clhollandwriter: (poppy)
I've been meaning to do a blog post for a while now, but honestly haven't had that much to post about. It doesn't help that a fair bit of December was lost to flu - first my OH was down with it for a week, so of course I had to take over all the household tasks and making sure he was fed etc. Then just as he started to get better, it was my turn. I'd booked a Thursday and Friday off work to tidy up and get the Christmas decorations up but ended up being off from early afternoon Wednesday until the following Wednesday. Being sick is really boring - too tired to read, not enough brain to write, I just ended up watching DVDs non-stop. I can't even remember what I watched, but that might be because of the insomnia since I didn't do more than doze for four days in a row.

We finally got the Christmas decorations up - although that was only a wreath and a card hanger - on 21st December. It was nice and easy to put away again though.

I never used to be a big fan of New Year, being the arbitrary marking of the calendar that it is. This year I was glad to see it, since 2013 was a year of stress. It's nice to draw a line under things. Of course there were a lot of articles going around about how New Year's resolutions are pointless because if you really meant it you'd do it anyway. I think they're missing the point. Of course there's no sense to them if you make them in February. But it's always said that you should set goals and deadlines if you want to get anything done, and that's what New Year is for. The last few months of the year are a grey wintery slog, miserable for making changes. It's hard to think about diet when craving comforting stodge, or exercise when it's dark when you get up and when you get home, or doing All the Things when you're tired all the time. Without New Year's resolutions, I think most people would just keep plodding along as usual.

My resolutions are mostly to do with writing. I'm rebooting Write 1 Sub 1, since I haven't managed it since September. Plus I'm going to make the effort to get over to Liberty Hall to do the Flash Challenge at least once a month. I'm also determined to be kinder to myself, and not beat myself up over slacking sometimes. Also read more, since that disappeared under the weight of all the Shoulds. Which is why I'm on my fourth book already this month.

January's for a fresh start. Let's see if I can keep it up until December.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
I came out as reading 184% faster than the national average. Um?

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

I am behind

Mar. 5th, 2012 12:48 pm
clhollandwriter: (moon)
Last week I got my first glimpse at the new Timeline on Facebook. It looks like someone vomited information onto the screen. I can put up with it for personal use, but the preview of my Author Page was appalling - not only was it impossible to find anything, it looked unprofessional too. So I'm seriously considering moving the content elsewhere. Which gives me a month to find another venue, maybe a free website or something. Any ideas from the LJ hivemind?

I seem to be behind with everything at the moment: emails I've flagged but not done anything with, writing I planned to do and didn't, half-finished jewellery projects. I don't even have anything ready for my jewellery blog, which I update on Mondays. The only thing I've caught up on is my receipts and paperwork, which I did last night when I was in a bad mood for no apparent reason and decided paperwork couldn't possibly make it worse. I ended up with a sense of satisfaction from getting it done, so that's something.

On Saturday I posted my first proper sale from Etsy, of a pair of watch part earrings to the US. Then in celebration I hit the charity shops and sale jewellery in Peacocks and ended up with yet more stuff to dismantle, and a necklace to go with my leaf charm bracelet. Etsy is going slowly so far - I know I need to get more listings up, and be more active in the newbie forums. Yet more things I'm behind with!

I've just finished reading Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. I really enjoyed it, it's the kind of slow-paced book they don't seem to write any more what with everyone being so intent on throwing you into the middle of the action. (I'm as guilty of this as everyone else, my latest project is going to begin either with blackmail or fleeing from monsters.) A passing familiarity with English Literature and Classics certainly helped, what with all the quotations flying around, although it did bring back that sinking feeling that everyone else at university was much smarter than me.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
I bought a digital radio the other weekend. If I'd know there was an all-80s station I'd have bought one sooner! I'm thinking about getting a second radio-only one for the kitchen.

My books arrived, and I'm currently reading The Story of Maths. It's a good general introduction to the subject, although it's not getting much of a look-in since I'm also reading Inkspell - which is good if mildly disappointing. One major character had an attack of the stupid-for-the-sake-of-the-plots, and while I still like Dustfinger he's far less interesting without the weight of being a tragic figure behind him. Not only that but, as the background of the Inkworld is revealed, I can't help wondering what on Earth would possess a bookworm of a girl to actually want to go to a world where being able to read gets women sold into slavery?

