Category Archives: Headaches

Godawful Early Schedule Results (Week 4 and Overall)

The one thing I can say about last week is that it happened.

It wasn’t a great one in terms of work hours. Monday was Thanksgiving, so I worked a bit in the early morning and then did nothing more for the rest of the day. Nothing work-related, at least. A migraine hit that evening (after I’d said I was thankful for not having one… that’ll learn me), and I was dealing with them off and on all week. I lost all of Wednesday to one.

But you know what? It happens. It’s a thing I’m prepared for, or that I at least should be by now. It’s nothing worth whining about, especially when things could be so much worse.

And there’s a bright side.

The hours I did work were pretty darned good. I was productive during work hours. After I decided to go ahead and try outlining my scenes in even more depth than I usually do, figuring out the little turning points and conclusions in bullet form instead of in the flow of trying to actually write the scene, my hourly word count crept up to 1600 or even 1700 wph (it’s usually closer to 1200 on a decent day).

Now, I haven’t done the math on whether this is actually more efficient. After all, that planning takes time, and that needs to be added to the time I’m actually spending writing the scene. In fact, it probably takes a little more this way.

But it feels less frustrating and wasteful, and that’s important for keeping me motivated. And it saves me from scenes that wander around too much before getting to the point, which means I might save time in revisions. So that’s cool.

Whatever keeps me going is good at this point.

Good lesson.

ALSO…

This makes 4 weeks of the Godawful Early Schedule. I’ve done my best to get up at 5:30 in the morning, to work for 90 minutes before the kids get up and then again for a few hours after they’re out the door. It’s time to look at my conclusions.

  • Getting some work done before breakfast/before anyone else gets up and I have to be a responsible adult is TOTALLY A GOOD IDEA. I absolutely want to continue with this. Knowing that I’ve accomplished something even if I have stuff going on later (or everything goes off the rails) is such a boost to my day. And having afternoons free means I have time for things like meeting people for coffee… or letting my schedule flip itself upside down if I need to take the morning off instead for an appointment.

BUT.

  • I miss my old morning routine. I want to make this morning work session a part of it, not a substitution for it. Meditation, planning my day, stretching, and reading are all important, too, and help me feel grounded and prepared for whatever comes later. So I need to get back to that.
  • 5:30 is just too early for me. Even after 4 weeks I’m still finding that my alarm clock is yanking me out of dreams instead of light sleep (never mind the fact that I don’t like having to go to bed at exactly the same time as my kids… or before them). 90 minutes of work focus is turning out to be a bit much to ask of my brain before food, caffeine, meds, etc. I thought I needed that big stretch of time, but as it turns out, 60 minutes is almost as good in terms of word count.

So here’s the next big plan:

  • wake up at 6:00. Drink water. Meditate 10 minutes.
  • work on planning/drafting new pen name project for 60 minutes in two 25-minute sprints with a 5-minute break between and at the end (aim for 1500 words). Get up, do floor exercises/stretches on breaks. Make notes for tomorrow’s writing session. Start making tea/coffee.
  • get kids up at 7:30, go through that whole routine (including eating breakfast).
  • After the kids are gone, take care of exercise* by either walking the dog or doing yoga depending on the weather. And shower, because ew.
  • work on Phoenix revisions from 10:00-noon, working in 25-minute sprints again.
  • After lunch, take care of pen name publication/promo concerns for no more than one hour, then relax, read, go for a walk, rest, or whatever I need to do to recharge.
  • And then the kids come home and I do the houseworks and makes the suppers and hangs out with the family peoples and all that jazz (try to find time for fun stuff… I’m still working on finding a hobby). Bed around 10:00.

So that’s the goal for the next few weeks. The ideal. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve had a hard time juggling multiple projects in the past, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn how to to it, especially when I’ve got a couple of natural breaks in my day. Two projects and then an hour for business stuff should be manageable.

We’ve got a few weeks left in October, and I’m going to try to make the most of them.

