The Bittersweetness of being on Book Deadline

I’ve often found starting something to be the hardest part. It’s like I have two settings: no focus and hyperfocus. As such, deadlines are both my best friend and worst enemy.

My husband, as a gamer, is often trying to find games that I can enjoy as much as he does. One I had a go at, on his recommendation, was Fable II.

Now, for those who aren’t familiar, this particular game includes a few in-game mini-games. (For those who have no interest in gaming and are waiting to see where I’m going with this, hold tight a second. I’m getting there.)

So, as well as the main Fable quests you can make money on the side by chopping wood, pouring pints, and forging weapons. These are tasks you have to really grind at (a concept I hadn’t heard of before, in terms of gaming). To get anywhere, you had to get into the flow of repetitively doing the same action again and again for actual hours at a time.

When Steve first told me this, I was not impressed. “That sounds like work,” I said, “Not entertainment.”

He said he enjoyed it, so my first go ’round, I got him to do it for me.

By the time I actually figured out what I was doing with the game in general, I decided to restart it all from the beginning so as to get right some parts I now knew a little about. On this occasion – mostly because Steve was asleep at the time, and I was low on coin – I began to do the wood cutting myself.

Lo and behold, five minutes into it, I found a rhythm. ‘Maybe this isn’t so bad,’ I thought, and I carried on. Once I got my first star, I was encouraged. I kept going. Kept grinding. And by the time I had my full five stars in woodcutting, I also had a real sense of achievement.

It was rare that I would have stuck to anything that long – my attention span really can be an issue at times, have I mentioned that? – but I went on to complete the two other grind tasks as well.

Recently, I have been reminded of those times playing Fable as I work on book two in my trilogy, tapping on keys to hit a specific word count each and every night in a row. Continue reading

Thoughts on #OwnVoices

I am a bi/pansexual person with non-visible disabilities. Five years ago, I hadn’t come to accept either of those things about myself. In the first case, I was repressed, and in the second I was ignorant.

Ten years ago, not only was I not the feminist I am now, I was very vocal against certain rights for women. (Yes, I hated myself. It’s a potted history.)

Do you know what helped? For the most part, educational Tumblr posts.

Seriously. From the more liberal parts of the internet I not only learned some pretty key things about myself, but also a level of self-acceptance I had never experienced before.

As I hope these points illustrate, talking about issues outside of the ‘norm’ helps real-life people in real ways. Whether it regards race, sexual orientation, disability, disfigurement, or anything else.

Perhaps ‘issues outside the norm’ isn’t the best way to word that, but I can’t think of a better alternative. Part of the problem regarding said issues is that the terms have become politicised. People don’t always have the right words. Other people get offended. It becomes a bit of a shitshow and the main points get lost.

A prime example of this has been the recent Twitter drama regarding the ‘Own Voices’ movement. Continue reading

On Accessing (and not accessing) Healthcare

I’m gonna start this post, right off the bat, by saying I am in full support of the UK’s National Health Service and all they do. It’s a crime (or at least it bloody well should be) the way it’s been systematically underfunded for years, leaving waiting lists ridiculously high and people, quite frankly, fucked.

Today’s post is a personal one, because today, I am one of the people being fucked over.

I need to rant and vent, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. The problem isn’t truly the NHS, it’s those bastards in parliament trying (and in many cases succeeding) to gut it.

Disclaimer made, let me now rewind to explain why I’m upset.

I’m just off the phone with Occupational Therapy, who have told me – in essence – that they can’t help me. I had gone to my GP about a long-standing issue I had, seeking her advice for the best way to go about getting officially diagnosed and accessing help.

She told me I needed to self-refer to O.T.

Now that I’ve tried that and gotten nowhere, I am – precisely – nowhere with zero clue of what to do next. Continue reading

The Accidental Chihuahua

I’m quite convinced my husband and I have the smallest dog in the universe. Here’s the story of how we unintentionally acquired him.

It was the day after boxing day and my cousin Kim, who is quite genuinely one of the most fascinating/hilarious/brilliant human beings in the aforementioned universe, was driving to Dublin to drop off her son with his father.

She invited Steve and I along for the drive and we said yes. It was going to be an early start, and we were both quite tired from all the festivities of the past few days, but it sounded like a fun mini adventure.

Kim said she’d pick us up at six.

At half-seven, when she still hadn’t arrived, Steve went to bed.

I stayed up, knowing she’d show up eventually – this was classic Kim.

And lo, another two hours later, a car appeared in the street. I stepped out of my house at the same time Kim opened her car door and placed four tiny paws on the footpath in front of me.

“This is Beans,” she said, “He’s coming too.” Continue reading

Summary of the Last Ten Years

I’m about to turn thirty. I’ve been saying that, with increasing degrees of panic, since I turned twenty-six, but now it’s just ’round the corner – on Saturday.

That’s right. In a few days, I will have been alive a full three decades and will be starting on my fourth.

I’m still not sure it’s fully sunk in yet, but I’m at least freaking out less.

Part of me knows the angst surrounding getting older is nonsense. Numbers are arbitrary and nothing can be done about them anyway, so what’s the fuss? That’s the logical part of my brain. The illogical part is hiding in a cupboard somewhere weeping. So long as it’s not at the forefront right now, I don’t mind so much.

Socially speaking, I think the pressure put on women, in particular, to stay young (or, at least, stay looking youthful) is fascinating (not to mention entirely unfair and infuriating), but I’m not going to get into that here. It’s a discussion I’ve subjected my husband to several times already, and you clicked on this post to read about the misspent years of my twenties. I wouldn’t want to disappoint, so here’s a bullet-pointed list.

