So I’ve changed my name. Don’t panic!
This is something informal for now, a writing persona certainly but also something I’m asking my nearest and dearest friends to use. I’ve always hated my given name, though I respect the history of it. I’ve been wanting a new name since I started wanting my first tattoo (aka a long time).
The important stuff:
- I have not been hacked. I am not manic. I haven’t had a drink in 17 days (sweet Mother of Mercy). I’m just trying to be me.
- Legally I remain who I was (for now) … but there will come a formal point by which I’ll make it all formal.
- My gender remains cis-female, I use she/her/the woman with the guide dog.
- In fact so unknown am I, it’s probably going to be easy to do as everyone remembers Uni and not me.
- Anything published in future will do so under the new name (this includes a change of Twitter and Instagram feeds/a new website).
- I will answer to Lesley, for now, but would prefer to be called Asha. Thanks in advance for not snorting with laughter in public at me.
Why a name change?
Well there’s the writing for one thing. Being someone else allows me to explore new voices, a new persona. I’m going to try to explore my own worth and value rather than being submissive and cowed. Plus I wanted to choose who to be and have about six months to transition to being Asha before I need to make this formal (about the time I get out of my Great Hole of Debt) and apply for a new passport (my only source of accepted ID), credit cards etc.
This is part of my healing process. Yes, Lesley Smith made me who I am but I’m not her, not anymore.
So hello, thank you for understanding.
So it’a Monday, I’ve spent the weekend rushing to get the last edits done on A Star Filled Sea and emailed off to my editor, somewhat delayed by my keyboard upping and dying on me again. Monday afternoon swings around and I’m actually thinking about a nap, then the image above pops up in my newsfeed.
Doing one of Mary’s classes has been on my author bingo scorecard for a while but the classes either sell out too quickly or are out of my price range. This one was a sliding scale and a chance to a) learn and b) help her test out if the class worked. Oh and it’s not like I was doing anything else.
As I keep saying, I’m not a great short form writer and I was especially eager to see the class was about how you generate ideas for stories and then turn them from a budding idea into a proper planned outline. I’ve done short story classes before but they’ve always been general and haven’t ever really touched the nitty gritty of how a story is created.
So, short version, sold.
I admit I didn’t expect to get a ticket. They were gone within half and hour (I was 7 out of 8). The class was conducted over G+ and I learned a couple of new things, such as using Google Drive and how to put my name and gender pronouns (something Mary regards as justifiably important and it was refreshing to be asked, rather than assume everyone is cis; plus I got to have ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ as my tagline, appropriate a D insisted on coming to watch the class).
The class was based off of Orson Scott Card’s MICE quotient, something which rang bells (I have a first edition copy of his Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy on my bookshelf). That’s basically a way to classify stories as milieu (place stories), idea, character or event. You can also mix and match or add in a sub-plot thread but the important part is deciding what kind of story you’re going to write.
Half my problem is I’m a pantser when it comes to short stories, I never, ever plan them. They just spill out of my brain and onto the paper, which is half the problem. I have an idea, race through the text and then flounder or rush the ending. I think pre-planning a story from initial idea through to individual scenes might be especially beneficial as it will actually allow me to have a structure my stories usually lack.
Though initially advertised as a one day course, it actually ended up and needed to be two. We spent about five hours in class with homework and it was time well spent (even if it forced me to choose: writing or Zumba 😀 Guess which won?) I love how Mary uses her back ground in puppetry to explain things as the theatrical analogies worked especially well (I have a little theatre experience, which was enough to follow and much of it is common sense stuff).
I did have problems comprehending a couple of things, mainly due to my Aspergers. I’m not great at thinking out of the box of my own brain or seeing things from certain angles. That said, Mary did make a point to come back to things and try different ways to explain as they came to her which made the second day’s class tremendously worthwhile.
I especially liked how she taught us to nest stories and the process of breaking a vague idea into scenes, then looking for the gaps and methodically filling them to create a story which would hold water, so tight were it’s seams.
Again, classes like this are an awesome networking opportunity and it was nice to see every other member seemed to have one or more cats (I believe this to be a requirement of the ‘So you want to be an author?’ contract). Mary herself is lovely and ever so patient; both of which are excellent qualities in a good teacher (especially if there’s an open Q and A at the end).
