Depressed 1: Opening Shot to the Head

[WARNING: This is a self-indulgent series of posts in lieu of getting actual help. It’ll probably just be irritating to anyone else]

Hi, I’m Gareth, and I’m depressed.

Just to be clear, this is in no way advice on how to cure your depression. I am firmly in the death-grip of mine, and doubt I’ll ever be free of it. I certainly can’t see any hope of it in the future, no matter how certain parts of my mind try to trick me into daydreaming otherwise.

I’ll still be depressed by the end of this series of posts, so don’t go into it expecting any uplifting stories. In fact, I should probably warn everyone away from going any further anyway. Depression is probably contagious, even just as a meme.

I will offer no hints on how to manage your depression. I’m barely managing mine, so we’re all on our own in that regard.

Yes, there are mental health professionals I should probably urge you to reach out to if you feel the same. I doubt I could do so myself. Mainly because I’ve already run through the scenarios of how such things would probably go. My depression is as much philosophical as based on my personality issues, and pumping me full of medication to stop me thinking is just burying the problem.

I’m functional, and no current danger to others, so don’t see why engaging in a lie would be in any way helpful.

But your circumstances may be different, and if you’re capable of reaching out to others, you probably should.

 

Setup

I live in a rural area, with my mother. (Yes, I’m probably a stereotype, and there’ll be plenty more for you to mock later) I did live away for six years, while working halfway up the country, but moved back after getting thoroughly discouraged with that job, and to help look after the place as my father’s health deteriorated. (I was living in an urban area, so it’s me rather than the rural location that’s responsible for my isolation – although growing up here may have had an influence.)

There’s a reasonable-sized garden, and a chicken run (rough ground) about twice the size. There are currently only six chickens, each functionally having a space as large as the area of the house in which to roam.

Maintaining it is a Sisyphean nightmare, doing my already wrecked body in to keep it under control for little reason beyond being able to reach the fence to repair it should a fox get in.

And that’s without mentioning the bloody snakes. A growing population of adders and grass snakes in recent years, and I don’t usually linger long enough to identify which. They get into the chicken run, and the garden, and it’s only a matter of time until there’s one in the house. It’s a constant source of anxiety during hot weather, and even in winter I dread it getting warm again.

The closest I’ve come to one was opening the compost bin. One had taken up residence in a full bin, and was actually ensconced in the rim around the lid. So when I lift it off, the snake slips down. Fortunately I still had it held over the bin, so it didn’t fall on my feet. I now knock a couple of times on the lid and wait a few moments before opening.

The work is mainly in the dryer and warmer weather, but I doubt I’d be able to hold down a job and help maintain the place. Not without abandoning writing, and totally crushing what little remains of my soul.

Writing is probably the only thing that’s held off a psychotic break so far, and if I didn’t have that I’d be in far worse shape by now. Or possibly just dead.

It’s not as though I have any actual social life to distract me from being stuck inside my head.

 

Issues

I’ve never been good communicating with people. My main problem is initiating communications, probably an inferiority complex over why would anyone be remotely interested in anything I have to say. I’m also not that good at responding. By now I’m so out of practice that I’ll answer honestly rather than use the polite pleasantries required for social interactions.

I haven’t really had any friends since school, and seem unable to connect with people. A few kind of connections over the internet, but to me they never feel the same.

As time goes on I find myself increasingly anxious whenever I have to go anywhere, and I’m becoming more isolated from the world as a result.

The only future I see is an increasingly narrow one defined by family obligation.

I’m never good at travelling. At enjoying the journey. At living in the moment. My mind always goes ahead to what’s next, and after that, and that ultimately leads to only one place. It’s not something that I can stop doing without stopping thinking, and it probably prevents me doing much of anything.

Depression 0: What Have I got to be Depressed About?

I had a slight, and quietly private, breakdown at the beginning of the week. I think I finally lost hope of ever being happy. I haven’t regained it, but I forced myself to write and do other stuff to distract myself from the absolute blackness that is my future.

I half-jokingly tweeted that I considered writing an inverse self-help book. Maybe titled How to Murder your Hope and Endure Another Day. And feeling a need for catharsis and distraction, I tried.

It didn’t quite work out like that, but it did offer a needed distraction, and delayed further collapses until I stopped.