  • Ten years ago, way back in March 2009, I was living in Lincoln and had been for about a year and a half. I was nearing the end of my second year at university and swiftly coming to terms with the fact that I had picked entirely the wrong course. Despite uncertainty over what to do next, however, I was fairly happy. I had a good social life and was living in a decent place. 2009 was the year I met my best friend and was, up until more recently when I found love, one of the happiest years of my life.
  • 2010, by comparison, was hell. Continue reading

Afeared Afresh

Back in February last year, I wrote a blog post aptly titled ‘The Fear‘ in which I talked about how, after several years of trying to finish a novel, I was on the verge of doing just that and was scared sh*tless. Said fear was making me drag that last little bit out longer than it ever needed to be.

Writing the blog post helped.

I finally finished writing the book.

I got even more positive feedback – my writing mentor said it was “good to go.”

It was May by that point. I sent the novel out to an agent that very month and considered the issue resolved. I had got past my hesitation. All was good, right?

Well, I submitted to a second agent in July and then, inexplicably, stopped.

To be completely honest, I had gotten so caught up with other things, I hadn’t even realized I’d stalled again. When I opened my list of agents recently, I was horrified it had been so long since I had contacted any of them. Then, when the horror wore off, I found that old fear hiding underneath.

I hadn’t dealt with it, I’d just put a lid on it and left it on a shelf for a while. Continue reading

PitMad March 2019 Results

Yesterday – Thursday the 7th of March – was the latest round of #PitMad, a Twitter event in which novelists pitch their books to agents and publishers. I had dabbled in the past, deciding last minute to take part without giving it a lot of thought.

This time, I prepared. I pre-wrote my tweets. I scheduled the date in my diary. I double checked the timezone difference. (PitMad being mainly an American thing.)

Do things like this actually work and secure people publishing deals? Sometimes, yes.

Someone – last year I think it was – shared information of what they tweeted and how far they got with it. I find it fascinating to look at this data alongside success stories and crunch the numbers.

Naturally, I put together some stats for my own experience. I wondered if there was any point in sharing it – it’s a fairly niche set of information, of importance really only to me – but, hey, why not? I found that other person’s findings interesting. If no one else connects with this post, no harm, no foul.

But enough preamble. Continue reading

On Letting Go (and Holding On)

My best friend and I used to squabble a fair bit. At the point in my life when we got close, during university, I was socially underdeveloped and incredibly oversensitive. My friend had street smarts but sometimes lacked empathy.

We’d squabble, but we’d always sort it out. It was never long before we’d be sharing jokes again because, despite our differences, we loved each other.

We still love each other, even though she’s living on the other side of the world and we haven’t seen each other in literal years.

She’s still my best friend (outside of my husband). She’d probably hate how soppy this all sounds, but our relationship is actually stronger now than it ever was back when we saw each other every single day.

But that almost wasn’t the case.  Continue reading

My Writing Journey (So Far)

How long have I been writing? It’s a simple question, but the answer is… not. In fact, far from being simple, the answer isn’t singular. There are a number of equally accurate responses, depending on what kind of writing you’re talking about.

In the bio that I share about myself all around the internet, I say I’ve “been writing poetry and short stories since primary school and been blogging for over ten years.”  Which is true and works well as a summary but, by its very nature of being a summary, leaves out some pretty key details.

I mean, everyone writes stories and poems in primary school, right? For class assignments if nothing else. It was just that I never really stopped.

I focused on poetry in high school. In the five years I was there (2000-2005), I think I wrote about 100 poems total. Some might consider that not many, some might count it as a lot. I guess it doesn’t matter either way because most of them have been lost (some intentionally and some inadvertently) in the years since.

In college (2005-2007 | ages 16-18), I don’t think I wrote anything other than a metric shit-ton of coursework.

My very first ever blog was made in February 2007, but I only got a couple of hundred words on there before I swiftly forgot about it. It was 2015 that I found it again, during a random Google search.

My time at university (2007-2010) was when I really got into blogging regularly (if not all in the same place).

2009 was the year I first attempted National Novel Writing Month, for which I completed a grand total of 216 words.

In 2011 I started writing posts for other blogs for free. (I mean – ahem – exposure.) And had my first ever poem published in an anthology – which turned out to be by a vanity publisher (not that I knew what that was).

I also signed up for a workshop with Nicola Morgan. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a real turning point for me.

Continue reading

Letter to my Body

Dear Body,

We have a lot to talk about, you and I. I barely know where to begin, but I think it’s fair to say that this won’t be the last letter I write you. Call this an introduction then, if you will.

I suppose we should address the elephant in the room: I didn’t like you for the longest time. It would have actually been fair to say that I hated you.

I’m sorry about that.

The thing is, I simply didn’t understand you and had been told a lot of lies about what you were like without taking the time to find out for myself. Growing up wasn’t easy on either of us – I don’t rightly think it’s easy on anyone – but it seems we’ve had more difficulties than most.

I know now that I’m not lazy and ugly, but I believed that for the longest time. I’d been so convinced I was grossly overweight to the point that I thought trying to do anything about it was pointless, and that led me to developing habits that led to weight gain! Self-fulfilling prophecy much?!

For a lot of years, I’ve felt broken and wrong. Maybe the broken part is true, but – KEY THING HERE – it’s not our fault!

Body, you are disabled. Literally, you have syndromes and disorders that stop you being able to do certain things. That’s annoying, but it’s not a personal failing.

Like I said, there’s a lot to unpack here. This is only me scratching the surface. Just know that I’m going to listen to you more, and I’m going to be nicer to you.

– Love, Ellie