The Wounded Ones Blog Tour: Brain Bad, Words Hard by: G.D. Penman
I don’t know about you, but my concentration is shot to shit. The quarantine/lockdown has had a very detrimental effect on my concentration that goes beyond the wailing children that run past the back of my head every 3 to 5 minutes.
My colleague in the word mines, Tade Thompson outlined it beautifully on Twitter not so long ago, explaining the very complicated biological and psychological factors in layman’s terms that even a buffoon without a doctorate like me could understand, but I’ll abbreviate it even further; lockdown make brain bad.
Which is all well and good if you have nothing to do for several months except play Animal Crossing and learn to bake bread, but when your industry is still ticking over throughout the global pandemic and you are still expected to produce the words, it becomes a problem. When the one – slightly gelatinous – tool that is required to do your job is broken, how do you keep going?
Have no fear. I’m here to help.
While all of you were out living your lives, I was going through the very specific training that was required to keep writing when everything has gone to hell; which is to say, I’ve had clinical depression for my entire adult life. My brain has always been broken, so I’ve always had to deal with the crap that is only now kneecapping all you healthy-brain weirdos.
When your ability to concentrate is limited to mere minutes instead of the hours that you are used to, you need to work on things that will fit into those minutes. Break your work down into bite-sized chunks. Write a scene instead of a chapter. Write a short story instead of a novel. Whatever it takes to keep on working, you do it.
I’ve only had the concentration to read short stories for the past few months, but I’ve been reading them, and they teach you more about the craft of writing in a few pages than most doorstoppers manage in 500 pages.
The other advantage of writing short-form pieces is that you get the buzz. The little happy feeling that comes with finishing a piece of work. Slam your hand on the dopamine release button over and over. That is self-care, right?
An awful lot of the writing that writers do isn’t the writing that they need to be doing. Emails. Social media. Guest posts about writing to help promote your new book (Buy THE WOUNDED ONES.) All of these little administrative tasks still need to be done, but they don’t need to be done when you are feeling good about things and raring to bang out the pivotal chapter of your novel.
When your brain feels fuzzy and you keep glancing down at the wordcount only to realise it hasn’t gone up since the last time you checked, that is a clear sign that you need to stop doing the work that matters and go do some of the busy work that could be eating up your productive time. And wouldn’t you know, when you aren’t having to be creative the words start flowing.
And when the words start flowing, and you got your dopamine hit for finishing something, you are going to find it a lot easier to switch back over to your important work and get it done.
Your brain isn’t your friend anymore, it is working against you, yet if you take a grapefruit spoon to it, somehow you both lose. Therefore; it is time to outsmart the smartest part of your body. Trick your brain into doing what you want. And buy The Wounded Ones, because that will almost certainly cure all that ails you. (Disclaimer: may not actually cure anything.)
ABOUT: THE WOUNDED ONES by G.D. Penman
Book 2 in the WITCH OF EMPIRE series
RELEASE DATE: 6/23/20
GENRE: Urban Fantasy / LGBTQ / Detective
Demons and serial killers are Iona “Sully” Sullivan’s bread and butter, but nothing could have prepared her to face off against the full weight of the British Empire at the height of its power. With the War for American Independence in full swing, she finds even her prodigious talents pushed beyond their limits when citizens of the American Colonies begin vanishing amidst rumors of crop circles, hydra sightings and worse. Through a wild and lethal adventure that will see her clashing with the Empire around the world and beyond, the only constants in Sully’s life are an undead girlfriend, a giant demon crow that has taken a shine to her, regular assassination attempts by enemies on all sides, and the cold certainty that nothing and nobody is going to make it out of the war in one piece.
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The Wounded Ones EXCERPT:
Sully stubbed out her cigar like the ashtray was her mother’s face. The last coils of smoke twisted in the air to join the geometric patterns that drifted in a blue cloud around her. There were three assassins this time, and three weren’t nearly enough. Sully set her glass down on the bar and let the mouthful of gin clear her sinuses. After an hour of quietly sipping liquor in the stuffy walnut paneled comfort of the train’s bar, Sully’s patience had run thin. The young men in three-piece suits might have blended in perfectly back in jolly old England, but here in the Americas, their blandness made them stick out.
Sully swiveled on her stool to take in the lay of the room. “Are we doing this or not? Because I’ve got a thirsty vampire waiting for me back in my cabin and that sounds like a lot more fun than this bullshit.”
The men had been studiously avoiding eye contact with Sully and with each other for the whole trip, but now they all looked up, as if they needed to confirm that their cover was blown before acting. Amateurs. Sully set off the concussion spell that she had been tracing in gin on the bar-top for the last ten minutes, spellfire racing over the liquor. The whole carriage rocked on its rails, and bottles and glasses flew through the air, a maelstrom of chaos that Sully’s contingency shield turned into a whirling dervish of shattered glass around her. All three assassins were moving now, leaping up from their tables and casting their own spells, but they were two moves behind her.
Her next spell seared the broken glass around her, sending molten droplets across the red carpet on their way to scorch half of one assassin’s face off. The other men switched to casting shields and that delay gave her enough time to cast a more complex incantation. The next lance looked like white fire, and while the blond killer managed to get a shield up, the white flames used that dense structured magic as fuel, expanding out to consume him, leaving nothing behind but a heap of ash.
The last one got an attack off before Sully could give him her undivided attention. A ray of moonlight was launched from his fingertip, refracting through the spinning glass to pepper the whole room with patches of frost.
Sully let out a bark of laughter. “You’re trying to take me alive? They really didn’t give you fair warning when you took this job.”
A new spell exploded in a corona around him, a nova of silvery blades that shredded what was left of the upholstery as they flew at Sully. Apparently, this one wanted to live more than he wanted big cash prizes. Sully dove into a booth as the blades and glass collided in a deafening, stinging explosion all around her. He didn’t let up. A roiling wave of green fire swept through the cabin, stripping the walls to bare metal, annihilating the furnishings and reducing the cowering bartender to a stripped skeleton. Sully did her best to ignore the strange absence of heat as the fire rolled over her shields and concentrated on the task at hand.
She rose to her feet on the bare metal of the hollowed-out cabin. The assassin wasn’t smiling despite his change in fortune. Maybe he was a professional after all. She launched another white lance at him and he didn’t bother with a shield. His duelist instincts took over and he cast a traveling spell to jerk him out of the missile’s path. It didn’t work. The white fire hit him square in the chest. He vanished in a flash of light as his own magic consumed him from the inside out.
Sully staggered to her feet and let her protective spells drop. She took a deep breath of the fresh air that was pouring in through the new ventilation that her would-be killers had provided to the cabin. If portals and traveling spells hadn’t been blocked by the Magi of Manhattan, then why would she have been on a train to begin with? The British really needed to hire smarter help. The last few assassination attempts had been almost insultingly lackluster.
G.D. Penman is the author of the Strata Online and Witch of Empire series, the ghostwriter of more than 50 books, and a freelance game designer. A firm believer in the axiom that any story is made better with the addition of dragons, he is fulfilling his destiny as an overweight bearded white man by pursuing a career as a fantasy author. In “real life” he lives in Scotland with his partner, children, dog and cats. Just . . . so many cats.