Fixing a Hole

It’s Wednesday night – and it barely seems like a blink of an eye since two weeks ago, when I was preparing, packing and getting ready for an early rise and the journey to Cornwall. This time, I’ve got a much earlier start – instead of 8.55 am, my flight’s at 6.30 am, which means reaching the airport by 5.30, which means leaving for Newquay at 4.30… and I’m sure you can work out roughly when I’m going to be getting up tomorrow. Not exactly ideal, but I’m crossing my fingers for a relatively smooth journey – yes, there’s been snow down here (nowhere near as much as in other parts of the country), but it hasn’t been too heavy, so there’s a vague chance that tomorrow’s trip won’t disintegrate into a Planes Trains and Automobiles style nightmare.

It’s been an extremely nice two weeks – lots of relaxation, lots of calm, a brilliant day out with Tris, and a chance to write. I’ve had a few tech issues – my current Netbook, an early Asus Eee PC nearly conked out thanks to a faulty adaptor – it’s been sorted, but an upgrade of operating system seems to have exponentially upped the amount of heat the thing gives off. It now leaps to slightly over-comfortable heat within about an hour, which has me generally twitching and wondering if there’s anything I can do. I love gadgets, but I also don’t like being too dependant on them, especially when they inevitably start misbehaving – but, at the least, thanks to my current financial situation, there’s a chance that I may be able to upgrade or replace it.

I don’t feel like I’ve properly arrived in 2010 yet. I’ve found myself in a slightly odd mood – the prospect of travel always gets me slightly tense, even when I’m not playing the Snow and Ice Lottery, and being at the beginning of another year makes me simultaneously hopeful and worried, staring at the possibilities in front of me and wondering what to make of them. One of the most important things I’ve got to do – slowly but surely – is continue to move on from some of the bad things that have happened over the past two years. It’s easy to let myself get down about some of the things that have gone wrong, or the times when I do end up lonely – but the fact is that I’ve actually made a lot of new friends over the past year, and I want to try and make sure that I do the same this year. I’ve already got priorities I need to get sorted for the next six months – to finish my proofreading course, and to finish my new book.

Ah yes, the new book. I’ll introduce it now – I might as well, since I’ve been referring to The Hypernova Gambit as ‘the book’ for so long, things could get confusing. It’s called ‘Chill Out’, it’s a bizarre mixture of family drama and crazed fantasy, and it’s very, very ‘me’. I’m aiming it to be shorter than my first one – I’m trying my best to have fun with it, I’m about 100 pages in, and it has finally reached the stage where it’s actually feeling like a novel rather than just an interesting collection of bits.

I’ve got a plan. I know where I want to be. And whatever roads 2010 takes me down, I’m going to do my best to ensure they’re fun ones.

And now, you must excuse me. I’ve got sandwiches to make, and packing to finish…

That Was The Year That Was (Or: Thoughts on 2009)

I’m now warm in bed, after a marvellous New Year’s Eve spent hanging out with my friend Tris (and doing a series of fabulously psychedelic photographs involving the light-painting process – we’d have done more, except for the fact that it was pretty damn cold).The last week has been very relaxing and extremely nice – I’ve gotten work done on the book, but I’ve also done some genuine relaxation, and it’s been good to feel like I’m shutting myself away from the world for a while. Overall, I’m feeling better than I have done in a while, and relatively hopeful for the future. Which is certainly a turn up for the books…

2009 hasn’t been an entirely easy year – it’s the first full year that I’ve spent on my own since my separation from George, it’s had at least a couple of moments I’d rather forget, it’s seen the lengthy saga of the Editor Who Shall Remain Nameless and my book rewrite finally end in a rejection, and it hasn’t resulted in anything that’s caused a major, game-raising positive change in my life. What it has done is prove that I made the right move in 2008 (in a number of ways) – it’s been a year where I’ve made new friends; – partly through my local comic shop (the wonderful Manchester branch of Travelling Man), and partly through conventions (especially this year’s Eastercon). I’ve had plenty of adventures. I have dressed as a Steampunk. I’ve partied when I’ve had the chance. I’ve read lots of good books (and quite a few bloody awful ones as well). I’ve shown that I can make this new phase of my life work, both from a business and from a life perspective.

