Writing by Autumn’s Glow

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The last few weeks I’ve been trying to take time to focus on me. I’ve been binging my queue, finally watching all of those shows that have been awaiting completion. Mainly The Strain and Hannibal. Oh and pottery shows, because those are calming.

Uni’s been ill again (the vet is running tests). It seems to be triggered when she scavenges something she shouldn’t. She’s fine now, sleeping at my feet, but the episodes are stressful for both of us and I’m convinced her insides hadn’t quite recovered from the last bout three weeks ago. Three faecal samples later and hopefully the vet will get to the bottom of it.

I’m writing though, which is good. Mostly I’ve been trying to get stories in for calls but I’m dabbling with a new alien contact story in which a nomadic alien race called the Orseeth chooses humans they want to talk to. It’s a brief meeting, an exchange of memories, that will end at a specific time when the visitors will return to their travels. 68 humans are chosen to participate, making those in power on our side very uncomfortable because they know, via extensive vetting, none are who we would send if humanity had a choice. The benevolent aliens chose normal people, all of whom have seen darkness, and that’s not going to reflect well on us, as a species.

Which is the entire point, of course.

It’s a character driven story currently titled “The Reason Why” and is in the outlining/first rambling draft phrase. The title is probably going to change (I hate calling stories “Untitled”) but it was inspired by a question I asked myself, for which I’ll never know the answer. My protagonist has questions of her own and, through her conversations with the Orseeth she’s been paired with, she hopes to find an answer. Whether she does or not remains to be seen.

 The one thing I am noticing is the weather is changing, the sunrises are glorious and the air is colder. You can still smell the manure on the fields if the wind blows in the wrong direction but it’s getting colder at night, more misty in the mornings. I’m wearing gloves already as my finger joints hurt in the cold. The nights are drawing in, Isis is coming in for longer and I’m trying to eat as many vegetables/cook as much as I can.

I bought myself a new set of pans and cookware last week which is making me want to bake cakes and cook one-pot dinners (pre-prepped veg and chicken thighs are my favourite) in the oven. It’s cheap and wholesome but also lasts two days; there’s enough in my fridge that I can reheat the leftovers. I even brought breakfast (a couple of scones) which is helping my productivity and allowed me to drink a little real coffee for a change, rather than decaff.

I’ve even been playing WoW, gently advancing towards level one hundred. I don’t have the current expansion and only paid for a month of time but it’s nice to just quest. It’s been so long since I played (and it was more for work than fun). It’s relaxing, especially with some snacks and a TV show playing in the background. I can lose myself in a way I’ve not been able to in a long time. Even better, it doesn’t feel addictive, it just feels fun. I stop playing after 45 mins or so and I’m good.

Now if I could just learn to do this with alcohol …

Well, one thing at once eh?

How to Write Short Stories on a Deadline

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This week I’m trying to get two stories ready for submission to specific calls in the hope they might sell. One is the story formally known as “Infinity Girl and the Shadow” (and is going to be renamed if it kills me) and the other is (also about to be renamed) “Washed Up Upon the Shore”“. The call for the former shuts on Thursday, the one for the later at the end of the month.

Guess which story I’m working on right now?

Yeah, the one not due for another few weeks. But, I suppose, at least I’m trying to write something.

Actually, it’s not that bad; I spent most of Sunday cutting 1500 words out of my magical girl story. It’s pretty close to done and I’m remembered how much I like redrafting when I actually focus on the work, when I cut things because they’re extraneous, it feels like I’m good at what I do and the story is all the more polished for it. Especially as the tilt on this isn’t the and never had been the superheroness (in this case the magical girlness) of the story but how that impacts on reality and the protagonist’s life and relationships.

“Washed Up” (which is probably going to be renamed “Like Pearls, Spilled and Scattered”) is about what makes a person and how purpose can sometimes override memory, personality. Good people will do good things, even if you strip them to the bone, because of who they are in their core. Oh and it’s my attempt at a Lovecraftian story without the Lovecraft but all the magic and mysticism. I’ll definitely be returning to this world, though not the same area.

