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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Meet Guest Author, Meradeth Houston on Her Colors Like Memories Blog Tour


 During the whole month of May I have been hosting YA authors for Summer Teen Reading Party. Today I am happy to host Meradeth Houston, who is stopping by on her Colors Like Memories blog tour.
More Summer Teen Reading Party authors will be here later in the month and into June, but for now let's learn more about Meradeth and her new book, Colors Like Memories.

Welcome Meradeth. Please tell us more about you.

Meradeth Houston's Bio:


Meradeth’s never been a big fan of talking about herself, but if you really want to know, here are some random tidbits about her:

She’s a Northern California girl. This generally means she talks too fast and uses "like" a lot.
When she’s not writing, she’s sequencing dead people’s DNA. For fun!
She’s been writing since she was 11 years old. It's her hobby, her passion, and she’s so happy to get to share her work! If she could have a super-power, it would totally be flying. Which is a little strange, because she’s terrified of heights.

I'm fascinated about why you sequence dead people's DNA for fun! Maybe you could answer that in the comments.:)

Meradeth has brought a post about a subject that is not explored enough, in my opinion, teen depression. 

What Do You Know About Teen Depression?

Thanks a million for hosting me today, Barbara! Also, before I forget, I have a contest running for my blog tour—all commenter’s are entered into a drawing for two copies of my book, and one person will win a $25 giftcard to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. There are more details on my home blog, if you want to check it out!

Okay, so today I thought I’d touch on a topic that’s pretty central to Colors Like Memories, my debut novel published by MuseItUp Publishing: teenage depression and suicide. I am in no way an expert, so if you’re looking for more information, I’ll add some links below, and there’s always the 24-hour counseling and suicide prevention hotline (1-800-273-TALK).

This theme works in Colors Like Memories through the Sary—beings who are charged with helping people thinking about taking their own life. The main character of my novel, Julia, is trying to help out her friend Marcy, who’s facing some pretty rough times. In order to try and get this part of Marcy’s character “right” I spent some time reading about how depression affects teens. The statistics are pretty sobering: about 8% of teens ages 12-17 experience a major depressive episode. Only 20% of these will get help. Almost all of these teens will have their depression effect their relationships, school, and personal life. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young adults ages 15-24. Third! That’s crazy!

Okay, so there are certainly some things that friends, family members, and teachers can pick up on in teens that might be indicative of depression (from http://www.teen-depression.info/overview/teen-suicide-rate/):
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling bored all the time
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or worthlessness
  • Insomnia or excessive sleepiness
  • Irritation and crankiness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Moving and talking slowly
  • Problems with concentration, memory and decision making
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Sadness, unhappiness, crying fits and feeling “blue”
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.
That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Of course, depression doesn’t always lead to suicide, but there are certain things that might indicate that suicide is on a teen’s thoughts, such as a sudden change in appearance/personality, giving away cherished belongings, saying goodbyes to friends and families, sudden cheerfulness after being really depressed, and talking about death both directly and indirectly. 

Seeing these kinds of things in a friend, peer, family member, or a student (something that runs through my mind a lot with the college kids I see every day), should send up warning flags. Of course, noting these attributes in someone, and knowing what to do about it are two totally different things, and really, figuring out how to help someone can be the hardest part. 

Some suggestions that I’ve found are (from http://helpguide.org/mental/depression_teen.htm) offering to listen to them, and listening without offering guidance, along with validating the feelings of the person. Also, being persistent but not overbearing in reaching out. All of these are possible means of trying to help someone. Sometimes just having someone else know what they’re going through can really help a person deal with their depression.

I hope you’ve found this interesting! It certainly is something that I’ve kept in mind while creating characters facing these kinds of difficulties and decisions. If you have questions, I recommend the websites I’ve cited, and google gave me a list a mile long of other spots on the web for information and guidance!

Colors Like Memories:


Julia has a secret: she killed the guy she loved. It was an accident—sort of. 

