Not waving, drowning (glub glub glub)

I’m making kind of a habit of disappearing for long periods.

Maybe you thought I was dead.

Nah. My computer was, though, for close to three months, during which time I shelled out a bunch of money to get files recovered, Googled every step required to take the PC apart and put it back together, made lists of all the software I needed to installed and generally got no writing done.

And while all that was happening, my day job went through a big shake up and a bunch of people got laid off. I didn’t, and my job changed to have more of a writing focus, which is a plus – but my workload went through the roof, and it hasn’t stopped climbing yet. Which explains why I spent my entire weekend in the office, shooting videos and developing content, and don’t have any downtime scheduled until maybe next weekend. If I’m lucky.

So I’ve had no time, energy or spoons for writing. Or blogging. Or doing much more than sleeping of late. And I’m not getting enough of that.

Still. I ain’t dead yet. And after I nursemaid four textbooks off to print in the next three weeks, I’ll hopefully get a chance to fall down, go boom, get back up again and revise my writing plans for the year.

I’ll tell you about that when it happens.

But right now it’s nearly 6.30pm and I’m stuffed. Time for another early night.

Still lost in the analog hellscape

BRIEF UPDATE

  • My hard drive is full of ‘bad sectors’, which sounds like a third-wave cyberpunk novel.
  • It is going to cost a LOT of money to recover the data.
  • I tried writing longhand as an alternative.
  • Turns out I can’t read my own handwriting any more.
  • After much soul-searching, I’m paying said LOT of money.
  • Hopefully I’ll be back to normal next week.
  • HA HA HA HA HA I just cursed myself didn’t I
  • Lift your game, 2018.

Thus God makes fools of us all

When last we spoke, I was getting ready for a February of working towards solid yet achievable goals, culminating in a finished Obituarist III draft.

Then on Saturday, this happened.

Yep, my PCs went from useful implement to oversized paperweight, and no amount of cajoling or crying has fixed it. Or (so far) allowed me to retrieve any of the files on it, which include not just the O3 MS but every document, video, photo and piece of music I own.

I should be freaking out. Good thing I’ve started taking meds.

So in the short term, February is going to involve talking to IT people, trying various solutions, writing what I can on my wife’s old laptop and generally cursing fate.

Oh, and writing occasional posts from work while on my lunch break.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Wish me luck.

GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL

Okay, it’s the end of January and approximately a hundred degrees in my office, so it’s time  to knock out a blog update before my brainmeats sizzle and fry within my melting skullfat.

At the end of 2017 I talked about depression and recovery, and wanting – needing – to put in the work to make 2018 less godawful and more worthwhile. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do the last few weeks – put in the work.

I’ve been aided in this by starting a course of anti-depressants. Well, I think I’ve been helped; it’s hard to quantify the effects, and nothing dramatic has happened. The key thing is that I don’t feel… overwhelmed all the time. Which is something.

(Mind you, I don’t love the side effects, which including gaining weight, getting dizzy-drunk on two beers and becoming reeeeaaalllly gassy, but I guess you take the rough with the smooth.)

Work has to have direction and purpose, of course, and so I set myself a slew of goals on January 1st while still bleary and hungover from a big NYE involving dogsitting and beer. (It’s important to start as you mean to continue, after all.)

Obviously, my main goals are writing goals:

  • finishing, revising and publishing Obituarist III by the end of March
  • doing a new set of revisions on Raven’s Blood by May and getting it back out to agents
  • starting my new YA-wrestling-horror-mystery-romance novel, Piledriver, and getting it about 75% finished by the end of the year

On top of that, I have reading goals, gaming goals, blogging goals, social goals, health goals, sleep goals, emotional goals… I’m basically entirely comprised of goals at this point, like some kind of sports-themed Voltron.

The next step (according to all the advice books) is making things concrete, so I broke down a set of tasks for each goal and peppered them throughout my January calendars and to-do lists.

Now, at the end of the month, I can go through, check myself against all my milestones and mini-goals, and see how well I did.

How did I do?

Not that well.

Setting goals is easy, but when it comes to kicking them, I’m not exactly Pele or David Beckham or, um… Serena Williams? Look, I don’t understand sports, you know that.

Ultimately I took on too many things to handle in one month (especially one heat-wave heavy month), and with the best intentions, I was still only able to achieve a few of the tasks I’d laid out.

