Sunday, August 28, 2016

Body and Mind at Work

Well, the exercise at the gym has been knackering me. I’ve done an hour plus in the morning seven out of the last eight days. I’ve then come back, done some work, eaten at about midday, then fallen asleep for one or two hours. Okay, I’m fifty-five so there’s that, but I am seeing quite rapid change to my physique and, over the last few days my knackerdom is decreasing. With this steady decrease my brain is picking up slack too and I’m working more…

Usually, when writing a book, I can happily record a word-count in my journal five days a week of 2,000 words a day. That is simply not occurring this time for … various reasons. When I started writing this book (this was maybe the year before last) it was while I was depressed, anxious and suffering from panic attacks. I would have periods when I would feel better and maybe do a few thousand words. Also I took the view that just getting words down was the main thing and would pursue any idea that occurred to me. This had always worked before and I could usually sew together plot threads, or excise those that added little, or remove characters I didn’t need or even meld them with others – do the work. It didn’t go that way this time.

The ninety plus thousand words I produced rather reflected the state of my mind. Disparate disconnect threads run through. Characters are subject to radical change, often illogical change and some of the things they have done just don’t fit a story arc, probably because I had no idea of their motivations.

You get the picture.

I have tried a number of times to resolve this, approaching the book with new brio and tearing it apart, making a fresh start, rewriting a lot, but such has been the state of my mind that my energy for this would leak away after a few days. I would gaze at the work in bewilderment and see absolutely no solutions. I was never actually blocked; just incapable of weaving together the complications as I had always done before.

State of mind of course.

However, over the last four months things started to change. Many of you have read here of my perpetual battle with my own mind. I’ve tried many things, some of which definitely helped, some of which might have helped. All I do know is that I started to beat the panic attacks, and that the anxiety and depression started to decline. I also got slapped in the face with a couple of things recently: I’ll simply call them reality wake-up calls. So I came back to England. And now I’m working…

I started on the book again and again felt things were unresolvable. I then, after working on it for most of a morning, just sat and thought about it for four or more hours, hardly making any notes – a level of concentration I have been incapable of for some time. I saw solutions but they were not easy – I had to dig them out of my skull. The next day I copied the book to a new file and started tearing it apart once again, and once again putting it back together again. And it is working; I am seeing my way clear to an ending. This, to go back to what led me into this ramble, is why I cannot record 2,000 words a day: I am rewriting, reordering and deleting. In fact today’s word count would be negative.

Something else happened too. This book is the start of a series of books – maybe a trilogy or maybe more – and I was getting the same feeling of where am I going with this about the overall story. I slept today, again, and when I woke up I started thinking about it all. Immediately I started having ideas about that overall story – they propelled me to my feet and to a notepad. Wow, I just love the way the mind keeps on working even when you’re snoring. The subconscious is like a bull terrier with a bone, it keeps gnawing on it till something snaps.

The way is clear now and I feel good about this.    

Monday, August 22, 2016

Back in England

I’m back in England early this year for a couple or reasons I either cannot or will not talk about here. What I will say, however, is that my anxiety and panic attacks have all but disappeared and I am getting my life back on track. This means that I am working on various projects including the next books. Again I must print out and read again stuff I did before (mostly last year), to get it running in my head again and get writing. Also other things…

While I was out on Crete I kept to a pretty severe exercise regimen. At the start of the year I was walking in the mountains from 8 to 12 kilometres every day. As the temperature rose I turned to kayaking and swimming and most days was kayaking 10K and/or swimming 2K. Back here I decided I needed something to replace that so for the first time in many years joined a gym.

I told the guy who did my induction what I had been doing before which is probably why each of the four circuits I am taking on (one each day) start with 20 minutes on a cross trainer and end with 2000M on a rowing machine, with lots of work with weights between. The induction lasted 2 hours and I felt shell-shocked afterwards. The next day I did my first circuit and found that using the weights rendered me incapable of doing the two sets of 25 standard press-ups and two sets of 25 press-ups with the hands directly under the body. I managed 14 standard press-ups and gave up. Giggling.

After doing this I came back home and felt energised. Amongst other things I wrote 1,000 words – this was all good. The next day I found it difficult to get out of chairs and there were few parts of my body I could touch without them hurting. Today I did my second circuit. This was hard but I managed it all. Afterwards I sorted out some bits and pieces in my local town and returned to a big breakfast. My body then demanded an hour and half of sleep but now, as you see, I’m back to writing.

