New Beginnings

It’s comin’ on the end of August
Another summer’s promise almost gone

And though I heard some wise man say
That every dog will have his day
He never mentioned that these dog days get so long…

(The song, by the way, is ‘Waiting in the Weeds’ from the ‘Long Road Out of Eden’ album. It’s a lovely song, go listen to it).

Upcoming honest-from-the-heart blog stuff. Feel free not to look.

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Things Have Been Better…

…and things will be better again.

I’ve had a tough few weeks for one reason or another, all of which are entirely too dull to go into in the Blog-o-sphere. So a quick summation of what’s been happening, methinks!

Watched the Olympics – the opening ceremony was deliciously mad and the music selection just brilliant. Danny Boyle did a first-class job of presenting something uniquely… British. Quirky, eccentric and just a little bit *off*. Visually, it was fab; the forging of the Olympic rings, the whole business with uprooting the tree and industry taking over… I did hear tell that some people in a large country over the other side of the Atlantic Ocean thought that Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a Dickens character, which tickled me a little.

The closing ceremony was less of a spectacle, but no less brilliant music-wise. Although… if The Who were there anyway, why on earth did the Kaiser Chiefs sing ‘Pinball Wizard’? Does not compute. Also, I discovered today I wasn’t the only person willing the Spice Girls to fall off the top of their taxi cabs.

The Games themselves seemed to be a lot of fun; it’s amazing how you suddenly find yourself watching things you’d never previously imagined you’d find fascinating. Archery is understandable. But Dressage is just… mad. Horse Skipping. It’s incredible to watch how well-controlled those animals are and there’s a lovely synergy between horse and rider. The commentators need a darned good slap though. They were quite literally commenting on just about anything.

‘Oh, a slight breeze lifting Cottontail’s mane there…’

‘The right hoof clipped the muzzopinkpink fence whilst performing the chipshopstandon manoeuvre…’

It was lovely to see how the country’s morale lifted during the course of the Games. It was a further interesting exercise to note how the Twitter feeds during the opening and closing ceremonies differed. With the opening, it was all stuff to the effect of ‘ZOMGOOSE SO PROUD TO BE BRITISH LOL XX’ With the closing ceremony, it was all stuff like ‘DO THE WHAM RAP, GEORGE!’ Twitter proved itself to be mostly entertaining throughout, but without question, the best thing in the wake of the Games is Mo Farah Running Away From Things. More added daily. Now that’s British.

Had two weeks off work during which time we popped down to the south coast to collect the Son from my dad’s place. Crowbarred in a trip to Brighton as the Chimp had never been. Had a job interview on the middle Friday. Interviewer said he’d let me know one way or the other by Tuesday the following week. He checked my mobile number as he knew I wasn’t at work (it’s a job with the same NHS trust).

Still waiting to hear.

Now, I presume I haven’t got the job and that’s fine. I get that this happens. But to not even let me know?

Meh.

Haven’t done a great deal of writing (see paragraph one), but the break hasn’t been all bad. I sort of worked myself into the ground over the last two years. Working full time, being a full time mum AND writing two novels and quite a lot of short stories has been quite the toll. When I look at it now, objectively, I am genuinely surprised I’m not simply curled up somewhere whimpering pathetically. Taking a bit of a break has been a sensible thing to do and now that I’m emerging, blinking into the sunlight once again, the pace will pick up once more.

Going away this coming weekend WITHOUT the Chimp; just me and a dear friend having a much needed weekend of each other’s company. Laughter will happen. This is always good.

Talking of laughter, I finally watched Keeping Mum. If you haven’t seen this delightfully British film… do it. Maggie Smith is just a legend.

And that’s my life at the moment. Looking forward to the Black Library Weekender in November, though!

 

The Lazarus Effect

So I’ve not blogged much for a while. Actually, I’ve not done a lot of anything for a while. This is down to a number of reasons, entirely too plentiful and yet outstandingly dull to go into detail about here.

