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2018: The Year of “What The F*** Just Happened?”

Well, when I started 2018, I had a bunch of aims – mostly for 2018 to be less shit than 2017 was. I wanted to have a better year, finish some old writing (mostly my Dresden files and possibly Madcap Library, with a side order of No Man‘s) and start something new, improve me (aka. get out of the house more), and read more.

Ha.

Hahahaha.

Well, I sort of turned my life upside-down in April when Rebellion offered me a job, and since then this year really can be summed up as “What the hell happened?!” – in a really good way, but seriously…what the fuck?!

I have a new job working alongside amazing people – I get to read varied, complex and interesting fiction on a daily basis, alongside doing admin, organising, talking to a whole bunch of interesting people, formatting, and generally loving everything I get to do. I have a new relationship with someone that I adore, and who thinks I’m splendid (their words!); I have two frickin’ annoying and absolutely adorable cats, and two equally frickin’ annoying and adorable housemates (mostly joking about the annoying bit – love you, guys); I have a bunch of fabulous and wonderful friends who make every day better; I live in a beautiful city; I get to walk to work through a stunning landscape that makes me dream; and I have a life around me that is astonishingly and unexpectedly wonderful every single day.

I do still miss everything; I miss Ryan and the pub and my cat, and the relationships I walked away from. I miss being able to do random DIY, challenge myself with projects, laugh at old jokes. I miss the memories and the experiences and the comfort.

But I feel like the last few years have paid off – they were worth every lesson and every struggle. I am ridiculously, wonderfully lucky, and I am so, so grateful to everyone and everything around me that has made this year amazing.

So, how did I do with my aims?

1. For 2018 To Not Be As Shit As 2017 Was

Yup. Blasted through that one!

2. Something Old

Hmm, this one’s a bit more variable.

  • I did get the Dresden Files writing up, and I’m so happy with that! It’s still scary, but I love it. I’m just getting the last bits of the final story up, and then it’s all there.
  • Madcap Library is still in formatting, and it’s simply fallen to the bottom of the pile.
  • Greensky…don’t ask. (Yes, I STILL need to finish Book 10!)
  • No Man’s is all ongoing, as is Shadows.

3. Something New

No, but…I think I might be excused on this front! I’m still doing bits and drabbles, so at least there’s still something there.

4. Improve Me

I think kicking Depression’s ass, along with whacking a whole bunch of weasels, definitely counts as improvement! I’m walking every day, drinking more water and less caffeine, and generally feeling better about myself. In terms of other improvements – I got my SFEP membership and I’m still doing my formatting (plus I’ve been learning so much at work), and I’m slightly accidentally revising a whole bunch of history knowledge thanks to wandering round various museums with friends (Ashmolean FTW!)

As for “Don’t Be A Hermit” – well. Yes. I think between working at Rebellion (my boss commented with some astonishment that I seem to know more of the staff in six months than he’s met in 12 years…whoops!), conventions, friends of friends and general havoc, I definitely haven’t been a hermit.

5. Read More

Um. Yeah. This definitely hasn’t been a problem.

That said, most of my reading has been for work, and I am missing doing personal and freelance reading – so actually, this may stay on the list!

So, overall, it’s been a ridiculous and wonderful and amazing year. It’s been hard, yes, but I’ve coped and learned and battled and I can do this.

I’m going to do another set of aims for 2019, and we’ll see what that brings – onwards and upwards!

Writing: Wizards & Work

I seem to have a thing for being inspired by workplaces…Madcap Library came out of a previous library (although without the Sloth, sadly) and I’ve spent the last few days being inspired by my current one – or, more accurately, by the people in it.

The original inspiration came from thinking about books as spells, and working the words into an intricate illusion to delight the reader…and then I started thinking about the people, and putting them into a fantasy setting. While I still want to write something using the book-illusion idea, the people one spiralled on me! I’ve taken an aspect of some of my colleagues, and built a fantasy character around it. That said, for anyone reading who might recognise themselves, it’s definitely not intended to be true to life! The core might be one aspect, but I’ve then bounced off in a completely different direction – and I hope you find them entertaining.

 

The journeyman had walked miles in his previous life, speaking to every spirit, rock, mountain, plant. Some joker had put a spell on his tea-mug to make it walk when it was empty, and so he spent many hours wandering around the office in search of it. “Why did you leave?” I asked him, meeting him in the potions cupboard on one of his frequent excursions.

“They hate us,” he confided. He smiled often, but it rarely reached his eyes. “We’ve put so much pain and mess into them, and they have nothing but dislike. I keep trying, but it’s hard.”

 

He was a wizard of some fearful power; and yet he was a far cry from those power-hungry and rapacious seers I had known before. He filled the office with snatches of song to speed our work, and charm-spoke anyone who came by, making them smile and bow to him with the most willing of hearts. He was a word-weaver of considerable talent, yet one who spent his days helping others with their own spells. He spoke frequently of the world outside, and with the wisdom and foresight that spoke of long hours of study in a previous life – and yet he would often be the source of the frequent laughter rising into the ceiling-panels, ringing out into the still air and making the space above our tables shimmer and shine.

