Thursday, August 11, 2016

Don't Call it a Crisis




Hey, I'm in the middle-aged years of my life.

And this summer I've been doing a thing.

One might examine the characteristics of this thing I've been doing, and consider the implications of my age being 44, and think this thing might plausibly be called a "midlife crisis." But I don't think that's a very kind or fair label to apply to the thing, so I'm going to call it my Midlife Thing.

It's happening because of good reasons. I've survived to the age of 44 and a half! I've achieved many of the standard life goals for which one can find readily-available advice, such as having the relationships and children that I've wanted, and a series of houses. I've taken some trips that are widely considered to be desirable, to Italy and England. I've learned decent chunks of a couple of different languages. I've even done some things that are a bit less usual, like selling my original paintings at art shows, and publishing some of my short stories and the two original anthologies that I've edited.

My Midlife Thing is not coming from dissatisfaction. It's coming from the feeling that I've crossed off many goals from my original list, and I'm looking at the goals that remain on the list to see if they're still goals that I want to do. And I have this other blank sheet here, and a pen, waiting for me to fill it in with my next set of goals, preferably next-level challenging ones that will feel invigorating.

The way I noticed the beginning of my Midlife Thing - which probably started brewing quite a while before I noticed it - is that I suddenly had this SUPER INTENSE NEED to decorate my bedroom IMMEDIATELY. Summer is a hard time for me to write, because of loud boy-children living life echoingly no farther away than the room adjacent to the room I am in at any given time, so I tend to do more artsy, projecty stuff in the summer. But this need to decorate basically pounced on me, dug in its teeth, and consumed my entire personality for a few weeks there. The photo above is one I took when it was not even as decorated as it is now. YEAH. I've got this "if a goth discovered boho" vibe going on in the room. And I love it.

I love it! But after I did that, I wondered why exactly I needed to do that decorating, that hard, that minute. My conclusion is that I was subconsciously trying to invite in some more creativity so that I could do something bigger than what I had been doing. I was bored and I didn't have any big goals to attack, so I needed to create the kind of bedroom a creative, big-goal-attacking person would have. I just don't usually have to launch my own subconscious at myself in order to figure out things like that.

Once I got my motivations sorted out, I started to spend a lot of time in my magnificent pageant of a bedroom, reading books that seemed relevant and writing many questions and answers. I also started to watch YouTube videos made by some inspiring individuals. I don't even know how I found Marie Forleo's channel, but I watched a lot of her videos, especially her interviews with other people who had written interesting books. I recommend this course of action, because she's interviewed some fascinating people. The first book I read as a direct result of watching her interviews was Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, which I had picked up and put back down in bookstores I don't know how many times before that. It took seeing Gilbert being delightful in an interview to get me to read it, but at that point I was definitely in the right state of mind to read it. Apparently, despite not being particularly woo-woo oriented, I am in a state of willingness to try out acting as if some woo-woo thinking might work for me even if I don't thoroughly believe in it. Just putting on some woo-woo shoes to walk around in for a while and see if they take me somewhere good.

Which means I also found it useful to read The Fire Starter Sessions, by Danielle LaPorte. It's not ENTIRELY woo-woo, but it's, you know. Pretty spiritual, philosophically. At the same time, it's loaded with personality and good ways to figure oneself out in many areas of life, not just the spiritual side of it.

I CAN ALWAYS TAKE OFF THE WOO-WOO SHOES LATER.

I'm going to end this series of links with one to my new favorite human discovery, Brendon Burchard. He has a long playlist of short videos I've been tearing through. This guy has so much sparkle, it's like watching sentient glitter confetti tell you how to get your shit together. That's the kind of person I want to learn from!

I also have a huge new section of my list of things to read, and I suspect I'll tell you all about that as time goes by, but I've clarified my ambitions a lot already.

What I'm saying is that I've never written an entire novel before, and I still very much want to, and it's time. I don't know what other goals will go on the new list, but this goal is now written at the top. I even know generally which novel I want to start writing (some assembly will be required on the details). So that's my next-level big goal that I'll be working on when the kids are back in school.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Friday Report for February 12, 2016

One of my images for this week...
You can see more on my Instagram page.

