The State of Me: Infinite Loops

This is my ten year old canine BFF, Bramble. She gives the best kind of unconditional love and is the kindest dog you’d ever meet. I am also one of her Favourite People which means I get extra dog hugs.

Seeing her lifts my mood but at the same time reminds me that I am dogless. Showing you her wasn’t actually about reminding myself that I’m still waiting for New Dog, it was rather to show you part of my support network of people, cats and dogs, who keep me safe during times when I’m not actually sure what planet I’m on.

The heat has thrown me out. Summer and I don’t really get on; extremes in weather tend to make my need to hoard things worse as (due to the fluctuations in temperature) it’s not always as easy to get things as it is at other times in the year. Especially as the garage, my local bastion of essentials is dealing with broken fridges which means, unless you want alcohol or snacks, they’re essentially out of everything.

Oh and to add insult to injury: the coffee machine’s also broken.

Ironically the only thing I buy from the garage is snacks, mochas and skimmed milk.

The heat makes everything worse: guide dog paws burn and so sensible owners are staying in. Even I’m walking around with a parasol (quetiapine makes my eyes sensitive as well as my skin burn like kindling). I’m my own worse enemy as well which means sitting at home with just a computer for company is a recipe for cabin fever and Amazon purchases.

Or, worse, stationary.

The big problem is I’m putting added stress on myself. Knowing I’m doing it doesn’t actually mean I can stop the cycle. I just get stuck.

My PTSD has some interesting triggers and right now those seem to just come under the broad heading of ‘life’. Some of them are usual, like screaming or physical violence. It’s why I usually Wikipedia things so there are no uncomfortable surprises. Fantasy violence is perfectly okay.

The others are very me:

  • Running out of x item.

Partially solved by apps on my phone which tells me what I have, how much of it and when they expire. Also being able to buy milk on the fly from said currently-broken garage.

  • Criticism.

Slowly being worked on with the kind help of my crit group, who do it gently and understand I have a serious emotional aversion. Because, growing up, criticism was always judgment.

  • Time-limits.

Those emails you get which say ‘spend x and get y’ as a reward or ‘join now for a limited time reward’.) It’s why, aside from places I do actually use that I’ve unsubscribed from a shedload of mailing lists and feel so much the better for it.

  • Broken things.

Specifically, things I’ve broken, either accidentally or because I didn’t do a thing. The Amazon account debacle, for example, where a mistake was made that confused an entire datebase. Weirdly though, when a white good dies, I just find my credit card and replace it. No problems.

  • Failure complex.

This is a huge one for me. I’ve been told I’ve failed or wasted opportunities by various family members over the years. I pushed myself to be a strong woman in a male industry for nearly a decade and I hated myself for it. I hated that I had to be bitchy and pushy. These weren’t the traits I was taught as a child, because I was only instructed in subservience. My lesson in life was, literally, burn yourself alive to keep others warm. Do it without being asked because it’s expected. Suffer so others don’t have too, your own feelings don’t matter.

Having a spine goes against my core programming but the more I shine mine now, the more I realise that I was just doing my job. My job actually forced me to grow a backbone, it was only later I realised you could transfer the skill set over to your personal life as well.

  • Being an author

Because of one thing the Parental Unit said to me several times. I hate being an author. I love writing, I love creating. I just hate everything from editing to publication. Like trigger level of hate.

I hate editing because criticism.

I hate publishing because there are always errors and it feels like my fault.

I feel like using the blind card is a cop out. Except, between my mental illness and my actually visual impairment, I do need someone to proof the proofs. I just can’t do it.

I need a PA because I cannot deal with KDP, with W-2s and all the other stuff involved with promotion. I suck at my own promotion because, while I believe in the story, I don’t believe in me.

Ksenia Anske is being awesome and trying to help me with my really soft relaunch. Because I’m living on benefits, I can’t earn more than a pittance (which is basically what I do earn, or did until I took all my books off Amazon). I got in touch with her because she gives her books away for free, as well as offering print versions on Amazon.

I like the idea as it suits my situation. And this is the important thing. My situation is no one elses. I don’t have the money to just buy covers or the concentration to work a project from once upon a time through to publication. I can’t afford it, fianancially, and I can’t do it because of my mental fragility.