And, most of all, 2009 has proved conclusively that I damn well want to be a writer, and that I’m not going to give up just because a project I poured an awful lot of effort into has been turned down. I’m going to keep going at this – I’ve got a new project, that’s just as (if not more) promising than The Hypernova Gambit, and I’m going to finish it. And then, we’ll see what happens.

My goals for 2010? Finishing my new book. Finishing the proofreading course I’m currently doing. Making a damn good start on the next book. Trying to increase the amount of proofreading I’m doing. And maybe – just maybe – being able to have a good idea of when I might be able to move into a place of my own by the end of the year. Stranger things have happenned…

Anyhow, above everything else, I’m going to do my best to make 2010 a good year, to look to the future and not let the fact that some bad things have happened in mhy past prevent me from having a truly excellent time.

I’m determined to have a good one. And I hope you do too.

Happy New Year!

Always Crashing in the Same Car

I’ve been diagnosed with depression.

Oh, hooray.

To be honest, this is not a massive shock. I’ve been having major sleeping problems for the last few months (some of which has been down to problems with my bed, but not all), I’m still living a life where I’m spending 95% of my time completely alone, I’ve been extremely busy, and I’ve had a very hard knock in the book being turned down – more so, simply because of the fact that I could really do with something significant in my life changing. And right now, it isn’t going to. Simple as that.

The last couple of weeks have been really hard, and it’s been getting difficult even to concentrate – I’ve been nowhere near as efficient as I usually am in getting work done, and life has generally been getting on top of me. The failure of my marriage has been back lurking in the background of my head ever since October, and it’s like the book being turned down has just turned the volume up. The only way I’m going to get myself out of this situation is by being determined, working hard, and getting myself on. There’s a whole selection of things that I need to do in my head, and I’m damn well going to do them.

But I’m also realising now that the next few months are going to be quite hard. I’m going to be getting some counselling, and I’m not ruling out other options as well. The last few days have been really difficult though – I’ve felt at times like I’m crumbling into bits, and it’s rather hard to keep myself together. I haven’t had much energy for anything other than the bare minimum I need to do to get through the day – being ill with a very unpleasant cold that’s essentially been hanging around my system for three months doesn’t really help either. And, to be honest, that’s one of the reasons why this blog has been dead quiet. I don’t like posting here when the only thoughts I can think of to write down are miserable ones. I’m kind of bored of being miserable, and lonely, and feeling broken. It’s too much like hard work. And I’m not going to let it completely control my life.

I am at least doing some sensible things as well. I’m going back to Cornwall for two weeks, and I’m extremely glad I’m doing it now. There were a couple of moments where the idea of being down there felt like a little too long – I tend to get cabin fever if I’m anywhere longer than a week, and while staying with family is always lovely, there’s also often a point where you start counting down until you leave. But right now, knowing that there’s only eighteen days until I get on a plane, and then I really don’t have to worry about anything and am going to be looked after for two weeks is really, really nice. I’m going to try and get plenty of writing done over those two weeks, but I am also going to actually (shock! horror!) relax.

I don’t want to define myself by what happened anymore. I want to be able to feel like the happiness I once felt, a long time ago, is something I can get back. That it’s not dependant on being with someone, that I’m capable of being happy on my own. I want to remember how to be happy. And I want to move on.

I’ll try and update like this a bit more. And, whatever happens, I will be okay.

Saxon Bullock. Sturdier than he looks…

On the Road

The briefest of brief updates…

I’m actually doing okay in the wake of the Book being turned down. I have a plan, and I’m going to follow it whatever happens.

I’ve been spectacularly busy.

I looked at my bank balance recently, and it actually made me feel good. Things are still tight, but actual progress may be being made.

I’ve seen a lot of good television. And some bad as well.

