Wild Mood Swings

I am getting tired. Tired of so much, in the world, in life, and in my thoughts; but most of all, I’m getting tired of not knowing where my head is going to be next month, next week, or even tomorrow. Frankly, living with bipolar is an exhausting experience, and although I’ve mostly just dealt with it until now, I have to admit that I’m running low on energy – not just energy to live and do things, but energy to cope.

It’s one of the reasons, if not the most prominent one, why I don’t attend to this blog like I did years ago. I feel bad about it, but feeling bad was never much of a motivator for me, so I continue to neglect my daily writing in favor of sleep, TV, and sleep.

Historically, long periods of low mood, energy and motivation have formed a large part of my life, from my teenage years through my adulthood and to present day; I’m no stranger to depression. Often this manifests as wanting to stay in bed, feeling hopeless, and an inability to cope with the most basic of daily functions (e.g. showering, brushing teeth, etc.). I’ll spend day after day not even watching TV, and just staring at the ceiling, waiting for sleep to take me to twisted dreamscapes where I can escape from reality – if not entirely pleasantly.

But more recently, I feel I’m struggling with a new level of exhaustion: one that wears my mind down from an excess of actual mood swings. If my normal depression is akin to the tiredness of a marathon runner nearing the end of the slog, my current state of mind is closer to that of a sprinter after a day’s worth of races: running full tilt, then stopping, then starting again, over and over with no end in sight.

It’s like being on a non-stop rollercoaster. It’s like falling endlessly. It’s like … well, there are likely dozens of metaphors I could choose from, but the point is that I feel like my brain is about to leak through my eyes and ears, a complete and total meltdown from being forced to cope with a rapid cycle of ups and downs in a very short period of time.

Only a month ago, I was suffering from one of the worst depressions I’ve known in recent years. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t play, I couldn’t get out of bed, and I was sorely tempted to begin self-harming again after over a decade clean. Last week, I finished the last pages of my new manuscript after several days of hours-long writing stints. I went from catatonic to manic within a period of only a few days.

I don’t think this is good for me. It’s left me with a whole new level of exhaustion that I’m entirely unused to, and I honestly don’t know how to cope. It was my birthday over the weekend, and I spent it mostly in the loft watching Lord of the Rings and writing emails to people I haven’t contacted in months, or even years. I don’t know what I’m doing.

I wake up every day before 6 AM, but I want to pass out by 7 PM. This is also new; I normally sleep in like crazy, and stay up late.

I wonder if it’s to do with the new medication my psychiatrist started me on; I wonder if it’s to do with the strange weather (70°F in November, what’s with that?). I wonder if it’s … I don’t know anymore.

In any case, I’m done writing young adult/new adult for the time being, which means maybe – just maybe – I’ll find some time to return to The Redemption of Erâth for you all, as I started on book four almost eighteen months ago and never really got too far into it. In the meantime, I’ll see if I can start posting here a little more regularly, as I always want (and always fail) to do.

Many thanks!

A Change of Pace

I’ve been struggling to write for nearly a year now. When I released my young adult novel in the autumn of 2017 (under my real name), I had a plan that I would spend 2018 writing the fourth Redemption of Erâth novel, and 2019 could focus on my second attempt at YA.

Sadly, this isn’t how things have turned out. I spent most of 2018 trying to start writing (with very little success), whilst also attempting to market and sell my YA novel. This did not work. I’ve spent most of 2019 trying to get going on the second YA novel … which also didn’t work.

In the midst of all of this, I’ve become increasingly negligent of my blog, and The Redemption of Erâth has dropped off the face of the earth. There have been a lot of ups and downs (mostly downs) over the past two years, but nothing I haven’t been able to weather before. No – this time, I think I’ve really just become complacent, and found it easier to do the things that keep me going day by day, without finding room for the things that make those days worth living.

That thing is writing. The feeling of accomplishment, of success, when writing the final lines of a novel … there is nothing comparable. It’s a deluge of heady satisfaction, and it doesn’t matter if another soul in the world ever reads it. Just knowing that something exists in the world that did not before is a reward worth a thousand kingdoms.

