When depression acts as a writer’s block

I can’t write.

No, that’s not just an honest observation of my abilities as a wordsmith. What I mean to say is: right this very moment I am having difficulty forming words or the energy to deal with them.

When creative people are emotional or depressed, they make their masterpieces; forever that’s been the most common trope I’ve heard about artists. People go into their dark places and draw from within and puke up a mixture of last night’s whiskey and artistic brilliance.

For me, that’s not the case. Right now, I’m having a hard fucking time. Two full time jobs mean 90 hour workweeks. 90 hour weeks mean I don’t sleep and I miss my family. I’m not digging for sympathy, just laying things out. Now, one of my jobs is over night at a hotel. The hotel is small and six hours of my night are spent doing nothing. Last night, I played Need for Speed for five hours. That should mean premium writing time, right? Hell, at my usual wordcount per hour, I should have two novels done this month.

But no, I haven’t written a single goddamn word. I’m having a hard time editing the words I have written. And no, it’s not because I’m half-asleep at four in the morning. I just don’t have the concentration to write. My problems and sorrows and whatever the hell else are floating around in my brain and I don’t have the energy to worry about anyone else’s. For me, writing isn’t hard under normal circumstances. Rarely do I struggle to tell a story, but right now I’m coming up empty. I’ve got two half-finished novels, one short story, and one comic script that all desperately need attention and I can barely hold my shit together well enough to write this blog post.

What makes everything worse, as my friend Danielle Shipley pointed out, writing is fun and being too tired to write adds to the stress that caused me to not write in the first place. It’s one hell of a vicious cycle.  Before, I didn’t have time, but could still manage to squeeze out words at a pretty steady rate. Right now, I have all the time in the world and instead of doing anything remotely productive with my ‘career’ I’m plopped in front of a TV debating what gear settings would be best on my Nissan GTR and thinking about how maybe writing just wasn’t my thing. All of this because I’ve got other things on my mind.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. Just thinking out loud, I suppose. Maybe I just wanted to see who else out there is the same. What about you guys? Do you struggle with words when you struggle with other things? Or is stress and depression a proving ground for perfect prose? I’m off now, to do some editing and hopefully get my groove back.

#TeaserTenth for February

teasertenthbadge

#TeaserTenth is a monthly meme for writers, both published and unpublished. It’s a great opportunity to meet other writers, as well as readers, by sharing a sampling (10 lines or less) of the stories we are working on, or have already published.

Feel free to join! (click the badge above for details.)

This week, I’ve decided to share lines from one of my works in progress. This is taken from a random spot in the book. (unedited.)

Enjoy!

Here’s something a little more intimate than I’m used to. These lines are from my current work in progress, tentatively titled GAMBIT.

“I love you,” Sam gasps between kisses.

A moan escapes Fox’s lips as Sam digs his fingers into her back. He drags her closer to his body. If he holds her close enough, they synchronize. Two hearts beat as one. Two chests rise and fall in tandem. Two beings become one. Sam kisses deeper, feels the love of Fox under his skin.

In his mind, this moment could last forever. Sam imagines doing this on the beach, sun setting into the ocean. Hell, for this, this feeling, this moment, Sam would drive to the ends of the Earth. A hundred lives could never make Sam feel as real as he is right this moment.

A sound somewhere between a Wookiee and a cat caught in radiator fan is the only warning to the slimy, dirty, rotted fist that connects with Sam’s right ear.

How House Hunters Made Me Apply to College

I live in a pretty shitty part of the country. It’s beautiful here. The locals are somewhat occasionally nice. No joke, southern hospitality is a real thing. The people here as friendly as all hell…and perhaps sometimes they might be dicks about it. But the scenery is beautiful. The crime is low. Cost of living is pretty acceptable. It doesn’t completely suck, but it still kind of sucks.

Let me explain. Careers? Not so much. If you live in Sevier County, Tennessee you have three options: restaurant, hotel, or retail. See this place runs on tourist dollars. Tourists buy shit. It’s our job to sell shit and try to act like we don’t hate the tourists. It’s all about finding a balance really.

As far as the careers in this town go, I’ve done okay. I made it to management and have made some decent money along the way. As far as the holy food/sleep/buy trinity goes this place hasn’t been half-bad to me. My wife got to be a stay at home mom for ten years, we own two cars, and we bought our house at twenty-three years old. Like I said, not too bad. And compared to a lot of others around here, pretty fucking good.