I'm going to have to make this week's report a quick jog through the highlights, because I'm starving AND I have to go drop off books at the library. So here we go!

My projects:

Writing: Last week, I decided that I wanted to have my current story pretty much finished by today--everything but the final polishing edit done. I did not reach that goal. I don't feel too bad about it because I'm about halfway there. I've worked on it every day this week, but it's a weird story and I keep getting new ideas for what to do with it, so that's a bad news/good news scenario.

I did find a couple of anthologies I want to write my next stories for, though. They're both due on May 1st: Ghosts on Drugs, and Survivor

Reading: Still the same books as last week, but I've also added two.
February's Other Project: I nailed the back onto my new desk. Next up: assembling and installing the drawers and keyboard tray. DESKS ARE COMPLICATED.


Friday, February 5, 2016

The Friday Report for February 5, 2016

One of my Instagram images for the week!
(I surrender to my need to make more than one per week.)

Hello! This Friday Report is here despite the fact that I had sick kids at home for three out of my five work days, including today. Nothing too serious, just some coughing. It's February. This is what happens in February.

I've even written a decent amount of fiction! I finished a very rough draft of my new story yesterday, at five thousand words. It's a good thing that I went back and checked the guidelines, because I had been thinking it could be six thousand words long, but it could not. Five thousand was, and is, the limit. Does this mean the story is done? Not even close, because when I say "very rough draft," I mean "nobody sees this version but me." But after today's work of starting to convert "rough" to "readable," I feel good about the first thousand words of the story, and I just have the remaining four thousand to turn into prose that I would want to submit.

I feel like it's time to start thinking about what kind of a story I'll write after this one, so that I'll have a project to work on after I finish this draft, while I'm waiting to do the final version. I like to do three drafts: 1) very rough; 2) pretty much finished; and 3) thoroughly polished. After a story is pretty much finished, I like to leave it alone for maybe a week so that I get some distance, and then I print it in a different font from what I used when I wrote it, and I read it out loud while walking around the house. That gives me a few different ways to notice things like repeated words, typos, and most importantly, the way the sentences sound. I mark the printout with any changes I want to make and then incorporate them, and make sure the final file is in Standard Manuscript Format, and then I send the story to its destination. 

So now I must figure out what to write next. I'm currently most interested in writing The Weird as a subgenre of speculative fiction, but that could include all sorts of things. I'm also going to look for themed anthology calls that will involve actual money being paid for stories, because that's been my route to publication every single time, so far.

My Projects:

Writing: I have two weeks to get this Weird West story to the thoroughly polished stage--because that's what I promised my writing buddy--so I'd like to have it pretty much finished by next Friday. And I want to have a new story idea forming by then, too.

Reading: 
  • City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett. I'm re-reading this because I want to refresh my memory before I read his new book, City of Blades. I STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT YOU BUY AND READ BOTH.
  • Undeniable, by Bill Nye
February's Other Project: Still my new office! This is taking a while! But I have the desk halfway assembled, which is more than I could say last week.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Double Friday Report for Januarys 29th and 22nd, 2016, Because I Missed Last Week



Double the Instagrams, double the fun!
(Click the link to see so many more, you will be BOGGLED)

Good day to you! Last Friday my eldest son gave a presentation at school, so I went to that instead of blogging. I thought I'd just blog on Monday. GUESS HOW THAT WORKED OUT.

Last week, I did some good work on the story I'm writing. I had the realization that, for once, I had started it at a point too far into the story, and it could use a new beginning that would show the inciting incident. Usually it's far too easy to start a story too early in the character's timeline, which can slow down the pace by including unnecessary information. I felt good about figuring that out, but I still didn't know the ending.

I'm about to do something that's a bit uncomfortable for me, but I've been inspired by Austin Kleon's awesome book, Show Your Work!, so this is his fault. I decided to figure out the ending of my story by writing a sonnet, because I love writing them--they're like making up your own puzzle and solving it as you go along--and I thought it would trick my subconscious mind into revealing a solution for me, which it did. The uncomfortable part is that I don't tend to post this sort of stuff, because it's not finished, it's more like poetic notes, but I'm going to take Kleon's advice and post that sonnet. 

