Sunday Update 02/06

This was going to be a post about The Mummy (the recent one which is currently on Netflix). I was going to do an in depth look at the plot structure and talk about how I think some of the story telling decisions lead to it being less successful than expected and potentially putting the kibosh on Universal’s proposed “Dark Universe”.

Then I got distracted by thinking about some of the writing difficulties I’ve had this week and how I probably needed to talk about that instead. I also realised that If I put off talking about The Mummy it gives anyone who’s interested the chance to watch it themselves and see if they agree with me.

So that’s your homework. Watch The Mummy (the 2017 one with Tom Cruise not the 1999 one with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, or the 1959 one with Christopher Lee, or the 1932  one with Boris Karloff).

This week I have actually done some writing and some writing adjacent activity and I’ve been dealing with a couple of recurrent problems. One is a technical writing problem, well a bunch of problems really. The other is an extremely on brand confidence/panic problem.

Let’s talk about the technical problems. I’ve been back at the rewrites of the big fight scene at the end of Project Kindness. It’s not the only thing stopping me from finishing Project Kindness but it is the main thing. Normally I’d count fight scene amongst the things I’m good at but this one is a special case. I’m unsure about how to handle almost everything about it.

The first problem, which I’ve mentioned before, is that it’s a super important scene. There’s a lot of story stuff that has to come together at the same time.

The second problem is how many of the cast are present. There’s three people participating in the fight and a bunch of people watching. One of the participants and four of the spectators have been PoV (point of view) characters in previous scenes and the spectators have stuff that they need to be doing during the fight. That means that I need to manage multiple PoVs within the scene. There’s nothing stopping me breaking it down into smaller scenes but i don’t have much else going on so it’s hard to cut from the fight to another scene elsewhere and then back to the fight with a different PoV which is how I prefer to switch PoV. And since I’m switching PoV I need to work out which characters to focus on.

The third problem is that I’ve made so many attempts to write this scene that I keep getting lost. Did I actually write that bit or did I only think about writing it? Which of these four slightly different versions of this bit is the best?

The fourth problem is the knowledge base problem. I know what butterfly swords look like but I can’t rely on my readers knowing that. How much detail do they need in order to know what’s going on and at what point does all the detail become overwhelming? Am I introducing some of this stuff too late? Should I go back and add additional fight scenes earlier on so that I’m not dumping a bunch of exposition this late in the story?

The non-technical problem I’ve had is with a piece of commissioned writing. It’s a guest blog that I haven’t talked about much because I didn’t want to jinx it. It’s been finished for 3 days now but I’ve been having trouble letting go and sending it in. At first I thought the problem was that it was too long and didn’t have a good title but gradually it became clear that the real problem is my twin fears of rejection and fucking up. I’m scared that it’s no good, or that it’s not what they want, or that they just won’t like it. I’m scared that I’ve written it so badly that they won’t even tell me to rewrite it.

I suspect that it’s a kind of impostor syndrome. And also an entirely rational scepticism about the possibility of anything ever going well for me. Historically things have not gone well for me. I fail at things a lot. Succeeding at things is almost worse because then I have to do more things and when those additional thing fail it’s even more painful.

I’d love to say that I’ve got some sort of insight on how to deal with this problem but I don’t. I just forced myself to hit send on an email and now I’m writing this blog post as displacement activity so that I don’t drive myself crazy with panic.



Let me tell you how my weekend went. On Saturday I took my son to see Infinity War. I was traumatised, I tell you. I’ll talk more about it in another post.

Then I got home to work on my pitch submission and found that my Laptop would no longer charge, probably because the internal socket for the power cable is damaged. So I tried to use the remaining battery life to put in a hurried submission. I did my best and I got something that wasn’t as good as what I would have had if I’d had more time but might have been good enough and I tried to send it in. I filled in the form on the website and it sent me an email with a link to a service to upload my files to XPONorth’s dropbox account.