I just wish it wasn’t so warm out, this really kills my ability to be creative.

Sometimes Money Doesn’t Solve the Problem

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Last week I took a bit of a swan dive (I’ve not been talking about it because I’ve been too busy recovering/living life as best you can with a massive hole in your lip and nose). It was an accident but it also wouldn’t have occurred had the road I been walking had been paved properly. My foot caught in the bad paving and down I went like a sack of bricks. The physical scars are healing but the psychological ones are still there and have reopened my personal issue with depth perception and falling over.

Upon telling people about the whole incident, I got two distinct suggestions from a variety of friend-level sources. Can you guess which one was from the disabled folk and which from the non-disabled?

“You need to contact the council, explain what happened and tell them they need to pave the road properly.”

“You should retain a lawyer!” (Pause for, from me: “With what?” and “Hahahahahah”) “And sue the bastards!”

Technically both these statements are correct: I was severely injured, my glasses have been damaged to the point where I’d like to replace them and my headphones too, because there’s now a massive keyed indentation in the back of the volume controls. I’m sure this means said headphones will last much shorter a life than they usually do.

Oh and I could actually sue them … Could being the operative word.

Perhaps it’s my world view, or my knowledge of how broke our councils are, but I won’t and never intended too.

I just intended to raise the issue and ask for the road to be re-paved properly, with asphalt, not concrete.

Now everyone who said these statements, or variations thereupon, did so because they care and were mortified by the image I posted of me, post-accident, bleeding on a bus.

This one:

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I took this mainly so I could see how badly I’d been damaged (there are no mirrors on buses). I was also in shock at the time, hence the glazed eyes, and had a whopping concussion. Also some small part of me knows when you have an accident this bad, you document it.

On Monday I did what I’d always intended to do and rang the council, within a few minutes of using the ‘blind woman with a guide dog’ card and explaining the depth of the damage to my nose, my lip, my pride and other parts of me which are now healing nicely. I got the City Council (who maintain the particular road which tried to kill me) to start an insurance claim (which will be handled by the Council Council). I explained, knowing how broke our councils are, that money wasn’t my ultimate goal, other than to replace what was damaged/cover the cost of the extra medication and emergency supplies I had to buy in order to keep on healing nicely.

All I really wanted was for them to pave the road so this doesn’t happen to other people.

Ironically, I know from experience, that sometimes a pay off is much, much easier.

So why, you ask, is this post headed by shiny Odeon guest passes?

A few months ago, Marie plus kids and Mhairi and I, plus dogs, went to see Ice Age: Collision Cause. We all like animated films and Marie had a groupon for five people. It was a free-ish trip out to watch a kid’s movie and (as a film) it was a fun couple of hours. Not the best movie but the Neil deGrasse Tyson cameo made it for me. Totally worth it.

Anyway, we experienced one major problem: the sound.

Both Mhairi and I are stupidly sensitive. I know it’s technically a myth that your senses compensate when you lose one. Except it’s not that: we pay more attention and, when you’ve had eye conditions for your entire life you get pretty good at hearing specifics like a bad baseline or something which is just too loud. I have autism so prefer to artificially blunt my hearing, most of the time, with music and earbuds. It allows me to distract myself enough to be able to focus on functioning and using my remaining sight, as well as ignoring crowds of people.

Mhairi can’t do that and she, and Bramble, were in physical pain for most of the film. Even Marie, who was for the purposes of this argument, our control group, agreed it was too loud. We assumed it was down to the work being done on the cinema over the summer but resolved to bring it up, because the cinema staff are probably, by this point pretty desensitised. So, afterwards, we hailed a manager and explained there was a problem with the volume in that particular screening room. We’ve seen perhaps a dozen movies in other ones with no issue but that one is just set to VERY loud.

