- Father’s Day June 21, 2015
- New House Journal. Day 9. April 24, 2015
- New House Journal. Day 5. April 20, 2015
- The Saturday after the Thursday before – thoughts on the referendum September 20, 2014
Tagsaltered symmetry anthology apex magazine attitude autumn blood is to ink is to skin is to breath bsfa orbiter 6 chapbook clockwork phoenix cons craft doesn't play well with others easily distracted happy place hypergraphia leave me alone unless you bring booze or coffee LTW never knowingly under-caffeinated onwards personal photography poetry pome process publication reading rejection retrospective review sales scotland SHINY short fiction singularity spider spoken word spotty raptors sunseasand sunset synaesthesia target acquisition trapped in story send help or pizza wildlife word fuel worldcon
An Elegy in Dustvines13310 / 90000
Number of completed short stories6 / 12
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Recently ReadIt's hard to know what to make of this book. The blurb on the back would have the reader believe that it's a collection of traditional stories from the branch of the Roma people who lived in Scotland, and that Robertson is a master story...The Essex and the calamity that befell it is said to have been the inspiration for Herman Melville's Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. In the Heart of the Sea is not the first account of the tragedy, but it claims to be the most thorough; I have...I picked this book up in the train station at Waverley on my way to a conference last November, because it had a crow on the cover and, well, because Atwood. I didn't get around to reading it for a while, and when I did I knew instantly ...by Nina AllanThis is Allan's debut novel, and it's an accomplished piece of work. The blurb on the back is somewhat misleading; this is less about a girl and her dog than it is about the nature of fiction and reality, and how subjective experiences a...
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Words in 2015
An Elegy in Dustvines13310 / 90000
The Earth Cannot Hold10500 / 100000
Number of completed short stories6 / 12
1 novellette ("Into The Dark Together", 11k words)
1 novella ("Swimming Lessons for Boys", 20k words)
Two months ago, we adopted a five-and-a-half year-old Siberian Husky/Alaskan Malamute cross. We’d been looking for a dog for almost two years at that point, and had been unsuccessful in persuading the Rescue Centres that the dogs we liked were suitable for us, and us for them.
But that was fine. We weren’t interested in any particular dog, we were interested in the right dog. We were about to register interest in yet another collie, only to be pipped at the last minute. I found out when I opened the website to show a work colleague who had also recently embarked on the dog ownership adventure.
Although disappointed that our pick had gone, I spotted a dog that hadn’t been there even that morning. After a quick check with Frood, I filled out the form, and after that it all happened very quickly.
They asked us if we were prepared for the settling in period. She may go off her food, or have digestive upsets. She might chew. The very nice woman who did the home check told us her most recent adoption ate her husband’s wallet and mobile phone, as if this were the naughtiest thing imaginable.
Our sofa was inexpensive. Wallets and phones are replaceable.
As it turned out, she had none of those problems. A little unsettled the first weekend, but she made herself right at home, aided no doubt by suddenly going from half an hour of walking a day to between one and three, with trips to the beach and expeditions into the forest.
She has been a sweet, friendly, happy and yet still independent addition to our small family, and I love her to bits.
This morning we had our first dog-related breakage.
Yes, it’s a mug. It’s a 1991 Nexus Design Celtic Knotwork bone china mug, and you can find one on Ebay for less than a tenner (not counting the nearly 25 quid postage from the States, which renders it unjustifiable).
It’s not Ming. It’s not even Royal Doulton.
It’s only a mug.
But I bought that mug from a shop in Tobermory in 1992, still dressed in a wetsuit from diving the Hispania that morning. I’d sat in a bathtub at a depth of 30m while my Dad watched and my Uncle Bill operated our RIB up top. That evening, we went to get air from the self-operated machines at Loch Aline, humping the tanks up the hill on foot. Afterwards, we went to the pub, and Uncle Bill bought me pints of 80 Shilling until I was drunk, and Dad gave me a fistful of coins so I could call Frood on the pub phone and play “No, YOU hang up!”
