Not All Those Who Wander

A blog about SFF books, both reading and writing them, by an aspiring writer

Reading Stuff
rats, Billy
Because work and writing are eating my brain, and because I don't want to blog about either of those right now, I thought I'd say a few words about books I've been reading lately. Three books spring to mind as being ones I've really enjoyed recently, so:
  1. Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson. I know, I know - this is about ten years old now. I finally got round to buying a copy this year though and I definitely didn't regret it. This is what I call grown-up fantasy: politics, magic, gods, history, complex characters, none of which felt to resort to cliche. And, on a similar note...
  2. Empire in Black and Gold - Adrian Tchaikovsky. A much newer start to a fantasy series, but one which utilised a similar mix of politics, magic and empires. At least, it felt similar to me - these things are always subjective. I loved Tchaikovsky's world building, including the combination of magic and technology that seemed well thought out. Admittedly, I didn't find the plot quite as compelling as that of Gardens of the Moon, but I've read that the sequel (Dragonfly Falling) is even better than Empire in Black and Gold so I'm really looking forward to reading it.
  3. The Drowning City - Amanda Downum. Another debut novel (my shelves are full of them - it's a rare writer who persuades me to read a whole series, simply because I love discovering new writers, new worlds and new characters so much). This one was quite different to the other two, with a roughly Asian setting and three female POV characters. Honestly, finding so many female characters, let alone viewpoint ones, in fantasy remains quite a big deal (which is sad, but I don't want to get into that right now). Anyway, I loved this book. It reminded me a great deal of one of the novels I finished working on recently, only better. Quite a lot better. This is what I want my novel to be like, though - compelling and beautifully written and not set in pseudo-Medieval Europe and full of strong, complex female characters.
Anyway, that ended up being longer than I anticipated (and full of things in brackets - what the hell happened there?), so I will finish by recommending all three of these books. They're all awesome.

And by saying that I went to see Swallow the Sun play last night and they were also awesome. Scandinavian doom metal FTW. Although they probably shouldn't have called their new album 'New Moon'...

Minor Accomplishments
rats, Billy
I've been thinking today about the average number of things I accomplish in a day, or a week, or a month. Take today, for example. I've run errands in town, cleaned out the rat cage and played with the little critters, written 300 words, baked a cake, done some housework, read, played Final Fantasy X. Nothing major really, which is probably why I never feel like I've accomplished much on my days off. But then I started thinking about all these activities a bit more closely and realised that I'm actually getting quite a lot done.

I'm working about 30 hours a week at the moment, going up to full time hours from next week until after Christmas. I've never had a job with so many hours before - I only worked a handful of hours a week before uni. Work in itself is quite an achievement, but I'm also finding time to look after my pets, spend time with Ash and with family, read and game and watch TV, keep the house clean and make sure we don't run out of food (not that Ash isn't helping - he's pretty much taken over the cooking and washing up as I'm rarely home before 7pm). And then there's the writing.

That figure of 300 words masks the fact that I passed 10k words today. It's taken a couple of months: I'm down a great deal on my previous 1-2k words a day. 10k words in two months also isn't that much compared to most published writers. Still, how many non-writers will produce 10k words of any kind (outside work - let's not forget I'm doing all this writing in my free time, for fun) in a year, let alone two months?

So, accomplishments. On their own, they may look tiny and inconsequential, but put everything together that I manage to achieve and my life is pretty full. I'm guessing the same could be said for a lot of people and that's a pleasant thought.

An Update in Three Easy Parts
rats, Billy
Ok, I've finally caught up with blog reading and emails and all that other stuff that completely went out of the window when I started my new job. As a consequence, I can start updating here again. To kick off, here are the three most important things going on in my life right now.
  1. Rats. Unfortunately, I've got to start out with bad news. Poor old Billy, who's up there in my avatar, passed away on Saturday night/Sunday morning. He looked to have just fallen asleep in his usual spot in his cage and just not woken up. Suffice to say, both Ash and I were pretty upset but we're just glad that Billy had a long, full life and what looks to have been a very calm, pain-free end. We'd been really spoiling him these last few weeks as he seemed to be getting slowly weaker. The fact that he looked so peaceful when we found him on Sunday just confirms to me that we'd been looking after him as best we could.
  2. Writing. I'm at something of a crossroads with my writing right now. I'm working on a novel (perhaps the third or fourth this year?) but I'm also considering what to do with the novel I finished earlier this summer. I feel it's almost at publishable quality and I want to keep looking for an agent who's interested in it, but I also keep wondering whether I should do another full edit before I send it out again. It's been a couple of months since I've properly looked at it now, so maybe another edit with fresh eyes would just kick up the quality another notch. More updates as I decide what to do.
  3. Work. Without going into too much detail: work is getting busier and more stressful, but I'm still enjoying it. The sheer thrill of working with books all day has slightly diminished, but I can't really imagine a retail job I'd enjoy more. Which is lucky, as I start on full-time working hours from the 22nd November. Yep, Christmas is approaching and it's going to be busy.
That's all for this update. I'm going to see 'The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus' tonight so I'll try to get a brief review of that up in the next couple of days.
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Terribly Behind and Not Catching Up
rats, Billy
According to LJ, it's been three weeks since I last updated here. In fact, it's probably been three weeks since I've caught up on blog posts or RSS feeds or Twitter or any number of internet related things. At the moment, most of my time and energy is being devoted to my new job, which doesn't always require me to work a huge number of hours, but includes up to two hours of travelling time every day and has different working hours every week - hours that I often know only a few days in advance.

