life, Uncategorized, writing

Things to calm the brain

The past few months have been kind of chaotic. Despite that chaos, I’ve been making good progress on my goals and I think this is in part due to finding things to help my brain along.

You see, I have bipolar 2. My brain can be a bit of a dick sometimes. That’s enough to contend with most days, but add in grief from my Nana dying, prepping a house to sell, selling said house, and packing to move cities among regular life and other things – well, it’s been an interesting few months. I fully expected to fall over at some point and not get back up. I’m still standing. And actually doing better than I have in a very long time despite the aforementioned challenges.

I’ve taken some time to reflect on some tools that helped me – and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear those!

Friend and fellow author, Richard Parry, introduced me to the video below. It’s been a staple in my rotation ever since. I haven’t played the game myself but it’s an excellent meditation.

I played Tales from the Borderlands last year (absolutely stellar game – right up there in my top 5 at present) and discovered this song. It’s gorgeous and when I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and close my eyes everything disappears. Bliss.

And those noise-cancelling headphones? AMAZING. I picked up a set of Backbeats Pro 2 through a reward programme and could not be happier. Sometimes I walk around with just the active noise cancelling on – it dulls the background noises and makes my brain a happier place to live. And when I do want sound? Well, the quality is much better than my old cheap headphones or my tinny phone. SO HAPPY.

20180208_200024Another thing that helps is getting out in nature – I’ve been taking the kids to the park or beach most nights after dinner. They run and play, I make notes for the next days writing or read. Sometimes the view is a little distracting and I don’t get much done – that’s cool too. Brains need time to declutter themselves.

I try and make time to do the other things I love too: play games on my PS4, read books that I actually enjoy, watch a range of excellent TV shows and movies, take time out of the house to be ALONE.

That last one is pretty important. I need time alone. Like, NEED. My headphones give me the illusion of it when I can’t actually be alone, but there is nothing that quite compares to a little solitude. Not for me, anyway.

What do YOU do to keep yourself going?

 

 

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On the hunt for a new album

Throughout the writing of Sun-Touched, I had one album that I put on repeat. Whenever I sat down to write, it was there. If I was trying to write and it wasn’t on, at times I struggled. It helped to get me in the zone, to focus me on the writing – even though the type of music, the lyrics, etc in no way, shape or form mimicked/added to/accented the type of story I was writing.

Now that Sun-Touched is done. I feel a little like I am done with that album. I want something new (to me), something fresh to accompany me while I write my next piece.

May is going to be full of planning, so it’s the perfect time to stop and find some new writing music. Seeing as I have two projects coming up, I need two different albums! And this time, I am going to try and do a better job of matching the albums to the stories.

I’m so out of the loop with the music scene though, that this could prove to be challenging. I may need your help.

The novella I plan to write in June is about an older woman’s journey to reclaim a part of her heritage that many of her people have abandoned. She travels with her baby grandson, whose parents are dead, so a lot of the time she’ll be virtually alone. As much as it’s a physical journey, it’s also an emotional/spiritual journey, so that’s going to be interesting to write.

On the other hand, my YA science fiction series is full of action and drama, romance and conflict (or will be when I’m done with it!).

Any suggestions for music to check out?

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My writing soundtrack

I listen to the same nine songs when I write. Every. Single. Time. It’s become so much of a habit that by the time I get to the end of the first track (58 seconds) I’ve slipped into my story and I’m away.

I only need twenty minutes to reach the 1000 word mark. This EP has just over that and is perfect for pacing myself with. I know when the last track comes on that I have just under three minutes to wrap up my writing session, and it gets me there with a grin on my face.

The funny thing is that this is not the music anyone would typically associate with me. It’s nothing like the other things I listen to, but I LOVE it. I sing along, head bopping, lyrics effortlessly leaving my lips. Rest of the world tuned out. Eyes on the screen.

Of course, I may have to hit pause now and then (when does a mother ever get 20 mins to herself? lol), but having this musical cue is proving to be a real blessing. Let’s hope I never get sick of Kidz in Space. I get the feeling that as long as the words are flowing, they are going to be my ‘most played’ artists.

If you’re curious, below is track two from the Kidz in Space EP: The Off Cuts Mixtape. It’s a mash up with a song that shares the name (In Your Blood), by another kiwi band calledย Computers Want Me Dead.

What do you write to??

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Kicking down walls.

When I was a teenager I was firmly dedicated to one type of music. I flooded my room with Nirvana, Offspring, Korn, Disturbed, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Hole and other bands like that. I wore the oldest cardigan in the world (it had been my fathers I think) with a million tatty holes in it. ย I had bracelets made of paper clips, my nose was pierced and most of my clothes were purchased from op shops. Complete with t-shirt with foreign phrase that I never bothered interpreting. That was a cool T shirt. It had a camel and a palm tree on it.

