This blog post will not be written with any kind of skill or coherence. Just getting that out there before you actually decide to commit five minutes of your life to reading it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
So, a few things, in no particular order.
First, I SUBMITTED MY THIRD BOOK TO MY PUBLISHER. This is a pretty major event for me, because I’ve really been struggling to write for the past seven months. And, indeed, was struggling as recently as last week. But last weekend, I was given the gift of just over 24 hours without children – the first night I’ve spent alone in more than 4 years – and managed to lock up the inner critic for long enough to get the book finished. I’m still more than 50% sure my editor will come back to me and say what the heck is this load of old rubbish, but to be honest, completing the thing at all feels like a huge achievement.
Second, my second book is out in paperback in a week’s time. I’ve arranged precisely nothing in the way of promotion. However, I will be doing a book signing in Waterstones Milton Keynes on 13 August, if you happen to be in the area.
Third, I’ll be spending far less time on social media for a while. I will update my Facebook author page occasionally if I have anything relevant to share, but my Twitter will remain on hiatus and my Facebook account will remain deactivated. (To be honest, I don’t think anyone’s actually noticed the deactivation of my Facebook account, so that shows how much of an impact I was having on people’s lives. Ha.)
In brief, the retreat from social media is for my own mental health. The internet can be great for showing people they’re not alone. It can also be the loneliest place in the world. And when you’re already feeling like a talentless loser, there’s so much on Twitter and Facebook just waiting to confirm that for you. It gets to the point where everything, no matter how small, feeds into your own insecurity and self-doubt. It’s so easy to compare yourself negatively to other people. To take things personally that weren’t meant personally. And when you add that to all the anger and hate and political arguments that devolve into insults … I guess it can be overwhelming. Certainly I was finding it a drain on my energy. I’ve only been gone a week, and I already feel a lot better just from detaching for a bit.
So, yeah. That’s me. Since I won’t be sharing this on Twitter or Facebook, other than my author page, I don’t suppose anyone will actually read it. But, you know, just in case ;-)
I’ve written and rewritten this multiple times. I’ve written it angry. I’ve written it calm. I’ve written it crying. I’ve written it laughing at the sheer stupidity of the thing. I’ve thought about the hatred that gets thrown at people online whenever they raise their heads above the parapet, and considered not writing it at all.
But then the Orlando massacre happened, and silence was no longer an option.
Writer’s block is a goddamn thing.
I never used to think it was. I always thought it was a bit of a silly concept, really. You can’t think what to write? Just write something else! If you’re struggling to complete a scene/chapter/book, simply switch to writing a different scene/chapter/book and all your problems will be solved. It doesn’t matter what you write, after all, as long as you’re writing.
That’s probably reasonable advice for a normal case of being stuck, but true writer’s block is different. Or at least, the thing that I’m now calling writer’s block – having experienced it, and still experiencing it right now – is different from any other kind of writing struggle I’ve had before.
I’ve posted a few times recently about the difficulty I’m experiencing with my third Darkhaven novel, and people have come back with a ton of advice. Set a certain amount of time aside for writing each day – it doesn’t matter if you only write a sentence during that time, as long as you’re doing it. Write something else, something fun instead of deadline-driven. Give yourself a break – walk away, do other things, come back to it when you’re feeling refreshed. I love all my writer friends, and I really, really appreciate the time they’ve taken to support me. But the thing is, I’m on a deadline.
Now, I usually love deadlines. They’re the main impetus I have to get anything done. In the past, writing without a deadline has been equivalent to never finishing, because I have no reason to draw a line under what I’ve done and say That’s good enough. So I just tinker endlessly. But with this particular deadline … well, I’ve already pushed it back once, and that’s once too many. I meet deadlines. I pride myself on meeting deadlines. I don’t want to feel like I’m failing as a deadline-meeter as well as a writer.
At this point, you may be detecting a certain level of obsessiveness. Everyone misses deadlines sometimes. It happens. Just ask for another extension. But my problem with that is that I’m afraid it will push me deeper into the cycle of I can’t do this. I’m already pretty deep in it. I need it to crack open and release me, not sink its teeth in further. Having more time would stretch the problem into the future, making it more daunting, and sending my brain more tightly into its relentless spiral of self-doubt.
So as a result, I don’t have time to take a break or write something different. And while setting aside a certain amount of time for writing every day would be lovely, it’s not going to happen. I get time when I get time. Sometimes my children are ill. Sometimes my husband needs help with something. Sometimes there’s another job to do. And since I get a maximum of two hours a day for everything that’s not kids or work, there’s no way I can consistently spend those two hours on writing.
(And yes, I could sleep less. But I have a full-time job, and I don’t consider it ethical to function at less than my full capability at work because I’ve deliberately cut my sleep short in order to write. I know how much sleep I need to do a good job. With children around, I don’t always get it as it is. I certainly can’t justify getting less than what I do get.)
