New Moon Rising

I should probably be ringing in the new year in a pub, or a bar, or at a gig, but instead of dodging vomit and strangers, I’m sat at on the sofa in my fluffiest pyjamas, with The Walking Dead on in the background and nursing a glass of water. I’ve had better nights, but I’ve definitely had worse.

It’s usually about the time of night that I start to get reflective. 2017 has, for all intents and purposes, been a shitshow from an external point of view. Brexit is a load of wank, and the level of fear and loathing spreading throughout the world is something that we need to keep fighting as fiercely as we can. But on a personal level, I’ve accomplished enough to feel as though I made a difference this year.

One of my main goals was to read more books. The thought process was read more books, write more stuff. Well, I was an overachiever when it came to the first part of that — I hit 36 books in total this year, which is a huge increase on the 10 or so I read in 2016. Most of those were books that were in my to-be-read pile, but I delved into a fair few new ones as well. Admittedly, I didn’t stray too far from sci-fi/fantasy, but that’s something to concentrate on next.

I wanted to write more, and to a degree, I suppose I did. I wrote a few more blogs than the year before, drafted a few stories and entered a couple of competitions. I also edited the vast majority of my friend’s novelisation of our D&D campaign (still a few more chapters to go!), which was a great experience and a really worthwhile exercise.

I also branched out in terms of my social circle, joining said D&D group, which was possibly the best decision I’ve made since moving to Cheltenham. It’s the nerdiest shit I could even think about doing, but I’ve made some fantastic friends, laughed until I cried and started DM’ing a campaign, which has been brilliant for my improvisation skills. Our campaign’s still going strong, and I’m excited to see what comes this year.

There are still lots of things I’m working towards. We don’t own a house yet. I don’t have my own little writing nook. But those aren’t too far away. I haven’t written that book, or even finished the little pieces I started working on. Nevertheless, I have ideas, and I want to find my drive. I’m planning on taking up a diary for the first time in years to try and see if I can inspire myself some more. I’m not setting any resolutions as such, but the same applies as most years — read more, write more, do more stuff and take better care of myself.

I usually do a little yearly roundup of things I’ve enjoyed most throughout the year. I’m not doing anything quite so expansive as usual, but here’s a sample of stuff I’ve loved this year.

Records: Creeper — Infinity, In Your Arms; AFI — The Blood Album; Dreamcar — S/T; Kesha — Rainbow; Chelsea Wolfe — Hiss Spun

Video games: Persona 5; Destiny 2; Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age; Mass Effect Andromeda; Assassin’s Creed Origins

Movies: Thor: Ragnarok; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Power Rangers; Wonder Woman; Kubo and the Two Strings

Books: Raven Stratagem — Yoon Ha Lee; Ancillary Sword — Ann Leckie; The Bone Key — Sarah Monette; Four Roads Cross — Max Gladstone; A Long Day in Lychford — Paul Cornell

Learning to Love the Edit

Full disclosure: I’ve always been a bit of an arrogant shit. The problem is that when I was younger, I was smarter than all the other kids I knew. I’m not being a dick about it – it was simple fact. I was generally good at most things I turned my hand to, but especially anything to do with literature and writing. I’d get entered into harder exams, my teachers encouraged me to do extra reading and assignments, and on the whole, I’d come out swinging.

Of course, when I got to university, that all went by the wayside – no longer the big fish in the small pond, and all that. But that sense of having things come easily to me never really went away. I’d write something and my peers would tell me it was perfect. My tutors would have other ideas, but, on the whole, I was good. (Later on, I would realise that it was true, I was good, but I was never brilliant.) When I didn’t get the top grade, I wept like a spoilt brat. But then again, I had been spoiled. I’d been praised and built up for years, before having it all tumble down around me in a mess of tissues and snot.

I’m a bit more realistic these days. I know that I have to work at things in order to get them to be at the quality I’ve come to expect. However, there’s still one thing holding me back – I hate editing my own work. It’s been ingrained into me for years – I’m the kind of person that gets it right first time, why do I need to go and edit it? I tweak things as I go along, don’t I? Why should I sit down and read through everything when I’ve been reading it for days/weeks/months anyway?

