12 August 2014 - 5:37 pm

Time pressure

It feels a lot like this. (Picture by Lisa Brewster)

It feels a lot like this.
(Picture by Lisa Brewster)

So many projects, so little time. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how much I struggle with my health and fatigue (or at least, it seems that way to me). I work full time to support myself, too, so my available time to write is pretty restricted.

My project list is so long these days. I put the Works in Progress page up recently, and I’m still thinking of things that I should put on there. It’s a page that will be updated pretty frequently, I think.

It’s natural that I get frustrated by the restrictions in my life. I am brimful of stories and struggling to be able to get them down and share them. I have pieces of my heart I’m ready to give away but no hands to hold them in. Not enough spoons to carve them out with.

Okay, that metaphor might have got away from me there. But you get what I mean.

There’s something that happens to me when I feel this way for a length of time. The things I really want to do pile up and up, and I’m constantly tipping them back against the wall: not yet, not yet, wait your turn. I’ll get to you. Just hold on there.

At some point, that pile gets too high. The sheer volume of things I want to do but can’t becomes too much, and it topples. I’m right in there, standing underneath, and I give up and join in, tearing chunks out of the middle and strewing them around. Fine. Fine.

In my head, something shifts. In my chest, something gives way. I say ‘yes, I feel crappy all the time, and I have all these restrictions on me, and it sucks. And you know what? It’s not good enough. I’m sick of missing out on my own life. I want to do *this* and *this* and this other thing over here. And I’m damned well going to do them anyway.’ My brain is suddenly active, alive with urgency and ideas that are usually so far out of my reach.

Outwardly, I have a productive spurt. I write on this blog again, blurt out a stream of things that have been backing up for some time, and wind up scheduling them over days or weeks to spread them out. I clean my house. I sort papers that have been sitting in a messy pile for months. I throw stuff out that I’ve been meaning to get to. I plan out a chunk of a new project. I write shorts. I do some of those things that have been towering over me, blotting out sight of what progress I might be making with everything I’m missing out on.

Chronic fatigue is a tricky thing. Sometimes this is enough to pull me up for some time – weeks, months maybe. Sometimes it only lasts a short time before my energy dwindles again, maybe a weekend if I’m lucky.

That’s sort of where I am right now, on the up-kick of a productive spurt. I’m not sure how long it will last. It feels more forced than usual, driven by more determination than it has been in the past. I’ve been lower for longer lately, and I’m trying to pull myself up out of it.

Part of it is most likely prompted by some help I’m getting at home, and right now, I’ll eke the most out of every opportunity that I can get. If a door is open an inch, I’ll do my damnedest to kick it wide, or even a foot wider. Every little helps.

Right now, I’m feeling really positive. My day job is going well. Starwalker is a bit of a challenge (which I might talk about in another blog post), but I got last week’s post out on time and that’s a victory in my book. My writing group is going well. I spent last weekend hanging out with writer friends, writing. The Writer’s Retreat is coming along nicely. Now the pressure is off at home, I can spare the mental energy for looking into health options.

And I’m getting lots of ideas for stories. Some existing projects, as well as a whole new one.

I have figured out why Vampire Electric wasn’t gelling as smoothly as it should be for me: the villain is too off-screen and away from the action for too much of the story. I need to go back and rethink how he weaves in with the rest of the story and drives it forward. I’m planning to continue work on the second draft of the novel for this year’s NaNoWriMo project, and now I’m in a good position to fix it up when I do that.

I’m getting more clarity on some of the shorts I have on my list for Starwalker. I know roughly what I want to do for each character, but some are clearer than others.

I have an idea for a second VVSG vignette. It niggles at me.

The assassin-centric novel I wrote a few years ago is starting to itch again, too. I have a fairly good idea about how I want the rewrite to go, and how I might start to shift it into the Starwalker universe. With some more background work, I might even be able to work in the Fall of Earth, but that would be a sequel (or even two or three books down the track in that particular series).
More and more often, I’m finding that my stories come out as a series. Not serials, necessarily, but standalone novels seem to get bored in my brain and start breeding. Like dustbunnies (or plotbunnies). If I keep turning the idea over in my hands, I seem to realise there are three or four plots in there, not just one. So many books to write!

