmas and intolerance towards people who choose to express themselves differently. That has led me to become a part of the revolutionary Alternative Fashion Fest. I challenged myself to try something out of my comfort zone in the name of what I believed in; it's introduced me to some fantastic people who all feel the same way I do, and want to bring positive change to our societies.

One of those amazing people is my fellow blogger Stephi LaReine. She organized a photo shoot to showcase the idea of unique beauty, and I put my name down. The interesting thing was, it would involve a lot of UV paint. Because we would be expressing ourselves and our stories in glowing body artwork.

Being me, I went with the idea of a dark faery. I wanted to illustrate how books and fantasy had influenced me in all aspects of my life: both reading and writing them, sparking my imagination constantly. When I was a child, my teachers often said I was "away with the fairies", too lost in my own mind to potentially make anything great of myself. Creativity has always been a light in the darkness: an anchor that has helped to pull me through trauma and mental health issues to become optimistic and determined. So I donned my pointy ears, dressed in black, and headed to the studio.

Some behind-the-scenes pics that I snapped while painting myself up. L: left arm, with a quill going down my finger. C: in normal light and UV light. R: right arm, with ivy leaves.
First and foremost, it was a load of fun. All of us sat around talking, helping each other with designs, and laughing about how we all looked as though we'd turned into Na'vi. I was second to get in front of the camera, and it felt magical to be sitting there with my skirt spread all around me, book in hand, staring into the air at something only I could see. I was truly away with the fairies: embracing and yet breaking everything that might have been expected of me. Being creative had never hindered me. It shaped me into who I am, and as that otherworldly glow seemed to resonate from under my skin, it was now on film for everyone to see.

In 2013, some writer friends came up with a little tagline that they said suited me to a tee: Sweetness and Light in the Dark. I loved it, and still do. But back then, I didn't think I'd be personifying it literally!

To see all my modelling photos, including this series BeaUVty is in the Eye of the Beheld, visit my website by clicking here.

Thank you so much Stephi, for letting me be a part of this amazing project!

If you want to find out more about Stephi and follow her blog, then visit her website by clicking here.

The series of photographs will be appearing later this year in magazines and galleries.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Dare to Shine - Introduction


There's exactly one month to go until World Goth Day, and that means one month until Dare to Shine is officially unleashed! I'm so excited and proud to be a part of this incredible anthology, containing ten stories from contributors spanning four different countries, in aid of the fantastic Sophie Lancaster Foundation. And in light of the main publication, I wanted to share the Introduction which I have written for the book.

​For more information on Dare to Shine, please visit the website - and also check out the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, who will receive 100% of all profits from the anthology's sales.

I remember when I was in high school, there were a couple of girls in the year above me who were constantly stared at. Their hair was dyed raven black; eyes smoky, brows drawn on. They walked in chunky leather boots or intricately-decorated Converse. Their coats were long and dark. A lot of students would go quiet as they walked by; pretend they hadn’t seen them, or stare so harshly as to make anyone wince.

I also remember a day in August 2007. With it being the summer holidays, I’d spent a few extra hours in bed, before dressing in my typical black t-shirt and jeans combo, lining my eyes and lacing up my combat boots. Then I went out for the day, and heard the name Sophie Lancaster for the first time. I was immediately shocked and disgusted by the news. Here was a young girl, just a few years older than myself, who had been attacked and hospitalised with her boyfriend near Manchester. I abhorred violence anyway, but what truly sickened me was that these two people had been targeted for no apparent reason. True, they were goths, but so were a lot of people, just as a lot of people were who they wanted to be. There was no crime in that, no fault, was there?
I kept up to speed with the news. Thirteen days after the attack, Sophie died. There was an outpouring of sorrow across the whole of the UK. Flowers and tributes were laid outside Stubbylee Park where the pair had been set upon. Social media exploded with outrage and condolences.
The next month, I returned to school to begin two years of Sixth Form. There was a dress code: no logos, no band t-shirts, no ‘offensive’ text. I kept to my simple black ensemble – and, to my alarm, so did the two goth girls. The long flowing coats were gone; the makeup was really toned down. At first, I thought they had been scolded by a teacher. I later realised, after I was allowed to wear an ankle-length trenchcoat according to the dress code, that they had calmed their style out of worry. Manchester was only an hour away from my home by car. There was a fear. Were people so outraged, so offended, by the clothes on others’ backs? Offended enough to strike, to kill?

Over the next few years, the Sophie Lancaster Foundation grew. I remember reading about Sylvia Lancaster’s tireless efforts in her daughter’s name; when she was awarded an OBE by Prince Charles for all her work. I remember when I met her for the first time at an event held by my university.
Sophie Lancaster’s name has become almost legendary within the alternative community. To many, she has come to symbolise the extent of the hate crimes to which individuals can be subjected. But it is important to also remember that she had blood in her veins, she breathed the same air as her killers. She had hopes and dreams. She was creative, caring – her own person, as we all are. She simply chose to express herself outwardly, in her dress, in her choice of music; in a manner she was completely entitled to do as a free human being. There is no crime or fault in that.
I have always been a proud individual, never following a crowd – not out of any teenage angst, but because I wanted to be myself. One day I’ll go out looking like a long-lost member of the Addams family; the next I’ll be wearing tie-dye and flowers in my hair; the next I’ll settle for jeans and a plain t-shirt. I’ll get completely different looks and reactions from the same kinds of people – but I’m still me. And every day, no matter what I look like, I wear a black S.O.P.H.I.E. band on my wrist.
Being able to express oneself is a basic right, and any targeting because of that is a hate crime. Everyone can – and should – be who they are inside; show their individuality for all the world to see, without fear or need for justification. That is what the Sophie Lancaster Foundation stands for: education and acceptance. I have done a lot of work for them and it’s led me to push my boundaries in ways I never thought I would. It’s boosted my confidence, brought me new friends, and solidified my convictions.

I spoke briefly with the two goth girls while I was in school. A few band names were mentioned; some favourite movies. Then we talked about homework; universities; what we were each having for dinner. It was a completely normal conversation; a kind that anyone could have had, whether they were dressed in black or all the colours of the rainbow.

After all, every single one of us is in the same boat; living our lives as we want, under the most diverse, crazy, mismatched flag you can imagine. And that is really something to celebrate.