Wednesday Writing – Deadlines

DUSTY  VINTAGE KEYBOARD

Deadlines. We have them in our day jobs, in our personal lives, and in our writing time. Some are imposed on us by outside forces – such as a boss needing a project done, an editor waiting for edits, or a trip to the doctor that has to be reached in spite of everything else needing done. Some are imposed on us by ourselves – pushing to finish a project by a certain time, giving ourselves a set amount of time to complete a housekeeping task, stopping binge watching or reading at a certain time to get to sleep.

Right now I’ve given myself a personal deadline. I want the first draft of the novel I’m working on finished by the end of March. I’m coming into this late since I was originally working on my cyberpunk novel. But it stalled out (though thanks to my husband and a friend I’m getting it back in gear), so I picked up one of my fantasy stories. Specifically the one I started for NaNoWriMo that completely took off in a different direction than I wanted it to. So now I’ve started it over again with the intention of taking plot points that happened way too late in the NaNo novel and moving them up into a space earlier in the book.

I usually set deadlines for myself when it comes to my writing, but usually I don’t set them as tight as this. I save that for November. But I really want to push myself to see if I can do this. Things will probably come up. It looks like the farm is gearing up and I’ll most likely pitch in to help out. I can’t leave it all to everyone else. So that’s going to cut into my writing time. I also cook dinner, which eats some into my time. I have trouble writing after dinner because my focus is usually shot by the end of the day. So I need to maximize my time during the day.

The problem I have with self-imposed deadlines is I feel guilty for not reaching my goal in the specified time. I tend to beat myself up when it happens, calling myself a failure and generally getting angry at myself for not being able to pull everything off that I want to. This doesn’t just include writing. This includes every part of my life.

My husband has a saying that I’m trying to take to heart: “It’s only a failure if you don’t try.” I find this hard to believe. I still look on mistakes as failures. But sometimes I realize that a mistake is just that – a mistake. It’s temporary. As long as I don’t keep making the same mistakes time and time again I’ll be one step ahead of the game. Even if I do make the same mistake a few times, it’s not the end of the world. I just need to figure out what else needs to change.

Deadlines can be very useful, if you plan them out ahead of time. When you set a goal with a time period, make smaller goals to go with it. Set yourself up a plan and try to stick to it. When setbacks occur, don’t kick yourself over it. Learn and move on. This is something I’m still learning how to do, but I’ve had the advice from a lot of successful people over the years so I know it’s going to be something that works. Above all, look at deadlines as the end result of a game. It’s a prize waiting to happen. And reward yourself once you hit your deadline. I’m not sure what my reward will be for finishing by the end of March. But I’m going to come up with something.

Advertisements

Monday Maundering – Suicide

I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health issues lately, especially since there is literally no one within a 60 mile radius that can help me regulate and prescribe my bipolar meds. There is no one locally and I’ve called the nearest two decent sized cities and found no one there either. So now I’m waiting for the local area to hire someone new so I can get the help I need.

One of the things on my mind has been suicide. No, not me wanting to commit suicide. I tried that three years ago. I almost succeeded too. I was at the end of my rope. My meds weren’t working, I was living in a toxic environment, and nothing seemed to be going right in my life. I was done. So I took what was left of my klonopin (anti-anxiety med). That was about half a bottle. I don’t remember the exact dosage.

Unlike many of those who attempt to commit suicide, I panicked in the end. I called the crisis line for my counselor and my husband, who was out of the house. I also texted another friend of mine. The police and an ambulance showed up and I was taken to the hospital. I have no memory of that time. I barely remember the police and don’t remember the emergency room. The next thing I remember was waking up in a room in the psychiatric hospital attached to the hospital where I went to the emergency room.

I was there for five days before they transferred me to another facility. Before they did, I was taken to court and pronounced too dangerous to myself to be released back into the general population. So I was an involuntary admit to the psych hospital. Which turned out to be a good thing in the end.

At that second facility I was given the chance to learn coping mechanisms, I was given one on one attention, and I had a brilliant psychiatrist tending me that actually listened and got me on a decent regimen of medications. I was there for two weeks and was finally given court permission to go home. I’ve had some problems since, but the suicidal ideologies have faded to almost nothing.

