Category Archives: Weekly Update

Creative, or die trying!

Hello my dear ones,

A bit of a (belated) announcement first:  The anthologies as part of the summer UK authors/fans meet have release dates!  They are:

British Flash – to be published on 16th June as a free ebook
Contributing authors: Alex Beecroft, Stevie Carroll, Charlie Cochrane,
Erastes, Elin Gregory, Sandra Lindsey, Clare London, JL Merrow,
Josephine Myles, Zahra Owens, Caroline Stephens, Lisa Worrall and
Serena Yates. (And ME!  Although I am a very late addition, I’ll have a short-short story entitled “They Who Come After The Stories End” in this volume.  I still hate short titles.  More details yet to come, and more authors too!)

Tea & Crumpet – to be published by JMS Books on 3rd July as an ebook. Print copies should be available in time for the Meet. All profits to future UK meets.
Contributing authors: Alex Beecroft, Stevie Carroll, Jennie Caldwell,
Charlie Cochrane, Elin Gregory, Clare London, Anna Marie May, JL
Merrow, Josephine Myles, Zahra Owens, Jay Rookwood, Chris Smith, Lisa
Worrall and Serena Yates.

This is proper short stories.  As a result of my not having had time to bathe regularly in the last few months*, I don’t have anything written for it, but, obvy, I’m buying a copy anyway and so should you.  No, really, it means we can keep doing this every year/every few years!

*I am not joking.  There were  a few weeks there where I honestly had to struggle to remember the last time I’d jumped in the shower.  My hair doesn’t need washing more than once or twice a week, so it took awhile to notice I’d turned into a human oil slick…

***

And for the nattering portion of this…I’ve been thinking a lot about who I surround myself with, and I’m very lucky.  First because I have awesome, loving, forgiving friends, but also because I have managed to find a place in which I can surround myself with creative people.  I have friends who are musicians, dancers, photographers, thinkers, writers — artists all, both professional and non-.  And it is magnificent.  (And not just because I get to feel more bohemian than I actually am.)  We egg each other on, and I know it damn well lights a fire under me when I’m out having a drink and someone asks me what I’m writing.  (The fact that I then mumble and offer to buy a round need not be remarked upon, thank you.)  They inspire my knitting, and make my writing legitimate in ways that even publishing can’t.  I have no idea if it works at all in return, but if nothing else, I’m there to think and talk and compare creating styles, and what we make, with.

I have to wonder if there’s a downside to this, because I’m that type of person, and because this is life — there are downsides to everything.  Part of it is probably things that are naturally me, saying that I’m just a knitter, or I just write genre fiction (let alone committing the great sin of writing erotic fiction!), because these things aren’t art the way music and ballet and photography are.  I would love to work as an artist’s model because then I can be a part of something higher than myself, by becoming a canvas, a projection of a vision.  It’s not fair that I dismiss what I do, but there it is.  I make things, but how creative am I, really?  This is a small downside, and I think I’d wonder these things no matter what, but it is there nonetheless.  It’s also easy to grow lazy, to excuse myself from working hard, both because I don’t rate myself so well and, weirdly, because I am so surrounded by people who work hard.  When I get into intensive discussions on queer space at dinner parties, it’s awfully easy to feel bohemian, and excuse not writing, or not designing, or things like that.  And that’s a big part of me too, the way I think about things, but it means I push away writing, which is pretty much a net bad thing.

So, it’s a balance.  But mostly — and this is why I love reading Kyle Cassidy‘s blog so much, because I think he feels the same way — I am so freaking lucky.  My life is amazing, and I’m so happy with how I’m living it.  And that is enough, to look around and comment on how awesome everything is.

***

And, finally and most seriously, Wouter Weylandt was laid to rest today, at far, far too young an age.  108, remembered always.  I’ll think of him and all my lovely boys on Team Leopard Trek when I hit the trail tomorrow.

Love and Kisses,

Me

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We, the explorers

I don’t think it’s too great a spoiler to mention here that the Apollo space program featured in Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who.  They showed the footage that everyone has seen, of course, and played the words that everyone knows.  They played Kennedy’s words on Doctor Who Confidential, the handsome man standing there, announcing that we would go to the moon because to do so is difficult.  I am history-wise enough to know that he also wanted to go to the moon to beat out the Russians, but when you strip his words of that shading, you have the ability to move beyond dreams.  You have the ability to not just stand in a field, like John Carter, and stretch out your arms and go to Mars simply by hoping, hoping so hard.  You have funding, and men in short-sleeved dress shirts turning blue until it is announced that the Eagle has landed.  You have people so brave that they essentially seal themselves in a cooking pot, strap said cooking pot to a very large bomb, and aim for the beauty of the night.

