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?

 

 

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Introducing a BOOK, Sort Of, That I’m Writing, I Think?

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

It occurred to me recently that a) I should start calling the Giant Enormous Writing Project a book, and b) I should probably talk about it more because it’s driving me a bit mad, in a good way, and when it’s done I’m going to brag about it until hell freezes over, and I should set the ground work for that.

So, yeah, I’m writing a book! It hasn’t got a title yet, before you ask, but I’m calling it dragonnovel, because there is at least one dragon in it. It’s a children’s book, probably. I’m not telling anyone anything else yet, because the dragon is one of about three elements that definitely won’t change. Kind of like in an essay when you know that you’ve got to answer a specific question but how you’ll answer it is really anyone’s guess because you’ve deleted about 5,000 words and made 14 separate plans and look please come back later I need emergency snacks and the ability to spot repeated sentences with my eyes closed.

But it’s going well. This week I rewrote an irritating paragraph and I haven’t felt such a sense of satisfaction since I finished my A Levels. I guess the whole not-discussing-the-plot thing is going to keep this post quite short haha, because all I can tell you is that it’s a CRUCIAL PARAGRAPH. There are also many characters. Several conversations pass the Bechdel Test. I think. Ugh, now I’m paranoid that they don’t. I’ll check in a minute. Look, I made a Pinterest board? Enjoy?

I’m going to try to sort-of track my progress with the book by blogging about it sporadically. In theory, the further I get the more I’ll be able to talk about without worrying that whatever I’m telling you won’t make it into the final draft, so hit me up if you have questions you want answering or have strong feelings about dragon mythology or something.

I’m also here because even though I hate talking about works in progress, a condition of finally talking about dragonnovel is to share my Patreon page more often. I’ve reworked it – again! – because I could do with a little bit of financial breathing space while I write, just for tech expenses and website domains and the like, so I can focus on getting as many MCR jokes into dragonnovel as possible and finishing a proper first draft by the end of summer. I want to make this whole thing as fun and off-beat as possible, too, so everyone who pledges from now until I’m finished writing will get their names in the thank yous of the book, and anyone who pledges $3 or more will get a free ebook/PDF of the finished novel. I am hoping to get traditionally published with a proper agent, but I’ve been working on dragonnovel since 2016 and even if I end up printing it on my home computer, there will be an ebook or PDF. All patrons will also get behind the scenes updates and extra content like playlists and previews (spoiler alert: Lorde is on a playlist). I’m still going to write little short stories and things too, as a break, so there is still early-access to those. Oh and I’ll always name a character after patrons, because I enjoy naming characters hugely.

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures
from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

I’ve done some research and did a soft opening of the new page for friends and apparently it all makes a lot more sense than the old one did, so have a read and bask in the glory of my reward tier names. I also got rid of all tiers above $5, because who has more than $5 spare every month, and added some cool rewards. I’m not really ever expecting to hit 10 patrons but if I do, you guys better prepare yourselves for some excellent fan fiction reading.

Have a good weekend!

How to Have a Snow Day When You’re An Adult

House of Night neon poster by Francesca Burke

IT’S SNOWING! I haven’t had a snow day since I was 17, but I also didn’t have to go into my office job today and was going to work from home regardless. Not remotely fair, and the desire to curl up with a book is immense. The snuggle struggle is real, you guys. But I have money to make and a university course to pass, so I loaded up some podcasts and have ended up having an unusually productive day? Maybe being locked inside the house with a foot of snow on the ground is a good way to focus haha. So here is how to have a snow day as an adult!

Step 1: Ughh. Just get it together.

I got showered and dressed and put perfume on to get into ‘the work mood’, which is weird because I never wear perfume when I work from home. Clearly that should change.

Step 2: Do your physio.

Wait, that’s just me.

Step 3: Chain yourself to your desk!

Shit I’ve done so far: some market research for Etsy, a section of my course (I’m studying women’s suffrage and hellooooo the only thing I’ll ever talk about at dinner parties ever again), cleared out some of my emails and done some graphic design. One of the designs is for this very blog’s sidebar:

Indifferent Ignorance Patreon sidebar advert

The other is a cool Heroes of Olympus-inspired poster I’ve wanted to do for ages:

House of Night neon poster by Francesca Burke

Step 4: But take lots of breaks to make a cup of tea and stare at your snowy garden!

