Category Archives: Blog

Distrusting the Voices

So I’ve been musing about the voices in my head, and how you know when they’re real: how do you distinguish between the anxiety weasels and actual voices that say needed things?

How do you know if you are ugly or beautiful? Worth something? Annoying or funny?

Anxiety means it’s all lies; so how do you actually know what the truth it? When do you start believing the voice in your head, having always shouted it down for lying?

I don’t really have any answers yet, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot.

The image is from Nerds with Vaginas on Facebook.

My TBR pile – Winter 2018

to be read pile winter 2018My To-Be-Read pile is slightly ridiculous. (Again.) And I’m on holiday this week, so I’ve got some time to read! So what’s on the heap?

Takes a deep breath…

(Ok, some of these aren’t entirely fair; I’ve read War of the Worlds, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Magicians, but they were part of my BristolCon haul. I’ve also had some of these on my TBR for a year…whoops. And that’s in spite of the amount I have managed to read!)

So! If Cats Disappeared from the World, Your Favourite Band Cannot Save You, Autodrome, The Affinity Bridge, Strange of Tempest, Dreamwalker, Truthwitch, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (in progress), Vanished Kingdoms, Prince Thief, The Man In The High Castle, This Savage Song, The Corpse-Rat King (in progress), The Adamantine Palace, The Bone Season, The Court of Broken Knives and Moon’s Artifice.

And on ebook…

The Wizard’s Daughter (in progress), Love&Bubbles, Starborn, The Ninth Rain, Dangerous To Know, Everless, The Written, Sanyare, Valley of Embers, Where The Waters Turn Black, Touch of Iron, Spectris, Shattermoon, The Tethered Mage (in progress), The Secret of Ji, Broad Knowledge & Choose Wisely.

That’s not including the books that are on my “ooh, that’d be good” – this is literally my “I own this and need to actually read the damn thing” list/pile.

And that’s not including a novel about magical teenagers that I’m halfway through, one about a love & gods & epic struggles that I need to do a third read on, two submissions from friends that I’ve put into my work inbox just so I’ll get them done, a short story and some sneaky erotica from a friend that’s on the top of my list because they’re an amazing writer, and whatever new fiction is on Wattpad. Plus, looking through my pile, there’s a bunch of authors that I need to go see if they’ve published anything more…

Despite the towering heap that I suspect some day will fall over, I’m always happy to take recommendations! But if you need me this week – I’ll be reading.

Ps. Someone at work asked me – “So, how many books do you read a year? Is it, like…as many as 50?”

“Oh, yes. Probably a lot more…”

I did then explain that it’s also my job, but still! 😀

My Blog’s Name In Books

I spotted this on Everywhere&Nowhere, and thought it sounded fun!

1.  Spell out your blog’s name. (this is where you wish your blog’s name was shorter LOL)

2. Find a book from your TBR that begins with each letter. (Note you cannot ADD to your TBR to complete this challenge – the books must already be on your Goodreads TBR)

3. Have fun!  

My slight issue is that I don’t use Goodreads as a TBR, so I’m going to give this a try with my Amazon wishlist…

Waypoint Kangaroo by  Curtis Chen

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers (although I have already read this, it’s on my list as I don’t own a copy yet!)

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Tread Lightly by Catherine Lane

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron

Geomancer: the Well of Echoes by Ian Irvine

 

Aspects of the Novel by EM Forster

New Oxford Style Manual

Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Ceasar by Tom Holland

 

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

Of Gods and Madness: the Faithful by Justin D Herd

Embers of War by Gareth L Powell

Whaddya know, it worked! I have enough random books without using all the “The…” titles too. So that’s a small, very random slice of my written-down TBR – the actual one is half in my head, half on Amazon, and half augmented by anything I see and go “OOOOH I wanted to read that one!”

How to cope with Hypoglycemia

Because a couple of people have asked me about hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and I realise that while I do explain, I might not do so particularly clearly…and, to be honest, it’s not so common a thing, despite everyone having it to some extent!

