A quick update on the long-gestating novel. Barring a few little linking passages I’ve typed up most of the first draft of the novel. and have the rest in various notebooks, including some alternative takes on scenes. Hooray, but now begins the big edit and reworking of major bits because my focus and tone has shifted as the characters have evolved, and some of the stuff that I’ve come back to read now has me noticing all kinds of plot holes.
So. The current plan now is to streamline some scenes, remove some others, add another couple of viewpoints to see if they work, and try not to throw my laptop across the room. Well, at least more than a couple of times.
This is actually a big deal given I started this with a Nanowrimo in 2011 (I think) and then have wandered all over the place between copywriting as a freelancer, then deciding I needed some regular income and becoming a library person again. I just need to knuckle down and carry on doing this slog. I’ve learned a lot about the sheer grind needed to write long-form stories – and every short story and fiction fragment here and in other places have been learning steps along that road. Nothing is wasted effort. If I say that often enough then I’m sure I’ll believe it at some point.
Now to do battle with Amazon again and see if they’ll accept my bank details for self-publishing at any point.
They eased their way out of the tavern’s door in ones and twos so as not to wake anyone sleeping in the common area. Bustling noises from the kitchen area suggested a breakfast would be forthcoming soon, but the prospect of fresh air untainted by sleeping body odours was a strong lure, at least until windows could be opened and more wholesome aromas allowed to circulate. There were benches and tables outside on the pavement, so at least they wouldn’t have to sit on the floor or lounge against walls like louche street thugs.
The bells were ringing in the morning in the distance – from Guildhalls and churches, libraries and public buildings the carillions blended and merged to form snatches of recognisable tunes obscured by distance and the mundane domestic sounds of the start of a new day. Carts were already beginning to make their way to market, or to deliver to any one of the many shops in this metropolis. A half-elf was brushing the road clear outside the bakery next door, his blue apron stained with flour from his early start. A dwarf in the livery of a courier service was directing envelopes from his wheeled case to doorways with a flick of a wand – messages and small parcels flying to letterboxes with quiet efficiency.
A gentle breeze scented with the smell of frying bacon wafted past and lifted the additional warmth of fresh bread from the bakery, and in that moment the travellers knew it was going to be a good day.
“The world is a place of wonder that doesn’t care if it is observed or not. Rivers flow and trees fall in woods whether or not anyone is there to witness. Sunrises don’t mind if anyone is awake; and clouds just get on with being part of the water cycle. It’s only when soppy humans get involved that the value judgements start: ‘Oh wow, that rainbow is beautiful’ carries as much weight as how icky it is to see that decomposing animal, or be uncomfortable about the rain trickling down my neck, or ‘how dare that virus kill all my herds and hit my profit margins?’
All of these things may be felt simultaneously by the same farmer in one field in the most breathtaking hillside view – and none of them are mutually exclusive or any more or less valid a manifestation of the complexity and wonder of this world. Wonders don’t have to be, and frequently are not, intrinsically beneficial or pleasant.
Do I sound jaded? A little distant perhaps? I don’t think I am, but I do get tired of hearing the same old exclamations and crying.” The dragon paused to take a sip of his martini and glanced around the bar. Nobody was paying any attention to us. That said, it was a Friday evening in Canary Wharf so not only was the bar packed but it was full of conversations about money and expensive toys. As far as anyone else was concerned we were just a couple more folks in the bar lucky enough to have grabbed seats and a table; and that probably meant we’d been there all afternoon.
I’d better explain. There was a distinct lack of scales, teeth, and fire breathing on view. Craddoc found they got in the way of running a Fortune 500 company, so only let his wings out at the weekend when he flew home to the valleys, or if he’d decided to work from home while moulting. He’d never revealed where home was exactly and I suspect it wasn’t exactly a converted farmhouse. We both left it as something not to be discussed and were both the happier for it.
“Anyway, my dear Dorian, what I’m trying to say to you is that it is a pleasure to see you again, for you are as wonderful to me as the sunlight on the Thames and the shadows beneath Tower Bridge.” His amber eyes seemed to twinkle with reflections of the sun off the skyscrapers outside but I’d long ago learnt to not look him directly in the eye. Just because he wasn’t trying to eat anyone right now, didn’t mean I had to tempt fate more than I usually do.
