I hope everyone has had / is having a wonderful holidays! Me and the man did a number of family visits this year (it's our first Christmas together) and today we have been chilling and watching movies. I just saw the 2016 live action Jungle Book
and utterly, deeply loved it.
Some might consider this jumping the gun, but I've been designing short story promotional covers for my works in progress, all in the name of building up my graphic and web design portfolio
. Aside from designing websites, the thing I love most is creating book covers. The following are for two WIPs I'm currently working on - both unpublished at the moment, but hopefully they will make an appearance at some point!
I'm now working on a cover for my YA sci-fi story The Machinists' Boy
, which was recently published at Youth Imagination
. I'll share it when it's finished.
Beachcombing is a short YA sci-fi set on a beach in the present day.
Inked is a dark fantasy, involving a girl, a wolf, and a deep, dark woods.
You can see the full-sized versions of these, plus my other graphic design work, at J. Oliver Designs
. I'm always available to do cover work for writers, agents or publishers. Drop me a line if you're interested!
♫ Two Hours of Epic Emotional, Vocal and Piano Music
by Michael Maas.
Before anything else, I have to point to GrumpySkeletor
on Twitter. This account is a parody and if you're a child of the 70s or 80s, yes, it might tarnish your nostalgia but it's so entertaining.
So Christmas is just over a week away. Where did the last two months go? So much has changed for me since the spring, and it seems to have flown... Saying that, I'm so excited about spending Christmas with my boyfriend. We met at the end of April, and became officially official at the end of July. It's been amazing. It took a long time for us to find each other, but my friends and family were right - never give up hope, there is the perfect person out there for you.
I've also rekindled my romance with writing. Looking at old stories with new, slightly older eyes is doing wonders for my creativity. I see things I didn't before, and more importantly I see things beta readers pulled up that at the time I didn't agree with. It's OK to disagree with feedback sometimes, be it in your own mind or with a critique partner, but time works wonders for perspective. I put a lot of stock in being patient and broadening the mind.
Writing feels open and fresh again, which is what I had been hoping for. And yes, it took longer to come back than I thought (or wanted), but it's one of those things. Now I can add my new experiences to it and make a different flavour.
I love this feeling. Disconnect is horrible, even when you tell yourself not to fret too much and be patient. Doubt sets in when you can't remember how it felt to be creative and you begin to think all that other stuff was a fluke. In my case, I believe personal life things bogged me down and snuffed out my creative energy. It happens. But again, I truly think that if you are a storyteller - or any kind of lover of writing - it will come back.
So I'm cannonballing towards 2017 with enthusiasm and a growing sort of joy. I hope everyone has an excellent year. :)
♫ The Dreamer
, by Anna of the North.
I just wanted to wish you all a very Happy Holidays! Whatever you're up to (including if you don't celebrate anything) have a lovely week. I'm not sure if I'll have chance to post anything before New Year, so I'll also wish you a good one of those, too. :)
2015 has been interesting: full of (good) changes in my life, although what it's lacked is a considerable amount of productivity on the fiction submission front. A bad stint of Writer Self-Doubt at the end of last year kept my output low, although the story bank seems to be opening up a bit more now--just in a slightly different direction to my usual speculative fiction venues.
Regardless of new avenues, I hope to write more spec-fic in 2016 and redraft my near-future sci-fi YA novel "Hi-Res" which I still feel has a lot of potential.
There are a couple of positive potential life changes on the horizon so those will no doubt take up some of my time and energy, but I would like to post to this blog more frequently next year, and get back in touch with my wonderful friends here, on Tumblr and on Twitter.
Well, that's it for now. Have a good one!
Went holidaying in Wales last week and wanted to share some photos, which I mostly took to turn into textures that can be used for graphic design (feel free to use them if you like, no permission needed).
