Chasing Redemption: On Novels and Writing as Therapy

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A while ago, Beth Stone from A Star Filled Sea (who now prefers to be known as Liz) started talking and I started listening because she was channelling a part of me that I really didn’t want to acknowledge. She was the unintentional minor antagonist in the book and, boy, was she regretting the last few years of her life. Now she’s seeking amends on a massive scale and she’s still talking. The first scenes I started writing were interspersing therapy sessions in the aftermath of Charter Day, Liz sitting and talking, sometimes literally reliving events through the rather unconventional abilities of her therapist.

She lost her mother to cancer and went off the rails which would normally be a completely understandable response. Except Liz is also the daughter of the Terran Ambassador (and now Earth’s representative on the Union council) so her indiscretions became very public. She’s embarrassed by her former misdeeds and the people she’s hurt and the damage she’s done, including to her father’s personal and professional reputation.

Chasing Redemption is the first novel I’ve started working on which really feels cathartic. I’ve written a short story which was done specifically to help me deal with past events, to exorcise demons, but this novel, it’s all about trying to heal. I’m simply expanding things, going from short to longer forms of prose. I’ve not done anything bad, I’m not a horrible person (nor is Liz), but I’ve lived through things which have scarred me and writing has always been the thing which kept me sane. Her road to healing is, also, going to be my own.

I’ve been in therapy for a year. Originally it was to deal with my toxic relationship with food. A friend once said I reminded her of one of those old people who lived through the war and now hoards food in case food ever becomes short again. I will fixate on food, little things like making sure there’s always milk in the house or a spare tub of butter and bread that’s in date. I obsess over best before dates … you get the idea. I spent my childhood/early adult life being denied everything and, as a result, there’s so much food I can’t eat because it’s simply too rich (full fat milk and cream are the biggest example; I can’t stomach either). It’s only in the last decade or so I’ve started eating Asian foods or putting chili in things, for example.

Of course the therapy was about one thing but it was intimately connected to my abysmal childhood. I want to be a functional adult and I’ve noticed, in the years since my retirement, that my anxiety has increased simply because I didn’t have the ‘normal’ working life which kept me too occupied to have time to worry or offered me a mask I could wear to pretend to be sort of functioning. My autistic traits got worse as a result and I’ve become tied into the enforced structures which are a hallmark of ASD.

Oh and I have PTSD, which really doesn’t help, especially when I’m around triggering things or people. I have my own methods to deal with much of it, hence my walking around Norwich with earbuds and very loud music. I have Uni, who has become my unofficial emotional support hound, having learned there are times when I need her (and my friend’s dog Bramble) for support. Bramble hugs are the best but even Uni ones are, currently, helping more than they did. I have found, however, that love helps.

My niece’s, though, they’re the best.

I have found, however, that love helps. I met up with Beloved Niece and my SiL a few weeks ago (anything family related is high on the ‘oh gods, where’s my valium?’ level) but Beloved Niece, she loves me unconditionally. She hugs me and the world is perfect; I’m her only aunt and while I’m not the best role model, I’m all she’s got. I love her and she loves me. No ifs, no buts. She could tell me anything, be anyone, and I would still love her. Plus she allows me to be maternal without needing to give birth (and I hate children almost exclusively; she’s the exception. Her brother is growing on me but seeing how good she is with him, it just makes me so proud, so pleased).

Plus I get to sneak her whatever change is in my pocket and she is so good with Uni it’s staggering.

The animals are similarly being a lot more affectionate. D is constantly headbutting me and even Ceri is coming to talk to me and lick my hand. Both of them have been, oddly, waiting for Uni and me to come home (which is something D never used to do). It initially worried me but now it’s just a thing, a chance for him to get some extra fuss and pretend to be a mighty feline.

And my friend’s have also been awesome. I took Mhairi for lunch with a family member and not only did she come, she made the experience bearable and stuck up for me in a situation which would otherwise be unbearable. I’ve got people who love me who aren’t blood relations, people who understand I’m broken but love me anyway. People I’ve met through circumstance or guide dogs, people who get that I have my quirks but all I want to do is be useful, to help others because it’s how I make connections.

I just want to be loved but then doesn’t everyone? Especially if you’ve never had that and I, sadly, haven’t.

So, yeah, writing this book, it’s my real attempt to put myself back together. Going through therapy has made me understand more about myself, my emotions and the norms of the real world. I’ve spent my life thinking things should be a certain way but, it seems, that actually my entire world view has been shaped by false premises. Now I can actually see, through adult eyes and the reassurance of people I trust, I’m attempting to strike out as Asha. Indeed, as I was explaining to a much-loved friend who I’d not spoken to in far, far too long, the entire name change was to help myself heal. Indeed, in Chasing Redemption, Liz changes her name for much of the same reason (her given name is Elizabeth and she decides to stop being Beth and start being Liz to make a break with her previous self whilst still acknowledging who she actually is).

Me? I don’t want to do that, hence my complete change of name. I made a break that is much more permanent.

