Progress and Short Stories

I’m still sick; this lurgy is going to be the week long suffering plus three week recovery kind. I hate those because even doing simple things leaves me lying on the sofa feeling like a piece of soggy cabbage.

I hate being ill but I had drawn out recovery even more. I’m able to do things like go out but I spend the rest of the day lying on the sofa and feeling really dizzy. I’ve basically been watching Breaking Bad for three days straight though I did manage to revise “Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul”. I even had a market in mind … and then discovered the anthology was cancelled this morning.

Sigh.

I’m trying to look on the upside: I have a story nearly ready to go with my crit group in a few weeks which is nice. Also, it’s my first nearly-done story for 2017 which is awesome given my three month funk (aka the Winter of Discontent). Shannon has reminded me that this is a big thing, actually revising a story and polishing it so it starts to shine. I have a couple of replacement markets in mind (it was originally written for a specific antho call last year so has only been sent out once).

S’all good, man.

Illness and Cats: Death-watching and Me

I caught the half-term lurgy (via the medium of the awesome Lego Batman Movie) and have, as expected, been struck down hard by child-germs. As a happy child-free adult, I have zero immunisation to kid-spread illness and this sends me to my sofa and D and Ceri into full-on death watch mode.

At least I know Ceri won’t eat me. D, on the other hand, keeps randomly licking me to see if I’m ‘done’ yet. I’ve tried explaining I’m diseased meat but he’s looking at me like a wounded deer lying in the snow, waiting to die. He keeps waking me up by bopping me on the nose, just to see if I’m still breathing. It doesn’t help that all I’ve done is lie on a sofa watching whatever’s on YouTube.

My concentration is down to like 5% and I’ve exhausted myself just by going into the city for a good, freshly cooked meal. Tonkotsu ramen is the ultimate healing food as it combines hot pork broth, noodles and tasty meat, all of which I need to get back to my normal level of health. Throw in gyoza and yakitori and I’m in heaven/ Added to that, I’m not usually sick but when I get a bug it slams down on me. Hard. I knew this was coming, my throat started getting scratchy as we left the cinema and I spent that night doing the full on fever stewing. Nights are the worst when you’re sick.

Nights are the worst when you’re sick.

All I can do is drink fluids, sweat it out and just wait for this pesky thing to get out of my system.

The other problem with getting sick is my mood; it’s been a bad week and it doesn’t take too much to set off my mood swings. Friday was horrendous as I spent the entire day being triggered by a horrendous pair of events (including being stalked by someone else’s stalker and metaphorically stabbed in the gut) and it’s still affecting me several days on. Fortunately, I have a spine now which is making things easier and when I’m sick I get grumpy which means I’m not afraid to stand up, tell people to fuck off and slam doors in faces.

But, on the upside, I think I’m finally passed this. Tomorrow is a new day and the start of a new week. That’s got to be good, right?

Nearly There: February’s A-Coming

Note the quietly sleeping D on my bed as the sun casts its light upon him.

Yeah, I have to get up so the mightiest of felines can claim my spot during daylight hours with sun-puddles. He especially appreciates, as do all his kind, fresh sheets and a made bed. Oh and he looks so peaceful (which makes it all worth it) because nothing is better than a sleeping cat who is not attacking your feet or trying to stomp on the keyboard.

Yeah he’s been doing both those things for, like, a few weeks now. ever since I claimed the sofa.

I hurt my foot walking around Bath in December so have been trying to rest it as much as possible, hence curling up on the sofa with my laptop. It’s getting better but an injury to the plantar fascitis takes a lot of time to heal.

The weather’s still shite but it’s starting to turn out less grey, less stereotypically British winter. The dawns are getting more epic too and it’s usually sorta not-dark by the time I’m in Norwich at eight. But I’m also spending more time at home, curled up with cats and binge-watching TV shows. I am writing but at a much slower pace, I got one story finished (“Honey and Silver”) for my crit group and am trying to get a handle on “Hearts of Stone and Age” (which I will probably shorten to “Heart of Stone” or something similar).

But it doesn’t feel like I’m putting in enough effort. I know I am and that writing something is better than nothing. My crit partners have sad the same thing and they’re right. The power of self-disbelief is strong though but I’m tired, have SAD and need the time to recuperate. Anything, and it seems to be short stuff, is a bonus right now.

But February and Imbolc are coming, hopefully the harshness of winter is over for another year and we can focus on spring, New Dog and warmer weather.

A World of Mist and Cold

It looks like Silent Hill outside (I took this last year but it’s a pretty decent approximation if you triple it and remove the sun plus it saves me having to leave my duvet on the sofa). Like the original game, where it was used to masterful effect and you genuinely felt claustrophobically lost.

