Burn Out

Burn out is something I’ve heard many artists and creators talk about and thought, naively, that I had been excused from it. I thought I’d been blessed and simply never burned out–never hit that unseen wall where all our plans and schedules and inspiration went smashing to bits.

I was wrong. And, in hindsight, I’ve had bouts of burn out plenty of times before and just didn’t recognize it. Mine sneaks up on me. It’s like the gas runs out but for a while, the wheels keep rolling and I think I’m fine. I’ve got no energy, no lust to work on my projects, no oomph to get shit done. What’s worse, I forget why I even want to do any of my projects. When I look back on the weeks of burn out, it seems like sinking but I know that when I was living it, I didn’t realize I was going down. I didn’t realize what it was at all, until I woke up from that haze of procrastination.

But, this time, I steered into it. I tried not to panic or question it. I blew February watching Netflix, listening to podcasts, reading books, and writing fanfiction. (And I went to the day job, so I wasn’t literally pajamas 24/7–but mentally I was.) My lists of to-do’s piled up and I was a ghost on social media.

Every time I’ve burned out, this time included, I’ve reached the point where I think, “Oh shit, I am never going to get anything done again. This is it. This is all I’ll ever want to do.” And it’s never been true. There comes a day, when I wake from the burn out like a storm has passed and suddenly I don’t want to watch TV or write fanfics anymore. Suddenly I have energy again and ideas for my stories and a desire to tackle social media and get out there and interact with people.

It’s taken me years to figure out, but I always come back. So, I try not to panic when I don’t have it in me to do everything–or anything. Instead, I try to listen to my body and what it needs, whether that’s a nap, or to binge watch soap operas, or write fanfics, or eat pancakes. I can’t do everything all the time. Sometimes my to-do’s pile up. And that’s okay, because I can do it later. I think the trick, for me, is recognizing and respecting my own limits and not making myself feel bad for them.

This picture below is one I took the day after I woke up from my hazy February. I think I got more done on the 1st of March than I did the whole two months before and this week I’m tackling the editing of a ghost story I wrote last October and it’s going great!  So, I’m going to leave this here for Future Me, in her next burn out, to look at and remember that she’s great at this! …But she doesn’t have to be great at it every damn day.

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Northern Lights Tour

My mom and stepdad visited us in Sweden for Christmas and New Years and I tried to take them on some truly Swedish adventures. One of those adventures was a Northern Lights wandering out in the arctic wilds near Kiruna.

I had to ask Linn (@booksnknitting) how to take pictures of northern lights and she talked me through setting up my camera with screenshots to help.

We went out with Britt from Guide in North and it was amazing! She met up with us and provided a bunch of winter clothes. After we suited up, we drove out of the city and into the dark. Already there were some waves of northern lights in the sky. And then we got into the sleighs behind scooters and went out onto a frozen river, farther out into the country.

The lights were amazing but I was even more blown away but just how many stars we could see. Britt even pointed out mars, winking red at us.

We saw a few moose, who stopped to stare back at us for a while. I did not get a picture of them. I happen to be weirded out by moose–they absolutely give me the heebie jeebies BUT my mom and Papa Pat got a kick out it.

Just when we were freezing our toes off, the tour continued up to a little cabin where we got to warm up by the fire, eat some food, drink some tea, and even have a bit of cake.

The lights were incredible, moving from one side of the sky overhead and to the other. It seemed like as soon as you marveled in one direction someone was pointing out the lights in another.

I don’t think Phong and I would ever have done anything like this if we weren’t entertaining guests.

If you find yourself in Kiruna and have any interest in going out to see the lights or look at moose or go fishing, I can’t recommend Guide in North enough. Britt and her husband were absolutely amazing and we had an evening we’ll never forget.

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Cover Photo Shoot

This December, between parents visiting from the States, boat tours in Stockholm and northern lights in Kiruna, we did the photo shoot for the cover of Book Three in the Crowns & Ash Series!

I use the word “we” loosely here because I mostly control the Spotify playlist and help Phong with hair and makeup–which he is capable of doing on his own. He is a man of many talents.

