Tag Archives: workinprogress

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!

A snippet: The Gardener

The start of something, or possibly just a snippet…I’m not sure yet!

It started with a doorway; and with a man, kneeling in the small garden, hands cupped around the fragile leaves of a tree just rising through the damp soil.

He glanced up, briefly, at the blocked doorway no-one could have come through, and the person standing there; and then rose to his feet, knees of his trousers damp from the grass and fingers mud-stained from the soil.

“I was expecting someone,” he said with gentle politeness, and gave a short nod.

Her eyes widened; whatever she had expected here, it was not the winter garden around, sleeping trees and evergreen bushes tangling with the too-long grass and unraked leaves. It was not the dilapidated wall and peeling door, the scarred wall and bricked-in doorway behind her. It was not this stocky man with his careful movements, reserved manner, sympathetic gaze.

But she hesitated, one hand on the brickwork, as if waiting to see what this world held before she pushed open the door to another.

“Would you like a cup of tea?” he added.

And she smiled. “I’d like that very much.”

~~~

The inside of the house was as shabby and run-down as the outside, and almost empty; a bed, a table and two mismatched chairs, some scattered kitchen utensils, and a desk with a closed laptop on it. The walls were faded white, and the floor clean but aged. She sat down on one of the chairs and looked at the man, in his jeans and old buttoned shirt, hair pulled back into a knot.

“Progress hasn’t been good, I’m afraid,” he said, carefully filling the kettle.

“Oh?”

“This site is slower than I’d like.” She was silent, as if waiting, and he weighed how to explain his failure. He didn’t want to turn and see what judgement was in her eyes. “It’s been hard to encourage anything.”

“Look, I – wait, I don’t know your name.” Whatever she’d been going to say, it was derailed with a smile and an easy laugh.

“I go by Fydor, here.”

“Ok. Well. I’m…apparently not what you think I am.” He carefully set down the mugs and tilted his head a little, waiting on her next words. “I don’t really understand what you mean by the site, or encourage. Do you normally have regular visitors?”

“They haven’t been for a few years, but yes. I had assumed that you were another, here to check on my progress.”

“And they’re…they come through the same door?” She suddenly relaxed. “That’s why you didn’t freak out. You’re used to it.”

“You arrived by distinctly unusual means, as they do.” His smile twitched the corner of his mouth and creased the corners of his eyes. “What were you expecting, then?”

“I didn’t really know,” she admitted, smiling again. “That’s…it was a bit of an…unusual doorway.”

She was looking at him, studying. He let the silence hang, filling both mugs and then finding a spoon to stir them.

“I followed the light,” she said eventually. “It opens to where I need to be, even if…I’m not sure why.”

“I understand that.”

“What do you mean?”

“I move a lot.” He looked down to the mugs, and then picked them both up to bring over to the table. “I…get drawn to places. That I need to help, to heal. So I’m never in one place very long. A year, two at the most.”

She was still watching him as he set one mug down in front of her. “But you said here hadn’t been making as much progress with the site. What do you do?”

And suddenly, the smile lit his face. It was like watching an unfolding leaf, a growing bud; it was a blossoming. “I make things grow.”

Random Music: Autumn 2018

I’m listening to a bunch of new stuff at the moment – a lot of it from a friend’s mixtape – and I’m bouncing my way through things like Iron & Wine’s Flightless Bird, American Mouth and Roddy Woomble, My Secret Is My Silence. I’m also enjoying Dan Auerbach’s Shine On Me and my current bop-along song is Matthew Mole Take Yours, I’ll Take Mine.

Bears Den are my latest album purchase, along with Frank Turner’s Be More Kind (of which Blackout is my favourite!)

I’ve also – on the urging of a friend – resurrected my singing playlist again, so I can learn things, and added some new and some new-to-the-list things to it! Currently I’m learning Take Me Home, Country Road (yes, I know, but it’s a good one to walk down the track with) and Son of a Preacher Man, reminding myself of Lazarus by Porcupine Tree, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For by U2 and Even If It Breaks Your Heart (Will Hoge’s version), and I’ve got Bastille’s Oblivion for when I’m feeling braver! – I can hit the high notes, just. It was a good test of my lung and courage capacity last time I was learning to sing, so I’m up for giving it a go this time…