Most of my author friends have jobs. I don’t.

Many of them have two-person households. I don’t.

Most of them have networks. Yeah, I do but I’ve always been the one promoting others’ work but no one ever returning the favour (see the implosion of Wonderment Media and the shitestorm which preceded it). When publishing, no one ever sees the work gone into it, the street teams and the friends boosting friends. You just see the best-seller lists and the news stories. There were better networks but half the time I’m afraid to reach out and talk to folks like Susan Kaye Quinn.

I need a mentor of my own, I think, specific to publishing and how to survive pushing a book out into the world and keeping it there.

If I could find a way to publish where all I do is write, where I have a close relationship with an editor who understand me and my … well, shall we call them quirks? Then I’d be okay. I’ve never had a problem, for example, with short stories. Rejections for those roll off my back like water and even when I have published stories, the edits have never been an issue.

So yeah, I’ve been planning a relaunch with all my titles under Asha Bardon. Except I hate KDP, it freaks me out. I can’t afford Squarespace and I have no idea how to get WooCommerce working on WordPress. Bradley Beaulieu’s the only one I’ve even seen who made it work.

  • The other thing. The important thing: None of this is a problem for today. For now. These are issues for next year.

Why the fuck am I so worried about stuff that won’t happen for at least twelve months. Because I have to have something to worry about. It’s another part of my shitty programming. I need to have a reason to worry because it takes my mind of whatever is my current problem.

Most of the time I’m caught up in my own infinite loops of stupidity that they become a kind of safety net in their own right. Right now I’m fluctuating mood-wise, the heat is making everything worse, I’m still waiting for Letters of Doom from the DWP and I want to write an epic fantasy series but am too scatty to do more than world-build. Actually starting this thing, actually focusing, is too much.

So I feel like a failure. Like I’m just wasting time. I remember being ten and having this exact same feeling: that I’d just wasted six weeks of summer holiday doing what kids do when I could have written or done constructive things. Instead, I tried to be a child. Well, okay, I read books. Lots of them.

I’ve never been a child.

Maybe that’s half the problem right there.

The rest of it is going to take the rest of my life to work on. I just feel like I need to be more selfish, for my own sake. I just feel guilty about everything: spending money, buying lunch, sitting in a coffee shop blogging. I feel like my existence, thanks to said childhood programming, has been wasted. I’m just kindling for the fire of civilisation.

But I’m also a person. I have rights, I have wants and needs (Maslow’s plus WiFi at the bottom) but that doesn’t stop me wanting to people please or give into every wild instinct. This week it’s food, a Hobonichi Cousin for 2018 (I want to start a gratitude journal and document the good things as they happen because I need to learn to be proud of myself). Oh and a dozen other things like a new vacuum cleaner and a post box.

Rambling probably isn’t helping but it’s all I can do until the quetiapine stabilises my mood. That and hug Bramble whenever possible.

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The State of Me: June 2018

This is my new friend Henry.

Another quick one because: a) the election and b) medication.

So bullet points:

  • Latest New Dog update suggests that IF they find one for me, next class starts in September so I should hear something next month. I’m not banking on anything. 2018 is much more likely.
  • It’s bipolar redux month: I’ve just gone back on quetiapine. My mood’s been plummeting and my anxiety’s sky-rocketed. Some of it was personal but getting a rent notice three months early and paperwork from the DWP a year early (to add insult, on a Saturday) did not help.
  • I’m taking enough that I feel stoned until around 2:30pm each day. Coffee helps but only a little. Oh and I slept for 14 hours last night, right through until mid-afternoon.
  • And I missed most of the election, which turns out to be a good thing. Urgh.
  • I’ve moved into Nero’s permanently now and am accruing a lot of free coffees by being savvy (you get a bonus stamp for bringing your own mug which allows me to spend a lot less on coffee, as well as making sure it doesn’t cool).
  • When not in Nero’s, I seem to be in the Lamb. It’s a little pub with a courtyard in spitting distance of my bus stop and they even have their own cat: Henry, Lover of Dreamies. We’ve bonded and it’s not in the least bit creepy that I now carry Dreamies in my bag.
  • Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Great Name Change. I bought myself a throw in celebration.
  • Speaking of the Great Name Change, I’m still encountering issues. Like the DWP deciding to ignore the loss of a middle name in my paperwork. It’s taken me a year to notice as they seldom any middle name unless it’s renewal paperwork and they don’t usually send me large print. I’m hoping this has now been fixed. The Deed Poll was pretty clear about my old name and my new one.
  • Wonder Woman was amazing, BTW. I’ve seen it twice and, oh, the arse-kickery.
  • American Gods is, similarly, one of the few TV shows to really get my attention.
  • People have started calling me Ash in earnest now. I like it. I’ve never had a contraction of a name I’ve loved before.
  • The cats love me; D is still a bitey little shit.
  • I’m still writing but my process has slowed. I broke my Amazon account so don’t really want to go anywhere near KDP for a while, even though I spent a week dealing with Amazon and the angelic CSR who eventually helped me fix everything. Triggers are a bitch.
  • I’m writing a proof of concept story called “Proof of Concept”. I’m hoping it’ll be ready for crit next week. That aside, anything more complicated is on hold. Though I do have an idea for a fantasy series connected to this particular short.
  • It’s sorta, kinda summer. Yay!
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My Plan for 2017: Be Like D

No seriously. Look at him, this is the most chilled out, ‘I don’t give a fuck’ cat on the planet. He’s the world’s best feline role model, even if he’s bitey.

For my health, I need to chill out. I’ve spent 2016 taking on too much, pushing myself too far. It’s not that bad; I got off with a micro, stress-induced manic phase and one hard-core suicidal one, coupled with time of the month crashing (thanks, body). That’s light considering the Five Manic Episodes of 2015.

But it doesn’t mean I can do that shit again.

2017 is going to be about self-care, about being a little selfish. I need to get my triggers and IBS under control, as well as focusing on snowballing my way out of debt. Plus 2016 was a shit year (bar like two things) and needs to burn and the earth salted. I don’t know if next year is going to be better but I need to take it out.

Writing-wise, my aim is to quietly potter on whatever calls my attention. I will still try and submit short stories (I have enough for a collection at this point and sending them out is easy enough that I can do it in my sleep thanks to the Grinder). I’m also aiming to get some work done on longer projects before doing a full rebrand once I have the money in 2018, republishing all my books under the Asha Bardon byline.

But as for publishing and, especially, editing. No. I haven’t got the energy to go through the process, much less the crowdfunding side of things. I’ve got to learn that saying I’ll do something doesn’t bind me into actually doing it and things will get in the way which will always call issues.

I need space to breathe, space to write without expectation. That’s what 2017 is about.

On a personal front, I’m coping pretty well. I’m adulting, though I hate it, and surviving without bipolar medication. The trick is staying calm, monitoring my moods and using the 30-day waiting period before purchases, big or small. It’s still a fine line and I don’t know when the next obsession or manic phase will strike. That scares me.

I’m still worried about Class and New Dog but it’s on the backburner. I don’t need to worry about that right this second. New Dog will come when she’s ready and I’m very used to waiting. For now, all I can do is enjoy the end of year peace, the chance to reflect. Gods know I have a heap of things to look forward to in the coming months.

It’s hard, though. My brain is stuck in ‘what awful thing is next’ mode. It’s a bit like flight mode except it’s more about anxiety than instinct. I have an amazing therapist whose helping and I’m finding that if I can avoid things which trigger me then I’m much more able to cope. I spent the rest of my time reading up on living with various conditions, coping with narcissistic people (avoidance/NC works for me).

Some things are unavoidable but Habitica gives me bonus points for those.

I’m lucky in that I have people around me who are amazing, a core group who are my chosen family. Ironically, it’s taken the last year for me to realise who that actually involves. Some of my oldest friends are no longer friends because their worldviews differed so much with mine, and my needs, that it turned nasty. I don’t need people who spew poison or try to control me in my life, especially not when I’m trying to dig myself out of a hole I’ve created.

The important people, they’ve been at my side all the long and I can’t thank them enough for it.

