A Life Update: 2023 Hiatus

~~ Please note: this blog is on hiatus from 2023, and this site will not be updated regularly. If you do need to contact me, please do so at editor [at] writingandcoe [dot] co [dot] uk. ~~

So 2022 involved moving house, getting a new (unexpectedly stressful!) job, saying goodbye to two feline friends and hello to a new one, and generally coping with… well, everything *looks around at the world* which frankly is something of an achievement for everyone, I feel.

My burnout has reduced down to manageable levels, and thanks to some wonderful anti-depressants, I’m mostly functioning. But I can’t face getting back into the SFF world; I have been struggling to read much of the genre, and I don’t want to deal with conventions, or talking to people, or trying to figure out where I fit in a space that I once loved. I’m not seeing much progress on getting my writing back either, which frankly sucks – I miss it! And I haven’t been able to find much joy in life to share; I’ve been doing a bit of crafting and travelling and reading, and the house has been fun to work on, and the cats are cute, but I just can’t find the energy to talk about it all.

I’m semi-officially shelving the GreenSky series, at least until I figure out what I want to do with it. Books 1-6 are available; Books 7, 8 & 9 are finished and ready to print, but after waiting five years for covers, I’ve reached zero fucks on that front. And Book 10 has got a plan in place for finishing it, but I don’t have the words; so that will most likely stay half-finished. So – series shelved, for now. And I can’t face trying to get the Ghost stories published; the protagonist is trans* and I’m not and I just can’t face the scrutiny and hate that would come with the book not being own-voices. Plus the idea of trying to query agents, or figure out self-publishing and marketing, is just too much to handle. So, again, shelved.

Therefore: a hiatus here, until (if? when?) my writing and crafting and actual ability to Do Stuff And Then Write About It comes back. I’m leaving everything up, though, so please do feel free to read the short stories and buy whatever books are available and generally poke through the resources.

Thank you to everyone for reading, and if you do need to contact me, please do so at editor [at] writingandcoe [dot] co [dot] uk.

A Life Update: August 2022

It’s somehow August? The END of August? I’m not entirely sure where that’s all gone… Well, I do know: we moved house. And I’m changing jobs. And we decided to pick August for doing All The Trips.

A black cat sitting on a doormat in front of a white door

So, good news first! We moved house! We’re still in Oxford, but have moved down to one of the tiny little villages to the south of the city. We’ve got an adorable cottage with wonky floors, a hidden well and lots of beams to whack heads on unexpectedly. It promises to be a lot of fun!

And the bad news… unfortunately our small black grumpy housemate passed away. Bobble’s arthritis had been getting worse for a few months and just after we moved, one of his back legs gave up, and we made the decision to put him to sleep. The Otter and I were both with him when he fell asleep at home, and we miss him terribly – the house is far too quiet! But he had a lovely retirement with naps, humans to yell at, lots of biscuits (although of course NOT ENOUGH, WHY IS MY BOWL EMPTY, I AM BEING STARVED) and so much love – and we were honoured to have his company through lockdown. We’d definitely consider taking on an older cat again, and he had so much personality and character that it was great fun to spend time with him.

And the… medium?… news – I am changing jobs again! Still in the journals business, but moving into Production at Taylor&Francis for a year. It’s a bit of a pay rise plus I can cycle to work, so that will be a good bonus. They’ve been lovely so far (and my old team at Elsevier are lovely too!) so it’s been as easy a transition as possible.

Trips-wise, we managed to get out to the Great Dorset Steam Fair this year; it was VERY HOT but we had a good morning wandering around, poking through the jumble and watching the steam engine playground. We’ve also managed to see some family, watch the powerboat races on the Solent, visit friends in Oxford and enjoy our garden – which still feels like a day out in itself! We saw a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (so quick! so pretty!) and we’ve got loads of bees on the lavender and it still feels like a holiday cottage… if you excuse the piles of boxes.