Then I have to go and watch House Hunters. It’s this TV show on HGTV and my wife loves it. It’s usually on at all times. Most times anyway. If you don’t know, on the show a handsome couple and dog/children mixture look for a new home. They check out three homes that the couple seems to mostly hate because the paint is ugly/the fixtures are dated/the elm tree out front isn’t a spruce or whatever. At the end they fight to the death over who gets to use the basement for a ritual bacon sacrifice. I think that’s how it works.

So what about this show makes me want to go to college?

I get to see people in other places. This is kind of a foreign concept, but apparently in these mythical places called cities, people can make a living doing something other than asking if you want fries with that. When I was younger I thought, eh, those people are just older, of course they are better off. Now, I’m older and these couples are my age looking to stretch their budget to afford a house around the three hundred thousand dollar range.

What?!

Does not compute.

We worked our asses off to stretch to afford a $94,000 house. How in the fuck are these guys affording half-million dollar homes? So I started paying attention. At the start of the shows the contestants say things like “Mmm, hello, my name is Theodore and this is my wife Mildred. She’s a stay at home mom to our schnauzer, Little Teddy. I’m a web designer for a multi-billion dollar corporation.”

After a handful of these episodes, I noticed that none of the contestants said things like, “I’m Grady, bartender at the local watering hole.”

Hmmm. So yeah, college. Apparently these people in these mythical cities go to this extra school and then they make lots of money. Huh. I’ve been doing this all wrong. So yeah, after a daylong House Hunters marathon, I found myself looking into colleges and degrees. And now here I sit, waiting to hear back from the college application I put in this morning. Maybe it will be a yes and in six years I’ll be searching for that quarter million dollar vacation home in the south of France….Riiiggghhtt.

#TeaserTenth Here’s ten lines or words and such

teasertenthbadge#TeaserTenth is a monthly meme that writers, both published and unpublished, can play along in. It’s a great opportunity to meet new folks like yourself, as well as showcase what stories you have going on to both other writers and (hopefully) readers.

Here’s ten lines (THE FIRST TEN LINES) from a novel I’m working on titled: Uprising, in Requiem, I hope y’all like it.

“You know, when Hank said, ‘A county boy will survive,’ I just don’t think this is the kind of shit he was talking about.” Galvar glances back over his shoulder at Grace. She puffs out a tired laugh and adjusts the tree branch they are using to carry the fallen deer on her shoulder.

Grace and Galvar spent years hunting for hobby—and for Grace’s famous deer jerky, of course—but now they hunt for necessity.

“I’m serious.” Galvar steps on a branch hidden under the leaves on the ground, stumbles, rights himself. “Why do we have to get the shittiest apocalypse of all time? Yeah, sure, zombies were cliché and all, but that would have been better than this. Hell, even sparkly vampire apocalypse might have been better than a fucking angel apocalypse, maybe.”

Six months since angels descended from the sky like locusts, but they didn’t destroy the Earth like some biblical plague, this was more like a hostile fucking takeover.

Feel free to check out some of the other authors’ ten lines, all participants can be found here: http://www.jabelfield.com/teaser-tenth-sign-ups.html

Have a great day, guys!

THE INDUSTRY IS CHANGING!

The industry is changing, the industry is changing, HOLY FUCKING SHIT, THE INDUSTRY IS CHANGING. And I’ll just throw in the usual disclaimer that I’m no industry expert, I’m barely even a part of this industry that I’m about to rant about, BUT, I am a writer—both traditionally and self-published—and I’m a reader.

This all started when a friend read one of my unpublished manuscripts and suggested I should self-publish it because the genre is weird and will make it hard to market to an agent or publisher. I thought about self-pubbing, but my eventual goal is to get an agent and I wasn’t sure if self-pub would be the truest route to that end. Then today, a different friend sent me a link to this article on Anne R. Allen’s blog about how self-publishing isn’t as clear of a route to an agent as it used to be.