The TL;DR of this is – LISTEN TO THE PERSON. THEY WILL USUALLY TELL YOU WHAT THEY NEED.

Having got that out of the way, let me do some more explaining. I’ve got mild hypoglycemia, and have had since I was a child. Basically, I don’t cope too well with not eating for extended periods of time – by which I mean about 3 hours. However, I’m lucky: because it’s mild and not related to diabetes, it’s very much an invisible illness, and one that mostly doesn’t affect me. (Hah. Ok. I manage it so that it doesn’t affect me, mostly.) I don’t need to do the blood pricks or carry insulin/glucose, and it’s not immediately life-threatening – which for many people with the condition, is can be. For me, it just means that I seem to go through glucose a lot faster than most people – and have a worse reaction if I get low blood sugar.

So I’m writing this for a couple of reasons:

  • a PSA for anyone who a) knows me, or b) may know someone with the condition; this is the sort of thing you need to watch out for.
  • to say that this is one of the small, invisible illnesses that does exist – it doesn’t affect my life too badly (or at least is something I manage) and I don’t need any accommodations beyond “sometimes I need to eat in meetings”, but it’s something that is there.
  • and to say: this is me. This is my brain, my body, my life; I’ve had a couple of people asking simply in the spirit of “really? Can you tell me more about it?” so…explanation!

And now a brief diversion via storytime for the fourth reason that I’m writing this…

Basically, one day last week, I messed up. There’s various factors that affect my sugar levels and how they work with my body, including how well I’ve slept and what I’ve been eating (which is why you’ll sometimes find me talking about having a “shaky” day). I hadn’t been doing anything that I knew would trigger issues, and I woke up fine and trundled myself on my walk to work. I realised when I got in that I was a bit tired, but it was the point that I put my bag down and had to try three times to open it that I got a bit suspicious. I can’t always judge how well/badly I’m doing, so it is always a little bit of a guessing game to see where I am on the when-I-need-food scale, and that morning I was struggling a lot sooner than I normally would do…

And that was when I went via a friend’s desk on my way to make tea and porridge, as they know me, and know how to cope – and I had a sneaking suspicion that I might need someone there to watch my back.

The point I nearly dropped the kettle the first time was a bit of a giveaway that I’d been right to be suspicious; the second time got the kettle taken off me before I tipped hot water everywhere, and the point I got tunnel vision was the point I sat myself down on the floor! I think I startled a few caffeine-deprived coworkers, but my friend just handed my tea down to me and spent the next fifteen minutes cheerfully disclaiming any responsibility to said startled coworkers and checking my porridge hadn’t exploded, while I cracked up laughing and got as much of my tea into me as I could. Because I’d caught it in time, I had enough energy to get back to my desk and get breakfast in me (which my friend kindly delivered, mostly to save the carpet from spilled porridge) and by lunchtime I was back to normal. Not unusual in my general experience, but the first time I’ve been that bad at work – and in front of other people *winces* which was…well. Not fun, for them and for me – sorry to anyone I scared!

But! I will bet quite a bit of chocolate that the above incident was the first time everyone (except said friend) in that kitchen had realised there was anything different about the way my body processes glucose and the way I deal with it. Invisible illnesses are invisible – until they’re visible!

So this is your PSA on dealing with hypoglycemia, or at least my case. In anyone with a more severe condition, these timeframes will be a lot shorter, and they’ll have specific things they need to do – but in all cases, more glucose is never a bad thing.

What does it look like?

The first things people tend to notice (to do with my hypoglycemia, anyway) are;

  • I’m the snack queen – I’ll usually have a cereal bar, packet of biscuits or banana on me, and my desk drawer always has a selection of noms;
  • I’ll occasionally hold my hand out flat and stare at it intently for a few seconds, usually after someone’s asked me “how are you doing?”;
  • I usually give time periods before I next need a meal, which can range from “eh, I’m fine” to “you’ve got half an hour and then I WILL NEED FOOD.”
  • I’ll occasionally interrupt things with, “Sorry, I need to eat” and cheerfully continue with whatever it was with the addition of a cereal bar. It seems to flummox some people. (Sorry!)
“When did you last eat?”