And that link led to a discontinued service. A service which, according to the copyright date on the page, was discontinued last year. So I emailed XPONorth. And posted on their Facebook page and sent them a message using Facebook Messenger and tweeted about it and mentioned them in the tweet. I’ve heard nothing from them. But I know they’ve seen at least one of the tweets because the official Twitter account liked it.

It would seem that the Writers Pitch to Publishers and Agents event at this year’s XPONorth has been cancelled. But they didn’t do anything sensible like taking down the webpage, disabling the online form or changing the automated email. I have wasted three fucking months preparing for a non existent competition.

And of course my laptop is dead. I hope to get it repaired but that means spending money I shouldn’t be spending. I’m typing this on my iPad which means I’ve had to delete a bunch of apps I was using so I could fit the WordPress app and the Scrivener app onto it. Oh and I had to buy the Scrivener app so I could try to continue work on my novel only the app version doesn’t have the split screen feature that I use to re-write with.

On Sunday I went to Dundee to meet my mother for lunch and chat and a bit of shopping. Well, she shopped. I watched her shop because I need my money for repairing my laptop and buying expensive writing apps.

For some reason my Mother had her laptop with her. I don’t know why she had it. She never mentioned to me that she had it even when I told her about my laptop having died. I only know she had it because that evening, when I was at home, she called me to ask if I remembered at what point she lost it. Well obviously not. If I’d have known that I would have told her at the time.

I’m cursed I tell you, cursed.

If you’re feeling like donating to the ‘repair the computer assuming it can be repaired’ fund then you should use the Ko-fi link. I can’t add it while I’m using the iPad but there should be one on the sidebar or below this post or you could go back a couple of posts to get it. You could also find the link to the Shop o’ Doom in an earlier post. It’s still closing on the 8th of May. Assuming I can close it using the Shopify app.

Things can only get better

Ha Ha. LOL. Nope.

Things can always get worse. That’s one of my mottos. As long as the human race has access to a planet with breathable air then there’s always room for things to get worse. However my personal life has now reached the point where worse doesn’t mean very much.

We had a visit from a couple of Sheriff’s Officers (the Scottish version of bailiffs). They came to inform us of a truly massive debt that we apparently owe to the local council from where we used to live. It was terrifying for about 20 minutes. The stress caused my husband to have the first full NEAD (Non-Epileptic Attack Disorder) seizure in years. We contacted the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Then we found out that we are so poor that they can’t do much to us. We have too little money for them to freeze our bank accounts. We don’t have earnings for them to arrest. We don’t have property to seize. At worse it’s going to mean that our other debts will take longer to repay as it’s a priority debt and thus gets the biggest slice of our financial cake.

The debts will all get paid eventually and that hasn’t changed. My credit rating will be in the toilet until they do and that hasn’t changed. All that’s changed is how long that will take. It’s now slightly less likely that I’ll live long enough to see that fateful day but I wasn’t really expecting to anyway.

I have another motto: Always look on the bright side. If you can’t find the bright side then polish the dark side until it shines.

Just think, if we owned a house or a car or had savings or jobs then this would be terrible news. It would be devastating. But our lives are already in the toilet so it’s just one more thing. This is how you polish the dark side.

The Zeppelins are due on main street

Once again I return to the subject of how messed up everything is right now. For those who’ve missed my previous posts on the subject the title of this one is a joke about how in fiction Zeppelins are often a signifier of alternative reality.

If you’ve studied much history you’ll know that sometimes stuff happened that makes us look back and wonder exactly what Clio (muse of history) was smoking. There was a time when tulips were so sought after that a single bulb could sell for more than a house. There was a time when Britain used opium to pick two fights with China because China wouldn’t sell Britian enough tea and somehow Britain won. There was a time when armed gangs roamed the wild west of the U.S. battling over the remains of ancient monsters . There’s a period of European history (1870 -1914) known as the Great Binge because everyone who could afford it was constantly off their faces with a combination of drugs and alcohol. In 1932 Australia went to war against Emus (actual birds) and lost.

