Category Archives: Blog

Thinking About Trauma

Trigger warnings for… I’m not sure what. Trauma, miscarriage, mental health? It’s a bit of a jumble of thoughts, really.

So I trundled off up to the hospital yesterday for some random tests (I’m fine, it’s only minor stuff) and I’ve been given some medication. As part of this, I was Strongly Warned that I shouldn’t be taking it while pregnant. Hah, no, no plans to get pregnant. And that was…ok. I felt fine with it.  It didn’t feel weird to say or think; it was just a Thing. I’m not planning on having children, and that’s ok.

And the nice thing, I realised afterwards, is that the doctor actually listened to me. At no point did anyone try to change my mind, disagree, tell me that I’d want children eventually, disapprove… considering there’s a lot of stories of women whose medical advisors don’t listen to them – particularly when it comes to not wanting children! – I’m incredibly grateful for the empathy and understanding that I get from most of the medical professionals that I’ve interacted with. (I make an exception for one doctor, but I try to be charitable and assume things got lost in translation with them.)

I also had to mention the miscarriages, and that was actually kinda weird. The doctor’s reaction was sympathy, and I can understand that – it’s a shitty thing to happen to anyone, and if anyone told me that they’d had the same experience, I’d be entirely sympathetic. But actually, I’m ok with it. I’m not particularly sad, or traumatised, or… whatever I should be feeling. It sucked at the time, but I think sort of expecting it to happen helped soften the blows. It’s crap to have one miscarriage, let alone three, but it’s not as big a deal as it could have been. Which isn’t to say that it’s not for other people, and it shouldn’t be treated as such: miscarriages fucking suck balls, particularly after 12 weeks. I’m just saying that I think I’ve come to terms with mine – which is good, I think. A little worrying, maybe? I wonder if I’ve repressed it or something, especially as I’ve been feeling grey for a while. But I don’t really know how you find out if you’re repressing stuff (especially as I’m ok talking about it) so… I guess I just don’t worry about it too much?

It’s fairly easy to figure out when you’re not dealing well with something. I don’t really know how you figure out if you are dealing well with it, beyond it… not really being a problem.

Anyhow.

I’m also incredibly grateful for the NHS. I trogged around four different departments and it cost me £9 plus a bus fare – and that’s for two blood tests (same arm – I was GRUMPY), a batch of about six other tests, a chat with two doctors and a nurse, a pile of pills and the promise of check-ups. All for less than £15!

I was also very grateful to not be blown off about any of the problems I asked people about. It’s reassuring to be listened to and given solutions, particularly when for most of my life the solution has been “oh, you’ll grow out of it” or “GENERIC PILLS” or one of a list of standard things that I’ve tried and haven’t helped. So that was nice.

My work also rock; I got in and, in the words of Otter, looked a “bit grey”. (I took that to mean “have you seriously just walked out of one of our Zombie games?!”) David got me tea, the Boss told me to drink it, and I got to just chill for a bit until I was less shaky. It’s really nice to just have my limitations accepted! (And be fed tea on request.)

Also, I got a red bean bun from Rachel’s as a treat for not fainting during the blood draws. GO ME! (Also also: it’s still a point of serious pissed-off-ness that I’m not allowed to give blood because I faint. Like, seriously?!)

So, there we go: a Kate ramble of thoughts and weirdness for today.

FantasyCon 2019 & Some Updates

Went to FantasyCon, had a good time, came back. Going involved loud singing and random conversation about time travel (don’t ask). Coming back involved even more singing but no time travel. It did have a traffic queue at Oxford, though.

The con itself was good; quieter than other years, I think partly due to location (which wasn’t great as it was pretty inaccessible from Glasgow city centre) and partly due to people having other commitments. It was really great to catch up with people though, and I’m starting to see more friends – which is a really nice feeling! Had some great conversations and enjoyed chatting to everyone I managed to speak to. The Redcloaks team were amazing as always and the panels that I went to were excellent and interesting, so it was worth the trip. Next year is Sheffield, anyhow, so that will be fun!

(I did have a bit of the “I’m not doing enough” and “I should be talking to everyone” and social anxiety, but it was manageable. I’m now getting kicked in the head by the backlash from that so I’m very glad I booked today off work!)

I may be trundling down to BristolCon this weekend; I admit that I haven’t actually decided yet… it partly depends on my energy levels!

