Sunday, 23 December 2012

2012 Highlights!

So, thank you to everyone who took the time to read my 2012 and reflections, both parts 1 and 2 (despite the massive typos! I guess I was more tired than I realised!).

Although I have already given a blog/journal account of all the awesome things from this year, I figured I would now share with you some highlights with some pictures and links!  Some are just little experiences with a photo, but most involve either my fiction writing or articles I have written for EGL Magazine under my pen-name, Blackavar.

I'm listing them in chronological order- enjoy!

Interview with Alternative Model and Proud Geek Delilah Sixthessence
This was an interview I absolutely loved doing- Delilah is not your typical alt model by any means, but she was an absolute pleasure to work with, and her interview came at a time when I really needed a boost of positivity!  Love this lady, she's smart, talented and just lovely!

Visiting Camden Town, London
A Mecca of sorts for gothy and alternative types in the UK, I finally got to visit and explore Camden for the first time back in April.  My initial exploration was short, as I was actually there to see Emilie Autumn perform at the Electric Ballroom, but only a month later I was back to have a proper adventure- and my, what a wonderful town!

Reviewing Emilie Autumn's "Fight like a Girl" album for EGL Magazine
As Emilie Autumn is one of my favourite musicians, having the opportunity to review her latest album this summer was absolutely amazing.  You can read the review here, at EGL Magazine:

Interviewing Emilie Autumn for EGL Magazine
So you can imagine if I was excited to review Emilie's album, you might be able to also imagine just how happy I was to be granted the chance to interview her shortly after the review!  This was an amazing experience, because it almost felt like having a chat with her over tea!

Publication of "Alone in the Dark", Siren's Call Publications
My first publication- my short story "Alone in the Dark" was selected to appear in SCP's bi-monthly eZine, August edition, Dark and Edgy Horror (Issue 4).  Its about a frightening experience I had in my teens and the contemplation of what truly lies in the world about us.  As my first publication, this was amazing and very exciting for me!  The eZine is available to buy from the following link:

Reviewing The Birthday Massacre's "Hide and Seek" album
The Birthday Massacre are my favourite band.  I had been eager to listen to their new album, "Hide and Seek" and had it on pre-order, so imagine my delight when I was given the opportunity to hear it early so that I could review it!  Another amazing honour- now I can't wait for TBM to return to the UK so I can see them live again!
(Fun fact- I'm listening to this album on repeat as I write this blog post!)

Publication of "Candlelight", Crooked Cat Publishing
This October, I appeared in print! In a physical, actual book that sits on the bookshelf!  My short story "Candlelight" is about a brother and sister and their experiences in an unpleasant, old Victorian flat, and appears in Crooked Cat's FEAR Anthology Volume 2.  The proceeds of both volumes of the FEAR anthology go to charity, and are available from Amazon.

My First Tattoo!
Another personal, non-writing highlight, but just in case anyone missed the picture, I just wanted to show it off again! :3 The image is taken from the film adaptation of Richard Adams' "Watership Down", and is the Black Rabbit of Inle, also known as the Black Rabbit of Death.  Apart from the Birthday Massacre's bunny logo, I can't think of a gothier bunny!

Acceptance of Paid Submission
Until publication dates are confirmed, I'm going to keep this one somewhat quiet, but I recently had another short story accepted- this one for a paid anthology.  The story has been sent to beta readers at the moment, and publication is set for next year!  This one makes me a "professional" author now, which led me to put "writer/artist" as my work details on my Facebook account, haha!  I won't say too much just yet, but I can tell you that this short story is a Steampunk-themed horror!

Publication of "Oiran", Siren's Call Publication
My latest publication is another short story for SCP's winter eZine, "Frozen" (Issue 6).  "Oiran" is a chilling ghost story based on the Japanese legend of the yuki-onna- but with a twist!  Frozen is available for free download as a Christmas present from SCP to their readers!

Hope you enjoy the linkies, please do support the SCP eZines, a lot of fantastic, talented writers also appear in their pages!  I hope you enjoy my written works, be they fiction or articles.

Christmas Eve is tomorrow, so if I don't get to update before, I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

(All images are mine, except the FEAR anthology Volume 2 cover, which belongs to Crooked Cat Publishing)

Saturday, 22 December 2012

2012 Reflections of the Year- Part 2

Positive Reflections

See, I promised a happy Part 2!

There was a point where I didn't think I'd be able to look back on any of the early of events of this year and feel good about them.  The only thing that seemed good to me at the time was the epic night at Reptile for New Year's Eve.  I'm the type who likes to find omens and meanings in the things around me, and I think at the time, I had hoped that the amazing NYE would signify an amazingly happy year.  Two months in, I was already wanting to just go hide out on another planet for the remainder of 2012. 

But does unhappy really mean...unimportant?  Insignificant?  Just about all of the bad things that have happened seemed to have had goodness come from them.  Hence why the other day, the saying "one door closes and another opens" really has stuck with me.  That and the imagery and symbolism of a phoenix, rising from the ashes. 

I have not named the tattoo studio where I briefly apprenticed, out of respect to the artists.  But I can say that I don't feel distraught thinking about that now.  Although for a time, the idea of being a tattoo artist was something I had really latched onto, other opportunities have presented themselves to me, and while that path may well remain open in some form, I am not torn up any longer over what happened.  While I still think the shop manager handled the whole thing very poorly, I instead choose to remember the amazing positives that I gained from that time.

For starters, the fact that my portfolio was given such good feedback.  Both tattooists liked my work, and the lady tattooist, Caz, actually described me as "lovely", which made me blush.  I learned a huge amount about setting and cleaning up work places- already affiliated with the ways of the Dettol (thanks to a mother with OCD ;) ) I don't think I did too badly in keeping everything sterile, and both tattooists seemed pleased with my efforts.  I even got to handle some of the machine parts a couple of times, and even poured out ink (without touching the cup!) and little things like that.  I absolutely failed at photoshop (and hated it) but I did prepare an extremely elaborate Transformers Optimus Prime stencil for Casper (the same guy who tattooed my uncle) and he was impressed.  I later learned that Casper doesn't like to be crowded and the fact that he had insisted I sit right next to him to watch my uncle tattoo was something of a privilege.  I don't actually feel any bad feelings towards the artists, and in fact feel really grateful for the time they gave me and the patience they had.  I was something of a nervous wreck and convinced I was screwing up constantly, but they were very lovely!

I even bumped into the shop manager at work recently and managed a smile.  It was nothing personal, I have to realise that.  It wasn't that I had done anything wrong or whatever.  It was just poor luck.  And I took a lot of knowledge and feedback from the whole thing.

Losing my job may well have been a very good thing.  Sometimes I find myself missing some of the good times we had (and despite how unhappy the job had made me, there were some good times) but now I feel like I can look back on my time at Peacocks with some more positivity.  I'm still in touch with the people who I enjoyed working with and with the negativity behind me, things are better.  At my current job, I have more hours therefore more money.  The working environment is far from perfect, but there are more pleasant people in my team than unpleasant, and having the extra money not only means I can put aside my future with my fiance, but also experience a level of social freedoms that I hadn't been able to enjoy before.  In the new year, I'm going back to Reptile, and staying over in a hotel- not a big deal for most, but I have honestly never gone to a hotel by myself before, and I'm looking forward to the mini adventure.  I have been to London about five times this year, mostly to Camden, but also other parts, and this is something I would have done once-in-a-blue-moon before. 

In fact, realising I can look back on the Peacocks years with more fondness than I had expected has made me look back on previously difficult periods and realised I have moved on from those too.  My years at college, my ten-year-friendship with someone who went on to totally betray me (what is it with ten-year friendships falling apart eh? lol).  I don't feel the same bitterness I did before.  This indicates to me that there is hope for the problems I'm dealing with now that are ongoing- my fall out with my former best friend in particular.  At this point in time, I am still so angry with her that even though I am convinced I'm doing the right thing, reminders of her make me seethe.  I'm hoping this will soon pass, and it seems like it can.

I have been surrounded by a circle of amazing friends this year, who have showed me what real friends are really like.  Some are people who I've known for a couple of years and have grown closer and closer to during that time, some I've only met this year.  Some I've known for a fair few years and their steady presence in one way or another has shown that even if you don't see them everyday they can still be a part of your life.  Some of these friends I mainly only speak to online, a couple I might bump into once in a while.  I find myself even more eager to make time for all of them, where possible.  I think I'm actually more active than before...I somehow came to believe that texting your mates every week or so asking if they're free for a coffee was pestering or hassling them.  They've assured me either by saying outright or just by their actions, that this is not the case.  Even more have surprised me by showing just how good friends they are.  The support of the redundancy, the cock ups, my mum's illness and also in my successes has made me realise that I have a lot more people I can rely on, and I actually hope that they can feel they can rely on me too, if need be. 