For example, Tales from the Screw Loose is now probably a trilogy, and much bigger than just a robot brothel (once I get down into the depths of the second, and definitely in the third, book). Again, the events in Starwalker are pushing this into a larger story (and I think it’s a lot better for it, mostly because straight erotica really isn’t my thing). Sexual politics, the automation of industry, the impact of refugees, entitlement, rebellion…

And then there’s the new story. It’s shiny and novel, and the more my brain picks at it, the more interesting stuff falls out. It’s called Splinter Soul, and the basic premise is that, some time ago, someone broke the world in a fundamental way. Souls are infinite and managed to survive being split when the planet fractured, and now people walk around with only splinters of the souls they should have. There’s magic involved, based around how much of their soul a person has managed to rejoin and what form they are most powerful in, so it’s in a person’s interest to try to find all the splinters of who they really are. The splinters are other creatures, some of them mundane, some of them fantastical. They might also be other people, and there might be dragons. There’s a role for reincarnation to play here, but I’m still figuring out the mechanics of that.

It’s still mostly a world right now, a setting with lots of fun pieces to play with. I’m having fun working it all out, and the mists of a story are forming in the background. I think, for once, I’ll have the antagonist before I have the protagonist nailed down. Maybe I’ll wind up making the villain the protagonist… now, there’s an idea. Ooo.

Just writing out those two paragraphs has given me two or three new ideas I can work in. It is unfolding.

This is how the mind of a writer goes. Right now, mine is firing on… maybe not all cylinders, but let’s call it five out of six (instead of the usual two or three).

I have to be careful not to push too hard. Not to throw too many balls into the air, lest they all fall down. I have to pace myself, at least a little, try to keep things reasonable. I don’t want to push myself into some kind of collapse.
But I do want to push. I want to enjoy this. I have so many toys and I mean to play with them. I want to make the most of this up-swing in productivity while it lasts.

There’ll be a price at some point. I’m borrowing spoons. But hell, I’m going to make it worth it.

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9 August 2014 - 11:42 am

Random Writing Tip #8: Write your Heart

Let your heart tell the story it wants to, even if it's unconventional. (Picture by vampiredragongirl66)

Let your heart tell the story it wants to, even if it’s unconventional.
(Picture by vampiredragongirl66)

It’s so tempting to look at the book market and think ‘ooo, stories about albino baboons finding their one true banana are selling well, I’ll write one of those!’. It’s also very easy to think ‘I have this wonderful story in my head, but no-one will be interested in it’.

Both of those thoughts are wrong. They will lead you to a sub-optimal outcome and, most likely, a weaker story.

Because that wonderful story in your head? The one that is scrabbling to be written, whispering to you when you least expect it (or are trying to sleep), or growing every time you trip over something in your day-to-day life? That’s the story your heart wants to tell.

When you write it, it’ll be full of all the passion that is pushing it into your consciousness. It’ll carry with it the love you feel for it, even if the story itself is dark and painful, or disturbing, or tortured, or sappy, or playful. It will carry those emotions with it all the way to your readers, like a heady scent.

When a story is forced and not felt, it shows. It lacks the fire of true purpose, and if you don’t believe in it, right down to your core, neither will your readers.

If it makes you laugh and cry and hide under the bed, it’ll do the same for your readers.

Does it mean you can’t experiment and try something different? Does it mean you shouldn’t try to write something marketable? Of course not.

But if you want to write the best story you can, fall in love with it. Find a way. Build in the things that move you. If it touches your heart, that’s a good start. If writing it spills your insides out onto paper, even better.

Writing what moves you will move others, and they will love it even when they’re crying.