I decided when I started my job that I was going to devote my free time to keeping up with my writing and reading. So, I've been planning a new novel, working on edits for another and doing plenty of reading ('Gardens of the Moon' by Steven Erikson at the moment and before that 'Living Next Door to the God of Love' by Justina Robson), as well as looking after the rats and doing all the usual errands and housework. All of which means that the internet has completely fallen by the wayside and that I've barely been near my computer in weeks.

I am hoping to rectify this. My working hours this week mean that I should be able to update LJ more, probably with observations on diving into the edits of my WIP and plotting and scheming over a new novel - a novel that is potentially the biggest, scariest and most ambitious thing I've ever attempted.

Finally, it occurs to me that NaNoWriMo is coming up. I didn't even attempt it last year but did finish the year before. Right now I'm considering whether I could have enough of an idea for a novel put together to do it again this year. Possibly, and the idea is very tempting... But I think I need to give it a bit more thought.

Success! Finally!
rats, Billy
I feel like I've been updating this blog with nothing but bad news recently. Endless rejections, both in job-hunting and agent searching, have been about the only thing worth noting here. Finally though, I have some good news to report: I've been offered a part-time job in my local bookshop, starting next week! Hurrah!

There are downsides, of course. It's only a temporary position, working until 7pm to begin with and I'll have to work over Christmas (I'm expecting both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day). Still, it's about 20 hours a week, which was exactly the sort of hours I wanted to work. Even better, I'll be getting paid to spend time in my favourite shop in the whole city, working with books. Mmm books...

This may actually be the last time I post about the job though, other than to note my start date next week. I don't want to rant all over the internet about customers and certainly not about members of staff. I may post a few general observations about working in the bookselling trade, but that's about it.

And now I'm going to go do something productive to take my mind off work-related jitters. I wonder if I can get the current novel first draft finished in a week?

Rat Update
rats, Billy
As the little critters are taking up so much of my time at the moment, I thought I'd dedicate a whole post to them. First up: Sage and Basil. These two are proving to be incredibly hyperactive and difficult to handle, but also friendly and curious about everything. Although they're not keen on being picked up, they will now run towards me when I enter the room and will voluntarily jump on my knee and climb all over me. Great progress, in other words.

Billy continues onwards at his own slow pace. He's been to the vet today after ripping off a claw, so the fun of trying to feed antibiotics to a rat starts tonight. He's also been introduced to the two little rats, with a bit of squabbling but generally disinterest. They think he's the most exciting thing ever - Billy has barely deigned to notice they exist. We're taking their introductions slowly, but hopefully they'll all be living together in a few weeks.

As for me, I continue onwards with writing and job-hunting. Am feeling mildly optimistic about one of the jobs I applied for this week, but other than that there's not much to report. Now, I'd better go check on those rats and make sure they haven't chewed their way through a wardrobe leg yet...

Bloodstock 2009
rats, Billy
Well Bloodstock metal festival has been and gone for another year. To say I was a bit dubious about whether I was going to enjoy it this year, I actually had a really good time. Made better, of course, by the fact that I could come home every night and sleep in my own bed and have a hot shower in the morning. I hate camping. Anyway, here's the quick round-up.

Expected Highlight Bands
By which I mean 'bands I was really looking forward to seeing and who were as good as expected'. Namely Katatonia and Battlelore, who both had short sets and sound problems but were great anyway. Turisas were also as entertaining as usual, though there seemed to be less music and more talking in their set.

Unexpected Highlights
There were a quite few bands that I didn't expect much of but which turned out to be very good: Satyricon, Candlemass, Saxon, Sabaton and Anathema. Actually, I quite like Anathema but thought they'd be boring live and liked Satyricon a few years ago but wasn't sure I still would. We also saw a small, relatively unknown power metal band called Celestine, who were a great find as the festival as a whole was a bit lacking in power metal this year, much to my disappointment. Finally, the best vocals of the weekend came from a female singer in an unsigned band called Into The Woods, although the rest of the band's music was fairly uninspiring.

