Sometimes You Can’t Push Past The Crap, and That’s Okay.

So originally, I was going to write a helpful post of how to budget your energy to achieve your goals. Because let’s face it, living with mental illness is a draining, exhausting endeavor. And I’m sure I’ll get back to that post at some point in the future, but as I was rounding out the second paragraph, the Superbowl started.

Everything was fine. The Schuyler Sisters rocked America the Beautiful. Atlanta was kicking Brady’s ass. Twitter was a semi-happy place for the first time since the election. And Lady Gaga gave a phenomenal Half-time performance that had me crying because BORN THIS WAY!

Then everything wasn’t fine. Patriots came back. Richard Spencer (the Nazi who got punched) was rejoicing the white-ness of the Patriots. And reality hit like a double decker bus speeding out of hell.

Safe to say, that budget-your-energy post kinda disappeared into the abyss of my irritation. I’ve taken on quite a lot (for me) this past month and that paired with new awful Cheeto-related disasters happening on a fairly daily basis, my ability to rebound from depressive states has pretty much disappeared. I’m trying. I swear! Hence the blog post.

But Holy Crud is it difficult. I love my country. I served in the Army for several years and spent one of those years in Iraq. That deployment was what got me into this little mental health pickle I’m now in. And funny story, my PTSD has very little to do with the incoming rockets our base took on a regular basis. My PTSD is the result of being used as a scapegoat for men’s incompetence. My PTSD was caused by my own effin countrymen.

So seeing the current state of America and how millions of lives are being destroyed by ignorance and incompetence and greed, it all gets a tad overwhelming to deal with. Because what was the point of my military service if people can’t love freely, if people can’t worship freely, if women can’t walk down the street without getting sexually harassed, if black men can’t walk down the street without getting arrested (for no good reason other than their skin tone), if refugees can’t find solace within our borders, or if First Nation Americans are being brutalized for protecting THEIR land from Oil-Industry greed. And let us not forget our allies who helped American troops overseas and at home, who had our backs in war zones.

I love my country. But I keep falling back on the same fear I had in Iraq: what if the people who I could supposedly count on could benefit from hurting me? This is always on my mind, and I can’t remove that filter from my eyes as I look at my family who all voted for the Cheeto and who refuse to follow what his actions are doing to this country and our allies.

But like Iraq, I have things to do. So here’s me, seeing the shit storm, pulling up a poncho, and hunkering down to achieve my goals. Because, in the words of Maureen Johnson, Trump doesn’t get to steal my joy.

Recovery & Broken Promises

And it’s 2017… well then…

At the turn of the new year, I realized that I made a few promises as a blogger that I totally failed in fulfilling. I’d promised I’d give you a run down of NerdCon, that didn’t happen. Was supposed to do all three posts for the Beautiful Books Meme during NaNoWriMo, that definitely didn’t happen. And getting back on a regular posting schedule, haha yeah… nope.

I kept hoping that I would get my feet back under me and I could be “the old me” again. The “me” who could handle multiple projects and intense deadlines. The “me” who didn’t flinch at the idea of interacting with people. The “me” who met every challenge with determination for success.

Yet here we are in 2017 and I’m still figuring things out. One thing that therapists at the VA say when you’re dealing with PTSD say is that I need to come to grips with the fact that THIS is my new reality and that I need to understand that I might never get back to “the old me.” I comprehend what they’re saying, but dear Lord, is it difficult to accept it. Because I want to do ALL THE THINGS.

Therapist’s response: Don’t overwhelm yourself.

She’s right, of course. The more I push to get back to my old rhythm, the more I end up snapping back into exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. This is probably TMI, as this is suppose to be a writing/reading blog, but I don’t want to pretend that mental health issues are something that can simply be overcome. I’m NOT saying that there’s no hope. I’m saying that mental health is a constant, a program running in the background. Depending on how many items you have open on your desktop, you can either run smoothly or get bogged down, have things shut down on you, then you get so infuriated that you want to throw the whole computer out the window… or maybe that’s just me.

I know the posts I’ve published since my giant hiatus have been mostly focused on my PTSD, and I want to apologize for that, but honestly, I think that this is a conversation that some people need to have. To know they’re not alone. To know it’s okay to talk about these struggles. Sure, this platform didn’t start off as a mental health discussion, but you know what, everything we do, everything we experience, affects our mental health, and subsequently our creative projects.

I promise I haven’t been “down for the count” since last I posted. I DID complete the 50k for NaNoWriMo. I DID perform in the musical I was cast in. I DID start querying. And lastly, I AM developing consistent friendships.

Don’t “aww” that last one. I spent most of 2016 pushing away EVERYONE. Creating and developing friendships is a huge step forward for me, and I’m not mad at it.

So I am finding “a new me” because that’s all I can do. I have to take the things I want to do and prioritize them. But self-care has to come first. Things that keep me from spiraling down into the dark abyss come first. I can’t miss therapy. I have to be physically active. I need to keep writing.

