The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

Still eking my way forward on Float, although I’m keeping my goals small courtesy of antidepressant weirdness. As long as the document gets opened and there is some forward momentum, I’m calling it a win.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I went and saw Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople with no real preconceptions about what the film was going to be like, and it was goddamn glorious. Heartfelt, beautifully shot, and utterly willing to engage in the little bits of meta-text that acknowledged its sources. Go see it, if you get the chance.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

Mostly, some stuff I need to catch up on for work.

Talking Writing and the Alex Caine series with Alan Baxter

There is a short-list of people with whom I will always take the opportunity to sit down and shoot the breeze about writing. Alan Baxter is pretty damn high on that list, despite the fact that we very rarely agree and this occasionally results in me taking on crazy-ass projects to prove a point. He’s also the first guy I turn to when I need someone to talk to new writers about putting together action scenes, and his Write the Fight Write workshop at last year’s GenreCon was basically packed to the rafters, and the wait-list of people wanting to get a spot was basically long enough that we could have run another packed workshop without breaking a sweat.

You can find out more about Alan at his AlanBaxterOnline.com, and he’s frequently on the twitters @AlanBaxter, but for now I’ve grabbed the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the writing, the zombie apocalypse, and the Alex Caine trilogy which will hit stores in paperback for the first first time this week.

Alan-by-Nicole-BW-crop-website

SO, THIS WRITING GIG: WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED YOU TO SCRIBBLING STORIES AS A CAREER?

An inability to successfully work for anyone else is a large part of it. Plus that strange ego-driven need to have people read the stories I have inside me while simultaneously stressing that I’m a complete imposter and why would people want to read anything I wrote anyway? It’s a strange compulsion, but I’m utterly incapable of ignoring it. So I don’t.

Caine-Bound-book-pageTELL US SOMETHING NO-ONE ELSE KNOWS ABOUT THE ALEX CAINE BOOKS

In the first draft, Alex Caine was called Adam Crane, but then I decided that was a bit 1950s pulp fiction or something, so I changed it.

WHAT MADE YOU START WRITING THIS SERIES? WHAT KEPT YOU GOING UNTIL YOU FINALLY TYPED THE END?

I decided it was time to write a story where the protagonist was a career martial artist, rather than just someone who also knew how to fight. I also had this plot tumbling around my brainmeats where I wanted to play with the epic fantasy quest trope in a modern urban fantasy/horror setting. The two things came together and I couldn’t stop.

WHAT IS THE WORST BUSINESS ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN AS A WRITER?

“Write every day.” I fucking hate that bullshit advice. I dislike most “rules” of writing, they’re potential advice at best. The only rule is that you write – when, where, how often, etc. is all negotiable. But I think the “rule” that writers have to write every day is possibly the most destructive piece of advice out there, particularly for new writers.

I’m not sure that qualifies as business advice necessarily, but it’s a big bugbear for me. I was also once advised to make sure whatever I wrote included a vampire love story, because “apparently people love that shit”. That person is not someone with whom I associate any longer, your honour.

Caine-Obsidian-book-pageWHAT IS THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS AS A WRITER, THUS FAR?

Bloody-minded determination in the face of overwhelming odds and fucking hard work. There’s a certain level of natural talent among writers, but it’s a craft and artform that can be learned. So there are amazingly talented people who fade away and really ordinary writers who stick around. The only differing criteria between them is that the ones who see any kind of success are the ones who work their arses off and just never quit. It’s important to continually learn, constantly strive to improve, always be better than you were yesterday, and never, ever give up. Ever. And also, read a lot.

TELL US ABOUT THE THREE BOOKS YOU THINK EVERYONE WILL READ (WE WILL THROW THINGS AT YOU IF YOU SUGGEST YOUR OWN BOOKS).

Holy crap, that’s a hell of a question.

1. The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker. It’s my favourite book and an amazing example of dark fantasy, horror, epic quest, beautiful prose, compelling characters, and all that. It’s outstanding.

2. The Sandman Cycle of graphic novels by Neil Gaiman. An incredible study in the corruption of mythology and tropes to create epic, new storytelling. Despite everything else he’s done, I still think it’s his best work. (Sorry, Neil!)

3. Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin (the whole set of six books, really, but especially the first. Amazing storytelling, incredible writing, wonderful characters, all in something like 250 or 300 pages. I think it’s up there with any other “classic” of literature and will endure.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR ALAN BAXTER?

All kinds of stuff on the horizon. Most immediately is the release of the Alex Caine Trilogy with their awesome new covers, happening right now. I’ve also sold a monster thriller novel called Primordial, co-written with David Wood, to Cohesion Press. That’ll be published in early 2017, I think. I’ve got another standalone novel out on submission with my agent. I’ve just finished another standalone novel that will be going out to beta readers any day now. And I’ve got a novella and a handful of short stories all sold and awaiting publication over the next few months or a year or so. The Bibliography page on my website has a Forthcoming section where people can keep track of all that stuff. And I’m busily working on new stuff in the meantime, of course. Remember that thing about working your arse off? Oh, and I’m Guest of Honour at Conflux in Canberra in October, so come and see me there!

Caine-Abduction-book-pageFINALLY, FINISH THIS SENTENCE: WHEN THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE COMES, I WILL…

…hide in a cellar with loads of canned food and booze and books and videogames (and a generator, I guess) and wait for the zombies to eat all the available brains, and then slowly rot away to bones. I mean honestly, has no-one ever considered this as a zombie scenario possibility? They’re walking dead, right? Once they run out of people to eat, they’ll just wander aimlessly around and slowly rot down to nothing but piles of harmless bones and that’ll be the end of it. If we hide out for long enough with enough stuff in storage, it’s simply a waiting game. That’s fighting smart, not hard. (And imagine all the reading and writing we could do while we waited.)