A lot of you chatted to me when my mum was ill, left well-wishes and messages of support.  A couple of you even kept in contact with me while the paramedic was in our house assessing mum, and while she was in A&E.  You have no idea how much this means to me, you know who you are.  Thank you x

There's not a lot that really came out of mum's illness that I can say was a positive per say, but I do feel it brought me closer to my folks.  I would like to think my folks got to see that I can be a reliable adult.  My dad and I, I think, also grew closer this year. 

Also forgot to mention, but mum's menopause reversed (skip this paragraph now for womanly medical shit lol).  The hormonal treatment was designed to actually kill off her ovaries, as they said Bob the fibroid was basically feeding off them and getting bigger.  She was then due to start HRT after the hysterectomy.  However, during the surgery, they found the ovaries had totally survived the treatment (to be honest, sounds like it failed, as Bob actually grew bigger during that time) so they left them in.  It was something of a relief for her, as she had feared a massive personality change due to the hormonal changes.

I definitely appreciate my parents more, and have been endeavouring to provide them with an awesome Christmas...not sure if I'm suceeding right now, but they seem aware of my efforts and are appreciative of them :)

My anxiety disorder became a slight problem over the summer (for many obvious reasons) but I feel I am starting to take control of it again.  I do feel that I becoming somewhat more independant, although I am also around more and more people. 

Before moving onto writing, over great experiences of the year have inlcuded *deep breath* going to Camden, interviewing some amazing people for EGL magazine, my first time at a fetish club, spending more time with my friends, and of course, getting my first tattoo!  My Black Rabbit of Inle tattoo has so much symbolism and meaning to me, and the more I think about it, perhaps it can even some up this year.  It is a rabbit psychopomp, it represents something very dark and scary- but also very necessary.  Things must end so new things can begin.  I was so scared when I was sitting down to get it done, but I actually kinda enjoyed it, and can't wait for another!

Now onto writing.  I really do feel like the move forward into actually getting published has been the best thing about the whole year, apart from all my friends being so amazing and awesome (! You guys rock! :D).  I've been writing for years, always with the dream of getting published, but not really knowing how or when that would occur.

I think things really started in June, when I had decided to enter Fantasy Faction.  I totally procastinated until the last minute, and had something like 2 hours to finish the story for the deadline, complete with edits.  I was actually going to give up and left a very whiny, self-berating post on Facebook about it.  But a combination of supportive comments from friends, and the character refusing to be abandoned, I ploughed on for those 2 hours, edited it as best I could, and submitted it, 3 words away from the limit, 42 seconds before the deadline!  It was such a rush, exhilirating, but very intense.  I didn't win, but the fact I had completed the work and submitted it on time became a turning point for me.

My good friend Angeline then linked me to several different submissions and before you know it, I was writing my little heart out and submitting this and that.  Not everything has been accepted, in fact there are still a couple of pieces of that have not yet recieved any feedback (whether it be a yes or a no), but when my short story "Alone in the Dark" was selected for Siren's Call Publications eZine, I was estatic.  It hasn't stopped there.  Since then, Crooked Cat Publishing accepted "Candlelight" for their FEAR anthology (that one's in print!) and yesterday Siren's Call Issue 6 went live (for free download) and features "Oiran".  I also have another submission that has been accepted, going through beta readers at the moment, and will be in another anthology soon. 

I really feel this is the way forward now, but I have to work hard and knuckle down on it.  It may not seem like much, but my photo, bio and story are now printed in a physical book, and I will have another one in yet another physical book very soon.  And I'm still working on other submissions and waiting on others.  But I feel confident that if I focus, I can make some headway on this.  For the first time in months I've felt very artistic again as well, and if I'm not writing, then I'm drawing (I've even designed wedding invitations for my aunt and uncle).  It may not seem like much, as I said, but you have to start somewhere, and if you'd told me this time last year I would be a published author of even just some short stories by now, I would have just snorted.

I feel like so much is possible right now.  I don't even like my job much, but that discomfort also serves to drive me forward, encourages me to be the next JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman.  The day I go into a Waterstones and see a book by Laura E Brown on the shelf, I'm just going to dance around like crazy.

In a song by the Birthday Massacre, they say "We'll never see the light till we step into the dark."  I guess I've learned that bad things sometimes just have to happen before anything can improve.  I do feel that something about me has changed this year.  I've gotten so much out of this year.

I have a lot of people to thank.  I will try and remember as many of you as possible.  (I'm sorry if I forget anyone! Its not a dig!)

Mum and Dad, Harry, Lilith, Angeline, Alana, Kim, Louise, Duane, Flo, Abby, Sophia, Unky Danny and Aunty "Ricky", Brian, Kyle and so many others!

There will be a part 3, more self-publicity type stuff with links and stuff ;) and picture, but its all happy, trust me.

I actually feel like I'm forgetting some other happy stuff.  But for now, I move onto my "resolutions".

I don't actually believe in New Year's Resolutions, not really, but as I've come to this point, it seemed only right to think about whats next.  Well, obviously, writing and art.  I want to get as many stories published as possible, and I also aim to complete my novel that I've been working on for literally YEARS next year.  I feel like I can actually do that.  I also intend to spend more time with my amazing friends, experience more new, fun things, and one of my regrets of the past year was having to let belly dance take a back seat since September, so I intend to pick it up a bit more from January onwards.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year

(Image is taken from the film, Watership Down- I do not own the bunnies, they belong to Richard Adams.  Or rather, Frith ;) .  I have that image tattooed on my back now!)

Friday, 21 December 2012

2012 Reflections of the Year- Part 1

Negative Reflections

You are more than welcome to ignore this post altogether- the following one, is the important one, but Part 1 will be looking at all the negatives experiences of this year.  Part 2 is the redeeming part of my reflections on 2012.  But it does explain just how hard the year was, and why the positive experiences and achievements have even more significance for me.

2012 appeared to have begun beautifully.  Both at work and at home, Christmas 2011 had been a wonderful end to a lacklustre year, and I spent New Years' in London- the first time I'd gone away for NYE- with friends at Tower Hill's Reptile.  Also, shortly before the end of 2011, I had decided to bite the bullet and had mailed letters to various local tattoo studios.  I was prompted by an experience from the autumn, when I had accompanied my uncle when he got a tattoo I had designed for him inked.  Caspar, the tattooist, had been impressed with my design (a dark, twisted take on the classic Superman logo), and had suggested I take up tattooing as a profession, even going as far as inviting me to sit close by and watch what he was doing.  The experience had been encouraging and I had decided to try and pursue it.  Shortly into the new year, I recieved a reply from that same studio, inviting me to show them my portfolio.

I had only expected feedback- that was all I had requested- but was told that my work was good, and that they would like to meet the other artist at the studio before making a decision as to whether or not to take me on as an apprentice.  This having far exceeding my expectations, blew me away.

Work's atmosphere had decayed somewhat- a disagreement about agreed booked holiday dates and the threat of losing entitled holiday days had left me angry and disheartened.  At the time, I worked for Peacocks PLC.  Christmas had been nice, but the stress of my manager's lies and back-tracking on her word (I still believe that she was hoping to confuse me into doing what she wanted, hoping I was stupid enough to take her word on it) regading my booked holidays to see my fiance* were becoming too much.  I started to break out in a rash at this point.

(*My fiance and I are in a long distance relationship- I live in the UK, and he in the US- and we see each other once a year.  Frankly, trying to fuck around with my already-booked holiday dates is a good way to make an enemy of me).

But when I met the next tattooist, the meeting went very well, and I was then offered an apprenticeship.  With a career in tattooing looming on the horizon, I figured my time at Peacocks was coming to an end anyway, and started trying to find new work.  Little did I know how right I was.

It came as a shock to everyone; even the media followed the story closely.  When Peacocks PLC went into administration, a month of stress and awful uncertainty followed.  We tried to continue as normal, and for the most part, I think my colleagues and I supported each other, but irate and unsympathetic customers didn't help at all (nor did hearing we might not get paid).  And even though I had been accepted as an apprentice at the studio, I was plagued with an awful worry, convinced that everything was going to fall apart at any given moment.  With disagreements at work about changing my hours to accomodate my apprenticeship, the stressful working environment and my fears of failure, the rash suddenly exploded into full blown stress-induced eczema.  I was covered from the chin down in red scales, I felt like a reptile.  I took to dressing like Rogue of the X-Men to hide my skin.  I certainly felt like a mutant.

(We think it was eczema, but we're not entirely sure.  At one point we feared German Measles when my mum broke out in something similar but nowhere near as severe about a week after I finally cleared up- but whereas German Measles typically lasts 3 days, I had over 3 weeks of being an itchy little bunny lizard ; _ ;  I did try calling the doctors to try and have it confirmed, out of fear of passing it on, but the awful receptionist- who will be mentioned again- just treated me like I was wasting her time.)