We were instantly given passes and gently fobbed off. So we left, have been spending the passes very economically, to see a lot of films (including Finding Dory in the same screen and, not realising it, we both questioned if it was too loud). Yesterday we used our last one to see Kubo and the Two Strings . It was only when we got into the movie that we realised it was still loud, though this time both of us had audio description headsets the volume was still far too high.

The movie was awesome and I loved it, used to the sound and able to cope with it probably because I love shamisen music and a good movie soundtrack makes everything a little easier to deal with. Mhairi had to nearly deafen herself in order to hear the audio description track so afterward, we conferred, I realised it was the same screen, and so we went to Deal With This.

Dealing with something is when disabled people finally lose their rag, politely, and decide, something needs to be done and ‘no’ or being fobbed off is not going to happen. I let Mhairi take this one because she’s good at being politely annoyed and is the one which the much more sensitive hearing. We explained the problems had and while passes were appreciated, we weren’t actually doing it for free movie tickets. There’s a problem and I’m dying to get a Limitless card, explained I, so I want to give you my custom but we, because there’s always two of us, don’t want to have to worry about being forced to use one screening room out of perhaps 20 which is going to make us ill because of the sound.

This is the thing: most people who have a disability don’t want money or empty promises (though with Mhairi on the case Odeon is going to fix this, I’m certain of it).

We just want to get the problem solved as soon as possible.

Yes the passes are nice but they’re like a band aid for my nose, just a temporary patch and not a fix for the problem. A fix is all we want, especially as me and my companions have become regular and enthusiastic movie goers.

Here’s hoping, then, on both fronts, that the actual issue is addressed and sorted.

Because that would be nice.

The Things We Remember: WiP Cover

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I got bored and when I get bored, I design covers. Though this story is technically a proof of concept novella-thing (I have like 9k right now, it’s easily going to cross the mandatory 12,500 SFWA barrier into novella territory) for The Things We Remember, I also have a second novella in mind, The Lies We Tell (which is set in 2028, about nine years later, and deals with the start of the Terran Schism and Second Contact). 

I’m, frankly, loving writing Remember as this allows me to get into the head of Astraea, my blind New York lawyer (no jokes please) and also establish her timeline. Especially as the other stories she narrates, all novellas, are individual cases set in different points in her life and career.

This story, though, it’s about her pregnancy and the stories she tells her unborn son. The lives, the fragments of memory she’s kept locked away, but remain with her due to their importance or, sometimes, their normality. This is interspersed with the modern day as she moves from discovering her pregnancy, celebrating her niece’s bat mitzvah and telling family to and giving birth.

I’ve already written the last scene but the fun bit are the italicised sections, each a different life. Oh and I do like this cover, though it’s sadly inadequate due to Canva’s limited font-manipulating abilities, especially as the one for Lies is the left side of the same image, a much more troubled, stressed looking side to Astraea, which mirrors what happens when the Ashterai reveal themselves to humanity and she volunteers to be in the ‘hey I’ve been pretending to be human but I’m not’ vanguard.

What do you think?

I’m going to be posting this on Patreon so if you want to read it, you can pledge for content, stories and what not here: https://www.patreon.com/ashabardon

Hello Autumn: The 2016 Edition

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On Friday, I could smell it hanging in the morning air. the change in temperature, in intensity. Autumn’s coming. Autumn has a smell, a feel, just like rain does (as Doctor Who taught me, this is petrichor) but I’ve never found the word in English for the smell of a changing season.

Unless you’re in Starbucks, when the smell of autumn is most definitely PSL.

My year is connected to Starbucks because I spent so much time in there and is mostly tied into the latter half of the year with PSL and the Red Cups. This is a happy time of year for me, even as I hate the entire of winter. I could almost feel my Seasonal Affective Disorder waking up, like a snake in my stomach.

But the sunlight, the running of the hounds, helps. Exercise isn’t my favourite thing but I enjoy walking sedately throwing balls for dogs, meeting other walkers and having coffee with Mhairi. This week I think, counting today, we will have free run the dogs three times which must be some kind of record.

They love it and, frankly, so do we.

