Time For a May Update!

So it’s time for an update, it’s been a couple of weeks and I currently have a D on my foot, which means I’m stuck.

Send help and chocolate!

But, seriously, spring is … erm … springing. We have blossom and my windows are open/the Sonos are on half-pelt. Life’s okay.

My foot is going to sleep. Crap.

But, yeah, I survived London and Easter. S’all good. My mood has been relatively stable which is nice, though my anxiety remains through the roof. Not so good but it’s a work in progress. Shall we do this through the medium of bullet points, just for brevity?

 Okay then:

  • London was awesome. I really enjoyed it. I’m still paying it off but it was worth it.
  • Hidden Figures is even more awesome in the cinema. Bonus for having an actual American with me who can explain the whole political mess around it and the Space Race. Also, it makes me want to go back to my Space Race on an alien planet novella.
  • I am writing. My current focus is still on the Atridia books, specifically on a short story I’m calling “Bindings, Seen and Not” about a neutral gender bookbinder living in a city under state-sanctioned non-binary gender oppression.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale was amazing … and severely triggering. I want to watch the rest of it (I think there are like ten episodes). I’m not sure I’ll be able to though, it’s horrifically foretelling but incredibly relevant. I know a lot of people are noping out purely because of anxiety issues with the content.
  • In election news, I’m noping out. Due to a bureaucratic cock-up relating to the Great Name Change, I’ve been kicked off the electoral roll and won’t be back on it time for the local election. I’m very angry about this but also glad I caught it as I do want to vote in the general election next month. I just don’t want to have to listen to the election kerfuffle until then. Aside: I know it’s a cock-up because they have ZERO records of me under Old Name either and I’ve lived here for a decade and voted, both in person and postal. They also have no problems sending me Council Tax bills in my new name. It’s a work in progress but I don’t expect it to be resolved in time to vote locally (I have re-registered to vote and intend to give someone at Electoral a serious talking to about the legalities of this, I’m registered as a head of household and am not dependent of anyone else so there’s no reason for me to have been removed).
  • There’s no ETA on the guide dog front either. Sigh. The cats are picking up the slack though. Bramble and Gismo hugs are also helping.
  • I got an update on Uni’s progress and she’s doing so well. She’s happy and has a beach. That’s all I can ask for.
  • My mood has been yoyoing but nothing too hard-core though I managed to really trigger myself last weekend. It was unpleasant. Oh and I’ve been obsessing again, mainly on buying things, Field Notes and food. Oh and Midori, of course. But I’m starting to argue out reasons why I should wait (example: my phone is due an upgrade but, instead, I’m going to go sim-only for a few months/til the end of the year as it’s cheaper).
  • Money-wise, I sat down and worked out my income and did a spreadsheet. I’ve worked out a rough, date by date, payment plan and should be debt free just after my birthday. I even budgeted in a new Limitless card and my rent. 2018 should start out with a nice, clean, slate. If I can restrain myself and focus on the Big Picture.
  • At some point, I’m going to write that book on bipolar or, at least, how to manage things like money while dealing with the mood swings.
  • I’ve decided to teach myself bookbinding (I started learning it a couple of years ago), thanks to the help of YouTube. Actually, I’ve been a lot more crafty of late; mostly laminating stuff and experimenting with little things like making postcard-sized pictures for my fridge (mostly of upcoming movie posters and inspirational quotes) or laminating stuff for friends. I am now the proud owner of an awl, a craft knife, cutting map, guillotine and haven’t yet done myself any serious damage. Go me. My task for this week is to learn to saddle stitch and learn how to bind my own notebooks for my wallet (there’s more variety in terms of paper and cover colour). Plus it keeps my brain quiet which is the biggest thing.

  • I cancelled my gym membership. The pressure of attendance (I’m not an evening person, especially not when I ‘have’ to do something I don’t want to do) and my continuing plantar fasciitis had been driving me nuts. Said PF was getting better, then I went to London. Sigh. On the upside, I’m not missing the place and much prefer walking around Eaton Park with my guide dog owner friends and their hounds.
  • I’m eating better food. Simple meals which are easy to cook and fast (or involve the minimum amount of prep). This week it’s garlic and bacon pasta with chorizo and lots of herbs. Healthy and tasty.
  • My faux Midori wallet is working beautifully, as is the free diary I got from JP Books (though it runs out in September and I kinda want a dated one. Dates are hard.). I’ve been playing with the inserts and now have a zipper pouch, a kraft folder and a notebook inside each other on the first string and my diary and expenses ledger held together with a band on the second. It works perfectly. Oh, I added a Neo Queen Serenity tiara charm onto the string and it sits beautifully on my yen coin.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is freaking awesome. End of. I didn’t look at my watch once AND I’m going back tomorrow.
  • I’m looking forward to so much TV and so many movies. I have tickets to Alien: Covenant and Wonder Woman already. I’m actually going to the cinema physically and ordering in bulb because the Odeon site only lets me book two performances ahead online (in person I can book loads). It’s annoying and cramping my social life.
  • Doctor Who is actually kinda good this season.
  • American Gods starts tomorrow. YAY!!!!
  • I’m managed to keep on top of household stuff, though I’m yet to put my washing away. Small steps, Asha, small steps.
  • I’m back in therapy and it’s helping. Reddit is helping more in terms of a support group which is just odd but so welcome. Ditto my very closest chosen family.
  • Ramen is still awesome.
  • I finally got my hands on a Lindt 1kg Gold Bunny in the post-Easter sales and I don’t regret it. Not for one second. 😀
  • We are Groot, people!
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Campbell Award Eligibility — 2nd Year

So, it’s that time again! Award season is upon us!

As far as I’m aware I have one short story up for eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: “The Elissiad” (originally published by Windrift Books in Alt.History 102). The other story I sold doesn’t quite meet the eligibility criteria, sadly. As this is my second year, this is also my last chance in the running (not that I have a chance of actually getting the award, of course).

However, I have submitted the story to the annual and forthcoming Campbell Anthology which collects stories from all the eligible authors. I only found out about that today so I’ll have more info soon, hopefully.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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