Insomniac’s Fight

I’m going to try something a little different here (for me anyway) and link one of the songs I was working on. I just uploaded it to Sound Cloud, so I figured I’d take a shot at sharing it to see how it all works.

This was the first run through of a song I wrote about my wife’s difficulty sleeping. I like to call these songs my rough drafts. I know it’s far from perfect (I’m not a professional anyway, so it’ll never be perfect) but it laid down the groundwork for I want the song to become. But where I don’t typically read the rough draft of a book I’m working on over and over, I do tend to listen to my songs. After awhile, I get used to the way it sounds, imperfections and all. That’s not to say I’ll never try to redo the recording and make it better. But for now I’m happy with the results of spending a couple of hours one night making a song.

Anyway, should you choose to check it out, I welcome any and all comments and criticisms. I know I’m not a great singer… or guitar player… or songwriter… or… well, you can judge it for yourself if you want.

Thanks for listening!

Steve

Madlands

Insomniac’s Fight

Go to sleep
Close your eyes
Drift Away
Turn off your mind

Can’t shut it off
It’s a long fight
Toss and turn
Night after night

Pace in the dark
Like it was day
Seeking rest
An elusive prey

Eat a snack
Thinking it’ll help
Lay down again
Tired as hell

And it goes
On and on and on and on and on and on and on and on without end
The day becomes the night becomes the day becomes blurred together again
And the fog invades your mind
Seeps into every nook and cranny it can find
Eventually you’ll just give in
Surrender knowing that tomorrow

The fight begins anew
The fight begins anew
The fight begins anew

Random thoughts
Feel right at home
Waking nightmares
You can’t run from

When the dawn breaks
And you finally give in
The alarm rings
Time to do it again

Epiphanies In B

I’ve often said it’s impossible for me to get bored. While the advent of the smart phone (and my subsequent loss when I don’t have mine) might disagree, I truly believe I could go for days, weeks, maybe even months with no other distractions other than the machinations of my brain.

The reason being it’s constantly working, devoting an impressive amount of my mental resources toward working on stories (or songs, when I’m in that particular mood). As a result, I sometimes find inspiration comes at the oddest of times. Sometimes it’s the drive from home when a certain song comes on that makes me recreate scene (or create them spontaneously) based upon the feelings it invokes. All too often back in the day, it happened during school, when I was supposed to paying attention. Many plot lines and song lyrics originated while my teachers desperately sought to fill my young head with knowledge.

A particular source of inspiration is the bathroom.

Perhaps it’s the fact I’m relegated to a simple sitting position, transforming my usually kinetic body into one of rest. Maybe it’s the drive to put my mind in another place while my body fulfills its biological destiny. Either way, I have had many breakthroughs while trapped atop that porcelain prison.

And so it was a few days ago when I nearly shot to my feet and cried out, “Eureka!” Fortunately, I relegated myself to a simple fist pump and a whispered, “Yes!” (I was in a public bathroom, after all).

I finished the rough draft of  The Shadow Without (I think that’s what I’m calling it this week) a few years back for NaNo and I’ve been trying to get back to it ever since. After completing The Shadow Within in 2013, I was determined the sequel would be out in short order. Here I am, 1.5 years later, and I’m still struggling to finish the final rough draft. I know what needs to happen, where it’s all headed, but I’ve found myself…blocked. Yes, I’ll use that word, even though I like to think myself immune from the dreaded writer’s block (or at the very least, I always have another project to work on if I find myself stuck).

The funny thing is, the epiphany that came to me was not for The Shadow Without, but rather, the final book in the series, Twin Shadows. Again, I know where that book is going, how it starts and, roughly, how it ends. But there were pieces of the puzzle missing, things I knew I’d need to figure out eventually.

And there, in that stall, I figured them out.

Well, some of them anyway.

Interestingly enough, I hadn’t been concerned about those pieces. My mental resources have been slaving away on AfterLife and, to a lesser extent, The Shadow Without.

Or so I thought.

Somehow, this piece of the puzzle made itself known, and suddenly, a lot of other pieces made sense. So much so, I had to wonder if I hadn’t thought of it before and forgotten, while subconsciously arranging the story to still accommodate it. And then, completely unexpected to me, pieces of The Shadow Without started falling into place, pieces I had no idea were missing. It seems my blockage stemmed from events so far in the future, I hadn’t given them much thought (although clearly my brain was).

Now that they’re cleared up, however, the ideas are flowing fast and furious.

