In which I muse and meander on the strange task that is being a parent, GCSEs and all things connected.
Thus, cut to save those of you not interested in such waffle.
In which I muse and meander on the strange task that is being a parent, GCSEs and all things connected.
Thus, cut to save those of you not interested in such waffle.
One Doctor Who ficlet for you.
A Martha-viewpoint set immediately following the events of the episode ‘The Family of Blood’. Contains, ergo, spoilers.
Thought I’d blow some of the dust off the blog.
I’ve been busy, lately. What with learning the ropes of a new job and generally keeping myself occupied with real life, I’ve made a discovery.
Life, when there are no immediate problems to vent about, is the most boring thing in the world to blog about.
About the most exciting thing of late… I had to fork out an inordinate number of pennies to get my kitchen roof repaired though; that was depressing. It was my planned holidays-for-the-year money that I’ve been carefully saving up – like a good girl. It was snatched out of my piggy bank and dropped into the pocket of the roofers. Admittedly, in turn, they did stop the persistent leak in the kitchen, so at least I can be grateful for that. And the roof looks much less like people chucked a pile of slate up there and just let it lie where it landed. So you know. Practical and aesthetic.
A holiday would be nice, though.
I’m mostly done with writing the second adventure for Gilrain, whose first outing was in the Tales of the Nun and Dragon anthology. That boy is a sheer pleasure to write for, because… because he’s utterly hopeless. But he’s eternally optimistic and there’s something oddly infectious about it. The style is loose and easy; very light-hearted and lets me stretch my comedy muscles a little. I’m a sucker for bad puns (I have that in common with Dan Abnett and Piers Anthony) and writing for Gilrain lets me use all sorts.
The short story I wrote for the Black Library Chapbook last year – Reaper - (known at the time as ‘Operation: Handbags at Dawn’) is also now available as a digital short story. It’s a dirty story of a dirty man, and his clinging wife doesn’t understand… well, sort of. It’s the last moments of an unfortunate Empire soldier who, in his death throes, is tried and judged by the consort of the Blood God. I additionally got a little spotlight moment on the Black Library blog today as well, so that was nice.
I’ve been reading more than usual of late; have read Deceived, Fatal Alliance and Revan, all set in the Star Wars: The Old Republic universe. I’ve enjoyed all three of them for different reasons. But Deceived in particular was enjoyable because of Darth Malgus. I have a gamer-girl crush on Darth Malgus. It’s the voice. It’s certainly not the looks. That dratted Mr. Kemp. DRAT HIM.
SW:TOR has gobbled up most of my evenings, really. I utterly love it for everything it has to offer. The levelling is great, the storylines are amazing (I just finished the Imperial Agent storyline and it’s my favourite so far) and the roleplay is brilliantly creative given certain limitations. I had the utter delight of meeting a bunch of guildies a couple of weeks ago at a SW:TOR event down in London. It was a great day out and already I miss them.
In short, life ticks on.
And that’s good, ‘cos it’s not bad.
Well, miserable, actually. To be completely specific, Les Misérables.
Some background. I can remember the day that LesMis upped sticks from the Barbican and moved into the Palace Theatre. I had only recently become a Bit of a Fan (understatement) of West End musicals and it intrigued me. I was… I think, about fifteen at the time. I went out and I bought the soundtrack and although I liked it, it didn’t make me want to rush to go and see it live. Being a surly teenager, I liked my musicals to have a bit of a beat to them; not to be semi-operatic.
I still sang along, though. Loudly and with good cheer.
I recall a review somewhere saying ‘what a load of short-lived, self-indulgent tosh. It’ll be lucky to last the first year of its run’. Bet he feels stupid now, what, 25 years later? Shows you what these people know about what appeals to the Musical Theatre Loving World at Large.
So I didn’t rush to see the show. There were things in the queue before it. Cats. Starlight Express (for the 90th time). Five Guys Named Moe. Time. Return to the Forbidden Planet. I left it for a while.
