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Holding Pattern

So last week I finished the rewrite of "Invisible Sun", the third Empire Games novel, which feels as if it's been going on forever (I began it in mid-2014). The delivered manuscript is about 30% longer than the previous draft and 25% longer than the two earlierbooks, because of all the loose ends I was trying to tie up, and it all took longer than expected.

On Tuesday I'm off to Toruń in Poland as a guest of honour at Polcon, the oldest Polish science fiction convention. I've got a relatively quiet summer (although I might be doing a panel at MCM Comicon in Glasgow in mid-September and doing a reading in Berlin earlier in the month, subject to venue). Then in October I'll be a guest of honour at Vcon 42 in Vancouver; I may also be wandering around Canada for a couple of weeks before/after Vcon, but won't be visiting the USA on that trip.

Anyway, the blog is going to go quiet while I'm in Poland, but I hope to start updating it more regularly once I get home around mid-month and am no longer on deadline.

As for why I've been so quiet:

My father died on July 20th, last year. (He was 93.) During his final illness I was trying to rewrite a space opera, "Ghost Engine": but as with other creative pursuits, writing novels doesn't go smoothly when the writer is stressed. In my case, dad's terminal illness soured me on the book, so I put it on the shelf for another year even though I'd just sunk 12 months' work into it. I then squeezed out the ninth Laundry Files book, "The Labyrinth Index", at high speed—it's coming out this October 30th—and flamed out. But there's no time in the schedule for flame-outs, so I had to tackle "Invisible Sun" while burned-out and exhausted ... and I still need to get "Ghost Engine" into shape for submission in 2019 and publication in 2020.

My mother is now unwell, so I've been making weekly trips to visit her in hospital. This is stressful and isn't helping with the exhaustion: it has also prevented me from making any long-term plans. I'm therefore downing tools right now in an attempt to claw back enough "me" time to recharge my creative juices while dealing with the kind of unhappy family issues that come to most of us with time.

As a side-note: I last took a sabbatical in 2007, and planned to have one in 2015 or 2016. But stuff kept happening and I'm now about 2 years overdue for a break. This time off is essential: if all goes well I hope to get back to work as usual some time in 2019, but I make no promises.

What I can say is that I'm finally nearing the end of two gigantic projects dating back approximately 20 years. (There are going to be more Laundry Files novels after "The Labyrinth Index", and possibly even another Merchant Princes/Empire Games standalone novel, but I don't intend to keep the series on life support indefinitely.) Going forward, I want to reduce the number of novels I write to roughly one per year, but to write more short fiction—especially novelettes and novellas—and most importantly, to find the time to break ground and star entirely new creative works: "Ghost Engine" will probably be the first of these to come to fruition.

TLDR: Rule #1, "don't die", is in effect for the rest of the year. Beyond that? We'll see.

45 Comments

1:

Good luck. I enjoy your stuff. A book a year seems a reasonable pace, still pretty prolific.

2:

Hi, Charlie. My father was diagnosed with a terminal illness last year (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis), and he has been slowly declining ever since. It has been incredibly stressful for me, as I've been helping my mum look after him and obtain respite care and support. I've had a few burnout episodes, and working has been a struggle, so I know where you're coming from.

3:

I've been there too. Hot Earth Dreams was published a month after my uncle died in long term care in 2015. I was one of his executors, and oddly enough, I haven't published anything since. While it's possible to push through a lot of things, the cost afterwards can be quite severe.

4:

So sorry for your loss. My parents passed a few years ago, and it was a hard and unproductive time for me. You can't expect to go through stuff like this without it taking a toll. This is one of those times when looking out for #1 isn't selfishness. It's a necessity. So take care of yourself so you can take care of your mom, and never hesitate to ask friends for help and special favors. Take some time for yourself. I'll be looking forward to more books when you get around to them.

5:

in Vancouver; I may also be wandering around Canada for a couple of weeks

Maybe http://burgess-shale.rom.on.ca/en/ ?

6:

Work at the pace you can sustain; don't burn out again. And good luck with your mum.

Keep us informed about Berlin, please - I'd like to meet you there, if possible at all.

7:

In reverse order of importance:

When are you going to be in Berlin?
I'll be there (approx) 3rd-8th....

DONT' "Burn out" - if your income from books is (just) sufficent, the TAKE THE TIME

Family: My mother slowly died, very unpleasntly of cancer over approx 18 months, but I didn't realise how bad it was until I was summoned home from uni in a hurry - the shock & literal horror caused me to drop out of mu=y course, ebentually ...
It tokk me another 15 years to claw back to a physics BSc
"Fortunately", my father died very fast (aneurysm) as all the years of playing with nasty organic chemicals finally caught up with him - I then had unpleasant family legal problems, but what the fuck, it wasn't really imoprtant.
So, take the time, & take time with your father & then - m& only then is time to strat again.
What did JRRT call it: "fighting the long defeat" ??
But, don't ever give in.
Good luck, we all need it.