And then it’ll be November *gasp*. And that means NaNoWriMo *double gasp*. At that point I’ll have to either get my words-per-hour higher in those early morning sessions or make up extra on the weekends (when I’ll have to add sessions anyway… I’m currently not writing on weekends at all). That, or get these revisions off my desk so I can focus entirely on drafting.

Such tension. Such excitement.

If anyone else is doing NaNoWriMo this year, you can add me as a friend. I’m KittySparkes on the site . I probably won’t be on there a whole lot, but I’ll check messages.

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Gratuitous Halloween decor picture.

 

 


*I typed that as “exerscuse.” I make a lot of those.

 

 

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Writing on Summer Vacation: Day One

7:00 AM – Okay. I said I wanted to start writing at 7:30. But I need a shower… I can do this.

7:05 – I know I said no social media before work, but just a quick check won’t hurt. Huh. A reviewer needs a Kindle copy of Into Elurien. Guess that’s important, since she’s booked a date on the series blog tour. *sniffs self* Shower first.

7:30 – Definitely need to let my hair air-dry today.  Better to look like a frizzy purple buffalo than to spend another 20 minutes doing that (and overheating myself in the process). Speaking of heat, I know I had shorts here somewhere…

7:45 – Excellent. Everyone’s still asleep. *stomach grumbles* Dammit. Okay, invisaligns out, make a shake with greek yogurt to keep me full a bit longer (I hope), drink that and an iced coffee. I miss being able to sit and sip while I work. Brush teeth, invisaligns back in. Snap self in face with tiny elastic. Perfect.

8:05 – Okay. Writing. Annnnnnd the dogs want out. Might as well check Facebook quickly while they OH MY GOODNESS THERE’S A RUNNING APP WHERE YOU PRETEND YOU’RE IN A FANTASY SETTING AND GET TO GO ON QUESTS?!* I must investigate this immediately.

8:15 – Oops, forgot to put the laundry in. Better do that now if it’s going to line-dry today.

8:20 – Guess I should send that email.

8:30 – Annnd one kid is up. He’s pretty self-sufficient. They both are. My brain is a far greater obstacle than my boys are. It still doesn’t want to settle in and get this chapter fixed so I can move on to fresh drafting. Maybe I’ll warm up with a blog post, see if other kid wakes up. Then I can start after breakfast…

8:45 – (Now) This is my brain on trying to work. If you’ve read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, you know about resistance. I get it bad every time I try to start working. My brain is scattered, no matter what I do. Pomodoro sprints, meditation, visualization to get myself excited about writing a scene, planning, not planning…they help, but not much. On days like today, when my brain is fogged up and I’m recovering from Sunday’s migraine and the world seems to be moving around me at confusing speeds, it’s hard to start. I have zero focus. I’m scattered. My head feels like it’s physically stuffed with cotton. Possibly cotton candy.

The pink kind.

So what am I going to do about it?

I’m going to go make breakfast for Thing 2, I’m going to try to forget how much I wish I had a huge cup of coffee at my desk, and I’m going to publish this post, get my ass back here, put some music on, and work.

Maybe I won’t get the two hours in that I wanted today. Maybe I won’t get this scene revised (quite doubtful, actually, given the speed my brain is working at this morning). But I’m going to try. I’m going to prove to myself, to my muse, to my family, and anyone else who’s watching that I’m committed. I am doing this.

And step by tiny, painful step, I’m going to get through this draft.

Wish me luck.

 

 


Victory (again… for now)

I posted this photo on Facebook a few days ago with the caption below, and enough people found it helpful/motivating that I thought I’d share it with you guys.

Screenshot 2016-05-06 09.24.05

I cried a little at the end of our run today. Not because it was hard, but because I realized that I had won again. A lot of you know that I went through another bad round with depression back in the fall/winter, and I’ve been fighting to get out of it using exercise, reading and taking action on self-help stuff (even the silly crap), and weekly self-therapy sessions (don’t laugh). It’s hard work, like dragging my reluctant ass up a steep and muddy slope. But as I collapse here with my running buddy/motivational canine, I feel like I’ve made it back to what passes for normal for me. I broke my reading slump. I have an amazing book coming out in less than 2 months. And I feel good.

