Been a no good day today, with no energy, low mood, and very little self esteem. I’m pretty sure its mostly a reaction to knowing I don’t have to work next week as I’ve booked it off.

Whether I’ll be at work for the following weeks is anyone’s guess. I imagine there’s a lot of negotiations currently taking place. Worrying about that now doesn’t do me any good.

In the meantime we have binged on tv, and I have been writing and drawing. Its nanowrimo so I’m going to try at least writing something every day.

Happy New Year

Welcome 2013, let’s see what’s in store shall we? 2012 was pretty damn awesome, I have to say, so you’re going to have to work your ass off to beat it. We had That Rowton Thing, work settling for both of us, amazing friends and family and great distractions in the form of the London Olympics that just seemed to make the year skip past.

This year, I really must finish the novel. I got sidetracked with the ghost writing of articles and ebooks for other people, and with starting up part time at the library. With t’other half securing a permanent job, I can be a bit more selective with my time and energies. I’ve already been submitting short stories to places, so I’ll press on with those in the meantime while I fill in the gaps in the main event.

One of the useful communities I’ve joined on G+ has been a group of people willing to share input and feedback on writing after the chaos of Nanowrimo. I put the first chapter in for critique and got some great feedback on the structure from several people that I’ll be implementing in the next edit. Even more encouraging was that the quibbles were over minor structural issues and an occasional typo rather than a wholesale attack on grammatical structure. At this rate I might start believing people when they insist I’m actually any good at this writing lark…

So – goals for this year: well I’ve already mentioned finishing the book and submitting more short stories. I’m also going to have our long delayed honeymoon, get bookshelves for all the books and DVDs in our home,  lose some more weight and keep up the running that I’ve recently started doing.

That should be enough to keep me occupied and in trouble, don’t you think?

Nanowrimo Stuttering

I finally began typing up notes for nanowrimo this evening. My daughter and I sat in companionable silence with our laptops, with only the sound of the TV and tapping of keys to be heard.

Extrapolating from the word count so far, it looks like I’ve actually got 4000 to 5000 words done in my notebook, so that’s more encouraging than I’d expected. My daughter took great pleasure in looking up and announcing something nearer 12000 words.

I’ve a lot of catching up to do. Oh well…

Nanowrimo Begins

Well, at least the sun is shining today. Yesterday’s dismal weather was a stark contrast to the clear skies and perfect firework weather of Saturday. As  a result we generally spent the day clustered around laptops, playing Halo on the Xbox, or greeting old friends who unexpectedly dropped by on flying visits.

A burst of fireworks, cascading in the night sky
Some of this weekend’s fireworks

The weekend seems to have gone in a general rush of activity. Hardly surprising given the confluence of t’other half’s birthday, bonfire night and visitation by my daughter  – all on the same weekend as Skyfall’s general release. To say we’ve been bouncing from pillar to post is something of an understatement. In addition, its also the opening weekend for Nanowrimo, and unlike the industrious busy bees that I’ve been sharing my flat with, I’ve not actually had a chance to start writing anything substantive for it.

My intention is to try and break the back of the second half of my novel this month – and having a virtual muse standing over me, with a baseball bat in the form of a target and deadline, seems to be a potent tool that I would be unwise to ignore. We shall see. The temptation to write a series of short stories is also quite strong, given the number of competitions currently running in sundry places.

Despite that, I know my biggest challenge is going to be to just sit and write, without stopping to edit and revise. I completed the Nanowrimo challenge last year, but promptly lost an effective word count of some fifteen thousand words when I came to tidy and revise the document into something readable. Prepared for that this year, I intend to be somewhat more selfish than I have been in recent months and spend as much spare time as possible scribbling in notebooks or transcribing notes into Scrivener. There will almost certainly also be a few blog posts where I let off some steam…

Right – back to the grind.  Good luck with your own projects, whatever they are.

A Year In Review

Its kind of traditional to take stock at the end of a year – and while I don’t usually indulge, its been a year of change and achievements – just not quite all of them things I had any idea or ambition for.