The first draft, well, it’s terrible. I’m still trying to orientate myself. But, for the first time, I realise that’s okay. First drafts aren’t the published book, there’s a long way to go yet and that’s perfectly okay. Hell, it’s required. I don’t have much yet, maybe 23k in scenes, chapters and rough outlines but it’s a start. Oh and I’m getting a cover done as a way to force me to finish it. I know I will and this will just tip the scale in my favour. I’m quietly touting it as an unofficial sequel to Star but it’s a different genre (coming of age sci fi) and more a character exploration piece.

Do stick with me, this is going to be a slow burning project but I’ll share the cover and a synopsis as soon as I’ve worked them out.

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One in Blue, the Other Green: Kickstarter Plans

© Scarlett Rugers
© Scarlett Rugers

With shipments of Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea and A Star Filled Sea hopefully going out this week, I’m calling both Kickstarters to a close. This means I can finally sit back and take a moment to celebrate production, the beauty of the print copies and the art. The fact my spare room is now a place to sleep and not stash boxes of books and rolls of brown packing paper.

Most of the time I do my Kickstarters while manic. This isn’t great from an organisational point of view and mania tends to break any ability (which isn’t much to start with) I have with basic mathematics. As maths goes, next to PE, it was possibly my worst subject and I freely admit it. I’ve worked out I’m going to need about £2250 to get the project done. This is before any art and breaks down like this:

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I did have one plan which occurred to me, not just as a smart bonus but also as a cheap one. I could, quite easily, bundle my Zoe story Sweetness in Sorrow, at the back of OiB, tOG. The two stories intersect, with each protagonist appearing in the other’s tale, plus Sweetness has already been edited and published as part of BTSBTS. That means, aside from making the print copy a tiny bit heavier, there are no extra costs involved aside from the cost of the physical copies, which is something I can budget for.

The added bonus is people get an extra story and I can use it as the kick-off point for the relaunched Kickstarter for A World of Strange New Things (of which Sweetness is the first part). It’ll be easy enough to add in a custom Kickstarter link and time the relaunch to coincide with the physical release.

 © Scarlett Rugers
© Scarlett Rugers

My current task is, of course, to offically being my two active Kickstarters to a conclusion. This is, however, a given as I’m this close to shipping out. I’ve labelled all the labels, asked those who haven’t given me their addresses to do so. There will be, perhaps, one or two people who never get in touch. That makes me sad, especially as my autism means I like to make sure people get what what they pay for.

But there we go. I’ve done my best.

OiB, tOG is my nerxt choice for crowdfunding because it’s short and self-contained. It’s also the prequel to the final book in the Changing of the Sun trilogy and helps open up the modern period of the Ashteraiverse. It’s ultimately the story of two sisters and the problem with prophecy; as Harry Potter and Cersei Lannister learned, the moment you find yourself embroiled in one, it’s like being tied up in knots. The trick isn’t to escape, however, it’s took look for wriggle room.

Elyn is an old soul who remembers. That’s her gift. It’s not going to make her life easier, especially when her mother, Dene, the Mother of Visions, foresaw her wearing the blue of the Aian Order. Her twin sister, Kana, wearing the green of Ishvei’s priests. Of course, all her elder sibling wants is her ‘rightful’ place and the power it brings. Elyn, on the other hand, will become Regent of the Grear Kishai but she would rather run to Earth than live anywhere near Kana.

Along the way, Elyn will carve a life for herself. She will love, have a daughter and become the leader of a city’s alien population. But there will also come a day when she will have to look her sister in the eye and deal with their mother’s prophecy.

OiB, tOG is about 76k, so let’s say 80k once I’ve finished doing revisions. The novel itself is complete and will need editing, it’s something to think about Kickstarting, probably around August. This means I can hopefully have it done and with my backers by November.

This gives me plenty of time to redo the Kickstarter project page, do a video and what not. I’d love to get it done in time for a pre-Winter Kickstarter for World, even if it doesn’t start being serialised until January. At least I now have a plan for the second half of the year.

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A Star Filled Sea is Live!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00061]

Publishing an ebook brings with it a certain amount of terror and abject fear about typos.  But, yeah, A Star Filled Sea in the hands of my backers and live on Amazon (click the cover to go to the purchase page). This time, I’m also trying out Draft2Digital to publish on other platforms like iBooks and Kobo without having to laboriously go to every site and manually upload. I’ve only heard good things from other authors and if it saves me a couple of hours/eases the process I’m all for it.

This is also my first book as Asha Bardon (and Amazon have kindly suggested I update my author page to reflect the name change) and it’s kinda nice to know that this is a new page in my writing career. Do please pick up the book, the print edition is in process, and don’t forget to leave reviews. They make authors happy, including me!

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A Star Filled Sea: The Final Covers

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00061]

So I did this Kickstarter a year ago (holy crap, that’s a long time ago) for a novel projects called A Star Filled Sea and am now waiting on the final ebook/print version from Polgarus (they’re due to start the project today).

