Camp NaNoWriMo is here!

It’s that time of year again! July 2019 Camp NaNoWriMo has officially begun as of Monday. Once again, I am taking part. Join me — it’s not too late!

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Camp NaNoWriMo July 2019 logo - a sun with sunglasses on overlooks a mountain range, tent and two fir trees, with a large pencil beneath with '2019 writer' etched onto it

Camp NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t know, is NaNoWriMo‘s less stressful little sibling where you set yourself a custom goal for the month — words, minutes, hours, lines or pages — and work towards it to ‘win’. It’s a lot less restrictive than the more well-known NaNoWriMo (50,000 words only).

This month I’ve set myself a goal of 1,500 minutes which equates to 25 hours. It’s my intention not only to meet this goal, but smash it! So, wish me luck.

My goal for Camp is to complete 10,000 words of my rewrite, a 400 word synopsis of my book, and then polish both up for submission to the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize. Lofty goals indeed — people on Twitter keep banging on about a Mercury Retrograde? — but I know I can do it!

Are you guys participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month? What are y’all’s projects and goals?

S.E. Berrow

It’s Aliiiiiiiive! S.E. Berrow is back.

itsalive

Well my friends, it has been — as my Texan friends say — a hot minute since I last updated this here blog. Around about half a year ago, I officially went On Hiatus with both my writing and blogging because reality became too much to cope with.

Well, I’m pleased to say that I am now BACK! In fact, I’ve been mentally ‘back’ for a couple of months now — I just haven’t gotten round to telling you about it. Reviving this blog was waaaaaaaaaaay down the priority list, but I have a bit more time and brainspace now, so I want to change that.

Life updates coming your way, bam, bam, bam, bam!


New Digs

At of December 2018, I finally — finally — moved house! Yes, it’s true. I am now living with my boyfriend of 4½ years and our menagerie of animals. The entire moving process was hella stressful, I must say. 1/10, would not recommend.

For the first month or so I feared we’d made a dreadful mistake. Everything was still in boxes, we had no internet or sofas, and it was pretty clear that certain parts of the house weren’t in quite as good nick as we’d initially thought.

Things only got even worse in January when one of our cats — poor, lovely, beautiful Flick — died suddenly and unexpectedly. You’ll recall I did a little teaser post about my imminent return at the beginning of January? Well… that’s why nothing came of it ’til now; Flick’s death really threw us for six.

But! I’m pleased to report we’re now much more settled in our new home and are taking serious steps to improve it even more! Our furbabies are very happy and we all feel much more at home. Hooray!


Writing

It’s official: Draft 2 of The Mayor is underway! As you may have seen from my website’s Compass during the month of April, I took part in Camp Nanowrimo (failed miserably, but whatever) to make headway with it. More than a decade has passed since I wrote the original first draft of The Mayor‘s first half — and whoa boy, it shows — so I’m having to rewrite large chunks. I’m really pleased with the results so far though. I find it very satisfying to compare my terribly worded, awful first draft to my brand new shiny draft. Editing in general is a renowned pain in the arse, but nobody told me how awesome it would feel to make things good, guys!

I don’t think I’ll meet my goal of finishing Draft 2 by the end of this year, but I’m definitely going to try. At the very least, I’m hoping to take part in the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize which ends at midday on the 1st August. 10,000 words? An 800 word synopsis? Adult novel of any genre? Doesn’t have to be completely finished? That’s me! I can do that! Wish me luck!

I have to say, just giving myself something to work towards has been a real motivator, so regardless of how I place in the competition, that alone makes the whole thing worth it.


Fitness

I’m doing Tough Mudder again this year (after deferring from last year), so I need to get fit again. Exercise, much like writing and blogging, had to take a backseat last year in the face of overwhelming depression and anxiety. As such, I’ve taken up running and thus far, have been very disciplined in sticking to it. Hell, I’d actually go so far as to say I’m enjoying it! I’ve got new running shoes, a running belt for keeping my phone in, saw a physio on Friday to check I hadn’t done myself an injury… Oh yeah. I’m taking this very seriously.

I’ve been following the NHS’s Couch to 5K programme, which is excellent, and I have Zombies, Run! ready to go when I finish it. I already feel so much better! My resting heart rate has decreased by 7 bpm in less than a month. I just feel more like myself again.