But autumn means other things; a shift in clothes, layers and my beloved, comfy rust red cardigan. It means thicker skirts and boots, new socks (all black) because I keep losing half of mine, always one foot and never the other.

But, as Shannon reminds me, this is also a time for re-starting work and new projects after the lazy summer days where it’s too hot or nice to work. She was asking me which of the seasons I favour and it’s always been the transitory ones: spring because it means winter is dead and finally buried and autumn because of the colours, the cooler weather and the abundance of blackberries on branches (which Uni loves).

Apparently, though, she loves them only when they’re on said branches or thrown at her. Not delicately placed on a platter for her to nosh on.

Fine, Uni, be awkward.

I find myself reaching for jackets, for shawls and wraps, wondering if I need to invest in some more skirts (I have two winter ones). I wonder when I’ll have to put the heating on, when I need to change the Direct Debit so I don’t go into massive debt over winter. I can feel it coming, whispering on the wind.

Winter is always coming.

This year, though, I’m not going to let it own me.

Uni’s Week Really Sucked

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Poor Uni hasn’t had a good week.

It started last Friday during lunch out where my friend Marie got to see what life with a guide dog is really like (aka the abuse we need to put up with from cretins). Seriously: she genuinely had no idea that people still believed—erroneously, I might add—that assistance dogs are somehow forced into working.

Anyone who has a dog, particularly flatties, knows this is dog poop.

Uni loves working. Okay, specifically, she loves the fuss, attention and compliments, I’m just a sideline into getting those, though she hasn’t yet got me killed and genuinely does look out for me. We’re, collectively, one of the more open pairings and allow most people a chance to pet Uni, bonus points are awarded for those who ask/who have children who love dogs.

Uni’s tarty attitude is part of her charm, she’s aware of her specialness particularly when coupled by her ‘gorgeousness’ which is the one word everyone uses when confronted with her. This is also why most people remember the dogs’ names and not their humans’. I’m just as guilty as this but given a choice between spending my day with dogs or humans, I’ll take the hounds, especially if that happens to be Bramble, most beloved of all guide dogs.

Anyway, it was a good day until this woman—whom Marie nicknamed ‘the old hag’, I neither agree with nor condone this but she chose her words well—started making eye contact with Uni. She was behind me, as was Un. Marie and I were happily chatting over very nice lunches. I assumed Uni was begging as she’d moved so tapped on her nose, told her to go ‘down’ into a lying position and returned to my pork carvery.

I’m trying not to feed Uni as much, as I’m poor and not feeding her means a smaller portion/skipping a starter = less money spent. Plus she behaves better when she’s not expecting a side of meat or a Yorkshire. Most places we go into bend over backward for us though and Uni likes Jarrolds because it’s busy/she gets a literal bucket of water before we’ve even sat down.

Marie and I are chatting, mostly about my desire to learn to knit and we decide it’s time to move out, I turn around to put Uni back into her working gear. She’d been off-harness, as she is in the picture above, because that’s more comfortable but you can still tell she’s a guide dog as she has a ‘DO NOT FEED ME’ sign on her lead (which fails more miserable than I do). She was sporting a nice bandana and wanted for nothing but my dinner.

Woman as I’m bending down to clip Uni’s ‘neon bra’ (Marie’s idea; I love it): “When did you last give that dog water?”

Me, a tad confused, guestures to the bucket and ignores her.

“When did you last feed her?”

This, FYI, isn’t a good way to start a conversation with a guide dog owner.

Me: “Excuse me?”

“When did you last feed your dog?”

A bit shocked but trying to be polite. “I don’t see why that’s any of your business.”

“She looks so hungry.”

Stunned now, tired and sensing confrontation: “She’s perfectly fine, thank you. Does she look underfed?”

Uni is a 30kg flat coat cross golden retriever. She doesn’t look starved in any way shape or form. Except for those big brown eyes, of course. Plus her hair is growing back in so if anything she’s starting to look larger than she is. Uni wasn’t at fault in this at all.