I think that we’re living through one of those periods right now. In the future people are going to look back and wonder if the train of reality somehow jumped its tracks. That’s assuming that there is a future and that the people alive then will have anything to look back on other than a giant crater.

Lets take a look at some of the fun things that have happened in little over a year:

  • Widespread clown panics that suddenly stopped when a man many deride as a clown was elected to lead the United States of America.
  • The British Electorate voted to leave the EU and then the British Government tried to aggressively implement that vote without apparently having any sort of map or plan about how to do it.
  • The Northern Irish Assembly fell apart over a financial scandal, there still isn’t a new Assembly in place, but Northern Ireland voted against leaving the EU so Ireland could be about to reunify? Maybe?
  • Scotland votes to remain in the EU. The UK Government refuses to let Scotland remain without the rest of the UK. The SNP led Scottish Government votes to hold a referendum on Independence (again). The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, calls this decision divisive and says that it’s the wrong time and continues to say that right up until she calls a snap General Election that she had repeatedly said the could not and would not call.
  • In the wake of the election of a reality TV star with zero relevant experience or expertise the US begins a slide into a dystopian failed state. This slide is repeatedly halted by lawyers working for free and judges who’ve somehow become the enemy of the establishment. Scientists steal back their own climate science data before the White House deletes it. The US parks service goes rogue and leads the resistance.
  • The French presidential election is going to be a runoff between a fascist and the representative of a new political movement who is most famous for having married his former school teacher.
  • The apparent terrorist attack on a German Soccer team bus turned out to be an attempted financial scam by stock price manipulation.
  • The government of Chechnya has decided that now is the perfect time for a gay genocide. Presumably they think that Trump will distract everyone.
  • Marco Rubio, previously not a friend of LGBTQA rights, stands up and denounces the gay genocide. Has he discovered that he actually has both a spine and a conscience or this this just because Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya, is Vladimir Putin’s other boyfriend?
  • Russia has built a replica of the German parliament, the Reichstag, so the army could re-enact storming it. There is nothing at all threatening about the fact that the replica is based on the contemporary Reichstag rather than the way it looked in 1945 when the Red Army actually stormed it.
  • Kim Jong Un, the world’s favourite cosplay dictator, is so upset by now being the third or fourth craziest world leader that he has tried to pick a fight with the US. Presumably he’s banking on Donald Trump not knowing where North Korea is and launching missiles at North Virginia instead.
  • In the US the Republican Party narrowly avoids another Government shutdown in the face of opposition from the Republican president and the Republican held Senate and House of Representatives. The Democrats are confused by the Republicans taking the positions as both the party of government and the party of opposition. Democrats may have to start disguising themselves as Republicans in order to more effectively oppose the policies of the President. Or maybe judges. Or Scientists. Or park rangers.

Am I in a coma or something? Is this all a hallucination? The rest of you are seeing this stuff too, right?

Well, this is awkward.

It seems like a lifetime since I last heard good news. Today I found out that, in no particular order, Urban Fantasy book sales are down (so yes I am querying a novel in the wrong genre), my ongoing personal tragedy continues to be both ongoing and tragic (no I’m not talking about it here), the solution to my financial problems that I thought I’d found is probably not going to work and my mother-in-law reads my blog.

It feels like I’m navigating through the darkness by the light of burning bridges. Some of which I didn’t even realise were there until the bastard things caught fire. At this point if my doctor told me I had something terminal my reaction would be, “At fucking last. My problems are almost over.”

Those of you who read this blog regularly will be aware that my last post touched on the experience of finding out that I’d actually managed to underestimate how much my mother-in-law dislikes me. I think it’s safe to say that her reading the blog didn’t help that. Or maybe she’s just appalled that the terrible impression I’ve made on her thus far was me genuinely trying my best. Either way she’s nae happy wi me.

It never occurred to me that she’d read the post because it never occurred to me that she might read my blog because I’m amazed that anyone reads it. Obviously I never would have mentioned her if I thought she was going to read it. Just because I keep finding out what people really think of me is no reason to spread it around.

