C-word… and the month that was October

A short monthly wrap-up with a message of positivity.

I was all fired up at the beginning of October, I have been fighting with fatigue and general ickiness and was determined to shake it off and get down to business. Then the dreaded C-word happened. Not Covid-19, but cancer. I have fallen out of remission again and started chemo. I have been struggling on whether to announce it or not. Saying something makes me feel like a failure of some kind. Which is ridiculous. My prognosis is very good and we’re hoping to finish treatment and get clear test results by Christmas. That’s my personal goal too. So my productivity for October has been wobbly. Getting through this mental hurdle, while not as difficult as my last two times, still threw me off-kilter. Now it’s just managing feeling like crap most of the time, trying to maintain concentration to get my days’ work done. I’m not announcing my diagnosis for sympathy or well wishes; just a statement to explain a lull in my activities… and probably from now until the new year. Though this blog has become a point of contention for me -> if I can keep it going as usual, then I’m not letting the c-word completely rule my life.

The funny thing is, the Covid-19 restrictions actually help me – it’s how I have to behave now I’m immunocompromised anyway.

This month I only managed 3 novels (all with cool toned covers, hey I created a theme unintentionally) – I find I get tired, or my concentration wanes quickly at the moment. Which means I’ve only whittled the TBR shelf down to 450. Better than nothing I suppose. So too has my writing suffered. I have managed a couple of chapters, but that’s it. Now I’ve adjusted my work ethic and adapted my routine to chemo and treatment I might be able to get more written in November. I really wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo, but I feel it’s unrealistic in my current condition.

I’ve taken everything off my roster. I don’t need stress or negativity around me at the moment. Just focusing on little wins that bring me joy. Watching tv shows and movies that make me laugh, music that makes me want to dance. And lots of puppy cuddles!! Focusing on the positive: I’m actually going to lose that weight I’ve been struggling with. No more trying to come up with meals – it’s all pre-packaged and balanced for my convenience. I get to spend more time snuggling on the bed with my dogs… and read! If I’m not sleeping.

Most of us are having a crappy 2020, but what are some of the positives that this year has brought you? I’d love to hear some positivity that others have found amongst all this chaos.

Is anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know what you’re working on in the comments…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Juxtaposition July – some extremes in reading… a wrap-up

Juxtaposition July 01 by Casey Carlisle

Can the world just back to normal please…

I was determined to get back on track with that goal-getting after an abysmal second quarter due to the virus-that-will-not-be-named and lockdowns. Starting the month of July with all the best intentions was soon waylaid with an unseasonal change in the weather that brought out a lot of Australian natives to flower in the bushland surrounding where I live. Bring on thumping headaches, scratchy voice, watery eyes, and a heavy dose of feeling sorry for myself. Given that I wasn’t feeling too flash, I thought I’d get a lot of reading done because that is my comfort space – curled up on the couch with a warm cuppa and a good book.

What eventuated was my best writing month so far for 2020, and my worst for reading…

I grappled with the headaches and blurry vision, along with two of the novels being more intense, or difficult to read, contributing to the low reading count. (Not to mention constantly falling asleep from antihistamines making me drowsy.) But I’m not mad at it. You need to roll with the punches and adapt. My writing was coming to a stall in May and June. Even though I was getting a word count in, when reviewing my drafts, it was missing the tone from the first five chapters. So rather than flog a dead horse, I made the decision to put it aside for a moment and work on something else – nothing worse than letting frustration colour your mood in a creative endeavor. My strategy worked. Even though I lost a week of work with family visiting (yay, I love catching up with the fam,) and a little more than another week with hay fever symptoms (at-choo, sniffle, sniffle,) in the remaining week and a bit I managed to pen out three chapters on a novel in development.