I’ve looked at the moon through a reasonably strong telescope, and seeing the craters, the shadows, the way it moves so quickly out of view because of the Earth’s movement, it is a revelation how real it is.  To stand on land that is wholly new and see an earthrise can only be several orders of magnitude more amazing, more shattering of your own ego.  (Seeing Saturn’s rings was even more amazing.  When Mars is visible, I’m going to be a wreck.  I love that strange red planet more than I can say.)

And there were more people who followed, who aimed for the night and the nothingness, and some of them died and some of them lived, and the planet dreamt below them.  I work on an old Portuguese fishing ship when I’m back in Philadelphia; her last sailing season was 1969.  She and her green-and-white hull and her huge white sails had come to the Grand Banks every year for over sixty years, and that August they had come to fish for the last of the cod as men set foot on land that was not their own.

And people dreamed.  People had always dreamed, but now those dreams were going farther than the horizon, and there was a reality to go with them.  There was funding, there were infinitely clever people who made amazing things out of it.  There was Sally Ride, grinning under a mop of curly hair and making one of my earliest memories.  There was Mae Jemison on an episode of Star Trek, and there was Star Trek itself to show us the culmination of our dreams.  (Later, there was the gentle pointing-out that the Federation could be pretty creepy, but that’s a story for another time.) There was the ISS, and video of people goofing off in zero-g (another early, early memory), and there was knowing that of course we would go farther, that of course we would explore.  We would explore, we the human race, we’d learn the Moon and go on to Mars, and go beyond in that widest horizon.

And I couldn’t help but cry a little on Saturday, watching the beginning of that reality realised, now that we are at the end of that reality.  Endeavor was supposed to take off on Friday; it’s been delayed due to mechanical problems.  If it had taken off, there would be one more shuttle flight to go, and there would end the US involvement in manned spaceflight, and a huge part of manned spaceflight period.  The shuttles would be put in museums, for me or someone like me to clean, care for, display.  They would become relics of my early memories and the dreams of not enough generations of people.  SETI is shutting down (hopefully temporarily), and hopes for spaceflight lie with commercial enterprises.  Which are not inherently bad, but why have we stopped looking at the sky?  Why have we stopped looking around us?  Why can’t we spare that half a penny per person anymore?  What is more important than remembering that we are only one small part of the cosmos, the small blue dot?  We are no longer explorers, no longer reaching for the horizon, and seeing that strange August day when man walked on the moon hurts, because it means that we’re ending that era.

No one will stop dreaming of other worlds; but the loss of that possibility, the loss of momentum and the decision that space travel, real travel, is no longer important, will have an impact.  I hope it will; perhaps it was right that the birth of space travel, happening so near the death of it, was part of a science fiction show.  But mostly, all I can feel is mourning, and a little anger, and bewilderment that we would cut ourselves off from so much, to gain…what?

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On emerging, in many ways

Oh dear.  Oh deary me.  Oh deary, deary me.  Perhaps if I do my very best Stephen Fry impersonation, you will be kind enough to not notice my absence?

Particularly since that absence is now ended?

…or is the resounding chime of crickets a sign that you did not shrivel and dry up without my deathless prose?

Because I am back, my darlings.  It’s been a very bad few months for me, and the writing was excised from my life (alongside a measure of sanity) for its and my own good.  I’ve thought a lot about it, and wound up talking about writing with a lot of people, so I have some ideas of things to do soon.  Mostly things that are not romance, although that won’t be wholly abandoned, not at all.  But it is getting a touch dull, so I shall be venturing into other genres.  (Okay, yeah, just SF, but we can pretend, right?)  I’ll also be blogging every Wednesday again; sometimes about writing, sometimes about any of the frankly millions of other things going on in my life that are often more interesting.  Pretty often I’ll feature stupid photos of myself, so be forewarned!