I’m also rewatching Lost, something I’ll be talking about at length at some point. Short version? S1 is still great, although it’s a major culture shock going back to the gently paced character/adventure show after the plot-heavy madness of S5. And you can almost feel the problems hit in S2 as early as episode 4.

I’m off to London for the next three days, for much socialisation and adventure. Hope it’s going to be fun…

And – to wrap things up – something that made me smile. A lot.

See you soon….

“This cat is no more! It has ceased to be! It has expired, and gone to meet its maker!”

Well, I’ve opened Schrodinger’s Box, and it turns out the cat didn’t make it.


For all those not in a Quantum Mechanic-related mood, I heard back about my novel today, and the absurdly lengthy saga of the Rewrite and the Editor Who Shall Remain Nameless has, unfortunately, ended up with a rejection. And, mustering a bit of the Dunkirk spirit, I may be down but I’m not out. I’m officially giving myself the day off, going into town, eating some nice food and possibly watching some completely nonsensical disaster porn courtesy of Roland Emmerich (The f/x in 2012 look wonderful – whether any of the stuff around it is even bearable may be a completely different story…). In short, I may not have gotten the result I wanted, but I’m going to pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep on going.


Schrodinger’s Novelist

The start of another week. And this time… well, there’s a possibility that I might actually know what’s going on with my book once I get to the end of it. Of course, I might not. This whole process (since the build-up to the rewrite, the rewrite itself and the wait since then), has gone on for a very long time. And I’ve still got to face the possibility that out of the two alternate futures facing me, I could end up in the one I don’t want. But, to be honest, it would be very nice to just settle the uncertainty, open up the box, and find out whether the cat’s alive or dead. There’s a lot of uncertainty lurking around in my head, looking for somewhere to go. At the least, I’ve also got plenty to do – the next six weeks, working up to Christmas, are going to be pretty busy. And I’m spending Christmas in Cornwall, and will be out of Manchester for two whole weeks, which is another unexpected but extremely nice turn of events.

What I’m trying to say is that by the end of this week, I could be a bit upset, and a bit miserable, but generally dusting myself off and readying myself to move onto the next challenge. I could be both happier than I can ever remember being, and gulping in slight terror at the size of what I’m about to take on. Or, I could still be stuck as Schrodinger’s Novelist, wondering when my waveform is going to collapse.

Only one way to find out…

Forever Autumn

Sometimes, it’s all about saying something at the right time. One of the downsides of being in Manchester is the obviously limited amount of green, and the fact that I don’t have a car means it isn’t the easiest thing to just go “right!” and disappear off into the Peak District. Mooching about across hills and wildernesses isn’t something I get to do very often, so I try to enjoy them when I get the chance – but it’s very easy to assume those chances aren’t going to come along very often. Anyway, I was mentioning to Anna (who I lodge with – describing her as ‘my landlady’ would just sound bizarre) that the book I’m currently working on meant I’d need to go and have a wander around a stately home at some point – I knew there are a few in this area (not always easy to get to, of course), but the main location for my current book is a really big 17th century hall surrounded by miles of sprawling grounds; it needs to feel real, and wandering around a place like that would work wonders. I mentioned this, and Anna’s immediate response was ‘Tatton Park!’ It’s a stately home that’s open to the public, with gigantic grounds – and she drives past the main entrance to it every single day she goes to work. Just like that, I had transport there and transport back, and a few days later – yesterday, to be precise – I was on my way. I was there from 8.30am through to about 5.15pm, and it’s genuinely one of the nicest days I’ve had in a very long time.

