You Are What You Eat Read

At the Day Job I meet a lot of interesting people. And by interesting I mean people who have punchups at the service desk, entitled crusties who bring 60+ items through the 15 or less counter while berating anyone who dares to tell them they can’t do it, and that bloke who always comes in with striped thermals under his  knee-length shorts. (Seriously, I love that bloke. I get a kick out of seeing what colour stripes he’ll be rocking each time).

Then, of course, there are the ones who are interesting for a different reason. Quite often as I’m putting a customer’s groceries through, it’ll come out in the conversation that I’m a writer. The conversation then usually veers in one of three directions.

  1. Customer is VERY interested, and wants to know what sort of thing I write. When told that I write YA and NA Fantasy (most particularly rewritten fairytales) they ask to know my name so they can look me up. They are thereupon given my card.
  2. Customer is interested, and confesses to reading quite a lot, but not usually fantasy/YA etc. Depending on whether or not they are also interested in blogging/self-publishing/etc, I may or may not hand out a card.
  3. Customer wishes to tell me ALL THE WISDOM and let me know exactly how I should be writing, what I should read to be successful, and that I should give them my phone number so they can encourage/mentor/teach me the ways of life. (None of these so far have actually been writers, just rather pompous but kind-hearted individuals who genuinely seem to care about my growth). They make me want to back away slowly, but mean no harm. I try to avoid giving them my card.

This afternoon I had one of the less off-putting interesting ones. We had quite an interesting chat about The Classics (which he wanted to know if I had read, and was kind enough to approve when I said that I had— well, some, anyway). He then wished to know which classic authors I enjoyed. Of course, I mentioned Austen, Dumas, Scott et al, which he seemed mildly pleased about. I was on the right track, he said. We then moved on to Shakespeare, where we had slightly differing views on his tragedies (I find them highly amusing, and full of rich themes like hope and love and forgiveness).

Then he asked if I had read Kafka, Dostoyevsky (yes, I had to Google it to find out how Fyodor_Mikhailovich_Dostoyevsky_1876to spell it) and a few others that I either didn’t recognise or found vaguely familiar but was uncertain of their body of work. When I confessed my ignorance, he smiled kindly and said that I was going in the right direction, but that I should broaden my horizons. I agreed generally, but said that some of the classic authors I didn’t enjoy at all; to which he replied that reading them wasn’t about pleasure, it was about broadening the mind. Sometimes, he said, you have to force yourself through them: they’re heavy going, but worth it in the search for illumination (my paraphrasing here).

That got me thinking. As a writer, everything I read has an effect on me, even things that I really dislike. In one way or another, every book I’ve read has contributed to my ability as a writer, even if that contribution was how not to write. Sometimes I’ll dislike a set of characters and love a setting. Sometimes I’ll greatly admire a plot and dislike everything else about the book. Sometimes I’ll just hate a book so much that I can only think of how I would have written it AND NOT RUINED IT. In one sense, therefore, reading for the sake of broadening my mind and my skill isn’t to be lightly dismissed.

I do not, however, tend to continue reading things I don’t like. I don’t read just for the sake of broadening my mind. I read for pleasure. (With the exception of Christian authors like Sibbes, Spurgeon, Goldsworthy and others, whom I read both for pleasure and instruction). I’m not even sure that I should read merely for the purpose of broadening my mind. If there’s no love for what I’m reading, why bother? Even when I read biographies and autobiographies, I read because I’m interested in the person, and thus could still be said to be reading for pleasure. I’ve gotten past the age where I feel that I have to be able to proudly proclaim that I’ve read this great author or that famous poet: I feel quite happy in proclaiming that I read for pleasure.

Will I read Kafka and Dostoyevsky? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. But I’m pretty certain it’s going to be because I want to, and not because I should.

Mistakes I’ve Made This Week

  • Calling a woman ‘sir’ at the dayjob. In my defense, she was wearing bloke’s jeans, huge sneakers, a bloke’s flanny, and had short back-and-sides. And I only saw her from behind, in my peripheral. Still . . .

