New Ebook Alert: The Barn That Hanna Built Now Available!

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Last year I got to write for an anthology, the story was one of my favourites and I’ve finally gotten around to publishing it as a stand alone. In case you’ve forgotten, here are some of my favourite reviews of my little story The Barn That Hanna Built:

This comment from David Bruns’ review of Tales:

In The Barn That Hanna Built by Lesley Smith, we find hacker Hanna Strauss, forced out of the city to hide out among the Amish. In her city existence, Hanna was obsessed with coding the perfect country setting, but when she seeks refuge among the Amish, she finds she’s actually living inside that landscape. This story has a nice twist to it, and Smith has a visceral, detailed style that evokes vivid mental images in the reader.

Another review by Chris F also touches on the nicer parts of Hanna’s story:

Lesley Smith’s “The Barn That Hanna Built” – Hanna is a young adult orphaned as a child due to the war with Transport, living under the under the shadow of its surveillance in the city. Caught up in city life, she remains anonymous and unknown to others, which is perfect for her secret identity, which presents itself as a threat to Transport. When she’s forced into hiding, she puts her computer skills to good use, inadvertently playing an important but invisible role in the ongoing war. I was really struck how the author’s words painted a very lush & vivid description, evocatively bringing this world to life. Also, I was delighted with the outcome because you don’t realize how important this story is to the overall Pennsylvania mythos until you finish it – well done!

Go get it here for just $0.99!

New Ebook Alert: Her Soul, In Silver Out Now!

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I have a new book out today, it’s a short story called Her Soul, In Silver. It’s one of those short stories where I want to write more about the world, a fantasy land wrecked by a cataclysm which turned fertile land into snow-covered icebergs. It has selkie, mages, magic and true love.

Oh and it’s $0.99. So buy, read and review it now!

Quirky Bath

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The final day dawned as glorious as the first. I joked that the city was getting itself ready to woo the next set of visitors after a mediocre day, weather-wise, the previous day. We woke up much earlier than either of us intended; I left Uni to my bed and went to read in the small alcove near our rooms. It had a lovely comfy chair. After packing up and checking out, we found a little place for breakfast by the station and then headed back into the centre of town, to Costa to get some writing done.

I’d scheduled us seats on an early afternoon train to allow us time to enjoy the town. Costa was busy but it was a nice place to chat and bounce ideas. I was telling Shannon about Solace and getting her feedback. Having friends who are also writers are the best kind. She gets my issue with writing short stories and finding the time to dedicate to them. It’s a journalist thing in my case … I never wrote stuff on spec and that is what short stories are, essentially, speculative not commissioned. That’s why I set up my Patreon, in the hope that having people who wanted to read my stuff would convince me to write. I’m still trying to cultivate patrons but the idea remains sound.

As we had a couple of hours, we wandered. Bath is a quirky little place with odd cafes and this obsession with water and alcohol:

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We ended up returning to the station, going up to a restaurant called Graze and enjoying a drink from two floors up. The sun was blistering and the town was humming with people, and their dogs 😀 We went to Nandos for lunch, then sat out on some astroturf playing Jenga, listening to passing people playing the piano (yep, there was a piano) and watching Uni roll around. Check out the girls:

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Traveling home wasn’t too bad, the train was packed and First Great Western aren’t as sensible when it comes to guide dogs and first class. The previous train was late so it was something of a scrum for space. I was glad when we got into Paddington and we just made our connection at Liverpool Street to get the train back to Norwich. Abellio are much more sensible and the guards were happy to allow us space in first class. Even better we had WiFi and a table which allowed work to progress on Solace. But, boy, am I glad to be back home, the prospect of my own bed and a quiet two days (and Zumba tomorrow) before we head back to London sounds like a different kind of rest.

I’m going to sleep well tonight.

Historical Bath

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Saturday was our first and only full day in Bath so we used it wisely by exploring the historical side of the city. We began with a lovely breakfast in M and S, then headed to Costa to kill a couple of hours writing before the town woke up and we could start exploring. The one thing I do like about Bath is the number of people with dogs—on leads. Uni met about twenty different dogs and it was a great chance to see how she’s chilling out after the Staffie incident, especially as no one seems to understand the point of a lead in Norwich. Bath is a dog owner’s paradise!

We started out with a walking tour that took us around the city. Two hours of shit, privies, architecture and beautiful landmarks. It was an education but by the end, boy, did my feet hurt. Fortunately Bath isn’t a large town and we ended up having kaiten sushi at a small indie place. Uni loved it, especially when we went up to one of the Crescents, the vault of green grass really appealed to her. I really enjoyed it but walking isn’t one of my favourite activites; I think we must have done a good few miles before returning to the centre of town.