Somehow, that time passed.  I remained on edge, but the rash eventually receded, and I began to feel hopeful.  Even though I was feeling incredibly awkward at the studio, and feeling like I was an utter screw-up, I was learning a lot.  Work was still a major pain (namely, my twisty manager), so I have to admit that a part of me really did hope for redundancy to be free of those problems.

When that day finally arrived, however, I didn't celebrate.  There was a strong sense of relief, yes, that my years of problems at this company were now at an end, but it was covered by a blanket of solemnity.  It was the most surreal experience; putting up the closure signs in the windows, cleaning up the staff room, knowing that this place where I had worked for 5-and-half years I would never return to.  Despite having wanted to leave, money was a major concern (especially as I would only be paid £20 a day at the studio), but sympathy for my colleagues also added to the sadness of the whole event.  We didn't even get a proper chance to make our farewells and part ways.

Despite the good and the bad, it certainly was the end of an era.

I knew something was wrong the next day at the tattoo studio.  I told the shop manager about the redundancy, and she was more awkward than ever, saying I had to go home early due to her having trouble procuring the insurance to keep me on the premises.  The artists seemed to have no idea about that.  I was sent home very early, after only a few hours, not at all failing to notice the manager's peculiar behaviour.

When I recieved a bluntly-worded email the next morning, I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was devastated.  The shop manager informed me that they couldn't get the insurance full stop, and couldn't keep me on.  She wasn't particularly apologetic in her email, or sympathetic.  I am sure she meant no spite, that she had taken the coward's way out and hadn't been able to tell me to my face the previous day, but she certainly could have had more heart.  Over the next couple of days, she also informed me she would not be paying me for the days I was there and had trashed my designs.  All of this was needlessly painful.

So with no job and no prospects, things certainly weren't looking cheery.  The only thing I had to look forward to was my pre-booked trip to see my fiance.  I was certainly looking forward to a break.  The Jobcentre and job-hunting in general was the most painfully tedious thing, but in addition to all this, my brother was also undergoing a huge emotional upheaval, which led to me worrying about him constantly. 

One day, I met my mum in the supermarket- her face was twisted with pain and anger.  She had tried to get an emergency doctor's appointment due to an awful pain in her lower abdomen, but the bitchy receptionist (yes the same one! Oh the things I could tell you about this woman) totally dismissed her and just booked her in for the next day.  We worried it might be her appendix, but nothing happened. 

The next day, while job-hunting online and chatting to friends, I got a phone call.  My mum was at the doctor's surgery, about 20-25 minute walk from our house, in floods of tears.  She said she was in so much pain and didn't know how to get home.  Usually, my anxiety means I have to check-and-re-check all the locks and things before I leave, and take an-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bag, but in 30 seconds, I was locking up the door and leaving with just my keys and phone.  I found mum on the route home, tears streaming down her face and barely able to walk.  I should mention that my mum is a tough cookie, a bit mental really (I say that with love! :P) and doesn't cry much.  I had to support her much of the rest of the way home.  The examination had been too painful for her, and she'd been signed off work.

She told me the doctor said the pain in her stomach was one of two things- a fibroid, or an ovarian cyst.  Mum was fearing the fibroid, as her mum had had one 40 years ago, needed a hysterectomy, and the subsequent menopause had turned her into "the Wicked Witch of the West".  The cyst however sounded worse- in fact the doctor feared that if it was a cyst, than it had burst.  Lots of tests had been booked to follow up.

However, there was another potential problem that shared its symptons with both of these things.  Cancer often acts like other ailments.  I tried to ignore the idea for a long time.  A few days after that incident, I flew out to stay with my fiance in the States, absolutely distraught and totally convinced that my mum would be diagnosed with cancer while I was away.  I couldn't bear to tell his family, and had many private tears with him as I fretted and feared the worse.  People often accuse me of being a drama-queen, and I will admit that I like to ham things up a bit sometimes, but I didn't tell anyone else for ages, and kept my tears between my fiance and I. 

I continued to look for work, even while I was abroad (thank lord for the internet!  Btw, anyone job hunting, anywhere, regardless of your country, I recommend!).  I managed to nab an interview while I was still in the states, but the morons who set it changed my interview to the day I came back into the UK even though I had already told them I wasn't available.  They insisted only that day would be possible.  With the likelihood of my mum needing hospital treatment in the near future, and their total lack of reasonable flexibility, I didn't even bother.

I focused a lot on writing for a while.  Drawing hurt too much- reminded me too much of the tattoo apprenticeship.  One interview with a musician I like went very badly, and there was something of a fall out between me and the agent, despite my attempts to clear things up.  In general, I was feeling like a real loser and a screw-up.  Even my supposed best friend criticised me for not going to interview the day I arrived back in the UK (with severe jet-lag and zero-hours sleep after a 15-hour journey? Please)

I had 2 more interviews, aced them both, and accepted one- a job with a national hardware store who's name I won't mention (just a personal rule.  I don't mind naming Peacocks as that is the past now).  One of those jobs had appeared to be an arty one, but transpired to be purely generic retail crap, with poor money and a long distance to travel.  In all honesty I wasn't overkeen on the job I accepted either, and my first day was awkward and unpleasant.  Despite major difficulties, however, I managed to settle in and enjoy some aspects of the job.  Its not perfect, but...its ok.  And the money is better than Peacocks.

I had a falling out with my fiance, regarding our future.  What followed that were two different things that affected me very emotionally.  The first was confronting the possibility of ending the 8-year-relationship with the man I love.  Once we made up, we seriously discussed parting ways amicably, and even the contemplation of that made me physically sick.  Needless to say, we remain together.  I think we may even be closer for it.  I'm so glad.  He such a support to me.  I don't know what I'd do without him.

The other was falling out with the former best friend- she slagged off my fiance, criticised my decision to stay with him and even accused me of failing to consider HER feelings in my decision, and it all went downhill from there.  In the four months that followed, I tried time after time to peaceably talk it out, tell her how she made me feel, and resolve the issue without attacking her.  She constantly dodged me and my feelings festered.  She only spoke to me to inform me of things going on her life.

Mum went into hospital.  The diagnosis was a fibroid- although she had feared this the most, it was actually the most benign, as the fibroid tumours are rarely cancerous.  But it was huge, and so painful.  By the time it was removed, "Bob", as she nicknamed it, was 15cm across.  In preparation for the surgery, she had to have a course of hormonal treatments that induced a menopause, and it was an awful time for her.  My parents were under so much stress.  The day she went in for her hysterectomy was most emotional I've ever seen my dad. 

The surgery went well, but days later she was rushed back into hospital with complications via ambulance.  She was ok in the end, but the hospital practically panicked- it had been their fault.  During this time, while many of my friends offered me their support, my supposed best friend was totally unsupportive and further drove a wedge between us with her ignorance.

Mum's recovery was quite long- technically, it is still ongoing, but she recovered and managed to go on holiday (it had been booked long before diagnosis and was non-refundable).  When they came home, I surprised my parents with gifts.  I am just so happy mum is still with us, healthy and happy.  I know a fibroid is not life-threatening, but for a short while, I really thought I'd lose her.

My friendship with my ex-bestie totally fell apart in the autumn.  After another display of ignorance towards me and my feelings, I decided to cut ties with her.  I'm not even sure if she's aware of it, and has just assumed we have drifted apart.  But it was far too painful for me to keep taking these emotional stabs in the heart everytime she did something else to hurt me.  Even now I don't believe she intended any hurt, that there was no malice in her intentions, but I'm still hurting a lot over it.  She wasn't the only quick succession, a fair group of "friend" suddenly showed their true colours and abandoned me.  More than enough WONDERFUL people have filled the void in their absence, but losing a friend is still a loss, and I lost several all at one.  One of whom I considered family for the best part of the last decade.  I hope that with time I can look back on this time and not feel so much anger and hurt, but thats a work in progress I suppose...

My job has progressed from "ok", to "stressy" to "annoying and completely unfulfilling."  Even a good week, where I can just get on with the job with no hassle usually induces some sort of brain-numbness.  I have determined after the last week that I either need to find a new job in the new year, or really focus on getting a novel in Waterstones...

It may seem trivial to some, but fear, pain, hopelessness...I've had a lot this year.  Between the redundancy, the apprenticeship thing, losing a lot of friends and my mum's illness, this year has been a massive struggle.  But all those good things that came out of it...

And thats why I'm splitting Reflections of the Year into 2 parts :)

Next time- all the AWESOME things from 2012, and why they, coupled with even the crap stuff, make this a very significant year for me.