The really big things I’ve missed announcing, though:  I Reach Through Time and Touch the Other Side has, of course, been long released now!  Dreamspinner Press, speculative fiction, blokes getting it on and a stunning cover by Paul Richmond, which seems to be my usual thing these days.  Lots of fun to write and think about, and a love song to the industrial towns of northern Pennsylvania.  It should come as a surprise to no one that Diane Arbus took at least one photo in Levittown.

And Erastes wrote an absolutely sparkling review of Young Man in Paris over at Speak Its Name!  And thank fuck for that, because I have rarely been so nervous waiting for a review to go live.  I’m absolutely chuffed that it was so well received, and particularly that she picked up on the role Paris plays as very much a character in the story.  I keep forgetting how much it’s influenced by A Movable Feast, and by a trip to Paris I took about a million years ago.  (It’s a story a few years in the making.  Apparently half of what I write takes considerable percentages of my life, and the other half gets banged out while waiting for my flight to be called…)  Paris couldn’t be anything other than a character in her own right.  (And while I don’t have anything planned for Michael and Alex specifically, this world will probably get visited again — there are two characters mentioned in passing who really need their story told.)

And, of course, there is my own self.  I’ve spent the last few days tooling around London and Oxford with a friend of mine from America, and it’s shocking to see how much I’ve assimilated here.  Although my accent is still pretty noticeably American, if I don’t say much and speak carefully, it’s harder to tell.  And even aside from not regularly getting mown down in traffic, or the fact that I know how to order a meal in a pub, or any of the billion other little things I’ve had to learn here, it was startling.  I appreciate things that are greatly old, but I don’t feel the need to loudly comment my amazement.  (Er, this could just be my personality…)  I’m not British, but I’m not American either.

I thought about this a lot when I first moved here.  Of course, then I was figuring I’d be moving back in just under three years, and now I’m worrying about visas and jobs, and I have a beautiful house to live in with friends, and a whole circle of beloved people around me.  I worried a great deal about what I’d be when I was done here, and of course though I’m not done here, I am something and someone different.  I like that I’m not quite one or the other; just like I can’t be reduced to solely being a sailor, a conservator, someone with long legs and red hair.  I don’t think I’m a dilettante, but I hope I’m complex.

I found this in a book of writings by Welsh women who had travelled or moved abroad, and copied it into my diary when I first moved here:

“Final beach walk.  Final sunset.  Overhead the sky’s blue-black, paling towards the horizon.  A strip of orange fading to yellow reaches up to touch the blue.  The intersection between yellow and blue – that’s the point that fascinates me.  It produces a colour which has no name – not green, as you might expect, but a blue-yellow.  A colour that’s not quite yellow and not quite blue.  A colour that has something of both, but is neither.  A colour which, while drawing from its two contrasting origins, is uniques and entirely itself.”  (Susan Richardson)

I think I’d hoped at the time, when I was deeply confused and scared, that it would come true.  I think it has, but this is just a point on a timeline, so who knows what I’ll be writing about it, this time next year!

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meditations on a silence

Hello my very dears,

Well, I’ve been a good little workerbee (except for Saturday which, if you follow rugby, you will understand why I had to go out with some brand-new just-met-at-a-pub friends and let a bunch of Bokke supporters buy me drinks all night), so I can finally write the post I’ve been meaning to for absolute ages.

Before I get to the good stuff, though, I should very much like to draw your attention to this wonderful review of Kipling and Camping at Three Dollar Bill.  It’s delightful, balanced enough so that I’ll believe the good stuff, and just left me feeling very warm and fuzzy.  Thank you, Kassa!

Now then, this is something I’ve wanted to meditate on in writing for some time, and it seems apropos that I talk about silence, after Remembrance Day and before (hopefully) 4’33” becomes the Christmas number one.  That last bit, especially, I’m super-excited about, because it’s…perhaps not easy, but it seems natural for silence to fall when we remember and honour.  It forces a self-contemplation, but it doesn’t seem particularly radical, which 4’33” is and was.  To have silence be a protest to music that is soulless and manufactured, and to have it happen on a day that means celebration and joy will be the most amazing juxtaposition.

Silence is both easy and so difficult to slip into, when it’s not a special time.  It’s so easy to listen to music constantly (and  I’m only just starting to pull away from needing my own personal soundtrack going constantly), or to have noise, or to need to fill the silence yourself.  But in meditation, in walking down the street, in working, it’s something lovely to slip into.