“I suppose they don’t have any choice, being dragged out.”

The next table have noticed, murmurings beginning. Righteous anger is starting to flood my soul as I channel my terrifying and beloved friend, Mhairi (who eats people like this for lunch): “You cannot force a dog to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She chooses to do her job and loves it.”

I know this because Uni has spent all morning, in Marie’s company, wagging her tail and generally acting noble and showing off because there’s a adopted member of her pack around (other members include: Shannon and Beloved Niece).

Woman gives me a look, not believing a word of it. She’s decided I’m abusing my dog and there’s no changing her mind. I half expected her to state she’s going to call the RSPCA (newsflash: not the right charity) which someone declared they were going to do to me several years prior.

The neighbouring table say things I don’t recollect, bar that I wanted to hug them for being supporting.

I’m raging in my fury by this point but also calm. I know the accusations; I also know the answers.

I am calm in my righteous anger, tell the woman she needs to educate herself more about assistance dogs before daring to decide a working dog is in anyway being taken advantage off. Neighbouring table tells her she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I pat the elderly gent on the shoulder as I pass him and whisper: “Thank you!”

We leave hurridly but not after I speak to the staff, who apologise. I have no idea if they took it further.

I’m rattled; Uni knows this. Marie is absolutely furious on my behalf. I’m left, though, not with a sense of ‘I did the right thing’ but a pressing desire to ring Peterborough, which is GDO code for ‘speak to Guide Dogs for validiation/make them aware in case The Woman does indeed have enough brains to find the right charity and call them’.

I’m not doing for validation though, even as I know I’ll get it. I’m doing that because it’s me versus a complainant. I’ve been falsely accursed before, as have others I know because some member of the public’s decided a repremand was ‘harsh’. Mhairi, for example, seldom repremands Bramble but when she does she doesn’t shout, she goes Full Scottish and that sounds terrifying. It triggers me but I also understand the reason for it, which somewhat mitigates the terror. Mhairi has much less vision than I do which means Bramble has to work harder and her not paying attention could have much nastier consequences than simply walking into something.

Five minutes later they hug and all is forgiven but the repremand must be given or the dogs think it’s okay. It’s how the relationship works. Think small child and a fire but the GDO is the one who will get burned.

I sometimes shout but I can’t do low and menacing. I’m much better than I used to be, nor am I the only one to be accused of shouting at the dog. Indeed I was reminded a few weeks ago, after someone with a dog was reported (matching my description) swearing. Like full on f***ing and blinding at their dog. I will swear, but in conversation and never AT Uni. I also have an alibi and there are a lot of middle-aged, short, overweight women in Norfolk with black dogs. I’m reassured that I know for certain it wasn’t me and that everyone matching that description got phone calls that morning.

We moved to Caffe Nero and I ended up having to call my instructor, who is lovely and busy. I hate bothering him but couldn’t get through to Peterborough but he confirmed I acted in the right (yay!) and mentally logged the incident. Done. Uni was rewarded with fuss and even more water, as well as dog biscuits I use to bribe her. But it was Marie’s first taste at how we’re sometimes treated and she was mortified, both for me (I’m, frankly, used to it by now) and Uni.

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Fast forward to Monday; thanks to running Uni and Brams at Eaton Park over the weekend, my anxiety about dealing with people had almost dissipated. The first few days after an incident always makes me anxious but today is a good day because Best Geek Friend Forever Shannon is down from London. I’m calm, despite the fact she’s coming on a replacement bus and it’s a Bank Holiday (never a good combo. Ever). This isn’t Shannon’s fault and I reminded her that it’s a sign of true Britishness if you know never to travel on trains on Sundays/Bank Holidays.

Shannon arrives, an hour late but ‘on time’ in terms of her bus, and we’re there to meet her. It’s a hot day, Uni has had all the water should could want, has been sat in the shade, in in full bandana-mode and I’ve just dumped a Venti cup of tap water over her to help cool her down. Shannon arrives, Uni goes into full on ‘OMVFGs it’s YOU’ mode. She dances, there is joy.

