Currently I have six yellow-tailed black cockatoos hanging out in my suburb. Haven’t seen them here before, so it’s a bit exciting!
“I have a split personality,” said Tom, being frank.
Over the past few years, I’ve gotten better at putting setting into my novels. Better. Haven’t nailed it yet.
It is quite hard judging how much setting readers need when you are yourself not one who needs much at all. I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned how I tackle the issue!
So, for the curious, the secret is: beta readers. I know, you probably thought it’d be something more exciting, but in truth knowing your beta readers and knowing which ones read like you and which ones read differently, is the way to go.
Usually I don’t get beta readers involved until 2nd draft – which in my nomenclature is a very clean draft – and with any luck that means the next editing pass is almost totally setting. Of course there’s often other stuff too, but if I can focus on a “setting/worldbuilding” pass at that point, I’m happy.
Indestructible has been through this process now and after some excellent feedback from a good writer friend, who kindly beta read for me, I’m feeling pretty good about starting the next edit. Not that I’m allowed to until I’ve finished the edits on the novellas…but it’s a treat in the future!
Day 16 we farewelled Wales, but not before wandering around Rossett and having a snack in Chester on our way back to Manchester airport!
In a tourist booklet in our accommodation in Caernarfon (pretty sure it was there), we found a place called the Glassblobbery advertised. I love glass blowing so it snuck onto the itinerary! So this was the last tourist thing we did in Wales, visiting their little shop:
At Manchester Airport it was way too hot, way too busy and everything flying seemed to be delayed! The one positive was finding my favourite beverage was available…
We arrived in Dublin over an hour later than scheduled and were, I think it’s fair to say, on the exhausted side! (Maybe the emotional turmoil of saying goodbye to Claudia the car?)
We did, though, remember to pick up our 3 day bus pass so we could not only get to and from the airport but could get the hop-on-hop off bus! So we headed into the city on a bus, and found our accommodation. Then we literally went two doors down to a bar and had South American tapas-type-meal.
Of all our accommodation on the trip, Dublin’s was definitely not the best, but it was the most incredibly positioned! We only had two days to see as much as we could, so being within spitting distance of the river meant we could walk anywhere we wanted to. That was awesome.
After being a sneaky, sleepy little writing daemon for a few weeks, it would seem daemon is back. This is a good thing because we have A LOT of editing sitting waiting to be done. Starting with some troublesome novellas…
Novella one – for the record – insists on being boring. Not sure why, but it does. So I’ve gotten out the pruning shears and we are now ruthlessly clipping out all extraneous sentences. Which I suspect I’ll regret later, when I realise I’ve removed a bunch of foreshadowing etc. Something had to be done though… the BORING was just too much.
In good editing news, I inspired daemon to get back into editing the novellas by making him read Indestructible and wince at how bad our last round of edits were there! Ahem. Methinks we were both a little fatigued by February. 2019 was a bit of big year, afterall. So we’ll be editing that this weekend, too.
I’m enjoying being back on the editing trail though. Even when you have an oh god why can’t I write moment/s, there something satisfying about knowing all the work you’ve put in already is translating, incrementally, into a solid piece of fiction. Which someday, people may even read!! *chuckles*
Well, I know someone will be reading Indestructible soon, because I asked them to. And we’ve done a draft swap so I’ll get to help them out to!
Have I mentioned that the novellas have a “Goldilocks problem”? One is too long… you get my drift I’m sure. The thing is, I’m not even sure it matters if they’re different lengths (within reason). It may simply be offending my love of symmetry…
Just think… this time last May I was in Wales! In fact we were finishing our stay in lovely Llandudno and were checking out Conwy Castle in the rain, on our looping way to Caernarfon. We’d grown used to our car, Claudia, and were letting Miriam (the GPS) guide us around the country. Aaah, the memories.
But that was day 5 and I’m talking here about day 15, so what was happening then? Well, we were spending our last full day in Wales obsessed with… books. Books. Books. More books.
I mentioned in my last Wales post that we stayed in another funky B&B in Glasbury, and it too was appropriately book themed:
Other than the B&B the main reasons to stay in Glasbury are 1. The River…
And 2. Being very close to Hay-on-Wye, famous for its bookshops!
Hay-on-Wye, even if you aren’t there during their book festival (we visited just before), has book sellers of all kinds with shops for children, crime, poetry and lots of second hand. One of my pleasures at Richard Booth’s was finding these books of Star Wars trading cards, which my brother and I collected as kids. It was such a random, unexpected thing to open one and realise that what it was!
Not everything in Hay-on-Wye is books though… there were a few antique shops that I could have tripled the volume of my luggage shopping in (really great range of things)!
My favourite pic from Hay was this, because however you read it, it seems like a secret code!
Of course, there was also icecream. Because… icecream & also it was sheep’s milk icecream which seemed appropriate for Wales.
I had ginger and something else which I now don’t remember because the ginger was so delicious.
Then we drove onto Rosset – another small town – for our final sleep in Wales. Highlight was definitely dinner at the Alyn (named for the river Alyn that flows behind it) where our last dinner in Wales was served on… slate.
You may be wondering whether we came straight home from Wales…? No, we went to Dublin! So the remaining part of the story will be titled a little differently.
Most of us know that there are low levels of prejudice in our society, usually wrapped up in stereotyping, or old jokes. It’s not aggressive, or intended to harm, so passes without comment. We see it, we hear it and sometimes we’re the one saying it.
I’m just often surprised by how pervasive it is, but I do experience a few pretty consistent reminders.
For example with sexism and my love of cars. The bulk of the people I interact with day to day through my work are people who wouldn’t think of themselves as being sexist. Yet over the years I’ve constantly been asked why I go to car shows, and have pictures of exotic cars on my wall or computer.
