I Hereby Name Thee Miguel

I was scrolling through my Tumblr likes just now so I could dredge up some capital-C content alongside promotions and I came across a post my friend Tatchiana did in 2015 recommending this very blog. I can’t find the post now, but it gave me a fuzzy warm feeling that lasted long enough that I thought I’d come and say hello. I think I’ve been writing here now for nine entire years. That’s longer than most prison sentences, innit. Mad. 2015 doesn’t even feel like that long ago but I suppose it must be.

Sooo how have you been since 10 days ago? I’ve been good, cheers. Started another job (weekends! Retail! Say hi if you see me – wait no don’t make eye contact). Got to hang out with Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. Ish. Sort of. We said hi. I haven’t touched dragonnovel since I sent it to my cuz, but I am itching to make improvements. Not itching as in, I have eczema, itching as in, that feeling of when it’s almost the school holidays. I’ve already started sketching out ideas for my next book, which makes me feel like I’m cheating on dragonnovel. But I have to be realistic that a) dragonnovel might not get picked up, in which case I should start on the next, better, thing as soon as possible and b) dragonnovel might get picked up which means I need to look like I’m serious about this writing thing.

I just spent five entire minutes looking for a suitable dragon gif, no fucking dice. Come on, Shrek. First thing I’m gonna do if this book picks up is commission some cool dragon art.

While I’m thinking about it, it occurred to me the other day that since dragonnovel is actually nearly done (or as done as it can be without professional editorial insight), I’m going to have to stop renaming characters soon. Seriously, this one guy has had about four names. I think the first one was Pablo. Or it might have been Paolo. Then I think I tried to name him Raphael, but I already called someone Raphael. Anyway, my point is that if you were ever thinking of pledging to ye olde Patreon page in order to see a character named after you, you should probably do it soon because I need to start remembering characters properly or my synopses (that’s plural of synopsis, right? I’m scared to Google it) will be way out of whack. Oh, I think this guy was called Miguel at some point.  Miguel.

He’s so not a Miguel.

So. Farewell, then, first full-length draft of dragonnovel. It’s gone, it’s off, it’s…

…with my cousin for a read through so I can make edits.

In the mean time, I can’t make any more changes so I have at least a week of very deliberately not thinking about it. Which means all I want to do is think about it. LOADS. But I also want it to be done and finished (and wrapped in a hardback cover with some cool art and a royalty agreement) so I can a) tell you guys the full title instead of just calling it dragonnovel and b) start on the next thing.

I set myself a deadline for the first draft, so I spent Sunday at a writer’s retreat near King’s Cross. A full day of sitting in a room not talking to anyone and thinking about fictional people! So basically what I do at home once a week but with a two-hour journey and a cost of £45! Tell you what though, it was bloody worth it. Never has seven hours at a desk gone so quickly. The edits! The nice kitchenette with decent tea! The hushed silence of 20 introverts ignoring one another! I took a photo.

writer's laptop set up with extra mouse, keyboard, notebooks

I used so many of those expensively-lined branded post it notes and every sheet was worth it.

I have no idea if dragonnovel will get agented, or published, or paid attention to outside of my tiny group of friends and my Patreon page (which consists of my tiny group of friends). But it is going to get finished, which is cool. If you’ve ever considered pledging to ye Patreon, by the way, now’s probably the time because I can still happily change a character name for you… and if no agents are interested and I end up making a lil ebook myself, you also get a copy if you pledge $3 It might be $3. I can’t remember. I need to go and do some physiotherapy because I’m about two sentences away from needing steroid injections in my hands. SUCH FUN!

September Resolutions and a Little Smudge of Self Care

Afternoon! The dogs got me up at half five this morning so it feels wrong on a molecular level that one of those dogs is asleep on my bed this very moment while I try to prise my eyeballs open with tea and willpower.

I left school four years ago, and yet September always feels like the prime time for a Fresh Start and New Things. It probably helps that I’ve got leftover holiday happiness, although it’s also mingled with that disgruntled feeling of ‘why am I never as relaxed at home as I am on holiday?’, the preoccupation of which always makes me… less relaxed. But! September! A fresh start! Also I have been 23 since last Wednesday which means I have extra fresh start feelings. LET’S MAKE THIS YEAR A FINANCIAL AND SOCIAL SUCCESS, she hisses as she drowns under paperwork, teacups and pissy late payment emails.

