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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10 May 2019 - 5:00 pm

Writing Spark #54

Your character has gone through life believing that love is a choice and they have always chosen ‘no’. But an argument with a stranger changes this belief.

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3 May 2019 - 5:00 pm

Writing Spark #53

Your character has the ability to change how they look, and so they have always hidden their true appearance behind attractive facades. Now, their abilities aren’t working, exposing what they truly look like.

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26 April 2019 - 5:00 pm

Writing Spark #52

All food has to be manufactured in bulk and distributed. There is no flavor and it’s the same every day. Then a plant grows up through the cracks, bearing berries.

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19 April 2019 - 5:00 pm

Writing Spark #51

Magic exists in the world. Why does your character despise using it so much?

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14 April 2019 - 10:00 am

Weight upon me

I haven’t posted here in a while. Here is why, what’s been going on with me, where I am, and what I’m doing about it.

Last year was mostly a struggle.

I don’t want to get into the particulars at this point; suffice to say that 2018 was hard, I survived, and I came out of it at the end… okay. Able to carry on. I guess that’s not saying much.

The worst and probably most illustrative part was when I wound up in hospital for 4 days with a massive infection – the medical staff were concerned and looked after me well, while I was calm and pretty philosophical about it all. It was more of the same kind of pressure that I’m used to; it just took a different form than usual. I narrowly avoided needing surgery and was eventually released to look after myself again.

It was all part of a downward spiral, though, and it became impossible to avoid recognising that. I’ve tried to deny it for so long, determined to believe that I can keep pushing on, that it’ll swing back up if I just hold on. I’ve been holding on so tight that my knuckles are white and my hands have been shaking for a while now, and I know I can’t maintain this grip for long.

Most importantly: it’s not getting better; it’s only getting worse. My health, the amount of stress I’m carrying, the financial burdens.

There are things that have slipped away from me that I didn’t truly notice for a while. Things I put down ‘for now’ to try to catch my breath or refocus or get back on my feet. Spoons I gathered in to use in other places. Spoons I had intended to only borrow, to eventually return to where they came from: things I meant to get back to. But didn’t.

In many cases, this was around my writing, and was visible in all the places I went quiet. This blog, Inkspired, publishing, my writing group (though there were many reasons I put that on hiatus), all of the in-progress projects I haven’t made any progress on in a while. Things I love and enjoy slipping through my fingers. For the record: it’s not because they’re unimportant or that I fell out of love. I’ve missed them and I want them back.

I’m tired of being strong.

I’m tired of many things. I’m tired of working every weekday. I’m tired of walling off Sundays to rest, so I can survive working every weekday.

I’m tired of trying to do the right thing for everyone else. I’m tired of carrying the weight of supporting my family. I’m tired of not complaining about it. I’m tired of being stressed about money and bills.

I’m tired of struggling with my health every day. I’m tired of trying to count and budget spoons. I’m tired of letting people down. I’m tired of not being able to do everything, not even everything I want to. I’m tired of having ideas I can’t follow through on. I’m tired of soldiering on anyway. I’m tired of trying to believe that what I can do is enough.

Most of all, I’m tired of being tired.

This year, I’m trying to make changes.

I’m working to pull out from under the strain before I buckle and fall and can’t get back up again.

Making changes is more energy, more spoons: more work. Different work than just keeping on where I am. It’s pulling yet more pressure onto myself, in the hopes of lessening it later. It’s borrowing spoons from next week, from six months from now, in the hopes that the lighter times will come before I have to pay them all back.

It’s the only way that things will change. It’s my only hope of climbing out of this hole I’m in and getting to someplace better. I’ve been scraping to make ends meet and put enough aside to be able to get out of the physical place I’m in (moving is expensive). My health is hanging by a thread, and I’m trying to push towards treatment while also balancing the cost of it all. I’m trying to manage how others are impacted by the changes I need to make, to be as kind to them as I can, while not sacrificing my own needs in the process.

It is hard. I’m struggling and I am so very, very tired.

I am blessed in many ways.

It’s important to remember those as well, especially now when everything feels so dark and heavy. It’s easy to lose sight of the good stuff and just see all the problems rising up around you.

I have wonderful people in my life, for whom I am eternally grateful. They support me, even if all they can do is listen to me when I need to talk or whine or complain or just shout into the void. They offer practical help too and I know I can call on them if I need to. They don’t make me feel bad for making the choices that I need to make. I hope they know how precious they are, to me and the other lives they touch.

I have a good job, and I work with great colleagues. My job provides me with some stability, and I work hard to make it a priority. It pays my bills and allows me to live fairly well and support my family. I get to explore things that interest me, I feel like I make a meaningful contribution, and it gives me some satisfaction. The security I have here is so very needed, particularly in the current political climate and job market. In this, I am very lucky. I work hard to try to keep hold of what I have and it means a lot to know that it’s worth the effort I put in.

A smaller thing to be grateful for is that I finished paying off my car last year, which means I’m back to being totally debt-free. That is one particular source of stress I am now free of. And no more payments means a little more money I can put aside this year – which is how I’m scraping together enough to make other, more impactful changes. It’s a slender chain of progress, moving so terribly slowly, but progress nonetheless.

It’s so easy to forget about these things, so I strive to keep them in mind. I am grateful and they make it easier to be hopeful for other parts of my life to get better, too. I would not be here without them.

So, looking forward.

There is a lot coming up for me over the next few months. I am preparing to move house: a long, hard job, because I am downsizing to relieve some of the financial burden, and we have way, way too much stuff. The next couple of months will be packing, sorting, selling, cleaning, and moving. It is daunting to contemplate but I’m keeping a balanced perspective; breaking it down and taking it one bite at a time. We’ve started and progress is being made.

