Monthly Archives: June 2013

Autokinesis

You join me at a turbulent time on my life, dear readers. Do you know about the auto-kinetic effect? Of course you do; you’re intelligent people. If not, I’m going to explain it very roughly anyway, so indulge an old woman, eh? The auto-kinetic effect is where you look at a stationary lamp/light in the darkness and it appears to be moving because of your eyes constantly tracking to keep focused.

At the moment I feel like I am the subject of autokinesis and inverse autokinesis, to wit: feeling like I am moving onward when I’m actually standing still, while simultaneously feeling like I am still when things are moving on around me.

I’ve got the Germany trip, the house move, an actual holiday and a ton of sewing to do. I do like to be busy but the next eight weeks are going to kill me. Of course it doesn’t help that I just spent the last hour looking at pretty shoes… mmm… shoes…

Enjoy the sun while it lasts, Britain! Wimbledon starts next week so expect End-of-Days downpours and sporadic outbursts of Cliff Richard (at least it isn’t Paul MacCartney).

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Highland State of Mind

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@Addison_Crow in case you don’t. And if not, why not? I’m lovely) will have noticed I wasn’t around as much this weekend. That is because I was supremely busy! Working full time means that all those odd jobs that require shops being open have to wait until Saturday morning when everyone else who works full time also decides to flock to the Post Office. I’m away for a week in Germany next week, and I had to go get some Euros; I had to get some cardmaking supplies to make a birthday card for a colleague who had a party for which our presence was gift enough (but a handmade card is a good compromise); I got fabric dye and buckets for an exciting textiles project and I still had time to have lunch out with my friend Rivka, who is also an author, donchaknow.

I saw a lovely cartoon on DeviantArt the other day about Introverts and how to interact with them. Like we’re a different species. Yes, I consider myself an introvert. Why do you think I communicate best through the written word and at a distance? I thought it was very good at explaining why I sometimes suddenly, with the almost audible sound of shutters coming down, run out of friendliness and have to get out of Dodge.

I have a weird relationship with my own company. I lived by myself for a year when I first moved to the Highlands and I am perfectly capable of looking after myself but there were times when I felt myself getting crusty and insular. I was so used to being alone that social interaction made me grumpy and everyone I met was an idiot because they didn’t see everything the way I did. I could go from Friday getting out of work to Monday going back in without speaking to anyone face to face. Texts, Skype, Facebook etc were at my fingertips, but I didn’t physically open my mouth to form words. I shuffled to and back from the supermarket with an invisible HazMat suit on, lest anyone infect me with their jolliness. I buried myself in my own little hermit hole.

Next month I’m moving in with my friend Rivka (have I mentioned she’s an author?) after having lived with my (now)ex for a year. I don’t think I’m ready for living with someone I have to share a bed with. I’m too wiggly, and I don’t like the sound of my bedmate existing when I’m trying to sleep. I definitely don’t like cuddles. Apparently that’s akin to rejection to some people. Weirdo clingy weirdos! Anyway, Rivka and I are quite well-suited in that we’re quite independent but need someone else to make sure we check in with reality every few days. I won’t be offended if she doesn’t talk to me for two days and in fact I’ll probably be glad of not being bothered as I hate being pestered when I’m in the middle of something. Companionable silence is an immeasurable joy.

Most of the time, being with someone (or a small group) while we’re all busy doing something but not talking together, is enough for me. We’re sharing an activity by dint of sharing the same space while we happily knit/sew/felt whatever and that counts as a social activity. MOST of the time. Sometimes I get a massive surge of I NEED TO BE CLOSE TO ALL THE PEOPLE and I can get a bit manic. I’ll crave company, physical contact, loud noises. I will link arms or hold hands with friends in the street and text them with every little detail if we’re apart. I want parties and banter and music.

I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe I really do have a store of social-energy inside me and sometimes my cup floweth over. I am quite far away from the core group of friends I made through my twenties. I have new friends here, don’t get me wrong, and fun times are had by all, but sometimes you just crave a particular brand of sweetness. If those people are unavailable then I crash. The ground slips out from under me and I feel a total disconnect from the Universe. It happened to me the other week. I had been to a barbecue and on the way home I still wasn’t done being social. I felt panicked. I was alone and I felt like I had been cut adrift in a sea of strangers. I called everyone I could think of. No one picked up. I panicked a little more. Then I told myself I’d best just get over it because the ironing wouldn’t do itself. I settled myself a little, and ended up talking to J on Skype for a bit, if I remember correctly. That grounded me enough.