There isn’t really a point to this blog, except to hopefully pass on some lovely September vibes, but I felt like I should write something because my domain just renewed. Got to get my £15 worth! I thought about sharing some Greece photos but I’m too bleary-eyed to think up funny captions and do I really want to contribute to the Internet’s collective ‘my life is better than yours look what a great time I’m having’ bullshit brigade? Um, no. But here is a picture of bougainvillea, because bougainvillea flowers are a colourful spec of papery innocence in this world.

Pink Bougainvillea in Sami, Kefalonia

Does anyone have any September resolutions? Eva over at What Eva Wears wrote about hers, and it reminded me of all the times I’ve written resolutions on here. I found a couple of posts… in this one from January 2016 I wanted to learn to take better photographs (they are definitely improving), read more varied news sources (to be honest, in the last few months I’ve just read less news. I’m happier for it), learn to use Facebook (done, except now Facebook is dying WHAT A SHAME) and ‘chill out about this blog’.  Well I kind of have in a way – there was a time when I would tell myself off for not posting twice a week, but these days you’re lucky if you get two posts per month. It’s taken 18 months (and I kind of did ‘move to Cambodia’ for a bit, ha) but I think I’m getting there.

Then I found this post from the end of 2017 in which I listed some resolutions for 2018. LET’S SEE WHERE WE ARE, THEN.

  • Resolution 1, the ‘vague gesture’, was to learn to do my hair a bit more. My hair is even longer and even more purple-tinged than it was in December, and I still only wash it twice a week, but I do put it up a bit more. Occasionally. Look, it looks nicer when I ignore it completely…
  • Resolution 2, the SMART goal, was to look after myself more in a measurable way. Hahaaaaa haaaa haaa. Ha. Ahem. Well, I did download a blue light blocker. I do exercise fairly frequently (not running though, Pilates is my limit). I do take extended breaks from Instagram, not that you’d know it. I could do more, but I also could have done less.
  • Resolution 3 was to make my work, work. This was only 8 months ago and everything I wrote is still true: if this financial year doesn’t go my way, I’ll probably go and get a salaried job or retrain in a sensible industry or something. But I’m creeping in the right direction: I’m working with the Prince’s Trust to improve Francesca’s Words, my Patreon is slooowly gathering momentum – and dragonnovel is cooking away! – and I have regular-ish work. I have more to be thankful for than to be unhappy about.

So my September resolutions are to continue with everything I said I wanted to do in 2018. It’s tempting to start something Completely New, but Francesca’s Words could be twice as big next January as it was last January if I play my cards right. If I play my cards sneakily, I might even have a book or a cool French plait as well.

I said there wasn’t a point to this post: I turned out to be completely wrong. Looking back at the last couple of years has made me realise how far I’ve come. I’m always harder on myself than anyone else ever could be – I never sit back to appreciate how much work I’ve put into something; I only ever berate myself for not working harder. But I’m doing okay. Pretty well. Better than I could otherwise have been doing. That’s not too ‘my life is better than yours’ bullshitty, is it? You would tell me if it was, right?

Cool for the Summer

Ugh. UGH. I just glanced at the date and realised that in one month’s time I will be returning from my holiday. Which means in one month and one day, I will have nothing to look forward to except autumn, which is a tenuous thing to look forward to when a) this weather might last until October, and b) autumn is rarely as autumn-y as I’m expecting.

I mean, there are some other things to look forward to. It’s my birthday in September? I recently joined a cashback website and am interested to see if it makes me any cash? Life is actually pretty decent given that I’m living in a first-world country in a house with good plumbing? But still. I’m so excited for my holidayyyyyy that it’s hard to look past it. There will be (more) sun! There will be (non-Thames Estuary) sea! There will be tasty (not cooked by my mum or I) Greek food! Oh yeah I’m going to Greece what a surprise. Well I kind of have an excuse; a friend is celebrating her birthday in Zante, so I’m going to backpack from Corfu down to Kefalonia and then to Zante. It’s going to be My Family and Other Animals meets that time I went backpacking before. I’ve got extra packing cubes this time, and I know what I don’t need to take versus what I do. It really boils down to packing cubes.

Who else is going on holiday soon? Who has had a holiday recently? My uncle recently sent me photos of somewhere in the north of Scotland that apparently has its own micro-climate and I shit you not, I thought it was the Mediterranean. It wasn’t until I squinted at the mossy stone walls and distinctly rolling hills that I thought ‘could this actually be north of the boarder?’ I can’t remember the place’s name, but as soon as I remember it I’m adding it it the list (also: York, Malta, the Giant’s Causeway, Rome, Haworth in one of the Yorkshires where they Bronte sisters lived, Cornwall, eastern Greece, New Zealand).