So yeah, the next twelve months are about me. I’m actually looking forward to it as my main focus has been ‘I need to be x in case y or z calls’. The trick is shifting my focus to ‘I’m going to x because I want to, meeting up with an alphabet of people is a bonus’. I need to teach myself that it’s okay if I want dinner or see a movie, I don’t need other people unless we make a date. I need to live my life for me, not for anyone else, even though all the people in my life are awesome enough to get that I’m stupidly altruistic and don’t abuse that.

At the same time I like my routine, it keeps me from descending into slobbery and I’m proud of that. I don’t want to be the stereotypical ‘on benefits’ person who sleeps into midday and, besides, productivity is my friend. Early mornings mean peace and quiet and I value that a lot, just as I do the odd quiet day at home with a queue of movies lined up.

So wish me luck as we finally see the back of 2016 and begin a new, fresh, year. I’m looking forward to it already.

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Bath, Winter 2016: The Christmas Market Mini-break

I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, too many bad memories and I’m not a fan of the encroaching darkness or the cold weather. However I’m also really keen to change my perspective on the season and rewrite the crap memories with better ones. This includes going places with my friend, Shannon, who appreciates the chance to explore other places while living in London.

Bath has a massive three week Christmas Market and the entire city takes it very seriously. I’ve wanted to see it for years but bus trips down are expensive. Also because of Uni things were difficult (coaches and dogs don’t mix, there’s simply not enough room). I saw a three day trip advertised for over £200 and the accomedation wasn’t even in Bath! Fortunately, between us, Shannon and I are savvy travellers and knew we could do a similar trip of our own devising for half that so I sorted the train and she did the accomedation. Our normal choice of the White Hart Inn was booked up so we managed to get a room at the YMCA on the northern side of the town. It was cheaper than the inn but also a bit more of a walk.

Shannon had to work so she ended up coming in on Monday night, giving me the entire day to travel down (I was down by 2pm) from Dereham, check in and do whatever my little heart desired until she got in just before 9pm. I ended up having dinner and a pint of Somerset cider at my favourite pub, wandering the market as it got dark and going to the Thermae Spa (disabled people get in for 1/2 price or with a free companion which is a bonus). I ended up curling up in a Caffé Nero by the bus station which was, to my surprise and delight, open super late till 10pm with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Glorious! Oh and there were even a few, magical, flakes of snow as I wandered, sipping mulled apple juice.

Tuesday was our only actual day in Bath so we decided on our own walking tour, dipping in and out of shops, having Japanese food at a kaiten sushi place for lunch. We walked around the market (I got to explain that if you say ‘let’s get a mulled cider’ in Britain before half past eleven, people will think you’re an alcoholic; Americans and Canadians think ‘cider’ is non-alcoholic. It’s not and never should be. Especially not in Somerset). But that amused me no end; for just a second I though Shannon was serious.

I got to sit in a lovely little coffee shop that could only seat fifteen or so people, right on the bridge by the weir. This has memories for us as we passed it while walking into Bath for the first time, with Uni, along the tow-path. Shannon wanted to visit a maze so I sat and had a drink while she nipped across the bridge. I spent the time percolating an idea I’d had for a short story based on a city with a visible but hidden second one beneath it; Bath has an entire network of streets and passages under the paths that you can see if you look at the houses, most of which have basement floors. It’s in full view but no one notices it, it takes a tour guide to show you (ditto the Masonic iconography). It was just screaming to be used in a fantasy story involving magic and arcane things.

After lunch and a pit stop, we headed our again, this time to look properly at the market. It was starting to get busier and had plenty of free samples when it came to food and alcohol. I’d discovered rhubarb vodka and adored it; I’m not a vodka person ever but I do love rhubarb and this was delicious (and available, cheaper, on Amazon *grins*). I also got to introduce Shannon to good, proper, honey mead; it’s sweet as fuck but delicious in small doses. Oh and cheese! So much cheese! I came home from Bath with a wheel, quietly maturing in my spare room, and some of the best cheese straws I’ve ever tasted.