Except with ice that wants to kill you.

I took a tumble (not ice related but ow) at the weekend and so I’m much more cautious than usual (which is to say I’m at DEFCON 1 normally) but this weather, ugh. The cats agree with Ceri roasting on the windowsill, D curled up between my ankles on the duvet and Isis nesting behind the sofa with as much fur contact on the radio is as possible without her actually, you know, cooking.

I have smart cats.

Imbolc is coming in just a few days and I live in hope we’ve broken winter’s back. The constant grey bleughness is miserable. Oh and it was so bad yesterday, Norwich had an alert out. Good job I wasn’t out there then.

My memory is still bad, January isn’t a time to try dealing with insomnia. Frankly, January isn’t a time for dealing with anything.

But yeah, surviving over here. Sorta anyway.

Sailor Moon Drops

Due to my concentration issues and memory, I’m not the gamer I once was. I do however love anything Sailor Moon related and have been finding myself using up my commute by playing the special events on Sailor Moon Drops. I used to play the Japanese one but now the English version is catching up and offering the same events (where you play to unlock new skins, the current one being Super Sailor Moon), I switched over.

Except it’s hard. Really hard. Like that boss on Ninja Gaiden II that I couldn’t get past for like EVER.

On the outside, it’s a randomly generated clone of Bejewelled but with a few twists and Sailor Moon‘s five arcs. You also get access to the special attacks and cute wallpapers of the various senshi in their battle and civilian forms. The bonus events are even harder but fun as I can use the Japanese website to get an idea of what’s coming up; plus the game itself keeps the Japanese audio which is a nice touch. Seriously if I had to listen to a dubbed version, I’d go nuts.

The bonus events are even harder but fun as I can use the Japanese website to get an idea of what’s coming up; plus the game itself keeps the Japanese audio which is a nice touch. Seriously if I had to listen to a dubbed version, I’d go nuts.

Plus,  as I’m supposed to be finishing a story for my crit group next week, the game is serving as a distraction. People now count emergency batteries as a must for Pokémon Go but mine is for Sailor Moon Drops.

You get 5 goes before having to wait a couple of hours (or buy more) which is usually enough to get me through my commute or just reach my ‘fuck this game’ state. But it’s fun and it gives me something to do. Right now I need the distraction.

The January Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder, coupled with the depressive side of bipolar and a slight issue when it comes to a loss of my beloved canine mobility aid, means January is sucking hard. There never seems to be enough cash lying around (and I just bulk bought cat food for my feline overlords). Said cats are trying to compensate with ALL THE LOVE but it’s not quite enough to tip the tide. Oh and apparently it’s going to snow tomorrow.

No. Just no. At least, if it does snow, I have a couple of books to read, good books and a comfy sofa on which to sit.

Sadly the sunrise is something I’m seeing little off, it’s usually dark for most of my commute into the city. However, when I do see them, they’ve been stunning. I usually sit in the cab of the bus, right behind the door which affords me stellar views of the A47 (/sarcasm).

And, oh fucking gods, please don’t snow.

Understand I don’t hate snow per se, I just hate what it does to my mobility, specifically in the frozen and slush stages. I have zero issues with walking while it is snowing and, in fact, quite enjoy it. It’s the best time to go to the supermarket, in fact, as everyone else is not there.

I’m neither properly depressed nor manic at the moment, but I am still miserable. I don’t want to go into supermarkets (because it’s all too easy to spend money) and I certainly don’t want to go out after dark. Even putting a letter in the post was too much this morning (so I gave it to the postwoman as she brought me a Lakeland catalogue). I’m able to get coffee and go into the city but that’s about it.

However I’m also trying to meal plan and use up the contents of my freezer, I’m also trying to cook a meal a day and eat lots of soup. Soup is warm and filling and the garage sells nice baguettes that are right next to the bit where I stand to get my coffee. If it does snow, I know I have gyoza and bread, leftovers from tonight, various meat stuffs and enough to make spag bol for the weekend.

January, by its sheer definition, just seems to make everything harder. I can’t concentrate (though that could just be because I’m watching Homeland which requires it.) I need to go to Zumba but the idea of being in a room of people with loud music after dark just makes me want to hide behind my sofa with Isis. This also means I can’t settle on a project, even though I have a new short story on the front burner. I just lack the motivation to work on it, or anything else. I’m waking up but from then on, the days just drag, then it gets dark and cold … Rinse and repeat.