Then she throws up. Twice.

A woman gives me The Look but vomit it something I’m not legally required to deal with. We move away, I assume Uni’s just Excited (because she does it with a capital) so we head back into the city to meet Mhairi and Lorna and go to Wagamamas for lunch (yay!). Things are going awesomely; we have food and Uni is sitting with a bowl of water on a nice cold stone floor. All is well; then she starts making a noise all pet owners will recognise.

Mhairi assumed she was peeing and told me to her outside except it was all the wrong colour. Plus it wasn’t vomit; it was bile. There was nothing in her stomach at this point. I took her outside; she shakes, all’s well. We apologise to the lovely staff who come and clean up the biohazard mess in a packed restaurant. I’m filled with shame and starting to wonder if something’s up; Uni is still her excited self and being obedient so we finish our food.

Ten minutes later, more of the same comes out of her, this time in EE.

At this point I realise Uni is in fact sick. Common sense fled and (despite having her Vet Book on me, which would have allowed me to walk into any surgery in the city and get them to look at Uni), we decide to go home. I’ve specifically told Mhairi, if this happens again, to physically drag me to the  nearest vet. I was assuming. you see, that it was heat stroke, for which a vet can do nothing, except make sure she has fluids, is drinking and has time to recover. Uni wasn’t dehydrated, she was drinking when water was offered and she seemed her normal self.

Nope.

She threw up again on the bus, thankfully just before we needed to get off. I apologised, the bus driver was awesome about it and Uni seemed better by the time we got home. I put on the fan, open the windows, covered her in a wet towel and rang my vet, glad of out of hours. I got to talk to my vet but didn’t realise my surgery was actually open (I assumed it was like the NHS where the on-call surgery changes weekend to weekend so, for example, when I had toothache, I had to go to Wroxham instead of Aylsham). I assumed, even if they needed to see her, I’d have to take her half way across the county.

Frankly, I’ve never needed out of hours before. This sounds like I’m justifying but you have to understand I come from a background where things were either ‘treated’ (aka guestimated/diagnosed wrongly using a process of elimination and only then bothering a GP if the ailment persisted).

Vet was reassured that Uni was drinking like a fish, more than she usually would even in the heat, and I agreed to see how she was and bring her in first thing the following morning. No food would pass her lips until then which Uni didn’t seem too bothered by. She spent the afternoon being fine, obviously very under the weather and not vomiting. We went to Zumba, leaving her dead to the world and looking distinctly ‘ill’ (black dogs don’t do pale). She came and slept with me during the night but seemed okay; I had to do an emergency clean up because, being the angel Uni is, she doesn’t tell you when she’s ill and had thrown up on the mat by the door a couple of times (which is why I have a doormat/plastic matting combo).

I cleaned up and took her to the appointment. She was much improved by this point and the treatment was standard: an anti-emetic, a quick check of her backside to make sure it wasn’t colitis (which she’s had and even I can diagnose; it’s nasty as). We traded diagnoses and decided it was either heatstroke or she’d eaten something which disagreed with her (aka scavenged). I couldn’t remember her doing it but then she’s a sneaky bugger and I am blind. The point is, she was much improved and I got three tins of the dog food equivalent of chicken and rice for her.

Five minutes later, as we had to walk the mile home due to missing the bus, she brought up yellow bile and I was reassured. Green is bad, yellow is just acid reflux easily cured by giving her something to eat. Her stomach was empty, ergo the yellow nastiness.

We gave her the day to sleep it off and that was what cured her. No pressure, no undue exposure to the heat and a chance to chill out. The injection stopped the vomiting, she kept the food down and her body reset itself. Cured.

She’s now fine. We’ve taken her on another run, she’s chilled out and been her normally, happy self even as she’s been clingy. That’s a symptom of post-sick guide dogs, they’re like small children in that they need hugs and reassurance when they’re under the weather. She’s been voluntarily taking to the shade, content with large quantities of water and a ball stolen from Bramble. The run did her good as it’s the one time when she’s not working, can socialise and not be a guide dog. Watching her run with Bramble, especially, is like watching canine ballet and the day was made even more special by our first/last picnic of the summer.