Actually, therein lies the first of my great LesMis-related regrets. Leaving it as long as I did, I am possibly the only LesMis fan in the entire world who has never got to see the Great and Glorious Colm Wilkinson as Valjean on stage. The first time I finally went to see the show, the part was filled by Dave Willetts. I remember joking at some point that the esteemed Mr. Willetts was following me around the West End – he was also the Phantom when I saw that. (Yes, I missed Michael Crawford, too).
Regardless of seeing LesMis sans Colm, I loved every second of it. The way it was staged, the performances, the breaking down in tears every so often… loved it all. It was not long before I went back to see it again. And a third time. And to this day, I have never been as moved by a musical as I have been by this one. Never have I had a crush on a character (not an actor – the actual character) as much as I had on (sigh) Enjolras.
So when the announcement came that they were finally adapting it for screen, I was delighted. I was prepared to accept that there would be necessary cuts and changes (more on that in a moment), but it didn’t matter. It was my Glums and there it’d be, on the great big screen, with great big sound and great big glory.
Well, guess what I went to see this morning? No, not The Hobbit, that was last week. Quiet at the back, you. It’s very rare that I have the urge to review something after seeing it, but given my inherent love for the musical, I can’t help it. It’s very hard to be detached from it when you have such preconceptions, when you’ve listened to the soundtrack countless times over the past twenty odd years, but I have tried.
And it’s long. So consider it cut. Also, spoilers, although I’m sure you know most of them.
So here we are, a week into 2013 and so far, it’s remarkably like 2012. With slightly less rain.
Christmas came, Christmas went. New Year’s Eve was spent in that most traditional of ways; drinking tea and watching Season 2 of Downton Abbey. (Yes, I know, we’re already on about season 8,000,000, but we’re slow on the uptake around here. Shush.) It was a nice enough holiday period; might have been vastly improved by my not being ill and if Himself hadn’t broken his leg in November, but you know. The Not So Small Anymore Son had a nice day and got all he had hoped for.
2012 wasn’t the best of years, but certainly not the worst. If anything, I’d put it down as ‘largely indifferent’. I don’t have any resolutions for 2013, not as such… but there was a nice idea circulating on the interwebs that I’ve nabbed. Quite simply… I have a jar in the kitchen into which I put little slips of paper that detail Nice Things That Have Happened. At the end of the year, I shall upend it, re-read it and enjoy the fact that there are good things going on all the time. These might not be life-altering events, in fact, they might just be incredibly simple, like the one I’m about to write.
Finally stopped procrastinating, took the cellophane off and watched The Artist. It was awesome!
Mundane? Yes, maybe. But it gave me a feel-good factor. Also, Jean Dujardin is kinda cute. Also, I love the silent film genre. Small Himself will enjoy this film too, I wager. He has the right sort of mindset for it.
Speaking of kinda cute, and we kinda were… got round to seeing The Hobbit, again probably about sixteen bajillion years after everyone else. Now there’s been all kinds of interwebs-based whining about this film, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that I really enjoyed it. I liked the dwarves/dwarfs* particularly. I was gutted that all we saw of Smaug was a nostril and an eyeball but still. He’s my favourite dragon in literature.
The movie version of Les Miserables is out next week. I plan to go. I will remember to take tissues.
Been writing a bit this last week, which is always a pleasure after a bit of a hiatus. One story completed, another story re-drafted and submitted for consideration, a third started and a fourth mostly planned out. I need to really pull my finger out and get some of them written. Star Wars: The Old Republic has largely sucked the last few months out of my life… and this is no bad thing. I’ve met a whole bunch of new folks, all of whom are frankly awesome and who have kept me sane.
Sanity is probably overrated. Sanity is that thing which has kicked in and said ‘yep. You need to fork out a metric fucktonne of cash and get your roof repaired. Forget your holiday plan for 2013, me ol’ bucko.’ With all that rain towards the end of last year, my aging house is feeling the strain. Shortly, soon will my ever-depleting bank account.