Then we went to the spa and spent two glorious hours in the healing waters (seriously, my feet didn’t ache when we left though the chlorine/walking has really agrevated my still-healing, post-op scar). One of my few happy memories of childhood/adolescence is going to Center Parcs at Elvedon and spending the dark evenings outside in the rapids, watching as steam billowed off the hot water. By the time we got in, it was black as night and dead quiet too. The pool inside, downstairs, has a beautiful light display but the pool on the roof was breathtaking, stream rolling off it and a blue, almost bioluminescence to the water thanks to some well placed lights. Actually Monday night was more impressive; it was fucking freezing and the hot water/cold night combo was really impressive. I got to watch the sunset too. We floated, we swam, we enjoyed the jacuzzi bubbles and the steam rooms. It was chilled out (bar near-obsessive clock watching).

We left at nine and were in the Odeon down the road shortly after with ice cream and everything. Shannon hadn’t seen Fantastic Beasts yet so it seemed the perfect (and free) way to end the day. Actually, on the finance front I was expecting to spend a lot more than I did. I was amazed how reserved I was when it came to the stalls but much of the stuff I had no need or use for. Though it was a lot of fun to visit.

Wednesday was going home day but we were going to enjoy the morning first. Shannon was hunting Pokémon (you can tell people who do that because of how their hands move on their phones/carrying powerpacks), resulting in some interesting pictures. Bath has some weird Christmas displays from the baubles in a telephone box to a giant deck chair and several igloo-bauble things. The cool thing is wandering the Southgate area, the modern shopping complex near the station, and just stumbling on things you don’t expect to be there.

The journey home wasn’t too bad. We got coffee and I read, then we caught the train in a nice, calm manner back to Paddington. We didn’t get lost which just proves I need a dog because I can’t concentrate on walking and trying to navigate. Uni was awesome at exits and I, sadly, am not. That said, it was nice not to have to go out in the rain or the dark so she could pee and we were able to reallty maximise our time. I still want New Dog though and this just confirmed it.

Shannon and I parted at Paddington. We went into the wrong part of the station and took the Circle line so I had to change at Edgware Road (I miss the old Circle where you could go either way) which wasn’t too bad as I had my GoBag which made steps and escalators a breeze. Despite the echoes of the called-off Tube strike, it was easy to get back to Liverpool Street so I took myself off for ramen. I’d actually specifically scheduled a food break and I ended up with time to sit in Starbucks with a cold drink as well. Oh, my train home wasn’t cancelled and I managed to catch my bus perfectly.

The cats missed me (despite not starving) which was nice. They’re all being super-friendly and affectionate in acknowledgement that, sometimes, I vanish for a few days. I admit, I really should have bought that wooden plaque which said ‘dogs have owners but cat have staff’. It’s true and I’m glad they appreciate me.

I’m looking forward to going back to Bath for a writing retreat in the spring, it’s a nice place to go for a few days and it was great to be able to go to the movies for a late showing without having to worry about getting home. Bath is a tiny town compared to Norwich but it has a lot more in it, oh and all the designer stores you could want. I don’t but it’s nice to have the constrast between the modern shops and the little indie stores selling random stuff as well as the Roman and Georgian sections of town. Next time I do want to visit the Temple of Minerva though.

Overall an awesome trip. Definately some good memories to put into the bank.

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Treason

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A couple of months ago Caffé Nero finally opened their second branch (third if you count the concession in House of Fraser) in Norwich on the outside of Chapelfield, our big Intu shopping mall. I went in a couple of times because it was quiet and I was with other people, we sat in their comfy sofa and lounged/made phone calls. I found the place small and a bit intimidating because it’s so nice and new.

Fast forward to November and I’m moving in. I’ve promised Rachel (my favourite Starbucks partner) I will be coming back once a week and once I have New Dog. It’s just that my anxiety’s been awful recently, purely because of the number of ‘Where’s your dog?’ conversations I’ve had to have with people who recognise me as a regular. At the same time the business of the place is making it hard for me to actually work … I spent five hours one day sitting watching Netflix rather than actually writing plus I find the exposure … well, it’s too much.

I could have moved upstairs but the WiFi is shit (and there are steps steeper than my house stairs) and with my BFFs having dogs/boots on their foots, stairs seem unfair. Especially as my former seat was right by the bar and thus close to the disabled loo and the baristas who’d always watch my stuff for me.

