Author: Pax Asteriae

Creative Goals: 20 – 26 January 2020

I’m actually enjoying having goals set out.  It gives me that odd feeling of accomplishment when I achieve them.  That’s why I tend to work towards smaller goals: if I announced big ones, I’d end up panicking and fail on everything.

I love my brain chemistry so much.


Writing

  • Finish the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story.
  • Start the third chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story (trying to take it steady).
  • Actually make an effort to try to come up with some names this time.  It might be easier now the characters have started sharing some more of the plot with me.

Reading

Short as ever.


Misc

  • Assemble a playlist for Singer/Songwriter.  It has all of two songs on it right now.  This is my favourite goal for the week, even if it does mean I’ll have to listen to some mainstream pop for Marcus’s song.  For the record, the last time I listened to the radio, Panic! At The Disco’s Mona Lisa was in the charts.  I stopped listening after an hour and a half, because I’d heard all the same songs at least three times by then…
  • Really, truly draw a sketch of Marcus this week.
  • 44 hours of day job this week.  I’m already 4 hours over the limit I’m supposed to be working through no fault of my own, so this time it better not change.
  • Actually manage to boot up my desktop PC.  It hates Windows updates and knows how to hold a grudge.  No featured images until that’s back up and running!

Fingers crossed for continuing small successes.

And by the way… the Spotify playlist for the story is right here.  Here’s hoping it expands / adjusts as I (slowly) add to it and fiddle around.

I’d love to center it but… yeah. WordPress.

Accountability: 13 – 19 January 2020

Accountability: 13 – 19 January 2020

An odd week this week.  At one point I wilfully forewent an easy afternoon in favour of a solid five hours of work.  Made me very glad I now finish at 6pm instead of 9pm…

It’s also been a week of random research, mostly into the Cornish language (Kernewek), since Blake’s surname was voted to be Saint-Ives, and dokkalfa usually have the surnames of the city or town they first registered.  Mostly I was trying to find a Cornish word for ‘elf,’ except there doesn’t appear to be one.  There’s ‘ælf’ cropping up a few times in place names, but those are the same across the country.  Of an actual folklore term?  Not a sign of it.  The closest I could find in terms of folklore-closeness was the ‘Small People’ (pobel vean), and then got ranted at by Blake in my head, because it turns out he’s a bit touchy about only being 5’6″…

I recommend a Google Maps stroll around St. Ives though, it’s a beautiful place.


Writing

  • I have indeed finished the first chapter of Singer/Songwriter. Draft zero (a term coined by my awesome friend Anika Daniels, whose website I would link if she had one) is on Patreon.  One day I’ll figure out the WordPress/Patreon link so it can look slightly better than Patreon makes things.  Why can’t you have more formatting options, Patreon?  Why?
  • I have also started the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story, so that’s a win too.
  • I have, however, so far failed to come up with any kind of useful name for it.  I’ve not really had the time nor the spoons to think about it, to be honest.  I’m terrible at naming things.  There’s a reason Gabrys is still called Gabrys a few years later…

Reading

  • I finished The Ritual.  I didn’t start until Wednesday or so, but after that I couldn’t put it down.  It has very short chapters, which makes the reading experience slightly peculiar: at 85% of the way through the book, you’re on Chapter Sixty-Five.  I can’t remember reading a book that wasn’t disturbingly massive epic fantasy or sci-fi that has so many chapters before.  Considering I read it in lieu of watching the movie, I’m now very confused about how they managed to make it a movie in the first place.

Misc

  • Bad cellphone photo of a drawing of a brown-haired dark elf in grey T-shirt and black suit jacket.My strawberry Shiba Inu is still only a head, so a fail on that front.
  • Sorry Marcus.  I drew and coloured Blake instead.
  • 38 and a half hours of day job instead.
  • Bonus round: I listened to a lot of indie music on Spotify too.  Technically for research, but I’ll always have a soft spot for it.  I tried listening to indie rock too, but whoever curated the Indie Rock Playlist has funny ideas about what’s indie: it contained, among others, The Hives, Franz Ferdinand and The Kaiser Chiefs.  Apparently to some people, indie means instead not American, which is depressing.
  • Bonus round part 2: figured out and fixed an issue with WordPress and cron jobs.  Basically, if you schedule posts and they keep missing their posting times, it’s because WordPress only runs a cron operation when someone visits your site.  If no one visits your site *cough* then it won’t run.  There are plugins to fix it, or you can get technical and fiddle with its specialised settings in cpanel.  As I’m lazy these days, I went for the plugin.  This post gets to be the guinea pig!
Creative Goals: 13 – 19 January 2020

Creative Goals: 13 – 19 January 2020

The first week of this has been, unexpectedly, a success!  Admittedly I didn’t write enough goals to really stretch myself, but then, writing too many for the sake of it would be a demoralising waste of time, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

It’s hard to achieve a work-life balance sometimes when work is constantly shifting goalposts and life likes to bite me in the arse, so I think I’ll stick with the narrow goals and hope one day I can stretch to expansive, demanding ones that won’t then result in a breakdown. You’d think it wouldn’t take me so long to know my limitations, but there we go.  I’m not a fast learner.

This year I’m also going to try to remember to start adding content to Patreon again. It’s a bit difficult because I don’t think there’s really anything I can imagine anyone wanting to pay for, so I guess I’ll have to try to figure that out somehow.  I’d say it’ll be a challenge, but it’s not one I’m willing to add to the to-do list yet!