Anyways….

I flat out refused to listen to anything else. It was part of my identity, and there was no way I would allow my ears to be tainted with other stuff. Not the mainstream. No. Nothing popular. Nothing with mass appeal. I confess there were times I enjoyed something and then got rid of it when it caught on with the in crowd.

Oh boy. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit to really. I was SUCH a music snob. What’s worse is that I was limiting myself by placing that definition on me. I was grunge, baby, I was rock.

These days I listen to a huge variety of music. I’ve finally cast off my self made shackles and enjoy anything that takes my fancy. It spans the range, and may change at any point in time.

Which brings me to my writing.

For so long now I’ve said I’m a writer of speculative fiction. Well, I am. Predominantly. That said, about 20% of what I write, is not.

I know as writers we tend to put ourselves in boxes. We write this genre, or that. But Gods, we’d never consider writing that. I’ve said it before. It’s an easy thing to say: I’ll never write romance. I couldn’t do mystery. Writing about normal people in the real world is boring.

Those are my words. I’ll own them. But I’ll also say that like my music tastes, my writing follows what captures my interest.

We use sentences like the ones above to help us define ourselves, to figure out where we fit into the world and how we relate to those around us. Attaching a genre to our writing is an easy way to identify people who might be like minded, who might make good writing buddies, who might become part of our writers inner circle.

We need to surround ourselves with people who *get* our writing. Who appreciate what we’re working on and what we’re aiming for.

And yet, I find myself currently writing non spec-fic. General fiction, probably. And loving it.

Like my music tastes, my tastes in what I write and read are widening. I’ll give anything a go these days. It doesn’t have to be horror, or science fiction, or some type of fantasy. Whatever takes my fancy.

It’s liberating, kicking down the walls I’ve imposed on myself.

Yes, I’m a writer of speculative fiction. But I also write other stuff ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yes I love to read spec-fic, but if the story is good, if it captures me, then I couldn’t care less what genre it is!

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NZ Speculative Fiction Blogging week begins!

And boy, there are some really great posts already being written to kick the week off. You can find the links to those here, where Anna is keeping track of things.

So, I guess I should post something too right?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term ‘Speculative Fiction’ it’s a blanket term for the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror – but more importantly, all the things in between, anything that blurs the lines of reality and explores worlds that aren’t like ours.

For me, learning this has been a huge relief – no longer am I a genre slut, I’m a writer of speculative fiction! I love to write all kinds of stories, the genre means less to me than the telling, though predominantly these stories have aspects of fantasy, science fiction and horror.

Anyways, part of the reason for this week is to get people talking and connecting about speculative fiction in New Zealand. We’re a small country and typically, we do really well with supporting local acts. The music scene is a realyl good example of this – I know a lot of people who download overseas music, but they always make a point of going out and buying NZ made stuff, attending gigs and in general really getting behind acts (hell we even have a whole month dedicated to NZ music).

We love our movie industry, and we support that really well too. A lot of amazing films with speculative slants are made here both by NZers and people from other countries around the world too (Lord of the Rings, King Kong, the Narnia movies etc).

Unfortunately this is not the case when it comes to the written word. There are limited markets within NZ for our work, and the big publishers here are pretty convinced that there simply isn’t a big enough market for it.

Yeah right, as the Tui billboard would say. ย We Kiwi’s are an inventive bunch, and there are a lot of us creating works of speculative fiction out there, most of whom devour stories and novels of the same when we get can our hands on it.

Hopefully, together we can strengthen our speculative fiction community ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve run out of words for now, and time, but head on over to Anna’s blog and check out some of the other posts. It should be a great week!

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Writing without music

Normally when I’m writing a novel I have a couple of CD’s that I listen to pretty much constantly while I am writing – the music itself has little to do with the manuscript, but it cuts down the noises of the rest of the house and allows me to easily slip back into the story. I very quickly begin to associate the songs with the writing of that particular piece, which is good because normally they aren’t things I’d hear on the radio or playing anywhere else.

This time around, I don’t.

It was a conscious choice, not because of anything to do with the writing, but because I worried that I wouldn’t hear Lauren if I had my headset on (I don’t have any PC speakers).

I’m starting to miss that musical link to my story. That ability to slip into writing mode simply by pressing ‘play’. And there is really nothing I can do about it, because hearing Lauren is more important than anything else right now.

Just one more of those ‘facts of life’ that I have lurking around at the moment. I’ve thought about finding something to listen to for night writing, but even then, I’d rather be listening out for her. One day, I’ll have some music for my writings again.