  • Waiting so long to read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I was gonna try and finish up the book I was reading before I began, but I’d heard such good things about it that in the end, I couldn’t help myself. Now I’m sorry I didn’t start on it first. It’s simply wonderful so far.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. NOT my cover, unfortunately. It's lovely.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. NOT my cover, unfortunately. It’s lovely.

  • Eating maybe just a teensy little bit too much chocolate. Okay, I overloaded on sugar. But it was in a good cause, because the hubby was forcing me to watch Vampire Diaries. Which brings me to . . .

  • Being inveigled into watching The Vampire Diaries. Aarrrgh! My eyes! The soap! Seriously, either Elena needs to stake both of the boys to stop having to INTERMINABLY CHOOSE BETWEEN THEMor the boys need to cut Elena in half so they can each have a piece. I mean, it’ll be bloody, but they’re vampires. They love blood. WIN/WIN.

  • Not drinking enough tea. I need to drink more. Tea is the great relaxer; comfort and contentment all in one lovely warm cup.

  • Messing about on the internet instead of writing. Oh boy, did I do this! Someone may need to stage an intervention.

Must  . . .

write . . .

must . . .

finish . . .


  • Twisted my ankle while carrying the washing outside and down the stair. Yes. Stair, singular. Just one step. And I managed to twist my ankle on it. Huzzah! I’m half-way to Mary-Sue YA heroine status already!

How ’bout you guys?

Busy, Busy, Busy

It’s been a busy week. And now that I’ve written the word ‘busy’ five times, it’s looking really weird to me. Maybe I need a nap.

But I digress.

It’s been a busy week. My proofs for Wolfskin came in (finally!) but since they’re late arriving I have only a week and a half to check and correct. So there’s that. Then there’s the last 5000-odd words of Spindle that need to be done by next week if I want to keep on target with that particular deadline. And then there’s Memento Mori (the second volume in the Time-Traveller’s Best Friend series). I’ve only just begun it, and though I know roughly what the story arc for the collection will be, and have a few titles and ideas for a few of the stories, I still need to write the thing. By August at the latest.

With all these deadlines, you’d think I’d be madly at work on one or all of them. No such thing. I also got a new idea for a Short Thing for Weekly Fiction’s Open Call For Submissions. Naturally, I started work on that, with a little bit of editing and proof-reading around the edges. Fortunately, Wolfskin is proving much less complicated than Masque was. I seem to have caught most of the errors and inconsistencies and missed words before this point (does that mean I’ve advanced a level? New Power! Error-Free Gained!) and it’s really mostly a matter of a tiny change here and there.

Added to all the above is a busier-than-usual week at work, coupled with an annoying surge of my favourite companion, Meniere’s Disease.

I may just quietly go mad for a while. Don’t mind me. It’s a self-chosen madness after all.

What about you guys? Who else has a murder of deadlines? (Well, what is the group word for many deadlines, anyway?) And are you actually working on them?

10 Things I Hate Love About You Writing

I don’t say this enough, but I love writing.

It’s sometimes excruciating, often frustrating, and frequently exhausting. And it’s always satisfying.

Pic from

There are days when I have to scrabble and scratch for every flamin’ word, glaring into the middle distance for inspiration. There are days when my fingers can’t fly across the keyboard fast enough to keep up with the flow of narrative, and I forget to do simple things like eat and drink. Then there are the days when I can see the whole thing so clearly, but each paragraph is a burden to type out; whether the problem is distraction, laziness, or exhaustion.

I wouldn’t give it up for the world. So without (much) more ado, here are the Ten Things I Love About Writing.

  1. I get to create my own worlds. Ever since I first read The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle, I’ve fantasized about what I’d make if I could create my own world ex nihilo. It’s probably why I loved Age of Empires so much.  

  2. I had a horrible boss once. Threw stuff at me. Bullied all his staff. Trotted his huge bulk behind me every move I made in order to try and catch me doing something, anything wrong. One of his favourite past-times was asking me every day as I wrote through my lunch break, ‘If he was going to be in my books’. Well, yes. Yes he is. I doubt he’d recognize himself, but it’s him all the same. Don’t annoy me, people.