It’s a big place – the house grounds are probably just under three miles from top to bottom, and they spread out in a lot of different directions. And one of the best things is that outside the very formal and controlled gardens, it has a distinctly wild feeling to it. There’s grass as far as the eye can see, and trees, and scrubland, and gigantic lakes where ducks, swans and other birds cruise up and down. There’s also deer – within half an hour of arriving, I’d sat myself down by the biggest lake in the park and was simply soaking everything up, when I looked to my right – and about 200 metres along the side of the lake, there were three stags with absolutely gigantic antlers gently munching on the nearby vegetation. My jaw dropped, and I simply sat there, staring. There’s something about seeing animals like that when it’s quiet, and you’re the only one around – and I saw plenty more deer later, on my way back from the house; a massive herd of them, quietly minding their own business. It’s the kind of parkland that goes on for long enough and is arranged so that you can sometimes forget that you’re not that far from civilisation – at least, until the next plane roars by overhead (the park is unfortunately smack-bang on the flightpath of Manchester Airport). Looking around the house was both fascinating and tremendously useful, but it was the walk in the park and the gardens that I enjoyed more than anything. I even timed it right – it’d be beautiful in the summer, but with plenty of autumn leaves on the ground, there were places where the whole place was a mass of shades of golden and brown.

I got to explore – it’s the kind of area where unless there’s a ‘PRIVATE’ sign (and there aren’t many of those), you can go where you like – and it reminded me how much I love exploring, just the whole experience of going somewhere new, and finding out what’s over the next crest of the hill. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to indulge in that kind of wanderlust, and it was wonderful. And, in a small kind of a way, it was a little sad at times as well. There’s something about times like that which make me wish I wasn’t just experiencing them on my own – that I had someone to share them with. The last month has, to be honest, been rather hard at certain points – hitting the one year anniversary of my separation from George was difficult, and it (along with a few other incidents) has dredged up a lot of darker feelings deep inside my brain. And it’s hard being somewhere like that, because George has got so much of a love of the countryside and the natural world (I feel like I notice an awful lot more because of the way she’d stop and spot things). Wandering along paths through wooded groves, or exploring the various twists and turns of the gardens and staring at some of the truly beautiful trees from all across the world… it feels wrong to be doing it without her. It feels like I want to be able to turn, and point something out to her, or tell her about something. And she’s not there. And she’s never going to be there again.

I don’t want this to sound like the whole day was completely melancholy – it really wasn’t. Some of this is simply autumn happening, the evenings drawing in, the leaves gradually vanishing from the trees, and the knowledge that winter is only just around the corner. And some of this is simply being tired – I spent virtually all of yesterday walking (after a day in the park, Anna and I went shopping in Sainsburys, and the results virtually wiped me out for today as well), and being tired easily makes me prone to sadness. There are just times when it’s really sad – and times when it’s really boring, like you’d really like to be able to scoop all of this out of your head and forget about it. And I think, it’s partly because what I went through in 2007-2008 is starting to fade in my mind a bit and not seem so vivid… so it’s easy to forget how bad it was. I still miss George, but I think part of what I miss is the version of George I had all those happy memories with. Recollections can get terribly distorted after a while. And it probably doesn’t help that I’m still living in a land of uncertainty with so much in my life, waiting and hoping for stuff to happen. Until it does, I’m stuck in the middle of a ‘time passing’ montage, and waiting for the story to really kick into gear again.

But whatever happens… I had a good day yesterday. I wish I could have gone with someone – but also, being on my own gave me complete freedom. It gave me the ability to spontaneously say “I want to go to a stately home” at the beginning of the week, and then a few days later be actually doing it. I’ve soaked up tons of history, I’ve seen deer, I’ve sat by a lake and watched the world go by. And hopefully, not too far in the future, I’ll go find some more wilderness and do a little more adventuring.

I may be a little down. But I’m a long way from being out.

Tomorrow Never Knows

Twelve months ago today, my life changed.

It’s been exactly a year since I moved to Manchester, since I separated from my wife, and since my life changed in a whole variety of significant ways. My current torrent of work hasn’t given me much time for reflection, which is possibly a good thing – but above everything else, I think I’m just proud of the fact that I made it through the last twelve months. Back on September 29th 2008, I had no idea exactly what I was going to do, whether I was going to be able to earn a regular living from proofreading books (considering that I’d only done it about three times) and – once the dust had settled from the move, and I had a chance to actually understand what had happenned, the main thing I can remember is just the horrible feeling that I didn’t know what my life was for, anymore. I was on my own, and I felt so horribly broken that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to put myself back together again.