But most people aren’t that lucky. According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages. There is one death in the US by suicide every 12.3 minutes. Suicide takes the lives of over 38,000 Americans every year. According to NAMI, only half of the Americans experiencing an episode of major depression get the health care they need. An estimated quarter million people each year become suicide survivors.

Let’s look at some other statistics with suicide. According to the CDC, suicide among males is 4 times higher than females. Male deaths represent 79% of all US suicides. Firearms are the most commonly used method among males. Females experience depression at roughly 2 times the rate of men. Females attempt suicide 3 times as often as males. Poison is the choice of most females.

And that’s just looking at the normal population. Suicide rates among the LGBT community are even higher. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. LGBT youth are 4 times as likely to commit suicide, and those questioning are 3 times as likely.

Suicide attempts by LGBT youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose. Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking  their lives. And one quarter report having made an attempt.

I could quote more statistics, but I think you get the idea. There are a lot of suicides each day. Even if someone is watched, if they’re determined they’ll find a way. This is why we need comprehensive mental health care in this country. We need to stop the bullies from tearing down our children. We need to offer respect and stability for our LGBT youth and adults.

There is a national suicide hotline. It’s 1-800-273-8255. There’s the trangender suicide hotline. It’s 1-877-565-8860. These are numbers for the US. Check out your local areas and see what your suicide hotlines are. If there aren’t any, petition to get one set up. Sometimes all someone who is suicidal needs is for someone to listen without judgment.

Wednesday Writing – Rejection letters

file7391308350582

How many of you have ever received a rejection letter? I know I have several times. I’ve sent some of my short stories out into the world to see if they can fly. I’ve had pretty much every single one of them turned down, though I did get some interesting and useful feedback on a couple of them.

In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he talks about saving all of his rejection letters and getting to the point where he had to use a railroad spike to keep them all up on the wall. In this digital age, it’s tempting to delete the emails or, if they’re sent as paper rejections, to just toss them. But I don’t agree with that.

Each rejection is a badge of honor. It shows you aren’t giving up on your dream. It shows you may not be perfect yet, but you’re trying and that’s what’s key in all of this. You may even find someone else who you didn’t think about that might like your stories over the ones you originally submitted them to. And you never know when a “no” might later lead to a “yes” when you submit a different project.

When I got my first rejection email, I was devastated. I hadn’t developed the thick skin recommended for authors. I almost quit writing. But my husband pushed at me and told me to keep writing. I’ve done just that. I may not be published yet, but I haven’t stopped writing. I have my dry spells where I’ll do something else like reading to lift me up over my slump. But I keep writing. I know that some day, the “no” will be a “yes”.

Be proud of your rejection letters. It’s showing that you’re brave enough to send your babies out into the world. Learn from those that offer advice to improve your writing and take it as a note that you’re doing something good for yourself.

Monday Maundering – YA and adults

IMG_2390

As an adult, there are certain expectations. You must pay your bills, go to work (if you have a standard job), cook, clean the house, do your own laundry, and…and…and… The list goes on and on. One of the things that I’ve found makes me feel better about all of that is reading. I love the books written by adults for adults. I have a whole collection of my favorite authors who write books dealing with tough subjects. But I also love YA books.

It’s like my fascination with animated movies. Some of the ones I watch are definitely not for children (like Princess Mononoke and much of the anime I watch). But I also love Disney films, the films Don Bluth did, and even some of the cutesy programs that show up on my Netflix as recommendations after I’ve watched an animated movie.

I’ve been twitted for my love of YA books and children’s movies. I’m told I’m immature and need to grow up. I love Harry Potter. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games series. I’ve got City of Bones, though I’ve only read the first chapter on it. I like it too. I even read the Twilight books, and yes, I think they’re crap. But I read them anyway because I found them interesting enough to want to get to the end of the story.

I think people connect YA to being immature because they believe that only teenagers should want to read it. But those books can address all kinds of deep topics in ways that can be understood by everyone. For adults, YA books can be quick and easy reads. They can tell a good story without the violence and sex you see in many adult level sci fi and fantasy. Sometimes that’s what you need in a book.

