Writers Block’s Crazy Uncle

I’ve been suffering from something akin to writer’s block. I mean, I’ve experienced writer’s block before, but this is different.

Since COVID-19 ripped through the fabric of everyday life and changed the way we interact with the world, I’ve lost a huge amount of personal motivation. I haven’t lost my desires or wishes. I haven’t lost my interests, but I’ve lost my ability to sit down at my writing desk or anywhere else and focus on writing; well, writing a complex story.

I’m not depressed per se. I’m still active as an investor and have made many successful trades as the markets has swung wildly during this crisis. I’m still interested in binging the great movie and television content. I still enjoy playing video games, especially Fallout 76. I enjoy making coffee in the morning. All that stuff is still okay. Basically, my life is secure and my health is generally okay.

The problem I have begins in the morning hours–my best writing time–leaving me fatigued and unmotivated. I accept that my blood disorder might play a role in my malaise, but the swings in my platelet count (Thrombocytopenia) don’t present obvious an adverse health effects, other than frequent bruising and occasional nose bleeds. The thing is, I’ve had cITP for almost eight years and I wrote Book I and a draft of Book II during that time.

My best self-diagnosis is, I’m overwhelmed by the psychological side effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

I’ve read that a lot of people around the world are experiencing psychological stresses related to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place isolation. In my case, yes, that’s true, but it’s also something deeper. I find myself having a disturbing internal dialog on life itself. Just knowing that everyone in the world is experiencing this pandemic is a profound event. Then toss in the usual election year political insanity, coupled with rioters (aka protesters) burning down large segments of cities across the country, and I can’t escape a sense of the futility of the human condition. I don’t believe people are stupid, but I see a sickening level of willful ignorance or they attach themselves to the foolish whims of groups they want to fit into. No matter how smart you are, if you are ignorant or mindlessly dogmatic you are, you may fail to distinguish important differences or facts. And you aren’t going to make rational decisions. Well, just my humble opinion.

This pandemic has peeled back so many layers of humanity’s underbelly. I’ve been forced to reconsider one of the key themes of The Temporal Expeditions trilogy. That theme is that humanity has the intelligence to solve problems if given the opportunity. It’s implied in Book I (Escape from Extinction), and imbedded in the remainder of the story. So, there’s that.

Maybe my mysterious block is just the crazy uncle of old fashioned writers block.

 

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Resuming Work on Book II

There are still several issues to be resolved on the rollout of The Temporal Expeditions, Book I. One big issue is the fact that the book isn’t available on Apple yet. The book got hung-up with a batch that had been submitted to the distributor, downstream from Lulu publishing and upstream from Apple. I’m very irritated by this because Apple Books is the ebook reader I use personally. There is a problem resolution process in motion, so I may just have to wait.

In the mean time, I’ve been re-outlining Book II. When I separated Part I and Part II earlier this year, Part II had about 100,000 words in a second draft state. However, during the final draft of Book I, some new ideas revealed themselves to me and I’m eager to fit them into the structure I’ve already completed. In fact, I expect to write several new chapters and rewrite several of the existing chapters.

I’m contemplating using the NaNoWriMo process to get this new work moving forward. I’ve followed Lizzie Gudkov‘s blog and her experience with NaNoWriMo for several years, and she told me that I can meetup with a group in Second Life. I plan to take her up on this, this coming weekend. There’s also an article about the process in this month’s Writer’s Digest, so I’ll be immersing myself quickly.

I love the writing process because, for me anyway, it is a process of discovery. That’s how these new ideas for Book II revealed themselves. SPOILER: And partly, I was influence by what seemed to be a simple change in one of the ships in the naval expedition. Anyway, there are a lot of plot concepts and character developments to mold together. *Smiles*

BTW, it has also occurred to me that the writing of these novels is a fools errand, but I  really like the way the story is unfolding. So, it’s in for a penny and in for a pound.

 

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My Novel is Available at Booksellers

I’m pleased to follow-up on the status of my debut sci-fi novel by announcing that Book I, The Temporal Expeditions, Escape from Extinction, is available many online booksellers. However, it my book was in a batch that ran into technical difficulties while being distributed to Apple Books.

Yordie Sands novel

Book I is “Escape from Extinction” and is available now.

