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


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.





Splitting The Shadow

For those of you who have been following this blog, you may have noticed I’ve been going back and forth a bit concerning the third book in my Unseen Things trilogy.  I wrote the first part of it in 2012 (really?  Sheesh….) for NaNoWriMo and since then… not a whole lot.

The issue I ran into at the time was the third book was shaping up to be quite a bit bigger than the first two.  And there was a definite change from part one to part two, to where it seemed it might be better served as two separate books.  So I split them up, calling them World of Shadows I: Proliferation and World of Shadows II: Invasion respectively.  That way each book could have its own release without me breaking my promise of a trilogy.

Well, what’s the point of promises if not to give us something to break?

I’ve been mulling it over, and I’ve come to the conclusion they truly are two separate books.  They’re no more connected than The Shadow Walker and The Shadow Within.  So I’ve decided to turn my trilogy into a quadrilogy.  My current plan is to refocus on finishing up the third book, now tentatively titled The Shadow Without, once I’ve completed The Blood Contract.  Hopefully this will be before NaNo hits again this year.  Then next year I’ll work on the final books for both series–Afterlife (Only Human on the Block V) and Twin Shadows (Unseen Things IV).  I’m still up in the air about the name changes (note: Twin Shadows was actually my original title for The Shadow Within), and as such, I’m open to suggestions.

Thank you everyone for your patience, and as always, thanks for reading,


S.L. Madden

Passed Releases

I know I originally posted my intentions to have the next book ready by this month.  While I’m definitely approaching the end of the first draft, it is sadly just that.  It’s still in dire need of an edit.  So while I’m changing my focus on finishing the first draft by the end of June, it’s pretty clear the book won’t be ready for release any time soon.  Instead of throwing out another date and explaining why I missed it, I’m instead going to say I’m shooting to have it out be the end of this year.  While that may seem like a long time off, the entire month of November will be occupied by NaNoWriMo (still trying to decide which project to work on for it), and I’ll be simultaneously writing World of Shadows Part I (you know, that book I wanted to have out shortly after releasing The Shadow Within).  The good news there is I’ve actually made some progress on it lately, and there’s only a handful of chapters left before the first draft is done.  So if all goes well, I could realistically have both books ready to go by the end of the year.  In that respect, I suppose it’d mirror 2012 release schedule.

Because I love making lists (and I was kicking myself over taking so long on this book), I looked up the original publication dates for my previous releases.  They are as follows:

Ascension 6/30/2011
The Four-Year-Old Guardian 7/29/2011
The Shadow Walker 10/28/2011
Bravado/Dramatique 6/28/2012
The Shadow Within 8/19/2013
Together Alone 12/18/2013

Put in that context, I suppose I’m not doing too poorly.  In 2 1/2 years, I released six books, spanning three different series (assuming I ever get around to turning Ascension into a trilogy).  2011 was my most productive year, but that was helped by the fact I had already finished Ascension and The Four-Year-Old Guardian and was shopping around for an agent when I decided I no longer wanted to play that game.

So while I’m lamenting the fact I still don’t have The Blood Contract ready to go, I must admit I’m rather proud of what I’ve accomplished.  Considering I have a full-time job, a family, and other time-consuming hobbies (I’m looking at you, PS3 and guitar), I’ll take my victories where I can.

Thanks for reading,


S.L. Madden

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Reasons And Excuses

Just giving my (what’s turning into a) monthly update on the progress of all things S.L. Madden.

First off, I offer my apologies to those of you awaiting the release of my next book.  I initially hoped to have it out in June to celebrate my third year anniversary publishing.  Sadly, here we are in the middle of May and I’m still in the middle of writing it.  Though the distance between where I’m at and typing the words THE END grows shorter on a (mostly) daily basis, I am now doubtful I’ll be able to finish the rough draft by next month.  And even if I do, that’s exactly what it’ll be: rough.  After that, I still have to edit, edit, and edit some more, which can be quite a lengthy process by itself.  And then it’ll be time to format

This is the biggest book in this series thus far (not sure how many words the final book is going to be), and it has a lot of moving parts compared to what came before it.  My fear when I stopped working on the story five years ago was it was starting to sag a bit under the weight of it all.  As I work on this rough draft, the same worry is creeping in.  It feels a bit like the wheels are spinning but it’s not going anywhere.  Perhaps it’s the structure of the story itself.  It’s split into two parts, each with a lull, a buildup, then a finale.  Coming off the events that occur at the end of part one, I fear part two reads a bit dry.

Another thing of note is I wrote what I have of The Blood Contract spread out over several months.  Unlike the other three books, the writing process was long and drawn-out, which I believe also contributed to the sense it lacked forward momentum.  Similarly, the critique group I attend, Crunchy Peaches, has been meeting sporadically, due to family emergencies, sickness, and the like.  While I know I should remain focused even in our off weeks, I’ve found myself distracted.  As many of you know, I went through a divorce last year that resulted in my daughter moving to the other side of the state.