“Well, thank you Craddoc for putting me in my cosmic place. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s morn or the dew on a rose or would an avalanche seen from afar be a better analogy?” You do have to have a certain lack of regard for your own skin to tease a dragon, but I’d learnt that he did enjoy barbs that showed an appreciation of his wordplay.
Yesterday wasn’t a fantastic day – one of being low in energy and mood, and it wasn’t helped by diabetes starting my day with an upset stomach that led to copious vomiting mid-morning. Still, at least when that was done I wasn’t as bloated and queasy and merely had a headache, lethargy, and a general feeling of worthlessness – so a reasonable trade-off I guess.
Part of the low energy and dip in self-esteem came from the enforced distancing and general ill health between us all. A big part of my love language is physical touch with those I’m close with – not necessarily intimately, but just the brush of hands or quick hugs or joking pokes in the ribs that cross the gaps between us and at least in my head remind and reassure of acceptance and comfort. So with Lady M having a bad fibromyalgia day and physical distance from myr s, it was a bad day to be having my brain throw a tantrum on that front.
Then there was just the part where I was physically tired as well as emotionally exhausted. I’ve been doing a lot between preparation for the D&D game, cleaning the house/decluttering, and generally being a supportive and positive person for everyone – and I just needed to collapse for a bit. Being typically introverted however, I’m generally not fantastic at communicating this coherently, which can lead to a bit of a spiral of my own making.
But that was yesterday – and today the sun is out, and we’ve spoken at appropriate distances with neighbours. They’ve all asked how we are doing now from when we’ve posted on local facebook groups about going into isolation. There’s been the affirmation that our experiences are not so different, and that generally people are choosing the positive view of how to deal with these weird times.
I have the game tonight, so I’me doing some minor tweaks and preparation for that, and I’ve started recording some odds and ends for a channel on our discord, telling stories. I’ve even written an experimental new beginning for the book and recorded that:
I think what I may start doing as I transcribe more of my short stories is also do recordings of them too as an ongoing process – partly to get practice in, but also to offer another form of accessibility to people who can’t read easily for whatever reason. It’s another creative form, and one that I hope people enjoy.
Anna danced in the snow, her heart as light as the footsteps of her partner. Round and round the stones she went, their path weaving in loops and curves. Snow fell, but she barely felt the cold. She was buoyed on delight and a song only she and her partner could hear.
They danced on and on, faster then slower, to no discernible style. Some steps wafted like a waltz, others more sharply akin to the tango. Featherlight snowflakes dusted her skin and settled on her eyelashes, highlighting the growing ruddiness of her cheeks.
She didn’t feel the burn of the growing chill, or pay attention to the growing fuzziness of her thoughts. Her eyes were fixed on her suitor, her mind on the dance that swept away everything else in the world beyond the glorious moment she was in.
They found her huddled body the next morning at the foot of the fallen stone called the long man. Her eyes were still open, twinkling in the frost that glazed her. Her bare feet were raw, blood staining the snows where her feet had passed in intricate delicate swirls that suggested a pattern maddeningly just beyond perception. No one knew where she’d come from, or why she was there, and the locals didn’t comment on how there was only one set of footprints that led up to and around the stones.
Gerald Thorne sat in his study, running the thin silver chain links flow between his ink-stained fingers. He was aware of the soft rumble of the traffic outside, but it was the patient ticking of the clock that held his attention. The clock itself was on the marble mantelpiece behind him. It’s mechanism ran smoothly with gentle winding every week or so, and it had travelled with him everywhere that it had been practical to take it.
It had been a present upon his graduation decades ago. It’s simple ornamentation was classic in its beauty. It had always kept perfect time, except for under certain esotoric conditions.
With the thick drapes excluding the outside world, and the only light coming from thick candles either end of his desk, the scene had a timeless quality that seemed gathered and layered, condensed even. The steady ticking of the clock continued to slice that timelessness into even segments that fell away into eternity.
He looked and trickled the chain links from one hand to the palm of the other slowly, back and forth in time with the clock. The silver gleamed in the candle light like water catching the evening sun. The moment of dusk was near: the border time, the boundary of night and day. The procession of seconds continued, each as unremarkable as the next as Gerald’s awareness of the outside world faded and focused on the moment.