I’m going to attempt a minor digital detox while I’m away, so fully expect some bullshit ramblings from me on my return about the joys of getting back to nature and interacting with other cultures. Maybe I’ll stay out there and avoid any potential crises and just finish dragonnovel underneath an olive tree or something. Use up my freedom of movement while I’ve still got it. Hm.

Lawrence Durrell in the Durrells 2016

A Cautionary Tale of Cacti

Afternoon. So much has happened in the world since I last blogged (the sun is out, the government has broken and IT’S COMING HOME) that I feel like I actually need to do an update.

A few weeks ago I bought a new mint plant, a succulent and some cacti. The cacti were supposed to be gifts but then I got them home and put their sweet little pots on my windowsill and decided to find my friends other gifts. Little cacti are so cute! Also, I like to have a window open at night but my room is over the conservatory so I can’t leave the big window open in case it invites burglary. So I put my cacti on the windowsill to spike any potential intruders, thus giving me time to wake up to their cries of pain, put my glasses on and source a screwdriver to stab them with.

Unfortunately the only person who has been spiked is me, opening the curtains, so I’ve moved the cacti to shelves and resigned myself to only leaving the top window open. I don’t know why I’m worrying, the sun will remember which country it’s in soon.

succulent and cacti on windowsill
Did you know those spikes leave the plant in order to embed themselves in your skin?

In non-plant news, Dragonnovel is coming along really well. I accidentally stayed up until midnight last night working on edits. Because it’s still in the chop-and-change stage, I can’t post a lot of snippets in case I accidentally reveal too much plot or give away some of my banging one liners. A while ago Maggie Steifvater mentioned that she really liked the latest novel she’s written, and a lot of people replied with ‘what you mean you LIKE this thing that you’re spending ALL OF YOUR TIME on?’ and she pointed out that:

‘Art as pain and pain as art and the Eternal Dissatisfaction of the Poignant Creator™ is so 19th century.  Creating the art you wish you could see in the world but don’t, and then being fucking PSYCHED when you’ve done it™ is very 2018.’

I didn’t get it at the time but GUYS I AM HAVING SO MUCH FUN SITTING ALONE IN A ROOM SPENDING TIME WITH PEOPLE WHO DON’T EXIST. I’m even more relaxed about asking for patronage while I work on it because a) I will finish and query it regardless of who gives a shit and b) it’s worth paying $3 a month for. I would pay myself if that weren’t even more horrendously narcissistic than asking strangers on the Internet for money to start with.

I’ll leave this here because I’m getting ready for a market in Leigh on Saturday and trying to work in a rebrand around it which basically means my bedroom is full of boxes and my email inbox is full of really cool top secret website stuff that I’m figuring out, but I’ve been staring at a screen too long. See you soon, I guess. Or not, if the weather keeps up and I continue to spend every spare moment outside. Is this what national pride feels like? Enjoying spending time in your own country?

 

 

Patuxai and Post Offices | Vientiane, Laos

What can I tell you about Vientiane, Laos? Not a lot, actually, because I was only there for a day. I think I mentioned the hellish journey out of the city once or twice… Anyway, what I did see was really nice!

Patuxai, Vientiane, Laos from outside

This is Patuxai, which is a war memorial dedicated to those who died fighting during Word War II and for Lao independence from France in the late 1940s. It was broadly inspired by the Arc de Triomphe (ironic) and was built between 1957 and 1968 with cement donated by the USA that was intended to build a new airport. Apparently some people still call it the ‘vertical runway’.

The mural on the ceiling is of the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Indra, according to Wikipedia. I love a ceiling mural. If I ever own a house there will be some serious gold leaf-adorned illustration on the kitchen ceiling.

You can also go up on the roof (after walking through a couple of floors are not-quite-finished and mostly full of people selling souvenirs) and enjoy the view of the city. GOD IT WAS HOT. POSSIBLY MY MEMORIES ARE CLOUDED BY THE HELLISH JOURNEY THAT FOLLOWED THIS LITTLE EXCURSION.