I had an idea I’ve been mulling over for a couple of days, inspired by an off-hand quote. That story, I think, needs to sit for a bit while the idea matures. However I also have this Lovecraftian story that I’m going to submit to my crit group, Draft Zero, next week and so my plan is to take what Mary taught me and rework what I have of “Washed Up Upon the Shore” and try to write it using MICE.
The one thing the class taught me is that it’s not just the effort you put into a story, it’s the process. Though sometimes tedious, Mary’s method can be applied to any form of writing, and it will serve you well if you want to construct that isn’t bloated by extra characters or scene and is tightly composed.
This is the first time I feel like i’ve done a class where the secrets of short story writing have actually been revealed in detail. Hell it’s not a new system and MICE is used by lots of writers, it just never occurred to me this was how everyone else does it, or should. Two days well spent, if you ask me, and I know this is going to set me in good stead for my future stories.
This morning I got my confirmation email from Clarion West that they recieved my application and everything was in there which needed to be. I’ve been umming and ahhing about whether to even apply (I’m in debt; I can’t afford to go). But my friends have all been encouraging me to apply regardless (as Shannon reminded me, they have a system in place for poor students who need a financial hand in the form of assistance).
So I spent New Year’s Day putting my application in.
I doubt I’ll get in and I’m now trying hard to not think about it but I have applied.
That’s half the battle won right there.
I know, it’s a tradition (I hate it) but here we go:
- Get A Star Filled Sea off to editing and have proofs by Feb, out to backers by the end of Feb/mid-March, ditto BTSBTS.
- Apply to Clarion West and maybe get in.
- Finish my Juran Elaspe project (WiP titles include: Loyal at Heart/The Fractured Era/A Broken World, A Fractured Heart/The Starship Builder’s Soul)
- Kickstart One in Blue, the Other Green and re-Kickstart A World of Strange New Things.
- Finish various Ashteraiverse shorts/novellas including A Question of Faith (Liz Stone #1, possibly a short maybe a novella) and Astraea’s Case Files (maybe a series of short novels).
- Get into Lesser Evils and finish it!
- Submit one story a week to pro markets with the aim of getting a single sale. (That’s not bad, odds-wise, right?)
- Write one stand-alone short story a month.
- Get into at least one anthology.
- Work on rewriting The Music of the Spheres as a YA romance, possible a three-part serial.
- Rework my AW novels and write The Crimson Sea.
- Have a production schedule and attempt to stick to it.
- Close Facebook whenever I’m writing. Actually, make that, spend time listening to YouTube videos instead of Facebooking (they’re my white noise).
- Read as much short fiction as possible.
- Completely update my website.
- Quit drinking (my meds specifically say ‘do not mix with alcohol’ … hahahahahahahahahah, yeah … that).
- Take my anxiety meds when I get anxious.
- Go to two Zumba classes a week and try to ease myself into the cross-trainer/treadmill in the gym.
- Try to walk 10,000 steps at least three times a week.
- Cook at home more/take food (breakfast) rather than eating out.
- Take Uni for a free run at least once a week/with Brams and Mhairi where possible.
- Surround myself with people/dogs/cats I love.
- Go somewhere on holiday at least once, even if it’s for a few days.
- Cut down on the coffee, if not the number then the size of the drink.
- Drink more water.
- Go to see a film on my own when I want to see a particular release; I am not wasting a ticket by doing so (Uni can count as my plus 1)
- See someone I enjoying spending time with at least once a week.
- Go to Bath at least twice for ‘writing retreats’/lounging in the spa.
- Actually use my passport for something other than ID.
- Buy one thing I want a month but I have to wait 30 days before making the purchase.
- Play video games one Saturday a month just because I can (rainy days are optional). Also finish Rise of a Tomb Raider.
- Pre-order the books I want to read (Staked by Kevin Hearne, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin etc) using my Audible credits as they come in.
- Catch up with Shannon at least once this year.
- Go down to London just for ramen/fun/to see Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds.
- Sleep in every now and again (my meds require it).
- Hug Isis, Dion and Ceri daily.
- Watch a beloved movie, something which lifts my mood, on Sunday afternoons after Draft Zero (my crit group).