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7 August 2014 - 5:30 pm

Random Writing Tip #7: Write for One

Is this the reader you're writing for? Because Stitch is adorable but his tastes might be a little alien. (Picture by calling_all_angelz)

Is this the reader you’re writing for? Because Stitch is adorable but his tastes might be a little alien.
(Picture by calling_all_angelz)

Crap is relative. One man’s flower constructed of perfectly-selected words in lyrical proportions is another man’s unnecessary navel fluff. One woman’s riveting background full of juicy details is another woman’s journey down a random tangent full of annoying barbs that get stuck in her hair.

What does this mean? It means you can’t please everyone (just like with everything else in life), so don’t try. Trying to please everyone is simply setting out to fail.

So what do you do? How do you know if you’re writing the right stuff?

Write for one person. Make it the best that you can for that single person; make it their literary diamond.

Chances are, the one person you should write for is you. Writing what you want to read is a great place to start. You might be the only reader you ever write for. But considering all the different types of things that you like, is that a problem? No, not at all. It’s a focus. It’s a way to know that your story is the right one for the right audience.

What if you’re writing for an audience that you can’t represent (for example, children)? Then pick someone who represents the type of reader you want to aim your story at. Understand that person. Know what they love and what they hate. Know how they read and what and why, and all of those juicy things that will help you craft a wonderful nugget for them to love.

Write for that single, solitary reader. Speak directly to them through the words you wrangle. Make your story a conversation they can get engaged in.

And the rest? They’ll like it or they won’t, and that’s okay. The right people will like it: that’s what’s important.

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5 August 2014 - 8:34 pm

What am I up to?

Look! It's a tiny writing dragon! (Picture by jrrhack)

Look! It’s a tiny writing dragon!
(Picture by jrrhack)

In an effort to be more proactive about self-promotion, I’ve been thinking about the resources available on this site and upgrading them.

Truly, what I should do is build a new author website and move all this content over there. I already have the domain (melanieedmonds.com), but getting it built is going to be a chunk of work. I’ll need to hire an artist to do the banners I want (I already know what I want to do there). I’ll probably need to learn some more CSS to make it look the way I want, too (or hire someone to do that, and that’s beyond me at the moment, too!).

Rather than hang around and wait for ‘one day’ when I might get to all that, I decided to go ahead and build out this site. At least the content will be easy to transpose, should I get the full author website sorted.

Hence, we now have a handy My Writing section here on this site. What is it? Go take a look, lazy!

…I’m kidding; of course I’ll tell you. It lists the stories I’ve done that you can access right now, with links to my ebooks on every store they’re available as well as the original websites. I’ll be working to expand the links available as I find my way into different stores, libraries, and subscription services.

Under that, the Works in Progress page lists, predictably, the things I’m working on at the moment. I’m hoping to keep this up-to-date as I work through stuff (I change projects so infrequently that it shouldn’t fall behind too often).

You may also note that stuff I’m not actively working on is listed on that latter page, too. This is stuff that I have in the works and mean to get to… sometime. Some of it’s old, some of it’s new, some of it I have talked about before to varying degrees. Most of it is ticking over in my brain in some capacity or other.

Maybe these pages will be a kick up the arse for me to get moving with some of this stuff. Fingers crossed, right?

What do you think? Is this worth doing? Of interest?

Got any comments about the projects that are listed there? Suggestions? Requests? Reactions? I’d love to hear them!

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31 July 2014 - 5:26 pm

Narrowing focus

Sometimes all you want is more spoons... (Picture by Harlwim Keese)

Sometimes all you want is more spoons…
(Picture by Harlwim Keese)

So, I’m not dead. I know it might have seemed that way from this blog, and for that I apologise.

The truth is, this year has been kinda hard on me. My health continues to struggle along and my ability to juggle multiple distractions has shrunk drastically.

For those familiar with the spoon theory, I’ve had fewer spoons to spend lately and I’ve had to manage them ruthlessly. (For those unfamiliar with the spoons theory, go take a look! It explains so much.)

When I get challenged for time or energy (or as things have been lately, for both), my focus narrows down. I cold-bloodedly prioritise the moving parts in my life. It’s the only way I can cope.