What that tells me, though, is that my problem isn’t that I can’t do these things, it’s that I can’t do all of these things. Not yet, and not all at once. Not while my mental health is recovering and my writing muscles are atrophied.

But muscles get better through use. And I’m not giving up on using them.

So for February, I’m setting a smaller, more controlled set of goals, focusing on just a few of the big picture plans rather than everything in a blender. Will that work better? It should do, if I stick at it.

I plan to stick at it.

One of those goals is getting back into a more regular, more interesting blogging routine, where I write about more than just not writing. At this point I’m aiming for at least one post per month, at around this time, looking at what I’ve achieved and what comes next. If I can, I’ll try to get a second one in there every month about something engaging that I can talk about in a fun, useful way.

Let me know how I go with that.

Huh. It got cooler in here since I started working on this blog post.

…maybe I’ll do a bit more writing tonight.

Die screaming, year of fuck

I’ll keep this brief.

2016 was shit.

2017 was worse.

Worse for a lot of people, in a lot of ways – and yes, there were some high points and victories in there, but not enough.

For me, it was a year of poor physical health, poor mental health and zero creative health, which I’m pretty sure is a thing. A year when I couldn’t see any point or purpose in writing.

Will 2018 be better? If it is, it’ll only be because we work at it – if we turn the anger and sadness and helplessness of this year into fuel for making change and building something better.

So that’s what I want to focus on from this point – putting the work in. On my health, on my mood, on my writing, on my professionalism, on my drive, on my projects. Less pie in the sky, less survival thinking; more getting shit done, more setting and (important) working towards goals.

But first I’m going to get drunk and celebrate 2017 dying in a fucking fire.

The Hoseface Chronicles

Apparently regular weekly, fortnightly or even monthly blogging continues to be too much effort for me to handle at the moment. Is it because I suck? Or because this is a fallen world in which the Throne of God sits empty and demons run wild to stoke and inflame the weakest and most despicable impulses of base humanity?

I mean, I know which one has the most evidence pointing to it. My intrinsic suckiness ain’t involved with The Bachelorette.

But anyhoo, some stuff has happened, is happening or will be happening now that we’ve hit November, so lemme talk about that for a bit before returning to the important work of patting my dog.

2017 has been notable in that I’ve felt like hammered shit pretty much all the time. Which is fine (note: not actually fine) if I’ve been drinking all weekend (note: don’t you judge me), but less great when it’s just a regular Tuesday morning and I wake up wishing I was dead (note: DEAD).

Poor sleep has been my biggest issue, so in September I took myself to hospital for an overnight sleep study. It was great fun (note: no it wasn’t), as you can see from the photo.

Turns out, really hard to sleep with all that crap attached to your head.

But all that glue in my beard paid off, as it revealed that I have a moderate case of sleep apnea – as well as a moderate case of upper airways resistance syndrome, which is basically a more obscure, less mainstream version of sleep apnea for hipsters, or something. (note: you probably haven’t heard of it)

It’s kind of a crap thing to deal with, but at the same time I’m really glad about this.

Depression and ennui and self-doubt are hard to tackle and overcome. Physical problems? Those can be fixed! You can take a pill for those!

Or, more accurately, you can sleep with a hose in your face.

(Peter Ball has written on dealing with sleep apnea and crushing exhaustion, much better than I can, and he covers pretty much everything that needs to be covered. Go read him talk about it.)

Sleeping with a CPAP machine doesn’t magically fix all your problems – but damn, it fixes some of them. Since I started using it a few weeks ago, I don’t wake up exhausted in the morning, I don’t hit a wall of tiredness by mid-afternoon, and I don’t get home with a grey haze on my brain that drives me into bed by 8pm. All that’s pretty great.

That said, I’m shifting from waking up 5-6 times a night because I stop breathing, to waking up 5-6 times a night because there’s a bloody hose sticking out of my face. I’m not waking up tired, but I am waking up dehydrated and headachy – which are more easily treated than exhaustion, thanks to the miracles of running water and paracetamol, but it’s still not ideal.