Reunion is still moving along. A couple of major revelations this week, which see me having to completely rewrite a previous chapter, and another character is dead. Meep.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
No I'm not going to read there, but Nathan Lilly of Everyday Weirdness will be reading "The Owl and Great Cthulhu" during his slot at Lunacon.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
I'm currently rereading (the) Eddings' Belgariad, which was my first introduction to "grown-up" fantasy. It is, of course, not as good as I remember it, but then I read it at least once a year between the ages of twelve and eighteen - although I haven't read it since . It's a prime example of how something once popular can fall out of fashion. It's a goldmine of what are now regarded as cliches to avoid at all cost - prophecies, magical orbs, farmboys with a destiny, and a large party of adventurers "just because" to name but a few. It's also full of those dreaded "ly" words: no one just speaks, they do so tenderly, mockingly, quickly, angrily, sarcastically. It's a prime example of telling rather than showing and it's clear at all times what we're supposed to think about characters and events.

Needless to say, the magic has gone now I can see the smoke and mirrors. But I find myself enjoying it anyway, reading it through a different set of filters than when I first picked it up. Now it's a prime example of what-not-to-do-anymore, but I think it's also from a time when fantasy was a more innocent genre, more concerned with escapism than realism of plot or character. So, still fun but in a different way.

In other news, the pipes froze again yesterday so we spent this morning out lagging them with an old pair of fleecy shorts and a ball of blue string. The landlord is supposed to be coming out to do it properly, but since the whole of the UK comes to a standstill during snowy weather it's not likely to be until after the cold snap.

Tomorrow I have a job interview, and I'm currently trying to work out the exact location of the building it's at, and how to get there on the bus. Plus, since it's a payroll job, I'm reviewing all my old payroll notes to refresh myself. It's hardly a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but I intend to remedy this later with pizza and possibly courgette fritters.
clhollandwriter: (eyes)
I made my 60th submission, only to find my records didn't match Duotrope and it was actually my 59th. So one more to go. The queries have gone about my submission and payment, so we'll see what comes of those. Project-wise, I'm still stalled. A flash and a short story are both trying to get written, and I've markets in mind for both. I will probably sit down and do a single-sitting first draft of the flash, to get it out the way, and work on the story over the holidays.

Yesterday I finished reading Tim Powers' The Anubis Gates, which I really enjoyed although it didn't grab me like The Drawing of the Dark. There are two more of his on my to read pile, but for the moment I'm on A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, so I don't give myself a Powers overdose. Having an hour in the mornings to read is the up side of getting the bus to work, although I suppose I could put that time to good use writing instead.

We had a man over to inspect the fire alarm yesterday, which the bf stayed in for. Apparently while Gabriel hid, Lucifer followed the poor man around demanding attention. Bless.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Another belated Happy Birthday to [ profile] sacredmime ! In all the chaos of broken TVs, broken heating (which became miraculously fixed), trying to find things that aren't tinsel to put on the tree, and trying to cat-proof the Christmas decorations, I forgot to say it yesterday.

Oh, Christmas Tree..... )

Writing-wise I'm not quite sure what I'm doing. A couple of short stories raised their heads today, both of them pointing out that thair viewpoint character isn't who I thought it was. In one it's a her instead of a him, and in the other it's a different character entirely to who I thought it was. Since neither of them were on my list the other day, I don't know what to write. So many things, so little time! I did plan to get a lot of writing done over the holiday, but I've just taken stock of my current "to read" pile and I may end up doing that instead:

Patricia McKillip - Fool's Run
Patricia McKillip - Song for the Basilisk
(plus a couple of her children's books I can't remember)
Diana Wynne Jones - Eight Days of Luke
Diana Wynne Jones - The Homeward Bounders
Diana Wynne Jones - The Time of the Ghost
Tim Powers - Last Call
Tim Powers - Expiration Date
Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear - A Companion to Wolves
Stephen Fry - Moab is My Washpot
Terry Pratchett - Making Money the very least. I'm pretty sure there's another pile somewhere, if only I could remember where I put it. I swear the sheer mass of books is doing something strange to the layout and contents of my flat.

And Reunion is stalled again. I know what happens in this chapter, I'm just not sure how it happens.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
We now have happy, collar free kittens. Their stitches came out nice and painlessly, so now they're busy claiming everything they can get near. There's a spot of false advertising on the internet regarding spaying though. "may make your cat more affectionate" it said. Nothing about turning them into hand-obsessed drooling petting addicts! Gabriel's much the same, only cuddles if she's cold or wants a lap to sleep on, but Lucifer is now hooked on having her head stroked - to the point that she'll even follow people to the bathroom. Strange little beastie!

Continuing the trend of electrical equipment dying around me, our TV broke on Monday. It's not a major pain - we only use it as a monitor for our DVD player and games machine, so we can use the computer monitor for the moment - but it's more expense we could do without. The bf is going to call the TV repairman to see if he can fix it. It sounds like the capacitor has gone again, which always makes me wonder what would happen if the TV was going at 88mph. Yes I know, I'm a geek.