Beyond that; no writing yet, and very little reading – my brain seems to be mostly consumed with logistics. I’m still grey, albeit with more energy; but I just can’t get excited about much. I’m still hoping that if I stay on the anti-depressants (which are working the best out of all the ones I’ve tried) then things will start coming back? And if there’s a bit of normality and chill in the new house, and the job settles down, then that will help. It’s something to aim towards anyway.

Oxford has been beautiful in the sunshine though!

A hot air balloon over a river with trees either side

A June Update: 2022

I am having a quiet giggle to myself on this Bank Holiday morning, as obviously – because it’s Britain – it’s tipping down with rain. There are lots of planned BBQs, parties, drinks, fireworks… and it’s raining. He he he. (I am staying inside and working today, so I am missing out already – but the ability of the British weather to royally mess up any planned celebration does amuse me.)

A black cat sitting on a windowsill, glaring at something out the window

Speaking of working, I recently took on some copy-editing for my Ex-Work (which I do occasionally, when I feel like it) and had the very usual situation of a “can we get this turned around pretty fast?” turning into “ok uh you can do it in 24 hours, yes?”

Y’know what? Not my circus, not my monkeys. It felt incredibly freeing to be able to think “well, that’d be nice; but I am one person with this amount of time, so… it’ll be done when it’s done.” And actually the Bank Holiday came to my rescue anyway, so it’s less of a rush, but still. It felt nice.

The Redoubtable Pali AvramapulWhat else? I’ve been reading again – THERE’S A NEW BOOK FROM VICTORIA GODDARD AND IT IS FANTASTIC. The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul is the next in the Red Company series, following on from The Hands of the Emperor and The Return of Fitzroy Angursell, and it’s so good. As I discussed with someone on Reddit, I want Pea and Kissy, and would cheerfully let Pali stab me and then thank her afterwards. You can absolutely read it as a stand-alone, but it’s definitely better read after The Return of Fitzroy Angursell at least.

I’m part-way through more books; Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Tiger & The Wolf, City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to Dragons by Quenby Olson. I’ve also picked up a few others – The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg, The Black Pages by Nnedi Okorafor, Tom Holland’s Dominion, The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by HG Parry. I’m still struggling to read, even books I want to pick up – the Otter gave me A Conspiracy of Truths by Alexandra Rowland for my birthday, which I’ve wanted for ages, and I just can’t pick it up… but I’m working on it.

A black cat snoozing on a green rugIn other news; the cat is still Grumpy (as always) but has been practising his solar panel positions for maximum heat-absorption, and filling up on biscuits when not heating his fluff. He’s been enjoying yelling, eating all the biscuits, more yelling, and napping. In short, he is still thoroughly enjoying his retirement!

Aaaaand… we are (hopefully, fingers crossed, pls send us all the luck) moving house! We’re staying in the Oxford area, but have found a larger place that the Otter and I both adore. We have started packing things into storage, as we don’t have anywhere in the one-bedroomed-flat to keep boxes, but we don’t have a date yet. Bobble is both concerned and very happy to have multiple boxes to test out for sitting-spots, and we think he’ll love the new space. More updates as they happen…

Wytchwood logoIn games news, I have just finished Wytchwood on Switch, which is adorable and grumpy and contains lots of snark and collecting things, which I enjoyed. Also if you’re on Steam, Dorfromantik is now out in the full version! It’s a bit like Carcassonne but single-player, and I really enjoy it. I also recently tried Calico, which is adorable and promises a lot, but I have found the controls and visuals a bit funky on Switch – might be better on console or PC, dunno. It’s put me off playing, anyhow.

Beyond that… grey, still. Still on meds, which are helping – I at least have spoons – but it’s all just a bit meh, even with various Things (aka. new house – which all still feels like it could go wrong, so that’s a bit of a mixed blessing.)

One foot in front of the other, anyhow! Have a sunny view of Oxford (from the top of Westgate) to brighten your days.

