2 May 2020 - 5:20 pm

Love in Mind: Epilogue

Congratulations: you have done it! The Asylum has come to an end, the doors are opening, and you are released. 

I hope you have enjoyed yourself today. I hope you have woven a story that has surprised and challenged you, and maybe even inspired you a little. May you carry it forward with you as you leave us today. 

If you have any feedback, let us know. Did you enjoy the story? The challenges? The extra hard challenge facets? We are always looking to make a better Asylum for our writers, so let us know what worked for you. 

Until next time the Asylum embraces you, keep writing, my friends. 

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2 May 2020 - 4:20 pm

Love in Mind: Challenge #5

In our last challenge, let’s talk about the end of things. Nothing lasts forever and even the most perfect pairing ends, one way or another. 

You might already know how your couple is finally parted. Take a moment now to nail down the details. What is it that pulls them apart? Is it death – theirs or someone else’s? Another person? Circumstances? A secret or act that can’t be forgiven? Was it the wrinkle you already wrote about or something completely different? Did they simply grow apart and aren’t suited to each other any more? 

Once they have parted, consider what is left behind. Does one or both of them survive? Go on to do other things or gets stuck in the aftermath? For each of them: is there anything next and if so, what might it be?

What about what they achieved or created while they were together? Did they have children, their own or adopted or otherwise? Did they create a business, or a new technology, or discover a new spell? Set a new record? Did they build a house or a space ship, or design a new kind of AI together? What did they create in the time they were together that might outlive their relationship? Was it magnificent or mundane?

Was their relationship not suited to that kind of creation? Was it too short, or destructive, or private? Was what they left behind known only to a few? Was it stories, or legends, or photographs tucked away in an old tin, hidden under the floorboards? Was it a lesson or a promise that helped to shape a life?

For this challenge, write about the legacy their relationship left behind. Truth, lies, or legend, tell us what outlived their love.

Your extra challenge for this one is: raining. Saturate this tale with blue and falling water, show us what washes away and what is left behind. 

Finishing up

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2 May 2020 - 3:10 pm

Love in Mind: Challenge #4

We have seen our lovers get intimate and in crisis. Now let’s take a lighter view of their time together: let’s explore their perfect date. 

Think about what a good time together is for them. Spending time with each other, in or outside of home, quietly private or out in public. It can be something romantic, wildly demonstrative, low-key, exciting, or all of these things. What is a great time together for these two particular people? Hearts and flowers? Rollercoasters and fairy floss? A night at the theatre or Netflix and chill?

Is there ever room in their story for a time like this? If there isn’t, what would it look like? Maybe they never got to enjoy a perfect date, but if they did, what would it be?

For this challenge, write about one of these perfect dates for your pair. A time when they are free of angst, set their worries aside, and simply enjoy being with each other. Indulge in the sweetness of it, in warmth and comfort, in something going so right that it might head right into being saccharine. Revel in it and let them enjoy it. 

Your extra challenge this time is: the scent of love. Put in as many olfactory details as possible; nail this memory for your pair down by telling us all about how everything smells.

Go to the next challenge

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2 May 2020 - 2:00 pm

Love in Mind: Challenge #3

Your two characters have come together, but no story is totally smooth. Now it’s time to introduce a wrinkle to their tale, something to trip them up or maybe even tear them apart, never to truly stand together again.

This threat to their relationship might appear at any time in this pair’s story, may even have been there since they first met. It can be before or after their intimate moment; it’s up to you. It can be something they manage to overcome, or not.

Consider what such a crisis point might be. What threatens to tear these two people apart? Is it an object that causes the trouble? Something from the past that comes up to cause problems in the present? A secret or an uncomfortable truth? Is it a person who gets between them? A temptation or a betrayal? A set of circumstances that force a difficult choice? Competing loyalties or loves?

Your challenge is to tell us about the crisis in this story of two lovers. 

The extra challenge this time is: rose-tinted juxtaposition. Use as many romantic images or cliches as possible.

Go to the next challenge

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2 May 2020 - 12:20 pm

Love in Mind: Challenge #2

Your character has met the love of their life. Whether their first meeting went well or disastrously, they know each other now. That’s not the end of their story, however; they are destined for more to come.

