The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Why I Canceled my Kickstarter

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I didn’t start out today intending to cancel my Kickstarter for One in Blue, The Other Green. It just kinda happened. I wrote a brief blog for my backers but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more here, on my personal space.

First off, physically I’m okay, mentally I’m wavering but I’m neither manic nor depressed, I’m just trying to pick up the pieces of my life and putting them back together. I’m not well, I know this, but it’s not like previous episodes. Mostly it’s anxiety (which I recognise as a withdrawal system from my medication), the weird weather makes it worse as does stress.

I realised this morning, I need to take the pressure off. No self-enforced deadlines, no unrealistic expectations. I spent the last two Kickstarters, though successful, going over budget something which as been worth the expensive but something I’ve also had to absorb. It’s going to be May/June before my the combination of that and my personal debt has been paid off.

Fortunately, I still have excellent credit and all the cards seem to be 40 months of 0%APR at just the right limits. I just sorted out the second half of my debt and thanks to a little adult advice from other people older than me (no one ever taught me about how to use credit card sensibly), I’ll save around £600 in interest alone whilst also being able to easily snowball the debt. The important thing is: I got myself into this and I know I can get myself out.

That’s assuming I don’t have any more manic periods.

But even if I do, I’m trying to wean myself off relying on plastic and working out how much I realistically need. This means, perhaps, taking a month or two more to pay off the debt but allowing me to live off of cash (I try to live off £70 a week but it’s looking like, realistically, I need at least £100 to break my credit card habit). My main credit card remains there (now clear and in credit for the first time in two and a half years) as an emergency option (and is tied to my phone for specific stores so I don’t have to actually have it on me, which makes it easier).

I’ve discovered the trick with credit cards is just to not have them available. The ones with my debt on them aren’t maxed out but they do stay, unused, in a secret spot. They’re out of my line of sight which means it’s easy to forget about them (I use the same trick to keep an emergency note on my person). Plus the aspie in me really does enjoy putting money on the cards and watching the balance go down, it’s my favourite part of getting my benefits in.

I’ve tried to be more organised financially over the last couple of months; all my household bills are automated and I’ve just changed my media consumption for Spotify and Netflix so these are paid with money on my Paypal account (from Patreon) rather than automatically going on cards. Those are the only things I really enjoy and music makes me a happy author. Having those two things really does help distract me and keep me writing. I need background noise to write, you see, and music/movies on demand is a dream come true.

And that, folks, is what I want, though, right now: to write. To focus on stories and not have the pressure of publishing/editing hanging over me (which it will, assuming the project had funded, which was looking unlikely).

To focus on stories and not have the pressure of publishing/editing hanging over me (which it will, assuming the project had funded, which was looking unlikely). Instead I’m asking people to consider my Patreon instead, to help me finance writing and research. The publishing, that can wait until I’ve sorted myself out because I really do need to be in a good mental place to be able to withstand editing.

I’m delicate … to the point where I’ve actually asked my crit group if I can take myself out of the rotation for a bit because, while well meaning, their comments on my stories will make me so much worse. Plus I’m totally out of writing short story mode (and will amend my Patreon tiers accordingly, when I get a second). I feel like a glass with water in it being dropped to the floor, from the wrong height I will shatter. This is part of my illness and will pass but until it does, I need to protect myself in any way I can. This includes sending out stories because rejection is, similarly, over-personalised when it’s actually not that at all.

I just can’t face it, any of it.

I’m coming up to the end of almost a year of therapy, realising I could do with another two or three in order to put myself back together. I’m about to start CBT but that’ll be ten hours maximum and will hopefully help me deal with the low moods/pesky anxiety. The worst part is I have to ring my GP tomorrow to get my valium sorted because I’ve had so many anxiety attacks in the last month. I get 28 tablets … that’s fourteen days’ worth IF I take them (10mg works for me). I always feel, despite valium being the one drug I don’t have a dependancy on, that ringing up and asking for a prescription somehow makes me a drug addict whereas, in reality, I simply don’t want to run out (which I know is actually smart, adult behaviour).

I’m aware of the anxiety, painfully so. I’ve been waiting for something to come in the post which has been stressing me out (because I must have said item and feel like I have to wait for the postman). Each day it doesn’t turn up, each day I find myself at home waiting for the delivery only to be disappointed, it doesn’t help. I also know the meds help but taking them, it’s a battle all of it’s own, even though I use them sparingly. Panic attacks are not fun and, for me, I don’t hyperventilate, I just clam up and my flight instinct takes over.

I hate it when it does that but then my brain, thanks to the PTSD, is now wired that way.

The other problem is anxiety stops me writing. I want to do it, would rather curl up at home with Netflix on and my manuscript open, than go to a movie. Yet, because I’m anxious, I find myself unable to write. To open and close the file, to write part of a scene and panic about whether I should wait for the postman or just get the bus because I don’t want to be alone in my own skin.