So instead, the weather. Seeing as that and 50 Shades of Grey are the only things people seem capable of discussing, why not join in? What about that rain? Seriously. It started raining sometime in May and has been pretty determined to make life miserable ever since. Ironically, my mood has possibly not been helped much by the persistent precipitation. Perhaps with the sudden emergence of sunshine from behind the dull, sodden clouds, my mood is about to take a swing in the right direction?

I digress. Some writing stuff first.

I’ve been working on edits for Project: Loophole for a few days now. This is the first of my projects to date that has fairly major changes to be made and it’s a very steep learning curve. It’s one thing to make a few tweaks to a story here and there; to insert a few extra scenes featuring a particular character (a’la Jeremiah in TGR), or to slightly change the thrust of a chapter. It’s something entirely different to do what is, in essence, a rewrite. I’m learning as I go and it’s a relief that quite a lot of stuff can be salvaged whole, or only slightly re-written to make it fit that little bit better.

Also, to end speculation on the matter and to directly reply to those of you who’ve demanded the truth from me… Project: Loophole is novel-sized. It features Silver Skulls. A lot of Silver Skulls. It now also features an extra contingent of Bad Guys who weren’t in the original completed manuscript. I am very enthusiastic about them and after a few conversations back and forth with my editor, very excited to get them written in. I’m about to start doing that bit and that’s definite woken up my writing mojo. Due to the aforementioned apathy and its associated reasons, my enthusiasm for… well, anything really… has been severely impaired for a few weeks.

Feedback on Valkia the Bloody continues to be pretty positive, which is a boost to the ol’ flagging spirits when you’re a bit low.

The Lazarus Effect is thus so far applying to me personally and to Project: Loophole.

I’ve done some Other Writing too; I’ve written a light-hearted fantasy story for an upcoming anthology called ‘Tales from the Nun and Dragon’ from Fox Spirit which is due out in August – see here – and I’m busily writing another submission for Something Else.

Next up, some work stuff. This will be brief.

Work has been terrible. I have been very determinedly job hunting and may have an interview next Friday. I’ve been sent for shortlisting which is a good sign, but I’m still waiting for the final yay/nay on whether I actually have an interview at all. The fact I’ve been shortlisted is frankly brilliant, because the role calls for a certain number of qualifications that I don’t have – but I have equivalent work experience. It’s heartening that this has obviously been taken into account. Of course, it also increases the possibility of losing out to someone who has the qualifications. But who doesn’t necessarily have the work experience to back it up.

Difficult one that.

In the meantime, I’m planning to hold out here for another couple of months at most and then fall back on temp work if I can’t find something permanent. The aforementioned aforementioned apathy is largely in part down to work-related stress and to be honest? It might be a case that it pays the bills, but it’s not worth getting unwell over.

So Project: Find Another Job is well established.

Been watching ‘The Hollow Crown’, the BBC adaptations of Richard II, Henry IV pt 1 & 2 and to come, Henry V. And they have been utterly, utterly wonderful. If you haven’t watched these, do it. They are amongst Shakespeare’s greatest plays (for me, at least) and I can’t wait to watch Tom Hiddleston as he flounces about Agincourt this Saturday…

All in all, life ticks over without much difference (but with increased stress). Some wonderful things have happened and some less than wonderful things have emerged to take their place. Equilibrium is not quite yet restored, but it’s definitely getting there.

To paraphrase ADB’s Night Lords… so how are you, then?

 

Delayed Response…

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while as it’s in response to a question put to me at the recent Black Library Live event. It was a pretty straightforward question and it went something like this. It’s paraphrased. I’ve slept since then.

“How does it feel when you read a negative review of your work?”

