All posts by Patrick

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.

February comes at you fast

Okay, blog time. When did I last write a post? One week ago? Two?

…four? On like the last day of January?

Huh.

I guess that’s how blogging works when you have increasingly less and less to say or enlighten people about.

So fine! We’re in End-of-Month-Summary-Purgatory, and perhaps one day we will make our way out of it, like jailbreaking ghosts escaping Spirit Prison to at last drink ecto-cooler in the Spirit Paradise hot tub.

Seems legit.

Query-go-round

Most of what I’ve been doing this month, and for the last several months, is talking with agents, and by ‘talking with’ I mean ‘getting form rejection emails from’. That’s not the most encouraging or motivating of things, but I keep at it. I’ve had a few more personal rejections, which are useful and worthwhile, and there are still a couple of people reading manuscripts and considering Raven’s Blood.

Do I have any tips for querying? Nothing particularly earth-shattering. I wrote a standard query email with an intro, flavourful high-concept pitch for the book and a super-short bio, and I fine-tune it for every agent I approach. (And based on recent feedback, I include a note that the book uses British punctuation and spelling, so any oddities are probably because I’m foreign, not because I don’t know how quotes work.) I keep a spreadsheet of names, agencies, what they’re after and how to submit, which I follow to the letter, and I keep track of when things go out and when they come back. As for where I find agents to contact, I’m drawing info from the usual places – AgentQuery, Writer’s Digest, WritersMarket etc – and keeping 6-7 queries going at a time.

Most of all, I’m polite. I thank them for their time and attention when I get in contact, and don’t take it personally when they knock me back. (Which doesn’t really seem like rocket surgery – but still, you’d be surprised how some people get this wrong.) I’m not crawly or fawning or whatever, just pleasant and polite – and while that won’t get me special treatment, it won’t hurt if/when I come back to those agents with a new project.

Just as soon as I find a home for this one.

13th Age goodies

What’s 13th Age? It’s a role-playing game that is pretty much like 4E D&D but different in ways that don’t really merit a huge amount of wordcount right now. It’s pretty cool.

What’s also cool is The Forgotten Monk, Greg Stolze’s 13th Age novel that he kickstarted back in early 2015. It’s the story of an amnesiac kung-fu fantasy detective getting into fights with ghosts, demons and hags in an attempt to learn his backstory and understand mortal morality. It’s a damn fine adventure novel, and well worth a read even if you’re not into RPGs but like books about magic and superkicks and gnome shenanigans.

What’s also, also cool (and the point of this ramble) is that the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were free short stories about some of the minor characters in the novel, written by gaming luminaries Jonathan Tweet, Ron Heinsoo, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and I DUNNO SOME RANDOM ASSCLOWN yours truly.

For whatever reason, these stories were written ages back but not released – but now they are! And they’re free! And you don’t need to have read the book or played the game to make sense of them! WHAT A FREAKIN’ DEAL!

If that sounds tempting to you, there are links to download all four stories (in various digital formats) over at Greg’s Kickstarter page, no purchase or login required. Mine is called ‘Imperial Business’ and features a character named Sergeant Dovestrom, who may well be the biggest douchebag in The Forgotten Monk (which is saying something). It’s a little bit action, a little bit horror, a little bit fantasy; it’s kind of like ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ except it’s about an unpleasant soldier and a flying murderlion and the sparks that fly when they meet.

…that probably makes it sound more romantic than it really is. Sorry.

Other gaming news

Speaking of roleplaying games, man, I sure am doing a lot of that right now. Probably too much, let’s be honest.

My urban fantasy game (the one I talked about last time) is kicking along, with two sessions of drama and running through sewers and negotiating with demons – all the traditional stuff. One player is moving to Canada to write video games about space ninjas, so there’s some rethinking and tweaking in the near future – but so far, everyone’s having a good time.

On the side, I’m also running a short InSpectres game that is turning out even sillier than expected (these ghostbusters also run a pizza restaurant and their cases all seem to involve CHUDs), and organising self-contained Fiasco games in local shops/bars at the end of every month. And now I’ve signed up to play a game of 5E D&D. Which I’m sure I’ll enjoy, even though my heart will always belong to 4E.

But really. Something’s gotta give at some point. I’m starting to dream about dice. And, more pertinently, not getting enough work done.