A view over the rooftops of Oxford with college spires in the sunshine


Wot I Did On My Holidays (April-May 2022 Edition)

We have just come back from a long-long-weekend in Lydford, Devon… and it was a little more eventful than planned!

Walking with alpacas

Things Wot We Did:

  • Turned the car into a boy racer…
  • …and then got assistance in making the boy racer slightly less, well, exhaust-dragging-on-the-ground-style… by a bunch of Polish moving crew, who turned up with a large length of wire and a beaming smile to bodge everything back together so we could get to the campsite…
  • Managed to not burn beans
  • Gave some alpacas a shower
  • Did burn sausages
  • Met Big Dave (who was, indeed, a Chonk)
  • Got grumbled at by Mr T
  • Turned the Otter into either Vincent Van Gogh or Adrian Stephen, we’re not entirely sure which
  • Lost Dartmoor (it did reappear later on)
  • Didn’t eat dinner with the Devil – the cauldron was broken
  • Got sat on by a sheep
  • Climbed up way too many hills
  • Climbed down way too many steps

A white fluffy alpaca looking at the camera

We were staying in Lydford Caravan and Camping Park, which was lovely – we bagged a great spot for the tent with a lovely view, and it was a really nice location. Everyone there was so helpful too! (Mostly with helping us find a garage so we could stick the exhaust back on and get back to Oxford…) and it’s a really nice little village. We tried the local pub (The Castle Inn) which does great fish&chips and a pint or two of the local cider, and also had a very friendly cat that we said hello to.

Lydford Gorge - very green!

We spent a morning with alpacas at Lydford Gorge Alpacas, run by the wonderful Helen. Mr T was not exactly feeling the trekking bit, so we went to play in the stream instead, and then got to help give everyone a shower – and met a sheep! (Snowball. VERY floofy!) Walking back through Lydford Gorge was beautiful – it’s well worth a trek, and the walk from the waterfall side to the Devil’s Cauldron is the best (as it’s down by the river, and has the best views!)

Chatting to a brown alpaca by a stream

And then we got to see OTTERS and more OTTERS and some more OTTERS and the SQUEAKIEST BUNCH OF OTTERS and it was fantastic! We started off at Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary, where we got to meet a whole bunch, see some swimming (they have an underwater viewing tunnel and it’s fantastic – we had one point where two lots were swimming either side! They are so elegant, even when trying to gently murder each other) and also met a bunch of British otters, who included the aptly named Big Dave. (Think raccoon, basically!)

And then over to Dartmoor Zoo, where we met a bunch of lizards, spotted a snoozing tiger and a bunch of fluff that was probably a wolf, got (thankfully) ignored by the lions, saw the cutest Burrowing Owl chick (SO FLUFFY AND SO GRUMPY) and then got to feed the noisiest and most adorable bunch of otters! They were so cute, although the keeper did stop us out of sight to explain everything, as you can’t get a word in edgeways once the collection of general chaos in otter form spots you & the dinner bucket…

We also got to wander round Okehampton while picking up the (mended) car; headed over to the Eden Project for a lovely day looking at a ridiculously huge variety of trees; and generally got to admire a lot of really really nice scenery! We took the scenic routes wherever possible, and it’s totally worth the extra 15-30 minutes of driving; so many wonderful bridges, cliffs, valleys and views…

We are now home, got told off by the cat (who of course then had to sniff everything) and have managed to dry the tent out. A good few days away – even if a little* stressful!

Mr T and Occy in a stream

*Home managed to be a bit stressful too, as our cat-sitter forgot to feed Bobble at one point… thankfully another neighbour stepped in and he’s fine, but oh boy did we hear about it when we got back!

What Does Memory Loss Feel Like?

Welcome to my office! Aka, my brain. Think about having a filing cabinet in your room; a good solid one, that has been kicked around and sat on and opened & closed relentless times. That’s memory, right? Plus stacks of files around that are all the stuff you’re currently dealing and interacting with, and then post-it notes stuck all over the place because they’re the things that are for right now and you won’t need in five minutes. It’s a mess, but an organised one, yes?

