~~ 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
What 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.
In 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…
In 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.
We have just come back from a long-long-weekend in Lydford, Devon… and it was a little more eventful than planned!
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
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.
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!)
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!
*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!
Long time no speak! It’s felt harder and harder to update here; partly because I feel like I’ve got nothing happening, partly because a lot of what I want to say is either nebulous or Not A Good Idea or just eh, and partly I’m struggling because it’s a should… and I have enough of those in my life! (Although having said that I have Nothing Happening, this has turned into quite a long post… I should update more often!)
But February has got here, and the snowdrops are coming up, and there’s been a few slivers of sunshine, and the cat has been enjoying his radiator bed. Let’s do some Happy Things!
1.I got Animal Crossing New Horizons: Happy Home Paradise extension, which has been fun! It kept me sane over Christmas and I decorated a bunch of houses, which was great. I have been playing it a little more recently – I’m currently engaged in a war against the ever-expanding tulips, and also a minor war against Tom Nook: I refuse to pay THAT AMOUNT to extend my storage! Which means curating my storage… but then I can sell almost anything at the shop, so that’s been fun. PAY ME FOR MY RUBBISH, RACOONS!
2.Sewing! I have started cross-stitching again; using patterns mostly, but I found some mega-cute ones, so that’s fine. The pic here is from MimsiDesign on Etsy, but there’s been a bunch of cute (and mostly cat-themed…) ones that I’ve found – not sharing as some of them are going to be presents!
3.Planning holidays! My Advent Calendar for the Otter last year was Experiences, and so they’ve got vouchers for trips all over the place, ranging from small day-trips to see sheep or (lots of) otters, to a suggestion of a museum in Antwerp (hopeful for an autumn trip with my family!) and llama-trekking in Dartmoor. It’s been good to look at the year and see what we can do, and at least pencil things in.
4.Work has actually been ok! I feel like I’m settling in more; I still very much dislike Elsevier as a company and frankly it’s infuriating how badly my department is treated (we’re basically forgotten, despite doing a lot of the ‘cleaning’ work) but the work itself is relatively easy, my colleagues are lovely, my editors are lovely, and my boss is frankly amazing. (She has checked in with me every two weeks, and last week we actually discussed whether I wanted to take on more work – WHAT IS THIS CONCEPT?) I’m also currently doing some work to see if I can make myself a career, or at least figure out a learning programme for the hour a week that I’ve made sure I’ve carved out. So there’s progress?
(I didn’t end up learning Ruby, by the way, because the bit that they helpfully forgot to mention was that I needed to learn it in two weeks… with a full-time job and a part-time job? Uh, no. And it’s apparently one of the harder languages to pick up – someone’s suggestion on how to learn it was to go and learn Python first! So that was a firm no from me. Life is far too short to be confused about maths when I have other things I could be doing.)
6.Shall we do some more? MUSIC! I’ve been enjoying the compilations on AlexRainBird’s channel, and they’ve introduced me to a bunch of new artists – some of whom haven’t got much out so I’ve just been buying singles, but some have albums! I had found that listening to the same music as I’d been stressed or depressed to wasn’t helping my recovery, so trying to find new things has been great.
6.Organising! I am broke as fuck this year due to a couple of things I didn’t expect (yay taxes!) but I have a spreadsheet, and Plans, and I actually feel sort of in control? Or at least like I’m in a position to be able to make decisions based on a firm base, and I know how I’m building everything up this year. We also had a couple of house opportunities come up (one of our favourite neighbours is sadly moving) but it felt good to be able to confidently say “No, that’s not right for us” and also know where we stand if something does come up. That said, the Otter found the Best House Ever – it was filled, floor to ceiling, with books. They were a little bit sad when said lovely neighbour (who is the Sensible Person around here) pointed out that the house was unlikely to come with the books.
7. We’ve also been making some household changes – we recently switched from Botley Community Larder to Oxford City, and I am IN LOVE – Botley finished at 5 and always treated me like an unwelcome nuisance for daring to Have A Job and only being able to get there at 4.45 (which also involved a lot of stress and rushing for me), and then never had much food left… and Oxford City are open until 7, had everything plus extras, plus are super nice, and I got our usual bits plus an entire box of not-quite-going-off mushrooms (seriously, they did us for four meals) and three boxes of Coco Pops and a mango and it really is the small things that make me happy! And I’ve been checking out the various subscriptions that we have, what we can get in bulk, what we actually use… I mean, I don’t think it will help much in the crazy year that’s heading for us, but at least it’s a bit of savings that we can spend on cat biscuits. (Look, I know the household priorities.)