But, you know. Once it’s done, it’s done… and maybe it’ll be less money than I’m anticipating. After all, when we had to have damp coursing done, I’d steeled myself for a particular figure. The guy handed over the quote. I looked at it and said ‘um, did you put the decimal point in the wrong place and/or miss off a zero?’
I can but hope.
So… happy new year, folks. Onwards, upwards, backwards, sideways… and maybe even Up and Out…
Also, go watch The Artist if you haven’t seen it.
* I can never remember which fandom is which plural. Deal with it.
End of the year hard drive clean-up and I found this, written idly whilst doing Not Very Much At All. Now I want to carry on writing it.
That time of year again. Seems to come around so fast these days. I suppose it’s true what they say; that as you get older, things seem to go by so much more quickly.
2012 hasn’t been quite so hectic as 2011, but no less fun and interesting for all that. The biggest thing of course is that Jamie turned thirteen back in February. You’d be amused to note that he is now not only taller than me, but he also has bigger feet. When he answers the phone, I feel like I should check it’s him and not his dad. He’s no longer a little boy, but a young man – and a very lovely one at that. He’s polite, well-mannered, bright and smart. Everyone says he’s nice, that’s not just me.
Have been ‘out and about’ a few times this year with the whole writing thing; went to an event back in April down in London and then another in November. Still enormous fun, although the writing has slowed a bit. The second book came out in July and has been pretty well received. I’ve finished a third and it’s with the editor now. You were right. I CAN do it.
Both myself and Ben have changed jobs this year, although Ben wasn’t very far into his before he broke his leg. I personally blame him for saying back in January that he ‘didn’t want to do another retail Christmas’. Be careful what you wish for, as they say.
I’ve had a couple of really lovely weekends away with my friend Nik. She’s turned into such a rock for me; someone I can talk to. I’ve missed that sort of closeness in my life since you died and I just know you’d have loved her too.
Is it weird that I still have moments, sometimes days, when I still miss you as though you only went away yesterday? That I still have those moments of ‘I must just ring mum and tell her…’ only to then go through that ice-cold realisation that I can’t? Sometimes, I tell you anyway. Many times when I’m in the car I’ll hold a one-sided conversation with you. Maybe I’m a bit crazy. Well, that’s nothing new.
I dream about you a lot. I don’t mind. I like dreaming about you because it means I get to spend time, no matter how fleeting it may be, talking to you again. Sometimes, grandad’s with you, and we always catch up. I love that there’s this part of my consciousness that will always ensure you are somehow near and your timing is always amazing. You lend me strength and love at the times I need it most. Just the way you always did.
I miss you. I’ll always miss you. The pain has mellowed into something deep and regretful. I have said, on many occasions, that there are so many things to be grateful for. We never had any ‘bad blood’, there were no things left unsaid and I didn’t have to worry that you knew I loved you because it didn’t need saying.
You have been, even in the twelve years I’ve lived without you, inspirational in the way I’ve brought my son up. I know how proud you’d be of him. And I know you’re probably keeping that same eye on him that you always have. He takes his options at school in the New Year. In a couple of years, he’ll be doing his GCSE’s. Can you imagine that?
Dad’s full of talk about his bees. It’s been truly lovely to see him so animated about something and I can’t wait to see how he gets on with the process. No doubt I will have much to update you with next year. Assuming we get past December 21st without the Earth imploding or whatever’s meant to happen to it (according to the Mayans, who were so smart they became extinct).
We’ll be putting up the tree tomorrow night, just as we’ve done every year on the 10th since you died. Ben will supervise from his sick bed, Jamie will put three baubles on the tree then go and find something else to do and I will end up doing it all. I don’t mind, though. I do it for you, really, not for anybody or anything else.