The only other part of Vientiane that I really saw was a scrummy Indian restaurant which introduced me to the god blessed beverage of soda water with a slice of lemon, and the post office. Which looked like a post office. I should have taken a photo, in retrospect, because every post office I’ve ever been to abroad is nicer than the ones in Britain. The one in Hoi An in Vietnam had furniture decorated with mother of pearl. Saigon’s main post office looked like a train station. One in Barcelona boasted ceiling murals. The one in Southend is attached to a WH Smith and its main decoration is a glass case with limited edition stamps.

I feel a post dedicated entirely to post offices on the horizon.

I won’t mind if you don’t read it.

Next up in the occasional SE Asia series: Phuket and the Soi Dog Foundation!

Look, a Goat

Afternoon. I’m going out in a minute but my intrinsic need to post something every single month and/or week to stop my life losing meaning is flaring up, so HERE I AM. I put a dress on earlier but it’s cooler than I thought so I’m also wearing a hoodie and trouser-sized leggings. You scoff but the Kardashians will have a line of dress leggings sooner or later, guarantee it.

I don’t actually have much else to say, which is why my ridiculous desire to post to a schedule needs to fuck off. I’m busy writing dragonnovel to a deadline so I’m probably not going to be online much until it’s finished. I’m trying to motivate myself by sharing little bits and pieces about it on Instagram, so head there for stained glass windows, goats and the occasional actual snippet. My Patreon is here if you want a free copy when it’s finished and/or a character named after your good self, blah etc.

Yeah, wasn’t kidding about the goats. There are also twin characters named Molly and Clarissa, like the Mindless Self Indugence songs, so I’m really hoping someone pledges soon so I can save the names for a novella about two women who bootleg gin and steal cars.

Gotta go and change my leggings now!

The Tale of Three Errands

Afternoon! Today I had probably my most advanced day of adulthood so far, to the point where I feel like it actually deserves to be spoken about even though, in true adult fashion, it was boring as hell.

First of all, I drove to Halfords because I needed – wait for it – windscreen wipers and car wash soap! I don’t think the outside of the Mini has been washed since I bought it, basically because I have previously been too nervous a driver to take a trip to Halfords – a full 15 minutes away from my home – by myself and I am too cheap to go down the car wash. But I was heading that way, so I took the initiative. I also bought a giant cartoon sponge, a large bucket and one of those windscreen chip repair kits because those Autoglass chip repair ads, ironically, inspire me to smash something. I’ll use your service when your radio commercial doesn’t make me want to crash my car into the nearest lamp post, mates.

Then I took a detour off London Road, which if you are not from Southend is the longest, most traffic light-populated two lanes to exist in the town. It goes on for bloody miles and there are 8,000 shops and showrooms and Places of Interest that I can only vaguely keep track of when I’m not navigating the traffic lights. Halfords is down there. So was everything else I needed to do today. Anyway, the detour. Francesca’s Words is doing the Youth Market at Leigh Community Centre in July and I had to drop off a deposit. I should add here that unless I’m going to work I have my satnav in the car, even if I kind of know where I’m going, because it calms me down. This morning in a fit of idiocy I wiped the British map from its system and had to get the app on my phone instead, which is way less acceptable to glance at when you’re navigating the one way system in Leigh. I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW COMPLICATED IT WAS TO TAKE THE DETOUR. I looked at a map yesterday and thought ‘I barely need a satnav, it’s a four second detour!’ Nope. I arrived shaking. Leigh was built about a century before they invented the automobile. But my deposit got paid, so I got back on London Road and headed on to my most adult appointment of the day…

… a contact lens check. My eyes are fine, thanks for asking. I nearly didn’t get there though because I got stuck in another one way system. The satnav app yelled at me four a full five minutes, which was bullshit because I actually already knew where I was going so I ignored the instructions, but then it turned out I didn’t actually know how to get to the car park I was aiming for so I ended up in a supermarket car park with about 500 elderly people. Did some shopping. Almost lost the Mini on the way back. It was hidden behind some sort of people carrier. I will never voluntarily shop anywhere with more than six aisles.

Thelma and Louise car driving off cliff gif

But it gets more adult, dear reader, because while I was in Halfords my phone rang and it was a work thing and I consciously thought, ‘I wish they weren’t playing Kaiser Chiefs so loudly, it’s rather a distraction.’

Just buy me carpet slippers and an electric blanket for my birthday, cheers.

Coincidentally, later on I’m going to rediscover my twenties by going down the pub with my friends on a work night. I’ll probably order a tonic with extra tonic.