As a kid I liked enclosed spaces where I was on my own and when I realised Nero had a nook (right by the bar which means it’s lovely and warm), I decided to move. Ironically, I’ve been a regular visitor for the last two weeks anyway as I wanted breakfast (buying some croissants and taking them next door as Starbucks food … well it’s not the chain’s strongest point). This is mainly as there’s been delivery issues and they’re going to start playing Christmas music on a loop.

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Nero’s is quieter, people leave me be and the baristas seem nice. I get the feeling they’ve been seening a lot of defectees recently. The only downside is they don’t quite have the speed of Starbucks partners, which actually, works in their favour. You get a few minutes to wait and savour the experience rather than waiting in a huddle with other caffine-deprived souls. It feels more impersonal but also a little more personal, which is a contraction to say the least.

The booth itself is larger, the bunkette bigger, as are the tables which means I can set up my full rig. There’s a powerpoint right by my ankle and loads of room for my coat, bag and cane. I can even set up my iPhone as a second screen for Westworld rewatching. The disabled loo is within my eye-line, the only downside are the pesky cushions and having to guess which of the seventeen WiFi networks is Nero’s/capable of connecting with Dropbox.

But I feel like a traitor.

Part of the problem, I think is the ease of Starbucks. You walk in, pay with your phone and walk out or sit down seconds later. I’ve frequently put £20 on my card while on the bus, only to frown at the transaction a day later when it hits my credit card. At Nero I pay with cash (I choose to) and have a stamp card which is good for my attempts at weaning myself off credit cards and onto a cash system. Living on cash is the secret to my getting out of debt plan (as is not checking TeeFury) or Kickstarter. It’s hard and there are always emergencies, some weeks are easiler than others but I’m transitioning.

Cash is also limiting but there’s plenty of water on offer which is just what I need as mochas make me thirsty. I also know croissants aren’t the best breakfast but considering I’m not usually a breakfast person, it’s a step up for me.

I know the novelty will probably wear off, especially once I get a dog as the place is very small (and I’d need to buy another dog bowl; I do it as a service for all guide dogs when I start living in a particular coffee shop, including my own). But for now it’s helping me; I’m not writing much, most of this morning was spent outlining The Broken World and praying my battery wouldn’t die. The point is I can focus in there, the nook has good sound-muffling and no one can see me (it’s impossible for me to write if people are sitting behind me, a weird psychological quirk).

I like it and I’m in early enough that it’s mine. MINE.

Until I get new dog, I think I’m going to keep it. I might actually get some working done.

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How to Write Short Stories on a Deadline

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This week I’m trying to get two stories ready for submission to specific calls in the hope they might sell. One is the story formally known as “Infinity Girl and the Shadow” (and is going to be renamed if it kills me) and the other is (also about to be renamed) “Washed Up Upon the Shore”“. The call for the former shuts on Thursday, the one for the later at the end of the month.

Guess which story I’m working on right now?

Yeah, the one not due for another few weeks. But, I suppose, at least I’m trying to write something.

Actually, it’s not that bad; I spent most of Sunday cutting 1500 words out of my magical girl story. It’s pretty close to done and I’m remembered how much I like redrafting when I actually focus on the work, when I cut things because they’re extraneous, it feels like I’m good at what I do and the story is all the more polished for it. Especially as the tilt on this isn’t the and never had been the superheroness (in this case the magical girlness) of the story but how that impacts on reality and the protagonist’s life and relationships.

“Washed Up” (which is probably going to be renamed “Like Pearls, Spilled and Scattered”) is about what makes a person and how purpose can sometimes override memory, personality. Good people will do good things, even if you strip them to the bone, because of who they are in their core. Oh and it’s my attempt at a Lovecraftian story without the Lovecraft but all the magic and mysticism. I’ll definitely be returning to this world, though not the same area.

I just wish it wasn’t so warm out, this really kills my ability to be creative.

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When Does Evolution Become Transformation: “Washed Up Upon the Shore” to “Pearls and Memories, Spilled and Scattered”

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I’m not sure when Story A (in this case “Washed Up Upon the Shore”) becomes Story B (what I’m currently calling “Pearls and Memories, Spilled and Scattered”). The tenses changed from second person past to first person present and, while it’s at its core a milleu story about a priest on a quest to save a child, the story doesn’t feel the same anymore. Now into its sixth iteration, there are new scenes and a completely different journey towards a similar ending.