I dun wanna hear complaints about the emo blog post :P But seriously, like I said before, I don't honestly expect people to read all of it, unless they are genuinely interested.  The next post will be full of sparkles and awesome though ;)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas and New Year- a Time of Reflection

Sandy Claws is coming to town!
Although I find Samhain a more spiritually significant time of the year (and also acknowledge the Chinese calendar- for Year of the Rabbit 2 years ago, we enjoyed a big dinner!), I like to make a point of focusing on the positive energy that you get around Christmas and New Years.  Of course, I acknowledge the Solstice, and although we're not Christians we celebrate Christmas (as many other non-Christians do).  Christmas is a very happy time for me...I find the time between late October and early January a generally happy time for me, and enjoy using generosity and gifts as a way to show appreciation for the many wonderful people in my life.

I thought 2011 had been a crap year, but I had no idea just how much of a struggle 2012 was going to be.  If I thought that 2011 had been a challenge, well, I was totally unprepared for this year.  Last Christmas was fantastic.  Last New Year's was the best yet...even now I still smile and feel happy recalling the wonderful time I had.  But what followed would become the most stressful time of my life, even worse than my late teens when I was struggling with depression and academic difficulties.

However, despite all that much has come out of this year that has been...amazing.  Fantastic.  Potentially life changing even.  The other day, I said to a friend "half of the year totally crashed and burned...the other half rose from the ashes".  It really did.

So over the next couple of days, as we approach the apparent "apocalypse" (don't worry, the Doctor will sort that out ;) ), Yule, Christmas and New Year's celebrations, I'm going to be reflecting on the events of the passed year.  My first post may seem a bit emo, as I will be quickly laying out what went wrong (and there was a LOT that went wrong!) but then I will be focusing on the achievements, positive experiences and highlights of this year.  I don't intend this to be purely bragging about my success ^^;; its just that there have been some real hard times, some still continuing, but at the same time, I need to really focus on all the good, and make the most of this positive season before a new year of unknowns creeps upon us.  Sure there will be a small snippet of self-publicity (hey, you gotta, right?) but more than anything, this will be something to reinforce my determination to suceed as a writer, and to carry on through hard times. 

Two sayings have really been significant to me this year.  The first "one door closes, another opens."  It really does, although you won't know it until after you've been through the new door.  The other is "Everybody's choices are half chance", taken from Baz Lurhman's speech/single "Everyone is Free to Wear Sunscreen".  Its made me realise that sometimes, there are no good choices to make, and sometimes even when you try hard to battle through, things go tits up.  But it doesn't mean you didn't make a good call, make a good effort, or that you should just give up.

Speak again soon, take care for now :)

(Image is not mine, Jack Skellington and The Nightmare Before Christmas belongs to Tim Burton)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

IWSG: December- Time for Giving and Time-Management Fail :P

I have lots of bundles of little concerns and worries to put in my stocking! :P

I have really neglected my blog recently.  I'm a pretty bad blogger.  Hell, I'm pretty bad at any form of social networking besides talking to friends.  My Twitter account (made specifically to go hand in hand with this blog and publicize myself) has also been somewhat neglected.  Truth is, I'm not very clever when it comes to gadgets and widgets- it took me the longest time to figure out even the most basic actions on this darn blog.  I'm just that rubbish!  I sometimes worry that my naff-ness in keeping up to date with blogging and Tweeting will negatively affect me, but a combination of my own technical incompetence, poor temper and ancient PC mean that I find these tasks seriously time-consuming and frustrating...and when I have so many other things to be doing, it ends up right smack down at the bottom of the list of priorities!

(I have completely given up on Tumblr).

Time management is that one that we talk about a lot in IWSG, and to be honest, I don't let it bother me too much...oh sure it bothers me at the time, when I'm trying very hard to multitask and fulfil tasks and failing, but I don't let it make me feel bad...its something that affects all of us.  If I were a full-time writer, the problem would probably be less severe (as I wouldn't be trying to juggle with my "real" job), but would also still happen. 

And less face it- we're now in December (how did THAT happen?!  Wasn't it five minutes ago that I was rushing through my last IWSG post before dashing out with Dad to watch the fireworks?! :P) and December can be a very unforgiving time for time management- between rushing around at work (especially if you work in retail), manic Christmas shopping, Christmas parties and get-toethers, and the odd winter bug thrown in for good measure, your schedule can take a bit of a pounding.

But I need to be fairer on myself.  I spent the last month working quite hard on two written has just been selected to appear in SCP's next eZine (its new title was the subject of the poll I ran yesterday, it is now called "Oiran" :D), and the other will be sent off shortly.  In fact, I was very proud of that one- that was the one that had been demanding more work and a longer word count.  I have decided I will be re-writing that story at full-novel length, but Kallin and Shaari's story will be submitted in "compact" form anyway.  I managed to cut back about 400-500 words, got it dead on the 7000 limit, and a friend who has read over it found it interesting enough that despite the limitations, she enjoyed it and wants to read the "full story".  The last couple of weeks, I have spent either drawing for short periods, or online shopping (extremely time consuming for me! :P) so the fact that I haven't done too much, I do realise, I shouldn't feel too badly about.

I do feel a bit naff that I'm still struggling to get things together and keep to a schedule, but I'm sure I'll get round to things.  In the meantime, have yourself a merry, stress-free Christmas!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Votes are in!

Votes were taken across Blogspot, Twitter and Facebook, and "Oiran" won!

Thanks everyone who joined it, it was fun! :)

Poll: New Title for Short Story

Woke up with some very happy news in my inbox this morning- another one of my short stories has been selected by Sirens Call Publications for their eZine!

However, the short story requires a title change- I gave it the working title "Frozen" as I was stuck, but as this is the name of the eZine this month, it needs to be different.  SCP gave me a couple of suggestions and I decided I would have a poll to help me decide!

The story is a short story based on the Japanese legend of the Yuki-Onna (snow woman)- with a twist.  And the new title options are as follows:

A) "Forever Cold"
B) "White Death"
C) "Oiran"

So leave a comment, tell me which option you like best, will be running the poll until the end of the day!  Thanks everyone! :)

(Note: Oiran is an old Japanese word that means "castle topper", and was in fact the highest rank of the courtesans of the Yoshiwara, the medieval pleasure district.  An Oiran was more than just a prostitute however; she was refined and could bed the highest of lords and princes- hence "castle topper" ;) .  Courtesans and Yuki-Onna don't usually mix but in this short story, there is a twist...)

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Insecure Writers Support Group- Time Management and Stories that Want Bigger Word Counts

Hello everyone!  We're now in November!  I can't believe October has actually gone now...on one hand, it feels like a million years ago since my first IWSG post, but it also feels like the year is just slipping away bewilderingly rapidly!  I bought my first Christmas presents of the year yesterday- whats up with that?!

While I am still doing ok, confidence-wise, I am experiencing a couple of problems right now, that I'm sure some of you are familliar with.

The first one is...Time Management.

I don't know what's happened to me over the last few weeks- I certainly hope its just a weird phase, especially as I've had little spurts of energy and organised-ness, but I seem to be completely unable to get anything done properly at the moment.  This applies to everything, not just writing.  I was pleased with myself that I finally got round to hoovering my bedroom last week!  I honestly can't believe I've managed to find time to write this post! (I was supposed to do it this morning though... <.< )

I think its actually down to my work life, and how my shifts are very erratic and unstable right now.  It makes planning a schedule difficult...I'm often getting 3 days notice for the next week's rotas (3 days including the weekend, which I don't work).  Then I have to fit in everything else, as well as the writing.  Fitting in time to write is something I know every writer has problems with, so I'm not beating myself up over it; I'm aware it can't be helped and things will smooth over soon.  I'm just so glad I'm not doing Nano WriMo, though, I would be extremely frustrated by now otherwise.

(And thats not to say I'm not frustrated, its really put me in a funk that I haven't been able to shake for a while...I'm hoping the last couple of days are indicative of this trend coming to a welcome end!).

(An upside is that I have been being naughty and writing at work!  Working on a Returns desk with no customers is hugely boring, and I've started on a short story there XD)

The other, slightly more problematic dilemma is that my stories are wanting more words than I can give!

I'm writing a lot of short stories and sending them off for submissions for anthologies or eZines and the like, and been relatively successful so far *do a lil daaaance*.  In fact, there are two things I LOVE about short stories.  The first is that I tend to get so attached to my characters that if I'm writing a longer story, say novel length, it can be hard for me to get finished...finishing the writing finishes me exploring and having a "relationship" with these characters.  This is something that isn't so bad with short stories...I still have back stories and backgrounds and a connection, but my time with those characters is brief, yet still enjoyable.

The second is that short story writing is teaching me valuable lessons that I'm sure will be hugely useful when it comes to writing the re-drafts of my novels; word count culling.  I'm quickly getting the hang of the fact that I, a consumate waffler, need to get to the bloody point!  I need to pick top vocabulary, weed out redundant sentences, or just completely redo certain paragraphs to get the story told within the word count allocated.

This hasn't been too bad so far.  Some stories, I find I have a little room left over, so I expand just a bit.  Some of them are almost squeezed in with mere words to spare- but I make it work, even if I like to take up as much of the word count as possible.