Sometimes it’s the little things … and the dog biscuits.

I’m just glad she’s okay, frankly. She’s so seldom ill that when she is, it really hits home. Especially as she goes into ‘brave little soldier’ mode so you can’t tell until she’s Really Sick that she’s even under the weather. Between abuse and vomiting, it’s been one tough week for her so I’m pleased a new one is beginning and we can move on as fast as possible. Though I do still have to go into some places and hope they won’t remember us purely for the vomit.

One thing at a time …

When Does Evolution Become Transformation: “Washed Up Upon the Shore” to “Pearls and Memories, Spilled and Scattered”

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I’m not sure when Story A (in this case “Washed Up Upon the Shore”) becomes Story B (what I’m currently calling “Pearls and Memories, Spilled and Scattered”). The tenses changed from second person past to first person present and, while it’s at its core a milleu story about a priest on a quest to save a child, the story doesn’t feel the same anymore. Now into its sixth iteration, there are new scenes and a completely different journey towards a similar ending.

So where do you draw the line? Is Story A just a proto-evolved version of Story B? More importantly when does a story become so transformed that you can submit it to a market as a totally different entity to an earlier, imperfect draft?

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I have no idea. I suppose the good thing is I only submitted “Washed Up” to two markets. I’m revising it now because I want to submit it to a specific place which happens to be open. I can feel that itch in my fingers as I think about how the story needs to go. How I should have planned it. I can still do that, of course, and I have a mental map in my head. I also know where this needs to go, the marked out scenes and the comments from my crit group that the story needs to be darker.

But I’m left wondering, when does A become B and perhaps there isn’t an answer.

But that’s okay.

Chilling Out and the Dog Days of Summer

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This week, partly because my CBT is beginning, I’ve had homicidal PMS rage (which is still better than sobbing uncontrollably) and my therapy is ending, I’m trying to chill out.

Seriously, I find Sherlock really relaxing. I’m sure the decaff mocha helps. Also running into friends by accident, especially when one of them is the most-beloved Bramble, giver of unconditional love and hugs, really does give you perspective. Sometimes serendipity is awesome. As is the chance to run the dogs on Eaton Park, somewhere I’m coming to love more each time we visit.

Ditto having a good long chat with my guide dog instructor about medication issues relating to Uni’s long-term health problems and having my frustration validated. I like validation because it reminds me that I can actually be right about things, especially when it comes to Uni/the cats and my own life. I’m all for improving my self-worth, though that does mean being around other people (loneliness isn’t helping my anxiety, indeed it appears to be fuel for the fire). The dog days of summer, however, are all about taking things a little easier, especially in 26°C heat.

Speaking of dog days ….

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She suits the bandana, yes?

I’m actually quite pleased with myself, while I’m yet to get my head into Stranger Things, I have been listening to books and writing. I sent off “Washed Up Upon the Shore” to my crit group this morning and I’m hoping to submit it to a specific market next week if they’re still open. The story is stronger now though still imperfect (and this is like draft five) but there’s something in it which I still love. But I have high hopes and that’s something, especially as it’s been a while since I sent a story out into the wild.

On The Broken World front, I’m getting words down. Mostly it’s key scenes but this is draft one and so I’m trying not to care too much, just get the words on the page. Order can come later and that’s actually helping; stressing out over things I should need to control is a big trigger for me and I’m tried of panicking. This book is is no hurry, it’ll be born when it’s born. End of.

And, in truth, I’m loving writing it. Jaada is a big part of me, without being autobiographical, and she’s such a fun character to write. She knows she’s a part of a story but everyone has roles to play and hers, well, it’s a doozy.