Congrats to my friends with work ethics

There are people who have been getting work done, though, and I’m proud to call some of them friend, acquaintance, Tweep or at least person-I-keep-meeting-in-festival-bars. So I want to take a moment to call some folks out for being awesome:

  • Alan Baxter, Kirstyn McDermott, Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Kim Wilkins and favourite-blog-commentator Dave Versace for their shortlist nominations in this year’s Aurealis Awards for Australian spec-fic.
  • Jay Kristoff (again) and Justine Larbalestier, who are on the longlist for the YA Inky Awards.
  • Peter Ball and the QWC team for getting this year’s GenreCon up and running already! This time I promise not to hog the karaoke mike.

These are good folks. Y’all should read their stuff.

Finally, this month’s excuses for not writing enough of Obituarist 3

  • I was super-busy at work
  • And I had work travel as well
  • It was hot
  • I was tired
  • New baby (not mine, but nearby)
  • Anne Gracie got me drunk
  • Trump
  • Turnbull
  • Rain of fire and frogs
  • END TIMES?!?!?!
  • Mediocre Playstation games
  • *sigh* I’m just not, like, feeling it, you know?
  • I’ve lost so much blood
  • [insert image of coffee mug saying World’s Worst Everything]

Now, March. I turn 46 in a couple of weeks.

Let’s see if I can finish something before I hit 47.

World-building is a hell of a drug

I get distracted easily.

Don’t even try to pretend it’s not true.

So when I want to focus on writing, one of the first things I need to do is pare away my distractions. I’m not much of a TV guy, but I either stop watching or limit myself to watching in lull periods, like the two episodes of Young Justice I allow myself on Saturday mornings. Video games are my crack, so I make sure not to have any hanging over my head that can suck me in for hours on end; right now, all I have in the PS4 is Bloodborne, and I can only play that for maybe 30 minutes before becoming so stressed and upset that I can’t continue. Social engagements and beer… well, those are important to me, but as a project gets more and more pressing, those things gradually drop down the priority list.

And then there are roleplaying games.

Sigh.

I started a new RPG campaign this month, one I plan to run every two weeks, because I am a goddamn idiot.

Shadows of New Jerusalem is an urban fantasy campaign that I’m hoping to run for the rest of 2017. (Maybe into 2018, if my players are keen.) This is a concept I’ve actually talked about before on the blog, way back in… jesus shit, back in 2013. (although it’s morphed a lot since then.)

My original plan for the game was an ‘anthology’ game using the Chronicles of Darkness setting, but I gave up on that after some of 2016’s games didn’t pan out so well. I felt that I wanted a game with very strong player buy-in and minimal upfront reading/effort – which suggested a much more collaborative approach was needed.

So I got a group together, pitched a basic concept (urban fantasy, Fate system) and we went around coming up with ideas about what we did and didn’t want to see in the game, as per the whiteboard below. After some more back and forth, we had a rough sketch of a game about a family of dodgy artefact merchants, scavenging for mystic items and doing deals with otherworldly forces, along with some initial plot hooks and NPC names.

There’s plenty of conceptual and tonal fodder there, and it didn’t take me long to put together some ideas that would be enough to launch a game and run with, developing them as we play.

But then the high kicks in.

Hey, maybe I should define what non-mortal magic can and can’t do. Or pin down some location interconnections. Oh man, I should definitely stat out half-a-dozen NPCs and creatures for each faction so that I have someone/thing to hand whenever the need arises! How about I create specific Photoshop filters and processes, then make like 50 individual pieces of character and setting art!

And obviously I need to write aaaaalllllll that stuff down so that it makes sense to someone who isn’t me!

This urge to fill in all the gaps ahead of the game, to nail down every possible option so that I have what I need at all times… it’s a powerful urge, and it’s utterly wrong-headed. Especially in a game where a lot of that detail is either a) unimportant, or b) supposed to be created collaboratively with my players.

Making stuff is great – if it gets used.

Making stuff for its own sake? That’s just another distraction.

It’s the same for me and writing. I know there are authors who do tonnes of worldbuilding ahead of time, and use their rock-solid grasp on their setting as the framework for choosing and shaping their stories, and I respect that. But I don’t understand it.

For me, story is something that comes together through decisions and in-the-moment choices, rather than through planning. If a story needs a distinct world, I’ll do a little rough work at the start, but not a lot – you’ve pretty much seen the entirety of my notes and planning for both Raven’s Blood and the Obituarist books here on the blog over the last couple of years. The bare minimum I need to know what things look and sound like in chapter 1, and then make it up as I go along.