There are a few pics of The Puzzlewood, an ancient, winding maze of tangled forest, strange rock formations and caves so otherworldly that it inspired J.R.R. Tolkien for some of the settings in The Lord of the Rings
. It's also been used in Star Wars VII
and Dr Who
, apparently! There are a few pics of castles in various states of ruin, including Raglan Castle, another place where parts of Merlin
But I didn't really go to see places where things were filmed. Mostly I just love old castles and history. And if that's your cuppa, then Wales is your place.( Gallivanting around the Forest of Dean and parts of Wales )
Back to normalcy now, and back to work, feeling tired and like I ate too much, but really looking forwards to some exciting web and graphic design projects, too, so it's not all bad!
♫ Oats in the Water
, by Ben Howard.
The weekend before last me and the boyfriend went to a yew tree forest for a wander. I got some great pics on my phone and thought I'd post them (don't you think they'd make good graphic textures? Haha). Weirdly, there was very little wildlife that we saw among the yews, apart from a scant few butterflies and moths. Even birds seemed sparse. It was a bit like being in a woven tree cave that the rest of the world had forgotten, cool and peaceful and safe. It was rather lovely.( Me and yew, yew and me, lots and lots, for us to see )
Because we are derps, we got my car stuck on a narrow country track, which was fine at first, until we realised the two of us probably wouldn't be able to budge it. Thankfully some obliging cyclists came through and helped push my car to safety. These things, they make us stronger (especially when, you know, lifting cars).
The next day the bf drove us into The New Forest
for another wander. It's a different thing, the New Forest--there are creatures everywhere you turn. Ponies and cows hang out on the roadside, wander into villages and generally skulk about like delinquents. We walked down a long, narrow road to a lake, spoke to some ducks, and then veered off the path across a field of scrub towards the trees. The forest floor was riddled with crisp holly leaves, and because I was wearing impractical shoes (surprise?), I felt a lot of them. :) But the best bit was the herds of deer. One must have been ten or so strong, including a couple of gangly fawns. It was incredible how close we got considering how noisy we were (crispy holly leaf carpet, yo). Eventually they heard us and bounced away; it was so special. I've never seen that many deer together in one place before. There are lots of picturesque little pubs in the New Forest too. I was thinking that I'd love to stay there for a couple of days, go adventuring, and spend time writing and being creative. All that air and nature has got to be good for the soul pores.
Now back to civilisation, I'm cracking on with a new story that might be a novelette or might even be a novella--I don't know. It's growing itself and I have no control. But hey, it feels great to joyously throw down words like this again. :)
♫ Whispers in the Mist (feat. Aloma Steele)
, by Varien.
Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you all the good times, progress, and best wishes in the world for 2015. Let's hope it's a grand and spiffy year!
I plan to post more regularly here again, and share writing-related content as I was last year before Life got all distracting and I fell out of the LJ way. I hope everyone is doing great and had a good end to 2014.
I'll start off by mentioning The Write Day
, a one day boost-camp retreat for writers in the South-West of England. It offers a light, airy space, time to focus on nothing but writing, and support from other writers. I'm booked on for Feb 15th and will be there with a few friends from my writing group. It should be fun and extremely productive!
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that our 2014 is amazing, that we learn lots, grow even more, change at least one thing for the better, and leave behind anything that's bad for us. I hope there are loads of brilliant things around the corner. ♥
For my own personal wishes and goals this year, I'd really love to get something new published (more than a micro-fiction, as lovely as those publications are), and start my new novel. And finish editing my current novel, of course. Maybe even get the current novel out on submission to agents. That's all I can ask for. Nom nom.
Have a grand day, whatever you're up to!
♫ Alive ft. Jacob Banks
, by Chase & Status.
I'm back from New York, feeling exhilarated and happy and very refreshed. Now I'm home it feels like a dream—I can't believe I was there just a few days ago. Me and a friend flew out on Friday 13th (we figured there would be fewer superstitious types around that day) and came back on Saturday 21st. And the only thing I wasn't too keen on was the flying—everything else was incredible. My New York rambles include photos so I'll ( cut this for length to spare bandwidth and friends pages )
Oh, and P.S. getyourwordsout
will be back for 2014! Sign-ups have begun and will remain open until 20th January. This is such a good challenge, especially if you want to increase your yearly word count. The community hosts tons of encouragement, games and discussions should you need them.