What would be ideal is losing a bit of weight (note: maybe like 5 kilos? I’m honestly not that fat for a bloke my height) so that the apnea fades away. As for the UARS – well, that will probably improve if I drink less alcohol, which would also help with the weight (note: it’s like some circle of life shit). If I can get all that under control, there’s no need for the CPAP machine, and Hoseface can go hang out with the rest of the Nightbreed.

What’s all this got to do with writing?

Not a lot just at the moment, admittedly. But it means that there are more hours in the day in which I can write – when I actually have the physical and mental energy required to sit down and bang out words without greying out or shutting down.

Is that happening? Yeah. A little bit. Not enough to be worth noting as yet – but still more than a few months ago.

In a few days I’m hitting GenreCon in Brisbane – going to workshops, talking to other writers, singing karaoke, drinking with friends (note: but not too much, ‘cos of the UARS thing), networking and, most of all, reconnecting with writing. (I would say ‘getting inspired’, but I feel a bit silly using phrases like that because I’m a dickhead.)

(If you’re also going, say hello! Just don’t tell me I look tired.)

Will I come back next week raring to go, pound my way through Obituarist III by the end of November and start writing about teenage wrestling-mages by December? Umm… possibly/hopefully the first part of that; probably not (note: yeah, nah) the second part. But even the first part wouldn’t be happening without 7-8 hours sleep every night – so if it does happen, we can thank Hoseface.

Let him be your new favourite Marvel superhero. Thor can piss off.

Dead Machines and living robots

Hey friends,

Just a quick post, as I am SUPER CRAZY EXHAUSTED tonight, to say that I was interviewed a little while ago by author and game designer Filamena Young – and that interview is now live on her author page!

It’s here, specifically!

This was a fun interview, and by ‘interview’ I mean that she asked me a handful of questions and then I rambled and swore like one of those blokes who huff paint down the back of Aldi on a Saturday night.

Wrestling, the digital afterlife industry, the way a text can change when read by a different audience, robots, sex robots… it’s all there, man.

The interview was done as part of the digital release party for Filamena’s new novel Dead Machines, a book about giant robots, motherhood and ghosts, and I for one am very intrigued by that spicy combo platter. You can find more about it here, and buy it from all the good ebook stores and probably most of the crappy ones do. So maybe go do that.

Hope y’all enjoy the interview – I might see if I can return the favour and ask Filemena a few in return. It’s been too damn long since I had an interview on here.

And with that, BED BEFORE 8.30 PM SEACREST OUT

CTRL-ALT-Undelete

As I said last time, it’s been almost six months since I had the energy, the focus or the basic self-confidence to do any writing.

I’m not sure that I have any of those things back.

But I’m tired of waiting for them to return. Time to get back to work.

So, in the interests of holding my feet to the fire, here’s an initial teaser from The Obituarist III: Delete Your Account. See? It’s a thing that could eventually exist.

 

ONE

I was the only person at Benny Boorns’ funeral.

Seriously, the only person. Not even a priest to give a service. Just me, sweltering in my black suit, standing at the side of the grave and wondering how long I had to stay there before I could leave. Theoretically I could go at any point; it’s not like I would miss anything. But there were a couple of gravediggers loitering at the edge of the cemetery, smoking and waiting to fill in the hole, and I didn’t want to bug out too quickly in case they judged me for it.

I feel like gravediggers are probably the judgey type.

I moved to the left to get under the shade of a tree and away from the morning sun. It should have been cold, dark and rainy; that’s how funerals work on TV, and what can you trust if you can’t trust television? But the weather didn’t give a damn about Benny, or me, and so it was hot, bright and muggy, even though it was only a little after 9am.

Seriously, who schedules a funeral this early in the day, and during the week? Is that why no-one else showed up? Or did the cemetery manager know that no-one would show up, and thus schedule the funeral for the matinee session, leaving the peak-attendance spots for dead people that the living gave a shit about?

Bah. I was just marking time for show at this point.

I looked down into the grave at Benny’s coffin. It wasn’t one of the giant fancy ones that’s covered in silver filigree and takes six men to carry it; it was plain and it was small, an economy child’s coffin, like a black wooden packing crate that might have held a bar fridge. Benny had been a small man, his growth stunted and twisted by a smorgasbord of birth defects and congenital health issues. His wheelchair weighed twice what he had, and they hadn’t bothered to bury it with him. Kind of a shame; at least that way he could have ridden to the afterlife instead of having to crawl.