 Whether hermit-y or Miss Highlands 2013, neither condition is good for my productivity. In one case I’m too shut down and in the other I’m too busy flirting. I need an even keel. I need to medicate with regular social interaction interspersed with gratuitous solo reading and moping. Hopefully, this new living situation will help. There’ll be a person there to talk to should we wish it (there is now, but it’s altogether too awkward!) but their presence will be enough to tide me over most of the time. I could talk or socialise if I wanted to. The potential is there.

That’s good, because I have an article to write for Opening Line, as well as a short fiction piece I want to bash out, and then the usual work on my actual books.

On top of that I’m moving house and going on a week-long trip to Germany, I’ve got a major sewing project to do (hence the fabric dyeing pic from the other day) and some major organisation to undertake.

I’m feeling quite positive. I’ve got Locke Lamora on audiobook (aftermath of Echo Hole ongoing) and Best Served Cold to read (second murder achieved, plus collateral) to get me out of reality if I need them.

Onward to Friday!

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Processing

This was posted on Joe Abercrombie’s blog the other week. I know at times it seems like I must be working for the man, but genuinely, it came up in my Facebook news feed and I thought it was particularly interesting and inspiring.

Now, if somehow you still don’t know about his work even though I bang on about it a fair bit, it’s pretty gritty, angry stuff. It’s fantasy with its teeth bared. The characters are morally ambiguous, the world is tearing itself apart, and the “heroes” can’t really be trusted as far as you can throw ‘em. It’s not really a chivalry and princess with wimple fantasy story. Heck, there aren’t even any elves! There’s magic, of a sort, but mostly it’s blood-and-guts “you’re on your own, buddy, have fun with this oncoming army and your tiny, ineffectual sword!” kind of stuff. It’s cynical and world-weary and defeatist. But in a hopeful way!

The point is, he’s now Made It. He’s not a writer. He’s an Author. He has Published Books. Someone asked him about his first draft for The Blade Itself, his debut novel. He says a lot of things, and amongst it was this:

“I spent an awful lot of time in those early days revising, refining, reading over, experimenting with what worked and what didn’t, developing a style.  Or perhaps different styles with the different points of view.  So whenever I wrote a line, I’d look at it, re-write it, think about it.  Whenever I finished a paragraph I’d revise it.  Whenever I finished a scene I’d look over it again, add, take away, reorganise.  Every time I sat down to write I’d start by reading what I wrote the last time.  So working out what needed to be described and when, how to pace a scene, how to use dialogue, mostly working on instinct and trial and error.  That was very important to do, I think, not just in achieving a good result, but in working out how to achieve a good result.” – Joe Abercrombie

That is a lot more work than I put in. Got to be honest it sounds exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I do edit as I go a fair bit; I type dialogue and then think ‘wow, that sounds so cheesy’ and rephrase, for example, but I don’t go that far. I just want to get the story out. Major editing is for after I actually know what’s meant to happen. I don’t think either way is a wrong way or a right way.

I mean, I like to think that when I write, I pick the words I want to use the first time around. Adjective choice might need refining, but on the whole I feel like if I’ve written it a particular way it’s because that’s the way it should be. If I’m trying to communicate that it is raining, why would I talk about the sun? Y’know? If it needs that much of a re-write then either what is in my head does not come out on the page, but I think it does, and I’ve just written 500 words about bananas even though I think it’s about my writing process, or whoever is reading/editing with/for me doesn’t get it.

I’m so modest.

“My own feeling is that the sense of effortlessness you strive for as a writer actually derives from an awful lot of effort.  But having said that, there was some spark in the book that became The Blade Itself right from my first efforts that I at least found fascinating.  Without that, I’m not sure I’d have got past the first page.” –Joe Abercrombie

Testify! I agree there. The ol’ swan metaphor. Obviously we need to put the effort in. I probably do a lot more revising than I think I do, because I do it without consciously thinking about it. I think the problem stems from the majority of my writing time coming from NaNoWriMo. Through November I have smoke coming from the keyboard as I Word Sprint and chase that 50k target. Quantity, not quality, perhaps. Although, even on a bad day I think my stuff is pretty schweet. So, anyway, since writing isn’t my job (yet… *shakes fist*) I guess I’m a bit haphazard about it. There are weeks when I’ll write every day even if it’s only a few sentences. Sometimes I go months without adding to anything existing. Not exactly the way forward if I want a career. So I know I need to be more proactive.

