Hi folks,

As I’m sure you’ve guessed from the lack of updates, this fall hasn’t gone especially well for me. I’ve had a significant health setback, and that’s kind of driven writing out of the picture for a while. I made it to California for this winter, which I’m hoping will help a bit, but I’m expecting a long road back, and I thought it would be a good idea to communicate a little bit about what I’m hoping for in the near-ish future here.

When things started going badly I was a chapter and a half from the end of Hera of Lexington, and that’s been very frustrating, as I feel like I’m just a tiny bit away from going over the top into the downhill at the end of that book. That’s still the #1 priority right now, and I continue to hope that at some point before too long I’ll  be able to share the last two chapters with you. 

After that, though, I think there’s going to be a little bit of a break. I have a few things to work on outside of this website, and I’d like to build up a significant buffer of completed chapters before I set forth publishing the next things, one of which is season 2 of The Cell Phone Towers of Elfland. So I’ve decided that I’m going to take the whole of my winter in California as a staging time for the next steps of this project, and aim to restart publication when I get back to Minnesota in May. I basically need to figure out a way to get back to the organized, productive work schedule I was on this summer, and I expect that’s going to take a while. It seems like relieving myself of deadline pressure is the best way of going about that.

So: the last two chapters of Hera when available, but CPTE season 2 and new projects delayed until May. Then in 2024 I try to make the next step toward improving this process to avoid these large and unwanted gaps. I certainly feel best about this when I’m able to publish every Wednesday, and I imagine you do too. I’ll get there. 

Today is the second anniversary of the Anta Baku project, and also I feel like an update is desperately overdue. I’m still here! I’m still intending to finish Hera of Lexington, and there will be a second season of The Cell Phone Towers of Elfland, and there are some other things that I intend to do at some point. I know how all those things go, I just haven’t been able to write them. 

It’s been interesting, doing this, to observe the highs and lows of my ability to work on it. I had a big, frustrating gap in working ability last spring, but then came out of it extremely productive; this year it’s been even worse. I haven’t written much of anything since finishing the first season of CPTE in November. I’ve gone through a lot of stages of frustration and aggravation over that, and right now I don’t have any sense of when it’s going to come back, but I’m trying to get rest and let my brain work its way back to productivity on its own. Everything I’ve tried to get it moving again has been futile, so it’s just a point of patience.

In the first year of this project I wrote 95800 words; in the second year I wrote 98400. I started counting this hoping there would be a lot of growth in those numbers, feeling like I did a lot last fall and that would give this year an edge. But seven months of very little production will take its toll, and year-over-year growth is disappointing. It’s a reminder that I still have a lot of work to do on increasing my productivity before this project can really meet my goals. 

On the other hand, finishing one book and writing 5/13 of another is pretty good for a two-year-old. I’m just hoping I can get going again soon. 


I feel like I should make a post just to let anyone who comes by know that I’m still here and still working at this point. It’s been a long, difficult summer for me. For most of the late spring and summer I’ve been fighting off some significant cognitive disfunction, in ways that aren’t necessarily debilitating to general life but make it very hard to keep all of the things in my head that I need to in order to write series fiction with arc plot. 

I ended up taking eight weeks almost entirely off from writing, and then the last eight have been something of a slog as I try to retrain myself to do this. Even though these are short stories, they still take a very long time when grinding away at a few hundred words per week. So I’ve been making progress on Hera #4 and CPTE #12, but it’s been very slow progress, and I don’t have an ETA for publishing either of them yet. 

In terms of writing volume, though, I’m beginning to see progress, even though it is still very much three steps forward and two steps back. I feel better about what I’ve been doing, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve gradually been able to start scaling up how much I’m producing. The levels are still small but they’ve crept up into four digits, at least, and I’m optimistic that I’ll be somewhat back up to speed sometime this fall. If you’ve been reading along so far, I really appreciate your patience; I had hoped to be working both of these stories toward their conclusion by now, rather than being hung up halfway through in the case of CPTE and about a third of the way into Hera.

On the bright side, one thing I have been able to do recently, when not writing, is work toward ensuring the financial stability of this project. That’s gone very well, and I’m starting to get some ideas of how to expand things a little bit here so that publishing things regularly can be not entirely dependent on my ability to write regularly. I expect this winter to go better than last winter – I have a large sheaf of contingency plans for being in warm places – but this summer has really proved how easy it is for everything to stop when I can’t manage to finish the next thing. I don’t have any specific plans in that direction yet, but you might see some before too terribly long.

