Zombies, Kicks & Giggles

The not-so wise words of Adrienne Lecter

Category: ramble (page 2 of 3)

Week 4 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Actual words: 49,139
Words to go: 861

Ah, yeah, so much for daily blogging. Just didn’t really feel like it last week. Got some writing done but not really a lot, just over 6,000 words for the entire week (although I had 2 days of zero words, and one with a glorious 164); I got some quality editing time in, though, which means I’m maybe two days behind in editing, which is amazing. That means that the day I finish writing will likely be the day I plug in the final edits for the first draft and the manuscript can go to the editor without a week or two of delay. Also had some admin stuff to do. I told you a while ago that, sadly, writing only accounts for part of what I do. This week I also had the (dubious) joy of crunching my 2017 sales numbers so my accountant could tell me how much more to invest to fully use the tax deductibles I’m allowed. The Austrian tax system is a wonderful maze of regulations and exceptions; that’s why I have an accountant. I can easily keep my books myself, but she’s the one who then works her magic and ends up with much more favorable conditions. In 2017 I will have made about 50% of what I raked in the year before, which, all things considered, is still amazing. But it’s still 50% less books sold and read, and don’t we all prefer those jumps to go up rather than down?

Extrapolating from that, I also did some thinking, then research in how to better those numbers for 2018. Not losing months at a time to writer’s block and soul crushing depression is a phenomenal idea, don’t you think? I think so, too! So far my November project of trying to be more healthy (ease up on my demands of myself, exercise regularly, eat healthy) is really working well. I swam over 5.5 hours last week, in four sessions of 1, 1, 1.6 and 2 hours. Yes, you read that right, on Saturday I swam for 120 minutes, and half of that was at full speed. Diet’s not that cleaned up yet so I’m not really losing fat but I’m slowly bulking up, which feels really weird sometimes but pretty much what I’ve been living with for most of my life (yes, just like you can have skinny fat people who don’t move at all, you can have healthy chunksters who are way fitter than most skinny people, and except for the strain on their joints because of their weight they pretty much lead a very healthy life). Thighs, butt, shoulders, obliques, and arms are def. feeling the burn. Which is also the reason why I constantly have partly numb fingers, only for once not the last three but the first. Pinkie and ring finger, sometimes middle, too, going numb I’m used to from carpal tunnel syndrome. The other side (thumb, index, middle finger) are from what you might have experienced if you ever smacked your elbow hard, and tennis players often have to fight with. With swimming breaststroke, I also have way more tension on the muscles all around my elbow which then push down on the ulnar and median nerve, and, tata! Number fingers. I know way more about the anatomy of the hand / arm than I ever wanted to know, but it’s been this way for way longer than my most recent books. I had a lot of issues with my fingers when I was still working in the lab, so the RSI issues of typing all day long have actually been a respite of sorts. Damn swimming, now screwing with my fingers as well! (please read that in a “get off my lawn!” voice.). I have no intention of stopping or slowing down unless this becomes a permanent issue.

I also want to do more with advertising next year, so now I have to get some copywriting expertise for that. I swear, the skills I had to acquire since I decided to become an Indie writer are enough to fill an entire CV, and that’s part of the fun. While time-consuming sometimes, that’s also a very comforting idea. If I ever couldn’t hack it as a full-time writer anymore, I could always get a few certifications and make money using said newly acquired skills. Maybe it’s because I’m Austrian and we don’t really brag a lot with our accomplishments, or it’s because lots about writing feels so natural to me that it doesn’t feel like an accomplishment, but I think I’m doing a good job so far. Marketing and promotions is something I don’t really do a lot, so might be interesting to explore that for real. I have 14 books out with 4 possible ad “starters” and some extra that I can easily get up there to use, so I’m going to spend some time (and money) trying to make more money with as little effort as possible. She said, fully knowing that she was about to lose nights to numbers crunching, but I actually like spreadsheets, so no harm done. I also got a yearly subscription to SkillShare to have some nice videos to watch in the background and maybe learn a thing or two as well, and intend to put some extra time into honing my craft soon, too.

But first, finish this damn book!
It’s not looking so good for a 2017 release of GF#8. I’ve made great progress this month, 49k of progress, so far, but considering the book keeps expanding, I really would need to rush it to completion this week, and there’s no guarantee I could even pull that off and it would be good, so I’m not trying. I didn’t go into a hypomanic phase like I thought I would so steady as she goes is what’s happening. I constantly feel like I’m not doing enough as I’m waffling around, but that’s in my head. Again, 1/3 of the book I already wrote this month, that’s a lot even for someone who can write a shitton of words within a few days. And while I’m annoyed that it’s not going on huge leaps and bounds, I’m very stoked about the steady progress as that’s much easier to maintain. Plus swim, and read, and learn, and actually enjoy social, human interactions. I know you all want the book yesterday, but a few of the changes that came along because I took a little more time are making it better. Not saying that the books that I wrote quicker would have been better if I’d taken more time. I think every story has to be told at its genuine, unique speed, and for this one I need a little more time. And also, because it’s 1/3 longer than planned! Damnit. You’ll get to read the reasons for that in the book’s author note where I can spoil at will.

Going to do me some book writing now so I can spend the evening with copywriting and marketing shit. Ugh. Maybe more writing in the p.m. after all. Yeah, that sounds much better!

Day 17 & 18 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 28,333 / 30.000
Actual words: 0
Overall words: 43,006

Took the weekend off, pretty much (might add Sunday, too). Two hours in dental appointment hell was enough. Friday / Saturday we were watching the new Punisher series on Netflix, now on Sunday the last season of Longmire. Already November might become my most productive month of the year, won’t hurt to recharge the creative well in the middle, take a breath, and dive back in on Monday.

A few words about inspiration, and why Netflix did everything right with the Punisher.