*

A young child weeping helpless on the ground,
And half-hid under bushes, turned away,
Reveals a secret, once she has been found,
Her eyes a mix of power and decay.

A kindness met with slash of sudden claw--
A fever builds, unconsciousness, abyss--
Awake anew and see with horrid awe
The world beneath the surface is amiss.

So enter, now, the traveling milieu
Where poison--posed as healing--fakers give,
Then thread the maze, a pathway shown to few,
And heal the sickness, only then to live.

The wound received has turned into a gift,
The wicked ones returned back through the rift.

*

This is not a sonnet that tells a story clearly by itself, but it's like a message from my subconscious mind to me. A few of the lines came out as complete surprises that showed me exactly what to do in the story, and now I know my ending. I still have to write it all out, but I do much better with that part once I have an outline, no matter what form the outline takes.

My projects:

Writing: I've written over 3,000 words on the story, and I would like to finish a rough draft of about 6,000 words total by the end of next week. 

Reading: 
January's Other Project: My new office. I've moved furniture around and hung an organizer thingy on the wall--it's a chalkboard on one half, and has wire mesh to clip things on with mini clothespins on the other half. I have yet to assemble my new desk, office chair, and small set of shelves, but there's not much procrastination between me and those tasks!




Friday, January 15, 2016

The Friday Report for January 15, 2016


This is one of the two images I posted on my Instagram page this week. 
(I know I SAID I'd only do one per week, but sometimes I need to make more art!)


This week I had a lot of Life Business to attend to. I AM NOT A FAN OF LIFE BUSINESS. But it has to be done. There's a great big oak tree in front of my house, looming over my roof, which is missing a large patch of the outer bark that's supposed to be on the trunk, and it has dead branches and a tendency to drop chunks of dead branch even when there's hardly any wind blowing. I live in the Midwest. We are kind of KNOWN for wind, and I've been nervous about that tree for several months now, without being able to do anything about it. The rule about oak trees, around here, is that they are not to be trimmed or cut down in the warmer times when the healthy oak trees might catch their diseases. We had pretty warm weather (for Wisconsin) into December, but now that it's well and truly cold I can get the tree, and its buddies that need trimming way back, dealt with. 

Between meeting with the tree guy and dealing with a long list of additional Life Business Items, including car issues, the week has been one of those blink-and-it's-gone weeks. I wrote a little bit and expanded the outline of my new story a little bit, but I'll need to do a lot more of both next week if I'm to reach the goal I set up with my writing buddy: 3,000 words, otherwise known as half of the rough draft of this story.

My projects for the week:

Writing: I'm up to a little over 200 words on the Weird West story, so I will have to basically lock myself in all next week and work on that at my highest intensity setting.


Reading: 

January's Other Project: Setting up my new office. This week I pulled off some of the painter's tape around the newly-painted walls, which is the kind of annoying little job I could avoid forever, because my messy painting makes the tape hard to remove. I am a tidier painter when I don't use the tape! But this time I was nervous about the prospect of intense deep ocean blue paint getting all over the place, so I bowed to my fears and taped around the edges. I'm sure there's a lesson in there. I also assembled a small storage cabinet. There's still a lot left to do.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Friday Report for January 8, 2016

My latest photo edit for Instagram!

I happen to think it's pretty awesome to have a lot of interests and do a lot of different things. Which I do. Copiously and with thoroughness. But while I get a lot of satisfaction out of that, there's a trade-off that comes with it: very little linear progress in any one area. Because of that, I end up sometimes feeling like I'm getting nowhere, even after I've made bunches of things. 

And I have goals. I do. NO, I DO. I've just been doing my own little butterfly-flight-style interpretive dance method of getting to them. I've decided, though, that this year I want to work on a more linear, forward-going approach, with more emphasis on writing. Instead of making an image for Instagram EVERY DAY, as I was doing for a long stretch of last year, I'm going to make one each week, and apply the 30-to-60 minutes each one usually takes toward story development and writing down words. That way I still get to enjoy that activity, but clear more time for the story-writing.

