It All Started with a House…

Early in 2019, about five minutes after the Department of Defence sent my Air Force hubby and myself over to the other side of the country on a posting, they decided (in their wisdom) that the DH had reached his use-by date and he needed to be medically discharged after thirty years of service.

Now this wasn’t necessarily bad news – the Department of Defence look after their members and in the DH’s case, that meant he would be retiring… just a decade earlier than we had envisaged.

And in other great news, it meant we were moving back across the country to where seventy-five percent of the Gang of Four were still living. (And I had missed them, so very much while we were away!)

Moving back to Western Australia at the beginning of the COVID juggernaut meant we had to hang around for six months figuring out our next move. We had plans to move down south of Perth, to an area we had come to love during our visits with BIL and SIL in Nyamup. Along the way, we kept driving through a little town called Bridgetown, and the drive through the main street always had me thinking about moving there. With six months to fill in, we had plenty of time to consider our options and after mulling over things, we started to study properties.

It was round about then, that I saw this little place – built in 1904, it was quirky enough to amuse me and with half an acre of land and a jumble of sheds and gardens in need of work/restoration, not to mention an interior which was renovated in a half-hearted manner by its current owners – it meant there was plenty of little jobs to keep the DH gainfully employed for quite a while. (And if you knew my darling husband, you’d realize how important it is to have some jobs for him to do – despite his medical discharge, he’s not the kind of guy who sits around.)

What has followed has been nearly nine months of busy-ness – and is one of the reasons I haven’t been writing much. For starters, the vast majority of the interior was painted in colors I hated (particularly the sky-blue which was everywhere). Secondly, there wasn’t a single matching door knob in the house – not good for an obsessive compulsive loon like me.

It’s also meant that while already struggling with writer’s block brought on by all the upheaval of the past couple of years, that block has been further compounded by the upheaval of moving in and commencing the restoration of our ‘grand old dame’.

Somehow though, despite the writer’s block I’m dealing with – the characters who roam around the superhighways in my mind haven’t got the message that we’re on a hiatus. So at any given minute of the day, I have characters popping up and giving me a heads up on their plans for their stories to be heard, and they keep on bombarding me with little ‘bites’ of information. Not enough to nudge the writer’s block out of the way, but enough that I’m considering it a positive start.

Now if I can just get rid of the sky blue paint around the place, I might be on the road to writing something useful…

Hallelujah! we’ve kissed goodbye to 2020.

Oh my goodness, I’m glad to see the back of 2020. This was a year that wasn’t particularly kind to any of us, although we here in Australia have gotten off lightly in regard to COVID-19 – certainly when compared to our fellow humans in the United States and many other countries around the world.

Sadly, at this early stage of the year, it seems as if 2021 is not going to be much better, and I’ve been keeping up with the news regarding the terrible situation currently playing itself out in Washington and finding in myself a sense of disbelief over what I’m seeing and hearing.

But I digress. I’m not a lover of resolutions – don’t get me wrong, over the years I’ve made dozens of them, and in some cases, I’ve actually managed keep them, at least until near the end of January.

In recent years though, I’ve started being a bit kinder to myself, and I no longer commit to ridiculous promises to myself to behave in a certain way, or suddenly turn over a new leaf in regards to things I will or won’t do in the upcoming year. In fact, this is my current pegboard, which went up a couple of days ago.

So in the spirit of ‘casual promises to myself that I’m under no obligation to fulfil’ – here’s this years non-resolutions.

  1. Be kind to myself. Don’t focus on the negatives. Look for positives that will lead me to liking myself, if only just a little bit more.
  2. Write – for myself. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or not, or whether anyone would be interested in reading it. Write the story, enjoy the process and to hell with whether it meets anyone’s expectations. The only expectations which matter are mine.
  3. Try new things. I realized late last year (in that hideous 365 days known as 2020) that I tend to avoid things edible and otherwise, because I’m under the assumption I won’t like them. This year I’m going to choose the item on the menu I haven’t tried before, taste the flavors I’ve only assumed I won’t like. I’m going to use the items I’ve been ‘saving’ and write in the notebooks I’ve been hoarding. I’m going to visit places I’ve been too anxiety-prone to go and I’m going to try and focus on the positive and push away the negatives.

And hopefully, there’s some room for improvement in the remainder of this new year…

Madness Descends…

MJl13570

In my fifty odd years of life, I’ve seen some stuff.  From the Global Financial Crisis, to recessions, to SARS, AIDS, 9/11 and numerous other crises, we have rolled with the punches and I thought I’d seen the scariest things, the worst of humanity.

I was wrong.  With the current COVID 19 pandemic, I’ve seen the worst of humanity come to the fore.  Stores are struggling to keep up with demand as our basic needs are swept up in a rush of panic buying and people physically fighting one another to buy a roll of toilet paper.  Selfishness has overtaken many – and I’ve seen an ugly side of humanity.  I suspect it will get worse before it gets better, but I’ve found a bright side I hadn’t expected.

Writing is giving me a respite from the craziness, the fearmongering, the anxiety I’m struggling to cope with.  My battle with Bipolar Disorder, severe anxiety, OCD and panic attacks is well known, and the situation in the world currently is setting off a whole lot of triggers, which are proving detrimental to my mental health.  My GP has already recommended I stop watching the news and I’ve taken her advice – although that doesn’t mean I’ve buried my head in the sand regarding COVID 19.  What it does mean is that I’m drip-feeding myself with news reports, as and when I can cope with them.  And in the meantime, as I’ve mentioned, I’m writing, editing, planning – and I think that is the thing that will get me through these trying times.

In fact, I suspect that in many ways, being a writer is heaven-sent because it gives me an outlet.  And that makes me a very lucky girl because I have somewhere to be, somewhere to hide out.  The worlds I create in my head are a balm to a scary bloody world that quite frankly, I don’t really like much right at the minute.

Stay safe out there, and remember – be kind to your fellow humans.

Thoughts from the dark side…

Boy. Every time I think I’ve delayed putting up a blog post by months, I manage to break my own record. (And no, that’s not something I’m particularly pleased about.)

I join you in something of a world gone mad – as Coronavirus spreads across the world, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve actually found myself stuck in some crazy movie. World War Z seems to have happened and I’m seeing people stockpiling toilet paper and stealing face masks and alcohol swabs from hospitals.

And I can’t get my head around it. The worldwide panic seems to be happening in a different world to the one I’m living in. I keep reading the reports, and while Disneyland is closing down and football games are being played without audiences, I’m reading that the death rate from the virus is less than 2%. It seems so strange, and I waver between panic and placidity over what’s to come.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complacent. I’ve washing my hands carefully and thoroughly to two renditions of ‘Happy Birthday to you’ and I’m naturally retiring so I’ve pretty much contained myself at home most of the time anyway, but it still bothers me that this is something out of my control. Out of everyone’s control. I’m less worried about myself than I am about the single most important people in my world – the Darling Husband and the Gang of Four. I think the thing that most freaks me out is that having traced the family history, I’m fully aware of the losses suffered during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 and I don’t want that to happen to my family, or anyone else’s family for that matter. I just hope this doesn’t reach those same levels of morbidity, because that would be a terrible thing.

So my advice (such as it is). Follow the advice you’re being given. Don’t be an asshole and buy up all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer – leave some for others. And stay safe.

Five Minute Fiction

(I’ve placed this under five minute fiction, but there’s a lot of truth which cuts close the bone in this short burst.)

“Are you okay?”

It was a question I’d been asked half a dozen times so far today, and each time I’d repeated the same simple response.  “I’m okay.”

Except I probably wasn’t.  My mother and I had a complicated relationship, fraught with emotion and difficult at the best of times.  Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t abusive, or based in hatred.  It was a relationship based on love – but too much love.  The fact of the matter was that she’d loved me too much, obsessively – and she had her own mental health problems. The diagnosis I’d come up with that she was most probably a narcissistic sociopath – but she didn’t believe there was anything wrong with her.  With my own diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, a severe depressive disorder and numerous anxiety issues, we were almost destined to clash.

And we did, regularly, with fireworks and anger, and on my behalf,  a healthy dose of hatred.  She came close to driving me out of my mind, even though she didn’t intend to.  She just couldn’t bear to let me go.

img20180101160410

The cost of that obsession was high – instead of living out her twilight years with a strong, loving relationship with her  daughter, we ended up in a tempestuous, argumentative battle, which ebbed and flowed, but never improved.

And I’ll admit, I often wished her dead.  It’s not something I’m proud of, but it was a reliable indicator of how distressed she made me, because that love came with arguments; battles in which I would always be painted as the one ‘in the wrong’, with her a masterful twister of words, working on my weaknesses to bolster her arguments.  No matter what happened, that was her main ammunition – preying on my weaknesses to further her own agenda.

So yes, my answer to the question of whether or not I’m okay is to say ‘I’m fine’.

But the answer is so much more complicated than that.

Yep, I’m still alive…

I hadn’t realized just how long it had been since I wrote a blog post, until I checked on this page today.  2019 is one of those years which has gotten totally out of control, not least because the DH (upon our arrival in Queensland in January for a new posting) had no sooner arrived at his new base before he was given the news that he was to be discharged on medical reasons.  Consequently, we’ve spent no time settling into our new home before we began prepping for the trip back across the country to our home state of Western Australia.

I have to say, I’m cheering over this change in our circumstances.  While we couldn’t have anticipated the need for a medical discharge, it means one important thing to me – the opportunity to go back to be reunited with seventy five percent of our family – our three boys, who remained in Perth when we travelled across here.  Not only has it been a wrench for us, but also for our daughter, who chose to come with us to Queensland.  We’re an extremely close family, and being apart from the boys has been extra especially tough – even more so because we went from living with the six of our together in one (boisterously loud) home, to just the DH and I for a couple of months, and now us and our daughter.  I can honestly say it’s been one of the toughest separations I’ve every dealt with, and there will be lots of catch-up hugs, and teasing, and laughter, when we get back home just a day or two before Christmas.

With everything going on, there hasn’t been much done in the way of writing, other than a number of small, practice pieces I’ve written to keep my hand in.  The cast of ‘Tokens’ are particularly vocal, and I suspect there will be one or two new novels coming from the setting of Garrison, Montana in the future.

Right now, I’m up to my armpits in prep work for the move home, but I thought I should pop my head in and say ‘Hi’.  For those who have come across my novels and in turn started following my adventures through ‘The Worlds of D.S. Williams’ – Hello!  Welcome! – It’s great to meet you!

There has been some fun during our whirlwind, eleven month sojourn on the other side of the country, in particular we had a visit from BIL and SIL, during which we visited some of Queensland’s theme parks, one of my favourites being Dream World.  Tiger Island is always fun to visit, and with my brand-spanky-new 80X Optical Zoom camera, I was able to indulge my love of close up photography.  I also realized I apparently have a bit of a ‘thing’ for paws – they pop up regularly in my photo files!

DSCN0455

I promise I’ll try to do better with updates… just let me get back to my home state, where no doubt lots of new adventures will be had as the DH and I settle into his retirement.

A Change of Pace

I’ve been considering this situation for quite some time. Being bipolar means my ‘feels’ are sometimes exploded beyond what is rational, my decisions are spur of the moment, and taken without thought of the ramifications.

So it is with no small amount of consideration that I’ve come to this decision, a decision based on what I think is best for me.

As of this week, I am unlikely to update this page, or my blog page in regard to D.S. Williams and Leah Dempster’s writing work. Promoting myself is something I’m increasingly uncomfortable with, and in all honesty, the effort doesn’t seem to make any difference.

There are so many authors out there. So many. It makes my head spin when I see the amount of writers who are publishing, and trying to get their work noticed. And it suddenly occurred to me, a few weeks back, that what I’m doing isn’t fun. I’ve gotten myself caught in a Catch 22 – I’m publicising to get my books noticed, I worry because I don’t get sales, and in all honesty… it occurred to me that I don’t want to reach the next level. Or the one after that. I don’t want to publicise myself, or my books, or try and cajole people to read them. I don’t want to attend meet & greets, or conventions, or book signings. It isn’t my style, never has been, and never will be. I don’t want to be ‘famous’. I don’t want to be well-known. And in all likelihood, that would never happen anyway, so why flog myself to death trying to achieve something I don’t want?

The past six months, I think, for all writers have been tough. Tougher than I’ve experienced before now. Quarter 1 of this year netted me a grand total of $36… that’s for three MONTHS. I’ve just received advice regarding my Quarter 2 royalties and they amounted to just over $28.00 – again – this is my income from writing books for THREE MONTHS. Clearly, if I’m relying on this gig to get rich, it isn’t going to happen.

And I’ve found, more and more lately, that I don’t write much, and if I do, I write with one eye on what readers are going to like or not like. I’ve forgotten to write what I like and that’s a real shame, because I’m at my happiest when I’m writing from my heart, rather than my head.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write for me, write for the fun of it, write as though nobody is ever going to read it but me.

My books will remain available, although I suspect I’ll be following through with a decision to part ways with my publisher at the end of this upcoming quarter. The books will revert to being self-published, available for anyone who has a desire to read them. New books might end up available, if I decide they’re worthy of being shared. But the decision will be based on my heart and gut, rather than a need to please others and with one eye on the bottom line.

The next few months are going to be stressful as we move into a new chapter of our lives. We’re leaving our (adult) kids behind here in Western Australia while we move to Queensland for a few years. There will be lots of changes, lots of new things to get used to, and I hope, new writing adventures for myself without the pressure of being ‘a published author’. In the majority of instances, those pressures are ones I place on myself, but I think it’s time to step back, and take a good look at the direction I’m heading in.

It started with a snowball… in her gloved hand…

snowball

Pheweee.  It’s amazing what you come across when you’re editing a first draft, stuff you didn’t even realise you were writing.  Or repeating for that matter.