And through it all I’m still motivated to finish these things, which was one of my worries from the beginning that hasn’t yet come to pass. I have several exciting new things scheduled to work on once these are done, but it hasn’t even been tempting to try to jump off the track to go running after them. I really like what I’ve got coming for you very soon in CPTE, and the rest of the season plot there, especially. These stories are still engaging me, and I hope I can pull the writing process together enough for them to be engaging you as well before too long.

My brain definitely knows it’s spring this week, as I was just pouring out words and hours on Monday, at least relative to where I have been. The last few weeks I’ve been doing a really productive job on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then having a hard time getting back to it in the second half of the week, so while I’m definitely getting some good moments in I’m not making progress quite as fast as I had hoped. I’m still feeling pretty reasonable on getting Hera Chapter 3 ready for publication next week, and I already have the public domain illustration I want for it, but I’m less confident in being able to go weekly right away in April.

The Hera stories being longer than expected turned out to not be just a one-time thing with Chapter 2, which is making the schedule more difficult as I ramp back up. Chapter 3 is already as long as Chapter 2, and there’s quite a ways to go still. I had the idea that if I could get to 7500 words/week I could publish weekly, but CPTE stories are getting a little bit longer, more in the 5k range than where they started at 3k, and Hera just keeps going. Even my backup alternate schedule with three CPTE stories for every Hera, rather than alternating, means I’m going to need to get to 10k/week if they’re ballooning out beyond 15,000 words. 

And the last few weeks have really brought home to me that writing can be extremely tiring. I don’t think 10k/week is at all unreasonable, but 10k next week is definitely out of line. Later in the summer, when I’ve had time to train up more, and learn more about taking intentional rest, I’m pretty confident that I can get there. I like this chapter a lot, I’m pretty pleased with where CPTE is going, and the next story there in specific. I just think the schedule I had in mind was a little too ambitious, and you’ll probably be seeing two or three stories in April instead of four. 

I’m so happy to report that it’s March, and that I have a draft of the next CPTE story. After the second week of February went so well I had real hopes that things were getting going, just had one scene left to finish, surely that couldn’t take too long. But February came back with a vengeance in the last two weeks, and I’ve mostly been trying to hold the pieces of everything together. 

Usually I have to get the rest of my life into some sort of balance before writing works, but this week has been the opposite, as writing is just about the only thing that’s working. But I’ll take it, and try to use that as a base to pull the rest of myself together. 

The next one is “Ian and the Lost Princes,” and it needs some close rewriting of some of the dialogue (writing for Richard III is tough) and to be sent to the illustrator, but I’m pretty confident in being able to get that out in the next couple of weeks. 

Meanwhile I’m glad to be reading something that isn’t Discworld, finally. The first new book off the pile was C. L. Polk’s Soulstar, the third book in its trilogy. This series hadn’t really reminded me of Daniel Abraham’s Long Price books before, but Soulstar really heads in that direction, working really hard on the idea that every bit of success against dystopia reveals deeper and more complicated levels of dystopia. It goes back toward more typical fantasy structure at the very end, with a simplifying and presumably happy ending, although like the Long Price books the amount of work the characters have gotten themselves into is daunting. 

Beyond that, it’s getting noticeably warmer, and I’m hoping that will eventually help my body which will help everything else. Thinking about keeping the Wednesday blog even after I can start publishing stories again, as this has been usefully keeping me on track, even when I can’t move very quickly down it.

Going into last week I had a lot of worries about how working things back up out of this winter becalming was going to go. Was it going to take months, was I going to have to start over from grinding out a few hundred words a week, would I lose interest in these particular series and really want to work on something else? And then conveniently last week came along and wiped out all of them, as I wrote the first 3500 words of the next CPTE story. This week hasn’t gone quite so well so far, and I haven’t managed to finish it yet, but I’m not really worried. This has been more like a normal tougher week, as it has been really, really cold, but that looks ready to turn around over the next few days and bring a February thaw next week. 

One of the things I did before writing those words was look at my goals for the two ongoing series, for the things I have lined up behind them, and and how I want everything to progress through 2021. I came up with something that’s maybe a roadmap, or an aspiration, but started looking like more of a plan once it became clear that the wordcount goals are likely to be reasonable. 

My goal and intention at this point is to publish one story in each series in March, and then get back to weekly releases in April. Both March stories are already partially completed, Ian’s last week and Hera’s way back in November. So I think the March part of things is a reasonable plan. Getting to weekly release by the beginning of April involves ratcheting up the hours and the weekly word count a little bit, but not incredibly, and that has been on the goal sheet anyway. Ideally then as we move on through the summer, I’ll be able to continue to grow my productivity and work on getting a little bit ahead. 

