Monday 9 September 2013


I'm writing a little bit, mostly on Scorpion 3, while fixing some aspects of Scorpion 2. Never again do I want to write a series with so many months in between. I'm mostly pretty good at holding one novel in my head at any given time, but three is a totally different matter. I'm also looking at the next Market Garden book, which is a short novel. Lori's been a hero and did the first passes on this while I'm still trying to sort out my head.

My internet detox is going pretty well. My anxiety and stress levels are way, way down, and I'm re-connecting more with other stuff in my life. Essentially, I've given myself permission to not always be "on" and to not respond to emails that require more than a two-minute action from me. I enjoy talking to readers and other friends, but right now, I don't have the energy, focus or time. The trade-off is - I can either write or respond to emails.

The old fix for the problem was to quit my day job so I can do both. Well, that plan is currently on ice, so I need to be economic with that time, energy and focus I have. Of course that'll have an impact on my sales, but with a day job, I can absorb that. I'll have to break into an entirely new market next year anyway, so selling books is always an uphill battle (anybody ever thought about going AROUND that fucking hill and flank'em?).

I've almost entirely killed the compulsion to check reviews. I still look at things like sales ranks and reviews on (via authorcentral), but maybe only once a day. Some days I don't. Once Capture & Surrender is out of the bestseller list, that'll go down to normal, with me not checking at all. I'm finding Amazon a much less toxic place for me than anywhere else where books are sold and/or reviewed. Of course, I'm staying away from the forums.

I'm not even entirely sure what's so toxic about social media for me right now. Maybe it's information overload, maybe it gives me too many excuses to piss away my time. Maybe it's the drama (I'll never write a YA book. Ever.). Maybe at times it's disgust with the mix of power play/pressuring tactics/bullying/stupidity that get whipped up to a fever pitch seemingly every week. Maybe it's the inability to change any of those dynamics. Maybe I'm too empathetic, maybe I just absorb all that negativity and then have no clue what to do with it, apart from spiralling into a cycle of despair and self-defeating behaviour and obsession.

I've spent some time now thinking about energy and writing. I think books have energy - every written communication does. Writing is a speech equivalent, though the spoken word I think, carries more subtleties. In writing, obviously, body language is missing, and in fiction, it's all filtered through the tonality of the characters. For example, a text can be "whiny" if written by a non-whiny author who channels his/her inner potential for whiny-ness to write a whiny character. The author doesn't become whiny, but "merely" taps a potential for whinyness to write it authentically and hopefully without judgement. (Or rather, let me backtrack a bit and say that the "method actor" school of writing, to which I kind of belong, does that. To write a scene where somebody dies, I tap my mother's death, and to write Frank, I tapped the person he's based on. I get as close as possible to that person or that memory or event and then let it echo through me. The resonance of that I put into the book/scene.) It's kinda esoteric, but I think it's the reason why people experience those emotions when they read my stories. There's 2.5 years of crazyness and darkness in Special Forces, and that story seemsd to rock people like a cannon ball flying right over their heads. It's this vast, condensed ball of rage and screaming energy, so I'm not surprised when it rocks people down their bones. It absolutely rocked me the same way. Hey, I was the cannon that fired it.

This method acting school of writing can get really weird when you're writing an evil or deluded character. One of the most powerful scenes I've ever written is an interrogation/intimidation scene between a Frenchman and a German SS officer (who's a true believer). Writing the SS guy's ideological rant required of me to morph into him. I didn't want to write the usual, well-worn cliches, but had to dig into him and tap into that energy he embodies. I wrote from him, through him, as him.

Afterwards, I felt like I needed a shower.

(I believe that's the reason why some readers can't tell the difference between that energy and the reality behind the writing. There's at least one person out there who believes I condone rape, war and violence because of the filter-less way that Special Forces is written. And they firmly believe that the author is the message. No--to me that's just damn good writing, and "unsafe" writing. No hand-holding, no filter. Take it or leave it, but if you take it, take it raw.)

Sometimes, those energies linger. I'm not quite Daniel Day-Lewis, who basically never breaks character while filming, but there's a residue in my everyday life. Right now, I'm approaching almost everything a bit more like Kendras than I normally would. (He's socially more acceptable than Widowmaker, though being him would be so much fun--at least until they lock me away forever.)

Based on that, I think energetic mimickry is a skill I've acquired throughout my life. I tune into stuff like nobody's business. If I believe my astrologer friends, my Moon and Mars in Pisces just ramps that up to the nth degree.