At the same time my memory makes it hard for me to remember details and obsessing over those, over not making mistakes (despite this being a draft one project and so required) isn’t helping me. I know I should write everything down as I world build but I don’t want to, I want to tell the story and so it’s balancing those out. I’d like to hire an assistant but, again, that’s just not financially possible (and I’m not good at delegating).

So, before I start publishing again, I need to sort myself out. That’s the priority: self-care. I’m trying to eat at least one proper meal a day (something filling and healthy), I’m snacking on a lot of carrots and doing exercise. I’m being diligent with my expenses but also understanding sometimes it’s worth paying more for convenience, especially when you’re all out of spoons.

Right now, I need to just take some time, chill out and look after myself first. I’ve spent so much of my life being altruistic, being around for everyone else that I’ve never been good at recognising that sometimes it’s me who needs a shoulder to cry on or a dog to hug (I’m hugging every dog I meet at this point).

That’s why I cancelled my Kickstarter but I don’t regret it, there’s no shame in it. Sometimes you just have to prioritise and this is definately one of those times.

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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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Mission Statement (March 2016)

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This is an updated version of a post I published on my original site which, as I’m now Asha, deserved to be reposted and updated to reflect my new persona.

Susan Kaye Quinn has written an awesome book, The Indie Author Survival Guide, which I recommend to all my own mentees and she’s now writing the third edition of. I got chatting to Susan last year because my problem isn’t the writing, outside of my Kickstarter campaigns and giving books away for free while they were free on KDP Select, I have a horrible time selling them. The covers are gorgeous, the editing top notch but shifting copies is hard, particularly in paperback. Yet, as she kindly reminded me, there’s a difference between publishing books and running a business.

For example, I was able to give away over 500 copies via freebies/Kickstarter which means people are reading my books. I don’t write for the money, rather I do it for the stories and the love of getting them from my head into people’s hands.

Susan asked me if I’d done a Mission Statement, which is one of the exercises she outlines in her books. I hadn’t but I decided to do it and now I’m updating it. The exercise is still useful as it clarifies your desires and becomes a reminder of what you want to achieve that you can amend as needed.

So without further ado:

Mission statement (2.0)

I want to use my skills from ten years of journalism, my innate curiosity and desire to question to write short and long form projects focusing on sci fi, fantasy and speculative fiction. I want to establish a multiverse which includes elements of the above and binds novels, serials and short stories together into a cohesive whole but also explore new forms of writing and standalones which are of high enough quality to be submitted to anthologies and magazines.

Most importantly, I would like to get stories out there. This is not about money but rather about establishing a fanbase and a dialogue with people who enjoy reading my work. I will continue using Kickstarter and Patreon as these seem to be good ways to engage but also ensure funding goals are met which will allow me to publish several novels/serials/shorts per year.

I would like write at least one short story per month on top of any other projects and submit it to one of a number of my favourite short fiction markets (Lightspeed, Uncanny, BCS etc) in the hope of making a sale. The more stories, the more chances and the odds might be low but they are worth it.

Due to my health and disabilities, I might not be able to teach professionally but I would still like to help new writers on their journey, to mentor people so they don’t have to make the mistakes I did and help push the idea that if you’re going to publish, then make sure you do it well. I want to inspire other people and prove that anyone can be an author but that doing it well will only help their careers.

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Lightspeed and Uncanny Magazine Announce People with Disabilities Destroy SF!

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This makes me squee so hard, I just gave myself heartburn.

Ow.

(X) Destroy SF/Fantasy/Horror is one of my favourite Kickstarter projects to back. I’ve done so for every issue and was quietly wondering, nay hoping, that Disabilities might be on the upcoming list. I missed the submission for Queer, I’m a white writer so PoC was out, and being disabled, well it’s my very definition (thanks blindness, bipolar, brain damage etc). I’m practically champing at the bit at the very idea that, next year, there will be an open submission period that I can answer with a story.

It excites me.

Surprisingly, I don’t write many stories about disabled characters (though I do have some) and I’m in the middle of reworking “The Mystic of Room 316” which deals directly with mental illness and is set in an Atridian mental institution (though it’s a very stand-alone Ashteraiverse story). Ditto “108 Hours” which follows a war veteran with PTSD who hid from the draft in a war and is now stuck in a decimated city post-war with aliens with a little girl called Grace.

I’m so pleased that Uncanny, one of my favourite magazines, will be taking over the mantle. I love them and the magazine is on my Short Story Bingo Card as somewhere I’d love to see my name on the cover. The chance, oh it’s an enchanting thing, ripe with possibility and the promise of being able to try. I know the call isn’t until next year but I know it’s coming, it’s on my radar, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.

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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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