My first thought each time, is that if I were male they’d just assumed I liked sports cars, or at the very least the question would be “why a Maserati?” instead of “why a car?”.
In recent weeks, being on video calls so much and my study wall being adorned with a pic of my favourite car, this question is being asked again. Along with comments about how I don’t seem the type, or it’s a random thing to have hanging on the wall etc.
What does a person who likes sports cars by Porsche, Maserati, Lamborghini and Lotus look like? What does a woman who likes them look like? Well, me actually! Though I’m only one person; one version.
The most striking thing, is that over the years I’ve had maybe one person anyone ask “so you like cars?”, which to me would be the obvious assumption if someone is choosing to decorate their world with images of cars.
My writing daemon appears to think that the current situation is a holiday. Or rather, he seems to think that just because I’ve been busy at work, he can sneak off for a nap. This is exactly what happened from mid-March through to today! Sneaky blighter.
On the one hand, we’d been writing and editing at such a consistent pace, I’m totally cool with having a break (particularly as the work busyness is actually helping people out where I work currently). On the other hand, there is a bit of “these novels won’t edit themselves you know”.
Of particular worry was the suspiciously easy negotiation writing daemon and craft daemon entered into about whether I’d weave another scarf right away or focus on writing… writing daemon usually only gives in to “scarf time” when he’s been shot with a tranq dart by the other one. This time he negotiated and gave ground. Hmmmm. I think this was more “nap time” dressed up as good daemon behaviour!
So, other than the fact I did start another scarf, I am now also going to pin down writing daemon and see if we can take a bash at removing the extreme boring of N1’s opening chapter.
Aah, which is something I haven’t mentioned here on the bloggy… I re-read all the novellas. Would you believe N3 is near perfect? Yep, the one that gave me ALL THE PROBLEMS is now fine. In good shape even. And which one is hot mess? N1. The easy one. *imagine me throwing my hands up*.
It was funny reading the opening of N1 and getting about half way through the chapter, stopping, turning to writing daemon and saying “are you bored? because i’m bored”. He nodded.
I’m not sure I’ve ever written such a boring chapter before. Of course it had to be the very first one! So now, for the fixing. AKA the chuck out chapter 1 and rewrite it entirely differently.
Today, as I sit at home like so many people around the world, it’s quite nice to look through my photos and remember Wales last year! My travel buddy from that trip has been in isolation for week after returning from a sailing trip in Thailand, so I’m sure she’ll enjoy reliving a less stressful trip too…
So day 14 we were up early and at our lovely, funky hotel we got to eat breakfast in a fancy restaurant attached to the place (all this hidden down a little arcade!) and I fell in love with the egg boiler.
After breaky and check-out we went into Cardiff to visit the markets, which was nice because we got to walk back through some of the area we’d visited the night before. Also, I finally tried Welsh Cakes!
The market was quiet because things were just opening, but it was great to see a market like this surviving in the 21st C. So many of them have closed!
From Cardiff we drove to Caerleon to enjoy their many roman ruins! They have a barracks which is why they also have a bathhouse and an amphitheater! So much roman-y goodness.
From Caerleon, we moved on to Raglan Castle. Our last castle for Wales! Aside from being huge, it really does show the status of its inhabitants in its scale and complexity. Again, so many photos to choose from but I’ve picked just one I really liked.
Raglan Castle was the most expensive stop of the trip for me, because when my travel buddy went to find the loos and accidentally ended up climbing a tower instead, that left me waiting the in gift shop just long enough to buy a Clogau pendant. Ahem.
From Raglan we headed off to our next accommodation at Glasbury, and we went through the Brecon Beacons for some amazing views from Black Mountain.
We stopped for a rest and there were ponies… lovely critters. I may also have decided to have an icecream which I then regretted all the way down through the windy, windy road out of the Brecon Beacons.
Glasbury is a teeny, tiny little place on the Wye river where we stayed in another funky hotel, in the attic room! I didn’t love the stairs but it was worth it for how cool the attic room was.
The only sad part (for me) of the day was that I’ve always wanted to go to Abergavenny, because… well… it’s possibly the most fun place name to say in all of Wales. I’ll admit that’s why. I have no shame. Sadly the GPS decided it was faster to go around Abergavenny, so now I’ll just have to go back to Wales some time and visit it!
My PAR novel, is about a post-pandemic world. Not exactly like Covid19, but not that different either. Which feels weird, because now I have a book that’s going to seem like it was written in response to the current crisis, but wasn’t, and I have no idea what the right time is to release a book about something similar to a global event when the real world version is destined to echo long and loud.
Not that PAR is finished – I’m still at 2nd draft – but it’s not that far off being ready. I suspect it’ll be ready long before I feel comfortable publishing it. Though, that depends on what happens to the global economy I guess. It mightn’t be as bad as we think. I suspect the mortality and trauma will be as bad as we think, given we have some evidence of what to expect there. The economy? Well isn’t that always 90% guess work!
This is not the first time the world has overtaken my writing. But the other time only involved the name of a beverage. Somehow, just doesn’t have the same scale…
The other weird thing about having written PAR – though no doubt also because I read a lot of history – is that this doesn’t feel “unprecedented” to me in the way it seems to for many other people.
Read accounts of the Black Death, and nothing happening now will surprise you, I think, though they make me feel extremely grateful this thing isn’t so deadly!
But, in the context of PAR, I’ve spent a lot of time imagining a pandemic like this. Which is, of course, the weird stuff we writers do.
Thankfully, PAR is only partly about the aftermath of the pandemic. Well, I say thankfully, on the assumption that I’ll still feel like this matters when it’s ready to go out into the world. It might not. Today’s lens on the world is highly distorted by the collective anxiety of the human portion of that world!