Thursday, April 23, 2015

Writing goals


I am almost 42 years old, and it's time I stopped letting being scared that my writing is crap hold me back from finding out if it is actually crap.

So here's what I'm going to do - because saying it out loud makes it more likely to happen. At least it does for me.

  • I'm going to submit 10 poems this year for either consideration for publication, or for consideration in competitions.
  • I'm going to finish my first draft of my novel!
  • I'm going to write, and submit, at least 6 review / non-fiction pieces
  • I'm going to write and submit at least 2 short stories for either consideration for publication, or for consideration in competitions.
 This is my 2015 manifesto: it's going to be the year when being anxious about failure doesn't stop me from actually failing. And failing again. And failing better.

(Part of my mental warm-up for the Emerging Writers Festival at the end of May ... time for me to start practicing some emergence!)

Friday, April 17, 2015

The waiting game

I feel somewhat like I'm hanging about in some existentialist waiting room of life at the moment.

I'm waiting to feel better, or at least less catastrophically unwell. The crashing fatigue, shakes, muscle weakness and severe anxiety attacks that have succeeded my tonsillitis and penicillin course are not yet abating (although they will ... I hope they will). For now, I am back to working a few hours a day at home if I can, resting as much as possible, cancelling social and other commitments, and having to be very parsimonious with my teeny tiny daily allocation of spoons. That's just how life rolls when your genome is broke, and I accept it - sort of. It doesn't make the waiting around easier, though.

I'm waiting to hear if my daughter has a place in the high school we'd like for her next year. We should hear the week after next, and as it gets closer, the tenterhooks get tighter. She *really* loves the school and so do we. It'll be such a relief to hear we're in, if we are, and a real disappointment if we miss out.

I'm waiting to see what current structural changes at my workplace will mean for not just my role, but those of my colleagues and friends. Change in organisations is inevitable and even healthy in its context, but the ferocious constancy of change in this one is its own special kind of fatiguing. Waiting, uncertainty, speculation and the frustration of having to set everything up for several possible contingencies is taking its toll.

I'm waiting for inspiration to strike me and guide me with my novel. Yes, I have a vision - shadowy, but real - of how it ends, but I have the frustrating sense that there are things I need to do along the way that just aren't gelling yet. I'm pushing out words every few days, but it's the mechanical, linking scenes I'm doing, not the master narrative - because I'm waiting for the story to reveal itself to me.

I'm waiting in several areas of my personal life, too, that I won't go into here, but again, the sense of being frozen in a time bubble waiting to be unstuck is palpable.

It's not that waiting is always so terrible, but, being a control-oriented person, I don't like uncertainty a whole lot, and most of this waiting comes with a hefty dose of Don't Really Know What Happens Next. With some of it, of course, the possibilities are finite. Daughter will, or will not, get into the school etc. With other areas, the range of outcomes is disturbingly open, and this, this, I do not like.

Most of my current level of Highly Craptastic is tied firmly to my body's dear little freak-out at the bacterial invasion and the gut-flora-killing penicillin, of course. But it wouldn't be surprising if the body malfunction was getting a bit of an assist from the mental stress of so damn much waiting, all at one time. I won't be sorry when this logjam starts to clear and things start moving again.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Every day is a winding road

So I have had tonsillitis over the past 5 or 6 days, and it's been not very nice, but these things happen to everyone from time to time. If my body was roughly normal for a 41-year-old woman, a few bad days and a fistful of penicillin would see me right and that would be the end of that.

However, as was fairly clearly established last year, I am not actually all that normal, clever collector of auto-immune illnesses that I am.

The confounding pressure of both the tonsillitis itself and the antibiotics has interfered with my management of my chronic health problems (which was going quite smoothly really) and has left me with crashing fatigue, shakes, joint ill, muscle weakness and a tsunami of anxiety-related mood disturbance.

None of this is terribly unexpected - the nature of having a funky immune system is that major challenges to it will be met with a furiously exaggerated response by my hyper-vigilant body, which then saps my capacity for Going About My Daily Business for quite some time. The antibiotic's interference with my other medication has also dropped me down from a height emotionally, which hasn't been exceptionally nice.