In other updates… BOOOOOOOKS. I got The Ten Thousand Doors of January because I adore Alix Harrow’s writing, The Bard’s Blade was my freebie book (I originally got the excellent The Hanging Artist but I’ve already read that…), Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower on Womble‘s suggestion, and Wonderland, which I’ve already read and will review shortly! I did also spend about an hour at the Waterstones stall, taking pictures of book covers and spamming our work thread with “THIS IS SO PRETTY” and “Foil. Foil? AND SPOT. WE NEED TO DO THIS” and driving Dee insane trying to pick a book to buy. I almost did the same at Leaf’s stall (The Portal Bookshop, and in entirely related news, I need to go to York again soon…) but unfortunately I’d read a bunch of them already. In related news to that, though, The Library of the Unwritten is great!

And also; I have a story idea! I don’t know how far it will get but David used the words “creepy as fuck” twice when I was explaining it, so I think that’s a good sign…

Professional Development: Improving My Editing

One question: HOW?!

There have been a couple of situations recently where I’ve felt my lack. It’s not that I’m not good at it; I think I am. It’s that I need to be better.

I am a member of Sfep (and pretty close to getting my Professional status!) but actually, their training hasn’t been that helpful; I know how to use Word, I’ve got the basics of editing… it’s excellent for beginners, but for me, it’s the details that I’m feeling need improvement. Basically, I need to work on my reading comprehension. I need to work on what could be changed; I need to work on any and all improvements. I need to work on my skills at improving an existing book, and helping the author perfect and polish.

The problem is – how do I do this? It’s an ongoing problem in publishing, I think: how do you teach someone to recognise a good book, or to recognise what could be improved?

It’s an incredibly personal skill, too: there’s a huge balancing act between changing something just because you don’t like it, changing something because it’s not how you’d do it, and changing something because there’s a better way of doing it. All can potentially be good, bad or ugly: and all need to be used in moderation!

My aim is always to keep the author’s voice and style and choices as the primary objective, but… maybe I do need to start trusting myself more?

Work on my attention to detail, particularly when copy-editing.

Just because someone’s a good writer doesn’t mean they don’t miss things (spelling names three different ways, for example…) and it doesn’t mean that something can’t be improved.

Identify three things per book that I’d change

One of the problem areas is that I tend to have niggles about books, but struggle to pull them out into “actually, yes, this could be changed.” I’m putting an arbitrary number on it to make me think, not because every book will have issues – some will have more or less!

Trust myself – but also keep an eye on my biases

This is what I struggle with; the balance between what I like, what I enjoy reading and what’s good – and what I don’t think is good simply because I don’t like it. But – if something’s a niggle, that doesn’t mean that it’s just me; it means that actually, it might be a problem that I can fix! If something jumps out, I can usually spot that, but sometimes it’s just a….hmmmm. Hum. Maybe…

I think my little voice that identifies those things, that separates the difference between “I personally don’t like it” and “It could be improved” needs work, and the only way I can think of to do that is to keep going!

Keep reading AND ANALYSING

I think this is key: I just need to keep working on what I think makes a good book. I need to have that editor voice looking in when I’m reading; I often try to turn it off and let my brain just enjoy things, but actually, leaving it running might help me learn!

Learn from others

I was lucky enough to help a friend with multiple drafts last year, and learned so much; I could see him improving with every draft, and it was a real lesson in what could be worked on. My two colleagues at work have also offered to share skills and experience, which is fantastic – we just need to find time to do it!

 

So; I’ve got some ideas for how to keep improving, but no firm plan. I’m not sure it’s a skill that can really be taught except by experience and just damn well doing it – so, I’ll just keep damn well doing it!

Review: Gideon The Ninth

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Emperor needs necromancers. The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman. Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bull****. Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as arcane revenants. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won t set her free without a service. The emperor has called his necromancers to action, and Harrowhark is set on Gideon attending her as bodyguard. If Gideon survives, she ll be a hero, and a free woman. If not, she can look forward to eternity as a shambling bone-servant.

Look, do we even need to get into this? Lesbian necromancers in space. With sunglasses and a ridiculously kick-ass tone, and a murder mystery and lots of intrigue and weird characters and locked rooms and All Of The Relationship Issues. But also: GAY NECROMANCERS IN SPACE. Come on!

The plot is actually more slow and subtle than I expected (I mean, kick-ass necromancers in space) – it’s actually more murder mystery and locked-room, and much more about the characters and friendships – which, as I love character books, meant I really enjoyed it! The reveal at the end is enough that you’ll want to go back and re-read – as a friend put it, “[X] is having so much fun!” and it’s fun to re-read Gideon’s perspective too, once you know more about the twists and turns.

Gideon is awesome, Harrow is alternately really annoying and awesome, the rest of the characters are fun, I reckon I’m Fifth House and no one wants to be Second or Eighth (they’re creepy) and there is also a quiz you can take to find out. I haven’t yet done it. I’m still hung up on the possibility of finding out I’m Second and that would be terrible.

I’ve already pre-ordered the next one, and I can’t wait!