Writing-wise, not much to report. A very nice rejection from Fantasy Magazine and that's about it. I've got to finish and send chapter 14 of Reunion this lunchtime, and then I have to get caught up on my crits. To be honest, I'd rather be reading! I'm about halfway through The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers. I wasn't sure I liked it at first, but now I don't want to put it down.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
I think I may have taken on too much.

At work I've got payroll year end to run for three companies, plus April's payroll to run for four. I'm also responsible for the sales ledger (that's people who owe us money, for those not up with finance terms) of about 45 companies. This means I get to send out statements and make polite reminder phone calls, send out polite reminders, then less polite reminders, and then finally hand the lot over to our solicitors. Whilst juggling those we have to be nice to because they're big customers and we'd quite like them to come back.

Then in my spare time I have a number of geeky hobbies. One is play-by-forum roleplaying, of which I'm running three games and playing in six. I've also got a number of writing projects on the go: Reunion over at Noteboard; "Blood and Honey" for Sword and Sorceress 23; the polish challenge at Liberty Hall; plus there are a couple more willing victims who have joined the WOTF pact so we're writing and workshopping for that too. And I haven't submitted anything yet this month.

Plus I'm reading my way through the Discworld books on the bus in the mornings.

Yes, I think I may be just a little bit over-committed.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
I'm currently suffering from a bout of "writer's meh." It's not that I don't have the ideas, it's just that I can't get enthusiastic enough to do anything about them. I hope that the new challenge up at LH, the "original zombie story" challenge, will do something about that as it sounds like fun.

I've just finished reading Orson Scott Card's How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, which was an interesting read. He certainly made me think differently about sci fi, something I haven't written since I was a teenager. Now I've moved on to The Satyricon, just because. After that I'm not sure, possibly I'll have another look at Ursula LeGuin's The Language of the Night, which I bought for my MA and never finished. It's still got all my labelled bookmarks sticking out of it. I seem to have swung away from trash fiction lately, for no apparent reason. Now I'm on non-fiction (all my shiny new and second-hand refernece books I haven't read yet) and classics. It's probably a backlash against reading the last six Sandman graphic novels in one go.

In the spirit of being educational, my boyfriend's just bought the World at War box set and is watching that in the evenings. It's something they should show again, although it's too dry to keep the attention of most people these days. It's something that needs to be shown though. Apparently 1 in 4 people in the UK think that Churchill was a myth, and at the weekend the boyfriend encountered a teenager who actually asked (on spotting him playing a WW2 wargame) what World War Two was.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Back in the real world temporarily. I finished The Dresden Files book 9, and Child of the Pact is written, edited, and off to Clockwork Phoenix.

My next project is to sort out chapter 5 of Reunion for Notebored, and to catch up on my crits. After that, it's time to pull out the old stories for editing and find somewhere to send them. For some reason this is a far more scary prospect for me than writing for a themed anthology. Possibly it's because when writing for a specific theme it's easier to aim for what they want  than for something more general like a magazine.

clhollandwriter: (Default)
I haven't disappeared off the face of the planet, although it feels like I have. I'm currently trying to read the 9th brand shiny new Harry Dresden book at the same time as finishing the story I want to submit to Clockwork Phoenix. It's not working and I know I should put the book down, but I just can't.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
I've got that coming up for air feeling that you get when you spend a lot of time reading something, then when you surface you have to remember what the real word's like again.

This would be because I've spent the last five days or so doing nothing but reading in my spare time. I haven't written anything even though I have a couple of stories on the go, and I've barely touched the internet at all. The reason for this is that I had two books turn up that I've been waiting to get for ages.

The first was Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies

The second book was Sarah Monette's The Mirador

Now I have to find something else to read. Something less absorbing, so that I can actually have a life while I'm reading!
clhollandwriter: (Default)
I went to the main post office in town today and got an IRC, so now "The Clay Men" is wending its way to the PBSS anthology.
And now I've hit the point where I start wondering why I bothered. They'll have hundreds of submissions in a similar vein, etc etc. Hopefully I'll have managed to shake it off by tomorrow, so I can pretend I don't care at the same time as obssessively checking my emails/post.

In a fit of complete uselessness I've managed to forget my password for Duotrope....three days after signing up.