On Halloween, I submitted a short story to a submission called the "No Monsters Allowed" Anthology- the theme being horror, but not of a supernatural kind; purely human.  I wrote a story that seemed quite simplistic, short enough to fit in the 5000 count- 2 school bullies are arsing around at home, trolling kids on the internet, and then find themselves being held at gunpoint.  The gunwoman, a former bully victim they tormented, proceeds to torture and murder them ^_^ It seemed quite collected and rounded...I was surprised to find that it was practically BULGING out of the 5000 word count.  Perhaps 7000 would have been a nicer fit, but I had to edit brutally, culling so much, to the point that I felt the writing was negatively affected.  I sent what I could anyway (I have 2 versions of the story, the one where I started out and realised I was "waffling" too much, and the second which was copy-and-pasted into a new document and hacked down to size mercilessly), even though I wasn't entirely happy with it, and felt the ending was a tad rushed.  I felt that perhaps the atmosphere I was aiming for wasn't built up enough either.  Maybe it was just me, but reading it, the editing left it feeling very stunted and blunt.  Overly simplistic.

I'm now facing the same problem with my current short story, for the "Impossible Spaces" Anthology.

I came up with the idea for this story back in August; when my initial idea for Impossible Spaces seemed inappropriate for it, this other idea seemed like the natural alternative.  Its a dark science fiction tale, and the more and more I thought about the background, the cultures, the characters, the more vast this world became, as did its main characters, Shaari and Kallin.  Shaari was the character I was writing about for Elisabeth Kauffmanover's "What Are You Waiting For?" blogfest back in September.  Since then even, Shaari has blossomed into a character I have become hugely attached to, as has her lover, Kallin. 

Last weekend, after much note-taking, day-dreaming and deliberation, I started to write Shaari's story.  Now, even as I started, I had already decided, that she was probably going to end up in a novel-length version of the same tale.  In fact, the world I have set these characters in has thrown up a lot of interesting hypothetical questions regarding gender, personal identity, race, culture, philosophy, religion; so many things, not all of which apply directly to Shaari and Kallin, but would definately affect people in the same world.  I decided Shaari's story might be almost a "sneak preview" into what would come later, a fully-detailed story about her and Kallin.  I wasn't too bothered about cutting back some of her tale for the short-story submission- it's written in first person (which is usually not my preference, but felt very right for this story) and because of this, its basically a recollection of her tale.  It can be condensed.


I've probably got about, oh I don't know, 2000 words left to go?  I'm very worried this is not enough. 

I hope I don't have to cull too much to get there; I need the emotional element of this tale to remain intact, not just for the reader, or even for me now, but for my characters.  Does anyone else have this?  Demanding characters?  I get it a lot.  Its almost as if they direct me what to write, and won't shut up until I have satisifed them!

I did have another idea for Impossible Spaces...but I promptly forgot it (which is a massive shame, all I can remember thinking was "Wow, thats a good idea!" XD But I had a bit a traumatic day that day, and I think it was drowned out when I decided to get drunk later that evening! Oops!).

Not sure what I'm going to do about Shaari...I want to enter this anthology, even if it means with another idea, but I can't let Shaari down by editing her story to the point that it becomes dull and poorly written.  She has such a beautiful relationship with Kallin, I honestly do believe other people would really enjoy their story...but it has to be done right!

Well, everyone, I hope you all having a good month.  I have to finish up now, because I'm off to watch some fireworks!  Good evening, y'all!

(Edit: back from the fireworks, and goodness, how many typos I made! *Fixed* XD)

Monday, 29 October 2012

Almost Samhain

I don't know if I'll have time to do this on Wednesday...I'm just so busy (and very unorganised) at the moment!  I'm struggling to get writing done...well to be far to myself, I did write for an hour or so today, probably churned out more than I'm giving myself credit for.  Still feeling good about my writing, but finding time for everything, especially when feeling tired, is a nightmare, so I think I know what my subject for next weeks IWSG next week! ^^;;
BUT!  This is not time for negativity.  In fact, I don't really feel too negative today, in spite of things.  I'm not a naturally positive person, but I'm just feeling good right now.  I think its a combination of the good things that have been happening for me, and Samhain.

I am not strictly pagan, but it would be more than fair to say I lean very heavily that way.  And I do celebrate Halloween/Samhain, although not in the "traditional" fashion ;) I would be up for costume parties and things, but until recent years, I have never had friends who were really interested in Halloween (isn't it typical, this year was the first time EVER I've been invited to a Halloween party and it clashed with something! Oh never mind!).  So I started using Halloween as a time to think about and remember loved ones who have passed on.  A few years ago, someone told me that Samhain is basically the pagan new year, and I have noticed a lot of positive things seem to happen for me around October and November. 

My Halloweens still tend to be solitary (my family do not care for it either, they pretend not to be home as they also dislike trick-or-treaters...nowadays, most of that seems to be over well by 8pm), but I usually treat myself to some candy (hey, you gotta ;) ) while watching The Nightmare Before Christmas with subtitles turned on just to make it into a sing-along, while hugging my Jack Skellington plushie.  Then shortly before midnight, I set things up, light candles, get out my tarot cards, and begin to meditate for a while.  I think about the year that has just gone by, the good and the bad, I think about my loved ones who have passed on, meditate, and then I do some tarot spreads. 

This year, I have to work until 9, but I've decided to go into work looking as festive as the uniform policy will allow, annoy everyone at the Returns Desk by singing TNBC songs all night, and sharing Halloween Horror Mix with my colleagues ;) I'm just glad I'll be home long before midnight, so I can do my little ritual thing that I do...its become rather important to me over the years.  However, I look forward to being daft...its a positive time of the year too.

Over the last couple of weeks I've had a couple of niggles and crappy things happen, but generally my mood has remained chipper, or something has just come along to spoil all the gloom before it gets too bad (take today...pooey day of work, another early shift on something like 4 hours sleep...after my nap, I find my package from Moonmaiden Gothic Clothing has arrived...something about getting lovely black velvet things just cheers me up immensely! XD).  This past year will be certainly be an interesting one to reflect upon.  It has been a hugely difficult year, but so many good things have come of it.  Along with redundancy, relationship problems, losing several friends (not to death, but it still hurts!), my mother being very ill, family problems and so on, it has been a struggle, but along the way, my important relationships improved, new, better friends have emerged to more then fill the gaps in my life left by those who have let me down, a new job (that admittedly with its own problems) has come along, and I'm financially in a much better situation, and now it seems that the career I have longed dreamed about following, being a writer, has set in motion.  In the last 4 months, I have had 3 submissions accepted- this time last year, I was still scribbling in my notebook wondering how it would ever happen.

So yes, thats my reflective post, ahead of Halloween.  In other news...MUCH BUSY!  Still struggling to get everything done- these stupid early shifts bugger up my routine and make me sleepy, and I'm just finding it hard to get anything done.  But I think its just a phase and will pass soon.  My tattoo is healed, but sadly lost some ink in the healing process- probably because of my awful chafing work shirts! Luckily, touch-ups are free at the studio I went to, so I'm going to pop back at the weekend ;)

Right, its getting late- fortunately I'm not up early tomorrow, but I must dash, plenty more to do before bedtime!

Merry Halloween and a Happy Samhain :)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

*Head Explody* Plus Tattoo

I'm having a manic time keeping up with blogging, twittering...everything actually.  Even stuff like cleaning my room! TOO MUCH STUFFS, NOT ENOUGH TIME OFF WORK!

But the tattoo did get done, so here is a photo of it:

Picture courtesy of my friend, Alana, who was present to make sure I went through with it ;) This was immediately after the tattoo was done, currently looks a bit pale due to the natural healing process...its healing very nicely, and barely itches apart from when it rubs on my horrible work shirts!  But I just pet it gently with cool finger tips, and it becomes a happy bunny again n___n no scratchy!

I absolutely love it!

More soon, must dash! x

HMV- You are really not very rock and roll!

So I woke up this morning to find several of my “alternative” friends spreading about this story:

Now, a lot of people were stating how they haven’t shopped in HMV in years anyway, and before I continue, I will admit, my HMV purchases over the last couple of years have been a bit spread out…sorry to say it, but my local branches don’t have the same variation in stock anymore (can you believe I used to find Emilie Autumn and The Birthday Massacre in their stores!?) and the prices are not competitive. I suppose I can’t blame them (and that is a discussion for another day) but I do usually have a look in store anyway and have snapped up the odd bargain.

One of the things that made shopping there nice was the fact the staff were varied; many were rocker/alternative types, with dyed hair, body piercings and tattoos etc. They all wore uniform, but I think they looked pretty cool, and I would often have a nice chat with a HMV worker about where they got their latest ink or whatever.