, by Photek feat. Linche.
Thank you for the responses to my (locked) poll from the other day. Your comments were very welcome. I'll admit—though it was possibly obvious anyway—that when I posted the poll I was still coasting on the waves of a big rejection, and some of your replies were heartening and encouraging (even if you didn't realise they were!).
I met a really nice tutor from a Writing for Young People MA recently, who was doing some workshopping with local teens (which I was lucky enough to attend, too). I mentioned that I liked the sound of the MA and was writing a young adult novel, but didn't have a degree. To which he said: "You don't need a degree to do the MA." To which I boggled, because I didn't know that—I just assumed that a course at a level higher than a degree would require a degree. O.o Apparently students are chosen based on the material they submit with their application.
I don't know if I'd be able to apply for an MA any time soon, and I'm not convinced an MA is the right thing for me anyway, but I did weigh up the pros and cons and I'm pleased the course is accessible.
And in other O.o realisations, my New York trip is under five weeks away!
I'm also into Podcasts all of a sudden. It started with Welcome to Night Vale
, which you should be listening to if you're not already, and now includes Frank Skinner's weekly show on Absolute Radio
, and a small podcast that is gently teaching me French. This calls for another O.o.
♫ The City
, by The 1975.
Whoa, so I didn't mean to drop off the face of LJ. There have been a combination of things keeping me away—I went to stay with some friends a couple of weeks ago, which was fantabulous, but while there I picked up a vicious cold and brought it back home, then was out of commission for a week with that. And then this past week has just flown; I have no idea what's going on. But I hope everyone is doing well. ♥BioWare Writer Quits After Death Threats to Family
- a friend linked me to this the other day. It's astounding that some people can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality. It's gaming
, for chrissakes. Totally crazybones.
And I never realised 'chrissakes' is a recognised word in the Oxford Dictionary, until now. Huh, learning things!
Oh, and I've been reading Garth Nix. Yep, finally. I read Sabriel
, which I adored, and now I'm a quarter way through Lirael
which I am also adoring. I wish I'd found Sabriel
back in the 90s when I was a young adult. It probably would have changed my life. (Not that life was bad back then, but you know what I mean.)
♫ His Young Heart (EP)
, by Daughter. This is a full EP currently on YT. It's really beautiful and mellow, at times reminding me of Bat For Lashes's Two Suns
Sorry I haven't been around to comment much lately, I took a couple of weeks away from the blog to focus on offline things. I've been doing a spot of revamping around the house, plus some extra summer work and a couple of web design projects that need finishing. I'm eager to be done with everything so I can get back to work on the novel. I'm about halfway through my YA passthrough, tweaking and strengthening. It's lost 10k words since its previous draft already.
Speaking of house revamping, I have a new bed! It is this one
. I bought a memory foam mattress for it and, oh my word, is it ever difficult getting out of it in the morning. So very comfy. Wintertime is going to be the worst, though, when I have to get up at six o'clock for work. Ungh.
I also finally tossed out my Kodak C310 all-in-one printer because it spaz-flailed one too many times. Bought a far cheaper HP Deskjet, figuring I won't feel like I've been robbed blind if it turns out to be rubbish. I don't trust printers any more—I've been through too many bad ones. Honestly, they can put people on the moon but nobody can make a printer that lasts… ;)Epic Steampunk Wedding Has Everything
- via The Mary Sue. It's the ring-bearing robot butler that got me.New Steampunk vs. Aliens Anthology
- put together by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray. Sounds cool! It has a Kickstarter page here
♫ You're Gonna Go Far, Kid
, by The Offspring.
How to Report Sexual Harassment, by Elise Matthesen
, via Jim C. Hines. A lot of people will have seen this, but for those who haven't, it's worth a read.