I haven’t read the comics so I can’t say how accurate they were in portraying Frank Castle, but I’ve seen the two movies, and loved him in the 2nd Daredevil season. I’ve so far enjoyed all of the Netflix Marvel shows, even Iron Fist (although the bungled a lot there). My favorites are still the first Daredevil season, Jessica Jones, and the Defenders. I may have a huge crush on Mrs. Semi-Functioning Alcoholic. I might even lose the shows more than the movies, although the last Thor movie was amazeballs. The shows are great because they have more time to develop and explore the characters, and that’s where the Punisher was strongest, for me. Don’t get me wrong, he was great in DD2 already, but now we really got to dive into his head, see through his eyes, taste his frustration that was so visceral that, really, his dreams were the worst for me. The whole first episode was the perfect way to set the stage, and they really hit the street running from there. Could it have been done in 10 rather than 13 episodes? Sure, but I feel like it was the right decision to take the time for some extra side plots.

The show’s getting crucified in the media over here because, oh noes, how dare anyone still produce anything with a strong, hard, unforgiving male lead? I wonder if they saw all the episodes because there’s so much more to Castle, and his friendship with Micro, than just the general premise. Sure, they threw some nice punches to both the left and right, without getting overly moralizing, which would have ruined the narrative. I also feel like stressing that I had a few moments while watching where I went all, “Oh, no, I just wrote that!! People will think I’m ripping off the show with my next book!” (Well, not really, but having gotten inspired). I also feel like most of you will appreciate the show for what it is, and what they did with it.  Great characters. Great narrative. Also, the fact that one reviewer decried that there was no real villain is IMHO a string point for the show. It was neither black nor white but all about the gray in between. and that’s where I feel characters truly shine. Not-so-good people doing shitty things that then conflict with their moral code and kick off a cascade of shit that they then have to deal with, and that pushed them so beyond their limits that they cannot win, because even revenge won’t make up for what they lost? Yes, please!

In short, watching the Punisher was very inspiring for me.

See, the thing about inspiration is, it’s not a concrete thing like, say, food. Among any sort of creatives, there this idea of “refilling the creative well,” that you can’t create something from nothing. Goes hand in hand with the fact that a lot of writers, after finishing a novel and pouring everything they have into it, they feel empty. Sometimes I’m able to avoid that stage but it hits me eventually, or catches up with me (finishing the novel is okay, but usually, publishing it where it hits me). So I gotta refill, like everyone else. Reading books is a great way to do that, only that often, I just can’t because my mind won’t stay on task long enough when I’m this empty. I’ve recently heard another writer say she goes on “artist dates” with herself, like visiting a museum or art gallery. Don’t get me wrong, I like museums, but I’m generally not very inspired by them. that likely says a lot about me, and what I’m made up from. But watching a great movie, or TV show, or maybe even a documentary might spawn an entire new series in my head. Or a character. A setting. It might reinforce my decisions about how to handle a plot point, or make me realize that I went in a wrong direction with something.

So while that might seem contraindicative to some, I refuse to feel bad about spending a good portion of my evenings and weekends in front of the TV. Plus, I’m a storyteller. Pacing is important to any story, and movies and TV shows do pacing really well if they’re worth watching. We writers can all learn a thing or two from that. Sure, reading books is great for learning how to write well, but they’re not the only option.

Day 13 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 21,667
Actual words: 3,038
Overall words: 35,206

I’m writing this at night as tomorrow morning I’m meeting with a writer friend of mine (still squeeing every time I say this!). If you want to check out her books, she writes urban fantasy / paranormal romance, and her second book is out on Wednesday! Book #1 White, #2 Black! She even got mentioned in the Chicago Tribune because of some really amazing background stuff going on. Hashtag famous people I know. Why I mention this? Well, because I’m having a phenomenal antisocial streak right now and why not share that with semi random people on the internet?

The thing is, when I feel really down, I often hide from the world. I can’t even stand to work from my office because I can’t stand the idea of running into anyone, or not being able to crawl into bed at home. I can take my laptop with me to bed, so might even get some writing done. But no people! What’s happening right now is different. I don’t like to interact with people. So sorry if you’re one of the people I regularly talk to, or are waiting for a comment or email response. I just don’t feel like talking to anyone. Someone at the gym, who I coincidentally spent my last two long training sessions with at the pool, said “bye” when she left the changing room ahead of me today. I barely managed to croak out a reply. It’s really that bad. I try to explain this to people who I regularly interact with but I feel like most don’t get just how bad this can get. I feel good right now. Normal good, not 120% extra good, but I’m def. not depressed at the moment. I write, a lot. So no real apparent cause for turning into a true Viennese, right? Well, with moderate grumpy levels. We can be way worse than this.

Why? Why is my mind behaving like this?

I have two explanations. One is mental (ha!), the other writing related.

Let’s look at the writing related one first. The book will be running long, but I’m in the second half now where a lot of action happens, and I love writing these parts. I really do. I feel like I’m submerged in the creative flow right now. I recently got the question again how much I am like Bree. Right now I often like I AM her. My mind won’t shut up when I step away from the computer. Either I write, or I intensely think through what I will be writing next. It’s a stop-and-go but non-stop, kinda. Yes, that’s also a hypomania thing, but I always get that at the ending of a book. It’s like the story needs to be finished. I couldn’t stop now if I tried. Might still be a week or two until I actually finish, but it’s happening right now. And when my mind is pretty much locked inside a fiction character’s mind, there’s not much outside socializing for Adrienne going on, now, is there?

The other explanation is something that occurred to me as I was walking back from the gym today to get some more writing done before leaving for home. I’ve spent the last months in a bad state, where I pretty much spent entire days loathing myself. For being stupid, for being lazy, for finding excuses, for not even trying, for writing shit stories, for not writing better stories, for not writing in a genre that sells better, for not being happier about my stories–you name it. The darkest side of depression is that a lot of people really dig deep into hating themselves, and they are way harsher than they’d be with anyone else. Guess what that accomplishes? They feel even worse. But I pulled through and now that’s behind me (well, most of it) and I’m much more enthusiastic about what I do and feel good about it. I’ve put myself through the emotional meat grinder, and now I need a little time with myself. You know, to pat myself on the back, forgive myself, hug myself, feel good about feeling better, maybe be a little proud I made it through moderately okay, things like that. I think that time’s really needed, and deserved. Right now there’s no space inside of me for anyone else, or their concerns. So while I would like to be there for others, reach out, connect, catch up… I can’t do that yet. Maybe in a day or two. Maybe next week. When I’m ready, I will be happy to. But not now.