When I get sidelined by worldbuilding, I’m not actually telling/making stories. I have a bad habit of forgetting that when it comes to games, but I’m trying to keep it under control. I’m just grateful that when it comes to writing – arguably the space where things need to be more coherent and polished at the start, I know – I’m mostly able to ignore that urge and just charge headlong at things like a loon.

Mostly.

The Obituarist III continues apace – slowly than I would like, yes, but I’m on it.

And if you’re interested in seeing whether the Shadow family will outwit the Butcher Bishop and the schemes of Valentine, you can follow our New Jerusalem game over on Obsidian Portal. 

It’ll be cool. I promise.

Come at me 2017

Hmm. Where did I put that blog? Sure are a lot of cobwebs in here.

Oh wait, yeah, here it is.

So, three months after going on hiatus to work my way back out of the depression hole, here I am. I hope some of y’all missed me! There were certainly a shitload of spambots who were super interested in this blog a few days ago. Maybe I should invite them to a party.

Anyhoo, we made it through 2016! (Except for all the folks who didn’t. I miss them.) That’s an achievement we should celebrate – it was an awful year for pretty much everyone and we have done well to escape its poisonous gravity. Sure, 2017 looks to be mad, terrifying and surreal, but in different ways, and that has to count for something.

Surely.

And now, bullet points.

What did I do for the last three months?

  • I got accustomed to my new day job (textbook publishing), which I’ve been doing since August and I’m still really enjoying. There’s a lot to do, but the work is engaging, the team great and they gave me my own office. Which, admittedly, is actually a records filing room that I have to share with ten years of finance paperwork, but it has a door so I’m happy.
  • I went to America with my wife for her annual visit. We went to a tiki bar in San Francisco! I explored the old Shanghai tunnels of Portland! We indulged in the entirely legal pleasures of Colorado! And we watched Donald Trump win the election, which was WAY less fun and enjoyable than when we were there for the previous two Presidential elections. But so it goes. There will be resistance.
  • I watched all of Season 2 of The Flash and half of Season 1 of Supergirl, and realised that I’m now pretty much bored with superhero TV shows.
  • I got a Playstation 4 for Christmas, ‘cos that’s going to be super useful for keeping me focused on writing. Games played so far: Alien Isolation, which is both a master class in world building & design and an object lesson about not relying on character failure and constant escalation as your core story drivers.
  • I drank beer, read comics, played board games, hung out with friends and did all the little things that make life seem worthwhile and enjoyable rather than a gray emptiness like the hollow insides of a dead tree.
  • I thought about writing. A lot. But I didn’t do any, and I didn’t make myself feel guilty about it for a change.

Am I still depressed?

  • No. I’m actually feeling pretty chipper now.

Does that mean I’ll stop wasting time and do some frickin’ writing like I’m supposed to?

  • Jeez, back the hell off, first person interrogator. You don’t know me.

I’m just saying, people aren’t here for the talk about PS4 games. Am I going to get back to writing?

  • Yes, damnit, I am. God. This attitude is why no-one comments.

What’s the plan for 2017, then?

  • Glad you asked. And grew some manners.
  • I’ve been submitting Raven’s Blood queries to literacy agents every weekend, and I’m going to keep doing that. So far I’ve had a fair few rejections (which is fine), a fair few that I’m still waiting to hear back from (also fine) and a couple of agents who were interested in reading and considering the whole manuscript (WOO-HOO). I’m going to keep doing that until the book sticks, and then… well, I’ll work that out later.
  • I’ve started writing The Obituarist III: Delete Your Account, and by that I literally mean I’ve written like a paragraph. But I’ve nailed down the premise and direction and have scenes finalised in my head, and later this month I’ll work on it in earnest, trying to nail one 1000-word chapter a night, five nights a week, letting the momentum carry me where the story winds up. I’ll have more to say about that when I’m further into the project.
  • Once that book’s out in the wild, I’m starting my wrestlers-vs-dream-monsters YA series, tentatively called the Legacy series but that will almost certainly change. (As will the working title of the first book, Piledriver.) I want to approach this book in a different way, with a stronger focus on character relationships driving the plot, so there’ll be a lot of thought experiments and process blogging once that gets started. And maybe some more talk about wrestling (sorry).
  • I’ve been talking to some people about a project that could be very cool and interesting, but which I can’t talk about right now. But if I ever get to discuss it, you’ll be the first to hear about it! (After all the people I tell in person.)
  • I still haven’t forgotten about Sick Beats. You never know.
  • I’m going to try to be better at blogging regularly. Honest.