All this information has got me thinking, and bitching about ‘the industry’. Publishing has gone through a whole slew of shit in the last decade. It’s gone from, ‘you aren’t on the big five, no one has ever heard of you’ to ‘HOLY SHIT THIS SELF-PUBLISHING ON KINDLE THING IS GOING TO MAKE EVERYONE FAMOUS’ to ‘MY GOD, THERE ARE 17 BILLION SHITTY, FREE BOOKS ON KINDLE WHY CAN’T I FIND A GOOD ONE?’ to ‘Kindle Unlimited is making books free and cutting into indie author profits how we will carry on?’ and so on. In short, the industry is changing.

I think if the publishing industry is smart, they will take a look at the music industry, because everything is changing. Technology is changing the world, for everything. I think the music industry has handled this change particularly shitty, and books can easily fall into the same hole. The biggest problem is free. Everyone wants everything for free and they want it now.

In response to expensive shit–$20 for an album, $30 for a book, $25 for a movie—people have started stealing shit. Piracy is a big deal and it’s not going away. Now, I’m not here to bitch about internet pirates. Honestly, I don’t know exactly how I feel about piracy. BUT people are taking shit because #1: everyone is broke and #2 they feel ripped off by ‘the industry’. Books are especially shitty in this case because they are charging $13 for an ebook. If you are going to charge $30 for a hardcover, at least the reader is getting a sexy book that looks nice on the shelf. Paying for ebooks feels like paying for air. You can’t see it so it’s hard to justify. Piracy is a big deal.

The next big thing is bundling. Bundling is HUGE and publishing has been stupid slow to react. You know why it’s huge? Because people USE e-whatever. They listen to music on their phone. They read books on their phone. They have sex ON THEIR PHONE. Okay, I’m not sure how that last one relates, but I said it anyway. People love the ease of electronic copies, but since they are paying for air, it’s hard to justify.

Easy way around that? You guessed it, fucking bundling. You bundle an ebook and physical copy. People read the ebook because it’s convenient, and then they put the physical copy on their shelf to show that they paid for something. Same with music. You know how I listen to music? On a record player because I’m kind of a hipster like that. You know what I won’t pay? $12 for an album on my phone. You know what I will pay $24 for? That same album on vinyl with a free digital copy. Best of both worlds.

The next factor in this whole mess is streaming services. Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, and now Kindle Unlimited. These services are a godsend for people who devour media. I personally love Spotify, I have converted many friends to its wonders. I pay for my subscription. TV watchers feel the same of Netflix (a service I also pay for), and readers probably feel same of Kindle Unlimited. As far as I know, artists hate these streaming services. Taylor Swift had all her music pulled off Spotify because art shouldn’t be free or some shit like that. I still haven’t figured out why she took her music off, though.

I’ve seen multiple articles about how Kindle Unlimited has murdered indie author salaries. The way artists get paid is changing. What absolutely sucks about is this: the biggest people it’s hurting are the indie artists. Whether it’s on Spotify or not, Taylor Swift is a multi-millionaire. Whether Fifty Shades of Gray is part of Kindle Unlimited or not, EL James has a boatload of money. Through whatever mix of money, marketing, and luck, those people have established their fame.

Do you think it matters to Cutthroat Shamrock if their music is free? Your fucking right it matters because in your mind you just said, ‘Who the fuck is Cutthroat Shamrock?’. Do you think it matters to me if people get my book on Kindle Unlimited and I get a few cents instead of a dollar? It can, yeah. I’m not a career author, but I’d like to be. Do you know how I can be a career author? Getting more people to PAY for my work. That matters to me, probably not to you so much. BUT if you like my writing and want to see more of it, I need time. Writing takes time, books take time. There’s an old saying something that includes time and money…*snaps fingers* what was it? Oh yeah, “He who doesn’t have a fucking dime, doesn’t have time to waste on art because food and gas and diapers are expensive and shit”.

So, the industry is changing. Do I have answers? Not really, other than the bundling thing. But we as artists all need to adapt, we need to get ready for the changing market. We need to get more creative. You know something I’ve seen in music for a while, but have only just now seen in books? Pay what you please media. I’ve seen more than one high-profile musician say ‘want it free? Take it. Enjoy it? Pay whatever you feel it’s worth.’ I can’t remember who, but I saw that same approach with a book the other day. Creative marketing is a big deal. The few super successful authors will always be successful and the rest of us are going to have to figure out how to change to keep up.