It looks like I might have another business trip coming up, shortly after the house move is done. I got to visit one of our US offices last year and I’m joining a new project soon, so I might get to visit another of our US offices to kick that off. Which is great and exciting! But the thought of international travel makes me tired and I have to be careful with scheduling to manage my energy well enough to be useful while I’m there. I am looking forward to it, though.

And it looks like I have surgery coming up this year as well. Not related to the hospital stint I had last November, but they did spot an issue while I was there, and follow-up has shown that there’s something I need to have dealt with. It’s going to mean about a week in the hospital and at least another week before I’m fully mobile again.

I guess it counts as major surgery but honestly, I’m mostly looking forward to getting it done. I’m not worried about it. Those with chronic conditions will understand the relief of having a medical issue that they can do something about and might actually get solved. I made a surgeon laugh when he was surprised about how calm I was about it and I said, “Oh, I collect chronic conditions. It’s nice to have something I can give back for once.”

So all that takes me through to July, possibly August, depending on public hospital system waiting lists. It’s a lot, and I have to keep reminding myself to take it one step at a time so I don’t feel overwhelmed. But I know that, at the end of it all, things will be so much better for me. I just have to get through it.

Right now, I’m doing okay. I’m still so terribly tired and I’m still struggling. But I’m making progress and I have some positive goals to aim for. I have support I am so terribly grateful for. I’ll make it through. I’ll get back to the things I let slip and pick them up again.

Like this blog: I’m aiming to start posting here again more regularly, though perhaps not frequently to start with. I’m kick-starting a few other parts of my life as well, getting more balls rolling, because I’m sick of waiting. I want to live my life.

I am tired and I’m lucky and I love all of you, even if we haven’t talked in a while. I hope we’ll talk soon.

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12 April 2019 - 5:00 pm

Writing Spark #50

While on a hike, your character discovers a small tower buried beneath the ground.

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6 April 2019 - 5:20 pm

Time out of Mind: Epilogue

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

Congratulations! You have made it through our time-twisted story and emerged from the other side, hopefully victorious. 

I hope you have had fun and created at least a little something unexpected. I would love to hear what you thought of the challenges, and the bonus challenges as well. 

For today, our challenge is done and the Asylum releases you. Go forth and be inspired! Spend your time wisely.

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6 April 2019 - 4:20 pm

Time out of Mind: Challenge #5

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

Both teams now know there’s something strange going on with this pivotal person’s timeline. Now we have both agencies sending their teams to find the same person, to kill or to protect or simply to find out what’s going on. 

After all, it is not a simple thing to fake historical records. One of the first things that the manipulation of time did was to make historical records more reliable and enabled the agencies to be able to do thorough, accurate research. For someone to have changed those records to lay a false trail through history has a number of implications. 

More than that, it is possible that this person has changed more than their own personal history. They could also have changed the records around the pivotal moment itself, perhaps inflating its importance, or their role in it all. If history is not reliable, what can they truly believe in? 

The teams do find some breadcrumbs to follow, a hint here and a clue there, and the trail leads to a particular time and place. One team might be more efficient than the other, but thanks to time travel, they both arrive at the same moment to try to answer the same questions. 

The person in question is, in fact, there. Not only that, but they are ready for the teams’ arrival. Expected it, perhaps. 

Now is the time to decide what has really been driving all of this. What are this person’s goals? Why would they have set up such a trail, when they would have known that these agencies would send teams to meddle with the timeline? Was that their aim all along? Why is this particular place and time important? 

The trap is closing. Now it’s time to find out what it’s all about. Tell us what happens when all three parties are finally in the same place at the same time.

Bonus challenge: circles within circles. Put as many circles or circular images in as you can.

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6 April 2019 - 3:10 pm

Time out of Mind: Challenge #4

(New to this Asylum? Start at the beginning!)

The first team is not pleased to arrive home from their next mission to find their work undone. They worked hard to prevent that pivotal moment. It might have been undone, but they are not to be outdone. 

It’s time for some more drastic measures. After all, this is an important occurrence; if it was worth fixing once, it’s worth doing twice.

But they’re not quite reckless enough to risk encountering themselves or the competition that clearly interfered; that’s a risky business and it’s usually best to avoid running into another version of oneself. There are lots of stories about what happens to time travellers who do this and few of them end well. You are encouraged to use your imagination to think about what these stories might entail.

So this time, the team is seeking to go further back in time to solve the problem. They are focussing on the person responsible for the pivotal moment, and locate a particular spot in that person’s life where they can interfere. Perhaps it is a near-death experience that they want to make an actual death experience. Perhaps it is a formative moment that sent the person down a certain path, which is ripe for guidance in a different direction. Think about what they might look for and what they might do to this person, within the rules set down by their agency, though this might be classified as an ‘extreme case’. 

Now that your team has a plan, send them off on their new mission to prevent the pivotal moment from happening. 

Before we run off on this new adventure, it’s worth wondering what the competition is up to. After all, the timeline must be maintained, and that means that the person and their history leading up to that moment must protected. What are the timeline protectors doing to ensure this?

There is a wrinkle, though: the person is not where the records say they should be. Whether one team or both appears, this person is absent. In fact, they might find something else instead: a decoy or perhaps a trap waiting for them.

Tell us the story of what happens when one or both of these teams goes to find the younger version of our responsible person.

Bonus challenge: the grandfather paradox. Have a member of one of the teams encounter one of their ancestors.

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