8:

Much sympathy on the family situation.

On a lighter note, any plans to meet up with Wm. Gibson? No idea if you’ve met before, but you seem to retweet each other often enough.

9:

At the risk of sounding like a teenager: OMG! So sorry.

Following rule 1 for *at least* six months sounds like an excellent plan.

10:

Yes. Severe stress for long periods is a SERIOUS health hazard. I have been there, and my underlying health issues are much less serious than OGH's.

I would add to "take your time" the extra rules "take a clean break" and (less widely known) "DON'T rely on things improving if you just hang on".

11:

I would echo Elderly Cynic's comments. As someone that spent 10 years nursing my mother with Dementia, nursing a loved one through an long illness or even just visiting them in a care home as they decline is a seriously stressful event. It takes a lot out of you.

Take as long as you need off, none of us will die from your lack of writing.

12:

I've enjoyed your work since the Gith. If well-wishes from a stranger are of any use to you, then please accept mine.

FWIW, the community that you've created here is one of the few I make a point of lurking around (and I've just bodged that, never mind). You could, if you wish, consider that to be a reflection of what you've accomplished through your work, and who you are. I hope it's something that brings you satisfaction.

13:

Good idea to unplug and relax. Have seen in my own family how stressful care-giving can get even when everything else is going fine and no work deadlines.

Ditto on the community building. Like it or not, you've built yourself a family of sorts: the type that watches you and over you. So get some rest!

14:

As much as I enjoy your writing, I would prefer you stay sane. Glad you're taking the time, and as a fan of your work it's much appreciated that you take the time out to let us know how you're doing and what's occupying you.

Sláinte!

15:

Echoing everyone else, a book a year is an admirable pace. A nice compromise between:
a) authors who must have a stable of underwriters supporting them to keep up a multiple books / year pace; and,
b) authors who cough out something new about twice a decade.

Examples of which I have stopped reading because of:
a) generic, predictable plotting and characters
b) inability to sustain interest in a series


Been there, done that on supporting parents in their final days.

My father did the approximately 18 month cancer journey, but managed fairly well for the first year. Well enough to attend my wedding which was several hours travel away.

About six years later my mother was on the slower journey from Parkinson's to dementia, but a bout of C. difficile accelerated the failure of her transplanted kidney which, in turn, accelerated her dementia. My sister was able to find a retirement residence close to her home which could support my mother's loss of independence and need for more nursing care. Fortunately, her caregivers considered her sufficiently lucid to be able to reject dialysis which meant for a relatively quick end.

I had been thinking of this because I just tackled the unpacking of boxes which came to my house after we closed my mother's apartment when she moved to the residence. It took about eight years to get around to that ...

16:

Guys,
This may come across as shitty, but when someone tells you about a sickness/death in their family, don't talk about your own version. It ends up being all anyone talks about.

"Is there's anything I can do?" and "Oh, how sad, I remember when my [xxx] got [yyy] and I had to..." are virtually the only things the surviving family hears for months. It doesn't help and it really gets old.

17:

Thank you Paul541; I've been refraining from doing so for precisely that reason; recent memories of other people doing so.
Helpful is more like (and this should be obvious, yes) - be with the person dying; get as much out of them as possible; untold stories, family history, and etc, certainly, and write it down or record it, but also practical things like bank account details, PINs, passwords, email addresses, secret savings accounts/stock certificates, etc. My father, organized man, actually had a 1 page cheat sheet (runbook for IT people) entitled "Things to Do on My Demise" or similar, and reviewed it with me a few times while he was still healthy/lucid, but not everyone is like that. It can be very hard or impossible to reverse engineer.


18:

Charlie, obviously you're entitled to make whatever decisions you want about your life, but I just want to say that I think these are great ones. As much as I enjoy the long series, I think you're at your very best when you're doing NEW stuff, and I hope that your battery recharge time end shifted focus get you there. Regardless, full support of whatever your choices are.

19:

Charlie

Been there, done that, last century. And with work having been eating you on top of it all, let me reinforce you: you *need* to cut back, and get away from it all. Take a short holiday with your family, and put it all aside.

Fandom's here for you, too - that's most of what kept me going after my late wife dropped dead.