And you know what? I survived. It wasn’t easy – and there are still plenty of times when I really don’t like being on my own, but I’m coping with it and, in my own way, I’m enjoying it. The most important thing I’m telling myself is to make certain the positives outweigh the negatives, and while there might be a lot I’d like to change about my current existance, I can happily say that there is more good than bad. And I’m engaged in a whole series of projects and activities to try and get myself the life that I truly want – they may take a long time, but I think I’m okay with that right now. I’m doing well – I’m surviving both psychologically and financially, and I’m making new friends and acquaintances – my life may not be a social whirl of non-stop activity, but I am fitting in my fair share of fun, and one of the nicest things about the Gollancz party last Thursday was simply being able to spend an evening hanging out with an extensive crowd of people, a large proportion of which were really happy to see me.

In short, I’m doing well. I’m surviving. And while there are points where the echoes from last year, and from the rest of my marriage, still hurt – but they don’t hurt as badly. The injuries are healing. They’re never going to completely go away, but they are gradually fading, and I’m feeling like I can cope. I don’t know where I’m going to be in 12 months time – but considering I survived the last twelve months, I have a certain degree of confidence. And if I am still staying with Anna, still chipping away at the bigger problems in life, still inhabiting the wilds of Manchester… then that’s okay. I’m liking Manchester more and more – to the extent that, if and when I’m able to get a place of my own, I might actually settle in Manchester for a little while, if only as an interim stage. Nothing definite, of course, but I’m leaving lots of possibilities open.

So tonight, I’m relaxing, and drinking a pleasant glass of white wine. Things may go up, or they may go down – but I’m going to survive.

I’m happy tonight. And I hope you are, too.


The sound you can hear is me breaking the sound barrier. At least, it damn well feels like I am at the moment.

Had a wonderful, wonderful time at the Gollancz party. You know you’ve had a good time when the evening just seems to end far too quickly. Met tons of people. Had some wonderful conversations. Wish I could do a more in-depth report, but I’m too busy and too tired at the moment – so here’s some that other people did here, here and here, and some from the lovely Liz of the My Favourite Books blog (in which I get a very nice mention) here.

There’s proofing to be done. There’s articles to be finished. There’s reading to get through.

It’s all good. But wow, it’s busy.

There will be a proper update soon, when the world stops spinning.

It’s All Too Much

I’d very much like at this point to tell you all about Fantasycon, and my insane workload, and all the things I’ve gotten up to over the past few days. But I’m limited by the fact that I am absurdly, ridiculously tired. I’ve had two solid days of work, I’ve got another tomorrow, and then on Thursday I’m speeding into London for the Gollancz party. I’ve got a mountain of proofreading to do, I’ve got two mini-articles to do for SFX, and everything is busy, and dazzling, and life seems to be being reduced to a dizzying blur. It’s good, but it’s all a bit fast.

And so, Fantasycon in quickly delivered bullet points:

* My first visit to Fantasycon. Had lots of fun, although I think I prefer the slightly sprawling and more wide-ranging programme of Eastercon.
* Nottingham is a slightly odd mixture of everyday British town and serious history. Visited Nottingham Castle, and saw lots of Robin Hood-related statuary.
* Played a wonderful game of pool, where I actually succeeded in potting a few balls. More to do with fate than skill, I think…
* Met a wide variety of fun people, including an New Zealander ex-singer turned writer (Jordan Reyne) who used to do fascinating ‘narrative soundscapes’ (or concept albums) based on bits of New Zealand history. She gave me a CD, and it’s actually very good stuff.
* Attended the con Banquet on the Saturday, and discovered that while the company is good, hotel banquets aren’t always the best choice for decent food…
* Stayed up late. Had fun. And didn’t spend too much money.

Now, I must away. Too much to do. Not enough time to do it…