Next challenge to add to this one: getting the headaches and brain fog sorted out. I can do this. Baby steps.

So there’s the update for people who have been following along since I started talking about pulling myself out of this pit (here and here). I’m still doing weekly question-and-answer therapy sessions with myself to dig down to the roots of things that are holding me down and trying to drag me back into the pit. Through that I’ve broken my reading slump, changed some of my beliefs, and found a bit of the balance I’m looking for in my life (still a long way to go there). I’m on week four of Couch to 5K (C25K) training, and having that challenge to look forward to/achievement under my belt in the morning/extra exercise is helping a lot with my motivation.

This doesn’t mean my depression is cured. It means that for now, I’m finding ways to change my brain chemistry and thought patterns in ways that allow me to be less anxious, less hopeless, more motivated, and on an upward spiral. Most days are still challenges. There are still triggers that can snap me back into a low mood/closed-off state, but I’m learning to identify and deal with them through changing my perceptions and reactions. (And THAT, my friends, is slow going. But I’ll get there.)

It’s hard work, and I know how fortunate I am to have the time to do it. I’ve been in a lot of different places with my mental health. I’ve been crushed under panic attacks. I’ve been depressed enough that I lacked the motivation to kill myself, but passively wished I was dead. I’ve survived times when none of that responded to medications until I was on high doses of antidepressants that turned me into an emotionless, anhedonic zombie (but hey, they helped me survive). I’ve suffered withdrawal symptoms from coming off of those drugs that were worse than the side-effects. I’ve wanted to exercise and eat better and lacked the time, energy, and resources to do either.

This post isn’t to say “LOOK WHAT I DID, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO IT TOO,” because screw that. This isn’t advice or a how-to, but an encouragement. My path to feeling better is the one that’s working for me right now, and if sharing my journey helps one person decide that it is possible to feel better, that the fight is worth fighting, or that they’re going to speak up about the shit that they’re going through and seek help, my mission will be accomplished. Maybe for you that means speaking to your doctor. Maybe it means admitting to your family that you need help to find time to get ten minutes of walking in. Maybe it means opening up to a friend who’s been there who can tell you that it can and does get better.

If you’re fighting depression (or not fighting it… I’ve been there, too) or any other mental illness, you are not alone. You are not a weirdo. You’re not defective. You are amazingly strong, and the proof of that is the fact that you’re still here. You are not your illness, and YOU are still there under it.

And if you don’t believe that right now, that’s okay, too. I believe it for you.

It’s Mental Health Week. I’m getting loud.

(As for the end of that facebook status, about the headaches and brain fog… CT scan results are in and my doctor asked to see me next week. Fingers crossed.)

*Though it is a cycle. When I took the baby step of walking for 20 minutes a day, I gained the energy to walk for 30. And my mood lifted a little. And I found motivation to make other changes.

 


Passion Project

So… I thought I’d post a little update here. Not just a follow-up to what we talked about a few weeks ago (though I would like to thank everyone who jumped in with comments and your own stories, as it’s good to know that sharing was helpful to some of you), but to give you a peek into what’s happening in my wee story workshop right now.

My work has been fairly predictable for the past few years as I focused on getting the Bound Trilogy finished. It was narrow in focus, high-pressure, and a huge learning experience for me as a new author who never really expected anyone to read my first book. Things are changing, and I’m so excited to talk a little about what I’ve got on the go right now.

Into Elurien, my contribution to the very exciting Skeleton Key Book Series, is with a capable editor right now. The same one who edited At Any Cost for me, actually.* This project pushes the upper limit of suggested word count for the series, but keeping it small was still a big challenge for me. I wanted to satisfy my readers’ expectations for worldbuilding, character development, quality writing, and exciting plot while I satisfied the series’ demands of romance, length, and subject matter, and this one didn’t want to be a smaller story. But I did it, and I love it.