Don't get burnt out. That way lies, well, I am *not* addicted to solitaire, I can quit any time....

20:

Charlie - please have a good long break and don't stint yourself.

21:

Completely agreed. Take care of yourself Charlie.

22:

Look after yourself, Charlie. May your deity/anthropomorphic personification/cat of choice go with you!

23:

What the others said. Do whatever you need to get yourself through.

We'll all be waiting for your work whenever and however you chose to deliver it!

24:

Hang in there Charlie. We're all pulling for you. Relax, take whatever time you need and we'll be here waiting for you when you get back.

25:

If you are going to be hanging around Western Canada after/before Vancouver, I'd like to recommend the Sunshine Coast as a great place to visit and explore.

Take care of yourself Charlie.

26:

For anyone with an interesting mental health history, if you think you need a break then you really need a break.
Whist this may sound a bit shitty, it's true. When you're struggling, your writing isn't as good. I've been reading your books for years, and the quality goes up and down depending on your condition.

I'm looking forward to more novellas down the line. Palimpsest still remains my favourite story of all time.

27:

Take a break. Relax. De-stress. Laugh at the Australian cricket team (sob). Sob (or laugh) ((ha ha)) at England's loss in the World Cup. We'll survive. Make sure you do.

28:

Charlie,

Take it easy and heal some.

Good luck!

29:

Just found in Egypt; a black sarcophagus made of granite, with the top mortared to the bottom, and over 2000 years old. There's also a creepy statue with almost-a-face

Don't open it!!

30:

Long time no post (me, not you).

Take whatever time you need. Personally, I need time to recover from "The Delirium Brief" which I enjoyed in all sorts of ways, including scaring me more than Mayfly over Brexit!

31:

Everything I have seen in the Laundry books suggests that the inhabitant will be a reasonable chap.

32:

He'll certainly know how to dress!

34:

Let me add the good wishes and hope you get the relief you need.

And as much as I love hearing you talk, I am perfectly aware that you owe us absolutely none of your spare time. What you give is appreciated, but never let it get to point where you perceive it as an obligation. We're way down the list after family, editors, catsitters, etc.

Enjoy the break.

35:

Sympathies.

36:

Much as I love your work please take all the time you need, then all the time you want, then a bit more.

37:

Get some rest, take that much-needed and overdue break. The only way to avoid the unpleasant family stuff is to have no family left, unfortunately. I hope your mother does as well as is possible, and that whatever happens does so in a way that all concerned can feel OK about. I'm very glad to hear you are taking care of *yourself* - it is much too easy to get caught up in caring for other people and other things, but if you break yourself then none of that will get done.

38:

For a change of pace;
I caught a glimpse of this while driving by the other day: A 2 ton sculpture of a mermaid with a tentacles in place of a fish tail.
http://www.koaa.com/story/38377732/rise-of-the-octo-maid-new-sculptures-hit-colorado-springs-rooftops

Possibly how I picture the Deep Ones, or maybe something out of “Neptune’s Brood”.


for some reason I’m having trouble with embedding links when using the onscreen keyboard on this ipad pro. Work when I use the wireless keyboard.

39:

For your amusement & distraction, though I suspect it's old news:
https://qz.com/716915/donald-trumps-visit-to-scotland-inspired-some-very-creative-british-profanity/
Be well.

40:

JamesPadraicR @ 38:

"For a change of pace;
I caught a glimpse of this while driving by the other day: A 2 ton sculpture of a mermaid with a tentacles in place of a fish tail.
http://www.koaa.com/story/38377732/rise-of-the-octo-maid-new-sculptures-hit-colorado-springs-rooftops
Possibly how I picture the Deep Ones, or maybe something out of “Neptune’s Brood”."


I wonder if there's any significance to it being Colorado Springs?

41:

I wonder if there's any significance to it being Colorado Springs?

Unfortunately I doubt it.

42:

To "celebrate" coming 4th in the Wendyball World Cup, TFL renamed a station - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-44844999 .

I would just like to say that I think this idea was totally Upney!

43:

Just out of curiosity ...

I'm re-reading The Delirium Brief since my UK paperback copy arrived and I notice things I missed the first time through. I ran across this passage on page 124:

“... security guards patrol the area with walkie-talkies and paintball guns. Which are loaded with a type of ammunition that would cause extreme consternation if it were to become known to the Laundry.”

What kind of ammunition would that be?

44:

What kind of ammunition would that be?

Chekhovite ;)

45:
“What kind of ammunition would that be?”

Jamesface @ 44

"Chekhovite ;)"

Did you ever work for Microsoft "tech support"?

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 8, 2018 8:26 PM.

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