Now, my assorted colleagues have touched on this subject in blogs across the interwebs in the time that I’ve known them. Mark Charan Newton’s comments here, for example along with the musings of the very fine Chris Wraight (Nicest Man on Earth, pat. pend.) There’s not really a lot more that I can add to this. When reviews of The Gildar Rift started trickling through the filter (the filter being my struggles to avoid fora and Amazon and the trickle being my inability to resist), I was – and still am – pleased that the majority of feedback has been pretty good. There have been one or two comments made in an assortment of places that have made me go ‘wait, what book were you actually reading‘, but on the whole, I’ve managed to store the negative comments away in a box. Very few of them are constructive negative comments. Those thatdo carry useful nuggets of information within them are considered.

It’s the most obvious thing in the world, it really is. Everyone likes different things. Some people like Twilight. I don’t, but that doesn’t stop others from enjoying it. Some people like Harry Potter. I do, but I’m well aware plenty of other people don’t. Each to their own. Different strokes for different folks. Horses for courses. (Would that be starter, main or dessert? YMMV.)

So to answer… once you get your head round the fact that all folks are different, it’s actually easy to deal with negative comments.

What else is new then? Project: Loophole has been bouncing along at a very satisfying pace this week, and Project: 4am is pretty much done and dusted subject to the relevant person’s approval. I’ve been contemplating putting a few words into Project: Backburner, but then got caught up in Loophole. I also have a previous project to re-visit and re-consider when one or two people have some time to spare me. So the writing’s been going OK. This pleases me. Ilikewriting. I never want to find myself in that place where it becomes a chore. When that happens… stop doing it.

Work… less said about that the better. This picture probably conveys far more than words.

Even the bunny can't comprehend the sheer depth of NHS-related stupidity.

The loft was boarded out and we’ve turned it into a useful space where the GW modular boards are now permanently set up. The scenery actually needs painting, but it does mean that now Dearly Beloved and Smallish have somewhere to thrash out their battles. And me too, I guess… once there is time, I shall be practising using those delightful Silver Skulls fellows. Thus far, they’re unbeaten. Get them!

Been watching Merlin from the beginning. It’s one of those TV shows that I always forget is on but have always enjoyed whenever I’ve sat and watched it. In this instance, I’m nearly done with season one and already find myself wishing I had season two. Pay day will come around soon enough, I’m sure. Incidentally, I’m aware that Merlin is another one of those TV shows that divides opinion, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It requires no heavy thinking, no deep, hidden meanings and the cast are great and interact very well.

Lancelot, though. Yeah. You would. Well, I would, anyway.

So all in all, another week trundles by without anything new to report other than an increase in the volume of Project: Loophole… and that was categorically meant to happen.

So here’s a picture that made me actu-lol today.

 

 

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

First things first: I’ll be at Black Library Live 2012 this weekend, taking part in a few of the panels and defacing books. Look forward to seeing people!

In other news…

I started reading Knight of the Blazing Sun by m’colleague Josh Reynolds today. I’m about a third of the way through it and I’m enjoying it very much. Josh has a very delightful writing style that engaged me almost instantly and despite his very apparent apathy and the fact that I keep hearing him say ‘buh… what?’ in my  head, I’ve developed a strange affinity for the main character, Hector Goetz. Hector is kind of bimbling through life, when all he really wanted to do was build bridges.

I can relate.

When we had our careers advice session at school at the end of the fourth year (that’s year 10 to you Young People), the Nice Man[1] and I engaged in the following conversation.

Him: So. Have you had any thought to what you might want to do when you leave school? I see from your options that you’re studying… (consults sheet) er… art, drama, biology… Spanish?… computer studies and the usual Englishes and what have you.[2]

Me: Um… no. Not really. I like bridges though.

Him: What?

Me: Bridges. You know. Things that transport you from one side of an obstacle to the other. Big bridges. Big, sweeping, magnificent bridges. (contented sigh).

Him: Right. (consults watch) Had you considered a career as a teacher?

It turns out that he advisedeveryone to become a teacher. But not, funnily enough, a careers adviser.