Fuck, this was a morbid start to the day. I needed coffee and escape from the presence of death.

‘I know I should say something sad and poignant, Benny,’ I said to the coffin, ‘but it’d just annoy you and make me look stupid. So let’s just call it a day, alright?’ And with that I turned and headed for the cemetery gates.

The gravediggers – burial ground custodian is, I believe, the formal job title – stirred to life, walking back towards the grave as I pulled out my phone to get an Uber. One stomped past me, not bothering to conceal that he was still finishing his breakfast McMuffin, but the other still retained some sense of shame, possibly from a Catholic upbringing, and stopped for a moment. ‘I’m, ah, sorry about your friend. I guess his other friends all had to go to work.’

‘Benny didn’t have any friends,’ I said. ‘He was a really unpleasant, antagonistic person and nobody liked him.’

‘Oh. Well, I mean… you liked him, right?’

‘No, I can’t say that I did. But someone had to come and see him off. Might as well be me.’

The gravedigger – sorry, custodian – seemed both confused and offended by what I said, as though a statue of the Madonna had farted in church. ‘Christ, this fucking town,’ he muttered, and went to join his friend in dirt-piling detail.

This fucking town indeed. No argument from me.

More to come.

Hopefully soon.

Crisis on infinite confidences

And then there was that time I vanished off the internet without warning for like six months.

Miss me? Notice I was gone? It’s okay if you didn’t. I didn’t notice a bunch of writer-blogs I follow quietly fading away over the last year or so; everyone’s focusing on social media these days.

Not that I was doing that. I was doing a bunch of things like moving house, working hard at my day job, playing games, drinking too much and suffering paralysing self-doubt any time I thought of doing any kind of writing.

I don’t know why all my self-confidence dried up and blew away like spilled cocaine under a flophouse fan. Maybe because I hit a plot wall in The Obituarist III and couldn’t see an easy way to fix it; maybe because I’d had no success interesting an agent or publisher in Raven’s Blood; maybe because of depression, seasonal affective disorder, fucked-up sleep habits and the constant psychic pressure of this hell year.

Or, to quote a bit of Obituarist III that I actually finished:

Maybe nihilistic depression is what 2017 demands. I mean – Trump, Brexit, section 44, North Korea, Putin, floods, Syria, war, refugees, climate change, neo-Nazis, terrorism, um… I dunno, hot hail, dank memes, disappointing new Tay-Tay singles… what’s the point of trying to do anything in the face of that? Better to hide under a blanket, get drunk and look at baby animal GIFs until Armageddon finally caves in the roof. That’s the only sane response.

Whatever the reason, the last six months have been… difficult. Not just from lacking confidence, but from lacking much ability to feel engaged or interested in pretty much anything. It’s all been too hard, too pointless, too much; much too much. Easier and better to just drift and not worry about anything.

Drifting, for the record, is less cool than it appeared in The Fast and the Furious. Or indeed Mario Kart.

So what’s changed? I dunno. Not sure if anything really has, other than spring finally hitting, getting diagnosed with an iron deficiency (yay, a problem I can fix!) and my new glasses making reading/writing a bit less arduous. Mostly I’m just tired of feeling three-quarters empty, and I’d like to work out how to refill whatever tank was keeping this engine running until now, and once again we can see that I’m bad at metaphors.

I’m not going to go on about MY EMOTIONS at length; I did that last year, last time I fell in a hole, and besides I now pay someone to listen to that kind of talk. I just wanted to say: hey, I’ve been gone a while, and I’m not all the way back yet, but I’m working on it. Thanks for sticking around.

Next step – back to work on Obituarist III, with an eye towards fixing the plot, working out what the hell it’s about and getting it out online by the end of 2017. And putting Raven’s Blood back into query rotation. And going to GenreCon come November. And maybe drinking a bit less.

We’ll see.

Go well, my darlings. Don’t let 2017 murder you just yet.

Solve for X

Sometimes you have to rewind and rethink.

I’m currently working on The Obituarist III: Delete Your Account, the final instalment in the novella series. (Well, what eventually became a series.) While I write by the seat of my pants, I try to stuff the arse-pockets with ideas first, and I had a pretty decent idea of what I wanted this book to be – how the story would start, how it might end, the themes it presented and the characters that would carry them.