  3. It’s perfectly permissible for me to listen to the voices in my head, and to document what they say. Admittedly when I start randomly snorting with laughter in the supermarket aisles, I get a few strange looks. But by and large, I’m safe.

  4. People buy my books. Guys, there are people out there I don’t know, who are reading my book! That’s the most surreal, delightful feeling you can imagine. And some of them love my books enough to tell me how much they love them, which is embarrassing and scintillating all at the same time.

  5. I love words. I love building them, taking them apart, studying them in different languages. I love crafting sentences with the right balance and the right nuance. I love creating rhythm and punch. I love discovering words like susurration and pulchritude and weasand. (Why, yes: I did use to read the dictionary when I was ten, why do you ask?)

  6. The more I write, the more I appreciate well-written books. (This has a downside, in that I have far less patience for badly written books; but then, why waste time on bad books when there’s so little left for good books?)

  7. Being a writer makes me look at things differently. It makes me look at people differently. Bottom line, it makes me look. It makes me pay attention.

  8. I’m never bored. Never. No matter if I’m stuck on a train or a plane or a bus, I can write. In fact, some of my most productive time (i.e. undistracted time) is when I have nothing else to do but write. I don’t understand the people at my dayjob who complain that an hour is too long for lunch. By the end of my lunch hour I’m usually typing like fury to try and get that last sentence in before I have to go back. My daydream time is precious to me.

  9. I have the most amazing dreams. Seriously. I dream in very often in whole stories, sometimes in vignettes, and even sometimes in snatches of character interaction. The trade-off is that I have very realistic nightmares; simple, terrifying, and entirely life-like. From these nightmares I frequently wake screaming, and only realize upon waking that I was, in fact, asleep. It’s worth it. It’s worth it for the euphoria every time I fly, or discover a forest city, or experience a whole world, background and story in dream. Heck, I’ve even had a subplot in one of my dreams.

  10. The sense of satisfaction is amazing. There’s almost nothing better than the feeling of achievement I get when I’ve beaten my personal record for words per day; or finished the first draft (or better still, the last) of my current WIP; or even finally arrived at that wonderful, euphoric day- publication day. The act of writing itself, is intensely satisfying. The difficulty is in stopping.

I may never reach a point in my writing career when I can quit my day job. I may become rich and famous overnight. I just don’t know (I can dream, but I don’t know). And I’m okay with that. My books are out there. There’s more where they came from, and the exercise of writing itself is so fulfilling that I don’t think I could give it up if I tried.

What about you guys? What do you love about writing?

Laziness And Self-Publishing, And Stuff

I’m lazy.

That’s one of the first things I learned about myself as I was growing up. You know the kid that goes to the toilet before it’s supposed to do the washing up and just never comes out? Yeah, that was me. (It’s still me, except I’ve figured out better ways to skive off work than shutting myself in the loo with a book.)

So one of the things about self-publishing that’s hit me hard is the amount of work. To be honest, it wouldn’t be that bad if it wasn’t for the full-time (and by full-time I mean 40-55hrs a week) job. There’s just so much stuff to do. Yanno, stuff stuff. It’s not even real writing stuff. It’s stuff like hanging out on Twitter to connect with people (and getting carried away ‘cos suddenly you’ve met this awesome person who’s at the same place you are, and writes these really fantastic stories), or figuring how to promote your book/s, or trying to discover exactly how Goodreads works. (I mean, seriously, I JUST figured out how to Twitter!)

And that’s before you consider the hours of writing per day, sandwiched into my lunch break, or before work, or after work. Then when I get home, there’s the housework to do.

I’m lazy.

I don’t want to have to do all that. Only it’s so satisfying when it comes out right, and the book’s published, and you can get on with the next book. It’s satisfying to see the follower count for my blog go up. It’s satisfying to find out that having a Twitter Follow-Me! box is worth the time and effort to install. And it’s really satisfying when someone else downloads one of your books.

