Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Weekly Check-In

The cold I was suffering at last writing has been lingering, as my colds tend to do... I have a crummy immune system. And the depression that cold sparked has lingered, as well. And along with those two things, I have also experienced this weird let-down after completing NaNoWriMo: after the first few days of tweaking around with the formatting (and fine-tuning while I was at it) on The Math Teacher Is Dead for inclusion on the SmashWords website (where you can download my novel, and zillions of other fine novels, in any number of formats, from online reading to Kindle to Palm to Sony Reader), I have been suffering the literary version of the bends, depressurizing much too fast.

My current thinking is to take this energy and start another new novel. I am a little bit sick of Worst Luck (actually, a lot sick), and don't want to start the next novel in the series, which will take place while Danny is at Stanford... partly because it needs a lot of research (I've never even been to the Stanford campus), and partly because I want to outline it so I can use the story for next year's NaNoWriMo. So I'm thinking of starting the fourth or fifth installation of the series, tentatively titled Death and the Vicomte. It will be set in the Northern California chateau of Valerien's grandparents, and will encompass the murder of Valerien's father during a weekend party.

Of course, I don't even have a plot in my mind, just a vague idea of a nice tidy country-house murder, and some ideas about what the chateau looks like. I will need to develop a number of characters, but will not need much research: that's the beauty of the country-house mystery, it's self-contained in a geographical and architectural miniverse of one's own invention. All of my research will be involved in French etiquette, forms of address, cuisine, and viniculture... in much of which I am already somewhat knowledgeable, and all of which I can get from books and the internet.

So that's brewing away in the back of my mind right now. But I'm also trying to gear up for the labor-intensive resentment-fest that is Christmas with my family... there's an enormous naked tree in my living-room, and boxes of ornaments and decorations; my challenge this week is to get the contents of the latter properly draped over the former. Then I need to clean some house and do some shopping. Fortunately, my nephew Matthew is staying with us and is a great help, especially in terms of running errands and doing the heavy lifting.

It's all going to work out, I hope. I find that I often get really down this time of year, I'm not sure if it's the lack of light or the likelihood of catching cold or my dislike of Christmas or some cyclical thing having to do with my birthday, but this has long been a very difficult time of year for me.


The depression has been pretty bad this last week... I'm assuming due mostly to the cold I had, with an assist from forgetting my Wellbutrin a couple of times, and overlaid with the cold and dreary weather and everything else as detailed above. The suicidal ideation has been especially strong, and I really had to argue with myself a couple of times to remind myself that it's my serotonin-deprived synapses talking, not my rational mind. I was particularly obsessed with the idea of overdosing on my mood stabilizer... after learning how sleepy it makes me when I accidentally took it in the morning instead of at night, I started thinking that if I took enough of it, my heart might stop. Dying in one's sleep always seems like a peaceful way out.

But it's letting up, now. I've felt pretty much normal the last two days, no suicidal thoughts or unexpected tears; I haven't been going to sleep early enough to get my full eight hours before going to work, but I feel positive and productive at work, despite being painfully sleepy and a bit headachy.

I just realized it's been a while since I did a Picture Post. I'll get to work on that now, and in the meantime I offer you the following taste of things to come:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"Weekly" Check-In

So, I'm slowly recovering from NaNoWriMo... I finished my book with six thousand words to spare, and am so proud of myself I could bust. Though I've written quite a lot over the years, I have never finished a story before, so this is quite a feat.

And just when I finished that, I came down with a particularly virulent and debilitating cold, so severe that I missed three and a half days of work. And this after finishing my book, so I didn't have anything I could do laying in bed all day, and have been bored out of my mind. I guess I could have worked some more on the story, editing or expanding as the case may be; but after thirty straight days, I couldn't look at The Math Teacher is Dead anymore. I tried working on Worst Luck instead, but the prose all looked clunky and stupid -- I guess I'm just all wrote out for the time being.

Also, as usually happens when I'm sick for more than a couple of days, the illness triggered a depression, so I've been feeling unspeakably miserable the last few days. But I'm not dead, nor apparently dying (or at least not any faster than usual), so I guess I'll muddle through somehow or other.

Hopefully I'll be back into my weekly swing here on Swellegant now that the novel is finished. In the meantime, if you haven't already, go give it a read: I really could use some feedback about the story, the prose, what works and what gives trouble.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Weekly Check-In

Sorry I haven't checked in lately, but all of my writing energy is going into the NaNoWriMo project. I'm doing fairly well: after a very difficult first week, I've finally managed to catch up to, and then exceed, my recommended word count... last night I posted at 39,445 total words, and the recommended word count for Day 23 is 38,334. And I'm very pleased with how the story is shaping up, I'm now working on sharpening the story down to the climax. Go read it if you have a chance; or if you want to wait until it's finished, I'll be posting the complete first draft of The Math Teacher is Dead on December 1.

I've given up pretty much all other activities to this project, so I don't have a lot else to talk about; I've been watching movies a good deal, things I've seen before and can keep as background noise and eye-candy, focusing on Elizabethan period movies (Elizabeth, Elizabeth: the Golden Age, and the Showtime series The Tudors) and Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew) because of the school play in my story, getting a feel for the costumes and the language.

And I've seen other movies... but I just don't have the time to devote to reviewing them for you. Maybe later. Though in passing, I can heartily recommend Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, I was quite surprised by how good it was. I can also recommend Tom Ford's A Single Man, which was an orgasm of visual style as one might expect.


