If you know how my birthdays usually go…

…what is about to happen is both typical and hilarious.

So!  I am very nearly 29 (in two hours or so, EST).  I think I am more worried about freaking out over nearly being 30 than actually nearly being 30.  28 should be pretty nifty.  I’ll graduate (well, presumably), hopefully get a job, visa, and a new flat in Cardiff.  Basically, I will get to start the life that’s been on hold for two and a half years, and I’m honestly so happy about it.  (When I’m not having panic attacks.)

28 was pretty neat too, I guess.  I managed to meet Tommy Bowe, do some really fun metalworking stuff, and publish for the first time.  Which is my really awkward segue into the meh review I managed to find here. (It’s an old entry, it’s just the way her site is constructed, with every new post, I get a google alert oh god I just told the internet I have a google news alert on my nom de plume fuuuuuuck.)

It’s strange and not really hurty* because 1) Christ sakes it’s a review the woman’s entitled to her opinion 2) it’s kind of all true.  Except what she doesn’t like, I liked writing!

I think it’s because it’s not like a lot of short story romances that are out there, so I just wasn’t expecting it.

Okay, seriously, that’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said about my writing.  Seriously.  It’s not a backwards compliment, it’s just…yes!  Yay!  That’s what I want!

The entire thing has a distant storyteller quality to it, much like some literary fiction or older works. […] I can’t engage with it, which is why I don’t enjoy a lot of what is considered classical literature.

There are two ways to view this:  Life is too short to read a Henry James sentence.  (Well it is.)  And that at first I was sort of backwards-compliment pleased, and then I remembered that I don’t actually like most classical literature, I just like pretending I do (see Henry James joke above).  So, heh.

The rest of the review points out some of the flaws, but I think what I liked best was that the author just kind of admitted that it wasn’t her kind of story, which, fair do’s.  (Dear Book Utopia Mom:  if you happened to find this, I really am sorry you didn’t like it much.  It’s a style I’m really moving away from (HAY GUESS WHY IT’S NOT COS IT’S DEATHLESS), so I hope you give another of my stories a try someday, if the description appeals to you!  But thank you for taking the time to read it, and review it.  Seriously, it’s good feedback.)

So I have survived my first non-tactful “er…no.”  Cool.  I shall now go count down the days until I’m plunged back into the UK where I hear you remember what warmth is.

*Not to say it was fun to read, but I wasn’t in tears or anything.  I can feel plenty glum about my writing with no help, really.


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On being back ‘home’

Well, I have managed to be pretty much the only person to make it out of Heathrow just about when I expected to do so, and even the jetlag is mostly gone after a day or two.  Philly’s all right; I think I’ll be happier when I get out of the house a bit tonight to have dinner with friends.  Mostly, though, I’m overwhelmed by how much I…frankly kinda don’t want to be here, and don’t particularly feel at home.

One of the first, if not the first word I learned in Welsh was hiraeth, which doesn’t have a good English translation.  The guy who taught it to me admitted that it might come close to homesickness or the feeling you get when you listen to really good blues, but that doesn’t cover it.  It’s just a feeling of being wrong, subtle but there, as soon as I cross the Severn bridge.  It’s inexplicable, and not necessarily painful (maybe because I know I’m going back?), but its’ so very much, powerfully, there.  I wasn’t expecting that, although I keep meeting people who tell me that I’ll feel hiraeth now, essentially, forever.  Wales gets under your skin.

(So does the terrible, terrible history of the country my mother lent me to read, but that’s a post for another time.  For now, let’s just say that it’s pretty rare that I’ve ever wanted to actually shoot a book.)

Aaaanyway, this all has a slightly funny (I hope) and inappropriate ending, because I was whinging to the patient Charlie Cochrane about all of this, stating that I wanted a mince pie, a sheep, and Alun-Wyn [Jones, of course!], and she pointed out that that scanned perfectly into Bread of Heaven.  So, with abject apologies to everyone, especially the sheep:

[annotations below]

The coach did cross the Severn Bridge
And it was not much fun.[1]
I did not want to go to Heathrow,
And I don’t want to be here.

I miss Welsh things;
I miss Welsh things!
Mince pie, a sheep[2], and Alun Wyn[3]!
Mince pie, a sheep, and Alun Wyn!

Don’t forget the
smell of Metros[4]
and the violent footy fans!
And the rugby our boys lose.[5]

[1] This could be because it took two hours to drive from Cardiff to Newport.  No, I don’t want to talk about it.
[2] Mind out of the gutter, please.
[3] Alun-Wyn Jones, the very lovely forward lock who needs to shave that wombat off of his face.
[4] Metros is this awesome club that’s basically located in a basement, and is pretty much the only place on earth that got worse after the smoking ban.  See, because it’s underground, the smell of human fug doesn’t ever dissipate.  And when it’s really full, moisture gathers on the walls and ceilings and drips down on you!  The reek is infamous and no matter how drunk you are, it’s like getting slapped as soon as you walk in.  It’s my favorite club.
[5] SOB

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Speak Its Name Advent Calendar

Hello Cats and Kittens!

