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…

Sitting on the flipside

Well, that all went pear-shaped quite quickly. All the way back in March (March!!) I was casually thinking that I might be doing okay, that I could tootle along in my usual fashion and keep on writing.

That proved to be extremely optimistic. Along with the rest of the world, I watched the year descend into madness, with borders closed, hospitals overwhelmed, and rumor and innuendo only adding to the drama that was 2020. And it still continues, as we face heading into 2021 with the same COVID-19 issues we’ve had in 2020.

Foolishly, I was under the misapprehension that by the end of the year we’d have reached the ‘end’ of this saga, that we’d be facing the new year with optimism and the world gradually healing from this insidious virus which seems to keep popping up no matter what the world does to combat it.

Not so.

Back in March, I was feeling marginally optimistic, but that optimism got swallowed in a tsunami wave of anxiety and a wave of manic episodes which have pretty much sidelined me for most of the year. I’ve kept functioning (just), but those words which were still flowing in March pretty much died out about four minutes after I hit ‘publish’

But just recently… just in the past few weeks… the creative juices have started to flow a little, despite a bout of depression brought on by messing up my medication regime while we’ve rushed to finish renovations in our little old house (which we bought in July, shortly after the strict travelling bans were eased).

So I’m looking towards 2021 with a modicum of hope, and although it’s always a battle, a teensy bit of optimism. And I’d like to wish you all a bit of that same hope and optimism, and add a sincere wish that you can make the best of a Christmas and New Year which will no doubt look vastly different for all of us who inhabit this planet than it has in previous years.

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.

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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!

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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…

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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.

 

Musings from Over Here…

 

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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!

 

Why I Need to Learn How to Say NO…

Have I mentioned how much I hate the GPS in my car? This is not a new situation, I’ve hated the GPS in my car since… well, since I got the GPS. Perhaps I’m too much of a free spirit (or too stubborn) to listen to a very annoying voice telling me which direction to head in, or perhaps I just cringe every time she mispronounces a street name. (i.e. Pinaster Parade in Ellenbrook somehow becomes ‘Penis-ter’, and for some reason she insists on pronouncing Mirrabooka Drive as though it’s a spell out of a Harry Potter book).
Anyhoo… yesterday, Bonnie picked up an extra shift at Gamesworld – not at Cannington, but over at their other store in Booragoon.
Now all things being equal, the answer to ‘Can I do a shift at Booragoon’ should have been a resounding no. I’ve swung from a manic episode, plunged into a depression, and swung back into manic in the past month – consequently I avoid driving because frankly, I’m probably dangerous behind the wheel and I’m not focused enough to be driving (in my opinion). But years of conditioning to automatically say ‘yes’ to all and everything I’m asked to do (regardless of whether it’s something I want to do, or I’m capable of doing) got in the way.
I said yes.

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And immediately began to stress over it, because Bonnie couldn’t get to Booragoon by public transport, and the boys were all at work, and Steve is currently in Sydney working – which meant I had to get her to Booragoon.
Which leads back to the GPS. I kind of know the way to Booragoon, but thought it would be better to use the GPS, because that way, (supposedly), I wouldn’t have to think about where I was going.
We set off (happily, leaving plenty of time at the other end for Bonza to figure out where in Garden City the Gamesworld Store happens to be) and ‘Miss GPS’ automatically shits me to death by insisting that I should turn left at Wharton Road, which I knew would lead me to Armadale Road, and from there, onto the freeway… which is the one road that I do NOT want to drive on. The freeway on the best of days makes my anxiety peak… and trust me, you do not want to suffer a panic attack on a freeway – it’s not good ju-ju.
Consequently, I tell Miss GPS to mind her own business and continue around the roundabout to continue up Nicholson Road. She decides she should ‘recalculate’.
We get along amiably until we get onto South Street, at which point she announces we should turn left onto Roe Highway… which leads us back to the freeway…
I can begin to feel tension rising in the my shoulders, and I’m clutching the steering wheel to the point where my fingernails are digging into the material, a sure sign that I’m heading towards panic. The roads around here are busy, and as I mentioned above… I probably should have said no.
Tell Miss GPS to mind her own business and continue down South Street.
She decides to recalculate.
We reach Murdoch and sure enough, Miss GPS is all ‘turn right, turn right’… onto the freeway.
At this point, I find myself in a turn right only lane, (to go onto the freeway) surrounded by traffic, and my stress levels increase.

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Manage to get out of that lane, call Miss GPS a few choice words in my head, and sail on down South Street. We get to the next intersection, and again, Miss GPS insists we should turn right, but by this time, I’m convinced that it’s a plot to get me back to the freeway…so I ignore her and continue.
Which is followed by Miss GPS assuring me, regularly, that now I need to TURN BACK.
Sigh.
Decide I have no choice but to turn back (and South Street is a very busy street too) and find that Miss GPS was actually right and we DID have to turn.
By now, I’m practicing my breathing exercises to avoid having to pull over, my palms are sweating, my heart is racing and I’m not a happy bunny.
Finally get to Garden City and I spend ten minutes in the carpark, punching random buttons on Miss GPS until I come across a ticked box which says ‘Always use freeways where possible’
Unticked the bloody thing and came home, where I proceeded to collapse into a chair and remind myself again why I shouldn’t attempt these things when I know the answer to the request should be ‘No, I’m afraid I can’t do that.’
I live in hope that I’ll learn this lesson.

So, it started with a desk…

The start of 2017 has seen me ‘prepping’ for a whole lot of book writing, with plans (in concrete, and written in blood, I swear) to publish six books by December.  I’ve organized, prepared, reorganized my whole approach to social media and cut back on how many ‘things’ I need to keep updated. (Hence why this blog page is now the home of me, my alter ego Leah Dempster, and my editing counterpart The Pedantic Punctuator – one blog is much easier to focus on than three.)

I got a weekly diary, planned out my writing/editing/publishing timetable, gave myself strict instructions on how many words a day would be written, and this week was set aside for ‘prepping’, before ‘writing’.

Hence why it started with a desk.

We have a little study in our new house, which I share with the Darling Husband.  When I say the study is little, I mean tiny.  Minuscule. And it is filled with computer equipment,  bookshelves, printers and all my crafting supplies.  (I used to do craft, until I started editing for a living, and writing books in between edits, so now I have a lot of craft supplies, which take up a lot of space, which require regular dusting, but otherwise don’t come out much.)  And my Darling Husband, although he’s the love of my life, is the antithesis to my OCD Bipolar nuttiness in that he keeps all his stuff EVERYWHERE… He is a lover of flat surfaces and covers them all.

Which leads to that desk issue.

Part of the ‘getting ready for my big 2017 writing projects’ is that I wanted a little space to do my writing.  I had it in our old house, because I had my little desk in our bedroom, with a potted plant, a cute little lantern, a candle and it was… my space.  In the new house, we made the decision to share the study, because there wasn’t quite enough room in the bedroom.  But the prospect of trying to write in the study, with all that… stuff…

I knew it would never work.  I’d be more inclined to start tidying up than do any productive writing.  So I woke up yesterday morning and decided to move the desk.

But first, I needed to rearrange some of the kitchen.

Why I hear you ask?  Well, it began with a need to make some space in the linen cupboard, because I decided that to get the desk out of the study and into our bedroom, I needed to get some of the stuff out of the study.  And while I was at it, I might as well begin organizing the study a little better because you know how it is when you move into a house, and you get to that point where you’re sick of unpacking and things just start getting shoved into the rooms willy-nilly?  The study kind of ended up like that.

So I wanted to reorganize some stuff in the kitchen, to fit the extra kitchen stuff which had collected in half of the linen cupboard, so that I could move some stuff into the linen cupboard from the study, and then I could get the desk out and into our bedroom

Simple.

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But then while I was at it, I had a brainwave.  We recently inherited a wonderful display cabinet from BIL & SIL, and we were considering getting rid of our old cabinet, but then I had a thought.  I could use the old cabinet in the study for better organization!  And get the desk out of the room, and while I was at it, completely rearrange all the shelves!

Perfect.

So consequently, to get my little desk out of the study and seven feet down the hallway and into our bedroom, I moved kitchen stuff around, got kitchen stuff out of the linen cupboard and got it into kitchen cupboards, moved blankets and things out of the laundry cupboards and into the linen cupboard, moved crafty stuff out of the study and into the laundry cupboards… and got the desk out of the study and set up in our bedroom.  Where it looks beautiful, and it’s my own little space and I’m going to be very happy writing in there with the morning sun streaming in through the window.

Which left me with a study which looks like a bomb had hit, shelves half-filled, other shelves empty, a filing cabinet which didn’t look right where it was, and numerous stuffed toys (I’m an addict) which needed to be organized.

So it turns out, moving my little ‘writing space’ into the other room constituted an all day marathon, ‘voluntolding’ the help of Son # 2 and Son #3 to help lift the really heavy stuff, and completely rearranging the kitchen, the linen cupboard, the laundry cupboards, the study and our bedroom to make it all ‘work’.

Mission accomplished!  And now, I’m ready for Monday to roll around because I’m all ready to write!