It was the only time I’d been on a trip with my Dad and Uncle Bill and not had the rest of the family along. It was special, and the memory is precious, because I didn’t get to spend enough time with my Dad. I was sent to school in England at the age of 15 and didn’t come back to stay a significant amount of time for another 20 years. On the rare occasion I was back home, Mum and Dad were usually busy, and the motor racing and the business and the foreign trips took up so much time I hardly got to speak to either of them, never mind hang out the way I did with Dad that long weekend.
It wasn’t Ming, it wasn’t even Royal Doulton.
But it was far more than a mug.
It was my fault; I should have been more careful. I should not have started playing with the dog before making sure this memory anchor was safely out of reach.
If it were easy to get, I’d buy another in a heartbeat. Not the same mug, no, not the one I handed over cash for while dripping on the floor of the gift shop and explaining that a cold wetsuit is a horrible thing and we were diving again that afternoon (we did, and I had a close encounter with a friendly seal who nibbled my fin).
But near enough to cradle and remember a time when Dad and I were close.
It’s hard to believe it’s November already. I don’t know where time has gone.
I realise I haven’t updated this blog since May — it has been even longer since I did anything with my other one — and, for once, I’m not going to hold myself to task over it.
A friend and I were having a glum discussion about boilers the other day, and the terrifying prospect of having to replace one. To give this some context, when Frood and I bought our house in early 2015, we knew it was going to be a bit of a project. We hadn’t realised how much of a project it would turn out to be. As my friend said, being an adult pretty much turns out to be a game of resource management. This house has taken up a lot of resource, in terms of time, energy and money, and between that and the day job there hasn’t been much left. What little I’ve had I’ve put into writing, although the one thing writing needs and I lack is mental energy. It’s hard to write when you can do barely more of an evening then eat and fall asleep on the sofa, and when it takes most of the weekend for your brain to decompress from the previous week.
In our previous house, I used to get up and write before work. Since this house is too far from work to cycle, we were both spending too much time sitting in front of a computer, and not getting enough exercise. My health had begun to suffer, and I know where that leads. Been there, done that, don’t intend to do it again. So while we’re now both getting up super early before work, that time is for trying to undo the effects of spending the rest of the day relatively inactive.
So there we are. Being an adult is a matter of resource management, and I have had barely the resource to write, never mind post to the blog.
And, you know, that’s okay. Having a social media presence is important, sure, but it’s not the critical part of being a writer. What is
In a way, I think that lack of resource has been useful. It’s easier to produce when you have all the time in the world, but it’s also easier to click trance away on some spurious line of research or be distracted by the wonders of the internet. When you are limited for time, and know it, you knuckle down and do the work. Bum on seat, words on page. It’s a bit like a Masterchef challenge in which the contestants have to produce a three course meal in 20 minutes or something else ridiculous. You can’t just work hard, you have to work smart.
One day, I hope that I will have more time to write, but I also hope I can hold onto that lesson of working smart, not just hard, and focusing on what matters.
It’s fledgling time for the spotty raptors.
“Oh hey wow. One of four, eh? Must be tough.”
“Dude, you have no idea. It’s impossible to get any peace. It’s all ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME ME. I can’t even have a bath without one of the others wanting to get in too. Just five minutes, you know? That’s all. That’s all I want. Just five minutes. Or two. I’d settle for two. Or even one. Hell. Yeah. Let’s say one. One damn minute of peace. To chill, have a drink. Get some water up under the feathers. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to eat in peace, I’m not going to torture myself imagining being able. To eat. By myself. Without one of THEM trying to get in on the act. But a bath? You’d think I could manage one godsdamned freaking minute by myself to get the dust out. Just one. One. That’s all. Not twenty, not ten. Just one.”
“Harsh, man. Really harsh.”
- 365shortstories has posted reviews for all of the CP5 stories. Mike Allen has rounded them up over at Mythic Delirium. You’ll find the review of The Prime Importance of a Happy Number here.
- Also at Mythic Delirium, Mike has posted links to a review from Andrea Johnson and to a livestream of the busy launch party.
- There are a number of reviews of Best of Apex Volume 1 up at Goodreads, including a 4/5 star review for She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow from one reviewer (thanks, Althea Ann!).
