The Parting of the Waters: Art, News and Days Off

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Yesterday I finished The Parting of the Waters. I say finished but I still have some stuff to do to it, I just mean that the actual writing has been done, it just needs to sit, get looked at and have a few bits smoothed out before I even think of letting betas even look at it.

Oh and there’s the art above, a sneak peek from the awesome Ben Adams.

I’ve slept for sixteen hours and I’m exhausted … it’ll be nice to take the weekend off.

Trying My Hand At Legal Fiction—With A Twist

I started watching Daredevil last night (I figured I’m paying for Netflix so I may as well). I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, aside from the cliches. Anyway it got me thinking about Astraea, she pops up through the Ashteraiverse and is the blind Elder of justice. She cameos (with her husband/soulmate Marc) in A World of Strange New Things and narrates segments in In the Blackness of His Eyes but she the kind of narrator I want to spend more time with.

I’ve written blind characters before but Oracles are different. Astraea is a tech-savvy, white-cane using modern woman who is Most Hated on a government department’s wishlist. She’s not afraid of much and exists solely to challenge preconceptions that follow her like screaming children.

Each of the stories focuses on a specific case (the first one is mentioned briefly in Games the Powerful Play) including a technopath arrested for levelling alts in a video game and a Kashinai on trial for the murder after assisting in the death of another Kashinai on American soil.

I don’t think The Weight of the World this is a novel, more a collection of stories. It’s an exercise that will allow me to trying to write something different. The legal cases are the framework, the people are the story. Astraea is too, she’s the youngest of the Elders and her unpleasant history has coloured who she’s become, made her want to fight for those who don’t have the strength or the knowledge to do it for themselves.

So there’s that.

The Parting of the Waters: An’she’s Necklace and Maros/An’she’s Theme

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I’m coming to the end of The Parting of the Waters and feeling reflective. The novel will come in at just over 150k, making it comparable with the first book in the trilogy. The last book, The Shadow of the Stars, will not be as long, I promise. To get myself in the mindset, I’ve found myself wearing the above all week. Why? Because it’s An’she’s necklace and this is her story, primarily.

I found it on Etsy when I first started writing The Changing of the Sun (technically it was Senna’s before it was hers; Chelle made it for Senna using the pearl Jeiana gave her and then melted down the last of her jewellery-crafting silver to make the pendent, giving it as a gift to Jeiana’s soulmate).

Within Parting, as Sarivashi’s descendant, the necklace passed to Khalyn and Maros found it when he was small, recognising it as belonging to his soulmate so the calligrapher gave it to him. Maros gave it to An’she on the day they were joined and it’s the one thing she’s going to take with her on her millennia long journey down the ages. She, in turn, passes it to Caelen who gives it, in turn, to her own daughter Shaman, though Shai never wears it.

Speaking of Maros and An’she, oh the epicness of their storyline. I really hope it doesn’t disappoint. This morning I listened to the new Two Steps from Hell album and found their song; it’s called Star Sky and suits them perfectly (it’s the third from last song on this preview video), at 33:22.

I’m genuinely planning/hoping to have Parting finished by week’s end. There’s not much to be left and IK have more than enough reasons to sit down and Get It Done. Part of me is sad but then I want closure so I can write other things, it’ll make me feel better knowing I can tick off boxes. It’s going to be weird but nice as well.

Here’s to completion and a weight off my shoulders.

My New MedicAlert Bracelet Came!

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I seldom buy jewellery but when MedicAlert announced their new Athena leather bracelets, I instantly ordered one (my previous bracelet was metal, a t-bar clasp and the black enamel was coming off). Given my recent diagnoses, I thought this was the time to update and I’ve been looking for another kind of bracelet that I’d actually like wearing. I dithered over whether to get a new necklace or a bracelet and, as I seldom wear anything on my wrists, this seemed like a nice option plus the leather band is adjustable (yay!).