Availability: Lulu Publishing has the hardcover ($29.95), paperback ($12.95) and ebook ($2.95) available on Lulu Bookstore. The rollout to other stores has been somewhat of an on-again/off-again process, but it is now available at many U.S. booksellers plus some international booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and others (I’ll list them as soon as possible). In addition, sample chapters of the book may be previewed on Google Books where the ebook version goes for $1.99.

Future Plans: I plan to begin work on a final draft of Book II (no working title yet) in October and publish it about this time next year. I don’t have a working draft of Book III but I’m considering trying my hand at NaNoWriMo’s program to get a full first draft moving forward.

Some comments about self-publishing: I hadn’t expected the complexities involved in the publishing process. I tried to go through Amazon/Kindle but got a bit hung-up on coordinating the hardcover, paperback and ebook components–long story. I ended up selecting Lulu Publishing because I could hand the whole process over to them. I can’t say it was seamless, but Lulu got the job done and the printed versions are good quality. I’ll take a look at Amazon again for Book II, but I’m inclided to stick with Lulu.

Some comments about promoting the book: From the onset of this journey I’ve assumed that a nobody from nowhere isn’t likely to get noticed unless they invest a lot of their time and money into promoting their book. And I’ve decided not to do that with Book I. My theory is that when Book II is published it will augment my non-existent reputation as a novelist, and maybe by Book III there will be greater interest. However, I will promote Book II (out next year) and invest in some advertising. I’ve discussed advertising with my Lulu Marketing rep and he has proposed a campaign on Facebook & Instagram. Nonetheless, that won’t happen until next year.

 

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Update: Book I Complete!

I’ve been writing my debut novel for seven years now. And the first book in my time travel trilogy is complete! In fact, last week I received the final notes from my editor. Yay!

I’ve begun incorporating the edited content and expect it spend the next two weeks or the final manuscript.

Spoiler Alert: I’ve also got some changes to incorporate, primarily I’ve changed the flagship of the naval expedition. I’ve spoken with the executives at SwiftShips about using their ships in the story, and about incorporating their SwiftShips Corvette in place of a Reliance-class Coast Guard cutter. We still have some legalities to work out, but the SwiftShips CEO and his staff are great people and are willing to help me get details and  ship nomenclatures correct.Hopefully, there will be more about this soon.

In between working on the final edits, I’ve begun fiddling with some cover designs. And it is now clear to me that I’m on a track that will lead directly to self-publishing. The truth is, I’d like to find a publisher but I am not prepared for that process, or the process that begins if I find a publisher. A publisher offers a great deal to a new author, but I doubt that Book I will be successful until I publish Book II. That’s when I believe it will be of interest to a certain audience. Naturally, I could be sooooooo wrong about all this. Heh.

I’m excited about recent developments and have gone into “hard drive” mode to get this thing over the finish line and publish!!

Expected publication: Early July!

 

 

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On Track Again

Basically, I spent 2018 mulling what I had written since 2012. I also did a lot more research on the science, technology, history and every other subject that the story invoked. And, along the way I found that my characters grew in stature in my thought, all the good and bad and confusing aspects of their lives somehow sorted out into a clearer picture.

In December I started using the Word’s ‘read’ feature to blabber out the words I’d written, chapter by chapter and this was very helpful for finding a variety of poorly written sentences and getting me back into the swing of the story. I have a new target for the delivery of a final draft to my editor, April 2019. I’ve also send 12 chapters to a science fiction author for a beta read. In short, things are moving forward again.

For the first time since I started this project in earnest, 2012, I feel good about the story, it’s plot and subplots, it’s pace and suspense, and my protagonists voice. I think this story is going to work. Whether or not the story is any good, I don’t know but it’s the story I want to tell and in the way I want to tell it. Well, mostly. The part of this endeavor that falls outside of ‘mostly’ is my ever increasing awareness of my own weaknesses as a writer. Still, I have found the confidence to move forward again, into the realm where many are called but few are chosen.

PS: It has occurred to me that I really need to combine this journal with my main blog. It will require a lot of work, but having multiple blogs serves no real purpose. More on this to come.

 

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Blocked by Overwhelm

My novel is now two novels. It makes sense to me on many levels, but this change has created problems I hadn’t anticipated. For one thing, Book I now has an ending that somewhat leaves the reader hanging and I’m not sure it’s enough to keep a reader interested enough to comeback for Book II. It makes sense to leave the story where it ends, but it doesn’t seem to be dramatic enough for a sci-fi story. I don’t know, maybe it is. I’m having great self-doubts, even considering walking away from the project(s).