I think she’s worried that my post might have damaged her reputation but I think that’s unlikely because:

  1. She’s right and I’m the first to admit it.
  2. Anyone who knows who she is and is likely to read the blog is someone I would have told about it in person eventually anyway.

In conclusion, everything is still fucked but some things are slightly more fucked than they were before.



Is it time to give up?

You’d think that dealing with rejection would get easier but it just keeps getting worse.  Every time it hurts more. I don’t know how many more I’ve got in me.

This week I heard back from a New York agent who doesn’t want my book and found out that I haven’t won the Dundee International Book Prize. I had no real expectation that a US agent would be interested in my very British book. I only queried her because she liked a pitch tweet I made as part of a pitch event. I didn’t expect to win the prize because they’re really looking for literary fiction.

Theses rejections shouldn’t hurt. Right now I should be preparing a pitch for a pitch event by a London based agency and a query for an indie publisher that also liked one of my pitch tweets.

But what’s the point?  Whatever mad spirit of optimism persuaded me to finish the thing and send it to people has foundered on the rocks of reality. Nobody wants it. It’s the wrong sort of thing.

It’s a familiar feeling. Which is probably why it hurts so much. Because I’m the wrong sort of thing and I always have been. Every time I get an “I don’t love your book enough to represent it” reply I’m reminded of every time I’ve seen that look of disappointment on someone’s face because I continue to be me.

I think that I was into my 30s before my parents stopped expecting me to somehow, magically, turn into a daughter they could be proud of. One of my brothers learned to be good at disguising that look and the other one stopped talking to me. I don’t see my parents-in-law very often but I often hear that note of disappointment in their voices on the phone. On bad days I see that look in the mirror.

When I was a kid that look confused me. I couldn’t understand why my parents and teachers kept expecting me to be anything other than I am. I realised later that what I am is a colossal fuck up and they were still hoping that I would grow out of it. More fool them.

Now I have to ask myself how many more rejections I’ve got in me. How many more times can I hear “no” before I flip out completely? Do I just need stop trying for a while? Will I be able to go back to pretending that I can deal with rejection like a normal adult if I just have a rest? Or is it time to throw in the towel? As time goes on the book is only going to get less relevant. Maybe I should just sit on it and if I live long enough I can publish it as a historical novel?

Sometimes I hate my imagination.

As I said in a previous post I am in the process of planning this year’s NaNo Novel. I’m writing YA Horror and this poses a few problems for me. I am not currently a Young Adult. I can’t really remember being one very well and none of the teenagers I know will tell me honestly about their experience because I’m their Mum.

Another problem is that the experience of being a teenager is radically different now to how it was when I was one. The types of peril teenagers face is different now. It’s a lot harder to generate traditional horror peril in the age of smartphones. But there are new and terrible kinds of peril that are generated by smartphones and if I get them wrong it will ruin the story for actual teenagers.

Earlier today I had a sudden and terrifying idea. What if I set the story in 1985? I won’t have to worry about sexting and snapchat and whatever apps kids will be using to make each other miserable by the time the novel comes out.

There are just a couple of problems with this.Firstly, I hated the 80s when I was living through them and I’ve gone to a lot of effort to forget them. Secondly, it might be that this only seems like a good idea because everybody loves Stranger Things at the moment.

I really don’t know if this is a good idea.

I am so done with this year.

My computer is a Zombie. It suffered some sort of catastrophic error and wouldn’t start up properly so I had to roll it back to an old restore point. And when I say old I mean 2012.

It’s now running windows but it won’t run much else because it’s stuck with Windows 7, Service Pack 1 which is hopelessly outdated. And it will not allow me to update it. The Windows Update Installer just hangs and any attempt to track down the updates and install them also hangs. We even spent the best part of two days re-installing Windows from a disk only to end up back where we started.