I love writing.

As always, thanks for reading!

S.L. Madden

PS. I sincerely apologize for writing a blog post about sitting on the toilet and using phrasing such as “blockage” and “flowing fast and furious”.

Interview With a Guardian

Seems like just yesterday Nick Traverson was little Nicholas Straviski, twelve years old and ready to take on the monsters in my mind. Now he’s all grown up (sixteen is the new twenty, right?) and has experienced a school play, love, and fighting off armies of monsters and the undead under his belt.

Before all of that however, he was just an average kid who had just moved to a very unusual town. An interview taken around that time was recently unearthed here. It’s an insightful snapshot of a kid whose life is on the verge of change, as told through a female centaur.

Yep.

Thanks for reading! (and special thanks to Jena Baxter for the interview. Check out her site and give her some love, people!)

S.L. Madden

Choose Your Own Adventure

As of yesterday, I have crossed the 30K word threshold on AfterLife. I realize that is still well shy of the 50K goal I was shooting for in November for NaNo, but it’s still nice to see some forward momentum on the series. Fortunately, the pieces have been falling into place rather well, even as new parts of the puzzle present themselves. At this rate, I feel fairly comfortable saying I’ll be able to wrap up this book–and this series–exactly the way I intended.

But while progress is being made on AfterLife, the other iron I currently have in the fire has been largely ignored. When I published The Shadow Within back in August of 2013 (has it really been that long?) I promised the follow-up book would be coming soon. In fact, November of that year, I passed the NaNo finish line with that very book. And then…nothing.

I promise I haven’t forgotten about it. Technically I have a finished rough draft of about 70K words (average for that particular series). I started going back through it immediately after completing it and found a lot of changes to be made. For starters, the first handful of chapters were written in a third instead of first person (don’t ask what I was thinking of there). At some point, I realized the book was going to be split into two, so I had some difficulty setting that into motion. I also found some of the scenes needed to be fleshed out considerably, including developing some of the ancillary characters a bit more. All par for the course when working off a rough draft.

But then I started adding new scenes and tweaking old ones, and I never really did like the end I had written. Knowing the editing was going to take more time than I first expected, I turned my attention to finishing up and releasing Together Alone, which was published in December of 2013 (busy year for me, I guess).

I fully intended to devote all my energy into World of Shadows at that point. It became the book I brought to my critique group and progress on it was going well…until I hit another wall.

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Okay, I acknowledge it can exist, but there are far too many ideas, plots and characters bouncing around in this noggin to get stuck in any one place for too long. But when trying to insert a particular chapter, stuck is exactly where I found myself. I’m not sure if it’s because I’d allowed too much time to pass and was having difficulty realigning with the characters or if the knowledge I had to completely rewrite the next chapter, but I found myself unable to proceed.

Deciding I needed a little break, I started working on The Blood Contract, thinking I wouldn’t get very far with it before returning back to finish up World of Shadows, which I was now playing around with calling The Shadow Without. I found myself in a groove and The Blood Contract was released in November of 2014.

Of course, I told myself at the time I would get back to finishing up The Shadow Without.

So here I am, nearly four months later, and all of my attention has been focused on finishing up AfterLife. As I said earlier, work on it is coming along nicely, if not as quickly as I would like. But the fact The Shadow Without is still sitting there unfinished gnaws at me. I just have to finish that troublesome chapter, rewrite the next and rework the end. Shouldn’t take me too long. I have little doubt I’ll be able to get it out in 2015 if I give it all of my attention.

But work on AfterLife is flowing so well….

My point after all this meandering is I leave the decision to you, my loyal readers. Would you rather I work on AfterLife or The Shadow Without? Are you eager to reach the end of the Only Human on the Block series or are you reluctant to say goodbye to those characters (though it may not exactly be the end for every character….)? Or are you tired of waiting to see just wait the Uracai have in store for humankind?

Thanks for reading!

S.L. Madden

Failures And Silver Linings

How best to follow up a blog post boldly declaring I was going to hunker down and write, write, write this year, while maintaining better communication in the process? If you’re me, you wait several weeks to update your blog with an apology for having written very little!

I have a pocket full of excuses I can use to explain myself. My usual routine of writing on my lunch break has been disrupted because I’ve been covering somebody else’s shift. I haven’t been writing at home because my work space is a mess and needs to be organized. Even then, my cat loves it a little too much when I’m on my computer, and goes out of her way to make sure I accomplish as little as possible.