It’s nothing I can publish though, for a number of reasons. I think the main one is I just can’t help thinking I have no right to be depressed, and certainly no right to inflict it upon others.

I have no long-term illness (other than recurring back problems). I don’t appear from outside to be in too bad a circumstance.

My depression only stems from loneliness and a crippling social anxiety and inability to connect with anyone. Not a real problem. And not one that anyone else would have any interest in.

There may be an element of mid-life crisis in the mix too. I have spent over a decade writing stuff that never sells. With nothing else in my life, it feels like I’ve wasted everything.

But what the hell do I have to be depressed about?

I should just shut up and keep it to myself, which is what I do. What I’ve always done.

I should just get out there and live (which I can’t), stop angsting over these first world problems.

And this guilt over feeling depressed when there are so many others who could be far more justified in it makes it all the worse. Does it also make me less likely to reach out for help? Possibly. If I was ever capable of doing that.

So all of it would just been self-indulgent pap if published. Come look at the loser spill his guts for entertainment. Laugh a minute, then leave and forget all about him.

Why should I reach out to anyone? Why share my misery? It’s not like everyone doesn’t already have enough problems of their own.

But depression doesn’t seem to care. It’s happily ensconced, and has no intention of giving up its hold on me until I’m dead.

Instead I’ll just share the bits I’m willing to here, for some catharsis. It’s cheaper than therapy, and with a smaller audience. They’re only vaguely structured though, and not really formed into any kind of a overall narrative. If anyone does read this, you’ve only yourself to blame if you catch anything.

The Lingering Death of Hope

Warning: This is just another record of my breakdown, since nobody else reads this. If you stumbled here by accident, just move along.

 

It was my first Fantasycon this past weekend. And probably my last. I go to conventions in hopes of finding someone to talk to about writing and stuff. Among those who share my interests. But I’m still unable to talk to anyone, and too broken to change. Conventions are primarily social events, and unless you already have friends there, they can just be isolating. You’re still an outsider.

Even talking to a casual acquaintance, with whom I’d shared only a few emails, took a ridiculous amount of effort, and internal argument (is it politer to introduce myself, or not to bother them? They’d certainly have no reason to want to know me.) And when they ask how I’m enjoying the event, why don’t I lie and mouth pleasantries? Honesty is never welcome. And should I have reminded them where we’d connected, in case they thought I was just some random nutter (not necessarily untrue)?

That may actually have been the first time I tried to reach out to someone at one of these things. Still, I should have known better. I’m usually held back by having run through the scenario to work out what to say, to a couple of levels, so we’re not immediately freezing in awkward silence. But I acted on impulse, which of course ended with me feeling like an idiot.

Neuroses and existential despair took hold as the weekend went on, the future opening up a vista of isolation, with death the only respite.

Yet still that treasonous sliver of hope won’t quite die, promising, against all logic and reason, that things can get better. That I can connect with someone.

Even though I know this is a lie. All hope does is enhance the anguish, preventing me withdrawing from the world and submitting to the march to death in defeat.

Still, Bristolcon is at the end of the month. Maybe I’ll finally be able to kill off the remains of my soul there.

Here’s hoping.

September Update: Ghost Bullets, New Covers, & Fantasycon

It’s been a while since I did one of these. Mainly because I seldom have much to report.

First off, a progress report on stuff I think I’ve mentioned before:

All Roads Lead to Hell isn’t doing much at the moment. I thought I’d submitted it somewhere, but can’t find the email confirmation. Having done other stuff since, I have little enthusiasm to do anything with it until I decide my self-publishing future. It’ll at least be one stored up if I want to do a fast publishing schedule.

The Border Guard is with the editor, and should be back next month. I’ve a rough outlines for the second book, and even rougher for the third (it’ll probably be a trilogy, because that’s what the story seems to want), but I don’t want to break them down too much until I see what needs changing in the first one.

 

Ghost Bullets

This’ll be the title for the new series, unless I swap it with the title of the first book, The Ghost Gun.

It’s an attempt by me to come up with an open-ended series that I won’t necessarily get bored of. I’m hoping to achieve that by setting it up so that the central character can be replaced whenever I feel like it. It centers on the Ghost Gun of the initial title, and whoever happens to have possession of it at the time.

