Category Archives: Woe is Richard

NaNoWriMo 2023: How’d I do?

Covid virus
THIS is what I’ve been fighting all week!

Warning: This post is utterly unstructured. It’s rambly. Unfocused. Incoherent. Enjoy.

The first thing I want to say is that my short story “The Apocalypses of Cheryl Dean” has been published by Inner Worlds magazine, and can be found online. It’s one of my favorite stories, and I am so glad it found a good home. The other stories in that issue are all wonderful as well. Check it out!

Well, I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo this year, by which I mean I did not reach 50,000 words in my novel before November 30. Just after mid-November, I altered my goal, since I was sick, so I aimed for 25,000 words by November 30. I did not reach that goal either. I ended up with about 23,000 words on Witness to the Scourge because, well, I was sick. With COVID. Yes, it’s still out there, people. I’m glad I am fully vaccinated with all kinds of boosters, since I’d hate to think of how badly off I’d be otherwise. Instead it just settled in my lungs like a cold, and filled up my sinuses, and only gave me one night of shivering fever. I’m reasonably sure that I won’t end up with long COVID.

So, Witness to the Scourge will have to wait until I feel better.

My family celebrates Thanksgiving today, as well as my mom’s birthday. Unfortunately, I can’t make it, because, as I already said, COVID. This makes me unutterably sad. I am, of course, grateful for a number of things: COVID vaccines and boosters, modern medicine in general, and so on. My pulmonologist in particular has been very helpful. I have a birthday present to send to my mom, or to deliver on Christmas Eve, but I won’t say what it is here.

On writing in general, I wonder if I should strive to be a more ambitious writer, meaning that I should aim to write better, write more, write faster, and really push that publication agenda. I mean, I already write quite a bit, I submit manuscripts twice a week, but I tend to trunk my novels before actually finishing them (see my previous post on that, “The Trunkening“). I need to go in with a solid vision of the story, and, you know, actually finish them. I’ll come up with an agenda, suggested by my friend Theresa, and see what happens.

I suppose that’s all I’ve got this time around. I promise my next post with be more coherent.

So this time I’m going to recommend the Penelope Standing Mysteries by my friend T. M. Baumgartner, writing as Tess Baytree. I don’t read many cozy mysteries, but this series is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend them. Start, of course, with the first one, Death Walks a Dog, and go from there.

Death Walks a Dog
Death Walks a Dog by Tess Baytree

It’s Holidailies Time, but this year I have no penguin adventures to share with you. My deepest apologiest.

On the Trunkening

Terry Pratchett's Luggage
An illustration of the luggage from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels

I’ve been thinking about novels I’ve written and abandoned over the years, just as a sort of exercise in self-torture. I’ve written most of these for National Novel-Writing Month, but not all. Here is a list, probably somewhat incomplete:

2001: Unfallen. This was a novelization of a World of Darkness game I ran in late 1999/early 2000. Status: Trunked.

2003: The Outer Darkness. A space opera. Status: Trunked.

2004: The Road to Gilead. A post-apocalyptic cowboy novel. Status: Trunked.

2005: Fred Again. Some sort of contemporary fantasy with elements of cosmic horror and humor. I’ve worked and worked on this one, but I haven’t touched it for a couple of years. I did retitle it The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, though. Status: In progress. Sort of.

2006: Code Monkey! A Love Story with Occasional Monsters. Another contemporary fantasy. Status: Trunked.

2007: The Return of Deacon Dread. Not sure how to describe this one. Contemporary fantasy with horror elements. Status: Trunked.

2008: The Lord of Nightmares. A sequel to The Return of Deacon Dread. Never finished. Status: Trunked.

2009: Iron Horse Apocalypse. A cosmic horror western set entirely on a moving train. Status: Trunked.

2010: Brought to Life. I felt like writing a modern-day Frankenstein novel set in America, with supernatural elements. Status: Trunked.

2011: Toymaker, Part One. A story about a Boston mage in the 18th century. Status: Trunked.

2012: Toymaker, Part Two: A sequel to Toymaker, Part One. Status: Trunked.

2013: Love in the Time in Cthulhu. A contemporary fantasy love story set in a world where Cthulhu has risen up and the world has fallen to the Old Ones. Status: Trunked.

2014: The Book of Jonah. A retelling of the Biblical story of Jonah, set in modern day America. Status: Trunked.

2015: Hashtag M for Murder. A sequel to Fred Again. Status: Trunked.