 

She was a weaver of spells and illusions, and of more practical things – she could turn the most chaotic of tresses into beauty as easily as she could fix a broken spellwork, turn raw ingredients into delicacies as simply as she brought order to a vision. But those around knew to tread carefully: the spells that turned so casually to beauty could also be turned to chaos, and one did not step within her reach if the air was dark.

 

An illusionist, he spun the most elegant of clothing, the most dreaming of landscapes, the most terrifying of monsters. He could pick your face out of a blank pad and capture your spirit in nine brush-strokes. He was a creature of sunshine and air, moving with a grace and surety that made the breezes dance around him, bringing light and life to the room anytime he smiled.

“Why here?” I asked him, gesturing to the sterile box around us, filled with bent workers and the hum of magical suppressants.

He shrugged. “Where else should I have gone?”

 

The photographer was one of the first people we met on entering the company; and yet he was unassuming, hiding behind the camera, counting on his diffident air to grant him anonymity. Despite his care, I heard the rumours; he could kill a person in four different ways before their potion had finished brewing; could play any instrument handed to him, charming the creatures out of the trees with it; and could disappear from notice at will, even in an empty room.

His true role was always given as a simple “community support”. If he travelled for occasional periods of time, and at similar times the most vocal disapprovers of our work unexpectedly changed their tone or took refuge in silence, what of it?

 

The fortress has only come under attack once, and it is now the stuff of legend – half truth, half myth, both woven together into a morass of glorious grandeur and terrible feats, raw courage and horrific slaughter.

But those who were there, who remember, carry the scars. And they do not speak of it.

He never changes place, despite eloquent speeches and logical plans; first in from the door, and facing anyone who enters. A necromancer, they say, or an enchanter: sly and cunning with his strategies, ruthless when provoked, and rarely speaking of anything beyond his current work. But take one look at his desk, and one may find a hint of what lies behind the calculating strategist: his walls are lined with tiny figures in rows, frozen into stillness, their weapons at the ready.

 

[I am having fun writing more – and they’re definitely a work in progress! Suggestions always welcome.]

5 Happy Things: December 2018

Happy things for December 2018?

1.Fabulous books!

Lies Sleeping coverI got given the latest Ben Aaronovitch at a publishing Secret Santa, and I’m part-way through it; I’m also getting to read some of the best SFF from 2018, and I’m currently adoring Alix Harrow’s A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies (published in Apex in February) – it may have made me cry a little bit. At work. Possibly. (It’s just SO GOOD. And so relatable to any librarian that I really want to just quote the entire damn thing at everyone!)

I’ve also been re-reading the Etiquette&Espionage series, am halfway through The Tethered Mage, and have even managed to start Norman Davies’ Vanished Kingdoms. Hopefully I’ll have some more time for personal reading over Christmas…

2.I’m dating again!

I’ve been seeing someone for the past few months, and they’re wonderful: they make me ridiculously happy. I’m not going to go into any more detail than that simply because I prefer the privacy, but if you see me and I have a stupid smile on my face…that may be why!

3.Small fluffballs

They’re cute. (And pains in the butt. But cute.)

Jodie’s getting used to being picked up and having scritches – so we may shortly be able to get cuddle-able fluffballs! (Peter’s not so sure, which is fair. We’re not forcing it.) They are also nearly Doing Laps – or at least eating treats off laps, so there’s progress there too.

4. Winning games

Not that I’m vindictive or anything – and I’m definitely not competitive! But there’s something extremely satisfying about winning one hand of Dominion and then two games of Seven Wonders in a row – and absolutely trouncing everyone in the second Seven Wonders, HAH. Having gone from feeling fairly anxious and pretty much losing every game to actually being able to hold my own – it’s incredibly satisfying. I still routinely lose, of course – but that’s part of the fun! But I’ve obviously learned enough now that I actually have something of a chance against the power-mad gamers who regularly love to screw everyone else over with a well-placed Bandit… (love you, guys!)

5.Fabulous friends (again)

I was thinking recently about the amount of friends I’ve lost, one way or another; either life has taken us in different directions, I’ve deliberately separated myself from them, or we’ve simply drifted apart. It sometimes feels that I’ve lost everyone who has been close to me, one way or another…

And then I give the weasel a glare, and tell it to shut the hell up.

I am absolutely blessed with a whole range of friends, old and new – and I love the sheer range and diversity of communication that I have with them. Some I don’t speak to for six months and then can spill everything over a burger, and nothing’s changed; some I haven’t seen in person for ten years and yet I know I could email them with anything. Some drop by my desk at work every lunchtime, some live halfway across the world. Some I trade jokes and memes, some I’m only there when they need me – but every single one is amazing, and I love the variety of people. I know a lot of people hate Facebook, and I have some reservations about it, but I love that it lets me keep up with people I otherwise wouldn’t. I get baby pictures, holidays, day-to-day life, cats and pets…and it’s wonderful. I have so many brilliant, talented and thoughtful friends in my life, and they make it richer every day.

So that’s most of the way through December! Christmas promises to be quiet, and I hope it’s going to be filled with writing, books and cat fluff – maybe that’s a sixth thing for this month 🙂