Thus, while I am returning to work tomorrow, I'm not going back to the office. I'm going to work at home for at least the first part of the week, to give myself a bit more time to feel well enough to commute, to have meetings, to exert myself to put on the work game face we all have to wear. At home, I can churn through quantities of document-intensive work (and boy howdy is there a lot of it to do!) without having to expend precious energy in dressing up, driving, and the social performative aspect of work, which is by far the most draining part for me when I am unwell.

Working at home was how I got through my big health crash last year. This is a mere zygote of a health crisis in comparison - not even in the same postcode - but I firmly believe that acting early and doing what I know works for me is the best way to stave off a more precipitate dive back to depths I do not want to explore ever again.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A sevenling for old friends

Welcome to Kathy's House of Sevenlings! :-) For those who don't recall, a sevenling is defined thusly by Wikipedia:

Lines one to three should contain three connected or contrasting statements, or a list of three details, names or possibilities. This can take up all of the three lines or be contained anywhere within them.
Lines four to six should similarly have three elements (statements, details, names, or possibilities) connected directly or indirectly or not at all.
The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or an unusual juxtaposition.
While there are no set metrical rules, because of its form, some rhythm, meter and/or rhyme is desirable. The visual structure of the form is two stanzas of three lines, with a solitary seventh line last line.
Sevenling should be mysterious, offbeat or disturbing, giving a feeling that only part of the story is being told.

I'm feeling the love with this form at the moment - have a couple of dozen scribbled down in my writing notebook, but every now and then I like to flick one at the interwebs, usually if it's one that I want responses to or was written for someone or someones in particular. This is one of those.

A sevenling for old friends

Three women in a sunlit room
cake and fruit spread before them;
the laughter of children a background murmur.

Flowing like water, the conversation is not strained
talking of high schools, online romance;
and also of the permanence of human existence.

The sillage of remembered souls hangs in the air, both pungent and sweet.

- Kathy, 11/4/15

Monday, April 6, 2015

Reading Challenge: Hugo Awards 2015

The finalist list is out for the 2015 Hugo Awards, and, as I have been super mega slack this year in taking on literary prizelists, I thought it would be good to get back in the swim with this one. (Not least of my reasons is the luxuriously long time stretch to get 'em read: the winners will be announced at Worldcon in Spokane, Washington, on 22 August).

The Hugos, for those who aren't familiar, are the biggest of the fan-voted science fiction and fantasy awards. Hugo proponents will tell you that these are the most prestigious speculative fiction awards in the world; that's probably fairly accurate, although the author-voted Nebulas also have a claim to the title. In any case, except in weird years, the Hugo list gathers up the best and brightest in any given year and provides rich fodder for sci fi and fantasy fiction reading jags.

The full list is here, but as is my wont, I will only attempt titles in the fiction categories. They are:

Best Novel
  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos (47North)
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Roc Books)
Best Novella
  • Big Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Kratman (Castalia House)
  • “Flow”, Arlan Andrews, Sr. (, 11-2014)
  • One Bright Star to Guide Them, John C. Wright (Castalia House)
  • “Pale Realms of Shade”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “The Plural of Helen of Troy”, John C. Wright (City Beyond Time: Tales of the Fall of Metachronopolis, Castalia House)
Best Novelette
  • “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”, Gray Rinehart (Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, 05-2014)
  • “Championship B’tok”, Edward M. Lerner (Analog, 09-2014)
  • “The Journeyman: In the Stone House”, Michael F. Flynn (Analog, 06-2014)
  • “The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”, Rajnar Vajra (Analog, 07/08-2014)
  • “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
Best Short Story
  • “Goodnight Stars”, Annie Bellet (The End is Now (Apocalypse Triptych Book 2), Broad Reach Publishing)
  • “On A Spiritual Plain”, Lou Antonelli (Sci Phi Journal #2, 11-2014)
  • “The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”, John C. Wright (The Book of Feasts & Seasons, Castalia House)
  • “Totaled”, Kary English (Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, 07-2014)
  • “Turncoat”, Steve Rzasa (Riding the Red Horse, Castalia House)
Just on spec, there's some promising-looking stuff in there. I note with pleasure that Ann Leckie's sequel to Ancillary Justice is up there, which doesn't surprise me given how good the first one was. Some of the other authors are altogether new to me, which is rather nice as a possible mission of discovery.