There’s a writing group near me. I don’t go. Maybe I should. I know someone who has been and apparently there are some scary practices going on. Like micro-planning everything before you begin: overall plot summary, chapter by chapter summary, lists and histories and bios and spider diagrams and everything neatly pinned to a board before the first creative word is written. I’m all for having a rough idea what the hell I’m doing but that’s going a bit too far. Isn’t it? I have a few major signposts and a rough idea of an ending, but how the characters get there is up for negotiation. But only with my own brain. I don’t negotiate with the characters.

I am sometimes a bit suspicious of people who treat their characters as though they’re real. A good example of this is from a NaNoWriMo write-in, in my first year of participating. My flatmates and I, all suckers together, were nervously listening to a seasoned NaNo vet. She was telling us things about her plot. She went into a little Word Sprint trance and rattled out another page or so, before exclaiming that she hadn’t realised that one of her characters had a cellar in their house. Um, what? There was an expositional scene in her book at that time, where two people are in a house. They end up in the cellar, much to the author’s surprise. She literally said, “Oh, I didn’t realise [character] had a cellar! It turns out that’s where they keep the [macguffin]!” like she was actually discovering a secret fact about a real person. Like she’d met this person and seen bits of their house and then found out, perhaps by a casual mention of the cellar in an un-related conversation, of its existence.

I know, when you’re writing, things come out that you didn’t plan. But it’s still a choice the author makes. Somewhere in her brain, she decided to have a character explain that the thing they were looking for was in the cellar, and take someone there to see it. She might not have expected to be writing about the cellar based on her original plan for the scene, but she did choose to make it part of the book. It’s slightly different from writing yourself into a corner with a character’s motivation or logical actions. That’s still a choice, but sort of a forced one. I mean those times when your writing is going as planned but due to the fallout for plot reasons, a character becomes derailed from your original idea and acts/speaks in a completely different way than you were expecting but it has to happen because ignoring it would make no sense.

For example, a spurned lover (who was a totally nice character and you thought they’d end up opening a pasty shop and they’d even filled in all the forms at the bank and everything) decides they can’t live in the same town as their ex/crush and moves to France because it’s high time they followed their dream, dammit!

What not to say: “Oh, I didn’t realise Tim was so keen on Impressionism!”

What to say: “It’ll mean a bit of a re-think but it made sense for the character, so I chose to put Tim in an art school on the continent while he sorts things out.”

I don’t care how invested in your work you are; please don’t become an idiot.

Slightly off-track. Writing process. I think I need to have one. Or is my lack of rigid process a process in itself?

Writing process isn’t enough in itself. Today, with amazingly good timing, Scott Lynch (another of my favourite authors) posted on his blog today about the magic shortcut formula of getting published. Or rather, the lack of one.

“Look, read this next bit very carefully: Famous useless idiots get book contracts all the time. Let us assume that we are not famous useless idiots, you and I. Therefore their situation is not germane to ours. Terrible, terrible writers also get book contracts all the time; this is because there’s no accounting for taste and because there is no accounting for taste and because, if you dig, there is no fucking accounting for taste. I can’t teach you how to get hit by a meteorite; I can only tell you about the “actively try to not be a terrible writer” approach, because it’s how me and most of my peers end up on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. This situation, which is my situation and, not to put too fine a point on it, YOUR situation if you’re unpublished and want to kill that ‘un-,’ is defined by the following equation:

Hard work + self-awareness + perseverance = MAYBE

“Maybe?” you say. “What the hell do you mean, maybe?”

What I mean is welcome to the universe, kid. No guarantees about anything, and the clock is already ticking. Try the potato salad. But that MAYBE is a golden result compared to the way the equation turns out if you subtract hard work, self-awareness, or perseverance. When you do that, MAYBE becomes NEVER. In fact, it becomes NEVER in bold followed by THIS MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS. !!!!!!!!!!!!” – Scott Lynch

You are my hero. Scott, if you ever read my books or even this blog, know that you are the first person this week apart from my friend J who is the person who sent me his own copy of Locke Lamora in the first place*, who has made me smile.

So, on top of the writing thing, I need to work on the perseverance thing. I feel like I’m already pretty self-aware. Amirite? I said the other day that I had a major motivator at the moment in pure and unadulterated rage and righteous indignation. I know that will wear off. I know I have to kick myself in the arse rather than wait for the next person to do it for me.

