An Auspicious Start: NaNo 2016

I approach every NaNo season with a mix of excitement and apprehension. This year, those feelings are even more so. My last book, The Blood Contract, was released November of 2014. In the two years since, I’ve written a total of three chapters, if that. I have no great excuse for my absence from writing. I believe in part I’ve been in a quasi state of mourning, lamenting the loss of my daughter who was moved across the state after my divorce 3 years ago. I dealt with the situation the best I could on my own and, failing that, I turned to drugs. No, not the good kind that may have actually helped, but rather the prescription sort my counselor and I thought might get me through. Whatever good they did me, they also served to wholly seal off my creative thoughts. I spent many months unable to write a paragraph or a verse. Not to make it sound overly melodramatic, but losing my creative mind felt like losing a good portion of myself. I decided I would rather deal with the panic attacks and mental fatigue than lose myself again.

It took months and no small amount of effort but I managed to regain who I was. It came about first in songs, as a lyric would pop into my head, accompanied by a melody. Before long, I had recorded my first song in months and had many more verses and tunes at the ready. Working on my books took a little longer. A song is nice because on a good night, I can spend a few hours and have something tangible I can listen to. It may simply be a draft, but it’s something I can enjoy. Books are longer, more time-consuming and in some ways, have less of a reward. I reread my stories because I’m editing or rewriting them. Not, generally, because I intend to enjoy them over and over, unlike my songs.

But the music served as inspired lubrication for my mind and soon, I found myself mentally prepared to write. Any quiet moment (and some not so quiet), plots and characters and dialogue and scenes churned away in the back of my mind, puzzling out dilemmas, interacting in ways I hadn’t before considered. It was the way my brain typically worked, the way it had always functioned for as long as I can remember. It felt like home again.

Though my mind was willing, time was not so giving. During the sabbatical I had taken for my mental well-being, I had shifted jobs. Though this came with some advantages and seemed to me to be the next logical step forward, it was also burdened with one huge caveat: no more lunch time. Ergo, no more time to write at work.

I tried to write at home but found myself too easily distracted. It’s hard to focus on plots when a cat is crawling all over me and when my guitar is sitting there, just begging to be played. I considered writing at work after I was done for the night, but often my days were 10-12 hours long, and I found I just didn’t have the desire after staring at a computer screen all day.

I say all this because it is the past. I am determined now to get my life back in hand. There are so many ways I’ve let it slip away from me, but writing is something I can not and will not sacrifice. I wrote long before I ever decided to publish, and if I was forbidden from publishing ever again, I would continue to write. It is the steam I vent to keep the pressure within me from building, the spark of sanity that sends the dark creatures within me scurrying.

With that in mind, I decided NaNo 2016 would serve as my rebirth.

For those of you not familiar with the idea, NaNoWriMo is a sort of self-imposed contest writers take in an attempt to finish 50,000 words during the month of November. It has to be a new book, one that hasn’t been worked on previously, though the author is allowed to sketch out plotlines and characters ahead of time. I’ve participated since 2010 and have only passed it once. In 2012, with World of Shadows, the third book in the Unseen Things series. Then, it was known as a trilogy and when I published the second book, The Shadow Within, I was sure the third was soon to follow. In the four years since, I have rewritten several chapters of the book and split it into two.

For the past two years, I’ve had all but the last few chapters written in World of Shadows. I apologize to those who have been waiting for it. I decided to focus on AfterLife, the fifth Only Human on the Block book after the release of The Blood Contract, because I was on a roll and the ideas were coming hot and heavy. But then the mental funk hit and… well, I’ve already explained that in detail. Suffice it to say, the last two years have not been among my best.

I wrestled with the thought of which book to work on for NaNo this year. I even made a list of potential titles, listing the pros and cons of each. In the end, the answer seemed obvious. The book to bring me back into writing, back to NaNo, should be the follow-up to the one I went out on. Even though I haven’t yet finished the last few chapters of World of Shadows, I know and have known exactly how it will end. And the fourth book comes with a substantial time jump and a POV shift (each of the books in the series have been from a different POV), which was the reason I wanted to split the third book into two in the first place. So I came to find myself typing the words TWIN SHADOWS BY S.L. MADDEN to begin my foray into NaNodom.

Or rather, I would have, except my computer booted up with a blue screen of death. I fired up the laptop while I ran a restore on my desktop. Ultimately, it worked and my PC was usable (meanwhile, the laptop was still loading Windows…sigh), but by then, I was out of time and had to get ready for work. Not the best first day of NaNo.

Between home and work, however, I came to a decision I had been mulling over for awhile. I decided to take a lunch break.