My plan, insofar as I have one, is to start with one of the novels to read in an ongoing way while I try to get hold of and tackle the short stories. Because it sounds like it might be interesting, and because it's fantasy rather than sci fi (more in sync with my current mood), I'm going to lead off with The Goblin Emperor. The goal will be to complete at least two of the four fiction categories before Worldcon, and, optimistically, all four.

It's good to be trying a reading challenge again!

POSTSCRIPT: Since writing this, I have been made aware that this year's Hugo ballot was strongly dominated by the Sad Puppies voting slate, organised by writers Larry Correia and Brad R. Torgersen. Indeed, all of the three short-form categories are either entirely or mostly derived from that slate, and all but two of the novels.

This greatly tarnishes my interest in reading the finalist list, for a range of reasons, not least of which is the general tenor of the political, social and ethical views of some of the writers on this slate (and in this list). I don't know if I have the heart or the stomach for it, especially given that I would not normally support such views with my money.

Before I became aware of this, I had already purchased John C. Wright's book, The Book of Feasts and Seasons, on Kindle - it contains his nominated novella, novelette and short story. I've decided to read it and review it, and I will be as fair as I can be in this endeavour. I'm going to use it as an opportunity, though, to reflect on what impact a writer's views has on how readers can / should / may receive their work.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A sevenling for Easter Day

Heralding this Easter day:
A blood moon, a secretion of chocolate
Hymns in the morning.

The kitchen sillage trails garlic, onion,
the faint sweetness of nectarines;
something that drops dark red on the floor.

wine is not distinguishable from blood, in the stains.

- Kathy, 5/4/15

Saturday, April 4, 2015

An autumn daytrip

We spent the day today at beautiful Daylesford, in Victoria's north-west.

Leaving home at 9am and returning just after 6pm, we fitted in a 2-hour play and soak at the Hepburn Spa Bathhouse mineral springs, a pub lunch, and candy shopping.

We also went bookshopping at The Best Bookshop in the Entire Country and Maybe the World: Paradise (both in name and nature!)

I haven't been to Paradise since before the kids were born (wait ... that sounds a bit wrong ...) but it was pure delight to see them all love it as much as we do, and to find it so unchanged by the decade or more that has passed since I last breathed its musty air.

I even found myself a secondhand treasure by an author I love but whose works are hard to get hold of now.

We also visited the Wombat Hills Botanic Gardens, where the kids and partner climbed the 99-step tower, everyone played in leaves and walked the paths, and we had a delicious and decadent afternoon tea at the Gardens cafe.

Staying away from home in the major holiday periods is very expensive, so much so that we pretty much never do it. We always hang at home at Christmas - New Year, on Australia Day weekend, at Easter, on Cup weekend.

We don't even usually take our family holidays in school holiday time, although we have done so in the last 12 months (Port Douglas last year was the entire winter break, and Phillip Island was the least expensive week in the January part of the summer break).

What's really nice to be able to do, though, is enjoy some day adventures at these times as a family. Because we wasn't forking over a wad of cash for accommodation, I wasn't phased about spending a reasonable amount on the Bathhouse, a basic pub lunch, a book apiece at Paradise, and a fancy afternoon tea. We still spent less on all these things combined than a single night of family accommodation, other than a caravan site, would've cost me in Daylesford over Easter.

It definitely wasn't the cheapest day we'll have this holidays, but that is OK, we can still afford to have treat days at the moment and I'll cross the austerity bridge when I come to it. (As circumstances are trending, this may be soon, but sufficient unto the day etc). It was a lovely day, and one that we all really enjoyed as family time together. And now we get to sleep in our own beds and wake for Easter egg hunting in the morning, assuming the bunny has his act together!