Do you want to build a snowman? Yes. Do you want to go outside? No.

Step 5: Check your dogs are still alive

Both dogs refused to go outside this morning. Fred inspected the garden at midday and Donnie chanced it about half an hour ago. They have the right idea.

Step 6: Rinse and repeat until 5pm

Or whenever you normally clock off when you work from home!

YOU’RE WELCOME. I have to go and do some more physio now. I might also build a snowman.

Changing Things Up?

The Sea Witch's Revenge Part I

Afternoon. If you came in via the front page, you will have noticed I’ve tidied up a bit. I’ve been feeling off colour and came home from work early yesterday to curl up and sleep for a few days, because I either have a bad cold that makes me tired or I’m badly tired and have caught a cold. I wasn’t reckoning on my inability to sit still for more than a couple of hours, though, so I thought I’d play about on here. Technically I’m less than a foot away from my bed, so I’m going to count it as convalescence.

I’ve fancied a change for a while, but I’ve been getting general change vibes, which is not that helpful. Do I want to cut my hair? Should I spray paint my car? Would I benefit from a different type of pillow? My subconscious isn’t telling me, so my conscious (hi) has decided to try changing a bit of everything to see what sticks. So far I’ve just done this site, but I’m thinking of revamping the Francesca’s Words branding – the world is so bleak that black and white seems less chic and more depressing these days – and committing to a regular Pilates class. Something to get my insides balancing with my outsides and all that… I’ve also, finally, published the first of a three part story on my story blog that is slightly different from anything else I’ve ever done, but also completely in line with everything I’ve ever tried to do. The next part will be online next week as I want them all to go online this side of Christmas, which is ridiculously soon.

The Sea Witch's Revenge Part I
Look I even did a little header pic GO READ IT’S A GOOD ONE

I’m not sure what else to change up without committing hugely to something I might regret – I like the idea of spray painting the Mini, but its current shade of red is actually very nice to look at, you know – so I’m taking ideas. Go and read my story (here is the link again cough cough) then tell me: what do you do when you need a change? Do you book a holiday and get a new hair colour or just ride it out? Have you ever done anything ridiculous just to make life a bit more interesting? You can guarantee I’ll read and reply to comments, because I’m not feeling up to much else.

How Not To Run An Etsy Shop (Or Your Life) | Part One of Many, Probably

Saturnalia/Roman mythology-inspired Christmas card, green and grey on white card. Landscape.

Embarrassing story time, people. Almost too embarrassing for the Internet, actually, but I don’t have anything else as remotely entertaining to talk about, so make a cup of tea and bask in my idiocy…

A bit of back story: I’ve been working on my Etsy every day for the last few weeks, including evenings and weekends, because I’ve had some headaches with bugs on the site and I’ve been ordering stock in for people and planning for an Etsy Made Local Christmas market in Chelmsford in a couple of weeks. Oh, and I’m planning for that Black Friday-Cyber Monday migraine-inducing online shopping behemoth. I also went down to Brighton last week to see my brother and I knew I had to place an order for a variety of Christmas cards (a totally new item for me, from a new supplier) before I went, so I ended up placing the order on the Saturday before I travelled down. I got the invoice while I was in Brighton and paid straight away – very entrepreneurial, ten points to Francesca for remembering her iPad and bank info – and voila they arrived today!

Today’s quality was already hanging in the balance because I was taking endless Christmas product photos, on not a lot of sleep, and had one of those to-do list that doesn’t end, like one of those snakes that eats its own tail. I had also had absolutely no contact from the supplier, except for a delivery time, since I placed the order – despite phoning them up and leaving a message like it’s 2003 – so there was an element of ‘did I pay this invoice or have I wired my money into thin air?’ Anyway. The cards arrived. The delivery man was nice.

Back story to the back story: I’ve had really bad luck with suppliers in the past. Items have arrived damaged or not at all, usually when I’ve needed them for an event. So before I opened the parcel I ran through the worst case scenario: that my designs had come out badly and the cards themselves were damaged.

I opened the parcel.

The cards were fine. Correct quality, correct quantity. Except the Saturnalia design was wrong. I’d ordered the design in landscape, not portrait. My sample was in landscape. I photographed and listed it as landscape. These cards were… definitely portrait.