- Get out of debt, stop using Contactless cards and pay with cash by September/October.
- If I REALLY want something, seek advice before making the purchase (my bipolar means I sometimes rush into purchases; this morning I wanted a new backpack which I do need but don’t have the money for).
- If I’m out of debt by then, look into a new fridge (it’s the last of my aging white goods that hasn’t yet died and I want an American-style one).
- Try to actually put clothes away when they come out of the dryer.
- Start spring cleaning the house/decuttering. Read that Kondo Marie book sitting on my iPad.
- Make shopping lists and try to stick to them. Esp in Waitrose.
I’m a fan of binge-watching and shows shown over a succession of nights and not weeks. I actually watched the first part of Childhood’s End and then waited and binged parts two and three. It worked well I think.
Anyway this is a series based on the Arthur C. Clarke book of the same name which I read when I was maybe fourteen. Thank the gods for Wikipedia which served to jog my memory.
Given the original book was split into three sections, I really felt the miniseries worked well replicating that. Some of the characters/timeframes were updated (the original novel takes place towards the end of the last century, the miniseries plants the first episode from 2016-2031. SyFy also turned the main character into a likeable everyman midwestern farmer and made the other protagonist a black scientist who endures the journey to the Overlords’ homeward and sacrifices his lovely Chinese girlfriend along the way.
However some aspects of the series didn’t work; at times the three part episodes felt standalone (like a subplot involving a wealthy scientist who wants to be best buddies with the Overseer of Earth who doesn’t appear in episodes one or three).
Charles Dance though, in full prosthetics, and at the height of his acting power. Wow. The reveal at the end of episode one was both cliched and incredibly effective. (Also the Overlords don’t seem to believe in sitting down). I liked Korellan, even if his motivations shifted from legit to deceitful (for the right reasons); he was a likeable alien and you really felt for his friendship with Ricky (the human farmer who becomes humanity’s POC by the Overseers). I also really liked the religious angle which works solely because the Overseers look like the human idea of demons.
The psychic subplot makes sense although the reasons for Earth’s final demise is never really explained (aside from the assumption that transcentiorn from this to a higher place requires shedloads of energy). The ending was downbeat and depressing but then it was always going to be; this is not a story with a ‘happy’ ending, at least not a microscope. Humanity might evolve but there will always be those left behind.
I also really like that there was no attempt to lengthen the story, to force a series out of a three part event. I’m definitely going to be watching this again and SyFy’s other SF offerings; next on my list is The Expanse (which is getting similarly awesome reviews).
I’ve always been a sucker for anime merchandise, except now, with the internet it’s so much easier to get ahold of. And there’s much awesome Sailor Moon Crystal stuff being released it’s so hard not to look. Two minutes on eBay and I ordered myself a bag charm with Luna and Artemis on it. Then I bought myself a similar styled design for my phone. But my favourite of the entire haul is this Minaturely Tablet Maboroshi no Ginzishou, aka the Silver Crystal. It’s basically a bag charm designed to hold candy (none was included with mine) and I bought it simply because well … it’s the Silver Crystal and there has been zero (affordable and legitimate) merchasndise which isn’t a broach.
It’s plastic but beautifully made and I adore it, it’s the perfect addition to the things hanging from my bag.
Last night Marie and I went to see The Martian. Opening night, Gallery seats, dog sleeping at my feet.
That doesn’t really adequately convey the awesomeness of the movie, does it?
First off the shots of ‘Mars’ were gorgeous. There were this little sand tornados just popping up on shots of the Rover … it was a visual feast that easily gets to be up there with Gravity. That said the soundtrack was much better (though I joked that there would be two soundtrack releases: ‘Mark Watney’s Awesome Disco Hits’ and the orchestral score. (And look, the soundtrack is coming out tomorrow!)
The disco … oh the disco!
The one thing the movie did brilliantly was conveying the size of things, the Rover, the HAB, the trailer and the solar panels.
While the movie did deviate from the book in places (most notably the lack of the Pathfinder-killing drill, the incident in the crater and the ending) but that’s not a bad thing. To recreate the audio logs of the book, there were cameras on EVERYTHING. I like that.