There are also teenagers who prefer the adult level books. I know I was one. I read a lot of adult level fantasy and sci fi. Then again, when I was a teenager, I didn’t see much in the way of YA books. I honestly don’t know when the YA tag became as prevalent as it is now. But I do know that I didn’t really read anything in the YA segment until I started reading the Harry Potter books. Once I finished those, I began a search for more interesting books in the YA branch of fiction.

I think adults should be allowed to read whatever they want without being harassed about it being only for children. I think any kind of reading is important and if someone enjoys it, that’s what it’s there for. I know adults who swore they wouldn’t pick up a book for entertainment who read Harry Potter or The Hunger Games and found them engrossing enough that they started looking for more books to read. They read both YA and adult fiction. They even encourage their families to start reading more. That’s an important step as all authors strive to build a list of fans that will buy their books.

My take on the whole YA/adult level book debate is basically this: shut up and let them read whatever they want.

Friday Fun – Pictures of things

So, normally I’d have part of my serial here. But no one seemed to be interested in it, so I’ve taken down the rest of the episodes I had scheduled. Instead I decided that this Friday I was going to share some pictures with you, as sort of a brain break for me. So here they are. Enjoy!

 

Top left:  Hades and Persephone by Sandara (DeviantArt)
Middle left: Storyteller by Dark-Spider (DeviantArt)
Bottom left: Angel by Wlop (DeviantArt)
Top right: Lust by dahlig (DeviantArt)
Bottom right: GA Man by Heise (DeviantArt)

Writing Wednesday – Inspiration

 

(I want to make a note that every time I typed the word ‘inspiration’, I ended up spelling it wrong. Thank goodness for spell check. :D)

Today I want to talk about inspiration. Some writers go seeking inspiration in the outdoors while others find it in reading. Inspiration can be found in every day things that we don’t even think are that important. Dreams can also bring new ideas and even revitalize old ideas that have been abandoned.

I write because I love the act of writing. The stories come to me in the weirdest ways at times. I’ll be trying to go to sleep and I’ll start telling myself a bedtime story in my head to help me relax. Sometimes they come to nothing other than a bit of silliness. Other times they take on a life of their own and after a few days of the same story playing out in my head I make notes and file it away to be written at a later time.

I can’t claim any special power when it comes to inspiration. I just let my life flow around me and pick up what sticks in my head. Sometimes something as simple as doing the dishes will bring an idea to me about something.

For example, a story that I expect I’ll write eventually started out in my head while I was taking a shower. A woman appeared, telling me her name was Special Agent Molly Lancaster and she wanted me to tell her story. I listened as she gave me a brief rundown of her family life, her college life, and her time on the regular police force before she was picked up by an agency that deals with occult and supernatural crimes. One of the files they have on the director’s desk is the mystery of her family, which Molly has been trying to solve since her father disappeared and her mother was arrested for his murder even though no proof was ever given that she did it. That’s as far as I got in that session with her.

When I got out of the shower, I jotted down the notes on what she told me and went on with my day. When I went to bed, she reappeared and we had another conversation. This time about her work and the fact that as the child of two beings with supernatural powers (I still don’t know what her father is/was, but I do know what her mother is/was) she has responsibilities tied into the supernatural world that land on her doorstep as soon as it’s found out that she’s in town. The non-human population flock to her, asking for her help. She has a contact in that world and passes along information when it looks like crimes are being committed by the non-human residents of the city.

I thought she would have a romantic liaison with her contact, but she yelled at me about that. She told me that not every urban fantasy book needs romance. I happened to agree with her and we moved on. I got a better picture of her appearance and her home. I still don’t know much about her contact – other than his name and that he’s not human.

I’ve noted everything she’s told me down in a file that I keep backed up in multiple places. She’s quieted down now that I have what I need to write her story. I’ll get to her eventually. She may even have a place in the huge world of an urban fantasy setting that I’m debating on writing which encompasses two of my story ideas melded into one world. The inspiration for combining the worlds came from reading about storyline match ups in comic books.

Inspiration, as far as I’m concerned, isn’t something you can really control. It hits you when it hits you. But I also believe you don’t need inspiration to strike to write a story. You can create a story out of your every day life if you want to.

Monday Maundering – Mental illness and medications

Mental illness. What comes to your mind when you hear that phrase? Do you see the violent gunmen who killed so many people? Do you think of dirty asylums where those afflicted with these illnesses drool in their rooms wrapped in a straitjacket? Or do you see ordinary people who struggle day after day with a brain that refuses to work right?