I’ve been using MedicAlert since I got my Asperger’s diagnosis as I’m somewhat accident-prone (down to the, you know, blindness) and my anaemia often makes me dizzy. I’m also on a lot of medication and not always compus mentus. This is easily solved as the back of the disc is inscribed with my most important medical conditions as well as a contact number for my next of kin (or whatever it is when there’s no kin involved) and information on the medication/conditions I have as well as note on a rather dangerous allergy I have just in case (I’m allergic to coproxamol which while out of use now still crops up and suggests caution when putting any of the co-family in me).

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Most of my reasons for having this are due to reassurance and also because, when I get flustered I lose the ability to speak (hi selective mutism) which is somewhat frustrating. The band is lovely and stylish as well as comfortable (the metal ones need adjusting in a jeweller’s and get really hot in the summer which also means my wrist swells; this has a number of holes so I can adjust on the go). I’m also tempted to get a necklace for those winter days when I wear gloves/an alternate for when I don’t want to wear a bracelet but we’ll see.

For now I feel reassured and that’s the point.

One in Blue, The Other Green: Breaking the Back of a Book

This is my mock up but I like it nevertheless.

This is my mock up but I like it nevertheless.

I’ve had Writer’s Block for the last week, caused in part by my bipolar medication (I have to take Peracyazine three times a day but I’ve not been needing it, so I stopped, then I needed it and it hit me like a sledgehammer). As a result I’ve been sleeping a lot and stuck with all my projects. To take some of my own advice, I decided to write whatever I wanted (in this case One in Blue, The Other Green) and hope that, thus spurred, my normal prolific nature would be restored. I liken it to turning on a tap to get running water.

I find cover design, purely for mocking up purposes, to be stimulating creatively so I made a cover for Blue. I spent the afternoon chilling out (aka writing/watching Outlander) after a productive morning mentoring/teaching and eating Japanese food (I was shocked to see chicken karaage has been stricken from the menu :*( it’s awful!).

The break has meant I actually feel like writing which is a relief unto itself. Sometimes talking about writing to other writers makes it easier to get on with it, creatives understand each other’s pain in a way regular folks never will. At the same time helping other folks with their writing problems/questions and whatnot puts mine into perspective a little more. Everything is going to be okay if I just write.

Elyn is a calligrapher and I imagined, given she’s used to writing hieratics (similar in writing to kanji) and given that each of the Priestess books is narrated by … well, a priestess, that something almost religious in tone might work well. I picked this font because it’s obviously English but also distinctly decorative in it’s presentation. I don’t know if this is what the final cover will look like (though this is my first book that lacks a focal point on the cover) but I love it nevertheless.

This is actually relevant to Elyn, the narrator of Blue, she’s one of the most knowledgable of my cast of characters but also the most lost. She’s got several lifetimes of memories, literally at her fingertips, but all she wants is a home. Rather than letting life drag her with the tide, she’s constantly looking for something which is right in front of her. In this case she doesn’t want to be a Regent, doesn’t want to cause waves and would rather run where her sister will never come looking for her, she wants to be an artist and a lover but instead finds herself writing biographies and scholarly articles whilst pregnant with a daughter who will open more doors than she could ever dream of.

Except everything she actually wants will come to her with little effort, of course she never realises that and instead fights against the tide. But then where would be the story if we all just went along, meek and subservient? Elyn is anything but that!

I’m now hoping, once I finish this is to strip down The Parting of the Waters in order to finish individual character arcs (it flows better if I write Kella’s arc or An’she’s in one go and then bind them into the narrative, though this method does take a lot more work and exhausts me just thinking about it). My betas are also starting to get back to me regarding Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea (apparently it’s good). I still have half a novella to do and two short stories to write but, as with much of my writing, Blue sets the stage and it’s making sure all the individual accounts tally.

I’m really hoping to get everything done, then I can enjoy my friend Shannon visiting with impunity while my betas read. I really hope Parting is worth their time.