2016: Padma. A horror/fantasy/sci fi novel about a medical student facing the end of the world. Status: Trunked. For now.

2017: And the Devil Will Drag You Under. Status: In Progress.

2019: A Plague of Ghosts. A space opera historical novel, set in both a distant galaxy and on Earth during the First World War. Status: Trunked.

2021: The Afghan Code. A spoof of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Status: Trunked.

2022: The Outer Darkness I: Genesis. A re-envisioning of The Outer Darkness from 2003. Status: Trunked.

There are more, but those are the ones I wrote for National Novel Writing Month events. And even though I haven’t “won” NaNoWriMo since 2016, it still holds a place in my heart.

So why the trunkening? Why do I end up giving up on so many of my novels? I don’t know, but it is frustrating. Now, there’s nothing wrong with putting a project on “pause”, as several of my writer friends have pointed out to me, while you regroup and put together some more ideas for the project. So some of these projects might show up, emerge from the trunk like ghosts, but I somehow doubt it. Each time I finish something but don’t revisit it to revise/submit, I feel like a failure somehow. And if I give up on my current projects — Witness to the Scourge and And the Devil Will Drag You Under — I’ll feel like even more of a failure.

There’s certainly a part of me, that I can’t seem to shut up, that tells me I have to complete something before I die. I wanted to have a lot of completed, published novels under my belt by this point in my life, but that hasn’t happened, despite me wanting to be a writer and novelist pretty much all my life. So what’s the deal? Fear of failure? Of success? Laziness? I don’t think I’m a lazy person, for reasons I won’t go into here, so maybe it’s one of the other two reasons. Or maybe something altogether else.

Probably fear of failure, though. Each of these novels represented the best that I could write at the time I wrote them — this is important, because most of them were written during November, during National Novel Writing Month. But whenever I looked back at them, I saw nothing but imperfections and annoyances, and I got too overwhelmed to rework them and submit them. I didn’t want to face the fact that I could rework and rewrite them, only to end up with them still being imperfect and bad.

So for accountability’s sake, here’s what I plan on doing for the next few months:

  • Finish revisions to And the Devil Will Drag You Under. Then maybe shoot it off to some beta readers, and then query it.
  • Write and finish Witness to the Scourge. That’s my NaNo project for this year, as I’ve mentioned before.

Maybe after November is done, I will revisit some of the trunked novels I’ve listed above and see whether I can salvage them.

If you’ve read any of the novels I’ve listed here as part of one of my critique groups in the past or because I posted it online while writing it, let me know and tell me what you thought!

Today I recommend Wonderbook, a book on the craft of writing by Jeff VanderMeer. It’s got plenty of tips and ideas and essays and examples, is lavishly illustrated, and contains sidebars and essays by writers such as Neil Gaiman, Tobias Buckell, and more! I love this book, and I am always inspired whenever I read it.

Cover of "Wonderbook" by Jaff VanderMeer
THE best writing book I’ve found, bar none!

You can buy it here, or from Amazon.

The Heartbreak of Writing

The Jolly Roger from Peter Pan
Captain Hook’s ship, the Jolly Roger

Writing has plenty of heartbreak, and plenty of hazards. You may be speed-reading a text for research, then slam into a bookmark and go flying across the room. You may find that you’ve written yourself into a corner with your characters planning to do one thing, and you planning on them doing something else. You may end up in love with your main character, Pygmalion-style, and not know what to do with yourself.

Or, if you’re like me, you might suddenly lose two months’ worth of work on your novel.

For years now, I’ve been using a type of version control software called Subversion (usually meant to track software source code) to save backups of all of my desktop files, from stories to novels to homework, on my main Linux desktop as well as on my Windows laptop and my Dropbox account (I used to store a repository on my hosting company’s server too, but for some reason I stopped). This setup has served me very well for most of that time.

Until now.

Last night, I launched Scrivener and put in a few words on And the Devil Will Drag You Under for the first time in a couple of weeks (I’ve been busy with work and school), and then went to save my work. Then I used TortoiseSVN (a Windows version of the Subversion software) to add my new files and check them in to my “everything Richard has written” repository on my laptop. I got an error telling me that it couldn’t do the update because the files needed to be cleaned up or something. I ran the cleanup script, mindlessly checking all the options — which included deleting all “unversioned files”. And since I hadn’t actually committed any of my work to the repository for a couple of months (I know, that’s bad practice on my part), TortoiseSVN merrily deleted two months’ worth of work on that novel, representing approximately 10,000 words, two critical scenes, character sketches, and plot point outlines. I also lost some homework (fortunately I’d already turned it in), the latest version of my resume, and three short stories that I’d drafted earlier this year.