Need to get myself back up to half-marathon standard. Then I guess I’d better start weight-lifting to tackle those obstacles…


Currently reading: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (second book in The Broken Earth trilogy… go read the first book, The Fifth Season, if you haven’t already; it’s glorious)

Currently listening to: I just finished listening to the excellent Binge Mode: Harry Potter (an analytical podcast covering all 7 books, all 8 films and the wider Potter canon), so now I’m catching up on all the music I’ve missed over the last three months whilst listening to that.

Currently watching: Nothing at the moment. Game of Thrones, I guess? Even though these last couple of seasons have pissed me off royally. I just finished watching Season 4 of Outlander (what a wild ride that was) and Season 8 of Taskmaster starts tonight!


That’s all for now. Phew! It’s good to be back. I’ll post here again very soon and hope not to leave it so long next time!

Take care!

S.E. Berrow

S.E. Berrow On Hiatus

I’m sorry to announce that due to various life stresses such as house-buying, work and social commitments, I am now officially On Hiatus.

By this, I mean I can no longer fool myself that I have the time, will, or inclination to create. My mind is a hideous, carnival-like hellscape — a carousel of anxiety and despair, going round and round in my head; a house of horrors from which I cannot escape, where the worst possible scenario threatens to jump out at me around every corner.

My mind is so occupied with things that are not writing, that I cannot effectively edit The Mayor: Part One. I cannot churn out even a paragraph for my John novella. I can’t even maintain this blog — it’s not acceptable. I fall at every hurdle. I fail at every task and goal I set myself. All I succeed in doing is sitting down at a desk and staring at a computer screen. I type out maybe… 4 words over the course of half an hour? Then I cry. And cry. And cry.

Not being able to write is making my anxiety worse. As such, this is me accepting that it’s just not going to happen until I am in a better place, both physically, and mentally. Thus… hiatus.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I fully intend to pick everything up again as soon as this dark cloud passes. Also my writing partner, K.F. Goodacre, is drip-feeding me her own edits of The Mayor: Part One for me to read and absorb, and we have our writing retreat to look forward to in late November. Until then, I can still research. I can still world-build. I find these sorts of things are less taxing than editing or writing — they are true escapism. When I’m having an OK day, I can also stretch to adding to my outline of The Mayor: Part Two, which is definitely productive.

I’ve also commissioned some artworks from my illustrator Brettarts of some of my favourite scenes and characters from The Mayor to inspire me and bring me pleasure. Below is one such example of these depicting my characters, Melora and John. I can’t wait to have this incredible image printed, framed, and put on display in the office of my new house (when things eventually start moving on that front). I hope you like it ♥

JohnandMelora

I’m sorry to my friends and Beta readers I’m letting down with this news, but please know that it is absolutely necessary if I am to make it to next year at all.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

Milestones, Novellas and Ravens

Hello, Everyone!

I confess I’ve been rather amiss with my blogging of late. It’s my aim to catch up eventually, but these last couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind of activity and, much to my chagrin, June looks even worse. So, without further ado…

I’m just stopping by the officially announce…

~*~ I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE MAYOR ~*~

Huzzah

Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Yes my friends, it has been A Struggle. After many, many years of trials, tribulations and tears, I finally have done it. I have written A Book. I’m so, so happy.

So what’s next?

Well, for the time being, I’ve put myself on an Enforced Break, fully endorsed by my writing partner K.F. Goodacre. This means I’m not even looking at my novel and actively trying not to think about it… which is much harder than it sounds. In the meantime, K.F. Goodacre has taken my book off my hands and is going to spend the next two months doing an initial edit for me. What a brave soul she is…

RavensTo distract myself, I’ve been catching up on some TV (Black Sails anyone?), reading 18th century books that aren’t mine (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee) and keeping myself away from computer screens as much as possible. A couple of weekends ago my work colleague and friend from Latvia visited, and we went to the Tower of London to see the ravens ♥ This weekend just gone, I pampered myself with various lotions and potions (‘Drops Of Light’ facial peel from The Body Shop), enjoyed the warm weather and spent quality time with my boyfriend and his family. Self-care and socialising was something I seriously neglected during the months of March and April, so it feels good to be connecting with myself and the world again.