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The tour started out by the Pump Room, the Roman Baths and the Abbey. A central nexus to the north of town which made it perfect once we returned; we headed into the Roman Baths for a proper looksee. The nice lady on the reception desk explained that as I had my slave—Shannon—with me that I could bring her in for free. This has to be the best way of describing a carer/companion I’ve ever come across; it actually look me a minute to catch on to what she meant. That made the entry to the Baths half price (it’s £14 otherwise which is a tad steep IMHO) so it was well worth the expense.

Uni doesn’t do museums. She finds them, like shopping, boring. That said, the look she gave the water in the central bath at the Roman ruins was an odd mix of ‘What IS that?’ and ‘Can I swim in it?’. She made friends with the staff and the nice Roman fellow sitting scribbling on his wax tablet along with countless visitors. The museum was fascinating (remember I was a classicist during my A levels and initial degree year so I dig religious sites). The baths were a temple to Sulis Minerva, the Roman co-option of the Celtic goddess Sulis and the Roman form of Athene, Goddess of Wisdom. This latter point is confirmed by the presence of a Gorgon, traditionally the sigil of the aegis, Minerva’s shield. Though I think the Gorgon looks decidedly male … what do you think?

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I found the bath fascinating as it’s quite divorced from the modern spa. The Roman Baths are a mix of temple and social hotspot whereas the spa, however nice, is basically a large swimming pool. For example, one of the things I learned on the walking tour is that the sacred water from the hot spring is cooled before it ever makes to the Thermae Spa, also that they have to—legally—dump a load of chlorine in it before people can swim in it. That explains why my hair felt like straw and my eyes started burning then … Having been in Japanese baths (45°C) that aren’t chlorinated and usually contain minerals, I definitely prefer Japan but Bath has it’s charms and the spa is nice.

We headed for the Abbey next and listened to the choir practising before returning to the spa for an afternoon session. The sky couldn’t quite match the blazing blue of the previous day but it was a blissful couple of hours (especially after you’ve walked a few miles etc). Uni had her own spa break, being fussed by the staff and we enjoyed the floating noodles in the Minerva bath and the lotus flower steam room. The place was much more crowded (though I imagine it was worse this morning, being a weekend).

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I must admit, we cheated on the walk home, managing to get a tad lost before finding the train station so we got a cab. It’s a relative short walk and we now know how to get from The White Hart to the train station in under ten minutes by foot so we learned something. It was just a very long day, the weather was starting to turn and I don’t regret the cab one bit.

The evening was spent eating desserts outside with lovely pints of Scrumpy (very important when visiting Somerset), writing in our room and enjoying life. It was an excellent day but very long. I learned loads though, and a second visit to the Spa was well worth it. Poor Uni was exhausted though and so were we but there’s something to be said for lying on a bed, window open with a pint and a computer next to you.

It’s called bliss.

Beautiful Bath

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This morning Shannon and I began our epic journey (six hours) down to Bath. We got the train down to London, got lost on the Tube and then took another train from Paddington.

Bath is gorgeous. We’re staying in a lovely little hotel called the White Hart Inn which is a twenty minute walk (along a gorgeous towpath) from the centre of the town. Everyone here loves dogs (and by extension Uni is being treated like the queen she is) and I’ve been frankly stunned how many pubs have as many canine patrons as they do human ones.

Today I’ve had my first pint of pseudo-Scrumpy (Cornish rather than Somerset), enjoyed local ice cream (which seems required by law to contain clotted or local cream), walked several miles in the most beautiful setting imaginable (cue Uni gambolling through grass) and spent two glorious hours in the Thermae Bath Spa.

I’ve had an IBS flare up for the last few days (made worse, apparently, by rhubarb—who knew?—and the whole PIP stressfest). It’s been miserable but, after less than a day out of my own skin, I’m feeling almost back to my old self. All be it tired from a long but productive day.

The spa was amazing. Uni was whisked away and we sampled the outdoor bath, the amazing steam rooms and the Minerva bath. The water smells healthy and it was a weird thing for me, to float in such lovely warm surroundings. The only downside was getting caught in cross-fire from a shower which soaked my robe and made me just a bit cold though not enough to sully the amazing hot chocolate I was drinking (or the accompanying brownie).