Linn Arvidsson has done the last two covers for the series and set up the shoot. We hauled bags of props, clothes, makeup, flowers, and cake into the studio and followed her directions. One of the flashes was acting up, seeming only to work when any one of us stared directly at it. She took dozens of pictures while we tried different poses and outfits and the results were AMAZING! Unfortunately, I can’t share those. So, you’ll have to settle for my pictures taken on the sidelines.

Getting this kind of involvement with the cover process, and seeing Linn and Phong work, has been a delight–one I understand to be pretty rare for authors.

I am trying to nail Linn down for an interview as a cover artist/photographer. Hopefully that will be gracing the blog this year!

 

Quotes from the shoot.

Cheryl: What’s your best side?

Phong: Right.

Two hours and tons of photos later. Looking through the pictures that ended up being mostly of his left side.

Phong: Huh. Guess they’re both good. *smug grin*

 

Special thanks to got2b glued hairspray. Seriously, Phong uses it exclusively and I’ve even known him to order it online and send to friends we’re going to visit so it’ll be there when he arrives. Pretty much everyone that loves us has a bottle of got2b waiting for him. And for good reason! It works.

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2018 Recap

What happened in 2018?

I didn’t do all of my resolutions for last year, and it wasn’t all amazing all the time, but here are the highlights!

  • I became lactose intolerant. It happened all of a sudden. It was awful. I miss eating cheese without having to take a pill first BUT for the first time in my life I don’t have the acne face of a fourteen year old. It turns out, cheese was my enemy all along.
  • I published my first ever horror novel, Infernal, with Grinning Skull Press! I’m so excited to have it out in the world.
  • I discovered audio-books. When I was younger I couldn’t listen to books because I got distracted and stopped paying attention. I went on with life believing that I couldn’t listen to audio-books. I WAS WRONG! I spend so much time outside walking or at the gym and this is perfect! I love it. I can finally multitask reading.
  • I wrote another horror and outlined a few more!
  • I discovered Stephen King. I know, I’m behind. I tried reading Stephen King as a kid and totally hated it. I was reading fantasy almost exclusively back then and doing it for escapism. Stephen King’s work was just too close to reality for my younger self and I didn’t get it or appreciate it. I went on from there with the continued assumption that Mr. King and I did not jive. The truth is, I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t at the point in my life where I would appreciate his books. But I am now and OH MY GOSH there are so many to read! So far I’ve consumed: Carrie, Cujo, In the Tall Grass, A Good Marriage, The Outsider, Joyland, and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. <3
  • World Weaver Press published the second book of my Crowns & Ash series, Detox in Letters! And @writendesk did live tweeting while reading it and it was one of the coolest, most thrilling, events of my life!
  • I visited my family in California for my mom’s wedding party, survived the aggressive heat, and ate matcha soft-serve in a fish shaped cone in San Francisco!
  • I wrote a rough ROUGH first draft of book 4 of the Crowns & Ash series and sent the 3rd off to my amazing editor, Laura Harvey!

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Stuart R. West – Author Interview

I recently read Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley by Stuart R. West and reached out to get an interview.

You can find my review of the collection of stories on Goodreads as well as Amazon

Now on to some intrusive author questions!


I know it’s nosy, but I just love seeing where people do their art. Can you describe your writing space for us, Stuart?

Hey, Cheryl, thanks for letting me stink up the joint. Well…I used to write in a very comfy recliner in front of a bay window. Very pleasant, relaxing and inspiring. Now, my daughter’s moved back into the house. That’s not a problem. But she brought two dogs with her. That’s a problem. She describes them as “shredders,” a very apt description. They’ve never met anything they don’t like to rend. So, I have to now sit on them 24-7. What little writing I’m getting done these days is in the fenced off room with the ferocious furry terrorists. Here…look…

 

 

What does your writing process look like? Do you listen to music? Have a special mug? Do you do three chair swivels before starting?

Nothing special. As a matter of fact, plotting’s always the biggest chore (that and revisions. Ugh). Suffering from insomnia as I do, I work out my plot points in a sorta pseudo-half-conscious state at three in the morning, hence some of the craziness in my work. I like to back my characters into a corner and see how they work their way out of it.

Coffee, tea or something else?

Caffeine’s my friend! I tried beer, but the writing ended up like this: “Sally walked up the stairs, hatchet in hand. Hand on the knob, she twisted it and ppppppppppppppppppppppp,kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkknnnnnnnnnn…” It goes on a while like that. And I woke up with a keyboard imprint on my cheek.

Favorite font?

I refuse to answer this question because I don’t want to be called anti-fontist.

Now that the standard questions are out of the way, you have a lot of published works under your belt—how did you get started?

I got burned out in the corporate world. This horrible company I worked for for the last 27 years or so folded due to mis-management. I couldn’t stand to face another 20 years or whatever in a similar situation. My loving wife said, “what do you want to do?” I thought about it, remembered my life-long dream of writing, and ta-dahhhhhhhh! (Unfortunately, there’s a bittersweet ending. Due to economics, I have to go back to a “real” job. Dunno what I’ll do. But I’d rather drive an ice cream truck than enter another soul-stealing office job.)

I recently had the pleasure of reading Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley and am so excited to toss a few questions your way. This collection of scary stories covered so many genres of horror! Do you have a personal favorite yourself? Creature features, monster stories, psychological thrillers…

I don’t think I have a favorite. Just love horror. Love all facets of it and have since I was a child. I consider the golden years of horror films the schlock from the 60’s to mid-80’s. I’ve seen ‘em all. My wife just doesn’t get it.

Along those same lines, were any of your own fears reflected in these stories? The dentist story, for example, really gave me the heebie jeebies despite there being SO MANY scary monsters in the other stories, because it was something that makes me, personally, so uncomfortable.

Oh, yeah, a lot of my fears are in this book. First of all, this book was written after the last recent American presidential election. I was pissed off and scared at how divided and angry the country had become. I think this book represents a microcosm of what the attitude of America is right now with characters displaying ugly traits and stuck in awful situations. So, yes, overall the state of the world terrifies me right now. More specifically, things underground terrify me (“The Underdwellers.”). Just being in a dark, terrifying, grotesque, underground environment where you don’t know what’s around the corner is absolutely nightmarish to me. Nature (more specifically weird bugs) creep me out. I mean, everyone knows sticks shouldn’t walk, right? Anyway, this is reflected in “Bagworms.” Racism is a concern (“Husk”). Lots of other phobias to be uncovered, but, hey, go read the book folks!

A lot of your stories have a twist of humor to them. Is that something you would consider a signature of your writing style or was it particular to this collection?

No. Sigh. Good or bad, most of my 21 novels have humor in them. Frankly, I wasn’t even aware of it until my wife pointed it out to me. She said, “All of your books have comical elements.” Oddly enough, my wife finds me painfully unfunny most of the time. SO, yeah, I guess it’s my style.

With Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley being a collection, I have to ask, did you have a favorite piece and why?

Probably the closing novella, “The Underdwellers.” It’s not particularly a signature piece of my style or content, but it’s one of the most intense, frightening things I’ve written in my (un)humble opinion. So says my wife again, my harshest critic. It scares me and I like how it turned out (not always the case).

And last, what are you working on now? Tell us about what you have coming out next or anything else you want to put a little extra focus on. And thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.

I’ve nearly completed my next novel, “Corporate Wolf.” It’s a horror novel with a lot of dark humor and satire based on my ghastly years in the corporate sector. Oh, and it’s about a werewolf. I’m having a lotta fun writing it (until I got into the revisions, a writer’s enemy!).

Hey, thanks for having me here, Cheryl.

Readers, check me out at:

*Stuart R. West’s brand-spanking new website!

*Amazon author page.

*Stuart R. West’s (totally inconsequential) blog: Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley

*And the rest (like on Gilligan’s Island): Facebook, Twitter

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