And when I sat down to write it, it was like peeing out a kidney stone. I had everything in my head, but nothing engaged me or made me interested in putting things down to find the next bit of story. I wrote some chapters and scenes, but it was slow and unenjoyable going and I started to wonder if this project was doomed, if I’d lost the ability to write, and whether it was time to just give it up and devote my life to mastering PS4 games.

But last week I had a sudden epiphany about why I was struggling. I’ve been writing the wrong story – worse, the wrong kind of story.

I meant to write a mystery, but instead I’ve been setting out a thriller.

What’s the difference?

Other people have opined about the difference between these two related genres, and I don’t want to retread well-trampled ground, but let me give it a quick try.

A mystery is about solving puzzles and answering questions – the who, the why, the how. Classical whodunits are all about the puzzle, and giving enough info to the reader that they can solve it before being fed the answers – as are stories like mine, that pretend to be honest whodunits for a bit and then cheat like crazy.

Meanwhile, thrillers are about defeating challenges. Almost all the problems and obstacles in a thriller story are defined or at least hinted at before the action starts; the protagonist doesn’t have to seek out information about their existence or what they did in the past (although he/she may need to discover what they’re planning in order to dickpunch them).

Mysteries are about finding solutions; thrillers are about overcoming obstacles. Both may have elements of the other, but the point of the mystery is not the frantic chase, and the point of the thriller is not piecing together the clues.

Alternatively, the short version: Mysteries are games. Thrillers are sports.

Why is that a problem?

Because I like games but I’m not much for sports, other than pro wrestling (the sport of kings, the king of sports).

In other words, I think mysteries are more fun (for me at least) to write than thrillers are. Mysteries are a puzzle from this side as well, with lots of questions to solve – what clue fits here? How can I misdirect the reader? Where is this story going? Oh damn, who am I going to pick as the murderer, and how can I backtrack to justify that? Answering those questions as I go is awesome – it’s the sort of thing that leaves me awake at night, or turning over ideas in the shower, building up a head of steam that drives me to the computer to write.

Thrillers aren’t bad or anything – I like reading ’em just fine – but they’re more straightforward stories to read and to write, at least for me. There’s an inevitability to their direction, and while there are questions that need answering as you write, they’re more about details and processes than swerves, tricks and fake-outs. Again, at least for me.

What needs changing?

When I conceived this book, I thought I wanted to do something more straightforward, to break the pattern of the previous stories. But you know what? I was wrong. It needs to be a mystery, or at least to have some mysteries in it. To have questions that Kendall Barber, king of bullshit schemes and getting punched in the dick, needs to answer.

So the obvious solution was to add a murder. Because – as previously discussed – everyone loves murder.

But I couldn’t just start a murder in the middle of…. okay, like five-six chapters into the book. That’d be weird. So I came up with a whole new first chapter, kicking off the book with an early morning funeral rather than a bout of self-pity, and gave myself a new plotline to chase through the book. The existing chapters needed some modification, but less than you might think – I tend to compartmentalise the A/B plots until they cross-pollinate later in the book, so A just had to add some contextual markers, tweak the pacing and break the story up with investigation scenes.

And I still have the original plotline to play with – someone is trying to kill Kendall, his whole life is falling apart, his business and relationship are failing, he feels useless and the local cafe makes really shit coffee.

So, you know, there’s stuff going on.

Has it helped?

Oh yeah. I went from totally blocked to banging out the new start in like two hours, and I’m still riding that momentum into exploring the new parts of the book. And more – the energy I’m getting from activating my puzzle-posing, puzzle-solving neural circuits is carrying over into the fast/furious/fiery explosions chapters, so I’m having more fun writing them too.

Having fun while writing. What a concept.

I mean, it’s not like I’m going to bang this book out immediately – it’s only a novella, but I have a day job and many social commitments, and I can’t manage more than a couple of pages a day.

(I have a friend halfway writing her third novel just for this fucking year AH GOD I HATE HER SO MUCH but I don’t think she needs sleep or feels pity or remorse… wait, that’s the Terminator, never mind.)

But a couple of pages a day is a lot better than I’ve been doing. So I’ll take it.

The moral of the story

Eat your vegetables.

Cheats never prosper.

Write the genre you want to write, not the genre you think you should be writing.

…I dunno, it’s one of those three.