Once the central idea was in place, the story came fairly easily. The outline wasn’t too detailed before I felt compelled to write it, so revisions will probably require a bit of work.

Then the ideas for the sequel came quickly. And in just over a week I had that outlined and calling to me to start writing.

The initial drafts of the first two books in the series were done in under a month, and I’m forcing myself not to go any further until I have them revised into some kind of shape.

The second one, The Redacted Man, in particular needs more work. I went in with a vague shape of the mysteries I needed to point at, and just threw clues up when appropriate, to be tidied up and made to work in revision. So there’s that to look forward to.

Ghost Bullets will be an urban fantasy series, with a heavy crime influence. In fact the second book may be a bit too light on the fantastic at the moment, but I need a bit more distance to judge it properly.

 

New Covers

I’ve redone the covers for the Grey Revolutions series. They were starting to irritate me.

Here are the new covers:

I’ve also reduced the prices for the rest of the year, with the first book, Grey Enigmas, set to free. Even on Amazon (apparently you need to go through KDP to do that, not the report a cheaper price button on Amazon, which never seems to work).

 

Fantasycon

I’m not starting any major projects at the moment, with The Border Guard due back next month. And I’m attending Fantasycon in a fortnight. It’s the first multi-day con I’ve attended, and I’m not sure how much I’ll get out of it. I have trouble talking to people at the best of times, which is supposed to be a big part of these things. It’s entirely possible I’ll go the entire weekend without having a single conversation, which would feel like a waste. But I suppose attending is the first step.

 

Other than that, I’m trying to knock a novella, The Entropy of Ideas, into some kind of shape where I can try submitting it. And the Glyphpunk series needs new covers (the first book of which is also free at the moment), if I can come up with an idea for them.

I may provide another update before the end of the year. If there’s any progress to report.

Suicide Squad (belated) Opinion

I’ve just rewatched the Suicide Squad film, and realised what I’m unhappy about with it.

On the whole I liked it, but that may just be my nostalgia for the property (mainly from the Ostrander era in the ’80s. I’ve read the first collection of the New52 era, but it didn’t really catch me).

While some of the characters are off from the versions I like, that’s understandable given the shift in medium (I suspect Waller may be slightly closer to the New52 version). On the whole, they were recognisable enough, and entertaining.

The main thing that irritates me is the story, particularly as a first film. Dealing with a problem Waller caused through her machinations isn’t out of line, but as the first film – potentially only at the time – it makes her look less than competent. It also feels like a traditional reactive superhero story structure, with the heroes simply switched for villains.

I liked the rationale of the team being green-lit because of the idea of the next war being fought with metahumans. That’s close to the Ostrander version of the team, interacting with metahuman teams working for other countries (fictional and real), terrorists, and corporations.

I’d have preferred it the story had focussed more on this angle, with the threat being covert actions by a hostile power’s metahuman operatives. It could have made the film feel fresher, and it’d have been closer to what I like about the series.

I still like it more than the previous films in the DCCU though, which admittedly isn’t saying much.

Hating Nazis is Counterproductive

Pity and disgust are less harmful, and understandable. But unless they’re actually doing something, in which case they should be opposed, it’s better to ignore Nazis. Since tweeting isn’t really doing something, there’s little point engaging them on twitter.

Nazism is a child’s tantrum, craving attention and acknowledgement, while demanding of the world that which a moment’s rational consideration would realise was impossible.

Nazism is bred of desperation. A lashing out against fear and feelings of isolation and impotence. It’s a symptom of a condition in society, and can only really be fought by fixing the underlying problem.

It may never be entirely eliminated, as some people are simply incapable of learning differently once an idea has been rammed into their minds. So they’ll grasp it closely, even when its popularity wanes, and try their best to spread the infection where they found suitable hosts. But a few stray cells of the disease will have little direct impact on the social body.

The polarisation in society sees people increasingly split into those defined by what they hate, and those defined by what they love.

And while it’s easy be angered by those consumed by hate, don’t fall into hating them. It only creates a cycle that let’s them feel justified in their choice.

Don’t define yourself by hating Nazis. Find something you can love, and focus your passions there.