But one of the side-effects of long-term depression is memory loss, and over the last 1o-15 years, I have been finding that I can’t recall things. Can’t find the memories. Can’t find the words. I was actually relieved when I learned that memory loss is a side effect, because it felt like my memory was draining much faster than it should have been – and despite everyone else’s “har har, yeah, I get that!” – it felt worse. It’s not bad, not yet, and I work around it, but it is worrying.

And I thought… actually, for someone who doesn’t live with this: can I explain what it feels like to not be able to access a bunch of my office-brain?

The little day-to-day stuff – I just can’t find the post-it note I need. I know that word, but where is that damn bit of bright yellow paper? Ah, here! That’s the word. Previously, I might have had it stuck to my hand, or immediately grabbable – now, it’s somewhere on my desk… and so there’s sometimes a delay as my brain hunts through the words, trying to get the right one! Although I am finding, over the past year, that the post-its are harder to find. That word I want; it used to be on the tip of my tongue, and went from being immediate, to a second or two… and now it’s more often than not failing to come, and I sometimes can’t even recall the shape of it – I substitute a pink post-it for a yellow and I get the word wrong, even if it’s the same vague association. (This is what I mean by “it’s getting worse” – I do have some sort of objective benchmarks, as well as a feeling.)

Some things have a nice, reassuring bulk of memory; friendship with a long-time friend, for example. I know I’ve got all these good memories; a bastion of warmth and tough times and good times and laughter and shared things. But I don’t need to access that; it’s a nice solid filing cabinet that I can sit on, so it doesn’t exactly matter what’s inside it. That’s not too bad; I know the cabinet is there, even if I don’t need to get into it right now.

Some things, I need to get into the cabinet, but I can’t pull the memory out. I had Thornton’s nut toffee recently, completely randomly, and it sparked… something. I know I have a memory associated with that taste, but I can’t find it. I can’t pull it out of the folder. It’s just… not accessible to me right now.

And some things, the memories simply aren’t there. I open the cabinet and it’s a blank; there might be one thing, but nothing else around it. I sometimes have a bright memory linked to a photograph, or a specific moment; but often, the surroundings will be blank. You know the way people often say “oh yes, that trip to X, we did Y and Z” – I don’t have those Y and Z memories. Or I’ll have one or two where other people have ten or twenty. The memory folder that once had a lot in has been whittled down, somehow, and just isn’t as bulky.

And some things are just blank. Gone. I know I should remember… but I don’t. Just grey emptiness. It’s not even that the cabinet is locked; it’s that it’s not even there, or the folder is completely empty. I’ve got a photo somewhere of my family on a trip; I must have taken the photo, as I have it, and I think it’s Florence… but I have no memory of that trip. Zilch. It’s just a photo that I can piece some information together from.(I actually have “Florence 2014” written on it, so that’s something… but can I remember the trip? I mean, I can’t really remember 2014!)

And, honestly, it’s just normal now. I think the terrifying thing with memory loss is that you get used to it; I’ve been learning coping mechanisms for the damn-what’s-that-word, but I can’t do much about the rest. I keep a diary, but don’t keep detailed notes – because what help are notes, if they don’t actually help you recall? And I’m lucky that it’s not yet too bad, and it’s only going slowly – so I am, objectively, fine. I can recall what I need to (mostly), and I know people and places. So I’m just working around a slight issue with wonky filing cabinets and lost post-it notes, and it’s fiiiiine.

(If you catch me pausing when I talk, or if I hesitate, the memory thing is probably why. I know the word, damnit, I just can’t actually find that goddamn bright pink post-it note right now!)

My brain is weird, and wonderful; and also incredibly frustrating at times. But have a small glimpse into what it’s like to have a filing cabinet that you can’t open – and post-it notes stuck everywhere!