Here's what I've been working on this week:

Writing: My current story is my first attempt at the Weird West genre. I like the way it's going, but I haven't figured out the ending yet. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens! And I want to finish it by the end of this month.

Reading: I'm in the middle of reading three books:
January's Other Project: My new office. My office has been in a room next to the kitchen, where I can't completely close off the noise of the household because there's a pass-through window to the kitchen. You would think this would be the dining room, but my house is odd and it is not. Anyway, when I moved in here I set up my art things in another room, and then promptly started to do more digital art than painting, so now I'm giving myself an hour a day to transform that into a combined art-and-office room, with the hope of being able to get more writing done in the evenings, with the door closed. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: I Had a Super-Eclectic Year

I recently read a post by Amanda Palmer, in which she mentioned Henry Rollins. I don't even know if this is true, but what she said is that Henry Rollins is in the habit of taking an Inhale Year, followed by an Exhale Year, meaning that when he inhales for a year he is reading, absorbing, thinking, relaxing, and getting his mental state ready for a year of exhaling bunches of cool artistic output in whatever form it may take for him. I hope that's a fact, but I don't care if it is or not because it is a damn good idea either way. I want to try that system, but maybe on a shorter-cycle plan, like monthly. That's because, in looking back at 2015, I feel like I've been subconsciously trying to make that happen for a long time, but fighting it because I felt guilty about not producing enough. I'm starting to feel that I would produce more if I fought that less. If I planned to mentally respirate in a sensible manner and stopped feeling so stressed about it.

So! What did I actually do in 2015? Here you go:
  • Got a pretty decent grasp of how to speak basic Swedish by studying it for a few minutes a day with the FREE, and AWESOME, Duolingo app, which offers bunches of languages you can learn in a very useful, fun format. If you are interested in learning a new language, you should absolutely try this. Jag tycker om Svenska!
  • Started the writing of two different novels, and did not finish either (yet). 
  • Wrote one story for an anthology after being invited to submit one, and it was published: "Tipping Point," in Ghost in the Cogs, which contains steampunk ghost stories. My story got a nice mention in this very positive review of the whole book!
  • Made over 200 digital abstract images that I posted on my Instagram account.
  • Put many of those images into my DeviantArt print store, where they're available to buy in a variety of formats. I used my discount to get a framed canvas print of one of them, to check out the quality, and it is BEAUTIFUL. It's printed with acrylic paint and it looks like a very smoothly-rendered painting, and the frame looks good, too. So if you're looking for abstract art, please check it out because your purchase will help me make more stuff to put out there, both for sale and for free.
  • read 50 books for my 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge! And here is my Goodreads Author Page, where you can friend me and follow along as I attempt to read 60 books in 2016.
  • Posted a bunch of tweets on Twitter, even though I took a big break from that in the summer.
  • Posted different items of interest on my Facebook page. My policy on social media is to diversify my posts so that it's worthwhile for people to join forces with me in more than one place. 
  • I blurbed a book for the first time, too! A comment of mine can be found on the cover of Indelible Ink, by Matt Betts.
  • Worked at an EXCELLENT and very scary haunted house called The Insanitorium, in New Glarus, WI, for all of the weekends of October.
  • That's on top of, you know, getting my kids fed and to school on time day after day and having them at home for most of the time in the summer and taking them to see their grandparents and all the life maintenance stuff that goes on, and whatnot, so I am feeling pretty good about my 2015!
So now I'm thinking about the things I want to do in 2016 (hint: one of them is posting in this here blog on at least a weekly basis), but I think this post is long enough for now! Happy New Year! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

A New Steampunk Story from Me, WITH GHOSTS

My next short story publication will be "Tipping Point," in a new anthology from Broken Eye Books called Ghost in the Cogs. Coming soon! Here's a description of the book, from their website:

Ghosts. Gaslight. Gears.

In the wondrous age of steam, pirates, rust, and syphilis aren’t all you need to worry about. Ghosts abound!

In this hissing and clanking steampunk world, there are moments that science just can’t explain. All the mechanical geniuses scratch their heads and whisper words of ghosts and powers, of spirits and demons. Possessed automatons take on lives of their own. Superstitious pilots take all necessary precautions. Avant-garde machinists harness the spirits to power their creations. Revenge-minded ghosts stalk haunted gasworks. This is a mechanized playground for the souls of the dead.