Now, I need to be selfish, and get this fucking book out of my head before Bree is driving me insane!

Day 11 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 18,333
Actual words: 2,018
Overall words: 30,184

So, I usually type these posts on the mornings after the day, but for several reasons, the first half I do on Saturday evening; the rest is Sunday morning. As I write this, I haven’t actually written anything yet, and it’s already 8pm, about time I get some words done. What I have done today, besides catch up on TV, is swimming for two hours. Consecutive, and I wasn’t just paddling around. I really pushed myself, and then just kept on going… listening to podcasts, not some upbeat music that kept me going. That I went to the gym in itself is remarkably, been 4x this week so I really could have stayed home. But after last month’s downtime, I decided that I won’t be using the old “I’d rather work than work out” excuse, because I need to take care of myself first to be able to keep doing what I love. So I swam, for 2 hours, and felt really good about it. Only the second time I ever did this. Later realized that it might not have been the brightest idea when I wash shaking so hard that I almost couldn’t put on my underwear, and still had a 30 min drive home, though the rain, around the woods of Vienna, where a deer running across the street almost smashed into the car in front of me.

Anyway, why am I telling you this, except to brag (just a little bit. To some people I just want to say, hey, I look like a manatee, might as well swim like one, too!)? As I was driving, and musing my way through this blog post to come, I wanted to say something like, doing fine right now, which is awesome. You saw my mind in a bad place a few days ago, this is me doing better, yay! While really, I just wanted to write… so I figured I should add, see, this is “normal” for me, not the start of a hypomanic phase… when I’m so full of energy that I swim for two hours and feel like I could write through the night… yeah. You guessed it. Need a few more days like this but today was def. NOT a normal day! Plus, I feel amazing! Like, really, really good. I’m happy, shit that keeps going on around me doesn’t bother me (compared to my mind sinking into it to the point where it’s an endless cycle of misery and self-loathing. Today I’m like, nah, not going this, moving on, got bigger fish to fry!). I wish I should take a biochemical imprint of my mind from today, label it “preset awesome,” and reload it when I feel myself slipping once more. Because this? This, right now, is just… awesome. I know I overuse that word and it makes me sound way dumber than I am, but I feel awesome. I also feel like the book I’m writing is really good and you all will love it, I don’t care that it might have pacing issues… actually, I don’t think it has pacing issues. Because after how Affliction ended, I’m sure you want to know what happens 2 hours later. And the next day. And a week down the line. So what, I could cut the first 35k or 7 chapters and start the book the way I had intended it to, but really, I was writing those words when I was in my last super productive phase, they flowed, and when I did the first proofread, they didn’t drag. Who complains about an extra 100-140 pages (that are interesting. And awesome!) that you get with the rest of the book, for free? In KU more pages mean more money, so it’s not bad for me, on the contrary. And for the USD 3.99 that the book retails, I feel like you deserve a little extra without having to download the novella from my website. And OMG my mind is DEF. running in more than normal speed, which I feel because after 2 hours of swimming, my fingers are still a little weird and my back muscles def. hurt, so yay! Don’t care. Have fiction to write and people to kill. Soon.

Life is beautiful right now. And amazing. And I’m happy, which after the last weeks I really needed. I’m also happy because the book is progressing well, I’m taking care of myself and even feeding myself well, and we found a good solution for our next summer vacation after not being 100% happy with what we did the last 2 years. Was great, was mostly born out of me going from broke to not-so-broke-anymore, but it’s time for a change. Also slept for 8 hours last night, that was nice, even though I woke up with a killer headache. And while the ghost of my last depressive episode is still very fresh on my mind (and in my Bullet Journal. I even stopped doing a monthly tracker for my exercise because it was so depressing to go that almost completely blank. And my word count was abysmal. Yes, I don’t need to catalogue my mood to know I’ve had a few bad weeks, I can simply look at what has been going on.) After seeing the last dregs of that, welcome to the swing side of the insanity that my brain produces. And why so many people who are bipolar don’t want to take mood stabilizers. Depression is hell. And if that’s all you get, please, go get help, because nobody deserves to suffer like this. But what I’m on right now? I don’t want to lose this. I want to keep holding on to this all the time. In fact, everyone should have some of this, every single day in their amazing lives!! Getting a little concerned about the racing thoughts here, maybe I should lay off the Pepsi max, but I only have 1.5 bottles left so that will have taken care of itself by tomorrow. Very important I told you that, I’m sure your life is so much richer knowing this. Welcome to my brain on hypomania. I’m so glad I’m type 2, because full-blown mania really must be feeling like you’re going insane. I just feel really energetic, like a dog right before a walk, barking, jumping, running circles, ready to be OUT!! Time to get off the blog and into crushing that daily word count (while my guy starts reading the first 17 chapters of said book to let me know if I’m right in that the beginning is good, and this is not just my “I’m large than life awesome!” brain weirdness telling me shit again and making me incapable of judging what I write. Everyone should have an alpha reader like that, particularly if they can’t trust their own judgment half of the time.)

And now for the Sunday part:

(side note: Still feeling good, and didn’t get much sleep yet jumped out of bed at 7am. Seems like I’m all caught up on my sleep backlog.)

Because I’ve been promising it in the past and haven’t delivered it yet, and it came up in the facebook group: A few words about the process of writing a book. Grab some coffee or tea, this is going to be a longer post (writing it while doing some nice Sunday morning TV binging. Hey, I need to watch TV as it’s inspiring. Seriously. I know, best job in the world, right?)

Concept and outline: hours to decades
The very beginning of any story, and the part that’s the least precise. I’ve outlined stories in days, like the short story in the recent anthology. I’ve started writing on an epic fantasy story when I was 13 (up until graduating from high school), and I’m still turning that over and over in my head to one day be able to do it justice. Not sure I will ever get to that. Maybe once my backlist makes enough so I don’t need a release every few months to be able to pay the bills. There’s no rhyme or reason to this part of the process as it just happens in my mind. I’m always plotting one story or another up there. Brushing my teeth, waiting for the train (and often, the consecutive train ride as well), you name it. It’s the part that feels the most natural to me, and what’s impossible to explain, really. I do the most thinking of the recent project that I’m writing, but sometimes, I love to switch it up. Only takes me about an hour or so if I make bigger changes to rearrange an entire book. It happens!

