Tag Archives: life

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 🙂

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 Badger’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 Badger 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 Badger 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 (in six months) 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 Badger) 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 “NOW” and look like I want to murder you, that’s why. (In the nicest possible way, of course.)

[Edited to add: this sort of thing isn’t every day! This is maybe once every month, if that.]

“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).

Edited: all of this really doesn’t happen that often, and I honestly do manage it. However, I will occasionally get a little shaky – so the takeaway from this is basically, don’t ignore me if I tell you I need to eat.

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

cookie

5 Happy Things: October 2018

Happy things for October! (How the heck have we got to October?!)

Two black cats curled on the sofa, october 2018

I had a bit of a mental health blip this month…ok, a lot of a blip. It was partly due to moving house and life throwing a load of things at me, and partly due to being back on some pills that I knew wouldn’t be great. However, I didn’t think they’d be that bad….and I was wrong. But hey ho! In good news, I am surrounded by amazing people and the ones I reached out to (because that’s usually the only way I’ll accept help) were absolutely wonderful. I’m doing a lot better now – I’m off the damn pills for a start, despite the side effects of that – and I’m back to Happy Kate! I’m a bit tired but other than that, coping with everything again – so far, at least.

Despite the blip, though, there’s been a load of stuff this month that’s made me happy!

1.Being snarky at films.

As anyone who knows me may have figured, I’m not great with TV or films; I find them too intense, and really struggle to watch things (with some exceptions – I’m happy to admit I don’t entirely know how I work). But I’ve been watching more silent films with Badger, and I have been snarking my cynical little heart out – with said Badger laughing at me the entire time! It entirely suits the over-acting of the films, too; there’s just something ridiculous about the drama (although to be fair, we last watched Metropolis), and if cynical snarking means it’s bearable enough for me to watch…well, that seems to be a win.

2.Walking across the fields.

Field of grass, Oxford September 2018

My commute is now across the water meadows on the west side of Oxford, and while they’ve been a source of solace and beauty over the last six months, it was only this week when I got to show my friend Otter my walk home that I realised how much I love them.

A picture of one path is my phone background; I always turn and look at another as I reach a small rise, watching the tracks drop down across the field and into the distance, matched by the march of the pylons overhead. I get the sunrise from behind the trees and church, spilling gold across the fog that lingers on the fields and hollows; I get the sunset that dips behind the hills, lighting the sky with fire even as the track fades into dusk and shade, pooling shadows under every hedgerow. I love the line of the railway bridge as it tumbles down to skim across the lake; the abrupt change from flat stillness, only broken by the haunting calls of the birds, to the lines and edges and glints of the railway, the heaps of stones and barrier fences, the roar of the trains as they rumble past uncaring – and then back down to the tiny path that winds between the willows and ash and elder, the smooth trunks rising in turn until they’re replaced by the pylons again, soaring out of the pool of still water under the crooked causeway bridge. To hear someone else say with wonder, “I never knew this was here…” – and to be able to spread my arms and spin and say, “Yes, and now I can share it with you!”

3.Cats!

Two cats on a cushion and a sofa, october 2018

Our two have learned that the wooden floors are great for skidding on, humans give scritches in exchange for treats, yowling doesn’t get them food any faster but it’s still worth a go, and that THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED CAKE. We had an argument, which I won – eventually. (I suspect it may be a repeated one, though.) Other than that they’re settling in to life: they just skidded around the corner into my bedroom, saw me, panicked that There Is A Human There and promptly ran off again – but they’re slowly getting used to the idea that Humans Do Move, and that the house isn’t too scary, so I think they’re pretty happy.

I also got to meet my gorgeous, arrogant poser again (I’ll ask if I’m allowed to post pictures, because he is beautiful, and also completely and utterly daft) and I’m getting cute cat pictures from another friend on a regular basis in exchange for black fluffball pics – so it’s a tough life!

4.Baking.

I made scones! And I was bopping round the kitchen singing! It’s been really nice to feel like baking and singing again; and I got to do both while chatting about mythology (on which note, I really need to do a series of Alternative Morals For Greek Myths since my fellow-baker came up with “pack a lunch” as being the moral of Persephone…) and laughing at the cats. It was a reminder of something I loved doing, and a reminder that it is coming back. Plus, the scones were nommy!

5.And friends.