So I never got to build bridges which is probably for the best. Seriously, my attention span is so painfully short that I’d probably have stopped six inches from finishing the thing to go off and start a new one. All around the country, there’d be 98% complete bridges. But I still like bridges. Seriously. I have an inner civil engineer (although I tend to swear like a trooper a lot of the time, so it’s more an uncivil engineer) who will actually make me take detours against my will just to look at a bridge.

I went up to Newcastle on the train today. Now that’s one of my favourite things. The Tyne is replete with marvellous bridges of all shapes and sizes. The view is really quite spectacular:-

The Tyne Bridge itself of course is a pretty well-known landmark. But for me, the star attraction is the Millennium Bridge. Because it’s just… beautiful.

There are.. no words. It's just gorgeous.

Also, check out this man’s photography site. There are some STUNNING local landscapes in his gallery.

Whilst thinking about bridges earlier, I found this site. I’ve known for ages that I’d kill to go see the Millau Bridge, but now I want to travel the world and see some of those other spectacular feats of engineering. And there you go, you’ve learned about my shameful bridge-based secret.

Mmmmm.

Bridges.

[1] This is obviously a lie.
[2] I made terrible option choices. I ended up taking exams in English Lit and Language, Drama, Art, Social Studies, Mathematics and Biology. The Spanish teacher took off in the middle of the first year of studying it and so did the Computer Studies teacher. We never got as far as exams in those. Also, I still have no idea what I might want to do when I grow up. Apart from build bridges, obviously.

Work-Life Balance

Work this week has been… difficult. This cartoon sums it up far better than I can put into words. So I shan’t dwell on that.

This is how work has left me feeling this week. Sort of. Only more complicated.

So yeah. Work has drained a lot of the enthusiasm out of my week and that’s spilled over a little into the writing. That’s also been a bit wobbly this week due to a bunch of other issues that have just left me feeling worn out and utterly weary. Project: Loophole is still well ahead of target, though, so that’s OK.

It was always going to be pretty horrible, the first full week back at work. Getting back into the working-writing swing again has been a grind. I have infinite envy for those who work as writers full time; not in terms of word-count output, but simply the fact that you can spend your entire working day concentrating on what you have to do. Work-home-chores-writing-cooking-maybe more writing… there aren’t that many waking hours in a day after you take out the 8.5 (including driving time) that work swallows up. It’s exhausting, quite honestly, and at times, quite a struggle.

I’ve never been under any illusions that writing around my day job would be in any way an easy thing to do. In fact, I’m outstandingly proud of myself that I’ve produced two novels and about seven short stories in the last year. People have been enjoying my stuff and saying so in public fora (more specifically, people I don’t even know have been saying they’ve enjoyed it and that’s somehow even nicer). It’s been a whole lot of fun and it continues apace.

But there are frustrations. Not all of them are easy to explain or even justify, but when you’re tired and feeling more vulnerable than you might otherwise be, an offhand comment made on an internet forum can catch you off guard. You read it. You re-read it. You think ‘is that a spiteful dig at me’? Then you rationalise it; no, it probably isn’t, you say. It could refer to any number of people. Or me. It’s about me, isn’t it? No, it probably isn’t… and the cycle continues until the whole matter becomes insanely out of proportion and you’re convinced the Spanish Inquisition are going to turn up on your doorstep any time now. Then you forget about it. The pot, you think, is calling the kettle black. Different strokes for different folks. <Insert other random saying of choice here>.

I only post in a few places now in terms of fora. I took the advice of people like Dan, Nik, Jim and Graham very much to heart about it. I haven’t once gotten involved in debate on a forum when people have perhaps not been quite right in an assumption they’ve made. It doesn’t mean I don’t read the ensuing discussion, because that can sometimes be interesting. I do post when asked something directly and there’s at least one forum where there’s a very friendly, lively conversation about the Silver Skulls that’s been ongoing for a long while now. I have fun with those conversations. Those conversations add very much to the fun that all this writing lark gives me.