Writing the book: 1-4 months, usually – 35-40%
This is the part you know I do, or I presume that’s the case, but the actual writing part takes up less than 50% of my time, with some light rewrites. That’s pretty much me spewing out words that should form a cohesive story. Transcribing the movie that I’ve built in my head and fine-tuned to the point where I can write it. Plus some additions, minus some points that are redundant. I write in a linear fashion, so if I change something, it usually affects only the parts not yet written.

Proofreading & editing: 25%
I write a moderately clean first draft, with maybe 1-5 things that need changing on each page. Some of the cleanup I do right in my Scrivener file, but I find more issues when I print it out, in 8 pt. font, 1.5 spaced, on paper, and then go over it with colored markers. Never red because that reminds me too much of school, I favor light blues, or recently, orange ink. I also proofread and edit on my iPad. Once the draft is cleaned up, it goes to my editor (two rounds) and beta readers. That part takes about a month. After all those rounds of making changes, I use the text-to-speech tool of my mac to read the entire book to me again. That’s painful, but is awesome for finding homonyms and things the reading mind, even in editing mode, skips over. All in all, I probably go through the text somewhere between six to ten times. That’s not that I’m more or less a pro, have deadlines, trust in my writing, and know what I’m doing. It used to be way worse. My first first novel had four entire drafts and three completely different versions. Now it’s usually one version with only very few variations.
I spend at least 2 weeks just editing, one after the draft is done, and one directly before publications. Least favorite part of the process. I try to do some of it while I’m still writing, just to make that a little more bearable.
Once the audiobook is ready, I need about 2-5 days to listen through it all so I can tell my narrator/producer if there are any changes to be made so I can approve it. Depending on how things are, that means an entire week.

Post-production, layout, stats, accounting: 10%
Books might look like just text, but really, you need to format them. You need a cover, and even if you don’t do that yourself, you spend hours going back and forth with your cover artist. You need to check your stats and track something, at the very least your expenses. All that can eat hours at a time, maybe even days. I’m running a business, I can’t just play all the time. It takes me a few hours to do the ebook formatting, about 3x as much for the paperback. I really like doing that, and usually watch YouTube on the side to keep my brain from powering down.

Marketing, social media, research: 20-25%
I don’t count hanging out with you guys on facebook in the group, or writing these blog posts. That’s my free time. I’m not a heavy marketer, but even so, there are things that need to be done. Even more so, I need to know what works for others, so I spend a substantial time listening to podcasts, reading blogs, and being active in writer forums. The podcasts I now listen to while I swim, so that was six hours this week. Usually it’s around 2-4 (I sometimes hop into the pool without wanting to be bothered by anything). Marketing needs to be tailored to each individual author, series, and book, so even if I get a good idea what someone else did, I still need to test, implement changes, crunch numbers, you name it. I spent over half a year learning how to self-publish before I uploaded my very first book to Amazon, and I still need to put hours into that process each month. You can’t just take a word file, slap on an MS Paint marquee cover, and expect it to sell.

Not giving up: what remains up to 100%
Not much, but sometimes, simply restraining your ambitions and not giving up when something doesn’t work out is work as well.

To sum this all up, I LOVE being a writer. I strongly believe it’s what I’m meant to do. I love this job, but in the end, it IS a job, not just a hobby or something I spend a lot of time with. I work somewhere between 50-70 hours a week, and that’s not counting a lot of extra stuff like reading books on craft, or doing story-related research. That’s kind of part of the writing process. I don’t do all of it every day; there are weeks where I just write, and do minimal other stuff, but accounting, stat tracking, and lining up promos is something I can’t really ignore for long or it will bite me in the ass. I now have systems that work for me, and I try to keep it all afloat so I don’t get bogged down in anything for long that isn’t writing. Like editing. Which I hate, with the vengeance of a thousand hells. But I won’t release a book that’s not the best it can be, and that takes time, so even with all the outside help I now get, I still need to put in those two weeks minimum. I refuse to be one of the writers that hurl out books that are “just good enough,” and accept a 10-20% docking in ratings for all the mistakes that could be avoided with a little more time spent weeding them out. Are there still errors in my books? Yes, and they drive me insane, but there’s no real way to get them all out. Also, I refuse to do lengthier rewrites of already published novels because you’ve read them. You might love exactly the part I’d cull down, and I never want to disappoint you like that. My time is better spent making the next book better than the ones that came before, so that’s what I do. I go back and correct typos if someone tells me about them, and I don’t forget. Which can be an issue sometimes, but I usually correct my master files the day I get a notice, and eventually, that shows up in the published versions as well.

I’m not telling you this to discourage you from becoming a writer yourself. Actually, now is a great time to be a writer, or start being one. A decade ago, all you could do was hope that an agent and publisher would take a chance on you, which always is a years-long process. Now you can teach yourself how to do all the many things you need to do to publish a book, work with freelancers to do the things you cannot do yourself (everyone needs an editor / proofreader. You cannot do a complete self-edit. At the very least, you need someone who tells you if your vision actually works, even if you managed to get the grammar perfect on your own. Which you likely won’t because the brain reads what it knows is there, not what you actually typed) and then release it into the world. All you need then is luck, and the right marketing tools so people will find your book. It doesn’t happen on its own, sadly, although Amazon helps a lot once the algos see that you try to grease them. Then it’s up to the readers to love it, share it, or ignore it. For a single book, all the extra work really isn’t worth it, but right now I have 14 books out there that have vastly different sale numbers but are doing a good job keeping me in business. I definitely plan on adding a shitton more in the next decades. Because this is what I love, and I’m blessed to be able to do it for a living, but it sure isn’t just a passion, or something I do when it strikes my fancy. It may not be a nine-ti-five job, but it requires that I do the work, put in the hours, and get shit done. Some weeks that’s more writing. Some weeks that’s trying to find out how to best position my books on the market and pull in new readers. Some weeks that’s creating brand new worlds in my head. It’s the ideal job for me because it allows me to schedule my own downtimes and work around things that I cannot exactly influence. There’s always something I can do, even if I can’t write. Because writing is only part of what I do, even if it’s the part I love the most. So if you see a writer spending a lot of time on social media, don’t tell them to quit because they should be writing. Chances are, they are hungering for all the human interaction they didn’t get because they just spent ten consecutive hours churning out words. Or they do it while they watch movies for research. Or to make sure their audience is happy and slobbering for the next book. Being a writer is more like a lifestyle than a job, really. Best thing in the world!

