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Category: life stuff (Page 1 of 25)

Love(s) in the time of coronavirus

It’s been a weird few weeks. And hoo boy, it’s been stressful, on a number of levels.

I’m one of those immunocompromised folks who need to be extra careful when there’s bugs going around, thanks to the medication I’m on for my MS. Spouse works in a job where he has to deal with the public, so with the pandemic he’s been terrified of bringing an infection home to me. When the country finally locked down, and he didn’t have to go out to work any more, it actually came as a relief – though the stress didn’t go away, it just shifted to different axes: food, money and OMG are we going to kill each other stuck together like this 24hrs a day.

Strangely, the one thing I haven’t been stressing about has been my writing.

A lot of fellow writers have been finding it hard to work lately. Anxiety, financial insecurity, disruption to routine can do that to someone whose working life, like mine, exists mostly inside their head. Many of them have been saying they seem to have less time now, rather than more, and their ability to work has suffered. (It’s amazing how the life of a storyteller goes like that. Rushed off your feet? Ideas all over the place. Finally have time to write? The Muse has wandered off somewhere sunny and isn’t taking my calls.)

Strangely, the one thing I haven’t been stressing about has been my writing.

I’ve been having the opposite experience. I’m actually Getting Shit Done, words-wise. I made a huge structural decision that I think has finally solved the Timeline From Hell. My rewrites are moving apace, and things are starting to fall into place with a pleasing little tinkly sound that is less like broken glass and more like bells. The script for The Dragon House is even starting to look . . . book-shaped.

And I love it again.

Not gonna lie, it’s been hard sometimes to stay enthused about a project I’ve been unable to get sustained traction on for so long. That’s not the book’s fault; it’s been all me. Me being ill, me not dealing very well with me being ill, me making me being ill be worse by not working around it, and making myself thoroughly miserable in the process. None of which is good for my creativity, it turns out.

But last year’s round of therapy has been good for me, I think. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, to stop beating myself up for not changing the things that can’t be changed. I’ve learned to rest, and how to walk away and save my energy for fights I can win, instead of wasting it flailing at ones that I was always going to lose.

I guess you could say I’ve learned to love me, too.

Typewritten page repeating LOVE with one word highlighted in red

Free photo 4046832 © Tine Grebenc – Dreamstime.com

This didn’t all happen in some blinding revelatory insight, by the way. It’s been something I’ve gradually woken up to over the last few months. A growing realisation that I feel more at ease with myself now, and that has delivered the greatest boost to my creativity. I’ve had fits and starts of it before, but I probably went at them too hard and they burned out quickly.

This is feeling more sustained. I’ve only had a couple of bad days since mid-March, but instead of trying to push through I’ve acknowledged them as a sign that I need to take a rest, and they’ve passed without the usual trail of despair and exhaustion. Funny how it took someone else telling me something that should have been blatantly bloody obvious for it to stick.

Rushed off your feet? Ideas all over the place. Finally have time to write? The Muse has wandered off somewhere sunny and isn’t taking my calls.

Part of what has helped has been having Spouse at home these last few weeks. The reason for it (the lockdown) is all kinds of awful, but there’s been benefits too. Not just the endless supply of tea (although that is vitally important to the creative process) but for not being alone with all this . . . *gestures around* this. We’ve not got in each other’s way, meals have come to be about more than just shovelling fuel into the furnace and we’re both less tired and grouchy. We haven’t killed each other even a little bit.

I’m sure you can guess what I would say here if it wasn’t TMI 😉

So. The takeaways:

  • I’m writing, quite a lot and quite well
  • THE DRAGON HOUSE wordcount is up to 145k-ish so I’m making significant progress (believe me, just fixing the Timeline From Hell counts as significant with a capital S – it’s been casting a deep, dark shadow over this manuscript for a loooong time)
  • I’m feeling more productive than I have done in ages. I mean, I’ve even written a blog post!

Before y’all get overexcited, I want to sound a note of caution. Things are going well, yes, but this is still too new a development for me to feel confident putting a due date on The Dragon House. It’s only been in the last few days that I’ve felt able to say out loud that that day feels a lot closer than it did.

But I did, and it does, and I wanted to let you all know. More news as it happens.

Featured image: Free photo 9079661 © Timur Anikin – Dreamstime.com

Frequently Asked Questions, DRAGON HOUSE edition

I’ve been getting a few emails from readers asking what’s happening with THE DRAGON HOUSE, the final volume of the Wild Hunt Quartet. I’m happy to answer these emails individually, as and when they come in, but it occurred to me that it would save a lot of wear and tear on everyone’s typing fingers if I just did a post about it.

So, without further ado, here we go.