Newsletter, Pre-Order, and New Cover

Newsletter

I now have a newsletter. At least in theory. I haven’t actually sent any out, since no one’s actually subscribed yet, so it’d be kind of pointless. I’ll probably, initially, use it just for notifications of books out, sales, and any other sundry announcements. I’ll also provide progress reports on stuff I’m working on at the time, but will otherwise not clog it up.

This is mainly because a popular piece of advice from many authors is to have a newsletter, so I may as well try it. I can see it’s more useful for basic notifications than twitter, where tweets can easily be missed, and is less passive than hoping readers visit your blog or website soon after you announce stuff. It’s the kind of thing I really hate doing though, since writing in my own voice is a painful process (hence this blog’s slow death).

Signing up gets you a free novella, Contractual Obligations. It’s one that after finishing I happened to read another novel with fairly similar elements, so I’m reluctant to try selling it. But it was in a releasable state, so it’d be a shame to let it waste.

If you’re interested, you can subscribe to it here.

 

The Book of a Thousand and One Destinies Pre-Order

This novella will be out of it’s Amazon exclusivity period next month, and available more widely from the 3rd of August. It’s 99c for it’s pre-order period, rising to the regular price of $1.99 thereafter.

As it has been free on Amazon (and will be again on the 29th-30th of this month) you can get it for free on Smashwords using the coupon code GM96U (valid until the end of August). I don’t know whether the coupon works on pre-orders, or whether you’ll need to wait until publication day.

 

 

New Cover for To Hunt Monsters

While fiddling with other covers, I produced a new one for To Hunt Monsters. It had the oldest remaining novel cover of my stuff, and while the general design was okay, I’m less happy with the execution as time goes on. So I reworked it, coming up with this. I’m not sure I’m entirely happy with it, but it’s an improvement, and something to work from in the future.

Rewrites

A few months ago I took a couple of my early novel off sale, as I’m not confident they’re good indicators of my writing for readers who may never have read my stuff before. Basically, my writing craft has improved (relatively) since writing them, and I’m not sure they’re any good. I had vague plans to rewrite them, to see if they could be improved.

I’m not sure I’m capable of that. Apart from these, I also took another look at the first novel I wrote, but never published, a couple of months ago. Having just done an initial revision pass on Broken Worlds, I find myself in a similar position to where I was after that: I’ve no idea what to change, but I’m sure it needs something.

In the case of Broken Worlds, there are at least a couple of things that probably need changing.

  1. During the large fight near the end, I switch viewpoints a lot. It’s the first time out of the viewpoint of the main character. I could probably redo it to be purely from his viewpoint with little loss. But I’m not sure whether it’d also lose the frenetic chaos.
  2. The structure is very episodic, since I was going for a pulpy feel. Some episodes are smaller than others though, and it feels like it could generally be smoothed out.

Having finished the first pass, I’m sure there’s more that needs changing on a fundamental level. But as with Paragon Protocols (my first novel), I just can’t see what to change. They’ve become so fixed in my mind that it’s by this point difficult to imagine them being anything else.

Anything I could afford spending on editors, I’d sooner spend on my newer work. I’ve been looking at these as shorter projects between the new stuff, but that doesn’t seem to be working out.

I could always try rewriting from scratch. Which could well require serious changes to the structure of the story so that it feels new to me. At which point I have to ask whether it’s worth investing the time, rather than doing completely new stuff.

For Broken Worlds, possibly. It established background elements I’ve used in other books, and espoused fundamental elements of the philosophy underlying some of my work. The latter is the main reason I was so reluctant to take it off sale, and I’d still like to have it out there. If I can’t salvage the book, I’ll probably have to find another way to explore the ideas. Which would mean another thing to stick into the overfull queue.

I don’t know that I could face complete rewrite, anyway. The prospect of the amount of work ahead of you when you start writing a new story can be overwhelming. This lump of a story sits before me, waiting to be consumed one mouthful at a time by the craftsman part of my mind, and excreted as words on a page (virtual or real). Outlining helps view it as more digestible chunks, but the overall mass of it all still looms ahead of me.

Doing so with something I’ve already written once is even worse. It’s Sisyphean. It might be different if there was a chance of them selling, but since that’s pretty much just a fantasy now, I’m mainly doing this for my own amusement. So I’ll probably stick to producing new stuff. Or writing it, since producing implies releasing it to the wild.