I know I have a lot of privilege to be able to structure my life this way. A small perk of being a War Veteran, I guess. Maybe I’ll write a blog post regarding my attempt at working fulltime last year, but no promises. But I do urge you, if you struggle with mental health, to get help. Or at the very least, try to find things that help you cope and make them a priority as best you can.

Till next time.
– Bree

 

NaNoWriMo 2016: Super Excited & Extremely Nervous

Wow. November is tomorrow. Like the past two years, I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month where you write 50k words toward your next novel project.

I’m participating this year for multiple reasons, but the main reason is that I need to. If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know I’ve fallen off my rocker this year. The PTSD has pretty much stolen all remnants of self-esteem. NaNo has always been a source of positivity for me. Between achieving the challenge itself and the NaNo community, November has just been a good month for the past couple years.

bb-redoneSo when I say I need to participate, it’s really a matter of needing to prove to myself that I can still do a thing that makes me happy and fulfilled. And like last year, I’ll be participating in the BEAUTIFUL BOOKS meme hosted by Paper Fury and Further Up, Further In.

Here’s post 1 of 3: An Introduction to my NaNo Novel

 

Question 1: What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
Redeemed (working title) is book 4 of the 5-book YA Fantasy series I’ve been working on. And to say it’s kinda been an enigma (plot and character-wise) would be an understatement. Since I first developed the series, I knew the main character’s abilities, where the story would take place, and what needed to happen (in terms of the series’ big picture) for Book 5 to work, but other than those three things, I was at a loss.

Gwen, the MC, went through a million name changes. Nothing stuck. There was Blaire, Alison, Winifred, Jaclyn. I had zero luck ironing down any details with her character. Then I finished the final draft of book 1, discovered a character that would play a huge role in book 4, and from there, everything started clicking into place.

Looking at my working outline and notes, I can see where I’m pulling different inspirations from. And honestly, most of it comes from friends and other incredible people who have entered my life.

Question 2: Describe what your novel is about!
Here’s the very shabby synopsis I have on the NaNo site:

Gwen Carter has visions. Some of the near future. Some of the past. But when she sees a future where a woman named Helen tortures her family to get to her, Gwen takes off.

Now halfway across the country in Seattle, Washington, Gwen realizes she can manipulate her visions and seeks out Helen from her nightmare to lure her away from her family.

Helen isn’t the only one searching for Gwen, a man who can shift into different animals is also on the hunt. But there’s something different about him, the men he travels with call him Tadgh and clearly trust and respect him.

So Gwen seeks his help. Unfortunately, there’s only so much Tadgh can do when the lives of his men are being held as collateral for his allegiance to someone else.

Question 3: What is your book’s aesthetic?
I think the aesthetic is going to be equal parts grit and clarity. If that makes any sense. Between Gwen’s abilities and the plot itself, there’s a lot of potential for some dark, gritty moments – think NBC’s show Hannibal (except no cannibalism). But there’s also opportunity for bright, beautiful moments like Disney’s live action Cinderella. We’ll see how well those two mesh. Lol

deadpool-gif

Question 4: Introduce us to each of your characters!
Gwendolyn Carter – Gwen is the most innately heroic of the protagonists in my series. While she doesn’t seek out danger, she can’t sit idly by and watch injustice unfold either. Her ability to hear thoughts and see others’ choices makes her decision-making far more strategic, so nothing she does is impulsive.

Tadgh O’Connell – Tadgh, a shapeshifter of sorts, is defined by his leadership role in his clan. Integrity, camaraderie, and loyalty are his core values, and he can’t/won’t sacrifice them for anyone or anything.

Helen Veritas – Helen is the descendant of the Roman Goddess of Truth, Veritas. She can sense when you’re lying, and if she chooses to, she can literally carve the truth out of you. She’s vicious and unapologetic.

Celeste – Celeste can manipulate earth and air. She’s desperate to save her kin from the Council and is running out of time to do so.

Question 5: How do you prepare to write?
I am a planner through and through. I have a scene outline, a beat sheet, character profiles, and other extraneous notes on the world and its many complexities.

Usually, I’ll start each day with a goal sheet of what scenes I’d like to accomplish based on what mood I’m in, what inspiration is striking, etc.

Question 6: What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Eek. Just to see what it turns into. Last year, I went into NaNo having a pretty clear vision of what book 3 was going to be, and it still surprised me. Redeemed is already a complete enigma, so I wouldn’t put it past these characters to throw me for several loops.

Plus there’s the whole thing of this being the second to last book in the series. That’s fairly terrifying. lol

supernatural-scared-laugh

Question 7: List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
Overcasts, Ferries, and an Amalgamation of charming old storefronts and sleek new construction. It takes place in Seattle, WA.