I'm really excited about this anthology! Want to know who else has stories in it? Click here for the official announcement! 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Getting My Voice Back with NaNoWriMo

This year has been very stressful and strange for me. I'm separated and living in my own place now, but getting here involved a lot of work, tension, and pain, and I just could not write fiction for most of the year.

My NaNoWriMo novel cover.
CC image by J.K. Nilssen, with title added (no other modifications).

I had a few promising fiction ideas, but nearly every time I thought about writing, an awful feeling of emptiness would stop me from doing it. Then I saw friends of mine excitedly getting ready for NaNoWriMo, and I thought that maybe the speed of writing required, and the friendly competition, could get me to set aside my perfectionism and self-editing and really allow myself to write a ROUGH draft, an approximation of the story. Anything that I could work with later, because writing something is much better than writing nothing. So I'm doing it! I started late, on the third day of the month, and I'm up to 6,300 words so far. That's short of the target for today, but not by much, and I still have time for at least a couple more writing sprints today. I'm rewarding myself with bragging and chocolate every time I finish a sprint!

In the meantime, the Kickstarter for my next anthology is almost at its end, but not fully funded yet, so if you'd like to be a helper, please check it out and tell your friends about it! Not Our Kind: Tales of (Not) Belonging

Monday, November 3, 2014

My New Anthology: the Kickstarter!

THIS IS HAPPENING:


Oh, didn't I mention? I have a new book in progress. NOT OUR KIND: Tales of (Not) Belonging. "A genre-defying diverse collection of fantasy and sci-fi stories of cultures, their problems, and seeing life from a new point of view."

"Edited by Nayad Monroe - who also edited What Fates Impose - these nineteen stories bring us tales of being the other, of belonging, and not belonging. Our contributors have won a wide range of awards for their previous work, and include: Wes Alexander, Alex Bledsoe, Maurice Broaddus, Jennifer Brozek, Amanda C. Davis, Sarah Hans, Janet Harriett, Tyler Hayes, Michael Haynes, Erika Holt, Gary Kloster, Marissa Lingen, Remy Nakamura, Andrew Romine, Ekaterina Sedia, Lucy A. Snyder, Reinhardt Suarez, Juliette Wade, Tim Waggoner, Damien Angelica Walters ...and perhaps YOU." (We're hoping to reach the goal of an open submission call to add more stories!)

In order to pay the authors a professional rate, we have this fundraising campaign going. The book is currently 59% funded, with six more days to get to 100%. If you'd like to help get this book made, please head over to the Kickstarter page, and/or tell all of your friends about it! Because there's some great new fiction and rewards to get out of this!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The One with the Year Ending

This year was, to be all cliché about it, a roller coaster. BIG GOOD THINGS alternating with BIG BAD THINGS in a way that I haven't really experienced before, most years. I'm not going to get into the bad ones, because I dwelled in them at the time and I don't want to dwell anywhere near them anymore. I think I've learned some things from them, at least, and I'll be using the knowledge I've gained for the rest of my life, which should turn out to be helpful. I think that's the best way to look at it.

So. In my writing and editing news, the good thing that's the most current is my story for Steampunk World, a multicultural steampunk anthology that's now in the last days of a popular Kickstarter campaign! "The Emperor Everlasting" is an alternate history story in which the Incas were much more successful in the world than they were in the actual past you may have learned about. Intrigue unfolds as a royal Deviser is thwarted in her every effort to complete the most important job in her nation's history! Who wants to read about a country that features battle llamas? Maybe you? Then here's what you need to know:


Featuring stories by Jay Lake, Lucy A.Snyder, Ken Liu, Nisi Shawl, and many more!

*

My most exciting professional development was editing my first anthology, What Fates Impose, which was published after its own successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year. The fundraiser allowed the publisher to pay professional rates for all of the stories, because paying writers well for their work was one of the top goals for the project. And so we created this anthology of new tales of divination!

 
Featuring stories by Cat Rambo, Ken Scholes, Lucy A. Snyder, Tim Waggoner, and many more!
 