Still, I’m pretty pleased with my foray into self-publishing so far. I’m loving the level of control I have over my own book. I’m loving the fact that I can publish on my own schedule. And I’m loving all the fantastic people I’m meeting along the way.

I’m lazy, but there are some things that are worth working for.

Adventures In Retail: ‘Tis The Season (Or, The Fight Before Christmas)

I don’t wear a Christmas shirt to work (a long story where I got kicked out for wearing a shirt that had Christmas Scripture verses on it) but I do wear a nice, tiny, red hat with green ribbons. It’s my pride and joy this Christmas. It’s perky and fun and jingly.

Christmas Hat

I was wearing it today when I got back from lunch, tilted at a rakish angle above my bun. When I got back to the service desk (which I run with a rod of iron) I was informed that a woman in one of the checkout queues was about to have hysterics as she claimed she’d been assaulted. Crazy Cow 1, hereafter designated CC1, was in the line with her four or five year old son, who was packing groceries onto the belt like the awesome little kid he is, while she shook and hyperventilated and gasped: “Where are the cops? He assaulted me, last time he broke me jaw!” and similar.

I understand that the cops have already been called, so I sit CC1 down on the bench in front of the service desk while I help the kid put all the groceries through. When that’s done, I sit with both of them, continuing to assure CC1 that I won’t let her (cousin? boyfriend? both?) attack her, and that the police will be there soon. All this time, let it be understood, CC1 is shaking, gasping, and having hysterics, while her awesome kid is sitting there being cool about the whole thing.

The police are busy, it seems, and twenty minutes after they were first called, haven’t shown. CC1 shows every sign of going into a rage-induced fit, so I think it best to call the cops again, who tell me they’re awfully sorry but they’re very busy and they’ll get someone out to us when they can. So I’m on still the phone with the cops when an older dame (Crazy Cow 2, or CC2) approaches CC1. She looks bogan but relatively clean. I think she’s going to comfort CC1.

No such luck. CC2 speaks literally four words to CC1, who then proceeds to leap onto the bench she was sitting on, and start screaming at CC2 to get away from her. I’m on the phone to the cops, remember? Well, not for long. CC1 is dancing about on her bench screaming: “Get away from me, get away from me!” which CC2 evidently takes as provocation, because she starts swinging. Then CC1 starts swinging. Me? I’m in the middle, shoving CC1 away from CC2, and CC2 away from CC1. Imagine the air rent with screams and profanity and inarticulate rage.

My phone, of course, is sent flying. Ah heck, I think. There goes my brand new phone. CC2 is trying to punch me in an attempt to get to CC1. CC1 is leaping on my back in an attempt to get at CC2. My scarf is torn off and flung aside, with my battered badge somewhere under the Christmas tree. Awesome Kid is sobbing on the bench, scared to death.

By the skin of my teeth I keep them apart until someone hauls CC1 off my back, which reminds her that she’s meant to be the victim, so she goes and hides in our toilets. (Leaving Awesome Kid behind, BTW.) I’m shouting as loudly as I can for CC2 to get out of my store, which she eventually does, leaving me to pick up Awesome Kid and cuddle him until the cops show up- about thirty seconds later. CC1 has forgotten she has a kid, so I keep cuddling Awesome Kid until everyone is bundled into cop cars and hustled away (another half hour).

By this point I’m sporting strangulation marks around my neck, am feeling bruises that won’t come out until tomorrow, have lost my scarf and badge, and am feeling like I fought the battle of the century.

But you know what? My hat stayed on. This is a fighter of a hat, ladies and gentlemen. I was sure it was gonna get knocked off, tearing out handfuls of hair as it did. They tell me that at one point I was just a tiny hat bobbing around in the middle of the scrum. But against all the odds, my little hat survived. If that’s not the fighter’s spirit, I don’t know what is. It deserves to live again next year.

To everyone out there in retail at this time of year, good luck. I hope your days are uneventful and your customers wonderful. To everyone else: try not to start fistfights at my service desk. Thanks. I appreciate it.

Merry Christmas.