I’m sure I could generate a few more excuses, but that’s all they really are. Truth is, as much as I enjoy writing, sometimes I need a little break from it. Even that isn’t entirely true, as I’m technically always writing. My mind never stops working on the story, even when my fingers are on hiatus. And to be honest, this break has helped me fill in some of the gaps of the story, the how’s and why’s that take me from Point A to Point Z.

When I first started writing, I used to make plot outlines detailing each chapter. Despite that, I found the characters had a way of deviating from my plans and taking off on their own. This was problematic when I had the story so structured I hadn’t allowed for much wiggle room.

These days, I come up with the overall plot and characters then give myself certain waypoints in the storyline. For instance, I could have written the end of the Only Human on the Block series nine years ago when I first started coming up with the plot. I’d even be willing to say it’ll likely be word for word with my original imagining. But a lot of the events and characters leading up to all of this have shifted and changed over the years. Even now, so close to the end, I find the characters and world drawing me in directions I didn’t anticipate. Just in the past week, pieces of the puzzle mentally popped into place for me, bringing new insight as to just why some of the characters are going to do what I know needs to be done.

I prefer this method of writing over the more rigid style I tried earlier in my career, but it does have its drawbacks. I had a decent idea of what I wanted to do with The Shadow Walker (although I admit parts of that book took me by surprise) when I started, but the sequel, The Shadow Within, was written in an almost NaNo like fashion. I had a few vague scenes in mind and I just went for it.

The same holds true for the third book (tentatively titled The Shadow Without) but it’s not working to my advantage. The main structure of the book has been completed for some time now but there are still some missing puzzle pieces I’m not completely sure how to handle. And that could be because I only have a rough idea of what the fourth and final book will be, with no clear end in mind. I like flying by the seat of my pants when I write, but I think I could use a tad more structure when working on that series. As a result, I’ve been putting off finishing it up, even though I am technically far closer to completely the third book than I am AfterLife.

So what’s the point of this post? One, I wanted to let you know I still live. Hopefully I’ve accomplished that and this doesn’t read like I’m one of the undead. Two, I wanted to publicly flog myself for failing to meet my 50K per week pledge, while also reassuring my loyal readers I haven’t forgotten you.

Thanks for reading!

S.L. Madden

2015 – My Resolve for Resolution

Typically I don’t do the whole New Year’s Resolution thing. Instead of using a fairly arbitrary date as a springboard for change, I try to keep myself in a rather liquid state. If I notice I’m developing/resorting back to bad habits, I try to conquer them there and then. Life is too short, after all, to put off til next year that which I can change right now.

Only, I haven’t exactly been doing a bang-up job of changing. I haven’t even been adapting well to the changes going on around me. Perhaps I’m at an age where my stick is firmly rooted in the mud. Maybe I’ve settled into a sense of what is right and wrong, and can no longer see/think past my narrow viewpoint. Maybe those damn kids need to cut their hair and stay off my lawn!

I thought it would be good this year to use the New Year as an opportunity to realign my thinking and set myself back on my intended path.

Resolution #1: No Time Like The Present

Procrastination has long been a friend of mine. It was there for me during school for every pre-final cram session. It rears its head still every time my car is due for an oil change. And of course, it inspires me to write about my resolutions three days into the new year.

No more.

Yes, I have a chaotic (some might say artistic…my regards to those fine folks) mind, but technology is such we can temper those urgings. If I have to set a reminder on my phone for events throughout the entire year, so be it.

I just need to get around to setting them up.

Resolution #2: Be A Writer!

I started self-publishing in June of 2011. In the 3.5 years since then, I’ve put out seven books spanning two series and a stand-alone (at least until I get around to writing those sequels).

Not to shabby for a guy who works 40+ hours per week. But it could be so much more.

During this last NaNoWriMo, I wrote 25K words of my new novel, AfterLife. Well short of my 50K goal, but it was a tremendous start. And I truly only focused on it for a short period of time. Most of my writing energy went into publishing The Blood Contract.

I’m setting myself a goal of 5,000 words per week for this entire year. Again, it’s not nearly as lofty as NaNo calls for, but I believe it’s 100% doable (after all, the secret to successful goals is to make them realistic). This should allow me to produce a rough draft every six months or better. Then, while working on editing, I’ll continue with my 5,000 word goal on my next project.

I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve but I have so many other stories waiting to be told. I’m at a point where if I retired from my day job to focus solely on writing, I wouldn’t be scrambling for a new story idea for years to come.