Bloodborne and the Art of Lore

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Bloodborne came out last week and people are loving it. I’ve never played a From Software game, I don’t have a PS4 (I’m watching this series of walkthroughs via the magic of YouTube) and I don’t have time to play the game however I really, really like the plot, the way the lore is dispensed and the complexity of the world (Yharnam is this massive, labyrinthine city with outskirts and villages, all connected by a central plaza district). From what I’ve seen the graphics are stunning, the loading times reminiscent of my Amstrad 464 and the lore is leaving everyone talking (it’s basically Lovecraft-themed).

The whole whole game is obsessed with blood: healing comes via blood transfusion, there is good blood that grants vitality and health and bad which turns you into beasts (and, occasionally, a vampire). Blood can restore health but turn people insane and the game tales place on the night of a hunt, when Hunters (including the protagonist) clear the streets of Yharnam of it’s rampaging beasts. The whole thing, actually, reminds me of the monthly cycle that women and werewolves go through—both tied to the lunar cycle—actually though the game never specifies how often these hunts occur except that one might witness several in their lifetimes.

But the blood, the blood is everywhere!

BLOOOOOOOOOOD.

Blood leads to metamorphosis, to change, and there is an old blood which promises to jumpstart the process, turning human into Great One. The religion of the city isn’t like the micro-cults of Lovecraft, rather the Healing Church (to give it it’s proper name) is the city’s dominant religion with blood saints and whores, a clergy comprising of doctors and healers all skilled in the blood. With this obsession around the moon (it changed through the course of the night/game, eventually becoming blood red and looming) and the power of blood, I can’t help but wonder if these hunts are a monthly occurrence. A bad nightmare everyone shares through the power of the shared blood that only death can release them back into the dawn.

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The most interesting part is the way the game flows. I’m convinced the Yharnam we play in is just a dream (with the Hunter’s Dream hub being a dream within a dream). The Great Ones are constantly told to be sleeping and dreaming deep beneath the city and everyone knows that dreams are malleable things where self is lost. The first ending (there are at least three) postulates that if you die in the Hunter’s Dream, you wake up in the real world (hello, Inception!) so does that mean every beast you kill, every twisted Hunter who has gone mad that you dispatch, just wakes up in the real Yharnam, the dawn-lit world not dominated by the Hunt?

Except you also kill ‘prey'; giant bosses which include the screechy Cleric Beast, Vicar Amelia, Rom and various other Great Ones. Does that mean, by killing them, that you’re waking up the real versions in the real city? These are monsters, some transformed, some ancient, who are beautiful and profane and who help unlock the true story of the game.

The lore of the game is primarily dispensed hidden in dialogue and in the tooltips for runes, items and other things you collect on your journey. Through those you meet various important people to the mythos of Bloodborne, some of whom you meet for ‘real’ during the course of the game. I like it because you get just enough lore to whet your appetite and then send you off to fill in the gaps and postulate which is exactly what I get to do in this post. On the walkthrough I mentioned above Marcus (who helped write the official strategy guide for the game) explains that Miyazaki-san couldn’t read English fluently as a kid so he read books, got the gist and then let his imagination fill in the rest of the gaps. That’s a skilled way to deliver lore that you seldom see in media now a days, here in the west we like facts, we like truths and concrete information, not fancy and the ability to theorise.

I really like this game.

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The addition of beasts, as in lycanthropes, who are mindless and hungry and the vampiric Vilebloods, are particularly interesting. We have insanity (also often connected in older times to the moon; lunatics, for example, being an obvious callback to the power of the full moon) and immortality; beasts are lost in the dream and the Vilebloods, as vampires, are immortal and unable to wake up. You spend a portion of the quest resurrecting Annalise, the Queen, who has been slaughtered but is still alive. Immortality can be a horror because you can’t die, can’t wake up, which is a similar state to the Hunter’s predicament. If the player-character dies, they just come back constantly, unable to wake up, unable to die.