*
 
2013 included the planning stages for TWO new editing projects for me, so I'm looking forward to doing that work in 2014! I will write more about those projects as more of the details are sorted out.
 
*
 


There's only ONE MORE MONTH left to get copies of two soon-to-be-discontinued science fiction anthologies that contain stories of mine. It's not great news that they'll be gone, but at least there's time to grab them! Because they contain many wild stories about life in space, including my own "An Assessment of the Incident at Camp Righteous" and "Running in Wonderland."
 
*
 
I did some good reading this year, too! My project of reading a Story Each Day for the whole year fizzled out at the end of August, but by then I had read over 250 stories, so I still feel good about it. That's approximately a million words of fiction, at minimum, which is around ten novels' worth. That's in addition to the other thirty-four books I read! Some of the best books I read this year were:
 
  • The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon
  • Salvage and Demolition, by Tim Powers
  • American Elsewhere, by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • At the Edge of Waking, by Holly Phillips
  • Somewhere Beneath Those Waves, by Sarah Monette
  • The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  • World War Z, by Max Brooks
  • Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville
 
(I realize that I was WAY LATE to reading many of these, but they were definitely as excellent as everyone had been saying!)

This concludes 2013! Best wishes and good luck for 2014! I'll leave you with a recommendation for my favorite blog, which offers science-backed recommendations for living well and being happy:



Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two Books I'm In Will Soon Go Out of Print!

I got a letter this week that told me the company which published a couple of my stories will be dropping most of its books. It's a struggle to run a small press, and often the profits don't even come close to matching the level of work involved, so the decision is understandable. But in case you're interested in grabbing some books that may be rare collector's items one day (I CERTAINLY HOPE), I'll post the links below. The books will be discontinued as of January 31, 2014, so order before then because it's your last chance! I will get a tiny cut of any sales that transpire, but more importantly, I hope to get more copies out into the world because soon they'll be gone forever...



Space Grunts: Full-Throttle Space Tales #3 is a military science fiction anthology edited by Dayton Ward. It contains my short story of a militant theocracy gone terribly wrong, "An Assessment of the Incident at Camp Righteous." The story is set in a prison camp for native aliens on a planet that's been conquered by humans.



Space Tramps: Full-Throttle Space Tales #5 is a science fiction anthology about vagabonds in space, edited by Jennifer Brozek. It includes my novelette, "Running in Wonderland," which is about a mentally ill refugee who must navigate through the criminal parts of a huge space station as part of her quest to find a home on a frontier planet.

In other news, I AM MOVING. I've lived in my current house for over twelve years, which is the longest time I've ever lived in the same place, and I've accumulated ABSOLUTELY TOO MUCH STUFF. Sorting through it and getting rid of the excess has been taking up lots of my time, but that's a good idea in itself AND the new house is in a much more convenient location, so the effort is worthwhile. The official move will be in early January.

I hope you'll enjoy any holidays you celebrate, and also all of the other days coming up!

Friday, November 15, 2013

NOT DEAD YET

Hi everyone!

I got a comment on my last post that noted that I hadn't posted anything since August, and wondered if this blog was dead. Answer: NO. I have been busy. I planned and executed my first trip to England! And things, and stuff. I did not blog. I intend to blog. I will. I will definitely blog.

So that's something to look forward to, right?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: You, by Austin Grossman (SPOILERS)

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

I went into reading this book with high hopes, because I thought a novel about making video games, with a mystery involved, would be interesting. But...

The first problem is that whoever wrote the jacket copy made false promises. The main character, Russell, gets a job with old high school friends at their company, Black Arts Games. The book's description says, "But mostly he needs to know what happened to Simon, his strangest and most gifted friend, who died under mysterious circumstances soon after Black Arts' breakout hit." This is a lie. Russell reminisces about things they all did together back in their high school days, but hardly gives a thought to the circumstances of Simon's death. The false expectation set up there IS NOT THE AUTHOR'S FAULT, but there are plenty of things that ARE the author's fault, and he is not helped by the way the cover sets readers up for disappointment.