I should settle into this over the next few weeks … either that or I’ll have a heart attack on the cross-trainer. But now it is time for me to print up the start of a book…  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Late Update

I see that it’s been two months since I last blogged. So, time for an update.

I’ve been doing plenty of walking in the mountains and I’ve been taking my kayak out for runs up and down the coast. It’s not yet been warm enough for swimming and frankly I haven’t had the energy. The weather here has been odd: clouds and sunshine interspersed with periods when we have been swamped by Sahara dust. A few times outdoors it has looked like a sepia photograph. The stuff gets everywhere and with it continuing there seems hardly any point in cleaning my car, though occasionally I wash down my terrace to stop tracking the stuff into the house. Today is windy and cloudy and everything is covered with that dust. Even my Greek neighbours are now saying, ‘Come on, it’s the end of May, where’s the sun?’

Though I have been walking and kayaking my energy has been low. This is due to the panic/anxiety attacks. They now mainly hit me in the morning as I try to catch an extra forty winks. It is almost as if my mind is fleeing from something that occurs while I am asleep. I have noticed I’ve been having more nightmares. Some do involve Caroline but generally they just involve fear. I had a couple that I used to have decades ago – involving a flood I am trying to escape and then seeing a mountainous wave approaching and thinking, ‘Fuck it, I‘m dead.’ Apparently nightmares like these are quite common. Anyway, since I am of a scientific turn of mind, I started to recording my ‘bad moments’ and plotting them on a graph. Thankfully the trend is downwards.

About seven weeks ago I got book III of the Transformation trilogy back from the editor and have, intermittently, been going through that. I would normally bang through this stuff in a week or so but, for perhaps the first time ever for me, I saw a deadline looming. However, I’ve finished with the edits and now there is a just a little wrangling to go through about the title. Hopefully, after I dispatch this back to Macmillan, I’ll be able to get back to some writing.

That’s all for now. I’ll try to update this more regularly.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Walking and Mindwork

While I ramble away here, let’s enjoy some pictures...

Anyway, I’ve been back on Crete now for two weeks. To begin with, because of all the shit I’ve been going through, I haven’t had much energy. I’ve done a couple of big walks but mostly small ones, gardening, and some other jobs I needed to sort out.

One of those jobs was getting my car here legal. I neglected it last year and emissions and mechanical tests were out of date as was the road tax which, the system here being fucked and Greek, can only be bought one month in the year. The result of that was that in all three cases I had to pay double.

Paying my road tax was interesting. I saw a guy in Makrigialos who found my details on the internet and printed me something to take to the bank where I could pay my road tax. I couldn’t pay at the bank. Maybe the post office? No, the tax office.

A lady in the post office showed me where this was. There they wrote out a note, which I then had to take back to the bank. The bank issued me a cheque, which I then had to take back to the tax office. By the time I got back they had found I owed taxes on my house, which I then had to traipse back to the bank to pay. By the end of that day I was €1000+ out of pocket.  

Anyway, I’m not unhappy about that because that was a bunch of worries out of the way. Also, if you refer to my previous post, the ‘shit I’ve been going through’ and my lack of energy is changing. It is spring now and some nice days are occurring. And now I’m walking properly...

Just letting my panic attacks happen and, when they happen, actively encouraging them has had an amazing effect. They’re dying away, and they’re dying away fast.

As I write this I have ‘walked to Voila and back’ (about 12 kilometres) eaten a second breakfast and had a snooze on my sofa. Boring? Yes, unless it is the first time in months you have managed to do that without panic attacks and without fearing what state you will wake up in.

It is almost as if letting those attacks happen and pushing them is the same as crying: unpleasant when it occurs but letting out some inner stress, with the result that you feel better afterwards.

Consequently my stress/anxiety levels have been dropping. This has enabled me to apply, thoroughly, some of the stuff in a book by Richard Carlson ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living’, and the mindfulness from the Williams and Penman book.

But enough of that. Now it is time for me to open up a file marked Jain1 and set to work.        

Sunday, March 20, 2016

DO Panic

When I came back to Crete my depression was over but I was still getting anxiety and panic attacks. Over a month it has been standard for me to wake up in the morning, usually very early, lie in bed hoping to snooze again then having a panic attack ensue the moment I started to drift off again. If I stayed in bed these would get worse and worse and when I finally got up I would be in a mess. My technique therefore was to try and get out of bed as quickly as possible. Other times I would get them while going into trance during meditation. Every day I would feel tired and it would take me hours in the morning to get motivated.