I'm going through a major thing for Diana Wynne Jones at the moment. Somehow I managed to miss her books when I was devouring the school library as a child so now I'm making up for lost time. I read Black Maria yesterday, and now I'm halfway through Conrad's Fate. As far as I'm concerned she leaves JK Rowling in the dust: I remember when The Prisoner of Azkaban came out everyone was going on about how dark it was with the Dementors and everything, but some of the things in DWJ makes the Dementors seem tame. I can't think of any other childrens' authors who would tell you how it feels for their character who's been buried alive for twenty years.

The LH end of year challenge is up now. I want to write something for it, but so far no ideas are forthcoming. There are too many other things bouncing around in my head.
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Well the workshop forums are up now, and I'm mildly terrified! Firstly I've never shown anyone except the boyf any of Reunion at all ever, and secondly I'm beginning to realise just how much work it needs. I know what happens and when, but not the why. This is not a good place to be. I'm honestly thinking about workshopping Stigma instead as at least I've a better idea of where I'm going with that - but then that's the reason for workshopping Reunion instead.

On the other hand, Stigma is (going to be) considerbly shorter than Reunion. It's all set inside (and beneath) a single city, whereas Reunion rambles across at least three different countries. I like them both, I enjoy working on them both, so I suppose I should go with the one that needs the most attention. Even if it is driving me potty.

There's not a lot else going on at the moment. I'm getting bored with running the Nipponese roleplay so that's on a semi-hiatus for the moment. The 40K is going slowly, and I'm considering asking my players if they'd mind moving the game to pbp house instead. I might pick up a few more players there.

The game I'm enjoying most is Tribe 8, a funky little game from Canada, which was described by two of my players as feeling a bit Mad Max. The system looks complicated on paper but is actually quite simple so far (it runs purely on d6s), and I love the setting. I began with the characters banished from their tribes and chained up naked waiting for the monsters to come and eat them. Then I went on holiday for four days and left the players to it. They've now managed to escape and are running for their lives with a crazy seer in tow.

Beyond that I've not done much - started playing through Final Fantasy 7 again because I can't decide what to read. A couple of weeks ago I picked up a load of the Fantasy Masterwoorks for £4 each, and now they're in a mildly intimidating pile by my desk!
clhollandwriter: (Default)
Well, I'm over the cold, finally. If the boyf gives me another one anytime soon I may have to bury him under the garden. ;) On the plus side, I got to be off work for two days - and I didn't feel guilty about taking time off sick, which is a first! I think my work ethic has finally realised that I'm no good to anyone exhausted.

I've spent a glorious two days sitting in playing on Worms and Diablo 2. I think Worms has to be the best game ever: even 12 years after the original release it's never been bettered, and it has more lastability even than Tetris. Diablo 2 is OK but the stream of non-stop killing gets a bit boring after a while, which is why I've never got off of the second act. I prefer my roleplays with some roleplaying.

The down side of the cold is that I haven't done any writing in four days, I haven't even thought about it, but the up side of this is that my over-active imagination has settled down and so now I'm back writing Reunion. Or at least I will be when I get started again. I've read non-stop over the last few days. One Anita Blake novel, Obsidian Butterfly, because it's the only one in the whole series I still gave a shit about reading after I stopped reading. That didn't make it any better though. It was one of the worst written pieces of trash I've ever encountered. There was too much *telling* of things that really didn't need to be told - and you could make a drinking game out of the number of times Anita mentions Edward's cold, chilly, dead, or otherwise creepy eyes. He's scary and dead inside - we get the point, there's no need to go on about it! She also goes over things twice. When Anita picks up her temporary "see everything in Technicolor x-ray vision" she makes a mental count of where Edward is wearing all his weapons, and then preceeds to tell him where they are. Did we need to read that twice? Once, when she's impressing Edward, would be enough.

The other thing that really bugs me about Anita Blake is the constant use of deus ex machina. One of the things that is constanty drummed into aspiring writers is that if your character can't get themselves out of a situation then they really don't deserve to be got out of it. Certainly not from as many life-threatening situations as Anita has got out of - through no skill of her own - as it seems that at least once in every book someone else, or their mystical power, gets her out of trouble because SHE'S JUST SO DAMNED SPECIAL!!! Plus, of course, every man who doesn't automatically hate her for being a) female or b) a necromancer, automatically wants to get in her pants. And in this one someone who hates her wants to get in her pants too, so her "fuck me" aura must be spreading.

There was also one moment that I found extremely distasteful, and that was the rape of a fourteen-year-old boy that Anita and Edward are forced to watch. My main problem with it is that it simply wasn't necessary. OK, it shows that the bad guys are bad, and must all die for being so evil, but it doesn't advance the plot or tell the reader anything they don't already know or find out in the same scene. We know the bad guys are bad, because they are also at that moment breaking the fingers of a five-year-old girl who's crying for her mummy. The rape doesn't add anything to that. It also doesn't add to the impact of the following massacre as Edward and his cronies proceed to wipe out the whole crew of evildoers. The reader already knows this is on the cards, as Anita spots Edward giving his "kill them all" codeword.