If I’d been saving my files properly, adding and committing them to the repository, or even just saving them on Dropbox regularly, this wouldn’t have happened, so really I have no one to blame but myself and my bad file management practices. I was able to recover some of the work because I upgraded my Dropbox account and now I have access to their “Rewind” feature, but I’m still out a lot of work.

The resume, homework, and short stories… Meh. They can all be found elsewhere or rewritten (honestly, the stories were begging for rewrites anyway), but the novel… Yeah, I’m bummed. I’m honestly not sure I have the energy right now to rewrite those critical scenes as well as the revisions to earlier chapters I’d done in order to make room for the scenes.

So, I’m going to take a break.

Not from writing. Heavens no. The last time I took a long break from writing I ended up a quivering mess on the floor, begging for a word processor or a Scrivener license. No, I’m just taking a break from Devil, and moving on to another project. I think I shall draft The X of Doom, the first novel in my vaguely-outlined pirate trilogy. I have characters, I know the name of the ship, I have plenty of notes and plenty of research material. I’m also planning on running a Pathfinder game which will act as a sort of prequel to the trilogy (though the Pathfinder game will likely feature more elves and whatnot than there actually were during the Golden Age of Piracy).

I’m happy I’m not on a deadline for And the Devil Will Drag You Under. That’s one of the joys of being a terminally unpublished writer: You can write whatever you want, whenever you want. There’s no contract stipulating that you must have the manuscript in by a certain date, and no language saying that you have to return your advance if you don’t finish the work at all. If I did have a publishing contract, I’d have to suck it up and get to work anyway. I’d ask the agent/editor/publisher for an extension to the deadline, and all that, and that could get messy.

I’m not happy that I’ve lost the work.

So off I go. I’ll read various books about piracy and the high seas, and go from there.

So how’s your day?

The State of the Richard

The palm of a hand painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag
I stand with Ukraine

Boy, ain’t the world something these days? Between the pandemic and the war in Europe, the world’s pretty messed up right now. The Russia/Ukraine conflict has the potential to spread further, and despite wishful thinking among politicians (especially on the Republican side of the aisle), the pandemic really isn’t over. In both arenas, there’s a long way to go to achieve a peaceful and appropriate outcome.

In my own little world, I’m stressing about school and work and writing. While I’m learning about Information Literacy Instruction in school and producing videos and critiques of other students’ videos, in addition to reading and writing discussion posts, I’m also trying to complete 508-compliance training for work. 508-compliance, in case you don’t know, is making sure that all documents prepared for public consumption are fully accessible to people with visual, hearing, and learning disabilities, as well as to people with limited fine mobility. There is actually some overlap here, because the videos we make for school need to have captions and need to be accessible to people with visual impairments.

Writing-wise, I haven’t been able to get much done. I set a goal of 500 words per day on The Devil will Drag You Under, but over the past week, I’ve written less than 500 words total. This doesn’t bode well for completing that revision by May 12 as I’d hoped.

I have, however, been able to keep up on my target of submitting two manuscripts to various markets per week, which is a relief. Here are the stats for the year so far:

  • Submissions: 18
  • Rejections, form: 15
  • Rejections, personal: 2
  • Acceptances: 0
  • Pending submissions: 8

Some of those rejections were for stories that I’d submitted last year. One of those rejections was for a story that I thought was a sure thing, but alas, was not meant to be. I have hopes that this will be the year I make my first professional sale, but I’m not optimistic about ever achieving that goal.

I’m also far behind on my reading. While for fun I’m reading The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan (as well as a couple of others), I also am reading two novels for my writers’ group, which is meeting this coming Thursday. I’m looking forward to the meeting — I always do, because my fellow writers are a jolly bunch — but going in without having read the works under consideration is not a good look.

On the other hand, though, my blood pressure is averaging lower than it has in years, and my resting heart rate is lowering as well. This is probably, in part, due to the fact that Jennifer and I are both participating in the Outbreak challenge, a silly virtual game where you walk a given number of steps per week to outrun a zombie horde. The game syncs with our FitBits, so we don’t even have to track our steps manually. This week, we’re aiming for 10,500 steps per day. That’s a lot, and trying to squeeze those steps in while working on everything else is a big challenge.