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That’s really all that I’ve been able to accomplish this month. Though we are not on tight lockdowns, the state is still closed to half of the continent. I have friends in Victoria restricted to their homes. We’ve seen a few cases of Covid-19 pop up locally. People getting arrested and jailed/fined for shirking border crossing restrictions. Teens throwing parties with more than 10 people have seen attendee fined up to $26,000 each. And nightclubs are being closed because no-one is obeying the 1.5 metre social distancing rule. It’s disappointing really, a few people I know have passed away from complications after contracting the virus. It just takes a little common sense and precaution to help us get past this and let things get back to normal. My flat-mate has only just been able to get back to work after 6 months where he was unable to earn an income. We are lucky, but there are so many of my friends who are still trying to secure full time employment and are in fear of losing their houses from defaulting on homeloans. But despite all of the pressure, most everyone remains optimistic. We are all here to help each other get through this.

The highlight of July has to be getting to play Canasta with my family… I know that sounds lame, but it’s an activity we enjoy because we get to sit around the dining room table on the balcony, take in the view of the coast, the ocean, soft breezes with a glass of bubbly, and cackle as we catch up on life. It’s about connecting with each other, spending time together rather than the card game. We used to do it over the Christmas holidays when I was a kid, so it invokes those memories as well. Feeling free and visiting new and exciting places as we caravanned around Australia.

Back to my reading: I really enjoyed ‘The Princess and the Fangirl,’ and ‘Wayward Son,’ though ‘Too Late’ was hard to digest. It dealt with themes of abuse, rape, drug dealing, and explicit sex scenes… a bit confronting and not the usual fare form Colleen Hoover. Plus I started reading Magda Szubanski’s memoir ‘Reckoning’ which deals with her family immigrating from Poland (via England) after surviving the war… the writing is beautiful, but it also deals with heavy topics that I need to let sit before I can read on. It’s not a book you can plough through. But I love the historical elements. I’m currently half way through and hope to complete in in August. So, those last two novels really slowed down my reading productivity. (Reviews for all the books I’ve read to come in the next month or so.)

I’m crossing my fingers that the hay fever won’t persist as bad as it was, because there is a pile of really exciting novels waiting on my coffee table, and the progress I’ve made with me writing has me amped up the keep on firing. So that slight change in direction has got me motivated and celebrating a great witting month. I hope to improve on the numbers in August! Bring it On!

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Oh, and I had to share this puppy dog cuteness – because abovementioned flat-mate has returned to work after so long, my furbabies waited patiently at the door during that first day, snuggled like bunnies, because they missed him. And they are adorable. I needed to distract them with lots of hugs and playing chasey around the house. I wonder how crazy the neighbours think I am, because all they would see through the windows in me running back and forth, waving my arms in the air, screaming and laughing all by myself.

 

How are you handling the impact of Covid-19? What roadblocks have you overcome recently to better your reading or writing goals?

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Has working from home made you lazy, or did you flourish with productivity?

May 2020 Wrap-up.

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As a writer this whole self-isolation thing did not impact me so much. But it desolated my house mate who lost his job and any prospect of future employment until the travel ban is lifted. (Most of his work is located interstate.) I had to help him apply for early access to some of his superannuation and sign up for unemployment benefits to get him through the interim. Though the process is just filling in forms online, it takes a knock to your stress levels and pride. Poor buggar. Curse you Covid-19!

So I can’t complain about the fact that my creativity plummeted because having an extra human around barging in constantly with questions or statements like “Have you seen the peanut butter?” or “I’m going to mow the lawn” and “Have you seen this funny Youtube clip?” Another irritating habit is him blurting out a conversation he’s obviously been having in his head – but he verbalizes it half-way through and expects me to understand what he is talking about. Not once in any of his activities does he think that me sitting at the computer with Word documents open typing away furiously is any form of work.