The last niggling problem is loose ends. I don't remember that they were all tied up. I hope they were, but that I don't remember is in itself a bad sign.....

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike all of Laurell K. Hamilton's work. I like the Merry Gentry books, despite them being little more than porn with fairies in, because they don't pretend to be anything else. But Anita Blake started off promisingly and then degenerated into a (literal) orgy of bad writing and slutty behaviour. It's porn masquerading as regular trash fiction. It's built on the kind of writing that would-be authors are told to avoid at all costs, and to see writing that bad being published makes me want to give up. Because if the bar has been lowered that far, what hope do those of us aspiring for quality have?
clhollandwriter: (Balthier)
I meant to post yesterday, but I was in the middle of a bout of depression and couldn't summon up the motivation to do anything except watch the boyfriend play on Final Fantasy 12. Not that I mind that in the slightest - it's a very pretty game, with some immensely funky characters, but there is an awful lot of going around and around and around fighting monsters in order to get anywhere. Typical FF game, really!

I read the most amazing book the other day - The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip. Although I must admit I am a little biased. I absolutely love her writing, from the lyrical quality of her prose to the simple but effective plotlines. I've not read a book of hers I haven't liked, although there is a considerable back-catalog to get through. Normally this would annoy me, as I hate going after books by authors I like (especially if they're out of print), but I find the thought of hunting down her novels enjoyable, like an adventure. I just know I'm going to be disappointed when I have them all, because that's the end of the excitement of collecting. It's a lesson I learned after coming across most of Neil Gaiman's Sandman books in a second-hand book shop and buying them all at once. I still haven't read them, because somehow they don't seem as alluring now I haven't chased them down.

Anyway, The Changeling Sea is about a girl called Peri, whose fisherman father has been lost to the sea, and her mother lost in dreaming about the world beneath the sea that he has gone to. Bitter and angry Peri hexes the sea, and sets in motion a chain of events that no one could have anticipated, bringing into her life the king's two sons, both changelings. They are opposites, one bound to the earth and the other to the sea and longing for the other's realm. In trying to help them, Peri meets the wizard Lyo, and learns to live with love and loss.

I've already mentioned McKillip's poetic writing. She sees the smallest things - the light reflected from the water onto the rocks, the sharp-spikiness of hexes tied of thread and sticks....Her images are vivid in the mind, and they bring the world she writes about alive. Lyo is as powerful and knowledgeable as one of Ursula LeGuin's wizards, but without the smugness they sometimes carry. In fact, I've not read anywhere else a wizard so comfortable with who and what they are, even when he is hiding in the woods from the angry villagers after turning "their" looted gold chain in thousands of periwinkles floating on the sea.

I think I'm going to have to go away an be jealous about her writing now. :-D
clhollandwriter: (armed)
I was reading somewhere a poll about whether random readers of a website (I forget which) thought that writing could be taught. The majority did. I have to say, I think the answer is both yes and no.

Let me explain. The technical side of writing *can* be taught, in my opinion. Spelling and grammar is obvious, and techniques such as foreshadowing. But with the best will in the world, if you don't *feel* the writing then no amount of technical know-how is going to make you a better writer any more than knowing how to read music equips you to write a symphony.

The question becomes, then, whether the ability to "feel" the story, the shape and nature of it, can be taught. Again I think yes and no. I think in all things there has to be a certain amount of innate talent in there, whether it's writing, music, skiing, whatever. But so long as there's that spark, it's something that can be trained. One of the most common pieces of advice I've seen given by writers in books and on the internet is "keep writing." It doesn't matter if you think what you're writing is bad. Practice will make you better at what you're doing. You learn to see the irritating little unexpected moments that crop up in a story for what they are - your subconscious making connections while you're away doing something else, or shying away from what really needs saying. I know that my own writing has improved through this. It may not be worthy of publishing, but it's by far better than it was, and I'm more focussed on getting things finished.

I made the mistake of going in the second-hand bookshop today, and came out with yet more books to add to those I haven't read yet. I used to have a separate pile of things I hadn't read, but it ended up six feet tall. So now they're mixed in with everything else, and I have no idea what I've got and what I haven't any more... The worst part being that I don't know what I'm in the mood to read, so I'm sitting here wanting to read something but not being able to decide what. Maybe it's the prospect of the delightful manga pretties winging their way to me from Amazon as I type. :-D

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