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Don’t Let the Door Hit You On the Way Out

I like to give things names. Sometimes it makes things easier to talk about. Sometimes it makes things funnier to talk about. Like for instance

(MAJOR OVERSHARE ALERT)

my husband and I call sex ‘sandwiches.’ As in, “hey, want to put the kids to bed, have a late supper and make some sandwiches?” Hilarious, right?

I decided that my depression needs a name too. My depression will from now on be known as Karl. And the time during which I was at my worst will be called Karl’s Terrible Visit.

Karl’s Terrible Visit has come to an end.

I’m still waiting close to the door, hoping Karl doesn’t poke his head back in because he forgot his wallet on the dresser, and could he perhaps have one more cup of coffee? But I think that even if he tried to pull a fast one on me, I’d be able to show him to the curb.

So long and good riddance, Karl. Looking forward to seeing you never again.

(I know that’s probably not likely. Karl and I, we go way back.)

Regardless, I can throw open the windows, let in the sunshine, change the sheets in the spare room where Karl took up residence for the past seven months and look forward to running my own home again.

Thank you, husband who called my doctor when I couldn’t. Thank you, Kid 1 and Kid 2, for being awesome and worth living for. Thank you, friends and family who didn’t give up on me even when I became a terrible, selfish, useless person. Thank you, pharmaceuticals, for helping my brain be just normal enough.

Thank you, me, for always believing I’d make it through somehow.

Onward to bigger and brighter things!

History Repeats Itself

I think I’ve mentioned before that the series I’m writing right now came about because I heard a couple songs together while I was driving one day. Sometimes when I’m listening to music, especially in the car or on the bus when my head is only half-focused on it, a verse or even a line will catch my attention and my mind is off and running. So that was that, but I’ve been struggling for awhile to make the end of the story come together and wrap up all the loose ends. The solution I originally came up with felt less than original and had some holes that I knew I’d have to fill.

As a result, it was difficult to get motivated to start writing the final installment in the series, and after mocking up an outline riddled with holes, I idled.

Ahh, but then. Once again, whatever literary muse that seems to live inside my iPod struck again. One verse of one song, a song iTunes says I’ve played dozens of times, fixed my porous plot problem. Not only that, but my new ending sort of flips the bird at some genre conventions.

The funny part is for a long time I was actually mishearing the lyrics, and it wasn’t until I learned the correct words that the idea was born. Oops.

Posting the song would be a huge spoiler so I’m keeping it under wraps, which is too bad because I love it. Someday, maybe.

But that’s not all, folks. Not long after, while navigating a traffic circle after dropping the kids off at school one morning, the iPod muse hit hard. One line was all it took. New book, could be a series. Completely different from what I’m working on right now. And I’m so excited to start writing it, so much so that I’m conflicted on what I should be working on right now – finish the series I’ve been writing for the past two years, or new project? I’m terrible at making decisions so I might literally pick one out of a hat and run with it.

While I’ve been waffling over that decision, and now that I’m starting to climb out of the dark hole I was mired in (yay), I’ve finished the ninth (!) draft of The Unraveling and I feel like I’m ready to start querying again after my less-than-successful results last year. With my new opening scene I hope to get some positive feedback this time around.

I often turn to music for ideas when I write, but my favourite moments are when the iPod gives me an unexpected gift, a real moment of inspiration, and it’s encouraging to know that I still have that spark despite the pall of depression that is thankfully starting to dissipate. I’m excited about life and about writing again. It’s good to be back.

Chapter One Preview!

I’m now on my ninth draft of The Unraveling and have been doing a lot of rewriting this time around, rather than editing. And for the first time, I’ve decided to share a short excerpt. In the past I’ve posted some Six Sentence Sunday (RIP) entries, but today I’m offering a much longer chunk of text, about two pages. This is all-new material, and it’s yet to see any other eyes than my own. In fact you might be the very first person to read it. Doesn’t that make you feel special!

I’m open to feedback and would love to hear your thoughts.

Click here to read the first two pages of The Unraveling.

Life. Writing. Whatever.

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Not quite ready to give up on either.

The Universe Provides

I believe in the Universe. I believe that if you try to be in tune with it, and allow yourself to be open so it can be in tune with you, then it will give you what you need. That’s what spirituality looks like to me. No rules, no morality, no acts of devotion, just the opportunity to listen and be listened to. We are all made of cosmic dust and atoms that are billions of years old. The Universe is in all of us.

And the Universe provides.

Usually we spend most of our time blocking out our effects on nature, the people around us and ourselves. Or maybe you don’t, I don’t know. I do. I like to keep my world small because it’s harder to comprehend the big picture.  My last post made it clear I’m not in a good headspace right now. It seems like it’s only when I’m unhappy that I start seeing what makes other people unhappy too. The things they don’t say out loud. The things they endure in silence. I can’t always do something about it, but I can at least say that I see it, that I know they’re struggling. That I can listen to them if they want to talk, or I can listen to their not-talk if that’s better. I listen a lot better when my life isn’t going the way I want it to. And when I start listening to others, I start listening to myself too, all the things I don’t say or that I don’t even know I want to say. The things between the words and thoughts.