Resolution #3: Communication

Whether it’s updating all of you through this blog or finding the perfect words to articulate to my wife how I’m feeling, I’ve come to realize communication isn’t my strong point. It’s not that I don’t want it to be. I’m a strange mix of an introverted-extrovert, someone you could work with for years and barely get to know, yet when I open up, I do so fully. I tend to eschew societal lines in a willingness to talk about most anything and everything. Especially if I think it’s funny.

I find most everything funny.

I can’t promise to change the core of who I am and suddenly be everyone’s friend, but I’m resolving to open myself up to the world a bit. To not be so afraid to make a comment in mixed company or to joke when there’s more people in the room than is my official level of comfort (seems to be three at this point in my life).

I also resolve to write in this blog more often. Not every day, but no more lapses of a month or more. This thing is supposed to be my microphone, my way of broadcasting without the fear of my social anxiety robbing me of all coherent thought. It’s the written word–my comfort zone–and I need to embrace it more often.

Which somewhat leads into…

Resolution #4: I Won’t Be Afraid of Success

Seems a silly resolution, doesn’t it? What’s the point of doing something if you don’t want to succeed at it? Yet, I constantly find with writing, I’ve given myself a way out.

“All I ever wanted was to get my books out to people.”

That’s been my mantra the past few years, and while it’s true, it’s not enough. Early on when publishing, I kept up on current trends, applied strategies on how to be successful at this whole writing thing.

Then I stopped.

I don’t exactly recall when it happened, but I started focusing solely on putting the books out. No marketing strategy. No author interviews. No giveaways. I just blog about my progress every now and then, perhaps a tweet or two and, oh, did you happen to notice I out out a book last week? Well, I’m off to the next one.

It’s no wonder my first few books were the only ones to really receive any reviews.

Even recently, I was part of an amazing sale put together by a great writer. What did I do to promote it? A single blog post. That’s it. Not only did I fail myself, I failed the other writers who were participating.

No more.

I suppose this harkens back to Resolution #1 in a way, but it’s more than procrastination. I feel a tangible sense of dread whenever it comes to promoting myself, like there’s a part of me who just doesn’t think I deserve to be successful.

I’m ignoring that part of me from now on.

If you made it this far, thanks for indulging me. If not, well you’re not reading this but anyway but I’m sure you have it your best.

As a little post-Resolution list Resolution, I resolve to never wrote a post this long on my phone ever again, starting to get the crab hand.

Thanks for reading and have a great 2015!

S.L. Madden

Stocking Your E-Reader Sale

Get a shiny new Kindle for Christmas? Have winter break off and wondering what to do? Or perhaps you’re addicted to the printed word and just can’t get enough?

Behold, the second annual Stocking Your E-Reader Sale!

Courtesy of author Angela Kulig, you can find plenty of great reads here. Books range from free to $.99 and will be available from December 29th (today!) through January 2nd.

Just in time to stock up before returning to the grind.

And while you’re at it, sign up to receive some pretty nifty prizes, including an Amazon gift card and a Kindle Fire color, just waiting to be filled with some amazing books by some pretty amazing authors.

For my part, you can find all of the books for my two series on sale. That means The Shadow Walker, The Shadow Within, The Four-Year-Old Guardian, Bravado/Dramatique, Together Alone and the recently released The Blood Contract are all $.99 for the duration of the sale.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

S.L. Madden

To My Friends and Family (And Fans)

Somehow along the way I’ve become that guy who says he’ll call, yet you don’t hear from him for weeks. Or the friend who offers to get together then never shows up.

Only in this case, I say I’ll post more often before I fade away from existence.

I’m not exactly sure why I do this. True, last month was a bit of a cluster as I juggled NaNoWriMo (bombed it), NaBloPoMo (not even close) and releasing The Blood Contract (hey, I did something right!) but that doesn’t give me an excuse for dropping the ball.

For instance, did you know I ran a $.99 sale on Ascension a few weeks back? You might if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, but why didn’t I make it known here? I honestly have no idea.

The best I can tell, I’ve been in a bit of a rut. Down. Troubled. I hesitate to use the word depressed because I know people who suffer from depression and I don’t want to make light of what they go through by equating my feelings with theirs. But when I read up on what depression is, I have to say, it sounds pretty similar.