Day 10 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 16,667
Actual words: 1,850
Overall words: 28,166

It was a short writing day, ending up just under 1.5 hours as I had to order that fridge. Yes, the fridge is an important part of this week! Should get here next week so I can now keep my milk almost right next to my desk. #priorities. It will also help with keeping lunch food fresh, which is the real reason I’m getting it, but the “it’s all about the coffee!” excuse fits better to us writerly caffeine addicts.

Day was short because we spent the afternoon and evening at the spa / thermal bath. We had a coupon. You wouldn’t believe how much of my travel and vacation time is justified with “we had a coupon.” For a time, it was the only way to afford things, now it’s become a part of justifying taking time off. Like, “look, it’s so cheap, it would be a crime not to buy the coupon at 50% off!”, and then of course we have to use it, because we can’t let it go to waste. Booking online counts as coupons, right?!

Anyway, I digress. I printed out the last six chapters I’d written but because I snored my way through part of the time I didn’t sweat in the sauna or soak in the hot pool, I only got around five pages proofread. Which is more than I’ve managed in the past. And technically, it wasn’t supposed to be a productive work afternoon. We had planned to go there two weeks ago but with my mind still curled up in itself we postponed the trip, as in the past I’ve seen that if I’m not well, being forced to “relax” for 7-10 hours just makes it even worse, while it’s a prime recharging opportunity when I’m doing okay. I was a bit miffed that I couldn’t finish writing the scene I was smack in the middle off when we had to leave at noon, but I’ll get to that today. No biggie. And I did beat the daily NaNo required words, just wish I could have continued my 5+k streak.

Brief “discussion” topic: How to write a novel – pantser vs. plotter
If you haven’t heard those terms yet, there are two main camps most writers flock into–those that write intricate outlines, sometimes up to 100 pages for a 300 page novel, and those that do no outlining whatsoever and write “by the seat of their pants.”
I’ve for a long time considered myself not a plotter as I don’t write my outlines down. But I’m definitely not a pantser. I need to know where my story is going, and once I know, I fill out as many details as possible in my head before I sit down and write it. So, yeah, I’m a plotter, 99%. But really, it doesn’t matter how you write, only that you write and finish a novel that, to the reader, is a good, cohesive story. I flounder the moment I lose my outline. Most often when I’m blocked and it’s not because my mind is running haywire, it’s because something with the outline is amiss. Often, what looked good in my head, when translated, makes no sense–contradiction, timeline issues, or just plain “Character X would never do that!” moments. While I do outline, I often have fuzzy parts in between the crystal clear scenes, and that’s where it’s easy to get lost.
Or, as happened this very week, as I write, out of nowhere, something happens that wasn’t planned. A three-sentence conversation turns into a chapter-long verbal battle, big reveals jump onto the stage out of nowhere, fixed details become fluid and realign–and it all makes way more sense in the end than I had planned before. Not all, but some of the “oh, this why Y and Z happened” moments in my books were written this way. I didn’t plan them, but of course I know a lot more background information about the world, and what happened off-plot, than I can write. Plus, my subconscious knows 1000x as much. And, sometimes, when I know that at the 80% point of the story this and that will come to the light and I need to foreshadow things now, my subconscious pulls the trigger and either drags up the supposed main plot out into the open, or comes up with something even better. Feel free to guess what turning points in the story surprised me in the past books, and which were planned years in advance.

I love when things like that happen, because usually, they are very important, good scenes that add a lot to the background of the characters and keep the story fresh, but they do tend to drive me insane, because then I need to reshape the path that was almost set in stone already. Writing, however you do it, is always pure creativity. But I’m not someone who relies on spurts of creativity, and sometimes, they really mess with me and the story. Then again, my first draft doesn’t really need editing (as in, add scenes or entire plot lines, cut half of the chapters) but mostly proofreading to make sure details are okay, and those damn typos and misused words are corrected. I know several writers who say their first draft is barely the skeleton of the book, entirely unfit for public consumption, and the real creative work lies in their second and third pass as they add the details and put it all in the right order. I think because I basically transcribe the movie I’ve put together before I write, my process is always linear, and comes with few variations. But that’s only one way to write a novel, and there are thousand other way to do so. Just so you know why I despair when someone tells me that it should all be spontaneous and creative. Nope, not my MO. This is how almost main characters get killed.

Day 5 – NaNoWriMo 2017

Required words: 1,666
Target total: 8,333
Actual words: 1,357
Overall words: 8,795

Writing this on Monday morning so please excuse my lack of enthusiasm. Monday started well (for a Monday) but when the second thing you see is that people who don’t know you talk trash about you where you can’t defend yourself, that’s kind of a bummer. First thing was the news about Sutherland Springs, and that sure puts everything else into perspective. I generally don’t comment on things that go on over there because as a non-US citizen I feel like maybe I would do good not to place judgment on things that don’t directly concern me, but of course my heart is with the people affected. Quite the way to start the week.

So, yesterday. Right now I feel like an old diesel engine that’s not quite starting. I was super motivated (and for once not sleep deprived) in the morning when I was typing the blog post, then enjoyed a great breakfast and some nice TV–Sunday is Outlander time! Still can’t believe I got my guy hooked on the show as well, but might be that he’s hooked on my constant commentary. Loved the books, and love the show! and caught up on Supernatural and Scandal. And then… down, down, down my mood and motivation went, until I was a tightly coiled bundle of misery, frustration, and general “meh.” First, I wanted to go swimming to try to get rid of it (because that worked so well on Friday), but didn’t make it out of the house. Then I had the idea to head out for a walk, but my phone had died because I hadn’t charged it up and I need white noise music when I walk and plot. To explain, I needed something to go over the next few scenes in the book so I could write it. Next, I tried to play some Diablo 3 on the PS4, but the season had ended and I felt terribly demotivated to keep working on my Necromancer, so meh again. Plus, D3 kills my fingers, and they are acting up right now (thanks carpal tunnel syndrome!) anyway so no D3 for me. Does that sound drab and frustrating to you yet? Hell yeah it was.