I used to hold up HMV as an example of “alternative-friendly” companies when giving advice to people trying to find work in retail (Claire’s Accessories, in my experience, has been another). But now I am seriously considering boycotting them.

My reaction may sound rash and impulsive, but the reason why I am appalled by the new policy is the EXISTING staff. It is one thing to turn away a potential candidate based on their appearance, but completely another thing to hire someone and then give them grief later down the line based on their appearance, when it was not an issue at the time of the hiring.

I’m not saying that we should all just dress how we like for work- there is a time and a place- but imagine hiring someone 3 years ago with visible tattoos etc. Imagine they have been a valued employee for 3 years, they have worked hard, done well, been loyal and dedicated to the company (as more of us become disillusioned with retail, this is becoming harder to find!), and then over night, deciding to take disciplinary action against this employee because a new policy states that they can’t have a visible tattoo.

What the flaming heck is that employee supposed to do? Find a cheese grater and bite down on a stick!?

Ok, I’m being a bit melodramatic, but it grossly unfair, in my opinion, to spring this on the existing staff. Heck, I think its taken the whole company backwards ten years and reversed what little respect and understanding the alternative community was gaining from the general public, but I digress.

I just hope these guys don’t face disciplinaries or even termination because of this. I also find the denim-skirts for the women sexist…it could be that article was just a short one and didn’t have full details, but if the women can ONLY wear skirts, then…hello 50s! Where have you been?

I am not saying all this as someone unfamilliar with the retail industry or customer service either. I have been in some form of customer-service-based work for most of the last 10 years. My first ever job was at a newsagents, where I wore black lipstick to work, much to the amusement of many of the patrons (many of whom were elderly). I was a teenager then, and not required to observe any form of uniform policy, but my following job was for a fashion retailer, and my work revolved around the products and customer service. I adhered to the uniform policy (which I didn’t think was so bad), kept my appearance neat and proper…I felt comfortable and yet, recieved many compliments. One of my colleagues was the furthest thing from a Goth you’d ever find, yet she was covered in tattoos and piercings, and always looked smart, fashionable and respectable!

My current job is running a returns desk- a huge amount of public interaction is required, I wear a uniform…yet I am also identifiable as a Goth. I always pass my evaluations, I am clean and tidy, yet people can still tell who I am. A lot of my coworkers are heavily modded- and no one cares!

Back in January 2011, I submitted this article for EGL Magazine:

So you can see, I’m not one of these raving teenagers who don’t know what the “real world” is about and thinks life is cruel if you can’t have purple hair and padlock through your nose. MY opinion is that we should all be happy how we look, but there is a time and a place for it. Be you goth, punk, rocker, emo, or whatever loveable misfit, you should be able to still be yourself and present yourself in a professional manner.

I just wish that these companies would just realise that they are potentially missing out on some really great people working for them, just because they have a personal adversion to the alternative look. And I say personal, because I do think it is down to a few individuals in an office somewhere. Someone told me today (I haven’t verified this) that HMV’s new policy comes from middle-managment head-hunted from Marks and Spencer. Now, I have nothing against M&S, but they clearly have a different demographic to a music and media retailer.

BTW, you really can be alternative and still be dressed professionally etc. (C’mon, ever see a tattooed guy in a wedding tux or a business suit? HAWT! ^_^ ). For example, the last job interview I attended, I wore a skirt-suit…I also wore a blood-red blouse and knee-high lace-up boots. I was clearly a Goth, but also imaculate. And I got the job. Trust me guys, I am not telling anyone to cover themselves up…that is the LAST thing I want anyone to do. I refuse to hide who I am, I am just willing to present myself in a different light.

And as for the HR zombies who think customers hate how we look too- my current job deals with customer complaints DAILY. In my entire working career, I have never recieved or even heard a complaint regarding a staff-member’s appearance.

So in the meantime, I hope that HMV staff are not subject to bad treatment due to their existing appearances, and while I would hate to see the retailer go bust (I have experienced that myself), I just cannot bring myself to shop in a store that considers people who look like me to be somehow dirty or inferior.

(Note: reposted from my Tumblr blog: Since the first posting, it has been suggested to me that the story on HMV maybe fake, but I decided to repost anyway.)

Monday, 15 October 2012

Things are a-happenin' this week!

I would like to start first by thanking everyone who commented on my IWSG post recently; it was my first IWSG post, and I'm still very new to blogging, but I recieved such a lovely welcome.  I'm starting to just about get the hang on Blogspot and blogging in general (Tumblr still offers a few hiccups!) but I'm getting there, and getting to talk to some very interesting and lovely people in the process!

This week, I am on holiday...usually when I have a week off from work, I treat myself to a little adventure to somewhere such as London (one of my favourite places), however, this month I'm a tad short on the munnies, and also have plenty of creative things to be getting on with.  Catching up on blogging, article writing for EGL Magazine, short-story writing and pretty-picture making is all up there, but one pressing task I have involves finding local printers for wedding stationary I designed for my aunt and uncle.  So I wouldn't be fooled by the pyjamas or long-lie-ins...I have a busy week ahead of me! ;)

Today, I woke up to a lovely surprise; to find my package, containing my copy of the Fear Anthology Volume 2 waiting for me.  There will be bragging posts and photos of me grinning neurotically while brandishing the book to follow; I am so, so pleased to be actually in print, in an actual, paperback book.  My photo is even in it! EEEEE! 

And that's not all.  I have just signed a contract to feature in another anthology (steampunk-horror theme)- and this one I will get paid for!  So you know what that means? I am now a professional writer! As a personal rule, apart from mentioning "I was at work" I never mention my jobs on my social networking accounts and the like (I strongly believe in keeping work and personal life seperate, I refuse to even add current colleagues on Facebook), but I decided this meant updating my employment details on Facebook to state "Artist/Writer"- teehee!

Today, I'm working on printers and article-writing...but tomorrow is also a big day.  I am finally (FINALLY) getting my Black-Rabbit tattoo!  Oh I've only wanted it since I was about 18 or 19, and I've chickened out or just delayed it a million times over.  Its not even been a fear of the pain, so much as my anxiety fuelling my indecision (like with many things in my life).  I had really intended to get it last year, during the Chines Year of the Rabbit (I am a rabbit in many ways!) but I kept forgetting, and then right at the end of the Chinese Year, the tattoo apprenticeship fell through.  Part of me can't really believe I'm doing it, so its a good thing that not only have a paid a deposit that I don't want to lose, but I also have my lovely friend, Alana, egging me on and making sure I can't back out ;) my fiance has already okay'd the use of physical violence to keep me in the studio, but Alana says she'll just sit on me haha! I think I'll be fine, I'm very excited...although I do reckon I'll have a mini-freak out at the last moment when I realise what I've let myself in for! :P

The image at the beginning of this entry is the rabbit I'm having tattooed.  It is the Black Rabbit of Inle (rabbit version of the Grim Reaper) from Watership Down, one of my favourite movies/books (there's a big surprise, eh?), and it'll be going at the top of my back, in the centre.  It has several meanings to me, which I won't go into now (I'll probably do a rambly "look at my awesome tattoo" post tomorrow evening...oh crap...thats right...its TOMORROW!).

Otherwise, I don't have too much planned this week.  I will be seeing a couple of friends (and sharing Halloween candies), but otherwise, for me its just writing, drawing and more of the same.  However, it is kind of nice to have the time set aside for creative work and the such, and as for adventures to London, I have another week off in November ;) I'm also trying to get into a Halloween mood...difficult as I keep looking for Christmas presents for people! D'oh!

It's been a super busy couple of weeks, but another thing I've been very pleased and proud of is the opportunity I had to review my favourite band, The Birthday Massacre's new album "Hide and Seek".  You can read the review on EGL Magazine's site- here is the link:
It's a cracking album, one I'm very excited about (I pre-ordered my copy, its on the way now!), and I also wish the singer, the lovely Chibi, a speedy recovery, as she recently underwent surgery on her vocal chords.

I also finally recieved my copy of Emilie Autumn's album "Fight Like a Girl!" YAY!  I also reviewed this album back in July:

Well, I'm going to wrap this up know, the book is right next to me on the desk...I can't stop staring at it...this is amazing!

Take care for now!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group- My First Post (You Can Do It!)

This is my first post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group; in fact, I am still very new to blogging in general, so do bear with me! But I really wanted to participate, as in recent months I have learned first hand what a great help it is to have a support from fellow writers.

I often find myself feeling extremely insecure about my writing, and my art.  Recently, I have felt more confident in my ability and future as a writer, but I know that the doubts will always linger.  Today is actually a rather significant day for me; today, the Fear Anthology published by Crooked Cat is released, in which my short story "Candlelight" is featured.  This is my second fiction publication (my first being in an eZine this summer just gone), but my first in a physical book.  For me, this is a turning point, as up until now, being a writer had been little more than a dream; but now it is a reality.