On which subject, this is also for you, care of David Harkins.
“You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
On which note, I’m smiling, opening my eyes and going on.
Love you, mum.
At the BL Weekender event, I was having a chat with someone. The conversation was nice and lively; we were talking about how hard it can be to be a new author in an established tie-in field and as the conversation progressed, the inevitable question came up.
‘Did you ever think about using a male pseudonym?’
The answer was honest. Yes. I thought about it quite a lot at the start of my BL writing career. I thought about it probably for all the wrong reasons though.
So after much contemplation and discussing it with a few people, I decided to go with my Actual Name. After all, as one person put it eloquently, ‘you wrote the thing didn’t you?’
I don’t have the luxury of an ambiguous first name which is something of a shame – imagine the fun of turning up to a signing event and confusing the heck out of someone – something that I know the lovely Nik Vincent-Abnett has had happen. But then, if I’d picked something obviously male, would that have precluded me from signing events and things like BLW and BLL?
Initials, I could have used those. I toyed with that idea for a little while and still couldn’t get past the fact that I’d written the story, why shouldn’t I be proud of it?
So Sarah Cawkwell it was… and still is. It’s a truth that it has startled people in the BL fandom to see a female name amongst the others on the bookshelves. I know this because I’ve been in a GW store and heard people commenting on such. It’s hard at those moments not to chime in with ‘and why shouldn’t there be’? Instead, the last time I overheard someone say ‘hang on, this is written by a woman isn’t it?’ the question was answered with ‘yep’. Then the original question-asker bought it (Valkia, as it happens).
Should it matter remotely whether I’m male or female and writing in the Warhammer universes? What do YOU think out there? Should it matter? Of course it shouldn’t is my response. But things I’ve read in assorted dark corners of the Internet suggest that there are people who think otherwise. The face of the hobby is undoubtedly changing; you’re now far more likely to find female customers in GW store as much as you are male ones. Sure, less of them – but they’re still there. Some would-be female BL writers have told me that they feel more confident after I ‘trailblazed’ for them. That in itself is the best reason ever for not having chosen to go down the male pseudonym route. Be proud of what you’ve achieved. Don’t hide from it.
Would you consider going with a male pseudonym in the future?That is generally the other part to the question. The answer to that is ‘do you really think I’d tell you?’
The lovely Josh Reynolds has tagged me in this self-promotional shenanigans, as have a few other people. In fact, so many other people have now tagged me that I break the chain. I have nobody left to tag. So I pass it to you all to pick up as you see fit. I also screw up the timing, because I think I’m not meant to do this for another week or whatever, but hey. At least I’ve answered it now!
♦WHAT IS THE WORKING TITLE OF YOUR NEXT BOOK?
Portents is the book I’ve recently finished for the Black Library.
Project: Backburner is the original novel I’m (very slowly) adding to over time.
♦WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR THE BOOK COME FROM?
Both books sprang, not exactly fully formed, out of the quagmire that is my head.
♦WHAT GENRE DOES YOUR BOOK FALL UNDER?
Portents: Tie-in science fiction/science fantasy/space opera/whatever new genre people make up to fill up the bookshelves even more confusingly.
Project: Backburner: Urban fantasy.
♦WHAT ACTORS WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO PLAY THE PART OF YOUR CHARACTERS IN A MOVIE RENDITION?
When the first genetically-enhanced bio-engineered humans start appearing, I’ll let you know re: Portents.
Although I do have someone in mind as the lead character of Project: Backburner, and that’s Aidan Turner.
♦WHAT IS THE ONE SENTENCE SYNOPSIS OF YOUR BOOK?
1) The Silver Skulls rock into town and kick ass.
2) Ed sells sporting goods, but it’s not your usual quarry.
♦WILL YOUR BOOK BE SELF-PUBLISHED, OR REPRESENTED BY AN AGENCY?
Portents will be published by those lovely people at the Black Library at some point in the future.