The root of hypoglycemia is something everyone gets if they don’t eat enough: low blood sugar. A lot of the initial symptoms might be recognisable – know anyone that gets hangry, tired or irritable if they skip a meal? I get hungry and then tired, but I’ll also get shaky, which is what I look for in my hand. That’s my first sign that it’s not just hunger – as obviously I do get the same reactions as everyone, and therefore “hungry” could simply be my stomach demanding a second breakfast or that spare donut 😀

This is basically the “Kate, you’re a bit grumpy/tired/pale, when did you last eat?” stage, and the solution is a decent meal – for me, preferably something hot and with carbs. However, it’s not always quite that simple: my anxiety means that I often find it hard to go to restaurants or buy food, and if I’m not doing great, I’ll actively avoid eating because it’s stressful…which then, of course, makes me worse. (Yes, I know. That’s why it’s anxiety: it’s not rational.) Various friends know what to look for with this, as it’s quite hard to explain – but as a quick solution if I don’t want to eat, get yourself food and share it with me. It’s one of the shortcuts for my anxiety brain, and will at least get enough energy into me that I’ll hopefully get myself sorted shortly afterwards!

Umbles

If I ignore the hungry I-should-eat – which I can, and frequently do – then I start getting then I get what I affectionately call the “umbles”; mumbles, grumbles, fumbles, bumbles. I’ll drop things. I start getting noticeably tired. I’ll be a bit more clumsy – I’ve referred to “egg days” before, after the day I was handed an egg for baking and it went straight through my fingers…

So if I’m at the I’m at the a-bit-shaky stage, hand me a cereal bar or biscuits, but preferably something not too sugary – so oats, nuts, plain biscuit, that sort of thing. Chocolate isn’t great because it’s too quick a rush, and while it works, if I don’t then get something more substantial in me then I’ll come down off the sugar rush HARD, which hurts. The amount of people that give me chocolate when I’m looking a bit shaky is lovely – I thank them profusely and save it for later. (Definitely not wasting chocolate.)

This is also the stage where if I say to you, “I need to go and eat NOW,” it is not the time to just spend ten minutes faffing or “oh but I just need to-” because I am now on a time limit and You. Are. Not. Helping. If I ever say this and look like I want to murder you, that’s why. (In the nicest possible way, of course.)

“Ok, I’m not doing great: help?”

I can push through the shakiness. I know, I know – but if I do then hey, I get a bit of a second wind! Which depletes my reserves and I shortly end up in exactly the same shaky position just without the second wind option, and I really should, by now, know better. It’s easy to just keep going, but the consequences can be nasty (which I’ll go into in a sec). It also happens if I haven’t eaten for 10+ hours (for example, if I’ve been asleep…) or my body’s having a strange day with how it’s processing things, so it’s not just me making terrible decisions.

This is, to me, the “ok, this isn’t great” sitting-on-the-floor and completely-out-of-energy stage – I’ll be properly ‘umbles’, shaking, likely close to fainting if I move too fast, and I can feel an ache in my muscles. I’ll probably also be fairly pale, having trouble focusing, talking quite slowly, and generally a bit subdued.

I’ll possibly also ask for help if I’m around friends – that’s when you know it’s bad!

The solution: anything sugary straight off, and then a decent meal of some sort to back it up. A good compromise is tea, preferably with two sugars, and make sure I’ve got a damn good grip on the mug because I’m likely to drop it. I say ‘compromise’ there because the hot liquid and sugar hurt my stomach but it’s the best thing mentally, and also usually the simplest thing for someone else to make. Also be aware that it will take me about fifteen minutes to get enough sugar in me to recover and get myself somewhere (in last week’s case, off the floor and back to my desk) and then up to 3 hours to get everything back up and running – the aftermath feels a bit like a flu ache, so I’m likely to be moving slowly and holding on to things for a little while after.