May 2020 Reading Wrap up 02 by Casey Carlisle

I want to tear off one of his limbs and bludgeon him to death with it when he responds to my sighs and complaints with “You work from home, you can do that anytime.” Seriously mate, you’re walking a thin line. My time is still valuable. I work like I would any other job, except my office is located in the house. You don’t see me tapping on your window at your job site saying “I’m just going to take a break, make a cup of coffee and have a poo.” It’s inane right? It could be really annoying if I did that fifty times a day at inconsistent intervals. And if you were wearing headphones so you couldn’t hear me, I’d tap your shoulder incessantly to break your concentration and get your attention with another snippet of irrelevant information; that wouldn’t start to send your blood pressure rising, would it?

So I shouldn’t complain, I still have a form of income, I can still get to work, only now I have a new person in the office verbalizing every thought like he has Tourette’s.

But I managed to plow into my blog and have started getting into the month ahead, freeing up more time in June for me to get some more chapters written on my WIP (sans house mate verbal diarrhea.) May hasn’t been the month to get a lot progress on writing my novel, but I have been writing non-stop on some paid work and scheduling posts. Also, after a mammoth month reading in April of 20 books, I was content to complete a smaller number of books in May totaling 9, and I’m happy with my progress. Still no buying of new books, and knocking that ridiculously high number of novels down on my TBR shelf/box/stack to 420. (Don’t judge me I’m doing a good enough job myself.)

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With all the whining I did in the opening of this post, I have to say having my house mate home has it’s good points. He’s tending to our property with some gardening and tree maintenance, getting those odd jobs done on the house that have been waiting for close to a year, the house gets cleaned more regularly, the washing is magically done, so too are meals, delivered to my desk without asking. And do I help him in the extra free time all this chore-doing has created… urm, well, actually I end up reading books. So while I’ve been more productive in some areas, it’s made me lazy in others. But it all balances out in the end? Right? Am I justifying my indulgence as recompense of the many abovementioned work interruptions?

 

How has this lockdown affected you? Did you take advantage to get some writing or reading done?

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reflections on 35 years of writing

Reflecting on 35 years of writing Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

When people think of success in a career in writing, they immediately assume you’re a novelist. Your publications are available in most bookstores. They don’t think of name recognition, just that you have a book in bookstores. What a narrow view of success, and of the vocation as a writer.

In the early years writing for me was purely for enjoyment and escapism. Writing fantasy and science fiction stories, never meant of anyone’s eyes but my own to peruse. I was learning to stretch my imagination, the creative muscle, and the ins and outs of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. You never stop learning or flexing those muscles.

Shortly after high school I started writing articles for magazines and newspapers. But it was by no means my chief source of income, merely done out of love with a small financial recompense for validation that my writing was interesting and engaging… and on trend.

Reflecting on 35 years of writing Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleProfessional writing came through university and after. I’d take casual jobs to write letters. You know those awful form letters you get from large companies, so meticulously worded – yep, I wrote some of those. And from there I went into technical writing for text books, guides, periodicals; and into educational development guides breaking down curriculum and its applications for desired outcomes. It all sounds so very dry and snore inducing right? But that’s been the backbone of my writing income. I did think about returning to journalism, but after writing in such a fact-based medium, needing to include sensationalised headlines, marketing tag lines, dramatized text, and clickable content felt like a false economy. Like news was losing its integrity. Of course I could have been one of those writers swimming against the current and sticking to my principles, but it would mean starting over in unpaid internships and begging for a by-line. My heart wasn’t in the fight.

From there I branched out into online content for articles and websites, and coming full circle, started writing those science fiction and fantasy novels again. This time with a serious agenda to write something worth reading (and getting traditionally published.) Not to say I’m successful because I have a book for sale in a bookstore, but for the journey, the sharing of a story, for the fun of it. Plus, of course, there are so many more avenues to publishing and getting your work in front of readers these days.

Opportunities also came my way that had me accepting the challenge. Screenwriting, speech writing, ghost writing, developmental editing, line editing, mentoring, brand and marketing campaigns. All paid work. But still not the type of efforts that will result in having a book baby stacked on the shelves of your local bookshop.