A few headline items in no particular order:

  • training as a helpline volunteer for Surrey Drug and Alcohol care
  • paying off all outstanding loans and debts
  • achieving the 50,000 word target for Nanowrimo
  • getting the bank to repay my missold PPI, with interest
  • completing – finally – my divorce
  • arranging my new marriage – in a castle
  • paying off said marriage without plunging back into debt
  • getting a tattoo
  • rediscovering how much I enjoy cooking
  • being happy

compared with this time last year – things are stable without anything looming over us. Its not to say that things are perfect: when are they ever? Money will continue to be an issue for a while while the job market is so depressed, but I’m intending to keep writing, to keep making bids for work on freelancer websites and applying for more regular full time work while saving to retrain as a counsellor. If I can say this time next year that I’ve finished my first novel and started my counselling diploma I’ll count it a successful year.

Some might ask why I haven’t put the wedding as one of my targets for success. The answer to that is simple: I know that’s going to happen and I know its going to be amazing.

Post-NaNoWriMo Blues

It was a long slog. A lot of coffee was consumed. There were indeed nights I didn’t sleep, sat in bed with a notebook while t’other half tried to sleep – but I made it: I reached the fifty thousand word mark and so am officially a 2011 nanowrimo winner.
It just doesn’t feel like as great an achievement as getting the tattoo done last week, and it’s taken me a couple of days to work out why: the story isn’t complete, and it’s a pretty much unedited mess apart from the first six chapters (though they do make a good eighteen thousand words story arc). I think the sense of anticlimax comes from knowing I now have to keep going, aim for nearer one hundred thousand words.
As a first time novelist it’s a daunting target, and at the same time, with the raw amount of words under my belt now I know it’s achievable. I just have to get up and do it.
Right, time to put the kettle on, have some toast and start my day. I have a chapter to write on a crime scene and a victim apparently back from the dead.

Nearing the Finishing Post

November is slipping away, and I’m taking a brief pause from the writing to, um, write here instead – mainly because I need a break from writing about werewolves and ghosts for five minutes while the kettle is boiling.

As of the time of writing, I have 1800 words to go to reach the fifty thousand word target for nanowrimo. That’s just shy of two hundred pages over the averagely formatted novel just to give some perspective. What this tells me is that the story I’m writing does have the legs to go to a full novel length and isn’t the flimsy novella that I’d feared it might be – so just because the month is nearly up I won’t stop work on this story and will eventually have something worth publishing in some format or other.

In terms of how polished it currently is, I have six properly formatted chapters of roughly three thousand words each and then a lot of fragments of varying lengths from a couple of hundred words to several thousand words that I’m slotting together like pieces of a jigsaw. At this stage I’m throwing ideas and bits of dialogue and description and research at the files and seeing what sticks. A lot of it is working with little need to majorly tweak it, but this morning I made the decision to re-write the end of chapter five and the beginning of chapter six so that I could move a revelation in the story to a little later where it will have more of a dramatic impact.

So, do I regret the sleepnessness and nerves of the last month? No – though there have been a couple of days where my grouchiness has tested the calmness of my loved ones, and for that I apologise. What I have brought out of this though is the confidence of knowing that I can do this and produce the word count within the deadline – artificial as it is (though aren’t they all in the final analysis?). Recipe lists and the like will almost certainly make a return here in due course – but for now I’m signing off until I’ve got this last bit done.

So I Got A Tattoo

As I sit here, wrapping Christmas presents and wondering why most of my US-based friends are acting a bit odd today it suddenly occurs that I’ve not updated in a week or so and I’ve actually had quite a lot happen in between trying to make up Nanowrimo word counts and track down presents for people – most specifically that at the tender age of 39 I’ve got my first tattoo, and certainly when I woke up yesterday that wasn’t immediately on my to-do list.

I’d not really had any pressing desire to get one growing up – partly as when I was growing up it wasn’t as socially acceptable as it is these days – the received wisdom being that only criminals and weirdos got them done, and particularly growing up as the eldest son of a vicar (yes, I’m the son of a preacher man as Dusty used to sing), it just didn’t even register as something I’d ever want or need. The second factor was that, for the most part, I didn’t want to get something done that I would see on someone else, picked from a book – so if I did ever go that route I’d be looking to get something custom made, and I knew from conversations with friends and extended family that that could get expensive. So that was another barrier.