So what can I do? The first thing I know I can’t do is make a promise. Promises lead to broken hearts, and I’d not have that for anything. But I can try. I can continue to try, day by day, and if I write a word or not, I know that the next day will come, and with it new energies and new ideas that might be able to revive me.

So for now, I will put a pause on my YA work, and see what the world of Erâth has to hold for me, for Brandyé, Elven, and all the others. I am going to try diving back in to the fourth book in the Redemption of Erâth series, and see if my mind can fathom the next steps there better than it can in the real world.

I will do my best to post regular updates and thoughts, but as before – no promises. I do look forward, though, to the idea of regaining this community, discovering new people, and writing new worlds.

Here’s to the next 12 months!

Unintentional Parallels in Storytelling

One of the great things about writing fantasy is the amount of research needed to write a convincing story: i.e., very little. I don’t necessarily need to learn about how medieval feudal society worked in detail, because I can always just say that, well, my society is different.

Of course, even in fantasy there are advantages to research nonetheless; depending on how convincing you want your fantasy to be – and in particular how close to a real-world setting you intend it – it can be worth seeing how you can parallel ideas, concepts and actions from the real world in your own writing. For example, in The Redemption of Erâth, there is a lot of travel involved between towns, cities and countries, over vast distances, often by foot or by horse. It was important to me to set realistic timescales for these travels, so I looked into average paces for wilderness walking and riding to estimate how long it would take to travel, say, a hundred miles.

Similarly, when discussing things like ships, or sailing, I wanted to keep to a realistic sense of being on a sailing vessel, so I researched terminology, techniques and concepts when on the water.

However, the story and plot itself – in any fiction – is pure invention, of course; except that it really isn’t, because it’s impossible to deny the influence that other writing has on your own. In writing The Redemption of Erâth, I knew I would be drawing heavily on influences from classic fantasy such as The Lord of the Rings – more stylistically than anything – but within the realm of my own imagination. When I invented giant, dark wolves called fierundé, I knew of course they were a parallel to Tolkien’s wargs. The starting point of the series, Consolation, is a parallel for the Shire. Even the great city of Erârün, Vira Weitor, is a parallel for Minas Tirith.

But those were conscious decisions I made, drawing on what I held dear in my love of fantasy, and paying homage to the great ideas of the past. What I’ve discovered over time, though, is that there are often unintentional parallels, too – similarities between my writing and something else that I was entirely unaware of. The parallels, of course, can be between my fiction and another fiction, but sometimes something in the very real world crops up and makes me remember that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.

For example: this morning while browsing Reddit, I came across an article about a disease called African trypanosomiasis – also referred to as ‘sleeping sickness’. It’s passed on by tsetse flies, and amongst the symptoms are disrupted sleep cycles, fever, aches and pains. For those of you who’ve read the first part of book three, Ancients & Death, you’ll be aware that in the world of Erâth there is a disease called the ‘Sleeping Death’, which – you guessed it – comes with fever, aches and pains, before the victim ultimately passes into sleep and never wakes up.

Now there are significant differences between the two diseases – one real and one fictional – but the parallels are nonetheless uncanny. And would you believe, I had never heard of sleeping sickness before this morning.

In the time since I’ve been writing, I’ve come across other parallels, too. In writing my YA novel 22 Scars, I thought a story focusing on depression and self-harm would be pretty unique. After finishing and publishing it, I discovered many others: Scars, by Cheryl Rainfield, Cut by Patricia McCormick, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, and quite a few others as well. I hadn’t heard of any of these books before writing my own.

It’s a funny thing, and can be a bit discouraging sometimes, because of course we all want to think our ideas are the most original, unique ones out there that nobody else could have thought of. Of course, real life isn’t about that; when you really break it down, every story has already been told in its base essence – tragedy, comedy, etc. – but the details are what make it your own. Because with nearly eight billion people in the world, the likelihood of two individuals’ stories being similar is pretty high. On the flip side, it also means your story – the one you have to tell – is one in eight billion. And that’s pretty unique.

So in the end, I try not to worry about the parallels, or the things that seems like influence, copying or even plagiarism, because I know my influences and I know my inventions. I’m quite open about the deliberate parallels, and have nothing to hide; I just find the unintentional ones fascinating, because how can my mind invent something that, as it turns out, already exists?

The world is a strange and wonderful place, indeed.