 

Endings and TV Reviews

(Mainly a proof of life continued existence post)

 

I seem to have watched the endings of a number of TV series in the last few months. Only one of those listed below actually on broadcast TV (and that probably a bit behind US screenings), most of them being on DVD or alternate sources.

While you can’t really judge a series solely on it’s ending, it obviously play a large part in how you remember it. It’s been years since I’ve watched any Blake’s 7, and over 35 years since the final episode was screened, but I still have that ending seared into my memory (also, I feel old).

It can, of course, depend on the type of show. The more episodic type doesn’t necessarily need as satisfying a conclusion  as a serialised story, the latter justifiably having more expectation on it’s dénouement. Many series these days straddle the two.

One recent series I’m still undecided on is The Mentalist. They dealt with the big bad in the middle of season six, then went on for another season and a half . I can understand wanting to deal with the repercussions of the ending of the main story, but it made the later season feel like it was killing time.

 

Covert Affairs

I kind of wish this had finished with season 4. It’s big bad had been around since the beginning, and gave the series a feeling of a larger story than the season arcs it was composed of. Annie had a great arc for that season, faking her death and operating on her own, and it ended strongly. It felt like a good final act for her story.

But it wasn’t the end. Season 5 was fine, but it was mainly bringing in new plots. Possibly I felt let down by it not addressing some of the issues I hoped from the previous season. I know it was probably complicated by casting issues, but how did Annie deal with explaining to her sister (who hadn’t been around for a couple of seasons, but with whom she would have kept in touch) why she’d had to fake her death. A lot of the series had been based around the relationships, so it just felt an odd omission (understandable, in a way that drags you behind the fourth wall).

 

Continuum

The shorter fourth season made the ending feel a bit rushed, but it was an otherwise satisfying ending to one of the best SF series of recent years.

It was particularly good in playing up the moral ambiguity of who was in the right (or the less wrong) position, and the decisions they made. Time-lost cop hunting time-lost terrorists could easily fall into cliché, but the rounded antagonists helped make this good. And the ending, while rushed, hit the perfect final note of success at a cost.

 

The Following

To be honest, the story contortions probably started fairly early as they tried to keep this going after the first season. It was usually enjoyable, but the morally questionable situations in which the characters found themselves did start to feel like they were coming too fast.

It never really slowed down fast enough to feel more than a slight jarring from all the plot holes, and as long as you didn’t compare it to Hannibal it was enjoyable enough (I don’t know I’d say it was fun though).

The ending tried to give a kind of set up for future stories you’d never see, but for me it felt a bit, I don’t know, unfinished maybe. It made a kind of sense for where they’d taken the character, and was kind of in keeping with the feel of the show, but I’d have accepted a happier ending.

 

Person of Interest

While some moves in this long game seemed opaque, and at times it veered towards the formulaic, this series often managed to shift out of the formula as soon as you got too comfortable, and remained entertaining. Mainly because of the characters.

I’m not sure whether to class it as a hybrid SF/Crime Drama, or SF masquerading as Crime Drama, or whether it even matters.

Even with the final season cut short, they knew far enough ahead that they used it to focus on the main story, hitting all the beats they needed to and providing an ending that just felt right.

 

Penny Dreadful

The end of the final season felt a bit rushed. The entire season felt more disjointed than the previous ones, with having so many of the characters separated, having their own stories without as much interaction. Then it hurriedly brings them all together at the end. It feels like they were expecting another season, but had to quickly tie it all up.

It kind of works, but there were some parts I’d have liked to have gotten more room to breathe.

 

Endings

I doubt there’s much I can learn from these, since they’re so heavily influenced by their medium. Even if they have an ending planned from the outset, the practicalities of such complex collaborations probably require all kinds of compromise – both dealing with input from various sources, and the financial realities of what you can afford to create visually rather than just with words.

If a story is complete over one season, such as with True Detective and similar shows, you have greater control over what can be achieved. Multi-season series are more at the whims of viewing figures and other factors, often ending up unable to provide a satisfying ending, or having to cram so much in that you can feel the artificiality of it.

In prose, you don’t have those excuses for weak endings. It can still be worth thinking about why certain endings work well, though. You simply need to distinguish the story elements from the structure in which they’re presented.