Saturnalia/Roman mythology-inspired Christmas card, green and grey on white card. Landscape.
The sample
Saturnalia/Roman mythology-inspired Christmas card, green and grey on white card. Portrait design.
The reality

That phrase ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ should really be ‘the minor inconvenience that gave the sole trader a nervous breakdown’ because I was bitterly disappointed. There’s no time to return them before Etsy Made Local! People are waiting on these cards! Okay technically no one had pre-ordered them, but what if they had? Am I doomed to select awkward suppliers until I bankrupt myself? Luckily I am obstinate determined so I took new photos and updated my listings, had a hot chocolate and waited until I’d calmed down to compose an email to the supplier expressing my disappointment in their service. Before I wrote it I did a quick check to confirm I hadn’t sent the design in portrait by accident.

I could not find the landscape version of the design on my computer.

I decided the pre-Black Friday stress was getting to me. I definitely designed a landscape version of the card. I had the identical design as a postcard last year. The sample I ordered was landscape. I designed it landscape.

Didn’t I?

It turns out, dear reader, that I did make a landscape version for the card company. It’s tucked away in my Etsy folder, no where near my other mythology design files. I also made a portrait version, ages ago, when I first played around with folded card designs.

I sent the wrong file. I spent at least fifteen minutes of my life mentally writing a strongly-worded complaint to a company that, lack of communication notwithstanding, has done its job. I was so exhausted and fed up that I ran through the scenario of retiring stationery lines entirely, and wondered what would happen if I didn’t do anything for Black Friday at all. I contemplated taking a holiday that weekend to somewhere with no computers.

Oops.

I’ve recovered from the ignominy of it all enough to tell you guys, because clearly I have potential to run a side blog called How Not To Run An Etsy Shop (Or Your Life), and I’m going to have a bath and chill out with my dogs and assume that the entire world will keep turning regardless of the orientation of some atheist Christmas cards. Oh and I’m going to remind you all to go to the Mythology Mayhem and Grumpy Greetings sections of my shop, where you will find several listings for quality, 100%-recycled-cardstock Christmas cards at very reasonable prices. UK postage is free, by the way, and orders over £10 internationally will ship free until 30th November.

And yeah, I’ve left the original landscape photos on the listing thumbnails for now. I like the added use of stamps and it was too dark to play around with the portrait ones this afternoon. I updated the listing info and called the mishap a ‘printing error’. ‘Human error’ is more accurate, but I’m going to cut myself some slack and stop working Saturdays as soon as Christmas is over. Only 41 sleeps til Santa you guys!

Pour me a gin and tonic.

Happy Publication Day to My Story About Homicide and Garden Shears

Happy publication day to my latest story! It’s the third in the Everyday Acts of Murder series, Gardening, and I’m quietly excited because it’s the first one I ever worked on back in, I think, 2015. I have a sneaky feeling I had the inspiration for it when I was watching a gardening programme, so thanks, imagination…

I’ve planned two more EDAOM pieces, and then I’m going to move on to witches and/or mermaids and/or something else entirely. I keep finding old scraps of stories to improve, but some are a bit too scrappy. Occasionally I’ll find a line here and there that’s great, but I have absolutely no idea what I was thinking when I wrote it. I think I’ll make a rule that whenever I have a brainwave, I’ll transcribe my exact train of thought plus my ideas for the plot, main characters and language, form and structure. With a little date and perhaps a selfie.

One thing I can guarantee, of course, is that your name will be in whatever I publish if you’ve pledged a dollar to my Patreon. I know I keep banging on about it, but a) being given money in exchange for writing has been a substantial desire of mine since approximately 2008 and, b) I have bills that the money could really help pay for. Since I started that other driving-essential job, I’ve got two days free to write and work on my Etsy and whatever (today I also booked my mum a holiday and researched trains to Colchester I’m so versatile). I worked out that, according to the living wage and Google’s exchange rate, 740 people would have to pledge a dollar per month for those two days to equal a day’s work in a company, assuming the company paid the living wage. That’s before Patreon and PayPal take a cut, though, so let’s round it up to 800. I must say it wasn’t the most uplifting bit of maths I’ve ever done… I suppose 80 people could pledge $10. I think for now I will focus on writing good stories and trust that, in time, people will either fall in love with my work or take pity on me.