I’m nor actually sure if I want to see it again just yet, we’re both digesting because we’re book people (audiobook in my case). The movie is it’s own unique being, not just the offspring of the book.
Matt Damon nails it, BTW.
As a personal aside: Marie and I were cold and forgot our coats/shawls/whatever so popped into Matalan. I was, officially, able to buy a very nice/cheap cardigan off the rack (XL) which fit me without even having to try. We’ve arrived, people, I’ve never been able to just walk into a store and do that before.
I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks (life, books, weather etc) and I find myself looking for one good thing a day, a reason to keep going (today was archery and Bramble hugs). This rain is horrible and I was glad to get home (Uni is going to be clipped tomorrow and has been understandable waterlogged).
I didn’t expect to find a bat in my sink.
He was half downed in an inch of water and it was only when I emptied the bowl and he moved that I realised what it was.
I’ve never seen a bat, much less held one. I dried him off and immediately ran round to Lovely Neighbour and went ‘Look! Look!’. I mean, seriously what do you do with a bat aside from call official bat people? In the hour since I rescued him Bruce has squeaked, moved about, dried off and even hung. He’s safely tucked away in a box awaiting collection but it’s an amazing experience to hold such a miracle in your hands (which apparently you’re not supposed to do because rabies … right …)
How awesome is he?
We named him Bruce (because DC …) and he’s the most amazing little thing. I only found him because I was cooking dinner and happened to pass the sink. I’m hoping he survives okay, he certainly perked up since I dried him off and it was a fascinating thing to watch him moving, using his little wing-fingers as crampons.
It’s the little things like this which really put life in perspective.
So I’ve just gotten back from two weeks away—Paris (hot, sticky and tourist-filled), Oxford (ditto) and Bath (rainy, hot, cider-filled)—and am now trying to recover. I don’t quite need a holiday from my holiday but I have come back with a long-term health problem flare up AND allergies (evidently something in Bath didn’t like me).
I need to level with you. It’s August and, since January, I’ve had four manic episodes (three of which were while on medication and triggered by stress). I’ve been left ragged by this and in debt (joy etc). I now need to spend the rest of the year doing two things: getting my Kickstarter campaigns sorted and getting out of debt.
I also need to get healthy. I’ve started this with a FitBit and have improved a lot since taking two Zumba classes a week and trying to walk 10k steps a day. I need to stop drinking (because it makes me feel crap and interferes with my meds) and I need to sort out my debt hole situation. It’s not an impossible amount, just compounded by silly things like my dishwasher dying three weeks after my new washing machine purchase (sadly I didn’t have a contingency contingency fund but then, in this day and age, few do). It doesn’t stop me feeling shitty and like a failure.
My primary concern is the Kickstarters. The first one is approximately two months behind due to unforeseen circumstances that I can’t really divulge because they’re not mine. That said the Massive Bipolar Mania of January 2015 did not help. At all. Fortunately, bar the editing and the final layout pass, everything is ready and I hope to have the ebook ready by the end of September (in time for an Amazon upload).
As for the second one, all that’s left to do is the map (which is in progress though my communication with my cartographer has been spotty) and the editing. Once Parting has been done, I’ll turn my focus completely on Star. That one, however, should be a breeze compared to Parting.
I would like to run a third campaign this year but, honestly, because of my health and financial situation I might wait for the new year. I need to get my house in order first, especially as I’m contemplating applying to Clarion next year and would at least like to be straight before I put my application in. The problem with Kickstarters is no matter how well you do your finances, how carefully you do the numbers, they always seem to run into more than you ask for (either due to my own stupidity by adding on stuff without thinking it through or because … reasons. Also life hates me). I want to ensure Teams Parting and Star have everything due to them before initiating Team Blue.
My finances, you see, are also one of the core triggers for my anxiety and stress makes me condition worse. So we’re trying for stress free (yay for cats and Bramble hugs).
Plus, honestly, I’m freaking tired. Crowdfunding takes a lot of work and distracts me from, you know, writing. I’ve been taking a class with the awesome Cat Rambo which has literally saved my sanity, as well as help improve my craft and my career. I’d forgotten the joy of just writing and then submitting stories. I had my first personal rejection last week as a result of Cat’s class. That’s massive when you’re a newbie writer and, in all honesty, I have a story I need to finish by November for Alt.History 102 that I want to be good (hence investing in Cat’s class). That means a lot to me and just being able to write whatever short stories take my fancy is liberating.