So where do you draw the line? Is Story A just a proto-evolved version of Story B? More importantly when does a story become so transformed that you can submit it to a market as a totally different entity to an earlier, imperfect draft?

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I have no idea. I suppose the good thing is I only submitted “Washed Up” to two markets. I’m revising it now because I want to submit it to a specific place which happens to be open. I can feel that itch in my fingers as I think about how the story needs to go. How I should have planned it. I can still do that, of course, and I have a mental map in my head. I also know where this needs to go, the marked out scenes and the comments from my crit group that the story needs to be darker.

But I’m left wondering, when does A become B and perhaps there isn’t an answer.

But that’s okay.

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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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The Balancing Act: Finding “Solace”

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My self-worth isn’t great right now. I’m trying to write but it’s like getting blood out of a stone. My brain screaming at me that I’m a terrible writer, that the two rejections I had this week were personal and signalled my ultimate failure as an author. I cringe at the thought of sending more stories out and yet there’s a call coming up that I’ve promised myself I’ll submit a story to.

After the name-changing of the other day, I had a temporary high which means, of course, my mood was always going to crash back town. It’s not as bad as it was a couple of weeks ago but it still feels particularly dark at times. I can find fractured moments of happiness in Disney movies and the Game of Thrones rumour-mill, listening to certain pieces of music and eating things which are bad for me. Though I do have a bag of carrots in the fridge that I’m sharing with the hound.

Yesterday I didn’t write a word all day. Instead, I wasted time on the internet, reading and posting until it was time for an appointment on the other side of town. I took the bus because I couldn’t face the walk from either of the two routes I can use, I even arrived early because it was better than lingering in Starbucks for another half an hour.

Of course, I could have slept in, I could have been kinder but I’m a creature of habit. I did, however, walk back into town, past the barky German Shepherd Uni hates. We had lunch, which was cheap and filling (bonus points to the fact I was craving cabbage and new potatoes). We capped off the day with an epic 99 that took me back to my childhood. The seller even made Uni a micro 99 which she definitely appreciated. It was exceptionally warm and poor Un, well she’s getting fluffy again.

As part of my run of jobs on Monday, I booked her a slot to be clipped for the summer. It’s expensive but worth it, she’s already feeling the heat and it’s only just gone from sub-arctic rain to a few, precious, glorious days of summer. She’ll thank me in two weeks. In the meantime, I’m carrying water and her bandana, even retiring my jacket because denim and heat, they don’t play well together.

My big focus for this week is the short story I need to write. It’s a space mermaid story and I’m hurrying to get it done not because the call is coming (it’s at the end of the month) but because I want to have my crit group look the story over first. I have a better idea of the storyline for “Solace” but my desire to write, it’s still not easy. Plus the deadline is making it much harder, inducing a panic that I won’t be done by 1st July.

This annoys me as normally deadlines are my fodder, my fuel. The trick is, of course, to go back to what MRK taught me in the short story class I did. Outline the story, write down what happens and then, when my muse returns in a coffee-fueled flood, do the story. Worse case, as long as it’s done by Wednesday, the group won’t be too put out but I still feel bad. We each understand everyone has problems writing sometimes and this week, it’s my turn.

I want this story to be good, though. I want to love writing it, the desire is there, but my mood flattens it. I want to nip to the garage, buy a pint but I can’t afford to lose either the money in my purse or the addling of my brain. So I’ve put on Game of Thrones and am trying to outline, hoping that will help. At least I now have a much clearer idea of the antagonism in the story and the ending.

That’s something and, right now, I’ll take anything I can get.

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Cats Make the Best Muses

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This is how the Mighty D spends most of his day, denying the light and curled up on one of the various pieces of furniture. Normally he moves between them, having his morning nap on the sofa, his afternoon one on my bed.

The rest of the time he’s sitting on my mousemat staring at me.

He looks so stern when he does it, almost disapproving, as if to say: “Why aren’t you writing?”.

His tail moves like a snake and sometimes, in the winter, he’ll curl up on my hand because it’s warm right next to my second screen. Plus I think he begrudges me watching Netflix when I should be petting him.

FYI: Bengals think they’re kings of the universe and must be petted at all times.

You’ve gotta love his persistence.

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