Tom & Jerry GIF (from Twitter)
This is it, this is the gif of the inside of my soul (from Twitter)

I’m going to go and actually write now (spoiler alert I think the next murder story’s going to be about walking the dog). If anyone has any concrete story ideas that may or may nor accommodate supernatural creatures, drop me a line…

Introducing: A New Stories Blog & Patreon Campaign

Friends, readers, randomers who came here through Google. Let’s talk jobs, writing and money. It’ll be more fun than it sounds.

Last week I got a rejection from a company I really wanted to work for, not because it’s relevant to my career plans but because the job was regular hours, good shifts and relatively well paid. Well, it paid. I’m on one, one-day-per-week internship at the moment, plus an informal one from home and I love it, but I have bills to pay and a mother breathing down my back because you left school three years ago and you haven’t done anything since then, so I’m looking for other work too. When I got that rejection I realised how much I’d been counting on it and how much I loathe job searching in general (you want to torture someone? Have them browse Indeed.co.uk every day for a week. They’ll crack). I’m still looking and early signs are positive, but in the mean time I need something creative to focus on (and preferably something that pays, let’s be honest) or I will go bananas.

I had another look at Patreon, because it’s always been the obvious choice for a writer to raise funds. If you’re not sure what Patreon is: it’s crowdfunding, but on a rolling basis. Instead of pledging, say, $30 once, you pledge $5 a month until you decide to cancel. Like a direct debit, but fun. It dawned on me that the something creative has been staring me in the face. I want to publish some stories and I want to earn some money and hang on a minute why don’t I combine the two?

So I’ve made a new blog, Francesca’s Words on WordPress, where I’m going to upload all the stories I’ve got lying around on a fortnightly basis. I’m really excited to show you all the little stories I’ve been poking around with in the last couple of years, and I can’t think why I haven’t done this sooner. I’m aiming for one upload per fortnight to see how I go, because some drafts need more work than others, but that may well increase to one per week. We’ll see!

Now for the money bit.

Patreon Francesca Burke

If you pledge a dollar per month to my Patreon (which ahem is two stories a month) you’ll get early access to every story and I’ll name a character after you. That’s just the one dollar tier. Depending on your reward tier, you can also suggest story prompts or themes, I’ll write you letters and your name will be in lights forever. Kind of. It’ll be in a blog sidebar. You’ll also have a warm, fuzzy feeling in your soul from directly funding a small, financially insecure writer. You can cancel your pledge at any time, I won’t buy a gold toilet seat with your cash – it would be diamante – and you will genuinely be helping me pay my bills (and if you’re wondering why I need more cash when I run a stationery business: I don’t take a wage from that yet. It’s #startuplife until 2019 at the earliest).

I’m still feeling this all out – it’s been a while since I wrote fiction to a deadline – but I’m tentatively excited. Is that an oxymoron? I’m tentatively hopeful. One of the best bits of my teenage years was uploading fanfictions to the web and seeing what people thought of them – I was a simple kid – and I miss that interaction. I miss writing and knowing people might actually read it. And since this is 2017 and we might all be nuked by Trump and/or North Korea before Christmas, I kind of feel I have nothing to lose by trying. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave a comment. The new blog is here and my Patreon, along with a full list of rewards and info, is here. Let me know what you think. Am I shouting into the void?

Grasping at Straws (okay, leaflets)

Today I spent four hours in a virtual queue waiting for tickets for The Cursed Child, only to spend my allotted twenty minutes of browsing time searching fruitlessly for the right number of tickets on the right number of days in the correct type of seats.

So ‘miffed’ doesn’t really cover it.

Frank Iero gif
from Tumblr

Anyway, the good news: I made some things to help you survive – and, dare I say it, thrive – during the upcoming general election.

Here’s something to encourage the youth in your family to vote:

Students' Guide to Voting General Election 2017

Here’s something to help you all decide how to vote:

Ho Do I Hate Least Political Party Comparison

My constituency hasn’t announced its candidates yet (something tells me the Conservatives will win) but I’m considering the Women’s Independence Party. Or signing up for that Mars mission. You can buy and print those designs here if you want (actual prints are coming this week, hopefully) so you can spread the democracy and all that. I suppose if someone decides to vote after seeing them, or if the shop makes some money on them, the current state of British politics won’t be entirely a waste of human intelligence…