(An aside: Most of the female characters in this game have names beginning with A which is just weird.)

The Great Ones really start appearing in the latter half of the game and they become this eerie presence. You even look at one and it starts to induce a kind of insanity called Frenzy which saps your health. Yet this kind of insight is also required to progress, to go further into the Forbidden Castle Cainhurst, to find Rom on the Moonside Lake and discover the dark creatures roaming in parts of the city you’ve seen before but never actually really seen.

It makes me wonder what happens, after the end of the game, when you wake up—or worse—when you become the next guardian of the Hunter’s Dream or the ‘herald of humanity’s next childhood’.

If you really want to know all the secrets about the lore, this is a good place to start.

Mission Statement (April 2015)

Susan Kaye Quinn has written an awesome book, The Indie Author Survival Guide, which I recommend to all my own mentees. I got chatting to Susan because my problem isn’t the writing, outside of my Kickstarter campaigns and giving books away for free while they were free on KDP Select, I have a horrible time selling them. The covers are gorgeous, the editing top notch but shifting copies is hard, particularly in paperback. Yet, as she kindly reminded me, there’s a difference between publishing books and running a business.

For example, I was able to give away over 500 copies via freebies/Kickstarter which means people are reading my books. I don’t write for the money, rather I do it for the stories and the love of getting them from my head into people’s hands.

Susan asked me if I’d done a Mission Statement, which is one of the exercises she outlines in her books. I hadn’t but I decided to do it here and now, it clarifies your desires and becomes a reminder of what you want to achieve that you can amend as needed.

So without further ado:

Mission statement (1.0)

I want to use my skills from ten years of journalism, my innate curiosity and desire to question to write short and long form projects focusing on sci fi, fantasy and speculative fiction. I want to establish a multiverse which includes elements of the above and binds novels, serials and short stories together into a cohesive whole but also explore new forms of writing and standalones which are of high enough quality to be submitted to anthologies and magazines.

Most importantly, I would like to get stories out there. This is not about money but rather about establishing a fanbase and a dialogue with people who enjoy reading my work. I will continue using Kickstarter and Patreon as these seem to be good ways to engage but also ensure funding goals are met which will allow me to publish several novels/serials/shorts per year.

Due to my health and disabilities, I might not be able to teach professionally but I would still like to help new writers on their journey, to mentor people so they don’t have to make the mistakes I did and help push the idea that if you’re going to publish, then make sure you do it well. I want to inspire other people and prove that anyone can be an author but that doing it well will only help their careers.

Things I Want to Achieve in 2015

Screenshot 2015-01-11 10.56.05April is a much better time for resolutions than January when it’s cold/snowy and dark. Today it’s felt like summer, warm and perfect (bar the small children screaming).

  • I want to apply to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America because it’s a professional organisation and shows I’m serious about this authoring lark.
  • I want to write for more anthologies and publish more short stories.
  • I’d like to publish books and Kickstart my first serial and another novel before year’s end.
  • I’d like to get out of debt and find some financial stability.
  • I’d like to buy things for my home like a new mattress, a decent smoke alarm and a new fridge.
  • I want to travel a bit, to take time out, and actually take time for myself.
  • I’d like to find medication which works, get help I need and find an even keel (this one is going to take several years and that’s just the waiting list).
  • To be happy and content with my lot.

There Are Colouring Books For Adults! How Did I Not Know This???

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I’m trying to keep my anxiety levels down and I read about these in The Guardian. I bought the French versions (I can read a little French) of Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest mainly because they were the only available versions that would ship before May (they’ve basically sold out they’re that popular). I’m not surprised; the books are paperback but the covers are made from thick matte card and really thick paper. The images are simple and stunningly complex; animals and landscapes and even a DPS of dragons. I’m not artistic and my visual impairment means I need a magnifier in order to see the real detail (hence my inability to stay within the damned lines) but it’s a calming activity (ranking next to braiding thread in my internal ladder of stuff which chills me out).