I can’t find THE DRAGON HOUSE in the shops

It hasn’t been published yet. I’m still writing it. I am pleased to report that it’s more done than not done, though (see So where are we at? below).

Why is it taking so long?

My health hasn’t been great for a while now. For those that don’t know (*waves to new people*) I have multiple sclerosis, which I’ve been dealing with for over 20 years now. I’ve blogged about this before, but that was a year ago and I realise not everyone will have read that post.

I haven’t always dealt with my illness in an ideal fashion. When it was still in its relapsing-remitting stages, I coped by largely ignoring it, and trying to bull my way through the limitations it imposed on me. That’s why I stayed in full-time employment longer than I should have. Why I resisted moving to a house without stairs for so long. When we finally did move, in 2015, the process brought a load of new stressors all its own, which did not help my mental health.

Having MS has so thoroughly altered the way I navigate the world. Physically, I can’t do a lot of things I used to enjoy, like travel, or needlecrafts, or tending my garden, but it’s also affected stuff I used to take for granted, simple things like fastening my clothes. Mentally, it affects my concentration and clarity of thought, though not so badly that I can’t see what’s happening to me. Even after 20 years, I get immensely frustrated with it. Frustration becomes rage, which becomes tears, becomes exhaustion, becomes depression and round and round we go.

Lately I’ve been getting better at dealing with that cycle. Though far from perfect,  I’m still here, still trying. I’m still making words, because I can’t not. It’s just not happening as quickly or as easily as any of us would like.

Post it note says "Don't panic"

Will the book ever be finished?

Yes. Absolutely. I owe the story and the characters a fitting ending, something that feels right for them. I also owe it to all the readers who have come along for the ride.

That said, I won’t turn out a piece of crap just to call it done. I won’t put my name to something I’m not proud of.

When?

That I can’t tell you. Yet. Rigid schedules don’t work with a fluctuating condition; that’s why I had to give up my 9-5 office job. Please trust that I’m working as hard as I can, but unfortunately, I can’t predict when I’ll be done. There’s no point in promising a date when I can’t guarantee to meet it, and to get a firm date means plumbing it into the schedules of literally dozens – if not hundreds – of other people in the publishing supply chain, and it’s not fair on them to over-promise and then under-deliver.

But when I hit SEND on that script, y’all will be the first to know.

So where are we at?

The book is about two-thirds done (I think), but there’s the whole final arc to nail down. A series-ender is tricky – many individual arcs to close, lots of moving parts!

As I said in my newsletter:

Last time I made any kind of announcement about THE DRAGON HOUSE, I was at 120,000 words, or about two-thirds of the way through. I’d actually written 169k, but was revisiting the whole manuscript (again) after some tough love from my agent, because, well, it wasn’t in great shape.

Since then, I’ve stopped keeping an eye on the word-count. Instead, I’m measuring my progress by the far more nebulous and instinctive metric of “Does this feel like it’s getting more in focus than it was before?”

You see, I’ve never had a good relationship with daily word-count targets. It’s co-morbid with my dislike of chapter plans, beat-sheets and whatnot. Those things make me feel hemmed in, and if I fail to hit a target e.g. because I’m ill, it sets up a stress spiral of pushing more and falling further short. The quality of my writing always suffers.

Learning that I do this was such a “Well, duh!” for me. I’m still working on recognising it in the moment, though, because it’s hard to see when you’re mired in it. I was raised to be a self-reliant sort, so I tend to just soldier on in the belief that I can wear any problem down with sheer persistence, when what I need to do is not work harder, but work smarter.

So I’ve had to go backwards to go forwards. I’m at about 125k, but there’s a lot more changed than just adding another 5000 words. I think the script is leaner now, more together. There’s new scenes. I’ve made peace with the fact that the POV count (as well as the word count) is going to be higher than the other three books. THE DRAGON HOUSE will be a bit of a monster, but I can see the shape of the beast in the rough cut stone now, and it pleases me. I just have to set it free.

So there you go.

Is Gair going to be OK? Will he end up with Tanith? Do we see Ailric/Ytha/Drwyn get their comeuppance? TELL ME.

You want spoilers, now? No, I’m not telling. Yes, I am a big meaniepants.

So what are we supposed to do while we wait, huh?

If you haven’t already read them, there’s two sample chapters here under ‘Books’ in the top menu. If you have already read them . . . um. Sorry? Please read someone else’s books – there’s lots of great ones to choose from. I’ll still be here when you get back.

And on that note, I want to apologise to everyone for taking so long with this book. It’s not what I wanted to happen. I hope I can repay everyone’s patience with a worthy finale to the series. I want THE DRAGON HOUSE to be the best that I can make it.

And you will get to read it.

 

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