Tomorrow we’re planning on investigating the city, the abbey and the original Roman baths (as well as the accompanying shops). It’s so beautiful and different that I’m already considering making a visit an annual thing, right down to a writing retreat. It’s just so nice to have a proper holiday after a three year gap. I’m in unabashed heaven and the only shame is that we’re only here a couple of days.

The Ashteraiverse: What’s Coming Up

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Everyone should have a plan, mine involves writing lots of books. I’ve been trying to engage with my little reader-base via the Facebook group and posting images and extra stuff to bring them more into the universe. I like being able to have an active dialogue as well as sharing my world-creation ephemera. I’ve decided to do two more anthologies—an Ashterai-centric one called Those Transcending All Below and Like Sand Through an Hourglass (focusing on the mortals, both human and otherwise)—and am now booked through 2017 for Ashteraiverse stuff.

The fun bit is Zoe wants more than two serial novels. She wants a stand-alone adventure much like A Star Filled Sea (but without Josh, instead she’s probably get James and Hebe) with the book set post-Sacred and Profane (for reasons which will become clear later). I like the idea that they’ll go off on a celestial road trip, exploring some distant part of the cosmos and end up getting involved in some form of trouble. I like the idea of exploring space beyond the Union and the Chiitai Conglomeration.

But that is for later. Tomorrow i’m off to Bath for a writing retreat/holiday!

Taking a Break From It All

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My friend Shannon is over from Canada visiting so I’m making a point of taking some time, a holiday. We worked it out; the last time I had a break was when she visited four years ago (when D was tiny, kitten-like and very unMighty). So we’re going travelling for a couple of weeks and generally chilling out over our respective laptops (Shannon is an award-winning short story writer who wants to learn how to write longer form). I like that kind of holiday, a writing retreat which is going to see us visiting Bath and London (research trips for both of us) and generally just not being stuck in Norfolk.

Sounds heavenly and I can’t wait!

City of Dragons: Facebook and Summer Revisions

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I finally created a Facebook group for the City of Dragons series. I’m hoping to revise it over the summer, including things like photos, research notes and whatever else takes my fancy (like a playlist or two) so if you’re interested in Norwich-based urban fantasy go join here.

Off to ATOS I Go …

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Well this has not been a good couple of weeks. My mood has been going a little wild and I’ve had actual patches of depression and anxiety (note to self: ask GP about upping or changing meds). I got stuck on a bus with an idiot last week who tried to get me and Uni to move (he objected to her existence) but there was literally nowhere to go. I had to stand up for myself, on my own, with not a single passenger coming to my aid or anything. As a result I am very wary about taking this particular bus route.

Hey, we voted! Yeah so you can probably understand the other cause of my depression … I think most of the country is suffering it, a kind of grief-sickness as it dawns how screwed we are. For five years. That’s enough to depress anyone. But continue on we must …

This neatly segues into my new phobia of official looking white letters. It turns out these are much scarier than the brown DWP ones and come from, you guessed it, ATOS. I had two this morning: an acknowledgement of my PIP application (sent recorded just to be sure) and one requesting my presence (with under a week’s notice) to chat with one of their nice employees.

/pauseforsarcasm

I’ve done a PIP assessment before (I went with someone else as their moral support) but this one, it’s different, it’s all about me. Fortunately I’ve found someone who can help me (unfortunately the charity who helped me couldn’t offer anyone as the appointment was so short notice). It sounds silly but I was hoping I’d be in the 2% who don’t get assessed (I wasn’t for DLA or for ESA) but it looks like my luck has run out. If I wasn’t anxious before, I am now (and, trust me, I was).

I decided to apply for PIP, I chose to do so (reasoning that this would be the best time and hoping any one but the Tories would get leading to some kind of overhaul …). I reasoned that doing it now, before they force me to would be less stressful, less of a wait and easier on my nerves. Newsflash: it’s not.

Fortunately I have lots of people who have been stars this last month. I’m hoping to go on my first tandem trike this week and spent Monday catching up with my favourite depression-dampening guide dog and her owner. Bramble hugs are the best, especially when you don’t have a small go-to child. Cat hugs … they don’t have the same effect. I’ve been trying to change my focus on food and have learned some interesting things, going to the gym/Zumba is also helping, especially with my mood but some days I wonder if it’s enough.

I hope it is.

Small Worlds Falling: A Collection of Flash Fiction

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Last year I wrote a lot of flash fiction, individual stories up to a thousand words in length. Today I finally remembered how easy it is to publish stuff online and put my four favourites—The Money Tree, The Last Day of Summer, One Last Job and The Most Beautiful—together into a collection and published it on Kindle.

Go and buy it here for just $0.99!

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.