The harshest thing is that I’m at a situation where work-life balance isn’t the issue. The issue now is work-work-life. Two to one. I’m getting there; but it’s a slow process. I know it’ll come in time. Fortunately with ongoing advice and support, I’m doing OK. And more to the point… hard work though it is? I love every moment of it.

Have some wise words.

Word.(s). Innit.

The Painful Truth

What a dramatic blog title. Drama is fun sometimes. But the explanation behind this title is really in response to a question someone put to me at work the other day. I’ve been sitting brooding on it for a while and decided to sort it out by writing it down.

The question was simple. ‘What’s it like to be a published author?’

The answer is not so simple. Because let’s just pick a few words out of the ether here; words and phrases that spring to mind instantly on being asked that question:

  • Brilliant.
  • Amazing.
  • Slightly surreal.
  • It makes me feel incredibly proud.
  • Giggly.

These are all all good, positive words. But for all the positive, there are a lot of painful truths about writing. And I know that a lot of you guys out there are eager to pursue a writing career, or are looking to get published and I wish you nothing but great success. But if you are holding down a full-time job as well, let’s be brutally honest about the more difficult aspects of what being a published author actually means.

  • Free time… I vaguely recall that. I feel guilty because I’ve had to abandon certain things in favour of meeting deadlines and there are people who don’t quite ‘get’ it.
  • Writer’s block (although fortunately, that’s not something I suffer with too much).
  • Frustration.
  • Anxiety. Nerves about the imminent release of a first novel are pretty horrible. I swing between ‘eeeee’ and ‘aaaaargh’ at least five times an hour.

And then people try to help. They really do. They say things like…

“So give up full time work and write for a living.”

Oh, god, can I? But alas. I am cursed with a Sensible Gene, tempered by the lesser known Astartes organ implant of Common Sense. I have bills to pay. Genre fiction is not going to let me do that, certainly not at the front end of my career. At the moment, my short-term goal is to look at going part-time. That way, the steady income remains and the writing income continues to be a nice bonus. I am not in a position to take the plunge and write full-time and because I have responsibilities (house, husband, child, cats, internet account etc), I won’t risk my financial stability for it. I have the greatest respect (and more than a tiny bit of jealousy) for those who are in a position to stick two fingers up to the day job. One day…

“But writing must be really rewarding.”

Hell, yes. Absolutely without question. But for me, it also has quite a few associated irritations. Like… not being able to switch my brain off when I go to bed and laying there for hours wondering what Valkia will do next, or pondering what Space Marines wear under their armour. (Note: that is not a perverted thought. It was a genuine question at the time). My bedside table and computer table are littered with Codexes, Army Books, photocopies of useful research pages… I’ve been cheeky and stolen precious writing time just to read The Outcast Dead, but I actually can’t remember the last time I sat and read a book from cover to cover in one sitting like I used to. I miss that. I still read of course, but now it’s in that period when I can’t sleep.

“You’re going to book signings? That’s exciting!”

Actually yes. Yes, it is. Nerve-wracking, too. But mostly exciting. But I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve actually done one. 🙂

“But a WRITER! That’s like… J.K. Rowling TASTIC! All that MONEY!”

Uh…

OK. If you say so.

So yes. It’s all really exciting and there’s a lot of stuff currently in the pipeline with my editor that means I have loads more to be excited about. But it’s not all glamour and chocolates and champagne. Actually, chocolates and champagne is massively appealling right now. One moment, and I’ll get my hired help to go and hand craft me some chocolates in the kitchen (which is the size of a football field) whilst chilling the vintage champers. Then I will use my high-technology voice recognition software* to dictate the next chapter of my book whilst lounging on my outrageously expensive hand-made leather sofa and watching the latest films in high definition on a TV that fills an entire wall of the house.

Well? I can dream, can’t I?

In the meantime, I’ll go put the kettle on for more tea.

 

* Note: Our radiology department uses voice recognition software. Yesterday, I read a CT scan report in which a patient’s pancreas was ‘displeased’. I THINK it should have been displaced. I hope not. The first one’s much funnier.