And the final one I’m loving this autumn:

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!

Writing: Snippets and Snatches

A mix of odd bits of writing from the last few months, including a draft of Home and some of the scribbles I’ve been doing for Badger

“You are making that face,” the Knight said with a hint of weariness to the visitor stood in front of his chair. “Why have you brought that face to my Court?”

The visitor in front did not fit the room at all. Tight trousers clung to his calves and thighs; a flowing shirt was open to reveal a loose vest underneath, and his hands were covered in spiralling green tattoos. His light eyes and wide lips were outlined in more lines, which spiralled across his cheeks and forehead and up into his intricately-knotted hair. He had his hands on his hips, displaying the multitude of bangles on his wrists; and he was pouting.

“I am not making any face. You are not doing your duty.” The younger man waved one hand, punctuating the sentence with jangles. “Anyway, I am an envoy. You can’t insult my face.” It was thrown out as an afterthought.

The Knight waved his hand with a sigh that said he didn’t want to get into the argument about what he could and could not insult in his own Court. “Which duty are you accusing me of neglecting?”

“You know what you are doing!” The young man actually stamped his foot. “They’ve been fighting for months. Why are you doing this?”


It was definitely an Evil Castle. There was a black stonework, with cobwebs dripping.  Guttering green torches. Gloomy shadows. Spiders.

“This is going to sound very strange,” a voice said, sounding somewhere between embarrassed, apologetic and annoyed. “But I need your help.”


My reaction obviously isn’t the sympathetic one that is wanted. I listen to the rant until he’s used the same swear words that I usually do and has descended into repeating bluster, and then interrupt. “Yeah, you’re going to find him and give him a piece of your mind, I get it. It’s not going to work. He’s someplace in Winter, and even then, he won’t give a damn.”

He grumpily turns on me. “Oh? You sleep with him enough to know-”

I laugh. “Yeah, actually. I’m his other half.”

His eyes widen. “He cheated on-”

“No.” I drop the word in with a steady, amused tone. “I’m literally his other half. He’s Winter. I’m Summer. Polar opposites.” And then I grin. “Believe me, if you want to punch him, then there’s a very long line…and I’m right at the front.”


Leave a fragment of yourself in every place you make a bed, and pick one up every place you stop for a breath; every heart a patchwork of shards that all say ‘home’.


“Oh, by the way, are you seeing Miss Goody-Two-Shoes ‘Saviour Of The World’ soon?”

“What’s it to you?” I asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Can you deliver something to her?” He snapped his fingers, and a servant hurried over with a basket.

I looked at it. “A kitten? Aren’t you supposed to be Mister Evil?”

He grinned at me. “It’s been taught to pounce on big red buttons.”


Three scars on her arm. Had they known she was left-handed, or was it always on the left? She couldn’t see any scars on the man’s red jumper, although there were three neatly-stitched lines on his shoulder.

But he was moving again now, stepping closer to her; and she wondered if this was it. If the red-tipped knife in his hand would score across her throat, and she’d die in the golden forests, left amongst the splendour of the smooth trunks, sightless eyes staring up at the ever-falling leaves.

But he instead met her eyes, his expression unchanging; did it ever change, she wondered? Was there ever a flicker of amusement in the nut-brown, leaf-brown eyes?


And, finally, a teaser from the start of the new No Man’s Land

The really satisfying days start with a punch to the face.

Not usually my face – although there have been exceptions – but there is something very satisfying about kicking someone else’s butt. Sometimes literally.

Nat twirls with an easy grace and hurls a knife, then follows it up with a swift butt-kick that turns the monster attacking us head-over-heels into the nearest tree-trunk. It’s quick, effectively, and she looks exceptionally hot while doing it. I have to take a moment to admire her in her practical work trousers and t-shirt riding up at the hip; I’m ridiculously lucky. We’re two gorgeous girls who unfortunately prefer each other, as Luk said sourly when he found out we were dating. He’s always had a soft spot for Nat, ever since she pinned him to a wall with a knife at his throat.

And of course I’m his soft spot, or more likely his weak point, much as he likes to pretend otherwise.

But I can’t spend too much time admiring my girlfriend or thinking about my ex. I’ve got faces to punch.