I’d considered it before but told myself I’m already working long enough hours. Why prolong them? Yet giving myself an hour to write not only helped me accomplish my daily word count (well, close enough), it helped give my brain a little breather. It’s too early to tell if it’ll help long-term, but short-term, I’m willing to give it a try. As a result, I have 1482 words written. And I feel great.

I’m going to finish NaNo this year. I’m going to finish World of Shadows and finally publish it alongside Twin Shadows. And I’m going to complete AfterLife (I haven’t forgotten that book, I promise!). I suppose it could be argued the 1200 or so words I typed here would have been better spent working on the book, but I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to blog. I’ve been out of touch in more ways than one, so I wanted to reach out once more before I immerse myself back into writing.

As always, thanks for reading (and for your patience),

 

S.L. Madden

Give It Away Now

It’s my birthday tomorrow (the 20th) and I’ve decided to celebrate by getting my Oprah. In other words, you get a book! You get a book! You get a book!

What kind of madness is this, do you ask? Could it be a sign I’m losing my mind? Possibly. Whatever the cause, The Four-Year-Old Guardian, Bravado/Dramatique, Together Alone, The Shadow Walker, The Shadow Within, and Ascension will all be free this weekend only, 8/20-8/21. Sadly, The Blood Contract won’t be part of this giveaway (but I have it on good authority it’s well worth the asking price of $2.99).

But Steve, you might be saying, you’ve put years and countless hours into these books. Do you really want to just give them all away for nothing? To which I say…well, when you put it like that….

In all honestly, when I started publishing, I never saw this as a get rich quick scheme. More like a means to support my affection for gas station burritos. I’m just honored to be able to share my books with the world. And if you insist on paying for the book with a  review (favorable or otherwise), it certainly won’t break my heart.

This also marks the end of me using Amazon exclusively for my books, so this will be the last time I’m able to do a giveaway such as this (and the reason why The Blood Contract is excluded. I didn’t realize I’d never enrolled it in Select). In the next few weeks, my books should be rolling out to other markets. So get ’em while they’re hot (and free)!

As always, thanks for reading!

S.L. Madden

 

 

Five Years Ago

My Facebook memories page reminded me that five years ago today, I published The Four-Year-Old Guardian. It, along with Ascension, marked my foray into the world of self-publishing. It was a huge step forward for me, what I felt was the next logical step after being in writing groups since high school and putting my works out there on sites such as Authonomy.

For those of you who follow this blog, it’s no secret I haven’t been quite as prolific of late. My last book, The Blood Contract, came out at the end of 2014. I wrote a little last year but it was nowhere near my usual output. This was due to a combination of personal issues, misguided attempts to medicate and a shift in my schedule. I spent last year losing myself as a writer and I’ve spent 2016 so far trying to rediscover myself.

I can’t say I’ve been resoundingly successful but I do feel like I’ve rekindled (no pun intended) the writer’s spark within me. Though I’m far from ready to release my next book, I have been making progress. By my estimates, I’m currently a third of the way through AfterLife, the fifth and final book in the Only Human on the Block series (though I should point out here it is also a gateway book to a connected trilogy. I mention it because when I brought that up to my mother the other day, she seemed surprised by that fact). I haven’t been writing as much as I had in the past, but when I do sit down and focus, I’m rather proud of what I’m producing.

On the other hand, I’m in limbo on The Shadow Without or World of Shadows or whatever I end up calling it. I’ve been a few chapters away from finishing the rough draft for… well, when I first wrote it, I was inspired by the Obama/Romney campaign. So closing on four years. Damn.

I must admit, it’s gone through a lot of tweaks in that time. I changed it from third-person originally to first (don’t ask what I was thinking initially). I also took what was going to be one big book and separated it into two smaller books. As a result, my original ending doesn’t quite work, fails to have the impact I want it to have. I’m not sure why I’ve been struggling so much to end that third book. I have a pretty firm idea of how I want it to end. I just… haven’t.

That’ll change this year though. I’m determined to release whatever this book will be called in 2016, and if not AfterLife, I’ll get a good chunk of it done for a 2017 release. I owe it to my fans and, frankly, to myself. Five years ago I took my first steps in this journey. I may have wandered off the path for awhile, but it’s time I get back to it.

Still, even despite my prolonged absence, I’ve managed in the space of five years to produce The Four-Year-Old Guardian, Bravaado/Dramatique, Together Alone, The Blood Contract, The Shadow Walker, The Shadow Within, and Ascension. Seven books I’m rather proud of, in addition to a smattering of other stories I’ve started. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can put out in the next five years.

As always, thanks for reading (and for the support),

S.L. Madden

PS. In celebration of this five-year landmark, I’ll have the ebook of The Four-Year-Old Guardian available through Amazon for free starting tomorrow, 7/30 through Monday, 8/1.