I finished post-critique edits for that about three weeks early, which means I’m expecting a bomb to go off during editing that will leave me with massive clean-up to do, but I’ve got time to deal with that. Into Elurien will be available for pre-order mid-May and release in June, along with a few dozen other books by amazing authors. Watch here for information on the cover reveal (though if you know where to look, you might be able to find it early!), and for more details on the story as pre-order day gets closer.

So that brings us to what I’m working on now.

It’s big. Not in word count (I’m aiming for under 100K words), but in the magnitude of the challenge. It’s a story that has its backstory roots hundreds of years before the main plot, told in third person POV–not my first choice, but necessary if I want to make the structure that I want work properly. It’s a little dystopian in mood and theme, basically utopian in practice (except for one wee, horrible detail), and involves a style of storytelling that people are either going to love or hate.

And right now, it’s a massive challenge. I started drafting, scrapped most of the 11,000 words I wrote in that first week, stepped back, and took another week to get to know my characters better through a questionnaire so deep that I don’t think I could answer all of the questions for myself. I am finding it difficult to find their voices when they’re not speaking onto the page (I really miss first person!), but I’m getting there. I’m back to the writing now, and it’s going a bit more smoothly.

This is one of those stories that’s so amazing in my head that there’s no way I’ll replicate it perfectly on the page. That’s been true of every story I’ve ever written, but it’s really staring me in the face this time. I expect this one will teach me a lot during the revision process, and more through edits. That’s always the goal, you know. I have a whole lot to learn about the art and craft of storytelling, and doing it (and getting professional feedback) is the best way to learn.

It’s definitely a passion project, and I’m writing it because I’m in love, not because it seems like it’s going to make me more money than anything else in the idea file. It’s not on a tight deadline. Not hotly anticipated like a sequel to something else would be. It’s something I can take my time with (within reason; edits are booked for February), experiment with, and release because it’s a story I think deserves to be told.

And it’s going to be amazing. In terms of the base idea of the story, it’s probably most exciting, high-concept one I’ve had. I just need to figure out how to make that promise a reality on the page.

(Side note to anyone who has The Best Story Idea Ever and thinks they could write a bestseller if they only had the time: The blockbuster idea is the easy part, and on its own means nothing. I know, I was sad to hear that, too. But great ideas really are a dime a dozen. A CANADIAN dime, even.)

But I can’t think about the end right now, about releasing it and how excited my regular readers will be about this thrilling, heartbreaking, twisty and turny, myth-topian thing. Right now it’s one day at a time, getting the words out. I’m on a bad cycle for headaches, which means my brain’s not working, and I’m still dealing with depression and anxiety (though I am getting them under control). My focus and attention are almost nonexistent. That means taking it slow when I need to, forgiving myself for not hitting my usual 5,000+ words a day (yesterday I only got 1800), and letting things develop at their own pace.

img_8262

Planners are 
fun 😀

It’s what I want, right? Less pressure. More time to let things stew and develop. More time for my subconscious to make connections within the story like it did when I was building the world that Bound took place in. But it’s scary, too. Momentum is considered such a desirable thing in this industry that taking time off or slowing down feels wrong.

But it’s necessary for me. I’m learning my limits. I’m learning that I recently pushed myself past them, and I’m still recovering from that. And I’m learning how to do this thing my way. It’s not the “here’s how to sell a million books on Kindle” way, but it’s mine.

Pushing harder isn’t always the answer. We’ll see how getting back to the place where writing was my playground works out for this one. 🙂

 

 

 

*And thank goodness for Sue Archer, because my regular editor is now booking a year in advance! Hence the February deadline for the new project…


Pain in the Ass. No… Head. Not Ass. Head.

It’s a bad night for the pain.

Tonight it feels like a toothache filling my skull. It comes in waves, crushing and slashing, bringing nausea along to join the party. Light hurts. My children’s voices cut through me, and every movement of the bed makes all of it worse. All I can do is sit here with the lamp on, writing this out on paper to be typed out tomorrow, and try not to yell at the kids, cry, or throw up.