I ended up playing Skyrim for an hour (okay, two hours) which was surprisingly easy on my hands, but a bit upsetting on my stomach. Fun fact (I know, I have so many of those!): I played Skyrim for 5 days straight once until I not only saw it in my sleep but now get queasy very easily when I play it again! Yay me!

I hate being such a Debbie Downer at the moment but that’s my life right now! It got better when I got the keyboard again at 11pm and wrote those 1,357 words. Very fitting, Bree wasn’t in the best mood, either. But since the end of book #7 she hasn’t really had much reason to be super chipper. And if you’re thinking I project my own meh at my characters, it’s usually the other way round.

Let’s talk a bit about empathy, shall we? Because that’s kind of connected to being bipolar, maybe, or not. You ask me, I’m not a psychologist, and I still believe I know better what is going on inside my head than someone who has to rely on my frustrated, stunted explanations, so bear with me. So, last week I already said I have bipolar type 2. I should maybe explain, because a lot of this I’ve only found out myself in the past year, and I’ve always been very interested in mental health issues (and serial killers), not just because some of it might affect me. BTW, don’t care at all for “suffering from.” I’m not suffering. I mean, yeah, sometimes I am, but I feel like the suffering is worse with chocolate cravings. You probably know bipolar as “manic depressive,” the old moniker. There are several kinds, and atypical cases as well (yay!) but I’m 99% sure I’m type 2. Type 1 is the classic up-and-down of mania and depression. Mania might sound fun but it really isn’t. I can’t say myself, I’ve never had a manic episode. I THOUGHT once I had had one but turns out, as type 2 I only have hypomanic episodes that are elevated states, but not going-nuts-overdrive elevated. I was close once, and I often feel like I’m borderline insane, so please, allow me the insensitive remarks. Type 2 in most people (and me) is usually prolonged major depressive phases with interspersed hypomanic episodes. But hey, you can have manic episodes inside depressive phases, did you know that? Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

For the longest time, I thought I had depression. Which is technically true, but it’s not the end of it for me. Also, I love statements like, “depression can, sometimes, be cured, but bipolar is a chronic illness that you’re stuck with for life.” Because it’s caused by weird brain chemistry, and while you can screw with that using medication, you can’t make it go away completely. Thumbs up for life sentences!

I’m not sure I’d want to be cured if that was possible. Like many people who are bipolar 2, I love my hypomanic episodes. During the first one that I can actually pinpoint, I wrote Outbreak, GF#2! Over 117k words in a month, including ending book #1 and starting book #3. I’ve never had a month like that. It was amazing! The second phase I had this summer, roughly between end of June to early August. Wrote not as much but quite a lot. It was nice. I felt really good! I want that to happen again! Creative brain on 150% is fun. And weird, but I like weird. I define myself with “weird.” Who needs normal when you can be weird?

Last time I only slowed down, afterwards. This time I felt myself crashing, and September and October have been… let’s call it a struggle, but that sounds too active, as I didn’t have the energy to put up a fight. Lots of things all came together, and it’s never easy to find reasons when there really are none. Many writers crash when they finish a book / publish it as they put so much effort into it that they end up a little “empty” once it’s out in the world. That happened. Had some unforeseen issues with other people, and because I can no longer claim that I’m not Nate, you can guess how that went down. Fun fact, when we were watching Mindhunter and Dr. Carr was explaining how the serial killers often justified their drive and needs, I felt like I could relate… a lot. It’s moments like this that make you feel really comfortable in your skin.

Anyway, back on target. Just like in August, even before Affliction hit the shelves, I felt myself crashing, sloooowly but surely, I’ve felt my mood pick up for the past two weeks or so. One would expect that to be a soft, slow curve, but no. It’s more like a series of false starts, hence the engine metaphor. I’m good for a few hours, and then I’m not. Like everyone else, of course triggers also work with me. Give me chocolate and I will be happy! Tell me someone is talking shit about me, and I’m down! But my mood in general, overall, isn’t dependent on anything, and that’s what drives me mad. Maybe literally. Bipolar people do get hospitalized sometimes. I hate inconsistency. I’m an inconsistent writer. Yay! But today is Monday, and I woke up being glad that it was Monday, because weekdays mean routine, and if there’s one thing that helps me get my mind straight, it’s routine.

6am: get up. Just kidding.

7am: get up. Have breakfast. Or not. I hate showering in the mornings so I try to avoid it like the plague. One more reason to hit the gym in the afternoon and wash my hair after it gets dunked in chlorine: no need to shower 16 hours later.

8am: leave the house, or if I work from home, hit the computer for some YouTube R&R.

9am: Office time! Or work time when I’m working from home or a coffee shop.

11:30-12:30: Somewhere in there’s a 30 mins lunch break.

2pm: Hit the gym! Swimming mostly right now but I love lifting weights, too.

4:30pm: Drive back home!

7pm-ish: When motivated, hit the keyboard again. Might run as late as 2am, because who needs sleep?

6am, after crawling into bed at 2am: I hate the world! Unless I’m in a hypomanic episode, because then, four hours of sleep are fine, so let’s conquer the world!!

Or something like that. Technically, it makes no sense for me to have a schedule as I’m a self-employed full-time writer and except for meetings and doctor’s appointments I don’t even need to keep daylight hours. I sometimes don’t. But routine really helps my mind when it’s not doing well. Blocks of time in particular. It’s agonizing to spend 8 consecutive hours not doing anything productive. It might sound fun to you if you’re blessed with a healthy mind but work a job that drags often, but not so much when you, technically, could do whatever you want… except that you can’t. That’s why I love my 3-part writing day, mornings, afternoons, and evenings. There’s a good chance that at least in one of those blocks I actually do write. Right now that’s evenings. In my day, I have about 12-14 hours of potential writing time. On those days where I write more than 10k words (that’s 40+ pages, so you can relate) I use up most of that time. Of course it’s frustrating when I only manage 500 words, considering how much time was “wasted,” but eh, I’ll take the 500 if that’s all I get! 2 more pages than I had the day before.