All in all, I’m doing pretty well, given everything. I hope you’re doing well too.

School report

I’m not depressed right now, but I was in a serious downswing a couple of weeks ago. One on day, I spent most of the day asleep, waking up at 3, then went back to bed at 8. It lasted several days. I’m not often swinging down anymore, not like I was before I finally got treatment, but I felt like the poor sperm whale in the gif above, pulled into the deeps by the kraken of melancholy.


I’m enjoying library school. So far, I feel very competent in it; when working on group projects, my opinions are well-received and considered, and I apparently have a very good academic writing style. And even in semesters where I don’t have any group projects, like the current one, I’m still feeling competent because I can write academically and contribute to discussions with the best of them. I didn’t always feel this way in college, except for in my Philosophy classes and some science classes (I still don’t know how I passed Sociology, though).

What I don’t like thinking about is how long it’s going to take me to get my degree. Between work and every other commitment I’ve got, and for financial reasons, I can only take one class per quarter. I’m not normally one who worries about my age, but I do fear that I will be done with my degree and ready to work in a library with less than ten years until retirement age. This is something that, despite laws that prevent discrimination against older employees, may put off some employers.

I also have not pondered much in the way of a future career. I don’t think I’d have a problem working in a public library, assuming the pandemic comes to an end before my academic career does (and, to be entirely honest, I’m not counting on that). I think I’d have more fun in a special library, perhaps a science library or a museum library. Academic libraries, libraries that are attached to universities, hold little interest for me at this point. I’ve seen what it’s like to be an academic at a university, and it ain’t pretty. While being a staff member at a university isn’t too bad, faculty and academics have to deal with grants, funding, other faculty, and the politics and schmoozing that go with such positions. I’m not made for such things

I should have stuck with the program when I was first in it back in the early aughts, because then I’d be worrying about how to keep whatever job I had rather than pondering what I’m pondering now. Ah well. What could have been isn’t what necessarily what would have been, in the words of some sage.

In other news, here, have an earworm:

This is one of my favorite John Denver songs. I grew up with the music of John Denver — my mom was a fan — and listening to this song reminds me of my childhood, but also of my occasional interest, as a kid, in the ocean and the critters that dwell within. Yes, there was a time when I wanted to be a marine biologist.

I recently applied for a position with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, but they wanted someone with video editing experience, something I lack. I mentioned my interest on social media, and was inundated with advice to “Go for it anyway!” So I did. I’m not disappointed, though. I knew it was a long shot and I’m glad I went for it, even if they turned me down two days later.

My dream of pursuing a career that combines librarianship with science communication and the occasional fiction writing carries on!


[A-Z] Z is for Zoology Etc.

Animal_diversityWhen I first started college at UC Davis, my plan was actually not to study Philosophy or English or any of the liberal arts at all. I’d done so well in my science classes in high school (particularly AP Biology) that I originally planned on going into medicine, with a focus on Biomechanical Engineering, whatever that meant at the time.

But, as usually happens with freshmen in college, I ended up changing majors. First, I went in as a Biological Sciences major. Then I decided that Marine Biology was really neat, so I switched to that. Then I was going to double major in English and Zoology, theorizing that I could do science in the days and write science fiction at night (“I could make up realistic sounding aliens, and then write about them!” is what I told people). Then I really wanted to be a veterinarian, so I switched over to animal physiology.

Then came my sophomore year, and I was a bit more realistic about what I could achieve in college. Mathematics had always been my downfall in high school, and I was no better off in college, where Calculus just about killed me. And so did Chemistry. Ugh. I ended up taking Statistics twice, and did worse the second time around than the first. But I did fantastic in the biology courses and physics courses that I took. I got a B+ in Physiology 110, which many students agreed was one of the hardest undergraduate courses at UC Davis. Emboldened, I took another swing at Chemistry, only to fail again. Double ugh.

Then I took a course in the philosophy of the biological sciences, and it was like I’d found my true calling. I was one of the only students in that class who understood the material and what was going on. The professor (actually a professor of population genetics who happened to dabble in philosophy) was impressed by me as well. Just at the end of that quarter I officially changed my major to philosophy.