I would hope that you would think of the third. But the media plays up how terrible mental illness is and how those afflicted are prone to violence – up to and including murdering men, women, and children – and have no redeeming qualities to allow the ill person to function in society. There are celebrities who are pushing to change that image, but every step forward they make is pushed to the side as the media plays games with one of the more vulnerable segments of society.

I have said this before, but I’ll say it again. I have a mental illness. I actually have two, if you want to get technical. I’m bipolar, which used to be called manic depression, and moderate anxiety. It’s not your ordinary “there’s something going on” anxiety. I could be perfectly happy, content, and laughing one moment and the next I’m curled in the ball fighting off a panic attack.

Right now, my meds are off so I spend a lot of time fighting to keep control of my mind. I’m searching for a doctor to help me get things settled so I can function like a normal person again. Every day is a struggle. I fight to maintain what equilibrium I have left and ride out the waves of the mood swings that come as part of being for the most part unmedicated.

I’ve had people go off on me about taking medications for my bipolar.

Use more natural cures.” (Like what? Stuff that doesn’t have proved effect?)

It’s all in your head.” (Uh…duh. It’s called MENTAL illness.)

You’re poisoning yourself.”

That last one always gets me. All medications – natural or otherwise – have side effects. Some are mild. Some are severe. But my doctors have been good about taking care of me and monitoring my body to make sure I’m not poisoning myself. I had one bad doctor who didn’t seem to pay attention to the climbing levels of lithium in my body when I was on it, but for the most part if I start showing some kind of negative physical reaction, they take me off of it before it gets too serious.

There’s an article I read recently done by a person who has a different diagnosis of bipolar (yes, there are differing levels of it) that struck home with me. It’s their experiences with being harassed about being on meds. I can understand where the author is coming from because I too did a lot of research, learned more about my illness, and studied up on what different treatments are out there. I’ve found a combination of medication and therapy to be the best mix for me.

Here’s the link to the article: I Didn’t Ask For Your Opinion On My Psych Meds

I have more to say on this topic, but I’ll leave that to next week. Let me leave you with two things. One, do NOT judge all mentally ill people by the portrayals of those who suffer from these ailments on mainstream media. Second, if you know someone dealing with mental illness, do NOT go out of your way to give unsolicited advice. Be there. Listen when they talk to you. But don’t tell them how to manage their illness. It’s their body, their brain, and not yours. If you have experience with mental illness, offer your experience. But make sure you understand that nothing works the same way for two people and your experiences may not match theirs.

Beauty and the Beast Part 4

She didn’t return to the house until well after dark. Baldric gave a relieved cry when his mother slipped in through the door. “Ceinwen’s been crying now for a while. I can’t get her to take the medicine,” he said. “And Ronen won’t let go of her hand but he also won’t stop crying.

Ronen was weeping in the corner as he sat next to his sister. “She’s hurting and I can’t help,” he said.

I know, Ronen,” Adina said. She mixed a fresh batch of medicine for her daughter. “You have to drink this, Ceinwen. It’ll make you feel better.” Ceinwen drank the medicine and was soon quiet again.

Mother, do you think Ceinwen’s going to be all right? She hasn’t spoken since we got here. I know she’s hurt but…” Baldric let his voice trail off.

Adina sighed. “I don’t know, Baldric. I won’t know until I can get a healer to see her and possibly not even then. We’ll have to wait and see.”

What story are we supposed to tell the people who ask?” Baldric asked.

We lost our home to a fire. Your father died trying to rescue us. Ceinwen was mauled by a dog gone mad from the smoke and heat,” Adina said. “That’s the story I gave the gold merchant and that’s the one we’re going to stick to.”

Then you’d better tell Isabella and Grainne too,” Baldric said.

We heard. Mama, if lying is wrong, why are we doing it now?” Isabella asked.

Do you want to be killed?” Adina asked. “If it gets out what I did, who we are, we’ll be executed. I got the impression that magic isn’t as widely used in this time as it was in ours.”

Isabella turned pale. “What about Ceinwen? What are we going to do with her if you can’t use magic?”

Right now I don’t have magic to use,” Adina said. “We’ll have to wait and see what the healer says.”