The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: A Box of Bastet’s Makes Everything A Little Better

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Because sacred cat plushes really do cheer me up. I should have brought the entire case home with me from London. So, instead, I’ve been hugging my own cats and dogs; it’s the cheaper option.

Anxiety is a bastard.

Seriously, it’s been sneaking around like a ninja and jumping me when I least expect it. First thing in the morning and last thing at night seem to be the best times.

I know this is a side-effect, I can only hope it will eventually go away. For now, though, I’m stuck taking medication that gives me a couple of hours respite or finding a Bramble/Isis to hug. I keep crying, randomly, in front of my best friend and finding comfort in food (ramen FTW) and quiet restaurants with my headphones on and a good book playing.

Writing … well it’s been happening but I had the first tinges of burnout. That forced me to step back. I’m writing the bits I want to write, snatched scenes mostly in The Broken World. Jaada breaking codes, Jaada sensing the wrongness of history and making a friend whom she can never love but will love her regardless.

On a personal front, I’m trying to see my friends, cancel anything in the least bit stressful or triggering and just take it easy. I’m not depressed but anxiety still wears you down. I keep having to remind myself that if I was a diabetic I wouldn’t spend half an hour debating whether to take insulin.

I wouldn’t mind but it’s not like I have the ‘traditional’ panic attack. I don’t hyperventilate; I shut down and I run. My instinct is hard-wired, after decades of abuse and PTSD, to ‘run the fuck away to somewhere safe’. Fortunately, I have understanding friends and this usually happens when I’m not in their company.

Right now I hate being alone because it makes me worse, sitting in public is only slightly better but I need my headphones and a distraction (yay music and books). Being at home bring with it added stresses but at least I can write distraction-free.

But I want food I’ve not cooked, coffee I’ve not had to nip out and buy. This necessitates outside and doing things. It doesn’t help that my body clock’s alarm is set in the region of 5:30am either. I miss lie ins.

At least I’m doing the smart thing and trying to reduce things which might make me worse. Also coffee. Turns out Mhairi has been having the baristas replace my caffeine shot with decaff … sigh.

I don’t even care but it does mean the IBS hasn’t been quite so crippling. So there’s that.

The Atridia Duology: Books and Length

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As time has passed novels seem to be getting short and that’s something which has been on my mind lately. I’m reading (okay listening to) Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (tl;dr: it’s awesome, go listen to it). If I read one of his blog posts right, I think it’s about 160k (the hardback is a beautiful thing). Obviously, because I self-publish length is always in the back of my mind, though less so now I’m activelly writing more for myself and ebooks are continuing to rage and be more popular.

Yet, despite this, the average novel length seems to have shrunk to between 75k and 110k.

Now, as you know, I’m working on The Fractured Era, The Broken World, an in-world novel called The Divided Land, and a novella called When the Stars Fade. Because the first three projects are a duology with a third novel sandwiched inside, I’m very aware the final product may well be longer than usual. Say 100k for each novel, with Divided split across the two books; that’s a big paperback but, again, paperbacks don’t tend to sell and I’m included to make one for my personal collection and focus most of my attention on digital.

Digital is easier, aside from file size, the sky is the limit.

I almost wish I could just leave paperbacks behind but there’s still a call, still people who only read in print so I’ll always try for paperbacks, even if it means publishing Divided as a separate volume or something. Something is good. Something is a plan.

But how long will this be? Perhaps I need to outline more, to be more organised in how I shape the story. I plan to release the books, whenever that is, at the same time, on the same day. They’re nested, designed to be read as two acts of the same story, just as Divided is, though the protagonists are different.

When the Stars Fade, on the other hand, is a pet-project. Not quite a prequel but still tied to the universe, to the Narrative, to Jaada. Plus it starts to explain why the Atridians saught their neighbouring planet in the first place, as well as the genesis of the wars between the Xoikari and the Tabori which culminates in what the Ubani call the Devastation and the Directorate, the Singularity. Plus it gives me a chance to write about space and exploration, astronauts and stars.

 So, right now, 100k is my max limit for each book. We’ll go from there, I think.