I also spend a lot of time looking for answers and screaming “WHY?” at the stars. Usually only in my head, but sometimes out loud (in my car so the neighbours don’t become alarmed). And I open myself up to the answers that I haven’t previously wanted to face.

Sometimes the answer to “WHY?” is big. So big it takes your breath away. Crushes you under its weight. Sometimes it’s so small, so simple, you laugh because you can’t believe you had to go through so much hardship to find it.

And then once you’ve faced “WHY?,” once you start to wrap your head around it, comes another important question, this one usually a whisper. “how?”

And this is where the Universe provides. Things that previously seemed impossible fall into place like the world is rearranging itself to personally raise you up from the dark pit “WHY?” has thrown you into.

It can be as small as remembering that a half hour’s hard swim can make you feel like puking and laughing and that you can’t stand after and how great a feeling that is.

It can be a five-minute backrub with the homemade lotion made with the citrus oil that always calms you and brightens your spirits.

It can be realizing you can make it to yoga twice a week despite your hectic schedule because the studio’s schedule aligns with yours almost perfectly.

It can be as big as knowing that having something huge and exciting to look forward to can improve your mental outlook a thousand percent, and then within hours having a friend point out there’s a seat sale to Iceland on right now, and half-jokingly suggesting, should we go? And then six other friends decide to tag along and suddenly you’re on your way for a madcap long weekend to a place you’ve always wanted to see with your best friends in only a few weeks.

It can be as small as wondering with your husband if you can make shawarmas at home and then having someone you know post a recipe online for exactly that a couple hours later.

Since my last post I’ve been trying so hard to listen to myself and figure out what needs to change in my life. There isn’t one Holy Grail of an answer, the magic switch that will switch to ‘all better.’ It’s not that easy. And I’m not stupid enough to think that I can fix things without a lot of hard work. This isn’t my first rodeo. But if the Universe is going to give me all these signs, all these offerings to help get me back on my feet, the least I can do is do the work on my end.

And Then There Was Nothing

Depression is a heavy thing to face up to. Already, I’m sure a lot of people are averting their eyes and clicking through after reading that first word. People don’t really talk about it much, and when they do, they’re embarrassed. Count me among them; I don’t like talking about it either. It’s uncomfortable.

I’m suffering from depression.

It creeps up on me every year, usually sometime around the end of summer. There are probably a lot of reasons: less time outdoors in the sun, working the garden, at the pool or lake or park or campground; the end of canning season, which is a huge amount of work and accomplishment; kids go back to school and I find myself missing them during the day and burdened with extra responsibilities (making lunches! signing off on agendas! remembering library books and permission forms!); and my fitness level decreases. Normally all this leaves me feeling a bit low, which is usually alleviated by things like regular yoga, slowing down and being gentle with myself and planning a sun vacation for the new year. But this year I added to that a struggle to adjust to new food intolerances, an increased onset of triggerless anxiety and the death of a longtime friend, and everything went into a tailspin. First all my feelings turned to sad and then they turned to nothing. Just nothing all the time. The absence doesn’t go by unnoticed by me – I’m constantly reminding myself that I should be feeling X or Y about this or that but there’s nothing there. Somewhere along the way I stopped getting out of bed some days, lost almost a fifth of my body weight and realized this was more than just failure to cope.

I should probably see a doctor. I keep telling people I want to. I think I hate feeling this way, or I would hate feeling this way if I could. But I can’t pick up the phone because I don’t care enough to. Which is stupid. I could do it right now. My phone is literally sitting beside me right now.

Maybe tomorrow.

I see it for what it is. I’m pretty sure other people do too. I hope to god my kids don’t, at least, that they don’t notice sometimes their mom wishes they didn’t care about her so much so they wouldn’t be bothered if she just went to live off by herself forever. That’s a horrible realization to face up to. For a long time I hoped it would just stop one day. Fake it til you make it, right?

The worst part came when I stoped caring one way or another. I’d be happy never getting out of bed again. All the stuff I’m missing doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t go to yoga. I don’t see much of friends. I don’t read or watch TV. I especially don’t write. How can I immerse myself into the emotions of characters when I don’t have any of my own?  And I’m definitely not being gentle with myself. The little voice in my head that tells me there’s no point in doing anything about it rules the mental airwaves right now.

I hate that bitch.

I know I’m not alone in this. I also know that, like before, I’m going to pull through, it’s just such a miserable slog to get there. In the meantime I have to ask everyone in my life for forgiveness and patience and understanding that maybe tomorrow will be different. And that it’s because of them that I haven’t already cashed it all in and run away to a yurt in the mountains.