This time, let’s take a dive into how close these two people become. Choose a place in their story where they are coming together and getting to know one another. It’s time for them to strip naked and expose themselves, to thoroughly explore each other. It’s time for a moment of true intimacy. 

Intimacy means different things to different people. Explore the type that is important to these two people. It might be sex, or spirituality, or true honesty, a meeting of hearts or minds or bodies, or all of the above. 

How long has it taken for them to reach this point? A few minutes after meeting? Hours? Weeks? Five dates? Several years? What barriers have each of them had to overcome or let down to get here? What happened on this day to push them into intimacy? Was it something exciting, or sad, or delightful, or incidental, or nothing at all they could put their finger on?

Your challenge is to write out this moment of intimacy, in as much detail as you can. 

The extra challenge for this one is: euphemistic. Use as many euphemisms and genitalia synonyms as you can.

Go to the next challenge 

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2 May 2020 - 11:15 am

Love in Mind: Challenge #1

You have an idea of who your main character is and where they are as they enter the latter years of their life. Now we’re going to consider this person’s major love interest. The type of person who is their one true love, The One, the kind of partner who comes along once in a lifetime. 

Think about who this love interest is. What makes them so perfect for your character? What makes them fit, what about them speaks to your character? Give this love interest a name. What do they do with their time: do they make a living, study, or have other vocations and interests? What do they aspire to?

At what point in your character’s life does this person arrive? It can be at any point you wish, past or future. Is the chemistry immediately obvious when they meet or does it take some time to come into focus? Are either of them looking for love or is this a serendipitous meeting? Are both of them free at the time to pursue a new relationship or is their story more complicated?

Now think about how these two people met. Set the scene in your mind. Where does it happen? At what time of day? On purpose, by someone’s design, or by accident? What was each of them doing leading up to this meeting? What is their initial reaction to each other?

Tell us the story of this first, fateful meeting. The only rule you have to follow is that neither of them is allowed to die just yet. This is the start of their story.

Your extra challenge for this one is: singing. Put as many songs or singing into the piece as you can.

Go to the next challenge

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2 May 2020 - 11:05 am

Writers’ Asylum: Love in Mind: Prologue

Welcome to the Asylum. Take a seat, make yourself comfortable. The doors are closing behind you and you’re going to be here a while.

This time, we will be exploring the human heart in all its sweet, painful glory. Through five challenges, we will delve into a single story, with each challenge building upon the last. The challenges are a thousand words or an hour long each, whichever you reach first. There will also be an extra facet for each challenge, to push you even further, should you wish to take it on. 

But first, let’s talk about the world in which your story will take place. You can choose any type of world you wish, from any era, so choose something that interests you. Is it contemporary or historical? Futuristic? Set on Earth or another world entirely? Is there technology or magic? How real are gods and monsters? 

Once you have picked your world, focus in on a single place: a place where people live, love, and die. It might be a city or village; a space station or a castle. Have an idea in your mind of what sort of place this is, whether it is one of hope, or toil, or gradual disintegration. Does the sun shine? Does it rain often? Is it lit only by distant stars? 

In this place, choose a single person to focus on. This person is in their twilight years now. Think about who this person is and the path that has led to this part of their story. In a moment, we are going to take five minutes to note down some key elements about this character.

Here are some questions for you to consider when defining your character. How has this person made their living over the years? What sort of person are they, what sort of person have they chosen to be, and what kind of person does the world see them to be? What kind of morality do they hold themselves to, and have they always lived by it? Has it been easy to stay true to themselves, or have there been some hard choices along the way? Compromises? What has been the biggest learning curve they have had to journey through to get where they are today?

As they enter the twilight of their life, what kind of position does this person find themselves in? Do they have a family? A partner? Who are the people still in their life and do they have people they are estranged from now? What sort of person are they attracted to? What kind of attraction appeals to them most and how easily does it happen for them? Are they a romantic person or do they look for something different? How many people have they loved in their life so far and do they have any left to give? 

Now take five minutes to make some notes about the character. Write down as much as you can, to prepare yourself for the challenges to come. The first one starts very soon. 

Let’s get started!