If that pace works, each of these series will complete its current season in the early fall, and I’m already looking forward to the things I have ready to step into their places. I have a lot of long-term plans for CPTE, but I think by then I’m going to want a break, and the current plotline is designed to come to a conclusion around the time it would make sense to collect the stories into a book. Hera has always been planned in discrete 13-episode seasons. So they both would have natural break points to let in the new things, and then they could come back around later. 

That’s where I am on February 17, anyway. Things can change quickly, and I’m hoping to have more weeks like last week, where they change for the better. If not, I’ll manage. I’m honestly a little bit surprised to still be as motivated on these particular projects as I was in the fall. But that’s where I am, if not more so, and I intend to take advantage of it.

I’m guessing I’ll be done with my Discworld reread next week, and will write a blog post about it all then. Currently halfway through Raising Steam. 

So, January is over, and I’m beginning to be able to tell from inside my brain. After three weeks of doing absolutely nothing except coping, I’m beginning to reach the stage where motion is possible again. This shows up first as being really, really sick of my coping devices, and turning that into productivity is a multi-dimensional trick that is pretty hard to get right the first time. But I’m beginning to push toward that, slowly, with the idea that I have to start with pretty low expectations and build up. 

So when setting goals for February, they’re all about getting to my writing space, and spending time there writing something, even if it’s just journaling. Eventually I’ll work up to development and then actual writing, but for the moment the goals are about being there and getting back used to putting some hours in, rather than any amount of productivity. In some ways I’m back to the premise that got all this started, which is that if I sit there writing about not writing for long enough, eventually I’ll get bored of it and write something instead. 

Meanwhile I’ve been working a little bit, very slowly, on development of the next Ian story, and the fantasy series that I expect to be the next thing when it’s time to take a break from CPTE. There’s a lot of CPTE to come, but once I’ve made it through the first section of arc plot and have enough to collect it into a book, I’m pretty sure I’m going to want to do something else. I’ve had a couple of science fiction things that could come along, but no fantasy, and I do kind of want to keep one of each going. 

Of course that’s many months in the future, but it’s nice to have something to develop for that space.

I’m down to four books remaining on the Discworld reread, as I started I Shall Wear Midnight this morning. Not a whole lot to say about Making Money and Unseen Academicals at this point, and the whole project has gotten a bit fatiguing. Pratchett repeats jokes, and variants on the same joke, often enough that these really aren’t meant to be read in sequence. But at this point I’m so close to the end I’m just going to plug away to the finish.

Things have not been improving here. I’m getting more into the stage where I’m resigning myself to the idea that they may not improve until things warm up again. With the original vaccine estimates, I thought there was some chance I might be able to travel to somewhere tolerable in February or March, but that’s looking virtually impossible now. So either I will find some way to improve things in the cold, or I will be waiting for a while until things thaw again. 

Pretty much all of my time now is spent working through my coping devices. This isn’t unfamiliar, though it’s especially frustrating to have finally found a solution to this problem last year, and this year have it unavailable to me because of Covid. I’ve been periodically trying to convince myself that there’s some method of travel that makes sense, but it never really comes through. I really don’t want to get seriously ill away from home, and that seems like a major risk no matter how I would do things. 

So instead I’m just trying to make it through, when I’d really rather be trying to make things. I’m still pretty confident that this is finite, that I will be able and interested to continue the work here when my brain is once again capable of it. But it’s very frustrating for me to be unable to keep putting out work, and I’m sure it’s no fun for my still-small readership either. But at this point it’s pretty clear that what I can manage is being kind to myself about it, and pick things up when I’m able to do so again. 

Reading-wise, my Discworld tour continues, as this week I finished Monstrous Regiment, read A Hat Full of Sky, and have read most of Going Postal. If I can’t be writing funny fiction at least I can be reading it and thinking about it. After 32 early Discworld books it’s very nice to finally get back to Moist, who is clearly a step above the other protagonists in the world. Vimes has matured nicely in his last couple of books, and Tiffany is of course lovely for YA, and in some ways has dragged Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg along with her. It’s unfortunate that Pratchett didn’t write a later witches book, because Granny has definitely matured as a character in A Hat Full of Sky, and my memory is that she and Nanny both continue to do that in the later Tiffany books. Similarly, I’m a little sad that Susan of Sto Helit’s last book came just before Pratchett’s last major point of improvement, because it would have been nice to see her move forward in a similar way to how Vimes has. 

But I am glad he decided to work with new characters in this century, rather than just riding the old ones, because Moist is a great deal of fun and Tiffany is excellent. Having five of the eight book remaining centered on those two characters makes me feel like this read is on something of an easy downhill, which is very much what I need right now. I’m not sure I’m getting as much out of them as a comedy writer as I did from thinking about the older, weaker books at a time when my brain was working more fluently, but hopefully stuffing them into my subconscious will lead to insight into the future. 