I hate to use it as an excuse, but I’d be lying if I said the whole situation hasn’t affected my mental well-being.  There are times I sit down to write, and the words refuse to come.  And some days I know I should focus on trudging ahead, but I spend my free time researching my legal rights (or rather, fretting over the lack of them).

One positive result of all of this is I’ve been inspired to write music for the first time in ten+ years.  I’ve been corroborating with my old band mate, David Landon, together on some tunes, making use of technology that didn’t exist back when we first formed The Dialectics.  These days we’re calling ourselves Mad Lands, and we’ve been hard at work writing tunes.  It’s a good way to blow off some steam (and it’s all for fun), but I do find a lot of my creative juices are flowing in that direction at the moment.

What does all that mean?  Well, I’m going to finish this book as soon as I can.  I expect that will be some time in June, barring any unforeseen delays.  With any luck, I’ll be able to get the edit done and have it all ready to go by August.  Still, in an attempt to be realistic, at this point the best I can hope to promise is it will be out before the end of the year.  I still remain optimistic I can finish up World of Shadows Part I this year as well, but I’m going to focus on one story at a time.

Thanks for your patience and for reading,


S.L. Madden

Promises, Promises

Okay, I admit, I’ve done a horrible job updating this blog.  I don’t recall if I made any kind of promise to be better about it (it’s been too long and I’m too lazy to go back and read), but clearly I was lying.  I intend to write every week, but I suck.

Work on The Blood Contract is slowly creeping along.  At the beginning of the year, I gave myself until June to put it out.  That seemed like more than enough time, and it’s significant because it will also mark my three-year anniversary of publishing.  Now, June is starting to look a little optimistic.  It could still be done, but I’ve gotta get the lead out and get to typing.  As of today, I’m 62K words in, and a few pages away from the halfway mark (or at least when the book transitions to Part II).  That means I still have a lot more to write, and these chapters so far should have been the easy ones.  When I stopped working on this book almost six years ago, I never finished the final few chapters, which means I’ll have to write them from scratch when I get there.  I know exactly how it all ends, down to the wording I want to use, but getting it from my noggin to the page isn’t always as easy as all that.

So why have I been writing so slowly?  Well, I could spew forth a list of excuses.  My computer hasn’t always been available for me at lunch (we trained a new girl at work and she needed to be on my computer for a week, but I’m totally not complaining because she’s a great addition to the team (and may possibly be reading this)).  I took a week plus off work to watch my daughter while my ex-wife was traipsing about England.  And I’ve covered for other shifts which prohibited me from my typical writing routine.

But ultimately, I could have been writing more at home.  I think my attentions have been drifting elsewhere.  Lately, I’ve been getting back into playing and writing music.  I hadn’t written a song in probably twelve years, and in the past few months, I’ve come up with three new ones and a handful of ideas.  Not saying they’re any good, mind you, but it’s been fun to get back into it.  While I think (hope) I’m a better author than musician, it is nice to have the more immediate release of producing a song.  Writing has never been a quick process for me, even when I’m at my peak creatively.

Also, I must confess, I’ve been having more fun with my PS3 than usual.  For most of my life, playing games was a fairly isolated experience, with few exceptions.  But now that my friends have PS+ and a few choice multi-player games, it’s renewed my passion for playing.  I still enjoy a good single-player game, but there’s a strong allure for when we’re all on and available to play.

And then there’s the fact I’m getting married (tomorrow!).  No, I don’t consider it a reason I’ve been slacking off.  I just like to say it. :)~

Okay, so when I list it all out like that… I really do suck.  I have no good excuse for slacking as I have been.  I will get The Blood Contract out by June (of this year, mind you)!  I will get the third Unseen Things book out by the end of the year!  And I will record an EP of songs no one but myself and possibly my friend/band mate will want to listen to!

These things I promise!*

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden




*subject to my whims and discretion.



The Maddening 11/29/2013

~Barring any unforeseen delays (don’t you just love that small print jargon?), I plan to have Together Alone (the third book in the Only Human on the Block series) available in both print and electronic versions on December 20th (yes, of this year!).  This release date is tentative based on how many errors my editor finds with it, and whether or not any formatting issues crop up.  I believe I have them pretty much hammered out at this point, but if the other five books taught me anything, it’s that formatting can be a bear when it wants to be.  Every time I read an indie book and see the same formatting issues I’ve been battling against, my heart goes out to them.  Perhaps if I ever get this thing fully under control, I should offer them my assistance.

~I think after Together Alone is released, I might go back through my first four books and redo them (the printed versions, anyway).  I experimented with a different font size for The Shadow Within, and I was pleased with the results.  Once the changes are implemented, it should shorten the length, allowing me to cut the costs of producing the books, thereby making it possible to lower the prices as well.