Seriously, how did I not know this was A Cool Thing???

Best of all, the books fit in my bag along with my pencil case and there seems to be zero shame attached with sitting in Starbucks quietly colouring while being over ten and consuming coffee. Excellent. Look, if it keeps me able to function I am not complaining.

The worst part is, though, my friends want to steal the books/borrow page to colour!!! I love my friends but they can go buy their own copies!

So I Tried An Apple Watch Today and I’m Waiting for the Watch 2

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Hmm apples. I’m an unashamed Apple fangirl (it’s the accessibility options, honest) and I’ve had today marked in my calendar. April 10th was the day the iWatch was due to be put on display so off I went to the nearest Apple Store (we have one in Norwich) and I got to try one on within two minutes of stepping into the store. I was quite impressed by the big demo table, which included the £8k Edition Watch.

I was expecting a long wait, I was anticipating a long line and an even longer wait for appointments but the store wasn’t particularly busy (mainly because if you want a Watch you have to go and order it online and the delivery date is JUNE). There were a lot of curious folk, mainly kids on half term, as this isn’t some tiny purchase, it’s an expensive piece of kit. Heck even I’m looking at the Sport version and not the middle version, it’s too rich for my blood.

Anyway, here’s what happened. They start by letting you try on a demo unit which loops (yeah it’s not actually functional, boo). I tried the smaller one but my wrist was too big and, being blind, the larger option was the obvious choice. The bad thing was the Sport version (I tried the Space Grey one with a black strap) has a horrible plastic feeling strap, it’s nasty, I tell you. Look, if it looks like plastic, feels like plastic and has that shine then regardless of the name you give it, it’s still freaking plastic. So if I do buy one, it’s the more expensive band for me. I’m sensitive to textures and hate anything plastic on my skin.

I’m used to a talking watch and those things are heavy. The Watch was light, it was comfy (band excluded) on my wrist and a good size. I love the faces and the customisation options (not that I got to try them), it’s got a place in this tech world of ours but it’s too new a piece of tech. I think, in five years, it’s going to be beautiful. Right now … it’s just a bit buggy, a bit unresponsive.

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After trying the demo unit, I got to play with a working version bound into a box and connected to a screen so that you get info on whatever option you tap so if I activated Siri, a corresponding info panel would pop up to tell me all about it. The screen was crystal clear and even I, with my broken eyes and my guide dog, could see it. The crown is a nice option but I found myself relying on the touch screen. The Watch I tried wasn’t always as responsive and the (Navy) Blues didn’t know as much about the Watch (they’d obviously only just been briefed; I usually know more than they do). It was definitely a play and see but I did feel rushed, the Blue never left my side and I would have liked a couple of minutes to play on my own without a minder (remember the working units are bound into a display).

I asked if I could take a photo (it seemed polite at the time) and then checked out the accessibility options (I’m blind, remember?). They were there but greyed out so I could see but not actually try them (boo!). There’s a zoom function and VoiceOver and Siri’s presence means you can ask and s/he will do all the stuff she does on my phone. I did like the Watch but I wasn’t so impressed that I HAD TO HAVE ONE (maybe that’s my bipolar medication working??? I’ve been a lot calmer of late, a lot less obsessional). The Watch itself wasn’t as responsive as I’m used to, there was a bit of lag and a learning curve to boot.

There’s promise there but it’s not quite finished cooking yet. But the TL;DR version is that I’m waiting for V2.

The Official Ashteraiverse Facebook Group

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I’ve finally set up an official Facebook group (because that’s where everyone seems to live) for the Ashteraiverse. Everyone is welcome, there will probably be spoilers but I’m keen to get folks talking and enthusiasm brewing for The Parting of the Waters and Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea.

Go forth, join and be merry!