To start with the positive, as far as I can tell Grossman gets everything right when he describes the video game industry in the late 1990s; I've known many people in that field since the early 1990s, and I was tickled to see mentions of a couple of people I met long ago, John Carmack and John Romero. But describing an industry accurately does not necessarily make an interesting story. Russell is a very low-energy main character, who sort of drifts into his job as a game designer without really caring about games, and then he gets an undeserved promotion to lead game designer when a bunch of the company's employees leave. He does develop some motivation and job satisfaction along the way, but then the book wanders into long, long, long descriptions of him playing through the whole backlist of the company's games, and having conversations with the games' characters that could be interpreted as either imaginary or magical.

The most interesting thing about the book is the hunt for a mysterious "bug" that goes through all of the games, occasionally causing the appearance of a devastating weapon that wreaks havoc and does things it should not be able to do. However, I found it difficult to stay interested through the looooooooong sections of game summary. There's hardly any dialogue in the entire book, and few scenes with conflict, tension, or action that's shown directly. Russell spends a lot of time pondering the nature of games and wondering whether it's okay to like his job rather than preferring to work in a more conventional profession, such as being a lawyer (he's a law school dropout), but he never seems to fully engage with his life and move forward.

And another thing! There are many places in the book where Russell describes things that he wasn't present for, such as events in Simon's life, so he shouldn't know about them. They could possibly be interpreted as vivid imaginings, but they're not presented that way. They're told as if they're facts and Russell is an omniscient narrator. That bothered me every time it happened. I was not as bothered by the shifts between Russell's first-person story and the sections of second-person "you" describing the player in a video game, but the third-person omniscient sections took it too far.

The book was just barely engaging enough to keep me reading all the way to the end, but it took a lot of work to get through the second half, and I kind of wish that I hadn't.

Check out my Goodreads page to read more of my opinions about books!

Monday, August 5, 2013

When Depression Strikes at the Worst Possible Time

Real depression is rare for me—like maybe one short bout every few years, due to circumstances. This summer I had the highest number of simultaneous high-importance deadlines of my life, and in the middle of those I had a sudden and painful interpersonal drama from the least likely direction, and then because of those things all at once, I strained my neck from sitting in front of the computer for way more hours than usual, under way more stress than usual. And then I took prescription pain medication for that and worked in a fog for several days, and then discovered this new dance craze called "withdrawal symptoms" (not actually either a dance or a craze).


So what did I do about it? And what can you do about it if a similar thing happens to you?

First, I took a couple of days to just rest. I did whatever I felt like doing. If it was crying, fine. If it was getting into bed and alternating between napping and staring at the wall, fine. I started with the easy ones like those and ended up with more enjoyable ones, like reading The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (because although it's grim, it gave me perspective on how my life wasn't really so bad), and listening to Maria Bamford's new comedy album, which is GREAT, and perfect for anyone who occasionally goes to the dark side in their thinking. I was still depressed at this point, but I started to feel it lifting slightly.

Then I listed all the things I thought I SHOULD get done, and narrowed the list down to only the things I HAD TO get done, with completion dates. I figured nothing was going to be much fun for a while, so I might as well just methodically go through my work step by step and stop having to worry about those obligations. That helped. I get a lot of satisfaction from checking items off a list.

Still in a funk, I added in exercise: taking long walks in the mornings, before it got too hot and sticky outside. I also fixed my nutrition by adding in more fruits and vegetables and reducing junky, fatty, and sugary foods (not eliminating, mind you, but cutting down). That's when I started to have longer stretches of feeling better, especially for the few hours after the walks. Those walks also gave me good opportunities to think through my problems and decide how I wanted to handle them. It's much easier to think when I'm away from my usual environment, which is full of chores and time-wasters like Facebook games. Which I had been playing too much in an effort to just not think about it for a while. That escape was probably helpful at first, but after a while it's time to stop hiding and make some changes.

This whole issue was why I delayed my Victory Mohawk. I wanted to be able to feel sincerely victorious for those pictures! And I did.

Now I am back to my usual level of cheer, with some new insights, and my energy level is back up. So! If you have occasional funks or depressions, following a similar process may be helpful. If you have serious depression frequently, add a call to your doctor ASAP, because frequent, intense depression is an illness that needs treatment just like any other serious illness.