Now, I really need to stop myself here and say that this is not a bragging post by any means...I maybe new to the IWSG, but it just seems like poor ettiquette to come along and start bragging about successes on the first post! :( This month, I am brimming with confidence.  But perhaps, next month, I will be low...perhaps I'll have had a couple of rejections or a terrible case of the dreaded Writer's Block, or something will happen to make me completely doubt myself.  It WILL happen at some point.  It always does.

And maybe this month, you, the reader of this rambly post, may be feeling really low.  So while I'm feeling good right now, it seems that maybe I should share some of that postivity while I still have it.  If you're reading this and you're feeling very down thid month, then I hope what I'm about to write will somehow encourage you :)

I'm writing this because I've had so much wonderful support from certain friends (you all know who you are, I love you all, thank you), some are fellow writers, some are not.  But they've been more than happy to sit down, chew the fat and get the ideas going, and give me an ego boost when I've felt low.  The biggest boost came right at the end of June, when I was rapidly approaching a fiction deadline (I had something like 2 hours to go).  Convinced I was a crap writer, a hopeless flake and had blown my chances by stupid procastination, I had a big old b*tch fit on Facebook, only to be met by some very supportive comments by my friends.  One, in fact, gave me a big telling off for considering giving up.  I made that deadline with 42 seconds to spare (literally!).  Since then, while I have had my bad days, I have urged myself to keep going...and my friends have urged me too.  Its made a huge difference.

Thats why I decided to join the Insecre Writer's Support Group...this month I am very confident in my writing, even if I may feel differently next month.  So for now, I will spread the love <3 If someone reads this and is inspired to battle on, then this will have be more than just self-indulgent waffle ^^;; 

You see, I honestly never really believed this would happen to me...getting published I mean.  I've not a had a good year, and I tend to think very negatively anyway.  For sure, it was- still is- my fondest dream, my biggest ambition, but I never really knew HOW to get the writing off the ground.  I hadn't even finished anything properly before July, apart from articles I write for an online magazine.  I seem to lack motivation to get things done for myself.  By nature, I have to admit, I am lazy, scatty, undisciplined, and a terrible procastinator...and on top of this, I am under-confident.  It would become a vicious circle- I couldn't compel myself to get something done, so I'd become depressed that I'd never become published, and knowing I wouldn't become published, I had no motivation to get finished.  My biggest problem, I think, is that I find it difficult to just sit my bum down and get on with writing!  I am a shameless daydreamer, and I spend more time fantasising about the writing then actually doing it!

But I am changing my ways...I am a creature of bad, bad habits, but bad habits can be beaten!  And already I'm getting results out of it.  Since July, I had submitted six short stories, and two now have been published, which I personally don't think is a bad result. 

If I can do this, I know you can too.  Take a look at your habits and try and see what is holding you back.  Make time for your writing- it is true we all have lives and responsibilities to consider, but we need to invest in the time and effort to craft a story and bring it to life.  You know, lots of people like to ask the musician/film-maker/writer/all-round creative guy Voltaire how to write a book, and his reply has been simply "Write a book!" So many people (myself included) spend too much time worrying how to do it when really, the first step is just DOING it.  And you can't jump ahead to the next step until the first one is completed.

Its not easy, but it is rewarding, and if you persevere, you will be get to experience that.  So my advice is just to work hard, believe in yourself, as hard as that maybe, and try to identify any of your bad habits or flaws that get in the way of your writing- and tackle them head on.  Surround yourself with wonderful people who can help and support you (although chances are, if you're already part of the ISWG, you already know loads ;) ).  My experience tells me a lot of creative people can be a bit flakey and scatty, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of you have had similar experiences in trying to get things finished.  I know full well that my faults will continue to present challenges to me in my writing and creative projects, but now that I have had a taste of success, this will drive me on for more.

And when I feel bad, I'll be back, browsing through other writer's IWSG posts, looking for more advice on how to whip myself into shape.  I really think the IWSG is a great idea, and I look forward to interacting with other creative minds :)  In the meantime, I'm going to make the most of my positive attitude...I'm more negative by nature, so I need to enjoy it and share it while I can!

So for now, I will wrap up this rambly, rambly post.  I really hope that I haven't been too big-headed or self-centered, and I hope that someone perhaps feels encouraged by what they've read.  Apologies if any of this post was inappropriate or unhelpful...but hey, its my first post, and we all have to start somewhere, right?  Any advice, comments, tips, etc, totally welcome.

Happy writings, my freaky darlin's! ;)


(Edit; I'm such a noob, totally forgot to add the link, didn't I? Doi! :P)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Hello, October!

My mental calender is still hovering between August and September, so it is a little bewildering that October is already here, and that Winter is just around the corner.  But I will try and shake off the funny feeling- I enjoy Autumn, and October traditionally has always been a good time of year for me, in many ways.  I love Halloween for starters, but even though I am not strictly pagan, I celebrate Samhain and like to reflect on the year and the past in general on the 31st.  But October also tends to be a month of great positivity for me, and going by how things look right now, it looks set to be good this year also!

The big thing for this month comes on Wednesday the 3rd- Crooked Cat's Fear Anthology (spread over two volumes) is released in paperback and Kindle editions (available from Amazon).  This will be the first time I appear in a real-life physical book as an author, so this is an amazing thing for me!  I have previously been published in an eZine (Siren's Call Publications), but it really is going to be something to be able to brag about being in a book!

My short story "Candlelight" appears in Volume 2 ;) (pictured).

So, what else will this month hold?  Well, I will be continuing to write, as I have other short story submission deadlines I am aiming for.  On the 9th, my favourite band, The Birthday Massacre are releasing a new album, "Hide and Seek", which I am extremely excited about!  I have social events I am looking forward to, but right now, I have a very strong urge to go shopping!

In other news, I recently participated in my very first blogfest, which was successful and great fun, and I look forward to doing it again!

Here's hoping for a fabulous October!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

What Are You Waiting For? Blogfest

So, this is the first time I have ever particpated in a Blogfest! Today is the "What Are You Waiting For?" Blogfest, hosted by Elisabeth Kauffmanover- check out her blog, Fairbetty's World to see other entries!:

You post a 300-word max flash fiction piece in which one of your characters faces a decision and resorts to flipping a coin.

I am working on a rough idea for a sci-fi short story submission for later this year, and so this little piece is based on my character, Shaari.


Shaari stood at the crossroads.  There was little time to make a decision before her pursuers caught up, and she was panicking.

To the left, the road wound back into the canyons, into the Ganyx town.  Before this day she would not have hesitated down that path, without giving the right a backward glance.  There, her people had their dwellings, markets and businesses set up in a warren of stalls and caverns.  In the past, she would have been welcome; maybe she still would be.  Maybe even a shamaness would not be regarded with suspicion.  But after the attack, she was unsure of who to trust.

But to the right…

She’d seen the Fetyx cities only a few times.  She had always thought them ugly and cold- monstrously huge buildings of gleaming black metal and glass, sparkling in the darkness.  Huge spires pierced the heavens; she could barely regard it a city. 

Her pursuers would not follow her into the Fetyx city.  Ganyx and Fetyx always regarded each other as alien and segregated themselves.  She had once seen Fetyx peoples- tall pale beings with dark eyes, forever laced into bio-mechanical suits.  It was these suits, their life without true skin-to-skin contact that always led Ganyx to see them as abominations.

But as Shaari rapidly considered her dwindling options, it occurred to her that regardless of their differences, Ganyx and Fetyx were all still human.  So now she had to choose…sacrifice safety for familiarity, or sacrifice any comfort for a stronger chance of escape?

She fumbled in her pouch- a copper coin.  The circle side would be for the left, the lined side for the right.  Hands shaking, she tossed the coin; she could not be sure whether or not she felt dread or relief as the line came down face-up…

Tuesday, 25 September 2012


Synaesthesia is something very difficult to explain to people who don't have it in one way or another themselves, and I only became aware of what it was a few years ago.  Until I knew what it was, I always assumed that other people felt songs and music had "colour" and that numbers and even time periods were percieved in ribbons and shapes.

While not everyone percieves the world in this way, many other people do, and so I've decided, prompted by fellows who also see music in shape and colour, to share this on my blogs.  You see, when I wrote notes for music reviews, I have a tendency to put the colour down in my notes as well...I'll write something about the instruments, the vocals, the feel, and then "blue-green" or "glittery gold" or "pink and purple rain" or something equally apparently nonsensical!  It never ends up in the music reviews, because that would just sound crazy :P

But I may post little notes about what else I've noted when doing music reviews and the like, just for fun, and if anyone else thinks that they may have synaesthesia and would like to join in, then go ahead! :)

In the meantime, if you're interested in synaesthesia, check out the wikipedia link:
(PS I loathe to call it a "condition" because that almost sounds like there's something wrong your brain.  Its never done me any harm, although I will admit that it is difficult to perform mental maths when you're trying to add up coloured ribbons :P )

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

What am I doing at the moment?