Regardless of how Book I ends, I’m been mulling Book II’s storyline and the historic events that engulf it. Also, Book III is becoming the end of the story but while I have the ending in sight, the events and scenes of the story are not at all clear. So I’m in a type of writer’s block with Book I about 60% written and the remainder in a state of disrepair caused by chopping and splicing.

The thought also occurs to me that I’m just not good enough or smart enough to write a novel/trilogy of this depth. I follow a forum where the historic period in question is discussed weekly and each new post reveals something I didn’t know about events and characters. I’m hoping for an inspiration that will carry me forward, but for now the novel sits in the cloud.

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The Monkeys 12

I’ve been a fan of the television series “12 Monkeys” and last night I watched the series finale. I’m glad the producers played this through a final season, and I feel that the entire crew handled the ending well. Even though I’m a fan I found a couple story telling devices to be overdone; for one, the constant jumping from date to date which caused me to get confused about what was actually happening on numerous occasions. Regardless, I bought all four seasons and will re-watch the series again in a few years.

Logo is owned by Syfy for 12 Monkeys

The casting was very good and I especially liked Jennifer (Emily Hampshire) and Jones (Barbara Sukowa). I also liked everyman-hero Cole (Aaron Stanford) although I didn’t care for him at first, but when I learned that he and co-star Cassie (Amanda Schull) were in love it caused me to warm-up to him quickly. Unfortunately, I feel that during the first season Cassie lacked visual credibility as a prominent CDC immunologist, although her acting was fine. The only cast member I didn’t care for was Ramses (Kirk Acevedo); he had visual credibility but seemed to be a one-trick pony as an actor until season 4 when his acting seemed to improve. Nonetheless, the whole cast seemed to work well together and made the story flow well.

One major criticism I have is that this was a 48 episode series that probably could have been told in a lot less; just saying. Maybe its the era jumping thing again, but it made the story seem overly long. My guess is that work on the production was non-stop for all four years. I liked the way the directors, writers and designers endeavored to create an intriguing time travel mechanism. I also liked many of the escapades, especially adventures woven into history. Loved the Emerson Hotel scenes and Titan was simply ominous! Of course, I love the original movie with Bruce Willis also. The Army of the 12 Monkeys is just such a fun idea.

So, bravo to this production company and thank you for a good ending.

 

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A Long Break

In December I took a break from writing the novel. It was an unplanned break because I began playing the very addictive game Fallout 4 (it provide for a female protagonist… yay!) and this lead to that, and that turned into a break. For one thing, I found the game to be an adventure in storytelling. I should explain more but I should do that on Being Yordie Sands, soon.

I didn’t start writing again until February and I’m only now getting into it with the vigor needed to make it happen. In those months of doing other things I had time to let the story sort itself out, and while I still like the way it unfolds I found several problems.

Too Many Characters

This first book is intended to set the stage for a trilogy. Well, it I decide to break the first book into two then there’d be four books in total. ((Good grief! That sounds so far away right now.)) And I introduce most of those characters in this first novel with the result of having over fifty named characters, including incidental characters. So, I’ve begun culling the herd, so to speak. So far I’ve eliminated about six either through reducing their importance, writing them out or consolidating their roles into other characters. I think this will make the story easier to follow. Also, my editor suggests the use of more anchor points and I’m sure that will help.

Story Complexity

The story is seems complex, even to me and I know it so well. Nonetheless, I’ve come to believe that it flows well and those complexities contribute to suspense, but a balance that is challenging to manage. In my mind the story is comprised of thousands of threads (from my software engineering background) and those threads are constantly being woven into  historic events, character development and plot. This is hard to do and I’m troubled by the way my concept of the story has changed. It’s the kind of troubled that leads me to doubt myself.

Publishing Book I/Book II

A year ago I was hoping to publish in early 2017. HAHAHAHA! Then when I finished what now must be considered the second draft of the book, I thought I’d publish in early 2018. HAHAHA! And just a few days ago I told my editor that I’d have the final manuscript ready by June. Unfortunately, I just don’t know when I’ll finish working my way through my work list. I think June is possible, but I’m working toward turning Part I into Book I, and Part II into Book II. It seems more and more logical to me, especially when considering that I’ll make Part I/Book I a free book. Nonetheless, I’m not even sure I’ll do that now.