In the mean time, I’ll keep writing this blog, I’ll keep tweeting and writing short things and poems for online mags and fiction reviews, and I’ll keep bashing away at Quril and Murder Express, and maybe get around to making up better titles for them. I hope I do.

 

*I’m listening to the audiobook at the moment and Locke has just met the Grey King. I’m very excited by going through all this again but with character voices! The narrator is amazing.

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A short one

I finally decided that it was time to really work at being a writer thanks to an amazing experience I had just over a month ago. Well, really it was the aftermath that spurred me to greatness. Don’t worry; this is not sex-related.

I let myself get sucked into something that then blew up in my face and I got emotionally hurt pretty badly by someone I trusted. That hurt turned to anger and that anger became productivity (the productivity has not so far led to the dark side).

Basically, a great swelling bubble of righteous indignation rose up in me like Cthulu from the deeps. I swore I would show this person what I’m capable of and that I would even dedicate my published book to them:

 

…to [name]

for making me so angry I stopped procrastinating

I think that by the time I finish a book and edit and publish, I will be less angry. I will probably have someone better or something more mature to dedicate my book to, but for now whenever I feel myself flagging, I remind myself of what happened. And my fingers fly over the keys.

…Accompanied by angry muttering.

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The Ceilidh

Right, guys, I know my blog post is two days late. You vultures! I have had an extremely busy week. I got some family news at the start of the week that may lead to my dropping everything at the drop of a hat to get to the opposite end of the country so I’ve had to be extra-efficient and organised at work, meaning less time for faffing about. I also got some excellent news from two very dear friends, leading me to need to be organised to get to the other end of the country at a more leisurely pace in the autumn, but still with mega-organising needing to be done. I’ve had a flat inspection from my landlord (I was up at 5:30am last Friday cleaning the bathroom and mopping the kitchen floor). I had a retirement lunch to go to for someone at work. I went to a ceilidh and spent a lot of yesterday looking for decent shoes and a new pair of crop leggings (I don’t want full length ones! Damn you trendy shops…) and most of last night hollering and stamping and twirling in the finest Scottish tradition.

I’m also looking for somewhere to live, with a friend, and 2-3 bed unfurnished flats in the town that don’t cost a king’s ransom and are not manky are few and far between. So we’re umming and aahing about a flat in a village about twenty minutes drive/twelve minutes by train out of town, which is closer to the town I work in but I’d have to get the train instead of car-sharing. It’s all swings and roundabouts, really, because there are pros and cons to living in both places although clearly being in town is more convenient because CIVILISATION and most events (and my fave cafe, where I am right now, Velocity) are in the town. The village has food shops and a post office and a few tourist shops for postcards to cover my addiction to Postcrossing, but I’d have to be a lot more organised. That frightens me a little.

I mean, I’m approaching my late twenties like a bull at a gate, but the thought of actually being an adult and having to get a weekly shop in and stick to it, and do things in a goodly time without the safety net of everything I need being on the doorstep is a bit disconcerting. I think it’d be good for me, and a week of eating nothing but rice because I was too disorganised to get some real food in would be good for my moral education.

Speaking of a moral education, I’m listening to The Lies of Locke Lamora on audiobook at the moment. I’ve read the book and its sequel (Red Seas under Red Skies) a few times, so it’s quite relaxing because I don’t have to concentrate too hard. The narrator is excellent; he does good character voices and he speaks at a reasonable pace. I can’t stand audiobooks that drag. I’m in that position of remembering what’s going to happen and looking forward to it. Listening to the foreshadowing, and the bravado of the characters and knowing what’s going to go hideously wrong for them is sort of gleeful on my insides. Can’t wait for the Republic of Thieves to FINALLY be released this winter. We hope.

So that’s keeping me going a bit.

The ceilidh I went to last night was a charity one organised by a friend of mine and it turned out to be a small but enthusiastic gathering. My soon-to-be-flatmate and I arrived early and were a little worried that not many people would show but there were a fair few people there by eight. The band was excellent, which helps; two fiddlers an accordion and a guitar. The caller was friendly and got the group going, and they mixed traditional Scottish dances with a couple of folk dances from around the world.

It was a really fun night. We didn’t really know many people there (other than the organiser and a few of the cafe people who also know him) but everyone was really friendly. There were also a few teenagers there which was a little surprising. This weekend Rockness festival is in full swing. There they were though, jigging and step kicking with youthful abandon. The kids up here are brought up on ceilidhs and tradition and they take it quite seriously. There’s a weird mix of tradition and striving to be cool and ultra-modern in Highland kids, but they don’t half show up the adults when it comes to an eightsome reel.