The clock skipped a second. And then another. All was silent. Gerald gripped the silver chain, and then he heard the click of a dog’s claws on the vinyl flooring outside the door.
I recently backed a Kickstarter for a journal aimed at enhancing the experience of writing – or at least help provide a means of organisation for notes – it’s called a PageOne, and my Kickstarter reward arrived yesterday.
Now, it may not seem to be a great or groundbreaking idea, but I found enough in the idea to put my money into – the lined journal is broken up into sections for character thumbnails, scenes, plot, research, things like that and puts me in mind of a fully bound organiser. Indeed, there are spaces for tracking submissions and other interactions, making this as much a paper-based project management tool as a creative canvas.
In software terms I’ve done similar with Scrivener, OneNote, and other online apps, but there’s something wonderfully visceral and reassuring about the heft of a journal – quite aside from not needing batteries or screens to use it.
My creative process always starts on paper anyway. I’ve tried with varying degrees of success to create from scratch digitally – and the short stories on this site are a good set of examples.
I’m more comfortable writing longhand on paper and then using the transcription process to perform a basic first edit and tidy of spelling and grammar.
The book itself is robust, with a leather-style cover as shown in the image above, and feels like the template of a classic Moleskine journal. The paper is good quality, and the printing, binding, and heft all tick the right boxes for me.
As an inveterate doodler and sketcher, it gives me the flexibility to indulge that side as part of the creative process while working through scenes – hence another reason for the many sketchpads and drawing filled journals stacked in my flat. The next time these pages appear online, they’ll be a mix of text and art.
I’m not sad to see the back of this week – it does seem to have been unnecessarily arduous: one of those Murphy’s Law weeks where anything that could go wrong seemed determined to do so.
This even extended to a member of my staff on his last week who seemed determined to push as many buttons as possible. Because why not?
Still, it’s all past now. I had a good long conversation about it all at counselling and have been enjoying a quiet day of mostly collapsing on the sofa with Lady M. Games have been played, doodles have been drawn, films have been watched – and there’s even been some grocery shopping and things thrown in the recycling bin.
I’ve also been writing. I’m trying something different to try and reenergise the storytelling by shifting to third person away from first person. If nothing else it’s giving me a chance to revisit characters and flesh them out a bit.
If you follow me on any other social media, or know me in real life, you might have noticed that I’m drawing and doodling and sketching and painting, and generally being an expressive soul all over the place. I have work colleagues who are reassured to see my doodles all over scraps of paper as they know I’m based out of that location for a while, and others who in the past have zealously gathered up those scraps before I can throw them in the bin to keep hold of them.
I mention this because I’m starting to return to writing and drawing in my journals, especially as I’ve been gifted with, and also acquired for myself, a number of different sets of brush pens and other lineart tools. It has prompted me to develop new refinements of my artwork. It has also meant that I’ve returned to drawing around odds and ends that I’ve written in the books as I can’t stand having wasted space in them.
Sometimes these are fiction fragments or bits of a story that I’m working on, and sometimes they are more thoughtful pieces that I’ve written – often while the black dog is barking and worrying at my heels.
I write these pieces to ground myself and force myself to acknowledge the positives and available options around me. Sometimes they are light and fluffy, and sometimes they are from a lower and more stubborn place, plodding along like a donkey pulling a cart through the mud.
Many of these pieces end up on Instagram to break up the flow of selfies, cosplay pictures, book covers I’ve enjoyed encountering, or other random facets that I highlight in any given day. I present them “as is” without comment, simply because I want to preserve them somewhere, and I like some aspect of technique or design and want to show it off. I certainly don’t expect to enter into long conversations about them as they’re usually just dashed off while watching tv or something.
This piece however got a response from someone who read the text and found it spoke to them – that it was what they needed to hear at that point – and that even though they often use writing for similar purposes they don’t feel the confidence to post them online. This spoke to me – partially in recognition of the power of similar moments as I’ve encountered them, partially being glad to have been able to give someone a lift in that moment, and partially a disbelief that I have been able to affect someone in that way. Its humbling and more than a little cool to receive that kind of feedback, and I hope I managed to not sound completely awkward in responding to that person.