There’s a simple answer to all those questions. You don’t get it right first time so sit down and work at it, you might tweak things as you go but it doesn’t mean it’s finished, and you’re not reading it in the same way when you edit it. So just do it.

Learning to love the edit is pants. It really is. But I also need to realise that my editing is different to someone else’s. I didn’t even realise that anyone had a lighter editing process until the second term of my MA, when David, my non-fiction tutor, revealed that he didn’t really edit much either. It’s pretty much there on the first draft and he just makes a few tweaks. I’m not a (widely) published and talented writer like David Vann and I know that I need to put more effort into my edits. It’s reassuring to know that not everyone needs to pull their work apart and stitch it back together, though. Like everything, it takes balance, and that’s what I’m now striving for.

I thought that I might get a bit better at it by editing someone else’s work, rather than my own, and my D&D compatriot James has kindly offered up a few of his latest blog posts over on Mining the Mindscape, covering our latest escapades (although I’m not sure how many of my edits have made it up there). So far, it’s been a much less painful process than sorting out my own raw drafts and, dare I say it, quite fun. I’m not at the ‘love’ stage yet, but I’m a lot closer to ‘like’ than I was before. It helps that I keep giggling at various bits of dialogue.

With regards to my own writing, I’m working on a few flash pieces – less than 500 words – for fun. Having such a low word count means that each sentence has to mean something, and no word can be out of place. It’s been a good challenge, although I’m still not quite ready to share, and I’m slowly regaining a sense of the joy of writing, rather than it feeling like a chore. I suppose that’s a good place to be in, for now. And eventually, the novel might possibly, hopefully, somehow, become a thing.

Marching On

My blogging at least once a month is going well, as I’m sure you can all see… February and March have been BUSY. Work busy, life busy, writing busy, generally busy all over.

At work, I just finished off a project on community management strategy for a gaming website that I’ve been helping out with for a number of years, helping them to transition their social network to their main website. It’s been a great experience and I feel like I’ve done everything I can to help support a community that has been there for me through thick and thin. So that’s been good.

Life? I just don’t seem to have time to do anything, I’m always out and about. However, one good thing I’ve been doing with my time lately is popping along to a D&D games night set up by Proud Lion, the local comic book shop. It’s great fun, I’ve met a lot of really lovely new people and I’m finally getting back into playing. My role-playing still leaves a lot to be desired, but I think I just need to get back into the swing of being another character. I’d like to sit down and do a proper character sketch when I have the time and dig deep into what makes my half-elf cleric tick.

Writing busy, THAT’S A THING THAT’S HAPPENING. I wrote, edited, finished and submitted a story to a short story competition for the Evesham Festival of Words. I have no idea if I’ll win, get shortlisted or even longlisted, but at least I finished something and submitted something. I’m pleased with the concept, but genre fiction doesn’t always perform that well at these kinds of things so I’ll have to wait and see.

Now that’s over and done with, I suppose I’d better get cracking with my ‘Ready, Set, Novel’ plan. I’ve completed a few of the exercises but got distracted as soon as Mass Effect: Andromeda came out (I have more thoughts on that to follow up with soon). Setting aside time to write just seems impossible at the moment – I only managed the other story because it had a 2,500 word limit – but I’ve got to do it if I ever want to get a book out there.

Also, a quick Mount TBR update – I’m up to 11 books out of 24! It’s pretty exciting to (almost) hit the halfway mark, so exciting in fact that I went and splurged on a Humble Book Bundle collection from a bunch of great female authors… Whoops. That takes the unread Kindle library up to about 130 books? Jeepers. That said, I’m totally ignoring the Kindle in favour of physical books at the moment. I’m currently on Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series, which is full of wizards, and swearing, and feelings. I’m reading The Virtu and it’s the best. You should read it too.

Metrics and Measures

January’s officially out of the door, meaning that 31 days (and a few more) out of 365 have been and gone. It’s ridiculously cliché to say it, but tempus fugit and all that. I can’t believe where the time has gone already and how ridiculous the world has been in those few days.

