Live Again

143 days.

According to my counter, that’s how long it’s been since my last blog post. When I said I was throwing in the white towel for NaNo, I never intended for it to mean I was quitting altogether. Unfortunately, over those 143 days, I’ve come close several times.

Due to circumstances I don’t want to get into (nor bore you with the details), I started taking Prozac last October. While I found it helped (somewhat) with my issues, it has the side effect of completely repressing my creativity. It wasn’t just that I didn’t feel inspired. My entire process for writing and creating music ground to a halt. Typically I have a story or song constantly in motion in the back of my mind, sorting out details, dialog, plots, etc. It makes it easy for me to write rather quickly because I’ve devoted a lot of time to writing it in my mind first.

When I threw in the towel, it was with the realization my creative juices we’re currently dried up. I hoped by alleviating the pressure of finishing NaNo, I would be able to get back into the swing of things. That never happened.

At the same time I started medicating, my shift at work changed. Previously, I used my lunch hour to write. It’s where the vast majority of my writing took place. My set up at home isn’t very conducive to writing. If any of you have a cat who likes to jump on you while you’re on the computer, I think you’ll understand. I have four cats (don’t judge me).

Between my brain no longer cooperating and losing my environment for writing, I found myself, for the first time in as long as I can remember, unable to output creatively. Even writing songs became a chore and nothing came out remotely like I wanted them. I started to question all the time and energy o had out into these endeavors and contemplated a life where I wasn’t a writer who liked to dabble on the guitar from time to time.

A few months ago, I decided to change the meds I was on. I contemplated getting off them entirely (in addition to the creativity issues, I also had some physical side effects I’d rather not get into here *ahem*), but ultimately decided I’d try something else. The new drug (jealous, Huey Lewis and/or The News?) worked wonders. Within a week or so, I’d written my first new song in months. And it didn’t totally suck!

On Leap Day, I worked on AfterLife (Only Human on the Block V) for the first time in months and months. It was Nick’s birthday, after all. The day after Leap Day, I realized the logical hole I’d written myself in and knew I had to redo that chapter. But the important thing is, my brain was back to figuring that stuff out!

I still haven’t worked out all the details on how I’m going to manage my writing time, but I’m optimistic I’ll figure it out soon. In the meantime, my brain has been working in full effect. I even figured out a death scene for a character I knew was going to die, but I hadn’t quite worked out how. In addition, I’ve been able to work on a few new songs and I’m determined to have a little album completed by August (just for me. Nowhere near being a professional musician).

For those of you who have been waiting for news, I appreciate your patience. 2015 was the first year since I started publishing that I failed to release a book. Now we’re four months into 2016 and I’m just starting to get my mojo back. Still, I’m confident I’ll have The Shadow Without (Unseen Things III) out this year. And if I don’t finish AfterLife, I should have it almost completed.

Hopefully in time to start and conquer NaNo in November.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

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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

Updates 10/12/2013

No need to send the authorities by my place to do a wellness check.  I’m alive and–thanks to the occasional muscle spasm in my legs–kicking.

Just so you don’t think I’ve been resting on my laurels all this time, I thought I’d give you an update on all things S.L. Madden.

I’m currently 69% done line-editing Together Alone (Only Human on the Block book III).  I know it’s been a slow process, but things have been a little hectic in my life lately.  There was the divorce, the subsequent separation, followed up by me recently moving my girlfriend into the house.  Not to mention my backlog of PS3 games, sweetly calling out to me.  “Daddy, come back to us.  We need you!  You need us!”  Yes I do, but you’re going to have to be a little patient.  Daddy has a book to finish editing.  With any luck (and really, just a little bit of self-control), I’ll get it finished this weekend.

Work has also been slowly progressing on World of Shadows: Proliferation (the first part of Unseen Things book III).  I hit a bit of a wall with it, as the direction I started heading in didn’t exactly match up with my output from NaNo last year.  As a result, I’ve been writing a lot of chapters from scratch and performing major overhauls on what I’d already written (it doesn’t help I changed it from third person to first).  As a result, I can’t really give out a percentage toward completion, but I can say it’s currently sitting at about 62,000 words, with more to come.

I hadn’t planned on starting on The Blood Contract, the sequel to the yet-to-be-released Together Alone, but I’ve currently typed up four chapters.  Clearly, this book isn’t coming out anytime soon, but I think it may be ready by this time next year.  Definitely after World of Shadows is released.

Speaking of updates, I just reworked parts of this blog.  I updated the author section to reflect my current… uh, life situation, and I redid the books section, hopefully making it a little easier to navigate.  If you have any comments, good or bad, drop me a line and I’ll take your suggestions under consideration.

As always, thanks for reading.

S.L. Madden