The other week I sat in Starbucks, reading the submission criteria for Beyond Ceaseless Skies, and started writing a story with lyrical prose. I vomited it out, indulging in my love of lyrical prose, and submitted it, raw, to Cat’s class. I thought it would such but some of the pars were beloved, I was praised for letting them see a first, imperfect draft and, while the story needs a lot of polishing, it came from my heart. It’s been a while since stories have come from there and I know those stories are the better ones.
So I’m trying to chip away at my debt (and I have rent due which doesn’t help, neither does the whole dishwasher thing or having to ask a relative to lend me the money to pay for it on terms involving me probably never being able to pay them back, which I hate). I’m also trying not to cry. Traveling takes it out of me and crashing back to reality post mania is always hard, especially when you’re in three different cities in the space of two weeks trying to play tour guide. I knew this was going to hurt but the reality always feels like a knee in the guts. To be fair, if I’d have done this six months ago I wouldn’t have been able to move.
Fortunately I have good friends. One of whom I ran into in Oxford and it’s nice to know they’re there for me. We’re half way into the year and I just want to get it over, to hit Spring 2016 and survive the winter (my most hated season due to SAD) intact. I wanted to thank you guys too, for your patience and understanding, especially during the times when I’ve gone off the rails. My heart has always been in the right place, even if I’ve been really, really dumb this year. I know I’ve taken too much on and now I have to deal with it and move on.
So I’m writing the year off, only the negative stuff however. I’m taking as much of the positives from it as I can: the places I’ve been, the new friends and people I’ve met, the hugs from the Mighty D when I laid in bed this morning. I’m determined to submit stories, to get into SFWA, to try and make the best out of situations, regardless of how bad they might appear and to accept that sometimes I just can’t do anything. I need to look at the positive or else I’d just give up and I’m determined never to do that.
So, thank you, guys, and here’s to a better second half of 2015.
Yesterday was somewhat revelatory, I’ve been having a bad week (a mix of hypomania that saw me cycling from relatively normal to manic and back again in the space of a couple of hours). The downside was I obsessed over dresses and jewellery and the upside was I created a website to host my Ashteraiverse series bible prior to it being opened up so other people can write in the universe. I’ve also been bitten by horseflies and went on antibiotics as a ‘I cannot get celluitis again’ precaution. I hate antibiotics.
Anyway, I met up with my friend Mhairi and the beloved Bramble yesterday (I was in Starbucks early editing One in Blue, The Other Green) and we went for lunch. Unfortunately the service was super slow so we got talking. Mhairi has some experience of bipolar so I asked her why I was manic but taking my meds. It turns out when my GP upped my dose and told me to take it in the morning because the nightly dose was knocking me out what she actually meant was ‘take these in the morning so you always have quetiapine in your bloodstream’.
I didn’t know this and, of course, I feel like it’s my fault. Except, rationally, I know it isn’t. Books on bipolar tell you many things; they don’t tell you useful stuff. You just kinda have to struggle through it and discover this shit as you go along.
Fortunately (I think), I have an appointment with a doctor (whom I hope is a psychiatrist; they never tell you who and why on the letter) and my case worker person on Thursday which means we’re at a perfect juncture to mention the mania and whether I needs my medication upping or changing. I actually have no idea what it’s about except that I have to go to King’s Lynn (shit, shit, shit!) as they don’t tell you in the letter, just demand your attendance.
Should be fun then.
Anyway, after our somewhat shit lunch (and a tiny confrontation involving balsamic vinegar that had gone off), we went to see Inside Out. I’m a sucker for Pixar movies and this one is my current favourite, partly for the sheer awe in parts of the movie where you just want to cry and also for the concepts portrayed in the animation. Mhairi and I go and see movies a lot now, our tastes are similar and as I can get someone in for free going with a second person feels more worthwhile than going on my own, plus Bramble puts her head on my knee just so and all is well in the world.