At least, if I go into town and top up my Nero card, I’ll have coffee and a comfy seat that doesn’t keep moving (my desk chair is now making death-rattles and sinking every time I sit down in it). Warmth, a croissant and WiFi is a bonus. I just feel lost, uninspired and very mundane which means spending a lot of time just surfing the internet and watching TV shows on Netflix. I know all this is a passing thing and it will get better. Just hugging Bramble the other day did me wonders, ditto the small puppy I fussed as I waited for the bus. Watching Gismo and D size themselves up is also entertaining (and D is currently losing the war).

New Dog would help right now but it’s not going to happen on my schedule, it’ll happen on Guide Dogs’ (which also explains why today sucked because they called me and, for two glorious seconds until I saw it was their main switchboard number, I thought it was THE call, even though I know better). No one does matching visits in January because there aren’t any dogs (another strike against the month IMHO).

Yeah, I wish I could say positive things but I can’t. I’m going to take an eARC and curl up on the couch with some music on then go to bed, it’s all I can do until this weather decides if it’s going to be awful or not.

Retelling Old Tales: “Hearts of Stone and Age”

A while ago, I did Rachel Swirsky’s class on retelling old stories. This weekend I did Cat’s class on building characters (elementary, you might think, but still incredibly useful and well worth taking. Thanks to my Patrons who covered the cost as well!). The morning before, I started on a new story, which I’m calling “Hearts of Stone and Age” was very much a re-telling of The Little Mermaid but set in a secondary world I’m developing. Meren, the merfolk of this world (the Wasting World and the same one featured in “Pearls and Memories, Spilled and Scattered”), are wild and dangerous and very inhuman which makes it all the odder for a statue of one to sit in the harbour of a prosperous little port town.

It’s a nesting story and focuses not on the mermaid (who isn’t a princess), but on the sorceress (who in this story was the creature’s lover, not her enemy) and on her mentor who cursed the sorceress with unending youth. It’s still a story of two worlds meeting and things going wrong but

Cat asked us to do two exercises as part of the class, both of which really helped. The first was to write about the protagonist from their own perspective, who they are:

My name is Talin and I am old, I was a sorceress when the world was young and I lived in a small harbour town watching as it grew, offering my services to whomever needed it. I was cursed with immortality and, worse, unending youthfulness. It forced me to move around lest my secret be uncovered as everyone, in their heart of hearts, never wants to know death. I don’t know if my state can be stolen or another infected with it. But I also know that only when I find someone who accepts what I am and offers to take my burden from me without my asking them to do so, knowing what it means to live until the end of days immortal, can I pass from this world. And, until I fell in love, I never wanted to. The problem is my beloved is a creature of the sea; mortals and Meren, they can’t live in each other’s worlds and I don’t know if we go to the same place after we die. Meren turn to sea-foam, humans to bone and ash. So I turned my beloved into a statue, at her request, and continued to wander, seeking out the person who would release me but who would also keep the secret of what I was, only then can I return, free my beloved and we can face death together.

The second was to write about the protagonist for the point of somone who hates them, which is where the evil mentor comes in:

She was beautiful, thought that was more birth and breeding than any glamour or other woven magics. Her pretty heart reflecting in kind eyes and a desire to help, not hinder, those who came to her. She was my pupil once and I thought, perhaps, her goodness was just a front and I could seduce her into darkness. No, she was good to her sweet core and the dark deities, they cannot stomach purity. So I invoked them and blessed her with the long life of my kind but wove a curse. But, when she realised how dark my heart was and who I served, she ran, refuted me, and renounced all connection to our kind and the covenants. She went rogue and wandered and, you know what? She never stopped seeing that beauty in the world, even after civilisations had burned to ash and love, well it only made things worse.

The final one was to write about a possession that the protagonist carries with them and their relationship with it:

In the first days after the statue of the Meren holding her heart appeared in the harbour, everyone was very confused and no one knew where it came from. A week after, I took a piece of sea-smoothed glass found as we watched that last sunrise together to a local mason, asking him to please carve me a replica of the statue’s heart. By the time I returned three decades later, his main business was selling tiny stone and sea-glass statues of her. Mine, however, remained unique, no one wanted her heart, no they wanted the idiolised beauty of a carved sea-maiden. Her heart, in miniature, it has traveled years and miles in a tiny cloth pouch, kept safe deep in my pack. I take it out at night when I can’t be with her, when I’m lying in a tavern bed or camping in the wilderness. It anchors me to her even when I’m a life and a million miles from the ocean. One day I will return, let the heart return to the sea and speak the words which will free her from the stone.

The thing is, though these pieces will never make their way into the story, they did help me figure out the mechanics of the story. Oh and there’s going to be a showdown on the beach between the evil witch and the good sorceress, witnessed by an innocent bard seeking the truth to the legend of the Meren holding her heart in her hands. This is my first new story of the year and a nice take chance to try my hand at retelling one of my favourite stories.