Moments of anxiety would also hit me during the day too. I have been fighting this for so long, sometimes thinking I was winning, sometimes sure I would never win.

Three or four days ago I lay down on my sofa and used a Paul McKenna hypnotic recording to relax. I went into trance then into sleep. When I woke up it was to a massive panic/anxiety attack. A whole body one with the skin on my arms feeling hot, my body buzzing, and of course I felt awful. All I could do was lie there and wait for it to pass – until I could get up and start doing things. It later passed but the next morning I had the same routine as above, at 4AM.

Later in the morning I felt so tired I lay on the sofa again, needing to rest but afraid to sleep. I started to doze off and, again, each time I did so, I had a panic attack. But then something happened...
Some days back I did some gardening. I cleared out a couple of composters and started weeding. Just feeling shit and wanting to get the job done. It then occurred to me to be mindful about what I was doing. Instead of letting my mind wander off into worries and negative thinking, which I just let go, I focused completely on what I was doing. Meticulously pulling the weeds, feeling them in my hands, smelling them, really looking at what I was doing – living in the moment. This really started to make me feel better and by the time I left the garden (my fingers cold and stiff) I felt that euphoria of normality.

During this last lot of panic attacks mindfulness kicked in again, and I found myself mentally stepping back from the panic attacks and just observing them with detached interest. The result of this was that I did get some snoozes in and got off the sofa feeling pretty good.

I did some internet research and it seems that all my fighting was the wrong thing to do. The first stage of recovering from panic attacks is ‘acceptance’. Okay, that was right. I then did further research and discovered a seemingly counterintuitive technique. Encourage the attacks. Try to make them worse. Till now I had been trying to stop them. I had some success but just felt more anxious afterwards. Next meditation session, when they came, I really tried to make the attacks worse and what happened was surprising, they withered away.

This morning I woke and did the same thing, and instead of them steadily getting worse as I lay in bed they got weaker and weaker. For the first time in months I actually managed to lie in bed and catch a few extra snoozes, and then get up feeling refreshed. My energy level for the day seemed twice what it has been.

So, win the fight by giving in, by actively helping the perceived enemy. This has never been in my playbook, but it is now.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Back on the Horse

Last week I bought my domain name It was almost an impulse buy, at the time, though it was something I had been thinking about on and off in the past. This was after a pretty good day on the Friday:

26th Feb
Ahah! 2,000 words again today. Little visit to the King's Ship and the arrival of a Jain super-soldier in a rather dangerous area. Of course I can say no more than this. I want you to actually buy the book, not check through all my FB posts and pick up enough plot information not to bother!

Back into it on Monday. I'll spend the weekend fooling about with website stuff and see if I can get properly sorted on the internet. I know that many have seen my blog because I regularly post links here. Fewer have seen my slightly rusty freespace website. It's also a tad out of date...

Shortly after I bought this name I got people offering to help me move and reconstruct my website. Thanks to all those who offered! The first one to offer, Mark Kendall, got the job and started me off over the weekend:

27th Feb
Okay, neck aching, eyes a bit dry and starey ... I've been sitting at a keyboard doing blog drudge-work for a bit too long. I did have a moment this morning while trying to figure things out when my mind went no, not going there, don't want to play. But thanks to Mark Mark Kendall's patient guidance I finally got a grip. More of the same tomorrow...

Very noticeable when I got into it, how out of date my website is. The last time I went through it and updated most of it was September 2013. At some point I put the last Owner book there but not much else. Today, as well as loading the data on the books to the new site, I've also been transferring articles going back 17 years. Funny to read them now. Quite a few of my opinions have changed!

Then on Monday I put aside website stuff and got back to my proper job…

29th Feb
Frosty but sunny this morning so a wake-up walk is in order before getting some jobs done. No malingering today. I have wasted too much time this Winter. I have a hit-list of things to do and intend to tick the majority of the boxes including, of course, some writing!

Ah well, other jobs got in the way today, along with a long pause for introspection. I thought about ripping apart, rewriting and rearranging all I've done thus far on the book so, only 1,000 words today. I think I'll hold fire on the rewriting for now. I'm sure my exasperation had more to do with my state of mind, not the state of the plot. Heh, writing books is easy Padawan.