What protective layers I had were worn so thin that everything was throwing me out of balance. A negative review on a friend's book would do it. A depressed/negative comment somewhere. Jup, another downer. I got to the point where I didn't even follow the news anymore. (Right now, I don't--sweet, blessed ignorance.) I've unsubscribed from all review blogs--I was at the point where a negative review on anything would somehow go deep. I used to read a lot of reviews to see what's going on in the market, what books sound good, what authors I should try.

Couldn't do it anymore.

I've also left all but three or so groups on Goodreads. I very rarely spend time of Facebook, so FB isn't a big problem. I've unfollowed about 1,000 people on Twitter and stopped following all review sites. I've selected "don't show re-tweets" on most of my remaining Twitter peeps. I can't deal with all the retweeted reviews or industry-related rants. I still follow Passive Guy/The Passive Voice, but mostly because it's not romance-specific, and Katherine Rusch, because her posts on indie publishing makes me think and fills in the big picture.

Obviously, the problem is not the review system, which works. It's not even the five or ten trolls in the industry, or people who just run on negativity, feed it and spread it, to make everybody feel as miserable as, I think, they are feeling deep down. (I recognize their behaviour because I've been there.)

The problem is my own responses, ingrained from years of dark spaces and enough family baggage to employ a whole association of psychotherapists (I think I've made big strides and I'm collapsing a lot of that stuff while I work through it, mostly in writing).

I think it's pattern recognition--when you see a situation/event/person who triggers a trauma, anxiety goes WAY up, whether you're directly involved or not. Situations like that can quite literally push the right (wrong) person into in extremis. I think it's that anxiety that kills creativity. It's like the body/brain is so busy surviving stress that it can't really be bothered to come up with one worthwhile interesting sentence.

I'm exploring energy work at the moment, and I do think that negative intention or negative energy load (as transmitted through writing - all writing) has a huge impact, especially to people who are really tuned into stuff. (And most writers I know are. Most writers I know are also highly suggestible and can be easily hypnotised, and I wonder if those traits are connected. For example, I can go into a trance if somebody just looks at me with intent.)

Essentially, I think "detox" is the right expression for what I'm doing to get back on my feet. I've removed myself as far as possible from the places on the internet that trigger that anxiety/stress response. I've given myself permission to not read reviews or respond to emails or be there all the time. I read all emails (unless the first sentences make it clear it's from a troll). I'm deeply grateful for readers reaching out. I can't always respond. It's that or writing.

I used to think that the two rules "don't read reviews" and "don't talk about an unfinished book" are myths.
But I have noticed that the more I talk about an unfinished book, the less I'm motivated to actually finish it. It's like I'm repeating the message. First time you say something, it's fresh. Second time, not so much. Fifty times, you're bored and "meh" about it yourself. So I'll break myself out of that particular habit, too.

I thought that good reviews motivate me and I can somehow deal with the one negative review. At the very least, I could connect with a reader and maybe answer questions ("When will the sequel come out?"). Customer service, if you will. But I've observed that one nasty/ignorant/ad-hominem sentence in a good review can drop my motivation through the floor. Fifty great reviews, and then one "meh" review, and my neurotic anxiety response is right back. I'm suddenly the worst writer who ever wasted electrons. Certainly, the writing won't happen that evening.

And I can't afford to lose so much time simply on recovery.

There are two ways of dealing with all that stress. Grow a thicker skin ("go numb or go home"), which I'm not sure is practical for somebody who makes half a living out of being a seismograph to characters and ideas and energy load.

I've done some grounding exercises, which help, and hypnosis, which helps me get back to a positive state, and over the weekend I've learned a breathing exercise that'll I'll teach every willing author and anxious person I can get my hands on because it'a a fucking miracle. It's like a suit of energetic armour. Fucking amazing.

Even though I'm pretty sure those will help me manage, I just don't want to get back into that state where I was, so I'm going with the armor and the detox. Two lines of defense are better than one or even none.

Generally, I think I'm on the right track. I'm feeling better, and I'm writing, just a bit, like 1,000 words here and there, but I no longer feel overwhelmed and incoherent with stress.

I'm even starting to look forward to GRL.


  1. Hugs. You're a lovely person and I really hope you're feeling better soon :)

    Avoiding triggers and stresses is a good way of dealing with anxiety - I know there are some things that have to be met head on, but filtering what you read & watch does help a lot.
    If you ever get chance to do a post on the grounding exercises and the breathing exercise I'm sure that many of us would find it very handy - no rush or pressure though :)

    Best wishes :)

  2. BIG HUGS!

    Avoiding stressors is the best thing to do when dealing with anxiety and it sounds as if you're on the right path.