But all of this is missing the point, really. Because the thing about writer’s block is that it stops me from writing anything at all. (Fiction, anyway – I seem to be perfectly capable of writing reviews and opinion pieces and articles about goddamn writer’s block.) No matter whether the period of time I have to write in is big or small, no matter what I try to write, there’s a little voice that tells me I’m useless. And not only that – there is what almost seems to be a literal block in my brain, preventing me from being able to think about what I’m working on. I try and think about it, and my brain throws up distractions – or, failing that, it just goes completely blank. And yet when I’m not writing, that exact same brain nags me constantly about it: you should be writing. You’re going to miss your deadline. You’re going to fail. So even the option of relaxing and doing something else is closed to me, because I can’t relax. Ever. Ever.
I can imagine some of the more seasoned writers among you nodding wisely and saying It sounds as though your heart isn’t really in this book. You don’t love it enough. Maybe your subconscious knows there’s a plot hole, maybe you’ve made a narrative or stylistic choice somewhere that you don’t like, maybe you’re simply fed up with the characters. But honestly? I’m pretty sure that none of that is true. I like this book. I think it could be the best one yet. I just don’t know how to get it out of me.
My fingers have moved faster over the keys, typing this article, than they have done for months writing the thing I want and need to write. That’s pretty sad.
Today I'm pleased to welcome Sarah Armstrong-Garner to the blog. She's currently on tour with Sinking, the first in a new mermaid-themed YA fantasy trilogy. So let me hand you straight over to Sarah to tell you a bit about the research that went into the novel ...
Darkhaven is now available to buy in paperback - so if you've been holding out for a physical copy, this is your moment.
You can buy it from Amazon (if you're in the UK) or from Wordery or Book Depository (both of which come with free worldwide shipping). It's currently 25% off at Book Depository, so that seems like a good option.
Alternatively, if you are in the Milton Keynes area tomorrow, feel free to stop by the Waterstones and get a signed copy. I'll be there from noon and I'd love to see you.
If you can't stretch to a physical copy, the ebook is still 99p (UK) or $1.99 (US), but I'm told that's about to end. So grab it now!
Release day giveaway winner
My mailing list subscribers were entered into a giveaway to win a paperback copy of Darkhaven plus a bunch of other prizes. The winner (picked at random) is Isabelle F. If you didn't win, or you aren't currently on my mailing list, then never fear! I will hold another giveaway when Goldenfire comes out in paperback, so stay tuned :-)
Welcome to Barren Island Books, the author interview series that’s in no way related to a popular music-based radio programme. You know the rules by now: my guests are exiled to a remote island with only five books for company, selected from the categories I give them. It’s up to them to make sure they choose wisely, because they’re going to be stuck with those books for a long, long time …
My interviewee this week is Dan Koboldt, author of action-packed sci-fi fantasy novel The Rogue Retrieval – out now from Harper Voyager Impulse. When he’s not being banished to a desert island, Dan can be found at dankoboldt.com.
In Darkhaven, peace doesn’t last long.
Ayla Nightshade has ruled Darkhaven for three years since the tragedy that tore her family apart. She has left her father’s cruel legacy behind and become a leader her people can believe in – or so she hopes.
Tomas Caraway is no longer a disgraced drunk; he’s Captain of the Helm and the partner of the most powerful woman in Darkhaven. He will do everything to protect Ayla and their adopted son against all possible threats.
But a discovery has been made that could have profound consequences for the Nightshade family. There is a weapon so deadly, it can kill even the powerful creatures they turn into. And now, that weapon has fallen into the wrong hands.
An assassin is coming for Ayla, and will stop at nothing to see her dead.
HarperCollins ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Google play ~ iBooks ~ Kobo
Catch up with Darkhaven
HarperCollins ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Google play ~ iBooks ~ Kobo
ALERT! If you're not on my mailing list, you missed the super awesome colouring sheet I drew exclusively for my subscribers. But you could still get a copy. Sign up now!
My second novel Goldenfire is coming out this week, so I thought you might like the chance to win a copy. Oh, yes ... and 99 other books. And a Kindle.
This giveaway is being run by Free Kindle Giveaway and it's very easy to enter. Just click on the link below! Or, if you want to see what you could win first, scroll down to look through all the prizes that will be given to the winner.
Enter the giveaway here
The end of the year is upon us, and so it's time for the obligatory navel-gazing. This time, it comes with something of an announcement.
Today I'm very pleased to present an excerpt from Without Light or Guide, the second Los Nefilim novella by T. Frohock. You can read what I and many others said about the first one, In Midnight's Silence, here. I thoroughly recommend these books, so without further ado, here's the author to introduce her excerpt.