Yes mother,” Isabella said.

Here. Put these clothes on. I took what money I had left on me and bought all of you some new clothes. It’s not as fine as I’d like but it’ll do so you don’t look quite so out of place,” Adina said. She handed dresses to the girls and shirts and trousers to the boys. Isabella went back to sit next to Grainne and the two of them whispered together about the story that they needed to lock into their minds. Adina went back over next to Ronen and Ceinwen.

The next day, Adina bustled her children into cloaks and sent them out into the front yard. She quickly cleared away any sign of their being in the house before carrying Ceinwen out in her arms. The gold merchant Adina found the previous night arrived with a train of carts and horses. “Lady Winfield, forgive my lateness. There was a bit of a delay in getting some of the things you requested,” he said, bowing to her.

It’s quite all right, Master Felweather. We were running a little behind ourselves this morning. I appreciate your efforts to get all that I asked for,” Adina said.

It won’t take long at all to have the house fixed up. Did you and your children wish to retire to an inn while the men work?” Master Felweather asked.

Actually, Master Felweather, I’d be very grateful if you could direct me to the healers,” Adina said. She turned slightly so he could see the bandages. “The journey was hard on my daughter and I wish to make certain she hasn’t come to any further harm.”

I’ll escort you there myself, my lady,” Master Felweather said. “Then I’ll come back to supervise the workers.”

Thank you, Master Felweather,” Adina said. She turned to Baldric. “Take the others into the garden. Let them play there while the men work, but keep them out of the house. We’ll go to the inn for luncheon after I’m done with the healer.”

Yes mother,” Baldric said. He herded the other three into the house and out into the garden. Master Felweather left instructions with the men to begin to carry the heavy furniture in before escorting Adina to what he stated was the best healer in the city.

Writing Wednesday – Reading, movies, and writing

I find it very hard to just read for pleasure anymore. I love to read and enjoy most of the books I’ve got. But I keep dissecting them. I look for grammatical errors, continuity errors, two dimensional characters, etc. I want to analyze them rather than just reading for the sheer pleasure of seeing written words on the page.

As writers, we need to read and read widely. It’s one of the ways we expand our knowledge and improve our skills. I’m not talking reading books on the craft, or on marketing or publishing. I’m talking about reading things in our genre, out of our genre, fiction, and non-fiction.

I tend to read a lot of fantasy. I also write fantasy. What I don’t read is a lot of science fiction. Yet I write science fiction. Why is that? Mostly because you don’t see too many sci fi books on the Amazon Top 100 Free list. The bulk of them are fantasy. And sadly, the ones I’ve found and read the samples from are so awful that I won’t read the rest. I read a lot of sci fi as a teenager though, and I’ve watched some of the more recent sci fi series. Well, the ones that end up on Netflix at least.

One of my concerns about my sci fi is the fact that I read primarily fantasy. I have a very limited source of sci fi. I’ve got a few audiobooks, a handful of books I’ve gotten through Amazon, and a couple old time sci fi novels I’ve picked up at thrift stores. I have no room for physical books, so I keep those very limited. I also read free shorts people put up on their blogs, so I do get some perspective of what’s being written now.

One of the things I do to help my sci fi is read science and technology articles. Someone links one and I go read it. If I need to figure something out I search on Google for a general term near what I want and see what I can find. I also watch shows like the new Cosmos and whatever science documentaries I can find on Netflix.

I don’t write hard sci fi where I explain the science and tech behind everything. I write soft sci fi because I’m not interested in trying to explain how things in the future will work based on our current and limited understanding of what technology might be then. I get an idea from my research and convert it to fit my worlds.

I’ve also learned that fantasy can be converted to sci fi in a way. Ideas, characterization, even settings can be used if you do it correctly. Anne McCaffrey and her Pern books are a good example of this. I don’t know if I’ll ever master storytelling to the degree she did, but I hope to try. The Pern books were one of the mainstays of my teenage years, and I still read them when I can.

My point is even if you don’t have access to the genre you write, read anyway. Read everything and anything you can get your hands on that you find you can enjoy. Also, watch TV, movies, documentaries, etc. Whatever you can use to expand your knowledge, even if it’s just in seeing how another author presents their world.