I’ll check back in again next week, probably a few Discworld books closer to the end, if nothing else. I hope you’re having a better January than I am. 

So, another week, another lack of writing. I managed to get good sleep in there once, on Sunday, and today was all right. That’s a certain amount of progress, I guess. In the first half of this week I was able to sit down and figure out what the next Cell Phone Towers of Elfland story is going to be, tentatively titled “Ian and the Lost Princes” unless I come up with anything else. It has a setting and a theme and a plot, but actually writing it seems like it’s probably a ways away still. Just doing that much used up my available mental energy for those days very quickly. But it’s a certain amount of progress, albeit slow progress, and more importantly it means I’m continuing to try to move forward at this rather than just slipping into survival mode until spring. That could still happen but I’m holding it off so far.

In other news, since September I’ve been rereading the Discworld books in order, and catching a few that I missed in the kind of haphazard way that seems unique to that series. There are so many of them and they’re so diverse that reading them in order, or even looking for completion, doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you’re doing what I’m doing now: trying to learn what you can about writing comic fantasy from them.

They’re very reassuring, in some ways. I find it really inspiring how Pratchett was able to consistently improve over the lifetime of the series. The first ones really are not all that great, but I found three distinct places where he clearly leveled up along the way, as well as making smaller bits of progress more regularly. There are big steps up at book 13 (Small Gods), book 23 (Carpe Jugulum), and book 29 (Night Watch). Small Gods is better than several of the books after it, but even so they’re a step up from the ones before. 

One of my issues with the whole writing process is being motivated to put the work in over the long term. That’s part of why I set up into this particular format of working with series and arc plot, because it puts me into a better position for working on the next thing, when I know there are good plot points and character development and just funny moments to work toward. A series has momentum in a way that writing a bunch of individual stories doesn’t for me. If I were doing that I’d have to work up motivation from scratch every time, and eventually it would fail and I would go long periods without writing anything at all. With these series in place, now I have a ready default, with large chunks of the motivation already invested, and it makes it easier to keep going even in times like the present when everything is very difficult.

Where Pratchett comes into that is that it’s very easy to see where he benefited from putting the work in in the long term. I’ve gotten, now, to the Tiffany books, and shortly will get to the Moist books, and reading them all in order makes it very clear how he got to the point of being able to do those by writing a couple of million words in that world beforehand. It makes me more inclined to write a couple of million words in mine, in hopes that afterward my work will be that much better than what I’m doing now. It’s an excellent example of the learning and improving process really working, and that makes me more motivated to invest heavily in my own.

So, last week was going really well on getting things back together, at least until the end of Monday. On Monday I wrote 1700 words to finish off Ian and the Briar Patch, and at the end of it I didn’t feel highly fatigued, I felt like I could just move on to the next thing on Tuesday. Then Tuesday came, and the results were very different; the end-of-November crash was difficult, but I was still working, slowly, grindingly, but still working. The end-of-December crash that started last week has been almost a perfect stop.

Where I had a certain amount of bounce-back from the previous one, this one has really been a struggle. I’ve been falling out of my good habits. I’m no longer able to get on the rowing machine every day, partly because there have been many days my body just had no moment it would have been capable of doing it. I’ve been in the habit of at least journaling on every supposedly-writing day for the last six months, but over the last week I’ve been missing them. I feel really trapped in exhaustion, and I have no idea how to get out of it from here. There’s no methodology that makes any sense. I can’t hold enough of a story in my head at once to put down new words that relate to the old ones, and until that ability comes back I don’t really know what to do.

Sleep is a thing where the less useful it is the more of it you want, and I’m very much in the well of that right now. I don’t know when I’m going to feel rested and aware again. I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again. Or rather, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to write again in late April, given how seasonality has worked for me before. I just really hope to find a way to get there without waiting that long, without spending the next three months just trying to survive into the warm again. 

As far as the end of the year goes, I’m not disappointed in the results from 2020. I wrote 62421 words after restarting my writing in the middle of the year, and finished eleven stories, of which ten are published here. I’ve also done some work on a few other things that are farther from seeing the light of day, but feel like good work nevertheless. I’m trying to maintain a certain amount of optimism at being able to continue growing my productivity going forward in the long term, even if it requires a long winter break this year. 

I’ll continue to try to publish something here every Wednesday, even if it’s just blog posts for a while, to let you know that I haven’t disappeared, that I haven’t forgotten this project. I still really want to go forward on these things, I’m just not sure of the road back to ability on that right now. I will do what I can to get some rest and hope that it begins to regrow.