Project: Backburner … well, I don’t know to tell the truth. I need to write it first.
♦HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT OF THE MANUSCRIPT?
Portents: Just under three months, although I have been doing some re-writes of parts of it in conjunction with my shiny editor.
Project: Backburner - still writing it!
♦WHAT OTHER BOOKS WOULD YOU COMPARE THIS STORY TO WITHIN YOUR GENRE?
…more Warhammer 40K stuff. Heh. It’s hard to compare it to anything else. It is, as has been documented, a Silver Skulls novel. All Silver Skulls, all the time. Except the bits that contain stuff about the <redacted> Chapter, who are <redacted> and who boast a <redacted> in their ranks.
Project: Backburner is decidedly less space-based and more urban fantasy. Bit Dresden-esque, only with an English sense of humour. Less serious than Felix Castor and more tongue-in-cheek.
♦WHO, OR WHAT, INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?
I wanted to. In both cases.
♦WHAT ELSE ABOUT THE BOOK MIGHT PIQUE A READER’S INTEREST?
One of them features a true revelation about three and half inch trowels and why it is that you should never trust your in-laws, the other features post-human supersoldiers righteously smiting and possibly making it back home in time for tea and medals.
Or possibly not.
Only one way to find out.
So… just back from the inaugural Black Library Weekender event – and it was so much fun. Of course, I have returned home with ConLurgy, although Dearly Beloved is referring to it as the ‘Maidstone Lurgy’ as I think I may have picked it up from the gloriously wonderful Nik Vincent-Abnett whilst I was there.
Writing up these things retrospectively is always difficult. Every time I attend an event, I think ‘I’ll keep notes as I go along’. Every time I completely and utterly fail to do that. So, as best I can manage, here is what I remember.
With Dearly Beloved successfully busting his leg last weekend, I hit upon the bright idea of arranging hire of a wheelchair for him. This turned out to be a truly awesome idea as it meant he saved a lot of his strength and energy and managed to cope much better. It also meant, becaues the chair is one he can wheel himself around in, I was able to ‘leave him to it’ on occasion. So we arrived at the Belfry hotel in Nottingham around 2pm and were able to check straight into the room – which was quite lovely, spacious and very comfortable. We then proceeded to join up with people in the bar and watched as our little amoebic collective got bigger and bigger and bigger until the Circle of Nerds was almost all-encompassing. We retired to the corner to have dinner (mine failed to turn up with everyone else’s because they slightly messed up the order… so by the time everyone finished, mine just arrived. Nothing quite so embarrassing as eating whilst everyone stares).
We sat around and talked rubbish until we finally sloped off to bed.
Saturday and Sunday
A whirlwind of activity. Can’t even begin to tell you how many things were discussed, how many books were signed and how many promised hugs were collected. I will never get over how unfailingly generous and kind people are at these events; one fine chap even joined my signing queue just to say ‘I don’t have any of your books with me, but I really wanted to say how much I enjoyed them’. We had a great conversation and that left me feeling buzzy and happy. Other things I remember, in no particular order…
So much happened. Official reports and what-not will no doubt appear on the BL website in due course. But the venue was great, the organisation was out of this world and the attendees were brilliant, practically to a man. There were one or two ‘moments’ that soured things a little in the shape of the whining minority, but they were pretty much few and far between.
After a chat with my editor, I’m kind of taking a step back from BL writing for a little while. I effectively wrote three novels, a novella and six short stories back-to-back over eighteen months without a break and have also been maintaining a full time job at the same time. I need to take a pause for a while, especially as I’m starting a new job on November 26th! But there are still a bajillion ideas floating around in my head, so when I get going again, I’ll be right back in the thick of things. Also, depending on how things pan out, there may well be scope for Valkia 2… Women Are Definitely More Visceral Than Men…
This does give me the opportunity to move my head back towards Project: Backburner, of course…