At odd random moments, my mind will wander and not come back for a time. Someone will say something perfectly innocent and it’ll completely crush me and I find myself trapped under that weight for the remainder of the day. At times I feel a pressure building in my chest, like a lead weight that makes it impossible for me to function. Worst, in my opinion, is a dulling of my senses. The humor I typically find in pretty much everything is conspicuously absent, and both music and writing have felt like a chore.

Now having said that, I should point out, I’m not like this at all times. In fact, I’ve been feeling especially good these past few days, a sort of appreciation for all the calm after the storm. But I have no reassurances the darker days won’t come back.

I’ve tried thinking my way through them, approaching the issues logically. I was determined that if I could only puzzle out this discordance, I could somehow fix it. As my therapist pointed out (yes, I opted for a second opinion) this need to solve the issue is a big part of my problem. I tend to fixate on an issue until I can solve it. And this particular problem has no easy solution. No logical outcome.

Without going into great and boring detail, I miss my daughter. It’s been over a year since she moved away, yet she remains in my heart and on my mind at all times. And there is no easy way for me to see her. I need to accept I’ll play a greatly reduced role in her life from now on but I’ve been unable to get myself to that point.

Still, knowing the solution isn’t something I can come up with on my own has somehow helped. As I said, I’ve actually been in better spirits these past few days. I’ve been told I’m more like myself. I started working on a new song (that wasn’t completely depressing) and I’m feeling pretty good.

So for those of you who know me in person, I apologize in advance if I seem distant or withdrawn. If I’m there yet not present or seem on the verge of tears, I assure you, it’s not something I can help. Though it is something I’m working on.

It has nothing to do with you, or really anyone. We all have our issues we’re contending with. I’m just letting mine get the better of me lately.

Thank you for your understanding.

S.L. Madden

The Aquarium and The Pool

I’ve been working on some songs with my friend David Landon under the band name Mad Lands. We’re both amateur musicians who have been dabbling with writing music since high school. We don’t really have anything recorded fit for public consumption but that doesn’t prevent me from listening to our tunes all the time.

In lieu of boring you with yet another “The Blood Contract is now available in print on Amazon (it totally is, by the way)” type post, I thought instead I’d share the lyrics of a song I’m working on.

I started writing it after visiting my daughter in September. I was able to see her for a few hours yesterday, so I thought this might be appropriate:

The Aquarium and the Pool

Yesterday I was on my way to see you
Today I’m headed back home
And when our paths will cross again
Sadly I cannot say for sure

I had to turn my head and drive away
So you wouldn’t see me cry like a fool
Now all I have are some photographs and memories
Of the aquarium and the pool

I know you love me
I can see it on your face
I can’t help but wonder
If you think you’ve been replaced
Do you understand
Why I can’t be there?
Because try as I might
I can’t make sense of it myself

Even though you’re just across the state
It sometimes feels you’re a whole world away
When I’m there I never wanna leave you again
But I know I just cannot stay

I know you love me
Even if you can’t say the words
I can’t help but wonder
If this all causes you to hurt
Do you understand
My role in your life
With each passing day
I feel it slipping away

I’ve gotta hold on to those moments
When I get to hold on to you
I can see you’ve got a good life now
Even if I’ve got an outside point of view
Even if I’ve got an outside point of view
Even if I’m outside looking in at you

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

Back On Track

First and foremost, The Blood Contract is finally out. It can be found on Kindle here (okay, I’m typing this on my phone and can’t figure out how to link to the product. I’ll update it later when I’m in my computer) and should be available in print any day now.

Whew!

I’d like to thank everyone for their support and patience. I know I originally said it would be out five months ago. Hopefully the book proves worthy of the wait.

With that small accomplishment under my belt, I can finally refocus my energies back into what I was working on before. Namely NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo.

I know I’ve already lost NaBloPoMo. We’re at the halfway point of the month and I couldn’t have written more than a few posts in that time. Still, I’d like to rededicate myself toward that goal in the remaining days. Between writing, my diet, my daughter, music and gaming, I should have more than enough to write about.

I managed to squeeze out around 3,000 words for NaNo today, bringing me just past 10,000. It was a decent run, but I’m still far behind where I should be. In fact, for me to finish the 50K words, each day from here on out will have to be pretty much as good as today. Since I don’t foresee that happening, I realize I’ll have to temper that with days even better than today.

It’ll be tough but it’s still quite doable. The important thing is, I’m four chapters in on a book I highly doubt I would’ve started otherwise, and the writing is (in my humble opinion) going quite smoothly.

Hopefully the wait for book five won’t be quite so long after all.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden