Update May 2018

This is a hard post to write.

It’s not really about writing. It’s not going to be about looking forward to projects or making ridiculously optimistic posting schedules.

This post is about the things lining up to make writing difficult for me at the moment. And what I’m trying to do to get past them.

Why? Because I need the record. I’ve discovered, since coming off medication for chronic pain, that I am not as good at remembering what it was like being in those mindsets as I thought. The hard things have softened in my memory, the triumphs lost their shining edge.

So, this post is about the current shenanigans my brain is throwing my way, and what it’s doing to, well, everything.

In July 2017, I had the immense privilege of being in a pain management program to come off medication for chronic pain and become self-managed. I was thrilled. I threw myself into the three-week course with enthusiasm.

But, as with most good things, there were unexpected results. The pain lessened, which is so amazing I cannot describe it, but I was incredibly dizzy and nauseous in that last week.

And then the week after. And the one after that. And onward for months.

There were many ideas about what it could be, but time ruled them out. It couldn’t have been coming off the meds, because it should have settled by now. We tried neurophysio for the vestibular system. It helped, but it clearly wasn’t that.

So, six months after the course I ended up at a neurologist who reassured me that it wasn’t a problem. It was just PPPD, Persistent postural-perceptual dizziness. Which basically means my brain did the thing where it was enthusiastic in the wrong direction, and ended up with a maladaptive response. And everything that involved looking or moving, or watching things move, resulted in a dizziness response. Everything.

I couldn’t read, not even a menu, without my stomach turning and my eyes blurring.

I couldn’t write, or dictate, or touch type.

I couldn’t drive.

I couldn’t do anything that meant moving my head. Which is a long and gloriously mundane list when you’re short…

Needless to say, that made me feel sick, tired, anxious, and starting to wonder what I had left once activities like, Life, were crossed off my list of things I could do.

Then I got in to see a wonderful CBT, who specialises in PPPD, and has got me trying to train my brain with graded exposure.

I can read, in 10min blocks. And since I discovered that I have no self-control, that means non-fiction books for me. Seriously, how are you supposed to read good fiction for just 10mins at a time! Madness!

I can write, in 10min blocks. But no more sets of 10/5/10/5/10/5… 10mins, then as much rest as I need to let my brain realise we didn’t have a near miss with disaster. At least, not a life-threatening disaster. Literary disaster is totally fine.

I can drive, and have to find places to go to increase my range. Yay new places to go!

And I have to keep track of how head movement impacts me, and what that means for the symptoms.

So, of course, I overdo everything, and end up in the middle of a well-deserved flair right as I’m starting to get to things again. Yay.

But, 10mins a day of words is still somewhere between 300-500 words. And I’m not going to sneeze at it. It’s more than I have been doing for the last five months. I’ll take it and be glad of it.

And write blog posts, and little things that don’t require keeping an entire fantasy novel in my head to do it.

But I do miss being able to do that. Or just make stuff up on the fly. It turns out when your brain is determined that it has to make all this dizziness for A-Good-Reason,-I-Promise, there isn’t a whole lot left over for the other things…

So, I'm napping then, apparently.

Leo and Abbey take their duty as rest helpers very seriously.


Lyrica brain mush

I am coming off Lyrica. Slowly. Off a tiny, tiny bit. And my brain is so fried, I can’t promise this will make sense. But I have to write this. I have to remember that when I am like this, when my brain refuses to find words at all and I can’t remember to put on the sock in my hand, that I still am.

Isn’t that a funny thing? That I need to do this so I know I am? And not even right now, because right now I am moving my fingers over the keyboard in teh blind hope ‘muscle memory’ will do this for me. That it will take the thoughts and feelings and put them out in ways that make sense. Ways that I can’t say, because at the moment I don’t think I can make much of a coherent conversation. I have lost nouns. I called hairbrush ‘the thing with the pointy bits that makes the icky tangle things go away’. My partner gave me the hairbrush and I smiled up at him like an exhausted child home from a day at the zoo.

Or I might not have. My brain could have made that whole thing up. I don’t know. It could have made up that we went to the market this morning and I didn’t desperately crave donuts. It could have put a pretty little story in there, and I can’t tell the difference between that and anything else. Because my brain is trying to work out what to do without one less little pill of Lyrica.

I only had four. Four little white pills, two twice a day, and they were meant to make the pain stop. They were meant to make breathing okay. I think they did. But the put holws in my brain and I don’t know if I can fill them up again. I don’t know if I can stop the rest of my brain from falling into those holes, like those horrible sinkholes that appear and devour cars and roads and houses and suburbs. That last one might be a movie. I don’t know.

I am taking three little pills. Two, then one, and then the Endep for bed. And I think it’s going to make me better, coming off the little white pills. The doctors and psychologists and physios at the hospital who are so eager for me to do the pain course think so. They would know. They’ve got decades of research, and they’ve supervised the course numerous times. They would know. I think I forgot to tell them things. But what those things were are where the holes are, and I have no way of getting them back.

It’s July. The second. It’s Camp Nanowrimo. I love Camp. I wanted to write today. But I couldn’t remember the project, and I looked it up, and then I lost my pen, and something else happened. And I haven’t written words. Not ones on the story. I don’t remember the story. I know I put it up somewhere. It was a challenge. A push. I mean, not a big one. I was using for a purpose, this July Camp story. I used it to test something, but I don’t remember what. That’s in a hole too.

And at the bottom of my ribcage, the spots the doctors and physios called ‘trigger points’ tingle. Like the edges of the water when you drop in an Aspro-Clear. It starts off as nothing, just a little distortion on the surface. But you know more is coming. In that case, you want more to come because you can’t drink it until the whole lot is dissolved. But I will take the little blue Endep and the little yellow Endep, and they will stop it tingling.

They stop a lot of things, the little Endep pills. But the doctors aren’t worried about them yet. One drug at a time. One little white pill at a time. Check ins. And I will take notes. If I remember. I will take notes so I can give the doctors what they need. I don’t know what that is, but if I write things down, maybe it will help. Or maybe the things that help will be in those Lyrica pit-traps, so far into the blackness I can’t see them, so deep no rope will reach. Maybe that’s okay too.

Because I’m still here. Moments out of time, brief and sparkling clarity, starlight on the country-dark night sky. But here. That counts. You can learn a lot from that, right?

Mimic and Ash

Mimic was black and white. She changes coat every year. Funny pony.

Catch Up Post, Again.

It should come as no surprise that I ended up overwhelmed and forgot to blog. Again.

It should also come as no surprise that I intend to do something about it. Again.

What this means is the blog is getting an overhaul. Again. Are we sensing a theme?

The first part of this transition to a hopefully more productive, helpful blog will be a running review  of the revised ‘No Plot? No Problem!’ by Chris Baty. I’ll also try to keep my progress updated during Camp NaNoWriMo, and this session’s Abernath the griffin book. If I’m lucky, it will actually be the first book in series this time. There is always hope it will work as planned…

Which brings me to the part where I’m hoping for some input from anyone popping in.

There are a few themes of blog posts I could start with as the beginning of a more consistent schedule. I’d love to know what interests you most.

Would you like to see reviews of texts, fiction and nonfiction, books and other media?

Would you like to know the tips and tricks I’m learning and implementing? What’s worked for me and what hasn’t?

Would you like to know how I’m going about retraining my brain to do creative writing when pain and medication interfere?

Let me know in the comments what you’d like to see first.

Thank you for sticking with me, hopefully this time the processes I’m changing will work long term.


The Bunny and the Cat

Plot Bunny and Fluffy Cat are ready!

WILF: ‘Use Your Words’ by Catherine Deveny

I bought this book on a whim because it had ‘You are my special snowflake’ in the introduction. Shallow, likely, but since I’m the human half of Team Snowflake I decided to pretend the universe was giving me a sign.

I am so glad I did.

Catherine Deveny has a vivacious style that makes it easy to keep reading her advice. The other reason I kept reading was that the advice was great. And she made me laugh, which is definitely necessary when you’re looking at the cold hard truths of writing. Like it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, just write the darn book.

Picking up this book when I was at a stage of deciding just how much quitting writing would be the better idea. I had the ‘done’ button in front of me and was about to hit it and forget all the horrendous half-drafts in my pile of files.

Deveny took that wrung out me and walked me through the fact that what I write is likely shit. That it’s okay to write shit. You are the only person you are writing for. She made it completely okay to be  Gunna, and to take the step from someone is ‘going to’ write to someone who is writing. And that was all before she got to the actual craft stuff!

The big thing I’ve taken from the craft section is her goal setting. It is on my sticky notes as ‘half, half, half again, quarter of that and treat!’ with a smiley face. And she’s right. Taking the smallest part to get something done will make it happen. This blog post, right here? I was going to write the intro part. And then I got a cup of tea. And I wrote the little bit about the style, and patted the dog. And here we are past where I thought I would get to with the review today. Deveny is brilliant.

She makes it easy to feel like you can honestly just start writing and enjoy it, with the confidence to play with your voice because this is for you. First and foremost, this is for you, so do it. Otherwise, why would you be reading the book in the first place?

The other thing I really liked was her use of text-to-speech to help speed up the editing process. I got myself a neat add-in for Word, because I’m still using Word, and there is nothing quite like a vaguely stilted British woman reading your work to you. It really helps catch the words you’ve misspelled and where things actually don’t make sense.

This book is now one of my go-to books for getting started writing. It helps me relax when I feel nothing but the weighty anxiety of being ‘good enough’ to actually call myself a writer, because even if I only write to make myself feel things it still counts.

If you are able to get a copy, do.

And when you feel self-doubt creeping in, remember these words are for you. And if you want to, you can delete them or burn them or whatever else you want to do with them. But they are for you, no one else. Just keep going!

Week 1: ‘A New Beginning’ Part 1

Method 1: The Lester Dent Plan

I had no idea who Lester Dent was until I stumbled across an article talking about his short fiction master formula. Since I’ve never really tried short fiction before, I thought I should give it a go. After all, he was able to make a living writing short fiction in a time when it wasn’t yet the go-to market for up-coming authors. And, to be honest, I haven’t yet read any of his works. But I trust the theory should be sound. I’ve put his work on my ‘To Read’ list, which is an ever expanding thing.

The following is a breakdown of the plan for the prompt ‘A story entitled “A New Beginning”’ from the 52 week short story prompt challenge.

Now, to be really clear, I’m not taking the main advice of making sure the murder is unique because I don’t want to have a murder to investigate. That is much more planning than I’m up for right now. My unique factor is that the Hero is a scion of a literal god, Bastet, and that’s going to be one of my complications. The motivations of my two main forces are pretty simple.

  • The Hero, Lili, wants to change her life, stepping away from her job in a tv series and her on-screen/off-screen partner. Things have been a bit on the ‘warning bells’ side, and so once she’s managed to break-up with him, she leaves. Of course, that means starting again, and trying to avoid her Mother saying ‘I told you so’, but she’s prepared to do that.
  • The Villain, Jared, wants to return to the way things were. He’s prepared to do whatever it takes to prove to Lili the relationship is the only way to be successful, the only thing that will get her what she wants. Because it’s what he wants, and he cares about her. And he didn’t see the break-up coming.

And the conflict is based around what they are willing to do in order to achieve that establishment of the ‘correct’ world order.


The First Quarter:

  • Start with the Hero in action, and hit them with a fistful of trouble.
  • Put the Hero in danger
  • End with a twist.


Lili, the Hero, moves to San Fransisco, to get away from the life she led as a small screen darling. Since I need to give her a flaw to overcome, at some stage, I’m going to say that she’s made this move with the barest of consultation of her support network. She wanted to avoid the ongoing conflict from the break-up. And her agent is working out the final bits he needs to do with the filming of the show. She’s in action, check

.So, I have to hit her with a fistful of trouble. There are a lot of clichés I could use.