The truth is, this blog isn’t at the top of my list. Not even close. It’s pretty well up there, but I have several more important things. Work, paying my bills. Writing and posting Starwalker. Keeping my house in a liveable state. Making food. Taking care of the family cats while my folks are away. Running the local writing events I’m responsible for. Getting organisation started for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Over the past year, I have stumbled with all of those things. I have taken days off work to rest and try to recuperate. I have used holidays from the day job to catch up on cleaning my house and other various things that have fallen by the wayside. I’ve missed Starwalker posts. I haven’t missed any events yet, but they are a lot more last-minute than they usually are. Organisation is a long, slow process, where it used to be quick and relatively easy.

I have been trying to get myself into a more stable position. That, in itself, takes time and energy away from something else. It’s all about prioritising those spoons and off-setting current stress and effort with future benefits.

Some of those things have been worth it, from something as simple as replacing a failing laptop to avoid having to work around unreliable technology to reorganising whole sections of my house to condense the mess (and required cleaning) into smaller areas. Having a dishwasher installed has helped immensely (and I’m aware of how ‘first world problem’ that sounds, but it’s a godsend to me!).

Some of the things I’ve tried haven’t worked out. A recent disaster has been hiring a cleaning agency to take care of the heavy lifting involved in keeping the house clean. Four visits, three different cleaners, varying levels of competency, culminating in a lovely incident where the cleaner managed to lock me out of my own house entirely. That endeavour probably wound up costing me more stress and sickness than doing the damned work myself would have been.

I live and learn. I push on, because forward is the only way to go. I try to keep picking my feet up, day after day, week after week, fighting for each and every damned spoon in my arsenal. I fall, I fail. I get angry with myself and try to do better. I wrack my brain for better options. And I just keep pushing onwards.

It’s an ongoing struggle. Are things better yet? Maybe a little. I’ve got some more help at home again (and I can’t say how grateful I am to have my dad back), and that’s helping to take the weight off. With his help, I might have a chance to catch up. Overall, I’m not really feeling any better, not yet. I might not be slipping behind a little more every day, but I’m still barely treading water.

So why am I writing in this blog again? Because I’m not done. I have more options to try and I’m sick of missing things. I’m trying to do better, even if I don’t feel it.

Every now and then, I stop and think about how lucky I am. It’s easy to feel worn thin by everything I’m trying to deal with right now, but perspective is important. On a scale of CFS, I can still function from day to day. I can get up and leave the house when I need to (and occasionally when I just want to). I am holding down a (pretty demanding) full-time job. I’m still a mainstay and a driver of my local writing community. I’m bringing in enough money to support myself and pay all my bills, and to treat myself to the stuff that matters to me. I have awesome readers who are understanding of my occasional flakiness.

There are some people who aren’t sick and aren’t that lucky. Who struggle to find a job; any job, let alone one they kinda enjoy or feel valuable in. Who can’t imagine driving community stuff the way I do. Who can’t see themselves committing to writing a web serial post every single week of the year. There are some people who are so sick that they can’t dream of doing any of those things, who struggle to make it out of bed at all, who have hurdles far over and above anything I have to deal with.

A friend of mine wrote a touching piece about her situation with her health recently. I’m in a similar place emotionally, though my condition isn’t as serious or life-altering as hers. Perspective matters.

I’m doing okay. I’m coping. Sometimes all I’m doing is coping, but I guess that’s how it goes sometimes. As hard as it all feels, I am pretty lucky. I’m trying to remember that.

I can’t promise this will be the first of a stream of new posts. I can’t promise anything at this point except that I’m still here. I’m still pushing. I frustrate myself, I try different things, and I keep trying to be better. Maybe one day I’ll get there.

In the meantime, the world moves around me and I hate feeling like I’m being left behind. Starwalker rolls on towards the end of its fourth book. The publishing industry is flexing and shifting. This world of writing that I love and life for is changing and I have things to say. I mean to say them, when I can.

Please forgive my silences. Understand that sometimes it’s all I can do to get each week’s serial post up, and sometimes that’s too much. Know that I mean to speak more.