This is my first novel under my new byline and doesn’t it look snazzy? Scarlett did an amazing job (as always). This project has taken longer than I planned but it’s well worth it. I’m just looking forward to getting it done and dusted so I can focus on new stuff (and fulfil my obligations to my backers).

You can get look at the variant (not quite finished) paperback cover which uses a similar image but horizontal:

image

Oh and, as a bonus, here’s Ben Adams’ interior art:

Ben Adams made me this for the novel.

I’m not yet sure on a release date but it won’t be long. I’m really looking forward to seeing the cover for this one and holding the print proofs. Next to The Parting of the Waters, this is my favourite cover so far. I’ll update you with more when I have it but for now, this feels like the homeward stretch and I’m glad to be nearly done. I want to move onto more projects, different things, and there is, of course, a trilogy of Josh and Chaya to work on.

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Reconciling With Myself

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Betwixt and Between: Scarlett is updating the cover of A Star Filled Sea.

Scarlett, my awesome designer, is in the middle of updating the cover of A Star Filled Sea for me so I can get the final ebook and print versions to my ever-patient backers. I’m woefully behind but the edits on the manuscript won’t take too long, it’s just a matter of sitting down and doing them, then sending it off to Polgarus.

Except I’ve been trying to reconcile my past self with my new persona in the form of trying to decide if I need to update The Whispers in the Desert, The Changing of the Sun, The Parting of the Waters, Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea and republish them under my new name. I’ve decided not too for two reasons: it’s a bit of work (aka, right now, I cannot be arsed, though this may change) and I wasn’t Asha when I wrote them. Going forward, everything including the Ashteraiverse novels will be published under my new name beginning with Star. This includes any short stories I publish or sell, any other series I write and by the end of the year Asha Bardon will become my legal name (and I can’t wait!)

I’m not burying Lesley, I’m just not her anymore but mine is an interesting quandary. When I have the time, I may well update the novels to reflect a unified brand but at this point it doesn’t really matter (especially as I have a number of short stories up on Amazon under ‘Lesley Smith’).

The thing is she’s not quite done yet. Last year I had five manic episodes, at least three bouts of depression and don’t even get started on my Generalised Anxiety Disorder. But, thanks to upping my meds, for the first time this year I feel in control. I’m taking steps to sort out my debt (which is going to take me the better part of the year to clear) and I realise now I over-reached myself with the Kickstarters. My intentions were good, my planning and budgeting not so much.

The good news is A Star Filled Sea will be going to layout this week and then I can order proofs, order in BTSBTS and get everything shipped off, hopefully by the end of March. It shouldn’t cost me more than £500 at most (worst case scenaro) and I’ll be glad when it’s done, if only as fulfilling orders calms me. I know people will be getting their books and that I’ve done what I promised. At the same time I’m taking steps to deal with the financial consequences of promising people things without thinking about the physical costs or not budgeting with enough wiggle room.

I suppose, at least, I won’t do this again. I’m lucky in that I have a good credit score and still have options for, at the very least, not being saddled with interest on my credit card repayments. So, for now, I’m focusing on finishing thing,

Then … I don’t know. I want to do more Kickstarters but the stress aggrevates my condition. Part of me just wants to spend this year writing and go from there but, at the same time, I want to be productive and so stuff. I want to get more books into the world, though it seems Asha is more of a short story writer than Lesley ever was.

So, for now, at least I have things to focus on.

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The Art of Rejectomancy

 

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When I first started thinking about submitting to pro markets (aka sci fi and fantasy magazines), my friend Shannon recommended I record the data in Duotrope (and, when it when paid-for, she directed me to The Submission Grinder, which does much the same and is free). Rejectomancy was a term I first came across when I joined the Codex writers’ forum, though the leader of our crit group, Frances, likens rejections to a perverse but logical RPG that she calls CentiBrads where you level up and get bonus points when you hit fifty or one hundred of the little buggers.

At first I didn’t get why but, now, at the end of my first six months of actually submitting stuff I totally get why. Half the time I can’t remember where I submit stories so I rely on the Grinder to tell me. That’s what my main page looks like; a list of markets, stories and how they fared and money made. It’s not actually 100% accurate as both my recent sales have been to non-listed markets (and there’s the rub; to log the data, the market has to be listed and Future Chronicles aren’t).

I have maybe a dozen nearly done/final revision stories. I estimate a month of work will see me with a nice pile to submit to places. The odd might not be in my favour but I’m still determined to try, even if all I get are form/personal rejections. At the same time I have final edits on A Star Filled Sea to finish for my Kickstarter backers. I can easily balance out the work but once I get this production line on short stories up and running, it should make my life easier.

I got a rejection yesterday which is fine because two of my friends didn’t and I’m starting to review the idea of a rejection as a positive; a chance to revise/tighten a story or just submit to a new market. My crit group reminds me, quite realistically, that just because Market A subjected Story B then it doesn’t mean the story is flawed, just that the editor at Market A didn’t think it fit them. That’s fine, not every pair of trousers or shoes fits you, sometimes you have to get to the fourth pair.

I need a Post It with that scribbled on it, it’s a surprisingly hard thing to remember. And very important.

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