Perhaps a lot of this started when I set down my Quaker-esque path.  Because silence is a way of praying, and a way of listening to what you must know, whether you believe that it comes through God, a general Higher Power, your heart, or all three.  That hour of enforced silence at meeting was often soothing, sometimes uncomfortable, usually welcome, and I miss it since my Sunday’s changed.  But now I walk around outside with friends, and get to the hear the silence of walking up a hill that’s so far above the treeline, spare and sparse and beautiful.  (Okay, silence punctuated by wheezing, but hey!  Same idea!)

It feels twee to call silence a type of prayer, because that feels so limiting.  Being quiet and just listening, or even daydreaming or drifting — to have real silence seems like such a treat for myself lately.  I crave it and, unfortunately, after living in a string of cities, it seems to far gone.

I took my two minutes’ silence naturally on Thursday, because I was (blessedly!) alone in the lab, working on a ceramic piece that is becoming a labour of love, with emphasis on the labour.  It felt quite right, to work so hard on something so old, and remember and be a little sad, and be a little peaceful too.  Perhaps that’s why I like conservation so much — it’s possible, even easy, to fall into silence as I work, and let that be an act of joy, meditating on something that was made and used and has its own story.

I feel, too, like I can’t quite wrap this up — not until I can move out of the city, and live where it’s quieter.  But right now, on my surprisingly quiet street, it’s a silent cold night, and I think I will enjoy what I have.

Love,

Me

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Flash Fic: Not a WAG

My God, am I ever unmotivated.  So much to do, and all I can manage is laundry and lolling about the house.

So you all get a flashfic!  Wrote this right after going to see an awesome rugby game two weeks ago.  (What game last weekend?  I don’t know what you’re talking about.)  Afterwards they had an autograph session pitchside, and I almost got sweated on by Alun-Wyn Jones.  It was bliss.

Story dedicated to Charlie Cochrane, in sympathy for events that are about to ensue.  Perhaps the Orange One will love showbiz so much he retires from rugby?  Maybe?  Please?


PS:  I have some brilliant news on the horizon.  Once I’ve got a title for it, I’ll announce… Continue reading

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Fumetto, and a sequel

Hello, beautiful darlings!

A little early this week, because I’ve got the time, and I’m planning on being unfortunately rather busy tomorrow.  So, a few hours early!

I have not forgotten the promise of greek shephard boys and Pan, but this week is something a little different.  For some reason, it’s taken me until now to discover fumetti, comics made from photos.  Bliss!  Joy!  Why didn’t I come up with this before!  I love, love writing comics, but I have no talent at drawing, so this is a real boon.  It’s also a bit of a challenge because I don’t really have people to photograph — so this two-page story is based around, pretty much, whatever I had lying around my bedroom.

It’s a casual, many-years-later followup to my story in I Do Two, called Two Men: A Fugue.  Apparently, if I can change media, I can write about sad things…

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In which I find something to talk about for more than a paragraph

Hello my very dears,

So sorry about last week — classes started up and it was roughly equivalent to getting hit by a train.  Which is why I’m writing this early on Wednesday morning, before I disappear into the lab/library/etc.  And which is also why it might be a bit short 🙂  Things are quiet at the moment, though I’m already planning a flash fic for next week — for various reasons, I’ve been staring at Greek vase paintings all week, so I’ve got a yummy story based on one in which Pan pursues a shephard…

(My favourite is the one where a satyr has an amphora balanced on the tip of his…pride and joy, shall we say.  It’s impressive!)

The Great Writing Drought has begun, what with my return to school, so expect to see more flash fic — I can’t write anything long, but I’m determined to keep up with something this year.  Also, frankly, I feel low enough about things in general lately, I’d like to just accomplish something.  Anything.

And, finally, a little PSA.  Many of you know I’m a rugby fan, and I support the Ospreys.  One or two of you know I have an unhealthy attachment to their fullback, one Lee Byrne.  In a rather lovely turn, he’s become the ambassador for the Sony Reader Award for Unpublished Writers, part of the Dylan Thomas Prize.  So, submit away!

Well, fart, never mind.  The deadline was aaaages ago, so… I’m quite sure what Lee’s supposed to be doing?  Anyway, he looks adorbs in the publicity photo, and keep it in mind if they run it next year, for the 2011 competition…

(Dear Lee:  You can make it up to me by winning on Friday, k?  K.)

Love,

Me

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