I dream of taking a sabbatical from work: taking a year off to write. I dream of everything I’d be able to do. I know I’d sleep for the first three months, and after that… watch out. There’d be no stopping me, and you don’t want to know how long my to-do list is. But oh, the stories I’d tell…

Sadly, reality intervenes, but dreams are nice. They keep us going. For now, reality.

One thing at a time. One spoon after another. Such is the life with chronic illness. Such is a busy, modern life.

I am here. I am, I breathe, I write.

I write.

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12 April 2014 - 5:20 pm

Altered Perspectives: Epilogue

Time to close your eyes and return to whatever sanity you call home. (Picture by Pixabay)

Time to close your eyes and return to whatever sanity you call home.
(Picture by Pixabay)

The end of the Asylum is nigh. The locks are opening and doors are ready to release you back into the world.

You have spent the day in inhuman heads, writing from alien perspectives. You’ve given a voice to the silent, and told unlikely stories. It’s time to return to your own head now.

I hope you had fun today. I hope you did something new, maybe gained some inspiration you can take forward into something else. I hope you surprised yourself.

I’d love to hear what you thought of the Asylum. Which one did you find the easiest to write? Which one was the hardest? How would you improve the experience for next time? Is there something you would like to have a go at next time? Any feedback, please let me know.

Thank you for taking part. The Asylum couldn’t happen without you. Feel free to take the madness away with you and have fun with it.

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12 April 2014 - 4:20 pm

Altered Perspectives: Challenge #5

Picture someone who travels a lot. They might travel for any number of reasons. It could be their work, as a businessman, or a long-distance courier, or a cargo hauler, or any number of other mobile professions. They might be in the military, always being posted in different places. They might be a habitual traveller, someone who is simply happiest when going to the next new place. They could be a happy backpacker, working random jobs or relying on the kindness of others as they make their way between locales. They could be one of the wandering homeless, drifting between camps and shelters. They might live on a ship of some kind.

It this person male or female? How do they afford to travel all the time? What led them to this particular kind of life? Do they love to travel, or hate it? What is the first thing they do when they reach a new place? What is the thing they most like to do in a new place?

This person has been travelling for years, one way or another. What is the one thing they never travel without? Why? Is the attachment emotional, or practical, or sentimental? What is important to this person?

What kinds of places has this person travelled to? What sort of people have they met? What sort of conditions have they travelled through, stopped in, or dealt with? Do they travel alone, or with a group, or does it vary?

In all of their years of travel, this person has carried the same piece of luggage with them. It has survived countless trips, possibly been repaired a few times, and is still going strong. What kind of luggage is it? Is it big or small? Is it a case, a duffle bag, a sack with a rope around its neck, a purse, a pouch? What’s it made of? What does it look like? What colour is it? What does it smell like? Do its many journeys show, in scrapes or stickers, stains or scars? Is its value obvious?

Fast forward to your traveller’s last journey. How old is your character now? Where are they going? Why is this their last journey? Is it planned to be their last, or does something happen to force it? Where does the character end up – do they make it to their destination?

Tell us the story of the end of this final journey from the point of view of that piece of luggage the character carries with them. Tell us what happens to the luggage after that journey is over.

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12 April 2014 - 3:10 pm

Altered Perspectives: Challenge #4

Think of a religion. It can be real or fictional; your choice.

Think about what the religion values. The things that are important tenets or rules. What are its key teachings? What does it forbid or encourage in its followers?

What kind of people are its clergy? Who are its believers? What is the community that believes in this religion like?

Picture the trappings of the religion, like robes or incense, symbols or gestures. What does its talisman look like, if it has one? Where does prayer happen? Where do its altars live?

Think about the services, rituals, and ceremonies of this religion. Where do they happen? What is the tone of them? Who is involved? What is involved? Is there chanting, or singing, or silence?

Now consider what that religion might consider to be an artefact, a sacred object. What is this object? Is it big or small? What is it made of? Is it a piece of one of its saints, something that once belonged to someone important, or a vessel containing some kind of power? Something else? Why is it of such value to this faith?