Making career-changing, life-changing decisions can be scary, but they can also give you a clearer focus, a more obvious and solid goal to push towards. That clarity helps your work grow stronger. Having a direction gives you more confidence.
Last week was the Chalke Valley History Festival
, which ran all week and was jam-packed with historical goodness (low in calories, high in fibre). Me and some friends went on the Saturday to a History Writing seminar. This was backdropped by the sound of distant cannons and gunshots, but don't worry, it was just part of the WWII reenactment taking place across the field. I really liked the panelists—author Charles Cumming, publishing director Eleo Gordon, literary agent Mark Lucas, and publishing director Bill Scott-Kerr. The floor was opened to audience questions, and at one point Fifty Shades of Grey
was brought up (obviously).
But something I've been finding with the writing events I attend is the advice is almost always beginner-focused. Most of it I already know. It's great to be encouraged by professionals—that never gets old—but the tips themselves are generally generic, and sometimes audience questions feel a bit like a waste of precious time. I think I'm going to take a step back from lit festival seminars and workshops for a while. They're great for beginners, but they make me wish there were more seminars aimed at mid-to-pro level writers. Plus, sometimes they're not cheap.
Other than that, the festival was fab. There was a lot of reenactment, some cool aerial displays, steam engines, and stalls selling all kinds of nifty things. I got a couple of pics of ( historical dudes being historical )
, by Blackmill. Been listening to this beautiful, melodic dubstep while doing edits on the novel. I love Blackmill right now!
Tomorrow I'm heading to Southampton for a few days to spend time with one of my best friends in the universe, davidrcooke
. A change of pace and scenery is nice once in a while. I'm hoping to get a bit of writing and editing done while Dave's at work, and I'm sure the salty Southampton air will be a refreshing shift of atmosphere. I love being near the sea.
Speaking of Dave, a couple of years ago he gave me this amazing notebook for my birthday, ( under a cut to spare your friends pages )
Because of the blank pages, I think I'm going to keep it as a mixed media book, and paste artwork and images into it, as well as snippets and notes and ideas. It'll probably be exclusive to my current novel (weirdly, I still
can't bring myself to name the title here on my blog! Maybe one day, if I actually sell it...). I've already started collecting pics to print out, once I get hold of a new printhead for my Kodak. Anyway, best friends give the best gifts, because they are already the best gift of all.
Reading YA fantasy The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater (m_stiefvater
). It's about carnivorous water horses and an annual race held on the fictional island of Thisby. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
I'm a quarter way through, and already caught up in the strong character voices and beautiful prose. It's a totally different idea to many other YA books out there.Johnny Dombrowski
- an illustrator I found on Tumblr, whose artwork is rich and colourful, mixing boldness with a slight blur that gives some of his pieces a dreamlike quality. His concepts are interesting and unique.
♫ Endlessly, She Said
, by AFI.
I hope everyone had a most excellent New Year! Can you believe it's 2013? Gosh. Last year was pretty good, though there were a few family trials towards the end that caused a fair amount of stress, particularly for my parents (nothing dire, more of a "black sheep" issue with my half-brother). I find it hard not to absorb the stress of those around me, and there were many days of frustration in Nov and Dec.
To balance out the negativity, my good friend (and regular beta reader) Dabs came to stay for four days after Christmas, which took care of any post-Xmas lethargy. It was so great having her here and I really miss my houseguest. Roll on 2014 when she might return to the UK!
Positive writing-related news: The zombie story I mentioned a few weeks ago was just picked as Editor's Choice at the Online Writing Workshop for February's newsletter. As before, this both thrills and terrifies me. The story is currently out on submission and I know I won't be able to adjust anything for the market that has it right now, which is a shame as they're a really good market. But it's OK—getting feedback from a pro writer on a story at any stage is wonderful, and if this market rejects it, I'll have another critique to help weed out the weaknesses.