CP5 could use some reviews up at Amazon, so if you’ve read it please consider posting a review. Every one helps!
Spring means the return of communal bathing season. The birds didn’t do much bathing over winter, unsurprisingly. Now the sun forays forth occasionally and Floralia is upon us, they are back at it. It’s also baby-making time, so our garden is a flurry of frantic feathered fauna doing their best to put ALL THE FOOD into their beaky faces to take back to the nest.
While chatting with a colleague at work over a break, looking out the window at some seagulls, I voiced aloud my imaginings of what the birds might be thinking. She expressed surprise that anyone would do this — I have no idea whether this habit results from a childhood of indoctrination by Johnny Morris, or simply my constantly hyper-active imagination. I can only assume there’s something instinctive about it, though; since being exposed to the concept, my colleague tells me the habit has caught on.
At the meeting of Lemon Tree Writers a fortnight ago, we received an interesting workshop from the writer Sophie Cooke. A workshop presenter rarely covers short fiction, long fiction and poetry all in the space of one workshop, and this one was very well received by our eclectic mix of Scottish writers. While largely pitched for novice writers, I enjoy any prompt to produce some potentially useful word chunks, and found this no exception. Despite poetry requiring much more effort from me than prose, I managed to throw something together that didn’t sound terrible when I read it out, reminding me again of that well-known quote from cyclist Greg Lemond:
If it had been suggested to me even five years ago I could produce an eighteen line poem in the space of ten minutes, which — critically — I would not be too embarrassed to read out to a dozen people I barely knew, I would have found it hard to believe. Exercises like this are good reminders of why all the writing and reading is important. Even writing one has no intention of ever seeing the light of day presents an opportunity to embed a reluctance for copulas, a mental red flag for flabby words such as “that” and “very”, and the habit of specificity.
I think, these days, even my imaginary conversations between starlings need less copy-editing than they used to.
I’ve noticed that it’s the time of year for award eligibility, so here is what I’ve got in the running for 2016 awards.
I had a slow year on the writing front, but She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow is eligible in the short story category and available to read for free (or you can listen to the podcast). Should you wish to cast some love in the direction of Hedron, Chancery and Skook, I could bathe in the warm fuzzies like a happy baby sea flap flap.
It also turns out this marks my first year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. My thanks to the moderators, especially David Walton, for helping me confirm that and getting my name up on the list.
Just being on there feels like an achievement!
I was delighted to receive my contributor copy of Clockwork Phoenix 5 a couple of days ago. It is a stunning book, and I’m not just saying that because I’m (more than slightly) biased. It arrived at work, and a couple of my colleagues were driven to remark on how nice it felt — the print quality is excellent. Although I’ve had an electronic copy for a while, I’ve been saving the other stories for when the physical copy turned up, and so far Jason Kimble‘s The Wind At His Back indicates a fantastic collection.
This book will be released on the 5th April, and can be pre-ordered direct here (same as first link above), or from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble and a few other places. If you follow the first link in this post, you’ll find all the pre-order links.
A Clockwork Phoenix 5 launch reading will take place on April 5th at 19:30 in The Brooklyn Commons Cafe at 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, New York as part of the New York Review of Science Fiction/Hour of the Wolf Reading series. Mike Allen be there, and so will seven of the book’s 21 contributors: Rob Cameron, C. S. E. Cooney, Barbara Krasnoff, Carlos Hernandez, Sonya Taaffe, Shveta Thakrar, and A. C. Wise. All will read excerpts from their Clockwork Phoenix 5 stories. I can’t make it, owing to the presence of a large, wet, wobbly thing in which one finds fishes and whales and crabs and octopuses.
And, if you’re in book buying mood, Best of Apex Volume 1 is now in stock at Amazon UK, and presumably elsewhere. This book reprints my story from the December issue, She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow.
I nearly forgot my final goal for this year.