How is that object kept? Is it locked away, kept in a glass case, or out in the open? Who has access to it? Is it kept privately or shared with any follower who wishes it? Is it part of a particular ritual? Is it preserved, or allowed to become rubbed smooth by the touch of thousands of hands over the years?

Where has it been in its existence? Does it travel, or is it kept in one place? Has it ever seen the sun? The stars? What has this object been exposed to in its lifetime?

One day, a thief enters the place where the artefact is kept, intent on stealing it. Why? What does this thief hope to gain? Is it money, or power, or something based in belief? Does he or she believe in this faith, or in the power of this particular artefact?

Tell the story of this theft from the point of view of the artefact.

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12 April 2014 - 2:00 pm

Altered Perspectives: Challenge #3

Choose a building where people rent rooms: a hotel, motel, hostel, or an inn. Think about where it is located. What kind of world is this? What era? Is it in a city, out in the wilds, the last stop for miles, or part of a thriving hub of travel and tourism? What is around it? Next door?

What is within its walls? Does it have many rooms? What are they like? Is there a penthouse suite? A honeymoon suite? Is there a restaurant, or a ballroom, or a swimming pool?

This building has been open to the public for many years. Decades, perhaps. What kinds of celebrations and events have been held there? What is the general tone or feel of the place? Is it aging well?

What kinds of people have passed through its doors and slept in its beds? Who is its usual clientele? How do they treat it? How long do they usually stay? Why do they come to this particular hotel, rather than anywhere else? Is it price, or facilities, or a particular feature like a famous chef, or something more nebulous, like a promise of anonymity?

What does the building think of its clientele?

Now think of a particular evening. A celebration is happening. It could be something public, like New Year’s Eve , or a private event, like a costume ball or a wedding.

While this celebration is ramping up to full swing, there’s orange light growing nearby. A fire is making its way towards the building, burning up the city or the brush or woods nearby. It’s out of control, driven by prevailing winds, and eating up everything in its path.

Write this night of celebration from the point of view of the hotel. As an extra challenge, include a conversation between the building and the fire.

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12 April 2014 - 12:20 pm

Altered Perspectives: Challenge #2

Picture a world. It can be in any era you like: ancient civilisation; contemporary and modern; medieval; fantastical; far-future. This world does not have to be Earth, though feel free to stay at home if you wish. It could be an alien planet, a colonised one, an asteroid, or simply an area in the void between worlds. I want you to focus on a particular location. It might be a spot on a continent, or in an ocean, on a mountainside, out in the reaches of space. It is a place of note. A place of importance to the people who live near there.

It is a place where many battles have happened. Armies have crossed this place countless times. They have fought and died there. Perhaps it is a border between two powerful states. Perhaps it is the gateway to a place of strategic advantage, or religious importance. Its wealth might be real and physical, or ideological, or spiritual. Its wealth might simply be a logistical quirk of geography, like the valley that passes between two insurmountable peaks or the proximity of an important stronghold. Choose a reason. Decide why this place has drawn so much battle onto it.

Consider the armies that have clashed here. Whose blood has soaked into the soil or water here, or hangs suspended in the vacuum of space? What did they want? How were they armed? How did it change over time?

What scars does this place have? Does it have any at all? In peace-times, can anyone tell what violence happened here just by looking at it? Has anyone cleaned it up? Are the dead buried here? What about their weapons; are they still here? Vehicles, warhorses, mechanoid helpers? Are there any signs under the surface?

Think about the fabric and atmosphere of this place. How has it been affected by what has happened in its embrace? Is this place vicious? Bloodthirsty? Is it sad and battered? Abused? Is it proud? Peaceful? Haunted by the ghosts of those who have fallen in its arms? Is it tired? Does it wish for peace-time or the thunder of the wardrums?

Now take this place to a time when there hasn’t been a battle in a while. It might have been a few years, or as much as a century. Enough time for it to grow quiet. Distantly, a group approaches. They might be on foot, on mounts, or in vehicles. They are obvious, they are armed, and very soon, they’re going to step into this place.

Tell us of the story of this group, from the point of view of the battlefield they are about to cross.

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