I’ve also started outlining a novella about my character, Jonathan Carson, which I’m hoping will inform my writing for Book 2 and also serve as a nice way to blow off steam when I eventually get round to editing my book. It is an absolute monster of a novel, standing at well over 200,000 words. I need to get it down to somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 plus sort out the worldbuilding, plus tighten up the plot, plus build on certain characters, plus cut others completely, plus

What was that? Oh yes, sorry, I’m not meant to be thinking about this stuff at the moment.

Until next time, Lovelies x

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

Phantoms, Dollhouses and Easter Wishes

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you’re all having a lovely long weekend. For those of you who are working over the Easter Holidays, I will keep you in my thoughts! ♥

No writing challenge answers this week. Today’s blog post consists of Important Life Updates:

I’ve moved house!

Yes, it’s true. I’ve temporarily moved back in with my parents whilst I wait for the sale of my boyfriend’s flat to go through. I can’t say how long I’ll be here for, but I’ve been made to feel very welcome and today was the first day since Tuesday (the day I moved out) that I’ve actually begun to feel truly settled. Throughout the whole of March I’ve essentially been AN ENORMOUS BALL OF STRESS and I can only apologise to all who encountered me during that time and had to put up with me and my madness.Sarah Andersen

I’m glad it’s over now and can get stuck back into the thing I love to do most…

Writing

For those who’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I’m massively behind with the deadline for finishing my WIP, The Mayor. I originally intended to finish Draft One by the end of December, but had to push the deadline back until the end of February for the sake of my mental health (see here). That revised deadline went completely out the window when I started going through the process of selling my home, plus I began having serious self-doubt along with Anxiety-triggering frustration over my complete inability to finish my manuscript. Going on a really nice holiday for two weeks at the beginning of March helped me out a lot; I didn’t touch my manuscript once the whole time I was gone, and when I came back I felt refreshed and excited, ready to finish everything off. I had a really productive week in the middle of March playing around with my deliciously cruel penultimate chapter… only for reality to set back in that I needed to start packing, stat.

Basically, March was a complete write-off as far as writing was concerned, but April is a new month, a new start. I’m in a new place where I have fewer responsibilities to shoulder all by myself (house maintenance, cooking, cleaning etc.), plus I’m genuinely excited to get to grips with the last two chapters and very short epilogue. Wish me luck.

Once I’m finished (please, God, let it be soon), I’m going to take a break — maybe write a novella about my character Jonathan Carson — whilst K.F. Goodacre takes to my work with razor-sharp scalpel and hammers my words into some semblance of a manageable pile.

Dollies!

Speaking of K.F. Goodacre, it seems her talents know no bounds! As a belated birthday present, she very kindly made me my protagonist Melora in doll form… Behold! She is exquisite:

Melora joins another doll made for me by K.F. Goodacre — my character Jonathan Carson. Don’t they look great together? I’m so in love. Raise your hand if you think Kim needs to start her own Etsy account making dolls of other people’s characters for money? *Hand shoots up*. Thank you so much, Parabatai! ♥

Note: The John doll is a couple of years old now. The character’s ethnicity has changed since its creation and as such, his skin should actually be much darker than what’s shown here. Kim’s assured me she will, at some point, flay John’s skin off and replace it with something more fitting. He’s got to match his brother Jaspher, after all. Watch this space…

Lastly…

Kamelot‘s new album The Shadow Theory is out next week. OMG. I’m so, so, so EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!! Especially since they dropped their (brilliant) new single last Friday entitled ‘The Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)’, featuring Lauren Hart from melodic death metal band, Once Human. CHECK. IT. OWT:

 

Can’t wait. Simply can’t, can’t wait. Will explode from teh squee. Super excite! BRING ON LONDON IN OCTOBER ♥

That’s all for now. Ta-ta!

S.E. Berrow

‘Tis The Season to be Stressed Out, Fa La La La La, La La La, HALP

OK guys. Confession time.

I’m not going to make my end of year deadline to complete a first draft of The Mayor.

Here’s the situation:

In a previous post (see here), I explained how I still had 8 more chapters left to write, and was aiming to finish a chapter a week.

Well, this plan fell on the wayside pretty quickly, because it took me 3 weeks to complete just one chapter told from the POV of my villain.