The sheer number of thrash bands, for one thing. Whatever happened to Bloodstock being a power metal festival? We avoided most of them anyway. Other than that, we didn't really see any terrible bands. Moonspell were quite boring though and Equilibrium just sounded like a German version of Finntroll. And apparently Cradle of Filth walked off before the end of their set because someone threw a cricket ball at them, but we'd gone home by then.

Other Highlights
Watching an impromptu poi demonstration in the middle of the crowd whilst Europe were playing. The Polish bloke who was convinced he was the Statue of Liberty. Surprisingly good food. Excellent stalls, particularly those selling CDs and jewellery. Other amusing crowd antics. European singers who sounded more English than I do. Great weather and fantastic music and an even better atmosphere.

The long trek between the car parking field and the festival ground - a bit annoying when we were going back to our car every night and it also made it difficult for all the campers to carry their gear to the camping grounds. Getting mild sunburn. And, of course, festival toilets.

All in all, it was a great weekend, which proved once again that you really don't need to go all the way to Germany to find a great metal festival these days. Yes, Bloodstock is small by European standards (I think something like 10k people compared to Wacken's 60k) but the festival seemed well organised and the atmosphere was really good. Once again, the music and the great people reminded me why I got into metal in the first place and rekindled my love of the whole genre - quite a feat, considering how fed up I've been getting with it lately.

Rejection Season
rats, Billy
I can't believe it's a whole week since I last posted. August is going so damn fast. Anyway...

This last week has been one filled with rejections: queries sent to agents, short stories sent to magazines, job applications. Everything has come back a negative. I'm going to take a few days away from submitting (I hate the feeling that checking my email is some kind of adrenaline sport) and then start sending things out again at the start of next week.

In pet news, our two new baby rats arrived last Thursday. They're tiny and white and so incredibly cute. Also still a bit nervous and not too keen on being handled, but they've grown in confidence immensely over the weekend and I'm really pleased with their progress. We're calling them Basil and Sage, for the record. Once they're a bit more friendly, I'll get some photos posted.

Finally, other things I've been up to: having a trip to the beach (somewhere in the region of a 180 mile round-trip but so worth it), teaching myself HTML, reading loads (currently on Principles of Angels by Jaine Fenn, which I'm really enjoying) and of course lots of writing. I'm averaging around 10k words a week at the moment, which feels phenomenally fast but I don't actually have anything else to do with my time.

And that's it for now. I'm going to be at the Bloodstock metal festival this weekend, so hopefully it'll stay sunny. And if it doesn't... Well, we're going to get very wet.

DIY, Writing and Pets
rats, Billy
It's been a busy couple of weeks here with lots of real life stuff that's been keeping me away from the internet. Primarily, it's been home improvement time: new carpets upstairs, lots of painting and even more moving of furniture. Slowly, the house is going from student-ville to something a bit more attractive and pleasant to live in. What rocks more than anything is the fact that I now have my own office. Ash and I finally moved our desks out of our bedroom (which looks strangely empty) and into the two, smaller empty rooms. It's nice to be able to close myself off when I want to do some writing.

Speaking of which: I've been all over the place recently, writing-wise. I've started three completely different novels, writing perhaps 30k words between them all and yet I just can't decide which to work on. At the moment, it's a YA fantasy that's taking up most of my attention. Whilst painting, I had a whole load of major characters and their situation pop fully formed into my head and, now that I've started writing, the whole thing is going incredibly smoothly. Everything about this story seems to fit together with ease (well, for me anyway - the characters are having a much harder time!) and writing it is great fun, so I'm taking that as a sign that I could keep working on it.

Finally, some rat news. We've been in touch with our local pet rescue, who have been round to check our cage arrangements and have decreed that we are suitable to adopt some new baby rats. Now we're just waiting to hear back from them - hopefully we'll be picking up two new, 9 week old boys next week.

And that's it for meaningful news. The weather here has been appalling - cold and wet enough to be November, for weeks on end, so we've mostly been staying in and working hard. Well, I have anyway. Ash has been playing Dawn of War instead.
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Home Alone
rats, Billy
So, this past few days Ash has been down in London at a design show where he's been able to display his work for potential employers to look at. With five days with the house to myself and no distractions, I thought I'd get plenty of work done. What have I really managed to get done? I've read the first Harry Potter book again. I've watched a lot of TV. I've played a lot of Guild Wars. Blergh.

Ok, so I've done a lot of planning and making notes for a potential novel. I've also written a couple of thousand words on various things and sent off another job application. Still, I seem to have been far less productive alone than I usually am with Ash around.

Yup, I've been pretty bloody useless. Never mind though - Ash gets back today so I'll probably start writing 2k words a day again. It's strange how I work harder the less time I have. Perhaps I should take up another hobby.


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