Life threw its little curve-balls and I got ill, and fought back through to recovery, and eventually started liking myself again; and having met t’other half and started rediscovering who I wanted to be (ie a stubborn individual setting my own standards) – and finding that Jo was someone I wanted to continue standing up for, I started thinking about how to mark it.

I’ve always had a fascination with mythology and the past – I love legends for what they tell me about people and how similar we are; and I wander Foolishly through various mystic areas out of interest to find out what people believe – building on the semiotic and structural study I did during my English degree to dig at how people share interpretations of the unseen – a route into their psychology that I hope over the next few years to dig further by studying towards a Counselling career.

While reading The Book of English Magicby Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate

Prototype Sketch made for the new tattoo
The prototype

(ISBN: 978-1-84854-041-5) I found a page showing some of the anglo-saxon runes – quite distinct from the norse runes more typically used in tattooing and something about a couple of the runes just clicked with a previous conversation I’d had about astrological signs, and so I decided to design a sigil combining key elements that I could get to mark the relationship.

There are two runes symbolising unity/family (ING) and growth/fertility (GER) and they are flanked and included within the symbols of Scorpio (for t’other half), and Pisces (for myself). So yesterday, while dropping things off to post, walking off a migraine (told you I was stubborn) and feeling a sudden surge of curiosity, I took my design into a local studio that Jo has used before and who have a good reputation generally in the area (I think I know about four or five people who have praised them in one context or another over the years).

The New Tattoo
The New Ink

When the price offered was reasonable (thanks to the recent windfall) and he offered to do it there and then I mentally shrugged and thought ‘go for it’ – which is how I today have this interpretation of it. He’s lightly italicised the design to give some solidity to the sides so that the more delicate lattice inside contrasts without getting overwhelmed.

And it was interesting to compare the sensations with the phantasies that had built up over the years – occasional mild discomfort rather than pain being my main observation – and it was certainly far less traumatic than anything I’ve ever done to myself in the past, be it papercuts, accidents in the kitchen or doing stupid things while depressed. I’m also pleasantly surprised at how unfussy the aftercare has to be (ie, don’t be stupid, keep it clean and moisturised) – I think I’d been anticipating having a broken night rolling over onto it in my sleep – instead I just had a broken night because my mattress is at its life’s end and I swear its trying to actively cripple me before the new bed is delivered…

So yeah… not so much a rebel without a clue as casting my own spell on myself… right, back to wrapping presents and trying to write this story…

Catching up with myself

So I’m still working away at the Nanowrimo insanity, and noticing two things – firstly that things are starting to come together plot-wise, which is good, and that I really do need to keep writing by hand as my first draft as I’m much more productive that way – my evidence for that is having written about 4000 words today and so putting me back into spitting distance of my total. Now – if I was purely doing the 50000 words in any order, then I wouldn’t be so stressed, but no – I’m actually trying to produce something that is a coherent story by the end of the month with an actual plot, structure and resolution (talk about making things difficult for myself)

Oh, but in the meantime I’m also sorting out a photographer for the wedding, paying off large chunks of wedding deposits and, um, oh yes, also preparing for a wedding – did I mention I was getting married next year?

There’s also this Christmas thing lurking on the horizon – I suppose I should get back to thinking about that in between crafting this tale of double crosses, ghosts and mayhem…

Snarky day

Ever get the feeling you’re having one of those days and just haven’t recognised it yet? I’ve just written this and felt faintly pleased even while wondering quite where it came from:

A car pulled up alongside me. It was one of those sleek, dark, expensive looking ones that proclaimed loudly that here was money that could afford to shout and still expect to be left alone. It was the sort of car that casually cuts you up on the A3 just before the Tolworth junction. I disliked the owner already.

Ah well – back to the keyboard and my Green and Blacks Espresso chocolate