It’s funny people’s assumptions on what I do as a writer. I’ve had relatives thinking I wrote children’s pop up books when I told them I was writing a young adult title. Most assume I’m sitting at my computer with a pot of tea and churning out bodice-busting romance e-books. It just goes to show how little the general public know when it comes to careers in writing. Where good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and a dash of imagination and organisation can take you.

Now, as a child I may have dreamed of finding something I wrote for sale in my corner bookstore. I’ve made a career out of writing in a different form, and there’s still time. I have had my work on the shelf, but in a different form, under a different name. But one day soon I will see exactly what I imagined my future would be like – but will that mean I’m finally a success? Haven’t I already achieved that?

Reflecting on 35 years of writing Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

What do you imagine as your success as a writer? How have your friends and families perceptions of being a writer affected you?

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

March through April self-isolation = staycation and inspiration

When Roadblocks Prevent The Way Of Your Passion Pic 01 by Casey Carlilse

A sort-of monthly and quarterly wrap-up… let’s just call it an update with this crazy moment of viral outbreak.

My quarterly goals were mostly thrown out the window for the start of 2020 as we all know the world has been in a tailspin over the treat of a nasty virus – and much of my list involved being more physically present in social gatherings and professional appointments. *shrug*

There are many points in my writing career that I feel isolated and like a caged animal. Usually the remedy would be a short break away, a holiday, an outing, some form of social interaction or inspiration. But after nearly a month of being ill followed by social isolation from Covid-19 outbreak, those activities weren’t really feasible. So I decided to mix it up. Stop everything. Put a nix on all my daily tasks for the month of April and do other things I love.

That mostly translated to reading. Which is fantastic for my TBR. I had this great idea to start listing the number of books on my TBR shelf. (*cough* bookcase and storage boxes *cough*) I was astounded when I finally calculated all of the fiction novels waiting to be read… it was 453! Totally embarrassing… it’s going to take me years to catch up and not have an overwhelming number of titles waiting for attention. I put it down to moving – having volumes hidden away in boxes for over 3 years. Even though I have a self-imposed book buying ban, I didn’t feel like I was making that much of a dent in the number of tomes waiting for me to read. I didn’t realise how much underlying frustration I had over this. Add to that my housemate dropping comments about how many books I own, and I started to question the collection myself. But March/April has made me feel much better. I’ve accomplished a 23 book dent in the TBR. (April being my best reading month to date – I broke my record for most novel read in a calendar month. It felt great to achieve something even though I was on a staycation 😉 )

Books read in Mar Apr 2020 by Casey Carlisle

Books read in Mar Apr 2020

During this break I also got to restore/renovate some old bookshelves giving me that giddy feeling of being able to put my lovely hard and paperbacks on display.

April also saw me being able to shower my furbabies with even more love, learning more pet grooming skills (thanks Youtube!) and buying a few key pieces of professional grooming accouterments.

Ballie, my editor by Casey Carlisle  Buster strikes a pose 02 by Casey Carlisle

Other creative endeavors like cooking, gardening, and sewing – and planning out ideas for future fabric related projects filled my head. I always need some sort of artistic outlet, and usually that is my writing, but it was nice to take a month off and see it explode in different mediums. So while I was in social isolation, I was still able to recharge the batteries and get me back on track to becoming more productive and passionate.

Heck, I even managed to squeeze in finishing off an online marketing course.

With many forced to stay home during this period, I actually got to catch up a lot more with my friends than in many, many years.

So this scary thing, threatening to make us sick, steal our loved ones, and possibly cripple businesses and take away peoples livelihoods has made me look at the upside and make my own opportunity to reconnect, revive, and rest.

Here’s hoping you can get some positiveness out of this epidemic too.

It’s going to be back to normal for May and I’m looking forward to getting some vigorous writing done.

 

How has this lockdown affected you? Did you take advantage to get some writing or reading done?

UPPERCASE lowercase 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.