The friend help at this stage is often more to field off enquiries and well-meaning people; I know what I need to do, and I’m usually already doing it. It’s also to carry things – yes, I have dropped full mugs of tea before because they’re too heavy – and generally just make sure I am recovering. I’ll still be completely compos throughout all of this; it doesn’t affect my brain (much), only my body. So just keep talking to me, and I’ll probably be laughing at myself while working through tea!

This is pretty bad… (not likely to happen soon to me, at least)

I can keep going, but I’ve not been that much of – frankly – a damned idiot for 15 years. Apparently I collapse, have a fit, and if I then push past that – which I’ve never done – I’d end up in a) hospital, or b) a coma. Fun.

So, if I (or circumstances) do push far enough that I do collapse: let me pass out. I’ll recover, and then you can do the above – aka. feed me sugar. Paramedics can’t do anything: I appreciate it’s a bit scary to see someone shaking on the floor, but it really is a case of just letting it happen and then dealing with the aftermath. I appreciate that anyone around me would probably call an ambulance anyway because it’s hard to tell what is causing a fit, but if you at least tell them I have hypoglycemia they’ll be able to confirm that’s the cause, rather than anything worse. In the one experience I have had, I’d recovered by the time the paramedics turned up and was able to reassure them I was fine.

General advice for any of these stages: talk to me.

Yes, my brain’s sometimes an idiot but if you ask me when I next need to eat, I’ll tell you! I’m also a lot better at letting people know and planning it in to trips, and letting people know if I am having a problem; it’s something that I can – and will – talk about.

If you’re not sure, then ask me (and feel free to tell me that I’m an idiot, as long as you back that up with actual help).

So that’s your random PSA for mild hypoglycemia in Kate form!

cookie

Dream-paths and Fairways

I walked back across the track a couple of nights ago with the same friend who made the original journey with me, Otter*; we decided to go on an adventure despite the darkness, and I’m so glad we did! It was one of those surreal, half-imagined, half-real experiences that I’m so glad I shared with someone, because then you can at least look at someone else and say; “I did experience that, didn’t I…”

It was a clouded night, low and rolling, but the city lights were reflected; they made the air half-shadowed, lit in whites and greys, light enough to see each other’s faces but dark enough to be a dusky shadow. The ceiling of clouds was broken by slashes, and I ended up walking with my face turned to the sky, watching as the stars spun behind the white and grey, rents of black that sent the field stumbling. And the road; it went on forever, the fields stretching either side of it, following the rows of pylons into the dusk – if we’d half-closed our eyes, succumbed to a dreaming drowsiness, we could have missed the cross-path and walked on forever into the dusky lands…

As an aside: Otter and I were talking about the early Greek idea of afterlife, the endless nothingness, Achilles and “Don’t try to sell me on death, Odysseus / I’d rather be a hired hand back up on earth / Slaving away for some poor dirt farmer / Than lord it over all these withered dead”; and talking about mirrors being portals to another world, a shadowed reflections of our own, and how you’d get back if you stepped through. I promptly pulled China Mieville’s Looking For Jake off the shelf when I got home!

The railway was another world again, reached through a tunnel of tangled branches and upright trunks; an orange sodium capsule of light with bright tracks, the gleam of the rails forming another barrier, another path, industrial and warm and still in the midst of the dark landscape – and as unreachable as the mirror-world in the lakes from our perch above, walking across the footbridge that looked down over the strange landscape.

And then the lakes; we sat peacefully on the steps for a while, looking out over the narrow bridge as it stretched between the reflections: the lakes on either side so still that they were just stars and cloud, no ripples, no wind, nothing moving. We watched as people walked past the portal, lit in white and moving on with their world – while ours was still, held, waiting for something. We had the hum of the road overlaying the stillness, the stars wheeling overhead through the slashes of sky, talking about nothing: and the real world beckoning for us to choose the walk across the long path and the step through the portal ahead.

And then, looking back from the portal across the stillness of the lakes:

via GIPHY

I have no idea what or how this is going to come out in my writing, but I’m going to be very interested to see how it does!

 

*They picked the nickname, and it’s now a running joke that I’m trying to get a whole woodland collection!