I’m typing this on one of my Mum’s old laptops. She has a surprising number of old laptops. This one is really, really terrible. The processor is pathetic, the 2GB of ram is barely up to running Windows and Chrome simultaneously and the action on the keyboard is appalling. As I type this it feels like the keys are held in place with soggy newspaper. It lags every time I hit return twice. I’ve spent more than 5 hours trying to get Dropbox and chrome and Scrivener working only to discover that I can’t update Scrivener because I don’t have admin privileges.

So instead of trying to get back to my work in progress after days spent dealing with technical -problems I’m writing out this whiny blog post.

I know I shouldn’t really complain. None of my writing is lost because it’s all backed up to Dropbox and Google Drive. I do have an alternative computer. The old one was quite old. Also as a worthless, disabled scrounger I shouldn’t have nice things. But writing is hard enough without having to deal with all the additional crap. And my Steam library is now useless because this piece of crap would have difficulty running minesweeper.

It’s also depressing to be reminded how little money we have now. My computer is probably fixable but there’s no point asking a professional because however much it costs I can’t afford it. I could replace it. I have plenty of credit on my catalog account but I know that we can’t afford the payments. We’re in a situation now where we’re only ever going to have less money than we have today. The amounts coming in are frozen or decreasing and our expenditure only increases.

I can’t see any way of bringing in more money. Even if one of the Agents that I’ve sent my novel out to wants to represent it then it will take time to find a publisher and even more time to see any money from it. And it’s unlikely to be a lot of money.

I really wish I didn’t care about the money. I wish I could live for art. But I have bills to pay.

It is done!

As I write it’s gone two in the morning* and I’ve just sent off a full manuscript to the agent that requested it.

It feels very strange. It’s half anti-climax and half waiting for the other shoe to drop. Well, not quite half. Somewhere in there there’s about 1% of raw excitement that’s fueling the other two feelings.

I hate feeling excited. I don’t trust it. So many times my excitement has only ended up in disappointment. I taught myself not to have expectations for future events beyond preparing for the worst. For years that was good enough to get by on. Then, in 2009, things started to go so badly that I couldn’t prepare for the worst anymore. My definition of ‘the worst’ kept changing. There was no point in preparing for it because there was nothing to be done about it.

I know that I should be pleased. I set out to do a thing and I have done the thing. I just can’t shake the feeling that I haven’t really done it.

Of course it might have something to do with the fact that I can now spend time on all those chores I’ve been putting off. Praise Be! I can finally clean the kitchen. And the bathroom. And the bedrooms. And the living room. And catch up with the laundry. And tackle all those garden jobs I’ve been putting off. Yay! This isn’t sarcasm.** Its just what Scottish people sound like when we’re excited.


*I’ve scheduled the post to go out in a few hours when normal people are awake.

**I lied. It’s totally sarcasm

The good news and the bad news.

I’ve written several times about a pitch event that I applied for and how I was only doing it to get used to rejection because I was sure that they didn’t want me. Only things didn’t go according to plan. The deadline was extended after I submitted my work and that meant I had to wait much, much longer for my rejection.

In the end I got so sick of waiting that I contacted them. I told them that since I’m disabled (true) I have to plan my travel in advance (true) and I was running out of time to do that (also true) and could they please let me know if they wanted me to pitch. They got back to me the next day to tell me that I’m pitching my novel at 12:50 pm on Wednesday 8th June.

Shit. I was totally not expecting that. Now I actually have to write a pitch. Now I actually have to speak to people face-to-face. I have to sell my novel and myself. I also have to get myself to Inverness on a tight budget.

It might seem strange, given my obvious self esteem issues, but I’m actually pretty good at speaking to people. I’m just shitty at selling myself or anything I’ve made. I’ve worked in sales and if you have a product I believe in I can absolutely sell it for you. I’ve represented organisations I love and I’ve done it well. But when it comes to speaking up on my own behalf I really suck.

It doesn’t help that I’ve spent so much time staring at the novel in question that it’s ceased to have any meaning. I couldn’t tell you for sure if it’s in English never mind if it’s well written.

Wish me luck?