There's also a shoe-centric blog post coming soon (can you guess where my Xmas money went?). It's been ages since I've mooned over footwear here on LJ and I miss the shoesquee.
And I know I mentioned this already, but since it was on a busy holiday day I figure another link won't hurt. I sold one of my micro fictions to Nanoism: The Clockmaker's Heart
. A tiny and bittersweet steampunky piece.
♫ Be My Animal
, by The Good Natured.
For anyone who uses Duotrope and hasn't seen this, as of January 1st 2013 you will need to subscribe to use the full service
. This means you won't have access to the search function or all details of individual market listings. It's $5 per month or $50 per year, and there will also be gift certificate options. If you have markets bookmarked on the site and you don't want to subscribe, now would be a good time to export and save your listings, as they will only be openly available for the rest of December.
This week was my writing group's holiday party that we do every year. There were minced pies and cupcakes, popcorn and drink, festive Dada and write/draw silliness! Two of our members brought along the Dictionary Game, and since it was so much fun, I thought I'd share the rules here. It's very much like the British TV show Call My Bluff
. ( Rules for the Dictionary Game )
Currently reading New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird
, an anthology edited by Paula Guran that features stories inspired by the scribblings of H.P. Lovecraft. So far, it's an excellent collection, some of the stories really spooky, some quirky, some just plain clever. Lovecraft is hit-and-miss for me, but I'm consistently loving these new weird tales and would recommend this to any speculative fiction fan regardless of whether they like Lovecraft or not.
And some links…Night Bazaar
- A group blog for sci-fi, fantasy and horror authors, regularly discussing topics related to the writing life. There's a load of good stuff here—posts on submissions, world-building, POV, action scenes and much more.How I used Kickstarter to reboot a book series, and my career (and maybe my life?)
- Tobias Buckell talks in depth about his experiences with Kickstarter, and the realities of a book project.
♫ Where Is My Mind?
Can I stay in denial that LJ fandom is slowly dying? More and more people are leaving. I like Dreamwidth, but it still doesn't feel like home. I've been on LJ since 2003 in various incarnations; it's like watching an old, good friend gradually slip away.
OK, enough with the melancholy. There are positive things! It's my wonderful BFF davidrcooke
's birthday this week, and that was cause to celebrate last weekend. After hopping down to Southampton on Friday night, me, Dave and his partner Chris went out to The Olive Tree
restaurant, where I had the most delicious confit duck leg & pan-fried duck breast with herb mashed potatoes and Morello cherry sauce, followed by a mocha cheesecake. Nom. Later that evening, after they'd had some wine, I cunningly EXO-bombed Dave and Chris, making them watch the phenomenon that is shaky pockets in the History video
. Oh, how I laughed. On Saturday we somehow managed to cram Portsmouth and Winchester into our day, though the Winchester Christmas market was so crowded we couldn't get to many of the stalls for a proper look around. In true me-like tradition, I bought my own Xmas presents: an Emporio Armani "Diamonds
" gift set (if only we had smell-o-screen!), and a cute plum-coloured Superdry coat that was on sale. It was the last on the rack, it was in my size, and I saved £27. Mm, bargains. They almost taste as good as mocha cheesecake.
And in true me-like tradition, I forgot to take any photos.
I've passed 40k words on the steampunk novel draft #2. It's a bit of a milestone, possibly marking halfway. The first draft rounded out at only 63k words, but it was one-sided, told by only one of my two main characters. This version has both POVs, plus some little extras that I hope will make it more structurally interesting. I'm going to try and write the next 10k words before the 25th.
I've also been struggling with my zombies in a new short story in progress. The trouble with zombies is they're not prone to thinking, well, much of anything apart from braaaaains
; they certainly shouldn't be having deep, literary thoughts about un-life and such, especially when they haven't eaten any brains in a while. There must be a way around this, however, and I'm determined to find it.
And now, I must go and write all the Christmas cards in the universe (or so it feels, on this side of the pile).
♫ Night of the Hunter
, by 30 Seconds to Mars.