 

 

 

 

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

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

A New Look

In all of my excitement over NaNo/finishing up The Blood Contract (with a steady dose of boo-hooing about my hip), I forgot to mention my blog has a new look. Though it’s not technically writery, I liked the clean lines and look of it. Let me know what you think. Did you like the old look better? Would you prefer something that looked more geared toward writing?

While I’m at it, I should add I’m at 3593 words so far. That’s an average of 598 words per day, vs the target of 1667.  Gulp! Still, it’s early enough, I remain confident I’ll be able to catch up. Besides, I’m almost done with the first chapter and that’s something I wouldn’t be able to claim a week ago.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

Stumble At The Starting Gate

I’m 2607 words into NaNo as I type this. That’s roughly 651 words per day, well shy of the 1667 required to break the 50,000 word mark. Of course, the month is still early and I have time to catch up.

I should be able to get some writing in tonight, but I plan to focus on trying to finish up The Blood Contract instead of adding more words to its sequel. I really should have had the book out well before NaNo, so it’s my own fault I’m running into this issue of having to choose between the two projects. I remain confident in my ability to catch up. I’ll only feel good about it once The Blood Contract has gone gold.

I’d also like to thank everyone who took advantage of the free giveaway for The Four-Year-Old Guardian last week. While I didn’t push out hundreds of copies like I wished, I was happy with the results. Hopefully you’re reading the book and not this blog post.

S.L. Madden

From The Beginning

The Blood Contract is nearly complete. I know I’ve been saying that for some time now but I promise it’s true. I’m on Chapter 16 of 37 of my final edits. It’s been a bit slower of a process than I anticipated, particularly because there were more edits than I thought necessary. Still, I’m glad I took the extra time, as I know it will result in a better end product.

While I can’t provide a fast and sure release date quite yet, I assure you all it will be within the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m putting the final touches on the cover, the background text and wrestling with finally perfecting the formatting (we meet again, my old nemesis).

While I’d much rather be offering up the new book (and hey, since I’m dreaming here, I’ll throw in the third Unseen Things book, The Shadow Without), I current have the first book of the series, The Four-Year-Old Guardian, available as a free download from Amazon for Kindle devices and Kindle apps. This deal started today and runs through Sunday, November 2nd.

If you haven’t had a chance to start the series yet, this is a perfect opportunity to see if it’s your thing. And if you’re a dedicated reader waiting patiently for the next book, I promise that patience shall soon be rewarded.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

The End Is In Sight

Finally, after months of apologies, tears, bleeding orifices, and excuses, the rough draft for The Blood Contract is finally done!

Finally!

I’ll wait for the applause to settle down.

Yesterday, in the wee hours of the morning, I managed to focus on the computer screen long enough to type the words The End.  I know I’m a few months late (I originally aimed for a June release), but in my defense, this is the biggest book in the Only Human on the Block series.  At nearly 125K words, it’s actually second only to Ascension in length.

Immediately after finishing the draft, I launched into working on my “rough edit,” which is essentially me making the changes proposed in group.  As of this writing, I’m 36% done with my rough edit.  When I finish (which I’m hoping will be this weekend), I plan to print it all out again and hand it over to my beta readers.  After that, I’ll take their suggestions into consideration, along with any other changes I want to make and… it’s release time!

I don’t have a date set in stone, but at this point, I’m aiming for the end of September.  That should give me enough time to accomplish a few things before NaNoWriMo hits in November.  First up, I plan to rerelease Bravado/Dramatique in both print and eBook.  When I released it back in 2012 (has it really been that long?), I was told there were a lot of editing errors.  Unfortunately, I can’t disagree with that.  So the new release is simply going to be a better edited version.  No new material will be added, as I feel it’s a tad unfair to go back and pad out my previous catalogue (unless I decide to do a “director’s cut” treatment down the road.  Hmm….).  To the best of my knowledge, anyone who has previously purchased or downloaded an eBook copy will be able to redownload the new version once I have it ready.

My second item of order is finishing The Shadow Without (formerly known as World of Shadows, and the third book in the Unseen Things series).  It was my NaNo book of 2012, and the rough draft has been languishing for the past several months.  Truth be told, aside from a few big chapters I need to add/modify, the bulk of the draft is done.  If I can’t get it out before November, I have little doubt I’ll be able to release it by the end of the year.

Thanks to all of you who have been waiting patiently (and even the impatient ones) for these books.  My life has been a series of ups and downs this past year, and I can’t say I’ve spent my time wisely, but I want to assure you, I’m back on track.  Once The Blood Contract and The Shadow Without are complete, each series has only one more book.  Then it’s onto new series and characters.

The end is in sight.  And it’s only the beginning.

Thanks for reading,

 

S.L. Madden

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