I read a lot, as any writer should. Our house is one giant library, and there are stacks in my currently-reading and to-be-read piles. I have, however, been very BAD at reviewing the books I read, and the best way of supporting a writer or publisher is to review their output. This is such a good thing to do for the writers you want to support that I thought I’d add it as a separate post. So, if you’re a reader rather than a writer, or a writer who wants to support other writers, do try to review the work you read. If you’ve got your own website, fantastic, but you can post reviews at Amazon, Goodreads or some other curation site if you don’t.
It really does make all the difference.
Towards the end of January last year, I posted a note of my writing goals for the year. I declined to review the year that had just been because it had been a particularly difficult one.
I’m not going to dwell on 2015, either, because I want to keep my focus firmly forwards. Still, there’s no point setting targets unless you review how close you came to meeting them.
How did I do?
I didn’t manage having something out to market at all times. Not quite. The process of moving from draft to fully polished piece is still taking longer than I’d like, but that’s fine. I was super close.
I didn’t manage to complete to first draft one short story for every month of the year, but I came closer than I have any previous year, with 6 completed shorts, one novella and one novelette. In terms of non-hypergraphia, stuff I might be able to use word count, I’m calling that target met.
I didn’t get much further with either of my novel projects in terms of words on the page, so I’m out for a duck. It doesn’t mean I didn’t do any work on them, though, and that work will stand me in good stead this year.
I didn’t update my blogs as often as I intended. Although I did up the frequency considerably here, my other blog languished in the doldrums.
That said, we did buy and move into a new house in April, a house that needs considerable renovation, and the dayjob has been inconsiderately demanding (joke — in the current climate, I’m damn lucky to have it). With those two factors running interference, I don’t feel too bad about not fully meeting these targets. The work I have produced this year has been variable, but it includes some material of which I am extremely proud and hope will find a good home someday.
Let’s not forget I made two thrilling sales, to Apex Magazine and Clockwork Phoenix 5. Both of these are dream markets, and I still can’t quite believe it. My story at Apex, She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow, was podcasted, produced by Lisa Shininger. This was the first time I’ve ever heard one of my stories read aloud by someone else, and it’s a strange but exciting experience.
What’s on the cards for 2016?
More of the same, with a few tweaks.
- Have something out to market at all times.
I’ll repeat this goal this year, but I hope this becomes such a fact of life it will no longer be a goal but a state of being.
- Complete to first draft at least one short-form story for every month of the year.
- Get to grips with flash.
I’m lumping these together because I’m hoping number 3 will help me achieve number 2. Last year my target was derailed by the hypergraphia’s tendency to go into this weird state of WORDSSSSS, OH YES WORDSES MOAR OM NOM NOM WOOOOORRRRDSSSSESSSSS AWWW YISS MOAR MOAR WORDSES.
- Write every day.
I shot myself in the foot on this one last year by trying too hard to domesticate the hypergraphia. I tried this thing where, if I wasn’t writing something useful, I wouldn’t write at all, thinking that might channel the urge more usefully. PRO-TIP: this does not work. All it does is make the whole process more difficult. If writing means scribbling stuff I can’t use, or sticking pictures into a commonplace and adding labels, that’s fine. It’s all part of the process. To use a triathlon metaphor, I won’t necessarily be squatting or doing deadlifts in a race, but these exercises help build strength, and stronger means more speed and endurance. Just because it’s not something immediately and directly useful doesn’t mean it is worthless.
- Finish a novel project.
I have two on my target list at the moment, of the three in progress, but by the end of the month I shall have settled on one of them and will be making a hard push to complete this year. I already have a strong idea of which one it will be.
- Take more classes.
I don’t think it’s coincidence that I made my first two pro sales on the back of taking almost every class Cat Rambo has to offer. I’m already signed up for Lit Techniques 2, so this will get me off to a good start.
- Have another go at poetry.
I’d like to be a lot better at poetry than I am. Avoiding it won’t change that.
Most of all, I think 2015 gave me a better grip on what I’m good at, on the themes that make the difference between a story that will work eventually, and a story that’s more likely to end up either trunked or ripped into tiny pieces for total reconstruction, and that means a fresh eye for older stories still looking for a home. That’s my main goal for the coming year: put that insight to work.
How about you? Any goals you’d like to share?