Julia is a Sary, the soul of a child who died before taking her first breath. Without this 'breath of life' she and others like her must help those on the verge of suicide. It's a job Julia used to enjoy, until the accident that claimed her boyfriend’s life—an accident she knows was her fault. If living with the guilt weren't enough, she's now assigned to help a girl dealing with the loss of her mother, something Julia's not exactly the best role model for. If she can't figure out a way to help her, Julia's going to lose her position in the Sary, something she swore to her boyfriend would never happen.

Release date: May 11th 2012 from MuseItUp Publishing. 


Excerpt:
I greeted his tombstone the way I always did—with a swift kick. The release of frustration was more than worth the sharp pain in my toes. The polished marble tilted to the left because of all my visits; a crooked tooth in the rows of pearly white graves.
I folded my legs under me, shuddering as the chill of the damp grass seeped through my clothes. “I keep hoping one of these days you’ll be here waiting for me.” The words were tradition. Some small part of me still clung to the hope I’d come over the hill to find him leaning over his grave, wearing a sly smile. He died so very long ago, but I couldn’t stop wishing.
Leaning forward, I rested my forehead against my knees and closed my eyes, longing for a few minutes of rest. A few minutes to pretend it was someone else buried beneath me. I tried to explain this to him, but tonight I didn’t have the will to pretend it was more than starlight that listened.
It took a long time to notice, building imperceptibly until I finally looked over my shoulder. Someone was there, watching me. It hadn’t been a sound that alerted me so much as the feel of their gaze, heavy in the darkness. After so many nights spent here, I could tell the difference.
For just a second, I thought I saw Frederick’s tall form step from the shadows. My heart stopped, and I started to scramble to my feet before the breeze scattered my wishful thinking. Scanning the rest of the cemetery, it was clear no one else was around. The sprinklers were hissing their rhythmic beat in the next section over, and it was better to leave before they started watering the grass over his grave. It had to be just my imagination—no one was watching me. It was for the better. If anyone saw me here, there would be problems I couldn’t face.
I kissed my fingertips and touched the top of the smooth white stone, anxious now to leave, alert to any movement in the cemetery. “I’ll be seeing you,” I whispered, wishing it were true. I wound through the sea of identical marble markers, making for the swell of ground at the far end of the cemetery where it was easiest to catch an updraft.
The small knoll overlooked the freeway, which was a little too close for comfort, but at this hour there were no headlights streaking past. I stretched out my wings, their emerald color turned inky black in the moonlight. Each feather ached to catch a hint of breeze. Leaping from the ground, I thrust down hard and was airborne. I circled up, straining, until I reached an altitude where no one would see me from below.
Tilting my wings to swing north, my thoughts wandered to my destination. A silent prayer to whoever might be listening filled my heart, hoping the lonely girl I was supposed to be guarding was safe in her bed. Visiting Frederick—Derek as I’d always called him—was the only thing that kept me sane some nights, but it did nothing to dispel the churning worry over Marcy. In the year since I was assigned to her, it had become obvious she deserved a Sary better suited to helping her. Instead, she was stuck with me, and somehow I was supposed to find a way to ensure she didn’t commit suicide.
Saving Marcy was my reward, and my price, for dying before I was born, before taking one miserable breath of life. I still wondered if my choice to join the Sary was worth it.
Three blocks from Marcy’s house, an alley cut between several houses. It was nothing more than a walking path, windows shuttered against neighbors’ prying eyes. My perfect landing spot. Tucking my wings in, I dropped into the narrow space.
My toes tingled as blood seeped back into them after the chill of higher altitudes. My fingers brushed against the smooth ridges of my wings, saying a silent farewell as I closed my eyes. A brief moment of blissful numb nothingness, gone far too fast, and I was back to being able to blend in at school and work.
The morning was cold, and I’d worked up a sweat racing back from the cemetery. Rubbing my hands against my bare arms, I cursed myself for forgetting my sweater again. Shoes would have been smart, too. I hadn’t been thinking about my wardrobe before I changed my form, and I was stuck in what I’d been wearing beforehand. Picking my way around snail shells and sharp stones I made it to the street.
A light in a window here and there was the only indication anyone was stirring in the pre-fab neighborhood Marcy lived in. Soon the men who commuted into the city would be leaving. I needed to be finished and gone before that happened.
Every crack in the sidewalk was familiar as I raced toward Marcy’s, keeping to the shadows and out of the direct line of sight from windows.
Marcy’s house was the only one on the block where the Christmas lights were already up. That was how she described it, at least. She didn’t take them down last year. Or the year before. Last Christmas, I’d helped her replace the busted bulbs so the strands would work over the holidays, but neither of us was up to the job of removing them. Neither was her father.
The front of her house looked just like the one across the street. The faded sign on the door, proclaiming a cheerful welcome to all who entered, was the only thing that distinguished it. Marcy left the sign up, even though it had obviously seen better days, because her mother put it there two days before she was killed.


Meradeth's Links:


Thank you so much for coming by and I hope people will enter the contest for the $25 gift card and two free copies of your book. I know it's going on my TBR list!!

Until the next time, I hope everyone is enjoying my new blog format. I know I am, because it loads so much faster, but the sidebar isn't loading as fast. Please be patient while I work on the problem. If there are any computer geeks out there who can let me know what to do I would appreciate it.:) 

My next guest author this month is Natalie Wright on May 27th. She is part of the Summer Teen Reading Party. By the way, I hope many of you are taking advantage of the month long sale on all the books for the authors participating in the Summer Teen Reading Party. I'll bet your Kindles are getting filled up with the great books offered here. Of course, I can't help hoping you picked up my book, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor too!! Hurry, because at the end of May this sale ends and all of these wonderful books go back to regular price!!

Don't forget to leave a comment to be in Meradeth's contest!!




14 comments:

  1. Hi Meradeth and Barbara. Wonderful piece. Meradeth I really like the soulful quality of your book. It will be on my TBR list. As someone who had to deal with a suicidal boyfriend I know how much a toll it can take. Thank you for including the links. I really hope your book gives at least one person the strength to pull through difficult times.

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  2. Looks like pretty serious stuff. Good research on depression and suicide. Suzanne

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    1. It is pretty serious, but I tried to not make it too sad! :)

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  3. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I wouldn't be a teenager again if you paid me. Any amount of money. Not even gold. And I think a teen's world has gotten nothing but tougher in the last couple of decades.

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    1. Oh man, I would never, ever go back! Not enough money in this world would make it worth it!

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  4. Amazing post hon. Very informative. I am reading the book now and it is quite moving so far. A really interesting subject to cover. I am with Gail, no way would I never go back. Absolute hell. Great post again, thank you for sharing :)

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    1. Oh man, I would never, ever go back to being a teen again! Hope you enjoy CLM :)

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  5. I think back to my struggles in my teen years and see what my own children are going through. Three of my classmates never lived to see graduation. Those of us who made it through have something to share with those who still struggle. Thanks for writing this.

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    1. Oh wow, that's really sad! Being a teen is such a struggle--and it only seems to be getting harder...

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  6. Meradith, you address a frightening and growing problem with our teens today. I ache at the challenging and difficult issues teens face in and out of school. Because of them, a loss of hope seems to permeate the minds and hearts of so many young people.

    Your excerpt is not only beautifully written but gives us a unique perspective through Julia. I do not read YA but WILL read Colors Like Memories.

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    1. Thank you! I do hope you pick up a copy of Colors (and that you enjoy it!).

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  7. Very serious problem with the teens. I'm glad you wrote about it. May it be read by a lot of teens, plus parents, to learn to recognize the signs.

    Kudos to you for tackling this issue.

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    1. Thanks! I hope more people are able to pick up on the signs--it would be so helpful to so many!

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