I had an interesting experience last week: last Wednesday morning, getting ready for work but with my mind on other things, I accidentally took my night-time meds (Seroquel and Zoloft) instead of my day-time meds (Wellbutrin). My meds are so divided because the former have a sedative effect and the latter has a stimulative effect. Once I realized my mistake, I went ahead and took my daytime meds and doubled my daily vitamin in hopes of counteracting the drowsiness.

Well, I discovered after about an hour at work that my night-time meds are a lot more sedative than I had thought: by 10 a.m., I was nodding at my desk, completely unable to form sentences, and confused by everything anybody said to me. So I went home, slapping myself the whole way so I didn't fall asleep behind the wheel, and got back in bed... where I slept like a log for six hours.

When I woke up, I remained groggy the rest of the day, and then went promptly back to sleep at 10 p.m. when I took my proper dose at the proper time (at my doctor's behest...I emailed her about any possible overdose issues and she assured me my meds are pretty lightweight and I can OD whenever I want without hurting myself). Of course, the next day I felt fantastic, fourteen hours of sleep under my belt.

Nevertheless, I have to be a lot more careful about that sort of thing... and to remember that if I ever accidentally take my PM meds in the AM, call in sick to work and for God's sake don't try to drive.

I learn something new every day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Picture Post: The Danny Files

When I created Danny Vandervere, I worked from a number of different sources for inspiration. Originally, Danny was blond with brown eyes and golden skin; then when I started writing Worst Luck, I changed him to brown hair and brown eyes and white skin; then when I started writing The Math Teacher is Dead last year, I turned his hair blue-black and his eyes blue; since then I have decided he should have brown-black hair and his eyes should be gray.

Anyway, the following are the inspirations that went into making Danny: none of them are just like him (though the very last picture comes closest), but they all have shapes and features and color combinations that I have given to my young hero... some of them it's just a hair-style or a facial expression or a posture. I won't tell you what exact thing I took from each person, but I think if you look through these images, you'll get an idea what I have in my mind when I write about Danny Vandervere.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Weekly Check-In

I loathe and abominate Daylight Savings Time. It serves no purpose but to confuse and disorient people... particularly me. I always spend the week after DST starts or ends wandering around in a fuddled daze, unable to sleep properly, unable to eat regularly, unable to connect to this new temporal reality.

Making things worse, we had a blackout here on Sunday... large chunks of the East Bay went without power for an hour or more. So when I went around changing the clocks after the power came back on, I also changed them for DST, and confused the two in my mind.

My alarm clock in particular confused me: at first I forgot to turn the alarm on, so on Monday I overslept and had a hard time getting my day in order; the next night I turned the alarm on, but discovered after oversleeping the next day that I had the AM/PM setting wrong, and the clock thought morning was night; the third day, I got the AM/PM right and set the alarm, but completely forgot that when the power went off, the alarm reset to midnight, so that's when the damned thing went off... and I was so disoriented after only two hours of sleep that I hit the snooze button four times before I realized that it was still the middle of the night, and then I didn't think to reset the alarm so it would go off at the correct time and overslept again.

Well, let me tell you, friends... interrupted sleep and rushed abbreviated mornings make for a very grumpy and woozy Robert. I got very little work done this week, and considering that I am falling very far behind now that I don't have a filing intern to do the grunt work for me, I have managed to paint myself into a corner that is going to take a lot of concentrated effort to get out of.

On the other hand, I am catching up with the NaNoWriMo... I went from being ten thousand words behind schedule last Friday to being only six thousand words behind today, and gaining fast. I guess the disconnect from daily reality made it easier to enter Danny Vandervere's reality, so I got some solid writing done each day, meeting or surpassing my recommended daily average (1667 words) from Saturday to Tuesday. But then I fell behind again last night, I was so tired after work I just pooped out when I got home and didn't get anything more written.

Instead of writing last night, I watched The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which was one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen. Movies in which one of the stars dies during production are always very disjointed, with the various workarounds that come into play to finish the film without one of the stars; Heath Ledger died while the movie was being made, and restructuring the film around the scenes he'd already filmed made the whole movie jumpy and rather random. But it was visually interesting, though nothing ever really made proper sense.

I also have Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland to view, about which I am very curious but also a little hesitant: some of the imagery, particularly regarding the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, are very disturbing. But I always end up liking Tim Burton movies in spite of myself, so I thought I'd give it a chance.

And completing the triad (I always buy movies in threes), I have Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne; I love Julianne Moore, I could just watch her walking around and talking without any kind of plot, she's so hypnotically beautiful; and then Eddie Redmayne is so unusual-looking, sometimes you think he's beautiful and sometimes you think there's something desperately wrong with his face, and you go back and forth between attraction and revulsion. The story looks interesting, about an epically dysfunctional mother and son relationship in high society, so there are fascinating tensions and great costumes... I first read about this movie in Vogue, so I'm expecting the usual fashion orgasm.

So that's my plan for my Veterans' Day holiday... in my jammies, two movies, and as many words as I can squeeze out of my imagination... hopefully six thousand, though I will be happy with three. After all, there's a weekend coming.


So far as I can tell, there hasn't been any repercussion from missing four days of Seroquel last week... though that might be the genesis of the disorientation and disconnection I am feeling, which I have blamed solely on DST. But the mood itself is good, I feel quite emotionally steady, no sudden rages or unexpected tears.

In closing, please enjoy the following spot of loveliness: