Old News and a Rant/Rave About Mental Health

Over a year ago, when I last posted here, I had just bought a house, adopted two cats, gotten new jobs, and so forth. Things only got crazier in 2015, things which kept me from doing much here with the website.

For one, we had some changes in our family:

  • We had another child in May (another boy!)
  • Kyra transferred departments to be closer to home
  • I had increased responsibilities in the day job
  • Kyra’s grandfather became very ill/passed away
  • My parents experienced a job loss which led to…
  • A new job, with a relocation across the country.

Needless to say, things were a little crazy at times, and it’s been a year of emotional highs and lows.

Also, thanks to the Altered Perceptions anthology, specifically Seanan McGuire‘s personal experiences, I decided to seek help from a mental health professional. I knew I had depression, but had been resistant to doing anything about it because of one less-than-positive experience with a therapist/medication many years ago. What Seanan’s essay made me realize, however, was that depression wasn’t the only battle I was fighting.

After some time working with an excellent professional, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and (as I already suspected) Depression.

While I tried some alternatives to medication for many months, I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed pharmacological help as well, and was prescribed an antidepressant.

It’s been life-changing.

My previous experience being medicated had been scary. I was a young teenager and (to make a long story short), I felt like my medication turned me into an emotionless zombie. I stopped taking that medication and returned to a life of feeling, but at the cost of dealing with depression every day. I was frankly scared of going on another medication ever again.

This experience has been great, however, and I STRONGLY encourage people who are dealing with mental/emotional health issues to seek out professional help. Even if you suspect of have the SLIGHTEST inkling that you MIGHT have something like depression or OCD going on, please go see someone. Not only will it increase your quality of life, but it will help out those around you who love and care about you. When members of my extended family found out that I was planning to enter therapy, many of them were SO relieved, and my close friends have been nothing but supportive. What’s more, is that these people have seen a marked difference in my attitudes and behaviors, and they find me more pleasant to be around.

Something just as important is that I have noticed a difference. I realize now that a life filled with overwhelming depression is NOT normal, and that I can accomplish so much more when my depression is more under control. I am physically healthier. I feel like I can go outside. I find enjoyment in hobbies again. I don’t have days where I just want to lay in bed buried in the covers.

Does this mean I still don’t have rough moments? No, not at all. I still feel my “negative” emotions. It’s not like I started a magic pill and a few weeks later noticed I was happy all the time. On the contrary, there have been some difficult things happen in my life since I’ve started the medication, and I have experienced emotional responses to them.

The difference is this: it’s manageable. It’s no longer overwhelming. It’s a normal, reasonable response.

So, my takeaway here is seek help if you need it. Please. Even if you have a doubt, please talk to someone. Friends and family can help support you as you begin to accept that this is an illness that needs to be treated. They can be with you as you start the journey to find a medication that works for you, or sit next to you when you see a psychologist, or WHATEVER. People love you and want to help.

Well, there we are. Me on my soapbox. Really this DID just start out as a catch-up post for what’s happened, but then these words fell out of my fingers. Wahoo.

 

The “New Things” in the World of Branson

Hey all, I was going to start out with a “long time, no see” sort of intro, but I think we all know it’s been a long time, and I know that “we all” doesn’t include THAT many people. So, to update on things that have happened since I posted last, I give you the BULLETED LIST:

  • We got a new car (Toyota Prius)
  • Both Kyra and I got new jobs (she’s working for the Utah Department of Transportation, and I’m working for Utah State University)
  • We bought a house (and it it WONDERFUL, but more on that at a later date)
  • We adopted two cats (or rather, agreed to be their caretakers and permanent staff for the next 12 or so years)

I also finished another year of NaNoWriMo, and that was a success, in that I wrote the 50,000 words, although I must say that not all of the words were as good as I wanted them to be.

Anyhow, that’s it for now. Until next time (whenever that may be).

Branson

A Catch-Up Post

Hello all,

I know it’s been a while. That’s the way the blog goes for me, apparently, and there’s been a lot going on. The biggest thing: parenthood. To make a very long list short, between ear infections, scheduling conundrums and the general “let’s only play all the time” vibe that young kids give off, it’s difficult to keep up with all the necessities like laundry and dishes, let alone the non-essential things like a blog.

With that in mind I have a lot of catch-up I need to do. Here are a few of the things I’ve been up to over the past few months (in no particular order).

First, I graduated! Despite fears that I had about my statistics class, I was able to get through my final semester with a reasonably good GPA and I was proud of my overall GPA.

Toward the end of the semester one of my professors nominated my final history project for a prestigious local award. Though I didn’t win, knowing that this particular professor (for whom I have great respect) thought it was good enough to be considered and the positive comments I received back made the experience worth it.

Our little guy also turned one at the end of March! That was great, though it seems like such a long time ago now. He’s started saying words like “cracker” and “truck” and my phone regularly puts out a “not enough storage space” message because of the thousands of photos/videos we have of him.

In the past couple of months I also had some kidney problems come up. It showed up on a routine test I had to take to apply for some more life insurance. Needless to say, when this showed up the insurance company sent me a nice letter in the mail that basically said “glad you thought of us, but we won’t touch you with a ten foot pole.” From there I started the doctor circuit, starting with my GP, cycling through specialists until last week when I visited the nephrologist. According to him, “Your test results were to make us interested but not enough to make us excited just yet,” so I’m taking that as good news even if I think the use of the words “interesting” and “exciting” (which were common themes throughout the visit) were a little out of place. An official diagnosis is still up in the air, but the doctor says it’s most likely that I won’t have anything to worry about. The unfortunate part of that is that until they know something’s wrong—which may be never—I get to grace their laboratories with more “samples” every 4-6 months for the foreseeable future, but I’ll take that over dialysis or a kidney replacement. And hey, I’ll keep the urology lab in business, so yippee.

We’ve also been looking for jobs. I have one that looks promising with a second interview next Thursday, so we’ll see how that turns out, and Kyra just had an interview this morning that she felt went well, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Finally, I’ve been plugging away at a few projects, though I’m about to start dedicating my time to just one of them within the next week or so. It’s going to consolidate a few of the things I’ve had in the development process for a while and make a richer, more complete story in the end, I think.

With that I’m off!

Until next time,

~Branson~

17 March 2014

Happy St. Patrick’s Day All! I wish I could type in an accent to legitimate my (dubious) Irish origins, but alas…

Anyhow, I think that an update is long past due. In short, life continues to be chaotic and I’m running at breakneck speed 24/7 with the exception of those few moments where I pass out from exhaustion, but even those seem rushed. I won’t go into details, but this semester gets more hectic the longer it goes on and it’s only going to get busier for a while. The bright side is that there are only five weeks left until finals week and then I GRADUATE!!!!!!!!! I’m truly excited about that, just in case you couldn’t tell that from the caps and the overabundance of exclamation marks.

In terms of writing, I’ve not gotten a lot of actual words written, much to my chagrin, but I’ve been doing a LOT of plotting, planning and general project development. I invested in this nifty little device called a voice-recorder. It was actually for a school project, but it just so happens to have personal uses as well. It’s allowed me to get a lot of ideas down that I wouldn’t have had the time for before. I can do X-brainless-time-consuming-homework and when I’m struck with character ideas, plot points, cool tidbit of worldbuilding information, all I have to do is push a button and it records my melodious tones.*

So, I have a few projects in development right now. I’m planning out (in more detail) the sequel to Project Jekribo or whatever it’s really going to be called someday (because, let’s face it: I kinda stink at making names), doing some work on the Imdreyad storyline and stirring a few other pots on the stove.

You may have noticed that I took the Children of Essence page down from my “Projects” tab, and there are some very good reasons for that. Primarily, I was concerned with how little plot development I’d managed to generate for that story. I had some ideas, and I think they were rather good ideas, but there were some significant holes in the plot, some things that I need to work through before I can really start writing on it. The other reason was that I didn’t have very good characters. I had some basic skeletons (“this is the X-archetype character and he has Y-quirk”) but nothing to really craft a story out of.

What this all boils down to is that I became intoxicated by the worldbuilding that I’d done on the story, so much so that I was like, “This is great, I totally want to write a story in this world!” but really, there was NO story, there were no actors, there was no substance. Essentially, I had a cool setting, phenomenal magic system, but no real meat to make those things meaningful.

Therefore, I’ve established a rule for myself: Do NOT post things on the website unless you have a draft finished!

Simple, huh? I might find reason to tweak that rule in the future, but for now, that’s going to be my policy.

Alrighty, I’m done. Go back to your lives, citizens.

*For the record, my tones aren’t really melodious, especially when I listen to my voice at 2X speed

Life of a Writer

Note: The following resulted from a few days of introspection, but is largely unedited and may be a little disjointed. I prefer to keep it that way, for now, because I feel like that’s truer to whatever it was I was trying to convey. Also, this is my blog and I can do what I want, including post inane rants. So there you go.

Writing is what I love to do. Everything from an idea’s inception to the formation and the crafting of that idea into something fun and exciting to the completion of that idea and typing the words “The End” onto a page to feeling the satisfying weight of a finished manuscript in my hands is glorious to me. Admittedly, editing is not my favorite, but even that is an illuminating endeavor.

And I have tried to make writing my life. Not just something I do as a hobby, not just something I do in my free time, but something that is part of me every day.

The thing is, however, that I haven’t been writing lately, not how I’d like to anyway.

I think that part of the reason I haven’t been writing is because I’m afraid that I won’t be able to write in the future. I know I have things to write down, that’s not the problem. What I’m afraid of is getting stuck doing something else that is NOT writing.

In essence, I would love to write full-time, don’t get me wrong, but the financial necessities of life may preclude that possibility for a bit. That’s just a reality.

What I’ve feared is that I won’t have the time to write.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that this is a lie. It’s a lie I’ve been telling myself, and I’m ready to let it go.

I took a look at one of my blog posts from several months ago about why NaNoWriMo was useful for me. One of the biggest things was that it taught me that I could write no matter what, under any circumstances. That was particularly useful for me to reflect upon because, while my life is crazy, it isn’t anywhere near the level of craziness that it was just over a year ago. I’ve learned a lot since then too. I’ve completed a project that I was proud of, I’ve honed my craft. Since then, I’ve also learned that I really DO have the time.

So why haven’t I been writing?

The simple answer is “school,” and really, that would be a legitimate answer in a lot of ways. Still, it isn’t the real reason.

The real reason is that I’ve been afraid to give up the things in my life that have been getting in the way of my writing. We don’t have cable, but we do watch TV series on DVD or the occasional movie. We also play video games once in a while too, and I must admit that sometimes I need it after a long day of school and parenting.

Still, I’ve realized that I NEED writing more.

So I’m making some life changes. I’m cutting out television, cutting out Twitter (my greatest nickel-and-dime vice time wise) and anything else that keeps me from doing my homework, being with my family and doing my writing.

No matter what else is going on, I can still find time to sit down at my keyboard and click away as ideas flow in a molten stream from my brain to my fingertips. I can still find quiet moments to spend with my story, my characters, to see what each of them want and need.

No matter what else, I can still have the life of a writer.

LTUE 2014 (and Kudos to a few of the attendees)

I went to LTUE (Life, the Universe and Everything) 2014 this year and aside from some sleep deprivation, it was excellent for me. There were oodles and gobs of interesting and educational panels and I learned a LOT. Most everyone was gracious and informative, especially Anne Sowards (an executive editor with the Penguin publishing group), Johnny Worthen (whose book, Beatrysel, I am not familiar with, though I will be sure to rectify that mistake soon), Michaelbrent Collings (who writes all around the map, but tends to stick with horror, I believe, and YES, his name is Michaelbrent, one word) and finally, Sandra Tayler (author of the “One Cobble at a Time” blog and some excellent picture books).

I asked Anne for about five minutes of her time, and she ended up giving me ten, talking about the publishing industry and some of the new things in the genre that Penguin (under ACE and ROC) has coming out. She was easy to speak with, and treated me like a professional even though she’s never read a word I’ve written.

Johnny was not only informative on whatever panel he participated in, but he was entertaining as well and made mingled with people at the conference easily and personably. On Thursday, I’d been sitting in the lounge, checking my phone, when he came up and introduced himself, asked a bit about me, and was wholly agreeable. Kudos to him for being awesome. Also, his book and upcoming series both sound very interesting, so go give them a read.

Michaelbrent was pretty awesome as well, if I’m going to be completely honest. Every panel I attended that he happened to be on delivered, both in terms of humor and useful content. In addition, I spent some time talking to him at his table in the Dealer’s Room about his books, which ones were his favorites to write and so forth. I told him to give me the book that he thought would lure me in and make me read the rest of his books. After a bit of discussion, I ended up buying Strangers, a book about a family who gets sealed into their house by a serial killer. Yeah, it’s gonna be creepy, but I expect it to be good. Also, his website is a great read. Go there.

Finally, Sandra Tayler, whose work I had only been marginally acquainted with up to this point, gave an excellent reading on (I think) Friday. Her picture books were stunning in their story and art, her blog collections were simultaneously humorous and inspiring, and her novel excerpt moved me nearly to tears. On the whole, it was an excellent experience, and I can’t wait for her to finish the novel and release it. I’d recommend you all go get her books. Nay, I’d tell you that you were doing yourself a GROSS disservice if you didn’t…. Nay, NAY, that you were verging on inadequacy and incompletion in LIFE if you didn’t go get her books NOW! Too much? Okay. Suffice it to say that her books were excellent, and you should buy them.

There were a multitude of other great people doing presentations and panels, but these were the individuals with whom I had personal interactions and was most impressed.

I may have more thoughts later, but these are the things I have most on my brain at the moment.

Ciao,

Branson

Ideas About Starting a Second Book

Right now I’m starting to flesh out my rather skeletal outline for the sequel to Project Jekribo and I started to make a list of things I needed to accomplish in that book, especially as it needs to be true to the first book but be strong on its own at the same time. The following are a couple of the things I came up with and decided that these ones were worth sharing, in spite of their jumbledness. 

Growth: You need to decide “what did my characters learn” from the previous book, and “where can they still progress?” In other words, what did they improve at in book one and what are some things they still need to learn in book two?

Hallmarks: What things set each character apart from any other character? These things can be speech patterns (very important) or other things, such as ideologies, habits, quirks, et cetera.

Unanswered questions: What sorts of things went unanswered in the previous book? How are you going to answer those questions in a satisfying way? There are several methods:

1)  The “Boromir” Method: In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien ends the first book with the battle in which the Fellowship gets split up. However, Tolkien ends the book in the midst of the battle. He doesn’t even finish it up. Tolkien starts the Two Towers with the death of Boromir. Honestly, it happens a page and a half into the book. If you haven’t read it or seen the movies, well tough beans, there’s a spoiler for you. (Also, what in the world is wrong with you and why are you reading this if you haven’t read Lord of the Rings?)This is one thing that the movie does better than the books because it brings things to a satisfying (albeit sad) end.

At any rate, the Boromir variety of unanswered questions with its corresponding method of answering them seems to be a dirty rotten trick. Tolkien’s work isn’t a really big deal for us today, seeing as we can read the books all the way through if we’d like, but the intervening five-ish months people had to wait after reading the book in July of 1954 and getting the TWO PAGES that finished up the battle in November of that year must have completely frustrating. (Also, many thanks to Wikipedia for the publishing dates.)

2)  The second method is what I call the TV Series Method. We’ve all watched those shows where the characters have X mystery they are trying to solve (usually for several seasons, often regarding the fate of some parent or another) and Y clue or Z piece of information is always SOOO close, but it never gets snagged. For three frickin’ seasons. Sometimes even the entire series (in which case, they have to make a crappy movie afterwards to tie up all the loose ends).

Just as the Boromir example makes us all go “Wow, really?” because of its cheap trickery-ness, so too should this type of thing make us all simultaneously cringe and break out into homicidal rage. For the record though, I’m not really suggesting homicidal rage as a way of dealing with literary or television-related angst.

3)  The Treat-Your-Audience-Like-They’re-Smart Method: This involves not being a prick and actually thinking that your audience might be as smart as, if not smarter, than you and/or your characters. If you laid all of the pieces down on the board in book one in a heavy-handed “Oh my, this knife suspiciously has blood all over it, and it’s in the dead guy’s enemy’s chambers, but I’m not going to realize the significance of this until the third act” sort of way, then you’re treating your audience like they’re stupid. What you’re really expressing when you do this is that your readers (or watchers) are not going to notice this bit of information or skim over it, only to recall it when you solve the mystery. It doesn’t work that way. Most people are smarter than that.

The other side of this is not making your characters too stupid either. If your characters are supposed to be smart, capable individuals, and you’ve given them all of the evidence to answer your unanswered questions, then you need to reevaluate, because if they’re as smart as you or your reader, they’ll have figured it out.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t give your readers information that the character doesn’t have. Maybe the reader has a piece of information from early on in the book that reveals the opinions another character may have to be erroneous. For example, if you’re writing a murder mystery and you have a scene from the viewpoint of the victim identifying the killer as (for example) a male, and later on the protagonist suspects a female, the reader is going to know that the protagonist is wrong. However, this allows you to retain your reader’s respect for your character, as they know the person isn’t just being stupid, but acting rationally on the information he or she has.

And that’s the sharable part of my list so far. I could go on forever about unanswered questions alone, but I don’t think the world needs my book on the subject plastered on my website.

Server Maintenance Tomorrow

Hey all,

I just got an email from the people who do my hosting with the following information:

Tomorrow night, between the hours of 8 – 10 PM MST, we will be performing a kernel update on your server.  We estimate the outage to be approximately 15-30 minutes.

In case you’re trying to get on during that time and nothing comes up, that’s why.

Alrighty folks, that’s it for now!

 

21 January 2014: The Long Awaited Update

Update:

Here’s a few of the things that have been going on the couple months or so:

Last Semester Updates:

First off, I finished up last semester pretty well. Three A’s and one A-, so I feel pretty good about that. It was a tough semester, and my academic brain is thoroughly burnt out, and though the break wasn’t long enough to revive me completely, I feel ready to face the new semester.

Book News:

In more relevant news, I’ve also been reading some good books, and have a few more lined up. Here’s a look at what I have either read or plan to read in the near future. :

  • Haven’t read:
    • Cherie Priest’s Fiddlehead (the last book in her Clockwork Century series)
    • The Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
  • Currently Reading:
    • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (also had to re-read Name of the Wind, since I hadn’t read it since about 2008 or so)
  • Finished reading:
    • Dan Wells’ Partials and Fragments
    • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Family/Holiday Updates:

For over a month now, our baby has been teething, but only on the 19th of December did he cut his first tooth. It’s been an adventure of misery and sleepless nights.

My sister got married to a wonderful man on the 20th, so congratulations to them. However, we also had to set up for their local reception and then travel in wonderful weather (did ya catch the sarcasm there? Eh?) to get to their second reception, but both were beautiful and very much worth it.

We have also been out of town here and there for various reasons. We got to stay with one of our wonderful friends for a weekend to see visit his new place. We are jealous of his granite countertops.

The Christmas and New Year Holidays were both very enjoyable as well. We had a one final holiday shindig on the 11th of this month (yes, January, you read that right), but we couldn’t make it because Kyra got sick with influenza, and we had to take our little guy up to grandma’s house while I stayed home and tended to sick mommy/kept the house disinfected. Really, it was like I was running a level 4 biohazard facility. Happily, everyone is feeling much better now, though we are sad we missed out on this final holiday get-together.

Current Events:

I’m back in school and the semester looks like it’s going to go pretty well. I’m taking an anthropology of war class, the capstone for my History Major, my last German language class and a (dreaded) math-related class that I have to take to fulfill a university requirement. Other than the math, I’m pretty okay with all of the classes I’m taking. What is more, this is my LAST SEMESTER EVER!!! (Yes, I did just use all caps and three exclamation points.) With the knowledge that I’ll be done in just a few more months, I think that I’ll be able to get through the rigors of the semester.

I think that brings me up to date. As with last semester, I make no promises as to how regular I’ll be posting things, but hopefully I’ll be better than I was for those few months. If not, I’ll be back to blogging again in the summer.

Finally, I also am going to try and make progress on one of my writing projects before the end of May. As of right now it looks like I’m going to have a couple of hours to write on campus every day, so if my workload doesn’t continue to be as steep as it currently is (I had a bit of catching up to do, since Kyra got sick), I should be able to get some stuff done here and there.

Now all that remains is to find a quiet space where I can write…

20 November 2013

Bonjour all,

I have come to the conclusion that while I’m in school, I can’t/shouldn’t be writing two blog posts per week and attempt NaNoWriMo.

As it stands I would need to write 3,599 words per day to finish NaNoWriMo on time. It’s not going to happen. I’ve had several episodes of illness, some grading and a horrific research project. Really the research project is not that bad, but there is literally NO published material on what I’m trying to write on and there are some disconnects between my professor’s obsession with methodology and my vision.

These and several other factors have kept me from writing much besides academic papers and blog posts(which, if you look at the calendar, have never been posted.

Therefore, I’m declaring a hiatus on my blog until the Christmas holidays. Sure, I’m going to be posting things here and there, but I’m not guaranteeing anything regular. This will give me the wiggle room I need to do my school work and work on my writing as needed as well.

That’s all for now. I do have some positive updates, but most of those will have to wait.

Signing off,

Branson

P.S. Our little guy is now crawling! Granted, his technique has room for improvement, but he’s finally ambulatory! Okay, I’m for realsies gone now.