Question 8: What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
All Gwen wants is for her family to be okay, but in order to do that, she has to lure Helen and Celeste away from them.

Question 9: How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
Uhhhh. Honestly I have no idea. I think I’m going to just be pantsing this bit.

Gwen is a fairly well adjusted character compared to the MC’s of my first three books. So we’ll see how this ends up.

Question 10: What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
The major theme in this novel is to greet others with an open heart and an open mind. None of us have the ability to know someone’s full backstory upon meeting, so stereotyping or making snap-judgments only prove to hurt ourselves and extinguish progress.

As for how I want to readers to feel, I want them to be even more excited for the series conclusion in book 5. lol

***

And there it is, what I’ll be working on this next month. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see how this turns out, especially with it being the final adventure before the big showdown in book 5. This series has been such a fun place to live in and I’m still finding new things about the characters and the world. I just hope I can do all the characters’ stories justice.

 

An Update on Life, Writing, and What’s Next

Hey all,

So it’s been a couple months since I last checked in, and quite a bit has happened. I finished the latest version of GUARDED (book 1 in my YA series), went to NerdCon: Stories, and I was cast in a musical.

But here’s the thing about suddenly doing all the things after months of simply surviving: constantly attempting to be a “real person” exhausts you to the point that there’s very little energy to overcome those pesky PTSD symptoms. Which is why I fell off the blog bandwagon… again.

Recovery. It’s a slow process.

There is good news in all this though. I’m really, truly, only a round of revision plus polish away from sending queries out into the universe. It’s terrifying and exciting to finally be at this point. Especially after not being able to even look at the manuscript for so much of this year.

I promise I’ll do a whole post unpacking the phenomenal awesomeness that was NerdCon: Stories. I’m still recovering from all the socializing that was involved. Despite how exhausting it was, I’m beyond happy that I went. All the panels and talks were brilliant, I really hope they’ll do another one in 2017.

As for the future, I go to Chicago this week to meet up with a friend from Maryland for a Girls’ Weekend. I adore Chicago. It’s one of my two favorite cities. The other being Baltimore. Fantastic city plus fantastic friend. Should be a fantastic weekend. 🙂

Then there’s November right around the corner, which means National Novel Writing Month. Despite all the goings-on of this year, I am still planning on participating. And when I come back from Chicago, I’ll post what project I plan on tackling.

Hope everything is well with you all!

Bree

So it’s been a while…

 

Hey everyone. First off, I just wanna thank ya’ll for sticking with me this year. I know I kinda fell off for a while, and by while I mean several months. Second, this isn’t going to be so much of a writing post as it’s more of an explanation and apology for my disappearance this year. I wish that I had good news to share, that my absence was related to some awesome thing, but in truth, my mental health just took a huge dump at the beginning of the year and it’s only been recently that I’ve been able to pick myself even slightly off the ground in order to “feel” like myself.

For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms since my deployment to Iraq as a Public Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Army in 2011. The symptoms would come and go and shift and change, but for the most part, they were bearable.

Then 2016 happened and multiple things hit me in succession. My dog got poisoned by mothballs (she’s fine, no worries), a couple important relationships in my life rapidly and completely deteriorated, multiple PSTD triggers were hit, then I needed to find a new living situation (because of one of said relationship failings). So I moved back to Iowa at the end of January and attempted to pick up the pieces. Started weekly therapy sessions at the VA, started taking medication, and attempted to find a new job.

The longer trying to get a job took, the harder it was to sustain what little self-respect I had, which didn’t exactly help on the depression and anxiety end of things. Neither did the lack of compassion from certain people who just didn’t understand PTSD or didn’t want to understand it.

And of course, the worse my self-esteem became, the harder it was to face the things I loved or what I thought “defined” me. Writing was one of those things. Being a writer was everything I wanted since I was an itty-bit and because everything else that was important to me had failed, it seemed easier to put writing and everything attached to it inside a safe little lockbox in the back of my mind.

So I avoided it. All of it. The Manuscripts. Friends. Family. Twitter. The Blog. Critique Partners. TBR Books. Everything.

Next thing I knew, it was May and I didn’t recognize myself.

Now we’re at the tail end of August and I’ve lost most of 2016 to crappy mental health. Oy vey. The goals I’d set at the beginning of the year are near impossible to achieve. But I’m trying. It’s a daily struggle, but I finally have enough of a grasp on things that I can [somewhat] see a pale little light at the end of this very long, dark, narrow tunnel.

I’m happy to say that I am back to writing, more or less. Wrote a chapter last week that needs a crap ton of editing before it’s even remotely readable. But hey, one word at a time, right? And I’m reading again! Which is huge. Getting back to blogging three times a week is going to take some time, and I have no idea what these new posts are going to look like because I have a lot of catching up to do with the industry, not to mention my own work. But I have to [re]start somewhere, right?

Thanks again for sticking with me! It means more than I could even begin to say!

– Bree