So things are better. They’re not fantastic-amazing-six-figure-contract-and-a-bag-of-cocaine better, but they’re better. And that’s enough.

Come at me, 2017. I’m ready. Let’s dance.

Calling an early halt to 2016

I don’t get depressed.

I was depressed for most of this year.

Both of these things are true.

I don’t get depressed. Except when I do, like everyone does; when I get sad or down or lost in a funk for a while. That’s not proper depression, that’s not the clinical kind that actually matters and is hard and needs treatment and understanding, the kind many of my friends and loved ones suffer from. I don’t dignify my brief, occasional moodiness by calling it ‘depression’; I just get into a funk for a bit and then forget about it the next day.

Or, alternatively, fall into a hole for eight months and never realise I’m in it.

My own emotions are a bit of a mystery to me. Again, not in any kind of clinical or on-the-spectrum way; I just don’t pay too much attention to them. I’m generally either vaguely perky or I’m not, and I’m too focused on external things to be all that attentive to (or even interested in) internal states.

So when I get depressed, I don’t usually realise it until afterwards. Which isn’t that big a deal when I’m mopey for a couple of hours. When it’s 200+ days… that’s more complicated.

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been a cunt of a year.

Without getting into boring details… yeah, mine too.

There are writers who work best when they’re depressed.

I am absolutely not one of them.

I’ve written pretty much sweet-FA this year.

Guess how that made me feel.

Also, it was dark, it was cold, my knee hurt, my back aches, it got really hard to access American Netflix, waaaahhhhhh

And then, a couple of days into September, I realised I was in a hole. It suddenly hit me: oh man, I’ve been depressed all year.

Which was basically the first sign that I’d stopped being depressed – or had, at least, begun the process of ceasing being depressed.

I only become self-aware when I’m chipper. I’m like the world’s shittest AI.

Maybe you feel like this too.

If you do, it’s okay to acknowledge it. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to forgive yourself.

It’s okay to be better at this than I am.

Please, for your sake, be better at this than I am.

What’s the point of all this fragmentary introspection?

It’s to say that it’s been a tough year, and that I’ve not accomplished much. (I wrote about this a while back, when I was still pretty deep into The Funk.) It’s become a lot easier for me lately – new job that I enjoy, good times with friends, it’s not cold and dark and raining every fucking day – but I’m not entirely out of the hole yet. Most of the way up, yeah, but my legs are still dangling down into the void. Just a little.

So now that I’m aware there’s a problem, it’s time for me to focus on a little self-care for the rest of the year, to maybe try some of the things Delilah Dawson has talked about as ways to combat depression. And that probably means taking a break from writing – or trying to write, and failing, and getting sad and angry at myself for failing – for a month or two. To build up my strength and energy again, rather than feel sapped and achy whenever I sit down in the Writing Bungalow of a night.

Which also means taking a break from blogging for a month or two. Because none of us need more irregular waffle about stories, wrestling and maybe something I saw on TV.

What to do between now and January 2017? Get some exercise. Lose a little weight. Head over to the US for about three weeks with my wife to visit family and see the sights of Portland and San Francisco. Pick up a freaking book and read it, goddamnit (because oh yeah, my ability to concentrate on reading vanishes when I’m depressed). Live a little.

And when I resurface, I have three things on my to-do list:

  1. Shop Raven’s Blood around agents until I finally find a home for it and the whole Ghost Raven series. (I’ve been doing that, but I’ll do it better.)
  2. Plot, plan and take the first steps on a new project, the YA wrestling-urban-fantasy series I’ve been alluding to lately, something I’m currently thinking of as ‘The Squared Circle’ (name almost guaranteed to change).
  3. Write something short, fun and punchy to get my juices (eww) flowing again.

I think we all know what that last one means. Let me paint you a picture:

The Obituarist III: Delete Your Account

And with that – yeah, taking a break. Remembering how all this works again.

I hope I see all y’all on the other side in a couple of months.

Don’t let them catch you riding dirty.