However, I’m not going to go on about the state of the world for now. Instead, I’ve been trying to look at what I’ve been up to, and compressed them into various numbers to make it look more impressive. So, in those 31 January days, I have …

  • Read four books, or 1,170 pages if you’re feeling fancy
  • Written 1,086 words of a new short story called Guidance
  • Spent two days in London doing business things
  • Baked approximately 42 spiced nutmeg biscuits
  • Walked 181,339 steps (and it’s still not enough)
  • Written one article for a great website
  • Played around 15 hours of Final Fantasy XV
  • Raised my fist in triumph at 14 new AFI tracks
  • Cried at two different Mass Effect: Andromeda trailers

If you look at it like that, January wasn’t so bad at all for me. I’m feeling pretty posi about February, too. So far, I’ve properly kicked off a major project at work that’s basically my dream project, and although it’s been a lot of hard work so far, it’s been really fulfilling. Hopefully, I’ll continue to do some good stuff there but it already seems like it’s making an impact, which is great.

I’m also planning on doing lots more writing, if I can. I picked up Ready, Set, Novel! by the NaNoWriMo people to help me plot my next big idea — I think with a bit of additional help, I’ll be able to really solidify this one and make a good start. The only problem I have is that I have two big ideas that are totally incompatible and I need to choose which one to focus on first …

I’m going to finish Guidance, somehow, as well. I’m not feeling it too much at the moment, but I need to push through and actually complete it so that I can move on fully to the next thing. And I bought a new editing pen that’s a nice purple colour, so if I want to use it, I need to have a first draft to edit!

Mount TBR is progressing pretty well, too — four books down out of a possible 25. I seem to be going through Kindle books a lot faster than the print ones, probably due to the amount of time I spend on the bus each week, but I’m optimistic about hitting that goal. It’s also been great to dive back into the Kindle archive, see what I bought three years ago and discover how good they actually are. Has it stopped me buying new books? Well, seeing as I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing as I type this, then no. But it has forced me to pick up some treasures that I was otherwise missing out on.

So, I suppose that I need to continue forging through February and make it a good one. 2017, I won’t let you get me down, no matter how many depressing articles fill up my Facebook feed.


I am tired. I always feel tired now. Even restful weekends, meant to help rejuvenate and rebuild, leave me feeling knackered. It’s silly, really — being 25 shouldn’t mean I’m forever worn out, forever battling against the tide, but lately, that’s been the case. I try and ignore it, tell myself that everything will be fine in a few months. I tell myself that it’s okay not to be okay.
Creatively, I’m drained. Ideas zip through my skull as I drop off to sleep, as I drive from place to place, but never make it to the page. I never used to be scared of the blank page, but now it seems like a void. Content, content, content. A constant need for content. Watching, reading, tweeting, twitching to ultimately end up cycled out of the dark recesses of the mind and into the mental recycling bin, replaced by the next relevant post the algorithm decides you need to read.
I know that I am loved. It is a comforting thought. But I sometimes wonder whether I am liked. I often know that I have been forgotten. I think that’s why I always wanted to write – I was so desperate to be acknowledged and to be remembered. I wanted my words to be tattoos, quotes scribbled on notebooks, phrases whispered in the dark. I wanted to be a friend, but I’ve never been very good at making friends. I tell myself that I want moments of peace, that I’m good with my own company, but I crave attention at the same time. I want nothing more than to be heard.

My anxiety continues to grow and gnaw at my soul. Like a virus, it courses through my blood and infects my sense of wellbeing, my sense of tranquillity. When anxiety bears down, it is never quiet. I play loud songs to drown out its carrion call, but music is no longer the escape it used to be. It has been around a year since I came down the stairs in tears and told my boyfriend that I had to give up my website, because I no longer felt worthy enough to keep its heartbeat going. Since then, I have felt like a fraud at every show. Even when music was my every breath, I still felt like an interloper in the scene, like I never truly belonged. I sometimes wonder if I will ever belong to something greater, whether I will ever gain a place in history. I hope that I will learn to be content with where I am, but I am ever reaching for the stars, and cursing everything but my own poorly engineered ship for not taking me there.