Writing. It is a lonely, frustrating, and often thankless pastime. Sometimes us struggling author types get knocked straight back down five minutes after receiving a brief moment of joy. Yes, it can be a real kick in the Dickens (with the image of a punk giving the finger, I thought I’d clean up the language a little).
For a recent example, there I was, going about my day in work, when I received a review regarding The Ferryman’s Toll (Hourglass #2), from an apparent reader of SF&F, who didn’t think my book fit neatly enough into those genres?! And I’m like, dude! (Quietly, in my head) It’s about paranormal special agents, working for a paranormal agency, battling paranormal threats. The Hourglass universe contains whole kingdoms of the dead, collecting souls, and existing in a dead realm; I’m talking full-blown 80’s heavy metal D&D type vibes here. But because there’s also guns and espionage and even NYC gangsters it doesn’t fit his neat little definition of what constitutes SF&F?
Jiminy Cricket! And only days after receiving a lovely review.
What’s more annoying though, is that this sniper isn’t a lone gunman. I have received some other reviews for both Hourglass books whining that they have too much of a military bent. Says who? I didn’t accidentally put that stuff in it. Most importantly, it certainly doesn’t detract from the monsters and supernatural elements.
Anyway…it’s a writer’s job to write for themselves and the readers who enjoy their work. No one else. But it’s still a punt to the Dickens on occasion. Which is why it’s crucial to find a refuge away from the page or the computer, in order to burn off any frustrations which can lead to burnout or excessive moping. And I’d know, I’m the fucking king at moping. Shit, so much for the “clean” language.
Personally, I enjoy strumming the shiz out of my guitar, playing along to punk tunes. My current favourite play alongs being:
- Ramones – I Just Want to Have Something to Do
- Social Distortion – Don’t Drag Me Down
- Pennywise – Fuck Authority
- AFI – Ever And A Day
- U.K. Subs – Warhead
- Offspring – L.A.P.D.
And err…as a buffer for the excessive angry wrist action,
- Bon Jovi -You Give Love A Bad Name
Judge me if you must, but I know deep down everyone likes that tune.
That’s been helping me lately. But if you don’t play any type of instrument, I have compiled a short list of possible alternatives to cope with the stress of writing and perpetual self-doubt, that is in no way ridiculous.
- Teasing animals at the zoo. Don’t have a zoo or transport? A neighbour’s pet will work just as well.
- Order a meal at a restaurant and see how many times you can have it sent back. As a bonus, you might even if coax the chef into a palpitating rage, thereby transferring your own inner unease onto them. It’s the angry, jittery circle of life.
- Wear a dog costume and bite postmen. Urinating on their bicycles is optional.
- Take a deep breath. Light some scented candles. Sit cross-legged in the middle of the room, and scream until your neighbour calls the police; if you’ve followed step 1, your neighbour will now have two strikes against you. Bonus!
Disclaimer for any cranks out there: I DO NOT ACTUALLY ENDORSE ANY OF THE PREVIOUS INFORMATION.
But in all seriousness, having a secondary creative outlet does work wonders; especially if you’re like me, and occasionally get so fixated on trying to push through on a story that you become in danger of turning into twisted agoraphobic peering through the curtains at uninvited guests.
On a somewhat lighter note, apparently Booklist Magazine is posting BlueInk Review‘s, err, well, review, of Hourglass in there April issue.
So that’s my piece of good news, now give it five minutes and I’m sure I’ll get half a dozen negative reviews for Hourglass and The Ferryman’s Toll complaining that they didn’t exactly fit the imaginary mould of SF&F.
Sighs…Might as well grab that fucking guitar then.
If you want to see whether my SF&F series Hourglass has too many guns, why not check them out for yourself here:
“An exciting and complex tale with memorable characters, standout battle scenes, and riveting worldbuilding.” — Kirkus Reviews
“James has mastered the knack of meshing the fast-paced lingo of paramilitary thrillers with the colorful worldbuilding of urban fantasy.” — Kirkus Reviews
Daniel James is an author of speculative (and sometimes dark and weird) fiction from Liverpool, England.
He is the recipient of two Kirkus Star reviews for his character-driven, action-packed urban fantasy novels Hourglass and The Ferryman’s Toll. Hourglass was also voted one of their Best 100 Indie novels of 2021.