~Moving into 2014, I have a good chunk of World of Shadows Part I (Unseen Things III) finished.  I’ve been spinning my wheels on a chapter I want to add, but haven’t quite found the right way to do it.  After I get over that hurdle, however, I think it’ll be pretty quick to put the whole thing together.  I feel bad, as I really wanted to get this book out close to the release of The Shadow Within, but alas, it was not to be.  I still hope to have the fourth and final book ready to go by the end of next year, but I’ll have to see if I run into any issues when writing it.

~I’m on chapter nine of The Blood Contract (Only Human on the Block IV).  I remember it being pretty rough when I initially wrote it years ago, but as I work on this initial draft, I’ve been finding it flowing smoother than I thought.  Perhaps later chapters will need more work (and I never did quite get to the end), but I’m optimistic it’ll be ready to go next year.

~For the first time in over a decade, I’ve been working on writing some music.  It’s nothing spectacular.  To be honest, I was never all that gifted musically, but it’s a fun hobby.  I’d like to work up some songs to the point where I could eventually release a mini-album, but I’m sure that’s a ways off, if it ever sees the light of day.  But my friend David is very gifted at writing music, and I’m hoping he and I will be able to collaborate on some music and perhaps even graphics (he’s also an artist) for a future book trailer.

I think that’s it for now.  Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and a safe Black Friday.

S.L. Madden

The Maddening 11/16/2013

Just a quick update of what I currently have going on.  I like to make goals so I can later see how horribly off my guesses were.

~The rough draft for Together Alone (Only Human on the Block III) is done and ready to go to my editor.  Current plans are for her to get it mid-December, with the hopes I’ll have it published by the end of the month (assuming it’s not too terribly butchered).

~I’m currently 7 chapters into writing the rough draft for the follow-up, The Blood Contract.  So barring any unforeseen difficulties, that book should be making it to print next year.

~I’m probably five chapters away from finishing the rough rough draft of World of Shadows Part I, the sequel to The Shadow Within.  Once that’s completed, I know there are a few sections I need to work on.  Still, I don’t see any reason why it won’t be out in the earlier part of 2014.  After working on The Blood Contract, I plan to focus on World of Shadows Part II, bringing the Unseen Things series to a close.

~17,000 words in, and I’m still not convinced my Nano book, 7 Days (working title) would be of interest to anyone.  I suppose once I complete it, I’ll have a few people look it over and see if it’s fit for public consumption.  Even then, it seems likely it’s going to be a rather short book.  I’m already on day four of seven, after all.

~In addition to my own works, I’ve decided to partner up with my friend, Travis Eller, who has a series of erotica stories he’s interested in writing.  I told him I’d help out in whatever capacity he needed, so long as he produced them under my travellerzero Productions banner.  His writing is a bit different from mine, but we both share the same goal of wanting to entertain.  More info on this later.

That’s about it for now, at least in terms of what I deem is noteworthy.  I may be falling drastically behind on NaNo, but I still have a lot of other projects I’m interested in, even if this particular one doesn’t pan out.  My hope is to keep releasing one to two titles a year, or more if they’re shorter.  I know it will require some more concentrated effort on my part, but I know I’m good for it.

Thanks for reading,

S.L. Madden

Seven Days In, Some Regrets

I have my writers group tonight, to which I’ll be bringing chapters seven and eight of The Blood Contract (book four of the Only Human on the Block series, and the sequel to Together Alone).  Sadly, these will be the last few chapters I’m able to bring until next month, as all of my writing focus is on my NaNo novel (tentatively titled 7 Days).  As excited as I am to challenge myself to pass the finish line, I can’t deny it’s difficult to willingly lose momentum on this story.  I’ve been working on this series for over five years, and once I finish The Blood Contract, I can finally bring it to a close with the fifth book.  It’s a milestone I’m very much looking forward to, and I can’t help but feel perhaps I should have done it as my NaNo book this year (I know exactly how the fourth book ends and the fifth begins, even if I haven’t written them yet).

At the same time, I have Unseen Things, or more specifically, World of Shadows.  I wrote Part I: Proliferation last year for NaNo, and even though I’m still adding chapters and smoothing it out, I sort of wish I had focused on the fourth and final book this year, to bring the series to a close.  And that way, I’d be able to have the last two books released fairly close to one another.

But here I am, seven days in, and 7 Days was designated my go-to book.  The writing is actually going pretty smoothly, although it remains to be seen whether or not it’s all that interesting to anyone other than myself.  But then, I suppose that’s always the question I’m faced with whenever I write (including this blog).

Either way, I’m looking forward to being able to broaden past my current series, and show you some of the other worlds and characters I’ve had locked away in my wee addled brain.

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