My memory’s a bit sketchy here, but, as I recall, to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Davis, you needed a total of 180 quarter units (each class, of course being 4 or 5 units). To get a degree in Philosophy you needed to have a minimum of 52 undergraduate units in philosophy courses. When I graduated, I had 80 units in Philosophy, and 225 units overall, the point at which the University pretty much booted you out. That meant I had over 100 units in a wide variety of other courses like Botany, the aforementioned Statistics courses, Religious Studies, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Folklore and Mythology, History, and so on. Not enough in any one field to get a minor in any of them, let alone a double major. I just enjoyed learning about whatever tickled my fancy whenever I opened that course catalog. My major adviser called me an intellectual vagabond and a dilettante. I wasn’t sure at the time, and I’m still not sure, whether he was complimenting me or expressing his frustration.

And, ironically, I never took a course in zoology.

And when it came time to graduate, I froze in terms of what to do next. I could have gone on to graduate school in Philosophy (I had a particular propensity for the philosophy of science as well as symbolic logic and the philosophy of religion), but the notion of having to focus on one area of study for the rest of my life was grating to me. I ended up doing… nothing. Floating. Drifting. Taking on job as a barista, a clerk at a video store, a newspaper delivery driver, a pizza delivery guy, and so on. Really, it was by chance that I ended up working at the same University where I had studied, and sheer luck landed me into my current job (okay, I spent years teaching myself web programming, but you get the idea).

To this day, I still enjoy reading books on philosophy and science, and I pride myself on being able to talk intelligently on a wide number of topics, as well as being smart enough to ask questions on the topics I know nothing about. I went to library school for a little bit, on the assumption that I would be able to find in there a career that would let me be paid to be an intellectual vagabond and dilettante, but I wasn’t able to fully integrate my love of open source technology with what I was learning, so I dropped out. A silly decision which I still regret, but what the hell.

So now I get my dose of vagabonditry and dilettantism here and there, reading books, watching documentaries, visiting zoos and natural history museums, and so on, though I really don’t do any of those as much as I used to.

In a way, I still feel adrift. I like the job I’ve landed in, and I enjoy writing the stories I do, but I still wish I could have found a way to make my curiosity pay my way through life.

On Project Abandonment

This is the album I’m currently listening to:


It’s The Music of Cosmos, the soundtrack for Carl Sagan’s masterful PBS series from the early 80s. It’s got music by Vangelis, J. S. Bach, Leopold Stokowski, and so on. It’s tremendously meditative, and back when I was in high school I listened to this album obsessively, over and over again, frequently while sitting in the dark or out walking at night.

Back then, inspired by Sagan, I was going to be a scientist of some sort. I wasn’t quite sure what sort, though, because Cosmos covered just about everything there was to cover, from the evolution of humanity to the distant reaches of the Universe, and the idea of focusing on just one field felt a little confining. I decided, when it was time to go to college, that I would stick with the field I was good at, which was biology.

All this time I was writing, as well. I wrote some science fiction, some fantasy, and some stories about a detective named Fizziwinker (no, I have no idea where that name came from, what it means, or whether or not Fizziwinker had any other name besides Fizziwinker). But I was a big fan of Cosmos, and of science in general, and I had this idea round about my senior year of high school that I would write a book about science. Not just about science, you see, but Science (with a capital S). It was going to be all about the history and philosophy of science, and more: an exploration not just of those topics, but also of what it means to be human, and our place in the Universe. It was going to be called The Neverending Symphony, which I thought at the time was a grand title (it is now the title of a series of video games, I believe).

In college, I put away this idea, figuring (a) I was too busy studying biology and then philosophy to get anything like this written, or (b) I was too busy playing Dungeons and Dragons to get anything like this written. But in the 90s, after I graduated college, I resurrected the idea. Briefly. I couldn’t be a scientist — as a guy who graduated from college with a Philosophy degree and a GPA just below 3.0, that road seemed closed to me. But I could still write about science, and I could still inject that book about science with all the philosophy I had just learned. I could still write my Neverending Symphony.

But I didn’t. In fact, I never really got anywhere with that project beyond putting together a mix tape of music that sort of put me in the same mood as the Cosmos soundtrack. I also had no idea how to go about writing such a grand project.

There’s still a part of me, though, that thinks that perhaps I could pull this off. After all, if linguist/funny writer Bill Bryson could write A Short History of Nearly Everything, then perhaps I can write The Neverending Symphony. It would take a LOT of research, basically a second liberal arts education, in the arts, humanities, and sciences, to make it happen.

How would I even start? I have no idea.

Should I even try?