Eleven Days

Eleven days ago, when first I posted about being sad, my parents called and asked whether I needed to see a doctor. No, I said. I’m fine. I’m just sad. My mum pointed out that she’d feel a whole lot better if I went to a doctor. No, I’m really fine. It will pass, and I will cope, I said.

Then I removed my parents from the Facebook list I used to talk about stuff I’d only mention around close friends, so they wouldn’t worry when I posted there about the occasional crying jag or frustration with the world. I figured that was easier.

Things did not pass. I did not start coping better.

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Yesterday, I burst into tears at work when our office manager tried to have a conversation about taking leave and managing my stress levels. I’d been trying to point out that work was just one of many things stressing me out, and I just…couldn’t. By nine-thirty in the morning, I was hiding out in the toilets, in tears.

By eleven, I was heading home, except I knew home was a bad idea. Home meant sitting alone on my couch, brooding and crying more. So I went to spend some time with my parents, who figured shit was up ’cause I was meant to be at work, and after about two hours of discussing it I agreed to go see their GP.

First, because it would make my mum feel better, not because I expected it to have any real impact. Second, ’cause the number of folks getting in touch to ask if I was okay was starting to worry me. And third, ’cause there are certain friends I listen to when they suggest things, and one of them had just suggested getting shit checked out.

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It felt absurd to sit in a doctor’s office because I felt sad. It felt even more absurd to talk about the reasons, particularly the thing that had tipped me over the edge. Then the questions started about when and how long and had I felt like this before. Specific questions about the stuff that was occupying my mind.

We did one of those tests about the last four weeks, where I thought I was giving nice moderate answers that would result in see, nothing really wrong,  and the results were more along the line of well, it’s probably good you are seeing a doctor right now. 

Then we talked through options, short term and long term. And the pros and cons of each, based on whether what was going on proved to be situational or long-term. It was weird. I am not used to doctors taking that long with an issue, particularly one that I thought was pretty minor.

I walked out with the beginnings of a treatment plan while we figure out what’s going on, orders to stay away from work at the end of the week, and a month’s worth of antidepressants.

I am still vaguely pissed that my mum was right. And I am still vaguely pissed that it took me eleven days to acknowledge it.

Broken

Awake at 6 AM, sitting at the computer. Getting ready to write something, to put new content on the blog. One of those routines in my life that I’ve been ignoring for weeks now, but it’s time to get back to it. My body seems to have decided that 4 AM is the optimal time to wake up, so I may as well embrace that and use it to my advantage.

The last six weeks broke me, but that happens. I am breakable. Everyone is breakable, when life finds the right cracks and works upon them, and I have plenty of cracks that I’ve been ignoring for years.

And so this week is all about the small victories. Did I write a blog post today? Did I open the document for my work in progress? Have I eaten real food, instead of microwaving something and calling it done? Incremental improvement, rather than running at top speed.

 

Picking up the pieces of who I am and pasting them together again, until I start to resemble a real goddamn human being again.

Pixels

I attempted to watch Pixels last night. I was having a low day, in terms of emotional and mental capacity, and I basically turned to the nearest streaming service and said, give me the dumbest thing you’ve got, it’s all I can handle. And lo, Adam Sandler’s computer game movie appeared, and I figured, well, there is zero thought required for this one, yeah?

Never underestimate the amount of thought that will go into films that make you this angry.

It’s not that this film is bad, it’s that it’s bad and it wastes every opportunity it has and it thoroughly reprehensible in its portrayal of…well, just about everyone. It’s all lazy stereotypes and bad dialogue and casting Sean Bean as a British soldier during an alien invasion and not bothering to kill him off.

Then there is the relentless misogyny, which gets turned all the way up to eleven by the end of the movie. Fuck that. Fuck it right to hell.

Pixels: officially a movie that I will never be low enough to enjoy.

The Sunday Circle: What Are You Working On This Week?

Sunday Circle Banner

The Sunday Circle is the weekly check-in where I ask the creative-types who follow this blog to weigh in about their goals, inspirations, and challenges for the coming week. The logic behind it can be found here. Want to be involved? It’s easy – just answer three questions in the comments or on your own blog (with a link in the comments here, so that everyone can find them).

After that, throw some thoughts around about other people’s projects, ask questions if you’re so inclined. Be supportive above all.

Then show up again next Sunday when the circle updates next, letting us know how you did on your weekly project and what you’ve got coming down the pipe in the coming week (if you’d like to part of the circle, without subscribing to the rest of the blog, you can sign-up for reminders via email here).

MY CHECK-IN

What am I working on this week?

I am, slowly, starting to inch my way back into a regular routine again after the weirdness of the last few weeks. Unfortunately, this hasn’t come with anything beginning to approach the level of focus I’m used to, so my attention is now split between Float and a half-dozen short-story projects on any given day.

And so, part of my job for the coming week is to sit down and figure out why I’m reluctant to move forward on the novella and punch into the second act.

What’s inspiring me this week?

I’ve been making a concerted effort to put less film and TV in this section, but despite reading five or six books this week, the most inspiring thing I’ve seen has been the first seasons of the Mr Robot TV series. It’s a show that wears its influences a little too heavily – though it goes out of its way to acknowledge them – but the acting is top-notch and its one of the few shows that seems to be figuring out how to represent hacking on screen without devolving into metaphor.

What part of my project an I avoiding?

My biggest flaw for the last week has been actually sitting down and opening the file for Float. My suspicion, having just done so, is that I am stuck on the two scenes that end the first act, since they’re both stock hardboiled/noir scenes that haven’t yet evolved into something interesting and I haven’t had the capacity to figure out what needs to be done.