It felt like we were at a select private ball from some Austen novel. There was a mix of ages and abilities, and tea and beer and social hierarchy based on who could spin each other the hardest and not fall over. I did a Military Two-Step with the only guy to come along in a kilt and for such a simple dance it doesn’t half take it out of you. We finished with Strip the Willow, which is traditional and the most tiring thing you’ve ever done because the band go on forever just when you think it’s done. It stings the pride a bit. You do all the whirling and prancing down the middle, and it is knackering but you’re too busy trying to keep up that you don’t notice. Then you have to wait your turn to go again and that’s when you get the stitch and feel like you can’t possibly do it again but then you’re at the top and you can’t let the side down so you have to give it your all even though you might fall over.

I’ll put a video at the bottom to demonstrate a Strip the Willow if you’ve not seen one before. It’s a very simple dance: two lines with partners facing each other, and the top couple spin each other and then each person down the line in turn, spinning each other in between.  We did it at my grad ball with about forty people on each side and it was the most daunting prospect ever. Last night there were maybe ten people per side so we all had about eight turns each at doing the run, or “Stripping the Willow” as it’s known in the game. It all goes a bit mental because when the top couple are three or four people down, the new top couple start. So you have to keep going or bust otherwise the ones behind catch you up. The two lines get further and further apart as people exit the spin so it gets more tiring with every run.

Great fun, though.

I could make some tenuous and sickening link to writing on even though you feel tired and daunted, because the feeling while you’re spinning (on a roll) makes the stitches and faint feeling while you’re clapping away up the side (the writer’s block or slow progress) worth it.

But I think I’ll let these crazy dancers speak for themselves. Bear in mind that they are dancing for six full minutes and while that might not seem like long, it feels like forever, and the video stops before they do. This isn’t us, it’s just an example from Nottingham Ceilidh Club (thanks, YouTube!)

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A quick catch-up

Alright, it’s new blog post day but it’s been a busy few days and so I thought I’d give you an update on what I’ve been up to instead of a massive ramble.

I have been:

-trying to avoid scratching my scabs from my hideous cuts (see back a couple of entries) but it’s so difficult! They’re huge and thick like a lava flow and they ain’t going away any time soon. The one on my knee is ridiculous!

-writing flash fiction for Scrolls

-writing poems for The Opening Line

-writing fanfiction for a competition (and then winning) run by a lady called Ivory Quinn and her insanely enthusiastic fan group. Ivory wrote a book called Obsession: Darkness Falls (first half of a two book set) which is very dark and really twisted. It’s a book I’m glad I read but I had to stop and question a lot of things which is sort of the point. Anyway, there was a comp to write our own chapter 1 of the second book (Redemption) which is coming out in August and I won. So my chapter will be printed at the back of the book! (Ivory says none of the entries actually got it right so it’ll be interesting to see how they compare)

-watching Community again from the beginning. I’m about four episodes into season 2 and right back in the Greendale zone. Alison Brie is my new style icon.

-watching The Fall on the BBC. My goodness. Next week is the final episode and it’s all gone a bit haywire. There’s a man strangling women in their own homes because he stalks them and breaks in, and the audience knows who the killer is because we see him going about his daily life as well. It’s set in Belfast so there’s a lot of politics and police corruption and gang-drug stuff going on too, which is getting in the way of the serial murder investigation. Gillian Anderson plays the senior investigating officer and she plays it cold and hard. I wouldn’t be surprised to find she’d killed a few people in her time.

It’s very intense. I was alone in the house last night watching it and doing my ironing and afterwards I was a bit jumpy. I was washing up and thought I heard something in the hall and nearly freaked right out. I checked all the windows before I went to bed. Catch up on the iPlayer if you can!

-walking about at a book fair, looking at (and buying…) delicious old books. I bought two. One of them has yet more cross-stitch patterns in it. I know – I have more than enough already. But it was so old! And useful! If I ever become a hoarder it’ll be for old craft books and supplies.

-NOT watching Game of Thrones. I don’t have Sky TV so I haven’t been watching it (I have read the books) but I gather something important happened this week given the way the Internet has exploded…

I’ll try and write a real entry for Friday. And maybe some more of the books I’m meant to be writing.

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