Writing vs. Kobolds

Sneak koboldWell, the kobolds are at it again. This whole week has been a mix of anxiety and depression and bouts of low self-esteem and, well, whatever else you can think of. The kobold attacks have focused on my writing, instead of my job and my general sense of personhood. I suppose that’s progress… of some sort… I don’t know. Whatever.

They’re sneaky, these kobolds. I can be doing whatever I’m doing and suddenly get stabbed in the back by some sort of kobold rogue. The bastards. This past week, I’ve been trying to focus on work, but the kobolds attacked my writing self esteem anyway. Again I say, those little bastards.

I Tweeted these attacks as they came. I figured that being public about my depression and anxiety couldn’t hurt. There are plenty of people who are open about these conditions, and they don’t seem to have any ill effects. So that’s what I did. Here are a couple of the Tweets that I made:



and so on. Various people on Twitter and Facebook pointed out that there were cognitive distortions behind these attacks, and that helped. Emotional reasoning, mind reading, fortune telling, and so on. It helped me come up with some logical responses, and while that helped a little, depression lies and blocks your ability to listen to logic.

It helps a little to go over my writing history. So here goes:

I wrote my first “book” when I was pretty young. I don’t remember my exact age, though my mom probably does. It was called “Tornado in the Sky” and it was about… well, a tornado in the sky. I’m not entirely sure what that means. But I wrote it, illustrated it, and bound it myself. I kept writing through middle school, proud of my stories, and through high school. In fact, my 12th grade English teacher actually told me that I was the finest writer he’d ever had to honor to teach, which made me feel great, because I had (and still have) a great deal of respect for him. I wrote more in my freshman year of college, even submitted my science fiction and fantasy stories to some of the major markets (Analog, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). Never got a sale, though I got some very nice personal rejections from some of them.

And then in my second year of college — this would have been 1987 or so — I just… stopped. I fell in with a crowd that played a lot of role-playing games, and for years I focused on Dungeons and Dragons, and for something like fifteen years I focused all of my creative energies on role-playing games of various sorts. Almost always as a Game Master, not as a player; I loved worldbuilding and running games in the worlds that I created, and, if I do say so myself, I was pretty good at it. At least two people have said publicly (by which I mean Facebook) that I was the best DM ever.

In 1996 I wound up running a Live Action Role-Playing game (see here for a sense of the plotlines I was coming up with and running for the players). That, of course, took up all my creative energy, and I didn’t write stories during that time. I ran that game for five years, bringing it to an end in 2001.

During all the time that I ran and played role-playing games of various sorts, I did not write. That’s fourteen years. There are plenty of writers who say that role-playing games helped them become better writers, but I think I learned a lot of bad habits instead. Sure, I became pretty good at world-building, but my style of DM-ing was pretty reactive. In other words, most of what I did, I did in response to what the players did; as a result, the characters I came up with in my stories were pretty passive, reacting TO situations, rather than initiating actions of their own. In fiction writing, this is a bad thing.

So. Fourteen years is quite awhile, and, as I mentioned, during that time I learned some bad habits, and lost some good ones.

It was in 2002 that I decided that I was going to take writing seriously again, by which I mean I would write regularly, try to make some sales, and so on. I have made a few sales, none of them professional or qualifying me for SFWA or HWA membership, but at this point it’s been two years since my last sale. Which is why I feel like I’m not moving forward. And why I doubt my abilities as a writer. And at the age of 45, I feel like I not only haven’t made any pro sales, I, therefore, never will. That’s what I mean by being too old. And what I mean by not moving forward.

I recognize that these are ridiculous thoughts. I would never tell anyone else my age nor older that they’re too old to start a writing career, because it’s simply not true. Yet I have no problem telling it to myself. But when faced against depression and anxiety, logic rarely wins. Depression lies, as others have pointed out before, and sometimes it’s so loud you just can’t drown it out.

Another kobold attack, which I think makes me look like sort of a jerk, is the second one; I have friends who have made professional sales, who have won awards, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy for these friends of mine, and I begrudge them nothing. But… I feel like I’m never going to get there myself. Again, that’s a statement that’s full of cognitive distortions and distorted thinking, but it’s a hard one to get past.

So… I’m not sure where to go from here. Just keep writing, I suppose. Just keep writing. And submitting. And getting feedback from my writers’ groups. And so on. I’ve got my Story of the Week project going, and I’m still rewriting Code Monkey!. And I’ve started plotting my novel for this year’s National Novel Writing Month. And I have plans for another novel after Code Monkey!. But none of these feel like they’re professional level projects or goals. I don’t even know how to set professional goals. Feedback would be helpful here.