It’s not always like this. This kind of headache only hits me about once a month… at least, this hard. But the fact is that I spend a lot of time almost every day dealing with two problems. Pain is one. Either a milder version of this, or ice picks slamming into my temples, or feeling like I’ve been hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat.

I can deal with pain, though.

It’s the fog that’s really hurting me.

The fog used to only come with true migraines, in the days before and after. It’s a feeling like my skull is stuffed with sawdust instead of brains–a physical sensation, and quite unpleasant. It brings a feeling like tunnel vision, though my vision is actually fine. And it makes me slow. My thoughts come slowly, as do my reactions. I can’t think of words, and sometimes can’t understand questions right away. And working? Writing stories, untangling plot problems, clarifying character motivations, and polishing my work until it shines?

Utterly impossible.

It wasn’t so bad when it happened once in a while. But now the fog is coming down every day. I can’t think. I can’t focus. I’m drifting in a slow, too-bright haze. I’m usually just lost enough that working is impossible, but the thoughts and ideas and potential are so close that it becomes incredibly frustrating.

Until now, I’ve been pushing myself through it. I’ve told people that everything is fine. I’ve made myself work in spite of the pain and the fog, working evenings and weekends to make up for the time I spend in bed when the kids are at school and I should be writing. I put off seeing a doctor because I didn’t have time. Because I had deadlines. Because I’d made promises (or at least dropped hints). I let my life get out of balance because of this one important thing.

A few days ago, I decided that I can’t keep going like this. I’m not doing my best work when I have no joy, when every word is a struggle. And let’s face it. Putting pressure on myself to craft a beautiful story when I can’t remember the word “spoon” is probably just compounding the issue.

This is not me giving up. I’m still working on this story every day, and I’m as excited about it as I’ve ever been. As of last week, I have all of the little moving pieces in place, and just need to put the time and the work (and the focus) in to finish it.

It’s complete in all but the final execution, and far better than I ever imagined.

All I really want to do is work on it (sleep and laundry and exercise and doctor’s appointments be damned). But it’s time for me to accept that I also need to make time to take care of myself. I have to stop beating myself up over deadlines and feeling like a failure over needing a few extra weeks to get this book ready for the world.

So I don’t have a release date for you yet. It will be after Christmas, which breaks my heart. I mean, no one with an ounce of business sense wants to miss Christmas. But you guys deserve my best. I’ve never given you less than that, and I can’t start now. I’m going to find out what’s wrong with me, and I’m going to get better. And this winter, I’m going to give you the book you deserve.

Thank you all so much for your support, for your encouragement and kind words. It all means more to me than I’ll ever be able to say.

I can’t wait to show you how this story ends.


Sworn Update (“Sorry about the footnotes” edition)

I apologize for not keeping you guys updated as frequently as I said I would. Things have been quiet on the blog and my Facebook page, and will continue to be for a few weeks, at least. I’m putting “Bound A-Z” on hold (I’m not sure how many of you are reading the posts, but I will get back to it and finish the series ASAP). I’m not likely to have any other new content here for a while. I know, becoming a hermit is supposed to be a horrible thing for an author these days, but I have other things to do right now that are more important, and I trust my wonderful readers not to forget about me.

You see, edits came back last weekend, and I’m hard at work.

And it IS hard work. I have a great editor who’s willing to rip a story apart to its foundations if necessary, ask hard questions, and to challenge me to put my best work out into the world. He’s very good at his job, and with his help I’m making a good book great.*

You probably would have been happy with what I had before, but my goal isn’t to make you happy. It’s to blow you away, to keep you up into the wee hours of the morning, and to leave you breathless.

So for anyone who’s curious about the editing process, here’s what’s happening:

I’m taking a good portion of my editor’s suggestions. We won’t go into details here (hi, spoilers…), but it involves rewriting a few scenes, revising others, and generally AWESOMEFYING EVERYTHING.

Sorry for using technical language. *cough*

After the changes are made, it will be back to the beginning to make sure everything is cohesive and consistent with those changes, plus making it all purty-like. This is actually a bigger challenge than rewriting because it involves so much mental juggling and razor-sharp focus.