(Also if you’re in Oxford, see what your closest larder is! There might be similar schemes in other places – it’s a community larder rather than a food bank, and the aim is to use surplus food: so anything going out of date, weird labels, overstocked, simply can’t be distributed for some reason… we ended up with a bagful of Starbucks iced lattes one week, a huge bottle of Costa chocolate syrup, Waitrose bread, more limes than anyone can do anything with, a fridge full of potatoes (not all the larder’s fault, I admit) and Christmas Pudding flavour chocolate – in amongst normal veg, tins and bread. It’s brilliant.)
8.More Oxford – going out! I’m still being careful, and have been sitting outside/going to quiet places when possible. But over the last few months I’ve been to Shin (fantastic Japanese food), Coffeesmith (best chai latte I’ve ever had), finally got into The Missing Bean (weekday lunchtimes is where that’s at – don’t even try on a Saturday!) and a friend and I have a favourite place for breakfast on Saturday, but I’m not going to tell you in case everyone starts going there. (Ok, ok, it’s the Organic Deli. They do the best pancakes.) Jamona also do great Indian, and I’m still a big fan of Taberu (Japanese – really good sushi!) I feel like I’m starting to get to know the city a bit more, which is nice.
9.I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, so I’m going to gush: the Otter is just wonderful. Actually being able to talk to someone, and have a conversation about issues/feelings/emotions/what the problem might be/previous history that could be affecting something/how something makes you feel – both good and bad! – is really nice. It’s also really nice to be able to have discussions about anything and actually feel both listened to and responded to. So they’ve been cute, wonderful and generally adorable! (They’re also now working for the OED rather than in computer games, and so much less stressed! That’s been wonderful too.)
10.And a final one: the Grumpiest of Grumpy Cats is, you will be pleased to know, still Grumpy. We also have confirmation that he looks like a walrus (I don’t yet have a comparison pic to confirm that, but I will get one) and is thankfully less chonky than previously (he was approaching 6kg! Now 5.3, much to his disapproval.) He’s absolutely loving his life; 7am sharp is cuddles on the sofa, 9am is morning snoozes on a warm lap when the Human starts work, and then it’s a flexible schedule of radiator naps, yelling breaks, occasional trips to the biscuit-bowl to refuel, back to napping on a lap until dinner, and then a post-dinner snooze in the radiator bed until bedtime in a blanket nest on the sofa. We’re very blessed to have had lockdown with his company, although I’m starting to transition back into a day into the office every now and again, and that is going to require Explanation… (or biscuit bribes when I get home. Both work.)
And a Kate update: As you may be able to tell, I’m feeling… better? Occasionally (ok, frequently) manic, and I definitely have more energy; I spent two hours on Sunday being a whirlwind of chaos and cleaned the entire house, and still had energy after…it was a bit strange. I’m still crashing occasionally, but it’s “I need a nap” rather than a full-day crash, which is good. I’m over six months on Citalipram, and it does seem to be the right base for me; we’re experimenting with doses (I’m currently dropping it a bit, as the manic has got a little too manic) and we’re just going to see how the next few months go. (On which note, my doctor is lovely.)
I’m still grey, though. Nothing really gets through, and I still don’t really know how to feel with anything. I’m struggling with motivation – I can just read Reddit or play Carcassonne and it’s just… existing. Sewing has been good, because at least that’s producing something while existing, and it’s fairly mindless. But I haven’t written, don’t really read, and can’t focus long enough to watch anything – even Ghibli isn’t great. I manage some games, but can’t really get into longer ones; Patchwork and Carcassonne have been my go-tos. I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m really excited about, but I just can’t summon the enthusiasm to tackle the huge pile of obstacles to even figuring out if they’re feasible. (Sorry, Dad. I know you did loads of work on the box and I haven’t looked at anything else for that project yet!)
But then I do also wonder how much of it is the depression, how much is the fact we’re LIVING IN A FUCKING PANDEMIC, and how much is recovering from a three-year severe burnout. So I’m trying not to expect too much, and just appreciate that I’m a lot better than I was a year ago. (And very thankful to be in a better place, too; still dealing with bursts of anger and frustration, still dealing with guilt, still very upset over the whole thing. TL;DR: sucky job did some long-term damage. Quelle surprise.)
Everything is getting better, I think, or at least my energy is on an upward trajectory and I’m definitely not as bad as I was in terms of mental health. But I’m still very much just keeping going, and just putting one foot in front of another. But hey ho, sunshine is on the way! And the cat is cute (and grumpy), so that’s always a win.
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