All the friends who have been playing ridiculously silly games at lunchtimes with me, texting six supportive gifs in a row and then give me a pep talk, singing karaoke very loudly in the car, telling me I’ll get through this so seriously that I have to believe them and then giving me a huge hug, randomly texting cat pictures, or checking in despite their hectic lives; all the friends that I don’t see for six months and then can catch up with in ten minutes with a hug and a laugh, and it’s like we haven’t been apart; all the friends that I can have long conversations about something completely random with, or sit with and watch something ridiculous (*cough*Metropolis*cough*) for five hours straight;  the friends I can text at stupid hours of the night to catch up with them and find out about their illuminated wardrobes (don’t ask) or their latest Arduino project; the friends who I’m just starting to get to know, and the ones I know will be there in six months or a year or two years, wherever our lives are taking us. I have some fabulous people around me, and I am absolutely blessed and grateful for them all. Thank you!

As a bonus: Peter Cat-paldi being friendly to my housemate!

Peter cat Oct 18

Post-FantasyCon 2018: thoughts and advice

So I was at FantasyCon 2018 this last weekend in Chester, and honestly…it was a bit weird.

I’ve gone from fangirl and small indie author when I last went to the con in 2016, to a senior editor at an indie publisher and junior editor at a mid-list publisher… and that has very much changed the conversations that I’m now involved in. I’ve gone from, “I’ve written a book and I edit stuff” to “what have you written, because I could be interested in it…” alongside “I write and I edit stuff!” – alongside, of course, the always-interested, “So what are you working on at the moment?”

But it did also give me a chance to think about what those conversations were, and how they’ve changed. Being a relative newcomer to the publishing side of things, and having been a writer and editor a very short time ago…actually, what would I have wanted to know two years ago when I was at the con as an author? What could have helped the people I was meeting to get the best of me as an author and writer?

So, some bits of random advice:

Know your elevator pitch

Give me an idea of genre, length, and a very brief idea (as in one sentence) of what your story is, and then another sentence on what makes it stand out (pick one or two themes, characters, settings…) Bluntly, what I need to know is;

a) is this something I can even be interested in as a publisher? (eg. if it’s the wrong genre or style, then I may be interested personally, but I’ll mentally cross it off the list of possibles for my job), and

b) if it is, I want a very brief overview! Catch my interest, make me want to ask you more. And, frankly, this applies to anyone asking about your book, not just publishers – what you’re trying to do is very briefly answer the question, “why do I want to read this?” Because that’s where I’m coming from as a publisher – I want to read it myself first!

And then practise your pitch. Learn it, and trot it out whenever anyone asks – you can always expand on it! But if you start with a long-winded explanation of the background themes…unless I’ve specifically asked about those or we’ve come from a conversation that was relevant to that background, it’s not what I want to start with.

Have your online persona visible

I was guilty of this myself until I put my Grimbold badge on, which has my Twitter handle on it! I recognise names and Twitter handles more than I recognise faces, or I don’t match the two until I see someone – so have it visible!

Mentioning your affiliation is also helpful; if you’re with a particular publisher, or you’ve got a book out that I may have heard of… have a badge, a lanyard, a t-shirt. Give me some hook to go “Oh yes, that thing! You’re part of that/wrote that/know X?”

Or, failing all of that, have something I can ask about! I’m as introverted as the next person – give me something to approach you with, because I suck at approaching people cold.

Your book does not matter until you’ve finished it

Blunt, I know, and it sucks. But I can’t use a half-finished novel, and honestly – as a publisher – I can’t really spend time being interested in it until you’ve proved you can finish it. As a writer and generally Dreadfully Enthusiastic Person, I will likely be cheerleading you on to finish it – but professionally, I can’t do much with something that’s not yet ready!

That said…you can always pitch us! But that’s a bit of a different skill and set of circumstances, and I’d need to see that you have a solid background in actually finishing things before I was interested in a pitch for a not-yet-written novel…which still argues for the “finish something” thing.

Also, if you’re getting caught up with re-writing…please don’t. Get words on the page, finish your first draft, THEN worry about all the problems. Seriously. Just finish the damn thing! (This is apparently a bugbear I didn’t know I had…but man, I got frustrated!)

Write what you want

Do it! Absolutely do it. Yes, you have to write with one eye to the market, and so much of publishing is watching what’s commerical and selling and how the genres are working and…but half the stuff I end up reading is mashups, and I think that’s where the fun of the genre comes from. It might not be as easy a sell, but definitely keep going.

Write, write, write

Don’t pin your hopes on one project. If you want to make a career of writing, you’ve got to keep going – and if you’ve shopped something around and it’s not sold, then shelve it, write something else. If I (or an agent, or a submissions editor) likes your writing and says, “Well, this project doesn’t quite work because it’s the wrong genre/length/style/I can’t sell it at the moment, but what else do you have?” then what else have you got to show off?

 

So, there you go…those are my random thoughts!