I’m sorry that this is so over the place and disorganized, but THIS is how my brain is when it’s not at 120%. Or a 100%. Right now I feel like I’m clocking in at 80-90%. That’s enough for writing. I live and breathe the story that’s in my head, don’t need that much brain power to transcribe it. Which is awesome, or else I couldn’t hack it as a writer. Surprisingly, that shuts down my inner critic (In writing, not when I can’t write) so it’s often the better parts of a book, pure creative voice. But focusing is hard sometimes. Human interaction harder still, even more so when you can never forget to pretend like you’re a fully functioning human being when really, you don’t feel like one at the moment.

So empathy, right! Forgot about that. One of the newest tidbits of information about being bipolar is that many are really strong empathizers. Like, feeling physical discomfort because someone else is miserable kind of strong. I immediately discounted that because, let’s face it, your girl here isn’t really empathetic…

Except that maybe I am. I’m shitty at showing empathy, that’s true. But my parents’ divorce and how my mom was incapable of handling the emotional side of it at first sent me into years of… I’m not even sure I can describe that as depression, because what I felt for the past two months doesn’t hold a candle to that. I certainly came out as a different person at the other end, when I managed to claw my way back out of that hole. Minus a lot of friends, or people I thought were friends but clearly weren’t, because where were they when I was barely more than a husk of my former self? Having their own issues of course, issues I can’t empathize with. Cat chasing its tail, you see?

Fun fact: It’s amazing when people tell you that you can come talk to them when you need help. Guess what you can’t do when you’re down? Reach out! Nobody’s to blame.

I do feel strong emotions, often. Books and movies do that to me. For instance, I can’t stand nice, happy endings, particularly in romance (that’s why I usually read the soul crushing, dark romance, that maybe 2% of writers can pull off. Not the everything is fine, just a hitch in the road, now it’s even better kind. That I cannot stand. Or relate to.) I like tragic endings and turns. Maybe because that causes emotions inside of me that I can relate to better. I don’t know. The older I get, the more I bawl at emotional endings. Service dog sitting at his marine handler’s grave? Floodgates. But that NCIS episode even got Gibbs teary-eyed, I feel no shame. But I have been thinking over the past few days, and I realized that yes, I easily feel physically ill in connection to emotions, and not my own, so I seem to be empathizing.

It’s a journey. And sometimes not one I’m happy to be on, but hey, it’s my life, and I kind of am determined to make the best of it. Like write these stories that I’m so damn proud of, and meet people who read them and really dig them. That’s amazing. That also helps with the bad days. Not immediately, but I’ve learned to go by averages and over-alls, because that counts in the end. I’m kind of tempted to delete this endless ramble here, but hey, maybe you understand better now why, sometimes, I just seem weird, and sometimes, I’m really not in a good place. Swimming helps, even if maybe not at the moment. I don’t think it’s because of the endorphin / dopamine high that exercise causes, but because it’s calm, and constant, whether I listen to podcasts or just my own breathing and splashing. Kind of like an hour of physical white noise to normalize it all. To center myself. To not care about all the bullshit that doesn’t need to concern me. What do I care if someone foul-mouths me or my books? Peanuts. Less so, because I actually like peanut butter. Insignificant piece of gravel. Even if it’s an entire heap, it doesn’t need to land on and bury me. I have bigger fish to fry. Like a damn amazing last 1/3 of a book that I’m maybe 10 pages away from starting into. And a next book that has Bree firing on all cylinders from start to finish. And an idea for the one after that starts with so much wonderful annoyance (that’s unavoidable) to just make me cackle with manic glee. And three more new series I need to set up, write, and publish. And so, so, so much more after that.

In a way, I feel like that new, changed person I was talking about before has so, so much to live for that happier, old me never did. I am actually glad for the shit my mind has put me through, and still is, because it irregularly balls up my entire life like a piece of paper, and when I flatten that out again, it has changes into something new, exciting, interesting. Sure, the crunching part is painful, and the being-balled-up stage is hell, but it passes, and once it’s over, I can breathe freely again, and the air has never been sweeter. I don’t need to conquer my demons. I just have to hang in there, pull through, and everything is right with the world again. Someone left me a wonderful comment here last week, saying that she believed that the reason why I’m capable of writing what I write is because my brain is wired as it is, which might just give me a certain edge. Maybe that’s true. I prefer to think of myself as a literary genius instead. Just kidding. Or am I? Hm. Please read that last part in Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson voice, please. Gosh, I love Deadpool.

If you need a takeaway message from this, it’s this: don’t judge me, or anyone else, on one single happenstance. That’s not (all) I am. Don’t pity me, please, but do continue to buy my books! I’m not lying when I say that I am a very complicated woman. I herd three people in my head: the good, the bad, and the writer. It’s the composite that matters. Or just the books that I put out. I’m okay with that as well. But yes, I am a sum of all my parts, and that’s not always pretty. I care about the bullshit, even if I don’t want to, because the bad part of me thrives on that and loves to endlessly display to me, over and over, and over again, because where would be the fun in not dragging myself down? The good is an eternal optimist that sees the best in people, and while often disappointed, she usually shrugs it all off within minutes. She’s the daredevil that made me believe in myself so I could start publishing. She’s the one who rolls her eyes at stupid haters and only has one answer for them: Who cares? And then there’s the writer who tries very hard to make a living while those two yahoos constantly fight over who gets to drive the clown car. Really. Move over. I have a book a write so people can tell me how awesome I am again!

I probably shouldn’t post this, but I’m going to do it anyway, because I think that all of us have our moments where we can’t handle shit. Maybe, knowing that you’re not alone helps. I don’t know. I also spent 1.5 hrs typing this so, yeah. Read it! Feel free to comment. Or just write me a private message if you prefer that. I have 14 hours a day that I cannot completely fill with productive writing, anyway, so I’m happy to give you a few minutes, always.