I think that’s it. Depression should lose to logic, but sometimes depression’s lies are too loud and too convincing.

Thoughts, anyone?

Signal boosting; plus, singing kobolds!

Now, before you do anything else, go here and read the announcement. In brief: my friend Andrea Stewart has won first place in the third quarter Writers of the Future contest, which is a really big deal. I love it when friends of mine get published or win contests or things like that. I always like to say, haughtily, “Yeah, they’re in my writers’ group. Also I went to a party at their house and it was awesome.” Also, read Andrea’s more detailed blog post here.

Kobold_Bard_by_D_MACWriting about depression is always difficult, but I’m told it’s therapeutic to do so, so here we go.

I’ve talked about kobolds as the metaphor for my depression. The metaphor is only a couple of years old, but it was inspired by my old Dungeons and Dragons days. Kobolds are easily defeated monsters, you see, when they come along in singles or in pairs. They only have half a hit die after all (meaning between 1 and 3 hit points, meaning that they are really easy to defeat). But when they show up in huge swarms, bursting down barricades and pouring into dungeon chambers, they can easily overwhelm and vanquish even the more experienced and high-level parties of player characters. Depression is kind of like those kobolds; there’s always one or two tagging along, knocking on the door, begging for attention, but generally easy to vanquish. But sometimes they show up in swarms, battalions, and then it’s easy to let the darkness overwhelm you and just… stop. For those like me who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Type II, the kobolds sometimes go away completely, but when they swarm, they really swarm.

And for the last few days, boy have they been swarming.

My current angst seems to be centered on three things: my health, my writing, and my age. I’m about to turn 45, you see, and my beard is going gray and I’m getting gray at my temples and some of my joints ache and I get gastric reflux occasionally and so on and so on. Maybe I’m coming down with one of those midlife crisis things that I kept hearing about all my life. Is it time to buy a red sports car, track down a girlfriend who can’t legally drink yet, and get some hair plugs? (Probably not. I hate sports cars, I’m very happy with my wife, and I’m not going bald at all.)

Nah, I think it’s more that in certain areas of my life, I feel like I’m always starting over, and that’s frustrating. I weighed in at the doctor’s this morning, and discovered, to my horror, that I weigh as much now as I did five years ago. So… I feel like I’m starting over with regards to getting my act together when it comes to my health.

And when it comes to my writing, I feel like I’m a failure. I’ve been writing all my life, and eleven years ago I decided to crack down and take my writing seriously. And now at age 45 I have yet to make  a single professional sale, or even finish a single novel. I feel like I’m at the start of my writing career, and that, too is frustrating. (And to clarify, because it’s come up a couple of times in private messages on Facebook: No, Andrea’s success has not exacerbated these feelings; on the contrary, I’m very happy for her, and the news actually cheered me up quite a bit.)

But these thoughts… they’re all irrational. They’re the kobolds singing their nefarious songs to me. It’s just the depression talking, and depression lies. That’s an important truth to keep in mind when one’s depression feels overwhelming. Of course, it would be nice to stop up my ears like Ulysses’s sailors and ignore the songs of the kobold sirens, but that’s easier said than done.

And now, three days after the stupid kobolds started singing their songs, I’m still feeling captivated and enthralled. I can’t seem to figure out how to eat nutritiously, how to stop eating when I’m no longer hungry, how to get started with the exercise, and so on. And I can’t seem to focus on my writing at all; it’s far easier to watch old episodes of Futurama than it is to choose a writing project and work on it.

I know that the proper approach is just to get going and start moving, but it feels overwhelming. Everything I’ve read tells me to simply choose one task, a starting point, and focus on that for the moment, but even that seems like it’s too much.

But depression lies. The kobolds deceive and obfuscate. It’s hard to remember that when I’m sitting at my desk at work, wishing I could just go home and go back to bed with my cat, but remember it I must. And keep taking the meds, and keep focusing on the small, individual tasks before me.

Sooner or later, these feelings will pass, and I can go back to normal.

On another note, this is entry 1,000 on my blog, which I’ve been keeping on and off since 1996. It’s gone through several permutations, from when each entry was simply a separate HTML page off my website, through a custom blog program that I wrote in PHP, to Moveable Type (eugh) to WordPress. So, yay.