The last thing I have to say is a repeat: Art shouldn’t be free. I mostly agree with this. There is a lot of work involved in creating a book. I have put lots of time and effort and energy into each and every one of my books. Whether I make a million dollars or three cents, I will continue writing. It’s something I can’t shake. How many other authors can say the same? How many talented authors write for a living? Lots. If we don’t pay for their art, they will quit creating it. They won’t have a choice, we all need paid. So if you want to pirate a book, go for it. And in a decade when all your favorite authors quit writing books because everyone stole all their work, you don’t get to be angry.

When the Main Character has to Die

The other night I was browsing noir titles on Netflix and came across a Colin Farrell movie I’d never heard of called DEAD MAN DOWN. There wasn’t shit else on and I didn’t feel like paying to rent a movie so I watched it. To be honest, it wasn’t bad. I enjoyed it for the most part.

Dead_Man_Down_Theatrical_Poster

Yeah, this might not suck. This is a poster for Dead Man Down. The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the item promoted, the publisher of the item promoted or the graphic artist. Further details: This is a poster for Dead Man Down (film). The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the item promoted, the publisher of the item promoted or the graphic artist.jpg

The movie tells the story of a man infiltrating a crime syndicate to get revenge for them having his family killed two years prior. Cool. This is the part where I mention how much I love revenge stories. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason revenge stories will always be near and dear to my heart.

Here is my only problem with DEAD MAN DOWN: (Spoiler alert, I’m about to tell you the ending so if you think you might one day watch this movie, stop reading now.) The whole movie is fairly dark and somber. A story about revenge, it damn well better be. BUT, at the very end of the movie, the main character walks into a house full of bad guys, with his guns and brass balls on full display. He kills every last one of them without getting so much as a scratch, saves the new love interest, and rides off with her into the sunset.

First, that is a WAY sunnier ending than I was hoping for. I’m not saying the main character always needs to die, but sometimes it just fits. Second, I absolutely hate that the formula for most payback flicks goes like this: Guy’s wife/family get killed, guy devises plan for retribution, guy meets lonely girl along his path to resolution, guy has hot sex with lonely girl, guy finishes killing bad guys, guy and lonely girl live somber ever after.

I hate that so hard. I think about these things, you know? I put myself in the character’s shoes. If I were this character, I wouldn’t stop until the bad guys paid. I wouldn’t sleep, I wouldn’t get drunk (can’t focus on the plan if you’re hammered), I wouldn’t have sex with some random girl until every last person was dead. Maybe I’m a psychopath for that, but I like to think it means I care.

This brings me back to my point about the main character not ALWAYS needing to bite the bullet, literally. And yeah, I mean literally as in literally, like, you know, it really happens. Whatever. Anyway, revenge stories are the perfect kind of story for our ‘hero’ to end up in a coffin.

Here’s an example: The Crow. One of my favorite movies of all time. My oldest son is named after the character. In the story, Eric Draven comes back from the dead to get revenge against the people who killed him and his girlfriend. He kills them, all of them. (Without finding love along the way) And you know what happens when he’s finished? He goes back to his grave. Fucking perfect. He got what he set out to do, his spirit was set free or what the hell ever you want to say.

These characters, who often start out as normal Joes, go on these rampages and kill. I think we can all imagine that killing humans probably takes a big chunk away from a person. Bad guys or not, if you go on a first degree murder spree you are probably going to lose a little bit of yourself. Or maybe a lot of yourself. Possibly even all of yourself, until you are nothing left but a husk filled with rage and violence. And I’m not even saying that is a bad thing.

At some point in most of the stories, a sagely older fella says something to the extent of, “You can still turn back,” or, “Do you think finishing this will bring them back?” or, “You are afraid there will be nothing left after you kill the last one of them”. It happens pretty much without fail in these stories. I guess we need this reminder that killing is bad, mmkay? But I think that character is right, what is left? Where are you supposed to go from there? Can you walk this path and go back to being a normal human again? I doubt it.

So balls up and let the ‘good guy’ die. He kills that last of the villains by setting off a bomb from within the building. He bursts into the gangster’s mansion gun a’blazin’ and takes a few bullets on his way to the top. Whatever.

That’s all of got. Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite revenge story (book, movie, whatever) or just to tell me why I’m dumb. Have a good one, everybody.