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6 October 2019 - 8:43 pm

Catching up

I can’t believe it’s October already. It’s also hard to believe that I haven’t updated here since June. How did that happen? Oh, that’s right: things got crazy.

When we last touched base, I was in the middle of my insane 3-month schedule of work, overseas trip, and surgery. I’m happy to report that it all went roughly to plan and on time: the schedule worked out! I got all my work done to my job’s deadlines, the trip was a success, and the surgery went about as well as major surgery can.

When I was approaching those three months and organising myself for it all, I figured that that was the hard part and afterwards would be much easier. And that’s where my preparations failed me, because the surgery took longer to get over than I had anticipated, some work stuff came up that I had to take on (which you can never really prepare for), and no sooner was I back on my feet than it was time to dive into NaNoWriMo prep for this year’s adventures, and it has been especially hard work this time around.

That is going to take some unpacking, but first know: I’m doing okay. For the first time in a very long time, though, I’m feeling swamped, and I am not a big fan of this feeling.

Recovering from the surgery went pretty smoothly but far more slowly than I was really prepared for. It hit me in my energy, which is never a deep well at the best of times, and it has been a long, slow climb out of bone-heavy exhaustion since. I took about a week and a half off work, and after that, wound up working from home for 6 weeks because the trip to the city was too much to contemplate, even if I could have managed to carry all my work stuff (which I couldn’t because of the healing incision).

I am so grateful to have a job where I can work from home. It has been such a blessing over the past few months, because even after I made it back to the office in the city, it was still a struggle to get the energy I needed to work a full week.

Right now, I’m smack in the middle of yet another crazily busy period. I’ve got heaps on at work, juggling my regular job, some additional training work, and organising some staff events as well. I’ve got another trip, though this one is domestic and only for a couple of days, to a technical writer’s conference. And, of course, November is rapidly approaching, which means heaps of NaNoWriMo prep.

It’s all moving along apace right now and nothing has fallen off the rails so far. I’m blessed with wonderful support both at work and in the NaNo stuff. It all looks like it’s coming together at this point, which is such a relief.

So far, the start of the NaNo season has been plagued by technical issues on the official site. That’s why you’ll see a shiny new section here on this site, covering our information for the BrisNaNo region stuff. That’s fine, now we have a static place to host this info for people to refer to!

Right now, I can’t wait to get to mid-December, at which point I can have a bit of a rest. Here’s hoping, right? Perhaps I should book January off work to make sure I get some downtime. What do you all think?

In the meantime, I’m excited about the upcoming events we’ve got lined up for BrisNaNo. And I can’t wait to get started on this year’s novel project. What is it? Perhaps that should be my next post here: the project that surprised me and has become one of the favourite things I’ve written.

In the meantime, I’m heading off to get some rest, before I get ready to fly off to Melbourne for a couple of days. Hope you’re all well! Onwards and upwards, my friends.

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13 June 2019 - 5:21 pm

Chaos and Catharsis

Here we go: another big update on where I’m at. The last few weeks have been interesting, hard, stressful, and incredibly busy.

The first part of it all was logistics. With so much to fit in over these few months, getting everything lined up so it worked was a huge challenge, particularly because I’m balancing so many different sources, needs, and requirements. The house move was largely dictated by lease dates and when we could get services done. The work trip to the US is ruled by a bunch of people’s availability and our release dates. The hospital stay is determined by waiting lists and surgeon schedules.

The good thing is that I got it all lined up. It’s hectic and a bit of a nightmare, but I’ve made it all fit together and I think it’ll work. Okay, everything is crossed and I really hope nothing (else) comes out of left field, but on the whole I’m feeling pretty positive about it all.

See, my time works out roughly like this:

  • 2 weeks: move house
  • 2 weeks: work: get everything for the next release done, including documenting new features, writing release notes, and working on training courses.
  • 2 weeks: work trip to the US, visiting two different offices
  • 1 week: work: make sure everything for the release is done.
  • 1 week: hospital stay for surgery.
  • 1 week (hopefully): recovering from surgery at home.

That takes me to mid/late July. I’ve reached the end of my ‘move house’ window and am almost to the end of the first ‘work’ period, so now is a good time to pause, catch my breath, and take stock.