Q4 Plans

Instead of boring you with a September recap (hint: September was kind of a dud for me) I’ll entertain you with what I have planned for the remaining quarter of 2017!

But first, a very, very short recap of what happened in September, because I’m a glutton for punishment. Beware, personal stuff ahead.

Exhaustion hit me like a freight train at the beginning of the month. You’d think that after publishing 13 other novels, I’d expect this to happen, particularly after a very, very productive summer, but noooooo. Not only was I toeing a mini-burnout from several months of constant productivity, but as usual, the release was strong, but numbers only started to really pick up in week 3 post-release. A lot of writers who still have a day job dream of doing it full-time. Let me tell you, if you’re all in, waiting until you have the data to start crunching the numbers is excruciating. Or maybe that’s just me. Don’t worry, most of my fretting was for naught, but it adds a nice layer of stress. Of course then karma had to swoop in and remind me that good things come to writers of gory horror stories, and one of my all-time favorite authors shared a promo I was running, giving it a great kick that still keeps burning. Yes, I once again embarrassed myself fangirling all over Bobby Adair. I swear, if I ever meet him in person, I will apologize. But I have no regrets!
Then there was the vacation in Italy (I posted a pic in the new facebook fan group, and the header image is taken from our room’s balcony as well), which was amazing, but since my mind was still on a bender, it took until the last few days for me to really come down and relax. Then, of course, within hours we left the sunny, warm late summer beach of Bibione and drove home to November weather Vienna. Cue in the worst case of SAD I’ve had in years! I’m a little better now but damnit, I’ll need a long, sunny October to get me ready for actual winter!
Oh, and this week I bought a new motorcycle after selling my old one. You only live once, as they say!

Now what’s the plan for the next three months:

  1. Finish the 8th Green Fields book (that is still without a title)
    Sounds easy (and it looks good and almost complete in my head, just today I worked out a few more pivotal scenes), but I still have 50-70k words to write, which is possible, but means I need to do a lot of writing. Did I mention I bought a new bike?
  2. I will be doing NaNoWriMo in November again. I was planning to write the first novel in a new series, but since I got the go-ahead for my Patreon project from my accountant, I will instead write 50k words of short stories for Patreon instead! Yes, I know it’s called National NOVEL Writing Month, but considering I’m a pro, I think I can cut myself some slack. Plus, 50k short stories would make up about half a year for monthly stuff on Patreon, so it would take off a lot of priority tasks for the start of 2018. I could also launch my Patreon in January 2018, so that’s another bonus!
    Short stories that will be included in this are:
    – What the gang was up to while Bree was gone in GF#5, Resurgence, Nate’s POV
    – How Bree and Nate met (alternating POVs, so we get some backstory from before from both of them. And there will be two versions, a smutty and not quite that explicit one, for everyone to choose their poison)
    – A story from Pia’s POV that ties into hints that are dropped early in GF#8
    – Maybe the backstory of Sadie and Bates, but not sure about that yet. Might get a little raunchy as I would write it from his POV
    – Either Burns’s or Andrej’s POV of the parts early in GF#5 that Bree blacked out on. That’s going to be super fun and uplifting! (/sarcasm)
    – Something that happened at the bunker during the first winter – either a late loot run to Cody, a typical training day for Bree, or someone being a nuisance in connection to the apple-sauce-pocalypse.
  3. Someone has to proofread and edit all this! And while I have a kickass team of beta readers and the best editor in the world, that someone will also be me! I might have mentioned that before but I hate proofreading with a vengeance! Also, the audio version GF#7, Affliction, should be ready for proofing soon as well! Looking forward to that for real!
  4. Depending on how much October will bleed into November (90% chance), and November into December (depending on how long it takes me to need to write something longer than a couple of pages with a given setting – 50% chance) December might just be the month to finish what needs finishing. I plan on publishing GF#8 in December as well, so that will easily eat up a week, plus cue in another round of exhaustion after that… and Christmas, my least favorite holiday of them all!
  5. Or I get everything wrapped up on Nov 30, and December is all free for the next novel! Might be GF#9, might be the first of a new series (still trying to decide between three possibilities. Maybe four. My mind is a crowded place!)
  6. I have a lot of socializing going on:
    Winter of Zombies blog tour, a 30 day-long zombie extravaganza all over facebook, and blogs!
    – November to Dismember at the Reading Horror facebook group – my day is Nov 29
    – and some more interviews I’ve signed up for. I should compile a list one of these days…
    – Oh, and there’s that matter of that anthology coming out on October 10. Almost forgot! (Just kidding. I’d never forget!)

If you haven’t joined my super duper Fan Club on facebook yet, do so now! It’s a great place to stay up to date with information, and it won’t get swallowed up by endless processions of cute cat pictures! Unless I post a few of my cats. Promise, never more than one or two at a time! Great stuff going on there right now! Including me being a dork, but what else is new?
You can read an exclusive teaser for GF#8 in the group, and more to follow.

On the future of the blog:

Not sure what I will be doing with this. Right now, the fan group is the best place to share information. Of course, I can share the blog posts there, too. I still have some written that need editing before posting. I will get there eventually. I will also be sharing stuff all through November for the events, and I have, tentatively, considered abusing the blog for an accountability thing for NaNoWriMo, kind of a way to give you a real-time behind-the-scenes update how things are going (an almost-guarantee for me to get stuck, but hey, not the craziest idea I’ve had this week!). We’ll see! Not fretting this. Just telling you that if you want to stay up to date, the fan group is the place to go, also for blog updates.

August 2017 recap

August has been crazy, just like July, only different. And that pretty much describes the state I’m in right now.

Tl:dr version: I published a book! I wrote a huge chunk of the next! And now I need a vacation!

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July 2017 recap

To describe my July with a single word is easy: mental. As in me, going, completely.

The tl:dr version: GF#7 is written, GF#8 is started, and I’m about dead.

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June 2017 recap

 

Note: I’d like to make this a regular monthly feature. Maybe the writing part will end up on my Patreon page (exclusively, including more background info and teasers) once I launch it. We’ll see. No actual content here, but as much of a cohesive update as you’ll likely ever get.

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