In Tokens of My Confection, which is heading towards publication in (hopefully) the not too distant future, one scene involves my heroine Cady, who is hanging out with her sisters in Garrison Park, making a snowman on Christmas Eve.

When I wrote the first draft, like a lot of writers, I was just trying to get it out of my head, getting all those little bits and pieces and all the ideas in a pile on the page.  At that stage, I try not to think too hard about the final product and avoid, wherever possible, editing while I’m still getting the story out of my head.  (Of course, I’m completely hopeless at that and do get bogged down with the editing part, because let’s face it, I’m OCD and anxiety-ridden – I strive for ridiculous levels of perfections.  But that’s a post for another day.)

The editing process has been a little choppy, particularly because the Darling Husband surprised me with an announcement last week that we would be moving at the end of the year.  He’s a nearly thirty year veteran of the Australian Air Force, and we’ve outstayed our welcome here in Western Australia, but this time we’ll be moving without our Gang of Four – seventy five percent, at least, will remain in Western Australia while we post to a base on the other side of the country.  (Another reason for OCD and anxiety issues).

Consequently, the editing of Tokens, which started of swimmingly, has stuttered to a less than auspicious pace, while I try to get my head back in the game.  (And simultaneously worry about my beloved family being split apart for a couple of years).  Today, I’ve been working on Chapter Twenty Six, which includes the above-mentioned snow scene which has turned out to need a considerable amount of editing.  The scene itself is fundamentally good, and I’m happy with it, but its the persnickety details which are giving me grief.  And in this case, it’s the snowman the girls are building and the amount of time I’ve mentioned ‘snow in their glove-covered hands’.  Obviously, I wanted to set the scene, and give the reader a ‘vision’ of what is happening in that scene – the scenery, the women, their outfits, what they’re doing.  But I obviously (obviously!!!) got bogged down on those glove-covered hands.  They’re EVERYWHERE!  And repeated with endless abandon.  And way too much.  Over and over and over…

You get the picture, and as a writer, and an editor, it’s one of the things I warn people (including myself) to avoid.  Don’t ever hit your reader over the head with information.  Don’t repeatedly repeat the same piece of information.  Give your reader some credit and know that they can invest themselves enough in the story so that when you mention someone’s eyes, you don’t lead with the color of them each and every time.  (This is something I’m guilty of doing!).

And once you’ve put those gloves on those characters, and set them to making a snowman in a park in the middle of winter, don’t keep beating the reader over the head with THE GLOVES!  They’re there!  We know they are on their hands!  Don’t beat this snippet of information to death!

And now, I go back to the grindstone and beat those gloves into submission!

‘Til next time.

 

Finding Inspiration…

As a writer, finding inspiration can come in many shapes and forms.  For myself, it’s usually in the form of photographs, images which evoke a visceral response and spark the voices in my head.

Ghost town

These photos, of Bodie, California are those type of images for me.  Looking at those old, ramshackle buildings from a bygone era, still upright and standing despite the passing of decades evoke such emotional responses I can’t help but find myself trying to find a way of getting them into a new story.

Bodie (/ˈboʊdiː/ BOH-dee) is a ghost town in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California, United States, about 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Lake Tahoe. It became a boom town in 1876 and following years, after the discovery of a profitable line of gold, and suddenly attracted several thousand residents. It is located 12 mi (19 km) east-southeast of Bridgeport,[5] at an elevation of 8379 feet (2554 m).[1] The U.S. Department of the Interior recognizes the designated Bodie Historic District as a National Historic Landmark.

Also registered as a California Historical Landmark,[2] the ghost town officially was established as Bodie State Historic Park in 1962. It receives about 200,000 visitors yearly.[6] Since 2012, Bodie has been administered by the Bodie Foundation, which uses the tagline Protecting Bodie’s Future by Preserving Its Past.

(Courtesy of the Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodie,_California )

There’s something special about these buildings, as though their inhabitants and their memories are still making their presence known, even now in modern times.  I’ve never visited Bodie myself, but it’s certainly one of the places on my bucket list of things to see.

Old cars

What about you?  What strikes a flame to the wick of your imagination?

Musings from Over Here…

 

IMG20170724102023.jpg

It’s been a wet weekend here in Perth, and on my walk this morning, the duck jetty was on it’s way to disappearing under water.

Forced myself out on the walk, even though my throat feels as if I’ve swallowed a couple of razor blades, because I have a bad habit of finding reasons not to walk (because I love exercise so much). I always feel better about myself if I force myself out there – even if it is people-infested.

And now that I’ve gotten back home, I’m about to do a Google search for the components and operations of sniper rifles, in preparation for a scene I want to write later today!