The move went okay. It has been a huge undertaking, because we were not only moving house, but also taking stock and downsizing. The new place is maybe half the size of the old one. Also, a lot of our furniture and equipment is getting old (most of it 10+ years old now), and not worth taking with us even if it all fit (which it didn’t).

We had a huge amount of culling to do. With very little storage space in the new house and a determination not to have things sitting in boxes for a few more years, we had so many things to find new homes for. I really hate throwing away anything that is still perfectly good to use, so we’ve been donating stuff, selling stuff, putting things out for others to help themselves to, and giving things away to friends.

It was a really challenging and wonderful process. It was tough, because I tend to get emotionally attached to things and I don’t like to let things go. But giving myself permission to ask ‘do I really need to keep this? Has it done its duty with me?’ was also very freeing. Not caring about whether we made money on the things we were getting rid of also freed us from the stress of trying to eke out what things are ‘worth’ and focus on simply getting things into new homes. We’d got our money’s worth from them already, so anything we made through the process was a bonus.

Another aspect of the move was getting a heap of new furniture. Some of it was because of the size of the new place, and some of it was replacing old, tired furniture that was no longer truly usable. Which meant some careful measuring of the new place and coordinating deliveries for it to go directly into its new home. And then, because I got flat packed furniture, construction time to put it all together (even the new couches came in pieces!).

There were the cats to consider, too. This process has been ramping up for weeks as we went through boxes and sorted things into ‘keep’ and ‘move’ piles. Lots of things have been slowly packed away or removed. Rooms have been emptying as we’ve sold off surplus furniture. So our poor furbabies have been getting stressed and required heaps of reassurance. And then we moved them to the new house and had to settle them in there. The good news is that they’re getting used to the new setup and making themselves at home.

On top of all that was closing down the old house, including arranging cleaners, gardeners, carpet cleaning, and so on. We’ve just finished with that (and it has cost an arm and a leg), and I was so glad to finally hand the keys over and be done with that house!

Getting it all done in 2 weeks was a challenge, particularly when it’s just my dad and me (with my fatigue and other issues). We’ve had to pace ourselves and make sure we didn’t overdo things, and while we were mostly successful, we’re still both sore and exhausted.

I’m blessed with wonderful friends, though, who helped move the lion’s share of the boxes and packed stuff in exchange for lunch. So grateful for them! And for everyone who helped us find homes for stuff we couldn’t take with us.

And of course, we had some complications show up to try to derail things. The first was a nail in my car tyre, on the day the mover’s came to shift the big furniture for us. We changed it out for the spare just before the truck arrived, and I had to squeeze a garage trip into my time off work to get it fixed. Luckily, not too expensive, but a pain in the ass I didn’t need with so much else going on.

The second big one was the fridge that didn’t fit up the stairs. The new place is a bit upside-down, with the lounge and kitchen on the top (3rd) floor. Our old fridge was wide (about a standard fridge and a half) and wouldn’t go around the corners to get up the stairs, and our other option would have been some kind of lift to get it over the balcony up there. I wasn’t keen on spending a few hundred more dollars on an old fridge, so it got to sit in the garage while I went about buying a new fridge. It was a few hundred dollars I hadn’t particularly wanted to spend, but better spent on a new fridge than an old one. We spent 2 weeks running up and down stairs to the fridge, but the new one arrived last week (and made it up the stairs!), and it’s all good now. We finally have a fully-functional kitchen!

It has been a lot and I’m so happy to have got through it. We haven’t finished unpacking everything yet, but most of it is done. I’m taking my time picking away at the rest.

Since I’ve been back at work, it has been all systems go to catch up with what happened while I was away, squeeze about 6 weeks’ worth of documentation into 2 weeks, and get all the prep done for my work trip to the US. I have so many balls in the air, I can barely keep count!

Right now, I hardly know what day it is. The wheels haven’t come off yet and I think I’ve got everything lined up and heading in the right direction, so I think I can say it’s going okay.

Hope you’re all doing okay out there. I’ll be back soon with another update! Onwards and upwards, my friends.

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17 May 2019 - 5:00 pm

Writing Spark #55

Eight murders have taken place in your character’s town: once a week, on the same day, at the same time. When your character gets abducted, they have only a few hours to discover why this is happening and how to get free.

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