I have been super busy recently, and even though I only just set up this blog, I haven't really had much time to work on it (I'm hoping to change that shortly!).  But there has been lots going on recently!

I'm currently working on 2 short stories to send off (and the deadline for one is on Monday- eek!), and I'm also diving back into art and scribbling away.  I am designing some wedding invitations for family at the moment, and I want them to be perfect, so its requiring a lot of my attention.

When things calm down, I'm hoping to write a book review post of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, so that I can say I review good books I actually like as well ;)

At the moment, I'm just so stoked about writing, getting my short story "Alone In The Dark" published in Siren's Call eZine, and the upcoming FEAR anthology by Crooked Cat that will also feature my short story "Candlelight".  Now I'm furiously typing away with hopes of more success!  This is only the beginning!

Right, off to do a lot more work!  I think I'll need a holiday soon!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades Darker

This review was also originally posted on my Tumblr blog: , and this review in particular was very scathing.  I had tried my best to be fair with Fifty Shades of Grey, but there was no way I could fluff up this book and review it postively.

I don't actually give ratings (I give verdicts), but if I did, I'm sure I would have quoted the Gerbil from Joe Cartoon and said "I give this two thumbs down and a fart."

Maybe the next time I do a review, it'll actually be for a good book ;)

I’ve been writing reviews and articles for EGL Magazine ( You can follow us on Tumblr too!) for some time now, and I don’t think I’ve ever written such a negative review.
I ended the Fifty Shades of Grey review by saying that its sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, had a promising start…and that is true. I also said that I had decided to lower my expectations, that I was just going to enjoy a veg-out book to curl up with, maybe get a little naughty thrill and guilty pleasure out of, without expecting too much of it.
So why, oh why, am I still utterly disappointed with this book? It’s more of a disappointment than its predecessor!
There was so much promise, so much potential! This book picks up literally where the previous left off, in such a way that I was actually slightly annoyed to begin with, as it has carried on with absolutely no time period in between, and the way that the little bitch-fit from the end of the first book is resolved literally later that week made me inwardly groan. It served to make the (admittedly) unexpected actions at the end of the previous book look less pivotal and significant, and had pretty much turned it all into a childish, teenage tantrum. But, we are able to gloss over that, as we have other things being presented to us to make up for that, right?
Oh, these promises are certainly dangled temptingly in our faces; two different coinciding plots involving the potential for some real, compelling conflict begin very quickly; I was genuinely intrigued. One plotline actually was rather tense and almost frightening, and the other seemed more covert, dark, underlining. I was actually expecting the latter to be more serious and dynamic, rising from the shadow of the distraction that was the first plot. I would tell you what I thought was coming, but E L James might want to steal the idea from me (not to mention, it would grossly spoil that for you, and I am trying to avoid that).
And for a good three quarters of the book, I was turning pages eagerly to see how those conflicts and plots would be resolved, how they would culminate in excitement and climatic drama- they certainly had all the foundation for it…but then it all fizzled out with all the pathetic splutter of a crappy wet firework.
When the first conflict was resolved, I still kept going, flipping through pages of repetitive immature arguments, clichés and not-exactly-stunning sex-scenes, eager to see what happened next. Then the second was resolved with little climax and only a small amount of amusement. I had expected something much darker and drawn out, and then it was all over, and we were just left with a bare skeleton of a story, which had basically become a bunch of childish lovers’ tiffs and idiocy.
Ana and Christian seem to be perpetually having the same discussion and getting no further in it. You forget that such a short period of time has truly passed- I’m ready to admit that disagreements in my love life tend to follow certain patterns, but my fiancé and I certainly don’t have the same argument everyday over the period of a week, apparently resolving the issue, and then re-dressing it again the very next morning. This is basically what Ana keeps doing, and while I understand that her position is supposed to somewhat uncertain and overwhelming, she has become an extremely irritating character because of her apparent forgetfulness when regarding conversations with Christian. Some sentences seem to be repeated almost word-for-word, and I’ve lost much of my sympathy and support for this couple.
The dialogue, such a relative strong point in the previous volume, doesn’t seem as witty and real-to-life as before- it is contrived and- here it is again- repetitive! It’s not even a case of it becoming just corny or predictable; Ana no longer seems as clever and sardonic anymore, and has turned into something of a vacuous bimbo, completely not noticing things as blatant as repeated block-capital letters reminding her yet again that she ought to use her Blackberry at work and to not keep using her surveyed work-email (and yes, it was a plot device in the end, but I had no sympathy for her, and was itching to smack her across her stupid face). Also, I am now utterly sick of the saying “Mighty fine” and I might punch someone if I hear it in real life ever again.
And what’s more, the sex did absolutely nothing for me this time around! It involved very little of the kinky BDSM element, and while that wasn’t necessarily a problem, so much had been built around that element that without it, the erotic scenes fell flat. They still could have been steamy, but once again, felt clichéd. The rather tacked-on involvement of a spreader bar was weak and the inclusion of anal sex was distinctly uncomfortable; and once again, Ana has done yet another U-turn She was very uncomfortable with the notion of anal sex to begin with, and then totally goes along with what Christian wants after he rather romantically tells her that he wants “own” every part of her…last time I heard a man say he wanted to “own” an orifice, I don’t believe it was a romantic statement! My personal feelings aside, I really don’t feel that Christian (and in effect, James herself) really tackles the suggestion tactfully or considerately.
And that thing that had been niggling me during the last book, the implication that only fucked-up people could enjoy BDSM or fetish- well James has gone one step further, by actually using the word “depravity” on more than one occasion to describe Christian Grey’s tastes. In fact, the further development of Christian’s back story serves to hammer this flawed notion home, and while I should have been sympathising for him, I was instead feeling insulted at the suggestion that a kinky sex-life must indicate being absolutely messed up. Learning more about Christian’s motivations was quite important, but I couldn’t help but think that he now seemed more akin to a stereotypical serial-killer instead of a tortured soul. He is more detestable than before, despite some serious attempts to show his truly vulnerable side. There was one scene were he really does tug your heartstrings genuinely, but this one tiny spit of gem was far from enough to save the character- and the writing- from my contempt.
I found the last quarter of the book ridiculously hard to read. It dragged, and I was frustrated from disappointment, bad writing and un-engaging plots. One “major” event was so sadly clichéd and predictable that it almost hurt to read it, and it seriously felt like the book totally ran out of steam. Then another event was put in…it really ought to have been hugely emotional and revealing…well it was revealing alright! Everything regarding that little plot “twist” was concluded within a matter of pages and left me yawning. In any other book, it would have served as another sharp exhilarating bend in the roller coaster, but James clearly lacks the skill to lay down a plot well, or use even exciting events to her advantage.
Then suddenly, in what basically felt like the last five minutes (I do know that I only had a sliver pages left to battle through), a whole bunch of things kicked off- two more potential conflicts, both done and dusted with ridiculously quickly, the first feeling absolutely pointless, and the second feeling utterly ill-timed. And then tacked on rather shamelessly at the end was a passage to indicate that an earlier antagonist was not out of the picture. That was predictable also, but the tag-on to the end of an otherwise non-climatic narrative is a shameless hook to keep readers going. James seems to promise action and dynamism in the next volume after utterly failing to deliver them where needed.
I am not looking forward to reading the next book at all, although I am sure I will end up doing so, mainly out of politeness to the kind colleague who has been lending the books to me. However, as it seems I am reviewing these books now, perhaps my reviews can actually save some of you poor souls from this book at least.
My conclusion so far? Fifty Shades of Grey was weak, but enjoyable on some levels. It is a guilty pleasure, and I don’t entirely regret having read it. Fifty Shades Darker on the other hand is seriously the worst book I have read willingly. It starts out so promisingly- if it had fulfilled all those promises, it would have been, like its predecessor, okay! I was actually enjoying the first third or so of the book until I realised that I had built my expectations overwhelmingly high- but hey, can you blame me? I read the likes of Gaiman and Rowling, and other authors who know how to write!
I really shouldn’t be so frustrated over this, but I feel like I defended the first book- it’s not a great book, and for me, the hook (the BDSM) wasn’t shocking and new, but I was able to sit and enjoy the book. I was even very able to see the appeal of it. I was actually looking forward to this book as well, in the same way you might look forward to watching a veg-out movie at the end of a long week. Fifty Shades Darker led me up the garden path with all the build up to something really engaging and then it all fell flat.
I could tell myself that Fifty Shades Freed will be better…unlike the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, there really is a cliff-hanger of sorts, rather than an abrupt end. This really should indicate something worth noting will happen in the next book. But with how truly abysmal E L James’ writing ability is turning out to be, I won’t hold my breath.
Verdict: Better suited for toilet paper.
(Images are not mine, this review only reflects my own opinion, and is written for entertainment)