Tomorrow could be better. And if not tomorrow, the day after that.

Couldn’t Help Myself

Another Royal Quiet De Luxe, this one from 1955.

Another Royal Quiet De Luxe, this one from 1955.

His name is Uncle Robin. If you’re wondering why, see my post on The Royal Family. He fits in nicely, don’t you think? And he looks pretty spiffy sitting beside Pinkie Pie.

I’m just smitten.

This one types so easy. I started tapping away and before I knew it I’d filled half a page.

Total typewriter count: 14. I also bought a cursive 1962 Hermes 3000 this week (it’s haunted! More on that soon) and an Olympia Monica from Germany with both a QWERTZ keyboard and the techno Senatorial font. At this point I’m starting to wonder where I’m going to put them all…

Want to learn more about my typewriters? Check them out here.

Rewards

Do you celebrate when you finish a novel? Treat yourself in some way? Maybe a bottle of champagne, some decadent chocolate or a fancy spa massage?

I haven’t up until this point, beyond a self-congratulatory blog or facebook post and the basking in the positive comments that follows. But I’m thinking that once I finish the last book in this series, The Unknowing – and I mean finished, edited, proofed and put to bed – I’m going to give myself something really special. Partly to commemorate what’s been a fantastic experience for me, and partly as a reward for a whole lot of hard work, learning and growth.

And I know just the thing. In the series, the main character, Callie, receives a very special bracelet which figures into the story arc several times. It’s a fine silver-coloured bracelet with eight stones – seven clear quartz and one rose quartz. And I’m going to have one made just like it.

Rose quartz crystal. Isn’t it pretty?

I like the idea of not only a reward, but one that’s directly related to the accomplishment. I’m probably a good year away from reaching my goal so this won’t be adorning my wrist anytime soon, but I’m on my way. And won’t it make for a great story when someone comments on it!?

Decisions, Decisions

I have about 24 hours to decide if I want to do NaNo. I do have a new project that I’m mostly ready to start, provided I can drum up the second half of the outline I’ve been putting off for weeks. It’s been awhile since I’ve worn my writing hat – when did I finish the first draft of The Unseeing, July? June? Since then I’ve been alternating between edit mode and query mode.

It’s hard to switch hats sometimes.

So, because I’m a write-out-loud-to-solve-my-dilemmas kind of girl, here’s my pros and cons list.

Pros:

  • Will force me back into a regular writing habit. I tend to start and stop projects when I don’t have deadlines.
  • Something to focus on. November is a hard month for me, mentally and physically. I hate the change to winter.
  • I miss my characters. I want to finish their story.

Cons:

  • I have to drag myself kicking and screaming through NaNo. I’m an edit-as-I-write person and that will never change. It can take me hours to make my daily quota.
  • Next week I leave for Montreal for four days, for a much-needed girls’ weekend. There is 0% chance any writing will get done, which puts me at a huge deficit early on.
  • November is also a month I want to focus on querying, since I imagine the slush piles grow tenfold in December with NaNo winners submitting their unedited first drafts everywhere. This could be my last chance to query until the new year. Or is there a polite way of saying “this is not a NaNo 2013 novel” in my query? I’m only half-joking. Is there?
  • I’m not sure I want to rush through this book so quickly! It’s the last of the series and writing half of it in a single month somehow feels like I’m cheating myself out of a slow, sweet goodbye.

Yep, when I write it out, it looks like the answer’s pretty clear. Even if the only con was that last point, it’s still enough for me to say no thanks to this year. Or is there such thing as NaNo-Lite? Maybe I’ll make it a goal to start writing November 1, and see how far I get without pushing myself. In the meantime, tomorrow’s task is to finish my outline, and set up the myriad spreadsheets I use when I write to track everything under the sun – word count, time spent writing, location and all the other vectors I love to analyze when I’m finished.

Good luck, NaNoWriMo participants! I’m over here, cheering you on from the sidelines.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

Kid 1 has decided she’s going to write a book, “just like you, mom.”

Not sure if this is a genetic disposition or if I’m just a positive influence. If the former, I don’t know where I got mine from – my own mom worked in poli sci and later, accounting, and my dad was a computer software consultant – not much of the creative in either of those fields.

Thing is, for a six year old, her story’s actually pretty solid. It has two likeable protagonists – talking trees!, funny dialogue, a conflict and an antagonist. She’s only got the first act finished, and I’m genuinely looking forward to reading the next installment. I can tell that all the reading she does is paying off when it comes to story structure. She instinctively knew what elements a good story needed and made sure they were all present from the start. And she ended it on a cliffhanger! I’ve read a lot worse from people five times her age.

When she’s finished it, I plan on tucking the manuscript away so she can see her first effort when she’s an adult, like my mom did with the newspaper I self-published and some of my other masterpieces. I’m a proud mama.

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