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 23.52.21
Our writing retreat in the Cotswolds… Take me back!

Now, I’ve spoken before about how hard Kale is to write in the past; understatement of the century as I’m concerned. This particular chapter was even harder, because it dealt with long-awaited revelations, violent payoffs and a fuck-ton of allegory. Add that to real-world, catatonia-inducing stress (I decided that now, just before Christmas, would be the perfect time to sell my house for some stupid reason), and you can imagine how hard it was for me to sit down and force those words out.

As for the 4-day writing retreat with K.F. Goodacre? Productive as it was (I’d probably still be stuck on that Kale chapter if I hadn’t gone), it was only 2 days long, not 4.

So I still have 5 chapters left to write, and less than 4 weeks to write them.

I have shed actual tears over this. I have had anxiety attacks. I’ve felt like a complete failure and like I was letting not only myself down, but other people as well: my writing partner; my boyfriend, my friends who read what I write as I go along…

But the other night while I was having a shower (it’s amazing how much a nice hot shower clears my head), I had an epiphany:

  • I’m not being paid to do this. I’m not published. I don’t have an agent. I’m not locked in a contract. I don’t have any obligations beyond the ridiculously high standards I’ve foolishly set for myself.
  • It’s the festive season. I usually love Christmas, but this year so far, I haven’t been enjoying it at all, because I’ve been so wrapped up in worrying about how I’m not going to meet my deadline on top of work stuff, house stuff, money worries, and other things I can’t control. I can however control my deadline. Why? Because it’s self-imposed.
  • Most of my writing happens at the weekend… but I’m fully-booked from now until Christmas. I do not want to be resenting the fact that I’m spending time with the people I love — or worse yet cancelling on them at the last minute — because of a self-imposed deadline.
  • This last month has been a struggle. A real struggle, mental health-wise. This wasn’t helped by the fact I didn’t win NaNoWriMo, even though I knew there wasn’t a chance in Hell that I would when I started. WHY, BRAIN?! WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?
    Throw a lapsed deadline and a failed 2017 New Year’s Resolution into the mix, and at this point I’m running pretty close to throwing in the towel altogether. My finger is practically hovering over the delete button, Guys, and that is not good! THAT IS NOT GOOD AT ALL. (I’ve actually done this before with a previous WIP, and have regretted it ever since).

If I’m objectively honest with myself, I’ve done amazingly well this year. I’ve written almost 75,000 words of my novel — more than I’ve ever written in a single year in my life — all while maintaining a household, caring for two cats, and holding down a full-time job. I’m within touching distance of the finish line, so to fall at the last hurdle would be an absolute tragedy.

Therefore I’ve made the difficult decision to extend my deadline by 2 months. Instead of 31 December 2017, I will now be aiming to have a first draft completed by 28 February 2018. (This is actually a pretty excessive deadline — I should in theory be able to do it in one).

I hope you guys aren’t too disappointed in me. I’m so sorry to have let you down if you were excited about the prospect of me finishing, but I think it will totally worth it in the end because I will actually have a story to share with you ♥

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


P.S. Just so this post isn’t entirely disappointing and depressing… here are some random things I’m really loving at the moment that I want to share with you!

Books: The Six Of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo — a New Adult heist story set in a fantasy world based on 19th century Tsarist Russia. It has a wonderfully diverse cast with some great characterisation — and the story is so much fun! I just don’t want it to end.

Music: Kingslayer by symphonic power-metal band, Almanac — especially the opening track, ‘Regicide’:

On the morning after the king has lost his crown,
Only tears and laughter come together now.
When my senses fail us, I’ll fade without a sound.
When I see you fail I’ll break in to break you down.

Also the album art is great. It’s so, so good; currently tied with Arch Enemy‘s Will To Power for my personal Favourite Album of the Year, 2017.

Lipsticks:Naked Witch‘ by the lovely ladies at Necromancy Cosmetica. At last! I can now make myself look like a ghost without using my foundation as a lipstick! Their palest nude ‘Healing Stone‘ is simply gorgeous too. I love them both. Love love love.

I’m also super amazed at how — despite being without power for 90+ days (being based in the hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico) — they were still able to safely ship my order to me in a matter of days ♥