Writer, Author, Storyteller, Whatever

I always knew that I was working on an epic tale and now I know more of what it takes to tell such a story. Some people who’ve helped me in the early stages seemed to think that my goal was to be a published author (make that Published Author). That certainly a logical assumption, but this project was never about ‘getting published’. One person wanted to know if I want to be a ‘storyteller’ and that seemed logical to ask also, but I wasn’t comfortable with that label either. I told her I just want to get this story written. And while I want to publish it and out there for people to read, that’s not why I’m writing.  The story has been inside my head and on thousands of pages of research for over two decades now. I don’t even understand how it happened. ((Fantasticks/El Gallo: “You wonder how these things begin.”))  I’ll be happy just to get this thing out of my head. Heh.

As the Brits say, TTFN (Ta Ta For Now).

 

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The End

The Ending is in Sight: The novel word count is 112,000 and I’m within one chapter to an ending. In two weeks I’ll send the manuscript to the editor, then there’ll be revisions. I expect it will take another month or maybe longer before I can submit a final edit. After that, I’ve been advised to let it sit for awhile as I work on the next book in the series. At first this sounded ludicrous to me, but it makes more sense now.

Book I, Book II… Again: And… I’m back to thinking about breaking out Part I (near future) into Book I, Part II (the past) would be Book II. I’d have to pull a chapter from Book II into Book I, but I think it would be a better ending anyway. So, Book I would probably run 50,000 words, Book II maybe 70,000. I’d publish them concurrently, but Book I would be an ebook and free. Still noodling it, and my editor doesn’t like the idea.

Got That Feeling Again: One thing I’m finding is that I’m regaining my ease in writing. Some of my early editors gave some good advice but I didn’t have experience to put it into perspective. Now that I’m settled on an editor I have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Office/Word: Another thing, I’ve got the new Microsoft Office and Word has a much improved feature over my previous Office 2010. The Read Aloud features is much simpler to use I think and the voice is much easier to understand. This is an amazing device for finding grammar errors and finding sentences that need jiggering around. Being dyslexic means I have to labor over reading my work–yeah, even my own words–and being able to set the computer on auto-pilot, so to speak, is sure handy. I’ve already begun ‘reading aloud’ from the start of the novel and I’ve completed about 10 of the 28 chapters, and made numerous revisions.

Second Life: A guy I knew from Junkyard Blues turns out to be a published novelist. We got to chatting and he volunteered to be one of my beta readers. This will be immensely helpful as I have only two, both on again, off again. Speaking of SL, a few months ago I dropped into the Junkyard for Fiery Otaared’s bluesy gig. While she spun tunes we chatted. And she was surprised that my novel is science fiction. I suppose with my persona the expectation would be  romance or adventure, even something literary, but not sci-fi though.

Joining a Guild: I decided to join a local sci-fi writer’s guild. I filled out the application and got to the part requiring my credit card information. Ouch! After the many hacks–Equifax, Target, et al–my alert status high. So, I called the president and asked if I could simply use PayPal or just pay cash, but their system won’t allow that. And I won’t hand over my personal information to a standalone system run by a local administrator. I’m probably paranoid, but I believe online credit systems are truly at risk.

Publish Date: Anyway, my dream of publishing in 2017 is looking more like January or February of 2018. The biggest delay has been and continues to be, research; I find myself checking every damned thing. I’m disappointed that I’ll miss 2017, but living with it.

 

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100,390 Words

I’m closing in on the ending to this novel. The many threads hanging loose are starting to worry me. Some threads are necessary to begin Book II, but others must be resolved. And there happen to be plenty of those threads dangling at the moment.

Three chapters remain and I have a nasty habit of pushing a lot of outline items down to further chapters. The last two chapters have very large outlines, but I’ve also noticed that in the writing the chapters seem to self-regulate. This story must end and it has the ingredients necessary to come to conclusion in three chapters.

The writing is so hard. The historic period has very specific events happening on days that won’t change. So I must fit my story’s conflict into those events. It sounds simple, but some of the historic characters just don’t want to be nailed down the way I want.

The research is so demanding. I’m a member of several science and history forums, and especially those history forums have kept me connected to the current thinking on the era my story takes place in. I never intended to become so deeply involved in the history, but it is so rich with people that make good characters because they knew other people who had impacts on documented events. I enjoy this story, but have no choice but to continue writing it.

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