The best part for me, aside from the music, the animation and the plot, were the credits. The angle of the film is that we’re run by a collective of emotions including Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear. In adults, it was often fear or sadness which ruled their humans heads but in children, who still experience awe, Joy is the boss. Right at the end, you get to see into the heads of some of the other characters including a school teacher, a pizza person, a dog (yay!) and a cat (so awesome). The animal heads were particularly funny as Pixar perfectly encapsulated the way cats just wander around, randomly pressing buttons while dogs just chase everything.
Uni and Brams were not amused by this at all.
I actually laughed out loud a couple of times, Inside Out is one of those films you watch to cheer you up, to remind you what’s awesome about life. A good film for anyone with depression or bipolar, I think, and I’m glad I went to see it.
Look, this is the summer of reboots and we’ve officially run out of original ideas for movies. Terminator Genisys is a mess but it’s, for me at least, an awesome movie. Here are my initial thoughts in order of WTFness:e
- The time travel is a mess. Seriously. It made me shudder for the writers.
- The plot makes zero sense.
- Matt Smith is in it (underused but playing a villain for a change which was nice).
- Arnie … trying to smile.
- The Music. (Lorne Balfe, one of my favourite composers, did the soundtrack).
- More callbacks!
- Little Danny Dyson ain’t so tiny anymore.
- The photograph.
- John Conner is a dick.
- I like J.K. Simmons, it was nice to see him in a non-shouty role for a chance.
- The fact that, when all is said and done, this whole thing is a predestination paradox of a mess which would make Schrodinger and Einstein have headaches.
It. Was. Awesome.
I loved it, despite it’s obvious flaws. The first and, especially, the second Terminator movies were some of the first ‘for adults’ action movies I ever saw (my father was super strict with me about movies). It was one of those films where personal experience is everything, if you were my age when the first two films came out (and then had to sit through Rise and Salvation), well you’re going to love this.
I bought two dresses this week, formal type dresses for special occasions. I have zero formal wear and, once every so often, something comes up which requires more than just a dress. It requires a nice dress. Now being of a larger size (though I’ve dropped six dress sizes just by doing Zumba), this is a bit harder than it appears but Facebook kept showing me this nice dress in a beautiful navy blue. I didn’t expect it to be available in my size but lo and behold it was, so I ordered two different sizes (I had no idea if size 26 meant 26) and had them shipped to my local store.
The size 26 fit like a glove.
I know they say you get what you pay for but these dresses are £50 a piece (aka A LOT) and more than I’d normally spend. But, this one time, I wanted to spoil myself and invest in something that I’d enjoy wearing, that made me feel pretty and sorta attractive.
I wanted to invest in myself.
Then I came home and realised there was a similar one with a nicer neckline in oh-so-flattering and my favourite colour wine red. Yeah you know where this is going.
Gods I feel sexy.
Anyway, on the subject of investing in myself, I also signed up for Cat Rambo’s six week fantasy and science/speculative fiction class. The first class was yesterday and, at the end of it, I was inspired to write (or in this case finish editing The Storyteller so I can submit it to the class next week). Cat is an amazing teacher and I really do want to improve my short form stuff, especially the pacing of stories.
We did a writing exercise which I really enjoyed. The starter was ‘when the star exploded’ and here’s what I came up with:
When the star exploded, you’d think people noticed on far off worlds, that prehistoric civilisations might look up and see the bright light in the sky or the second sun which lit up their day.
In truth the universe is so vast that sometimes such events simply are not noticed or, those close enough, are often destroyed by the violence of that dying star before they can even mourn it’s death throes.
When this star burned itself out of the cosmos, three worlds died in the fire with it, another dozen looked up with uncomprehending eyes, not understanding what the new light meant or assuming it was a herald of bad tidings and calamity. They would have been right.
Worlds away, others recorded the death of this lone star, watching with scientific eyes and analysing the changes in gravitational pull, how moons light years away and stars up close and personal, had their axises shifted and began to spin differently to how they had before.
Life went on for the lucky ones, for most, and the universe continued to move as it has done for aeons.
It’s so nice to spend two hours a week (perfectly time to give me something to do on Saturday evening) with four other people who love writing like I do, who live to create worlds and craft/sell fiction.
Oh and Cat expects us to start submitting. To pro markets. This is the kind of kick up the arse I need.