  • Someone leaves pictures under her door or emails them to her of something horrible. Jared cheating on her, her travelling, something equally dramatic but lacking depth since you’ve just met her.
  • Someone overtly threatens her.
  • She gets a stalker, who is actually a PI paid by Jared. That one I like but not for this story I think.
  • The apartment she’s moving to is damaged in a freak accident/storm, and she has to find temporary accommodation.
  • Her Mother can show up. Nothing like a deity running around to make trouble.
  • Her moving van gets sidetracked. Simple, believable. And not going to throw anyone under a plot-bus yet. I think I’ll go with that. I can always add to it.

Fistful of trouble, check.

Now we need danger. This one is a little trickier, since I don’t want to make it a very physical, life-threatening sort of danger. So, I’ll use this as a chance to chuck in some world building.

As a scion of a god, there are some perks. But there are also downsides. One of them is that mortals can be a particular danger to you, because they can shape the way the world responds to you and the world can reflect that onto mortals. I promise I will explain that better in the text itself.

A sort of vicious cycle where you end up playing the part you’ve played and can’t get out of it. And even if you do break the rules of that part, there might be another easy path to step down that causes more problems. She’s been portrayed as a lovely ‘girl-next-door’ sort of character, which would get her help and sympathy usually. But, she’s only got an overnight bag, her cat, and she is running away. That’s a bit different, and the people of San Fran end up responding to that. It doesn’t help that she wants to keep things low key, and that there are rules about pets. She also needs to find a place that isn’t packed, which is another mundane problem to add to the mix.

The danger is that she’s going to end up with the people who she means to befriend treating her as suspicious, and thus undermining her chance at establishing herself. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for vomit copy. Danger, check.

The twist? There is a message waiting for her at the hotel. It’s from an associate of her Mother’s. After all, her Mother is a cat-goddess, so it makes sense she would use cat’s paws. And again, dealing with mortals is risky for those of divine nature. Twist, check!

And now I should go write that bit, so I can do the next bit with clearer idea of what is happening. Any plot threads will get tidied up between vomit copy and first draft. Huzzah! Plotting!


Our family cat, Mouse, helping with the Christmas tree. Such a well-meaning kitty.

Week Four: Unexpected Contentment

This week I have discovered that I am grateful for things I has been overlooking when I started Camp NaNoWriMo.
I am grateful for my train travel to work. It helps break my day into manageable chunks, and gives me permission to use my time in those chunks. I can write on the train, and it makes me appreciate time I would usually find a burden.
I am grateful I set myself modest goals. As I wrote, I found the old style of writing I had thought vanished began to emerge. It isn’t the same, it lacks the brightness and sparkle I was used to. But it is there, building on one little idea onto another until the ‘short story’ jas hit nearly 10k words. Not a bad effort really.
And I am grateful for this blog, because it makes me act in a mindful fashion. Instead of losing myself in the feeling of the moment and being overwhelmed, I am able to step back and look for the lesson I could be learning. How do I use this moment to make the right thing easy?
The universe has thrown amazing distraction at me during the last week, which I am so pleased with I dare not say much in case it comes to naught.
Instead, here is a cute bunny picture!


Duchess had been helping me clean, as demonstrated by the torn up newspaper. She is all tuckered out!

Week Three: Procrastination and Planning

This week has been a drag out fight between my determination to write and the universe’s ideas. The universe is winning.
As is usual for Camp NaNoWriMo, I have caught a cold and become distracted by the goings on of the world. Today, I am going to have a horse riding lesson, and my head is full of horses. It makes it very hard to focus on the characters in my short stories and their predicament. Especially when I have reached that perplexing contradiction of being reluctant to write now the confrontation has arrived.
Looking over my writing past, I have found I shy away from moments of great drama, conflict, or high stakes. They matter, and the pressure to get them right is intense. So I avoid them, and leave it as problem for Future Editor Me. Of course, this usually means  the piece sits in the proverbial draw and I am unlikely to look at it unless I am stuck for news ideas.
After Camp, I am thinking of writing a list of all the stories I have in various stages with the plan of using procrastination in my favour. If I don’t want to work on one project, there must be something less disagreeable on the list to do.
That’s how I ended up booking a riding lesson, after all.


Dusty and Duchess sharing a treat, because bunnies are cute.