Note: Writing a book is relatively easy. It’s making it great that’s difficult and time-consuming, and I wish more authors acknowledged that. Editing is gory and messy, and in its own way, wonderful.

So that’s what I’m up to. I have a little less than five hours a day, five days a week, to work. Well… most weeks. With Thanksgiving (hi from Canada!) and several professional whatchamacallum days for the kids’ teachers this month when there’s no school, I’m getting less than that.

And then there are the migraine days when I can’t remember what a fork is called and spend my days and am completely unable to make with the words, but that’s another issue entirely.

The point is, I’m working whenever I can on my shaky part-time schedule. I think, I edit, I rewrite scenes, I face big challenges, and I do what I have to to make this the best story possible.

It’s hard. Really hard. It’s scary for reasons I don’t understand yet, and sometimes it makes me want to build a blanket fort and hide. Possibly with cookies. Definitely with colouring books.

But damned if it this thing isn’t already becoming amazing after just three solid days of work, and I’m excited to see just how great it can be.

Yes, there’s still a lot to be done. No, I don’t have a release date yet** (but I’m hoping to announce that and have a cover reveal early next month, if anyone with a blog is interested in helping out).

I’m working hard to make sure that this is worth the wait.

I’ll see you soon.

*For any not-at-editing-yet writer types who are wondering: Yes, it hurts. Yes, every critique is a blow to the ego, though I’m learning to reframe things in my mind. And yes, it is absolutely worth it when the work is done and the story is a hundred times better than it was before. I think I’m a good writer, but I know there’s always room for improvement. And oh, do I want to improve. I used to want to hear that my work was perfect. Now I’d be disappointed in any editor who didn’t call me on every whiff of bullshit and challenge me to do everything better. Good enough just isn’t anymore.

**It will be this winter, and sooner rather than later. It will be less than a year after the release of the last book, which puts me ahead of most big publishers’ series release schedules in spite of the fact that I’m doing everything on my own. In spite of my Canadian tendencies, I’m no longer going to apologize for editing delays or for the fact that I can’t focus on work for the eight, ten, or twelve hours a day that would allow me to whip out two books a year. I’m focusing on quality, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for every reader who supports me in this. You guys are the best, and you deserve my best. I thank you for your understanding and patience, and for not going all Veruca Salt on my ass. ❤


Another One Flies the Nest

This is it.

This is the last day when Torn gets the spotlight, at least in my office. Starting tomorrow, it’s all about book three (which I will use the proper title for soon, I promise–I just don’t want to spoil it for the first people who discover it at the end of Torn).

Today, though, we celebrate.

We celebrate a little over two years of off-and-on work. The struggle of a skeletal first draft, the joys and pressures of revisions, the triumph of positive responses from alpha readers, and the crushing discovery that edits won’t be as easy as anticipated. The months of struggle to make the book what readers need while remaining true to my own vision for the story as a whole.

The frustrations of the publication process.

Even the things that were stressful or seem negative at the time are worth celebrating, because they’re part of a beautiful process. A new book is a victory.

It’s like raising a baby bird, really. You nurture it, encourage it, feed it, and give it tough love when needed… and in the end, you have to shove it out of the nest and let it fly on its own, knowing you’ve done everything you could to prepare it for this day.

Maybe it’s the painkillers I’m on right now (hello, migraines that helped inspire this whole story!), but I’m a little weepy.

No. No tears. This is happy, exciting, wonderful!

And in case anyone missed the announcement yesterday, we’re having a party to celebrate. A Facebook party, because I don’t expect all of you to come to my house (you’re welcome).

Here’s the link. Drop by any time between now and about mid-afternoon EST on April 1–we’ve got great prizes!

Ooooooh...

Ooooooh…

 

....Aaaaaaahhhh!

….Aaaaaaahhhh!

Come on down and celebrate with us, won’t you? It’s gonna be fuuuuuuun (and you know it’s true, because I used extra letters).

TORN purchase links:


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