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...)