Aah, thank you brain. I just needed to chill for a bit to realise that two intertwined plot lines need to be untangled and put one before the other. All perfectly logical. One failed attempt to breach the Defence Sphere with a poisoned chalice of an alien biological variety. This followed by a successful attempt which also unleashes something seriously dangerous, and inherently uncontrollable. Meanwhile the 'biological variety' goes off on a killing spree ... in the prador kingdom. Yes, looking good... Ooh, have I said too little or too much? Heh.

The Monday I did 1,000 words, but it was a useful day because I pondered quite a lot on the plot and where I should go with it. I also realised what was missing and what I needed to do. By Tuesday this was all bedded in and I was ready to go:

Mar 1st
Well, for all those who might have thought they'd figured out where I was going with these next books ... all change! I sat down this morning to write some replies to interview questions then, after a meditate, I started on the book. In a very short time I felt bogged down. Too much high-tech stuff. Too many independent dangerous powers. Not enough human story for contrast or to engage the reader more personally.

I wrote for a bit, then printed out my contents list and sat with that, in an armchair, and pondered. I started to see the required changes: an inhabited world, separatists, betrayal and assassination... I then returned to the keyboard and started ripping stuff apart, writing new sections and rearranging. I may well excise some of the stuff I've mentioned here. In writing you have to learn how to sacrifice your darlings. Anyway, including the interview, over 3,000 words done today.

Now this is how my days should draw to a close. Mentally tired after a good productive time spent writing, and physically tired after completing a weight-training session. Now I just need to add in a walk in the morning (it was pissing down this morning) and an hour of learning Greek...

All going good and I decided to move in other ways too:

Mar 2nd
And I'm a happy bunny this morning. 3,000 words written yesterday so all that seems to be going good. But, most importantly, I've booked a flight to Crete. 6 more days and I will be back here...

Wow, strange how things hit you. When I got up this morning it was sunny so off I went for a little walk, nothing big, just 40 minutes. Upon my return I dived into some writing until going out for lunch at 1.00. This was at a Chinese self-service place called Izumi. I stuffed myself full but of course could eat nowhere near as much as I used to eat in the past. Feeling slightly stressed I meditated when I got back, fell into a strange trance, then afterwards to sleep for an hour. Now, having woken I feel utterly knackered as if I've just had a snooze after a twenty-miler.

But no matter! I did good work this morning - I in fact did my 2,000 words before I went out. So, my main target for the day has been achieved!

Later still

Aah, recovering and waking up at last. I suspect my body just keeps going nope because I'm still in stress-recovery mode.

Anyway, another 2,000 words done today. I had written about 8 chapters. Now I'm back in chapter 2 ripping things apart, rewriting and writing new sections as I go through. Those who now use e-cigs will be glad to know I've included one. However, as well as providing all sorts of tasty, narcotic and interesting vapours, it also plugs into a handle and converts into a haiman-killing ionic handgun!

More tomorrow. I'm past 80,000 words now, which is about half the length of my biggest books. And, with these latest alterations the writing is going easier.

And that’s it thus far this week…

Friday, February 26, 2016

Pistol on the Wall

There’s a saying attributed to various people but mostly to Anton Chekhov: "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." I’m pretty sure I read it as a Chandler quote about putting a gun on the mantelpiece, but the meaning is the same. If you introduce something into a story that is definitely not just set dressing, you should use it.

My problem in this respect is that I have a gun on the mantelpiece and another on the hearth, there’s also a knife tucked into a book shelf, an AK47 resting on top the TV and some grenades hidden behind the sofa cushions. Every time I come up with a bright idea and introduce it to the story, it usually get complicated. Why? Because this is science fiction and the two guns talk, belong to a psychopath, and hate each other. Because the grenades are a conscious, slightly insane hive mind, and also belong to the psychopath, or so he thinks. Because the AK47 is controlled by a genocide surviving conjoined alien entity with plenty of resentments of its own. And the knife? Well it’s just a knife but I’m pretty damned sure one of the nutjobs in the room will use it.


No matter. I am in ‘just write it Neal’ mode and I can maybe use the knife myself later to excise the proliferating plot threads. I’ll then place them in my BitsSF file and at some later date turn each into a short story.

To work.  

Time for Another Video Clip

Here's an old one from 2011. Time now for another one so, if you have questions you would like to see me answering in a video clip please post them below.

One question thus far from FB (I must keep track so I'll put them here):

Jessie Grey Have you ever considered a Polity based work that is more of a survival, exploration epic or disaster based? I love the wars, don't get me wrong