Before I begin, I think I should let you have a peek into the exotic life of your average romance writer.  I am sitting here, having completed my chores for the day (including the fastest re-soleing and re-heeling of a pair of boots in the world I love you Timpsons on Queen St!), dying my hair with Lush’s henna bricks.  This has many advantages over chemical dyes in that it gives me a nice, auburn shade that’s actually found in nature, it doesn’t make my eyes water, and my hair is nice a soft and yummy afterwards.  (Also, it lasts more than 4 #$%^ weeks.)  The downside is that I spend five hours with what is essentially a curry-scented cowpat wrapped in an argos bag, covered in a sacrificial towel, on my head.  I SUFFER FOR MY BEAUTY.

(It does force me to stay inside and get work done, though.)

AAAAAAANYWAY, for many of you (I hope!), that deathless prose is your welcome to my blog from the Speak Its Name advent calendar.  My short story “For the Benefit of the Public” is published today as part of their lovely seasonal (and now annual!) gift to the world.  It was great, great fun to write, because it gave me an excuse to research the state of the British Museum in the 1860’s, smack in the middle of the Victorian movement towards education as something that is for the benefit of all, and should be accessible to all.  (Oh the fucking irony, Mr’s Clegg and Cameron, the irony.)

See, before the British Museum (and Sir John Soane’s museum which is a gem too many people miss), there really was no thought of public access to works of art, artefacts, or representative items, particularly from the classical world.  (Representative items from a community’s own history were, of course, Right Out until fantastic museums like St Fagan’s started in the 1950’s, and quotidian life began to be preserved and presented by those who had lived it.)  Very, very wealthy people who could afford to go to the Continent, Egypt, or the Classical world did so, brought curious items back with or without permission, and put them in Wunderkammers to show their friends — literally, cabinets of wonder.  Of course, these could be genuine cabinets, or they could be whole rooms, and they were so delightful I cannot find the words to tell you how awesome they were.  The Pitt-Rivers museum isn’t a million miles away from the photos I’ve seen, and if you’re near Swansea, they’ve got a kind of wunderkammer room in their city museum that is absolutely worth going to.  (If you’re in Philadelphia, The Rosenberg Museum also isn’t a million miles away, and is equally worth visiting, and we are now out of cities whose museums I know inside-out and upside-down.)  As much as I adore these wunderkammers and, frankly, want one as soon as I’ve got a spare room, they were not accessible to…well, anyone, really.  Perhaps if the nobleman was very nice and understanding, and the scholar came from the right sort of people, aforesaid scholar could have access to things, but for anyone else — unthinkable.

Until this Victorian movement towards educating the working-class.  The BM has many, many problems, but you’ve always got to give them this: anyone could visit.  You had to apply in writing in advance, and prove you were of good character and not show up drunk (although I believe they served alcohol there which, frankly, is brilliant and all museums should do so), but you could get in, even if you didn’t have a title or a double-barrelled name, or weren’t an Oxbridge student.  This was huge.  This is huge.  I can go to museums and do whatever research I like, or enjoy art, or just walk around and absorb whatever I want?  Yes, please.  Yes, a thousand times please.  And anyone else who wants to can do the same; I think this, this access to education and art and culture, was the great gift of the Victorians.  As the song says, one cannot live on bread alone, but one must have roses as well.

So, you can see why I leapt at the chance to write a little love story in amongst some dusty (and, frankly, questionably-sourced) objects in a grand building in Russell Square.  I hope very much that you enjoyed it.



PS  Lee and Daniel were borrowed from a story I started yoinks ago.  Don’t think you’ve seen the last of them!

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Advent calendar!

But way better than a picture of a robin, kittens!

Well, as I try to not freeze to death in my nice, icy flat and wait for the laundry to finish, I shall beg you all to go to Speak Its Name, today and every day until Christmas.  They’re doing a cracking Advent calendar full of historical goodness.  I am one of the bloggers.  What day, you may ask?  Where’s the fun in that?  I’m sure you tried to open all your presents early, too.

(Also, I have yet another novella coming out with Dreamspinner in the spring!  This one’s a spec-fic, was partly written in Philadelphia International Airport’s departure lounge, and is inspired by a dream I had where I discovered an unknown floor in the Humanities Building that featured a modern art gallery.  More details as they come!)

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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.



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Hello you lovers of lovely men (I’m trying out new taglines…),

I seem to have missed another journal entry, as I am sure you have all noticed.  Yeah…get used to that.  Frankly, I’m too…not exhausted to write, but I’ve got no more brainspace left.  And for the past day or two I’ve been swanning around feeling down about my writing in general, which usually means it’s high time to get over myself, so I am going to do so.  Primarily by throwing myself (further) into my course, getting out of the house and going on walkabout more often, and finding I suddenly have something that is distinctly social-life shaped.  I’m not abandoning this journal at all — I’ve got at least one more publication to announce, from stuff I wrote/rewrote over the summer — but ANARCHY SHALL REIGN.  Also, probably a lot more posts about things like vintage clothing, nostalgia, immigration, Let the Right One In (which every one of you must stop what you are doing now and go see it.  I’ll wait.  It’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, and it’s about five shades beyond normal.  And it has the most uncomfortably happy ending you’ll ever see.), and whatever else tap-dances across my brain.  And likely a couple of flash fics here and there.  And, frankly, I’m bored with the traditional publishing route, so who knows what I’ll come up with?  More fumetti, I hope, maybe a story written in a wiki, maybe something else.  I’m not very good at coming up with unique ideas, but who knows what’s ahead?

Anyway, I am now off to put my hair up in pincurls, or at least try to.




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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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