Writing

  • Finish the first chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story.
  • Start the second chapter of the Singer/Songwriter story (see what I’m doing there?).
  • Try to brainstorm some potential names rather than keep calling it ‘the Singer/Songwriter story’.

Reading

Short list again for the week.

  • Start The Ritual by Adam Nevill.  I’d wanted to see the film, since I like the actors in it, but apparently the book’s better (when isn’t it?) so I’ll read that first.

Misc

  • Finish felting the little strawberry Shiba Inu I started last week.  I’m not good at felting, but I really enjoy stabbing things repeatedly.
  • Actually draw a sketch of Marcus this week.
  • 26.5 hours of day job this week.  We’ll see what that looks like by next Sunday.

See?  Straightforward.

Hopefully.

Accountability: 6 – 12 January 2020

Accountability: 6 – 12 January 2020

Sketch by Pax Asteriae of dark elf Blake

One of the joys of writing modern fantasy is the things my characters complain about. Milos occasionally rails against R. A. Salvatore books (though not by name); Blake has just informed me he doesn’t think ljusalfa really count as a minority because, thanks to Tolkien, everyone fawns over them. He says Tolkien clearly was hanging around places he shouldn’t in an unsavoury manner.

As you may be able to guess, my Singer/Songwriter characters have named themselves. Blake (pictured right) is the songwriter dokkalfa; Marcus is the singer ljusalfa. I disagree with both names, but then, I disagreed with Milos’s too and look where that got me. At least I got my way over his surname, but who even knows what his original surname would’ve been if his parents hadn’t moved to London?

It’s my first week of accountability, so let’s see how things went…


Writing

  • I finished and posted the short story I wrote for Story-Bat’s Secret Scribble Santa.  It’s called Wintertide Gifts and, thankfully, the recipient seemed happy with it.  (It’s also straight, which was very odd to write; kept writing ‘him’ instead of ‘her’ and luckily only failed to catch it once, so thanks to site owner Ashielf for the read-through!)
  • I’ve not finished the beat sheet for the Singer/Songwriter story, but I transcribed my notes into Scrivener and arranged them into where they should be for the beat sheet, which has given me a road map to around 1/3 of the story as well as helped me figure out what the overreaching arc needs to be.
  • Bonus round!  I’ve started on the first chapter!  Life being what it is, actually being able to write it has proven difficult — I think I used up my supply of luck getting the gift story finished to be honest — but at least I’ve started.  I’m currently 1,341 words into it (and Marcus has upset Blake already).

Reading

  • Finished Into The Deep and very much enjoyed it. I’m not often a pirate fiction fan for some reason, but the relationship between hapless Lamark and Yuvie the merman was adorable. I haven’t settled on what to read next.  Probably one of the ones I started and then put down last year.

Misc

  • Xmas decorations down!  It took, as expected, quite a long time… and then they had to be packed and stacked into the garage.  Seem to have accumulated two extra boxes of them somehow…!
  • Sketch a picture of Marcus.  Nope.  But I do keep looking at my sketch of Blake and being amused.  I may enjoy drawing grumpy dokkalfa more than I ought.
  • I’ve done very little gaming.  I started playing Breath of the Wild on the Switch, but again it’s not something I got uninterrupted time for.  But I started, which is more than I expected.
  • Finished up with 43 hours of work.

Goals for next week coming tomorrow!

Creative Goals: 6 – 12 January 2020

Creative Goals: 6 – 12 January 2020

I’m going to try something different this year: accountability posts for projects I’m working on.  I’ll post a new one for the week each Monday, and each Sunday I’ll compare what I’ve done with what I’d hoped to achieve.

Now, this should be a fascinating experience, not just because executive dysfunction is a bitch to work with, but also because my work schedule will wander off at any given point with either no warning or next-to-no warning, which makes planning things difficult.

Still, we won’t know if we don’t try, right?


Writing

  • Finish a short story I’m doing for the xmas story exchange at Story-Bat.  Seems a bit late, you say?  I didn’t sign up to the exchange myself, but someone else hasn’t received a story so I’m trying to step in.
  • Finish the beat sheet for The Singer & The Songwriter, the currently lacklustre title of a Radialverse story about a ljusalfa pop-rock singer whose label introduces him to a grumpy dokkalfa songwriter — and then springs on them both that they’ve now got to pretend to be engaged, to boost both their profiles.  I’m using the excellent Romancing The Beat by Gwen Hayes.
  • Bonus round! Write the first chapter of The Singer & The Songwriter.  This one is a distinct MAYBE.

As an aside, lacklustre titles are dangerous.  Any title is dangerous, because familiarity can make it hard to shift…


Reading

Short list, this one.

  • Finish reading Into The Deep by Amara Lynn, which I’m 21% of the way through right now.

Misc

  • Take down xmas decorations. This has to be done today, and it took me several hours to put them up without any help at all. Taking them down, which I’ve already started (and been doing for a couple of hours; still not completed) is proving painful.
  • If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll find the time to sketch a picture of Ljusalfa Singer that I don’t absolutely loathe.
  • If I’m really lucky, I’ll get undisturbed time to play a video game! Like Death Stranding I’ve had since launch, or Anthem, or Borderlands 3.  Or pretty much any of my Switch games, only one of which I’ve played, or…  *sigh*
  • 41 hours of day job this week.  Possibly more later in the week, there’s no way of knowing: last night the 7th was a 1-and-a-half hour working day.  This morning it’s an 8-and-a-half hour working day.  See?  No way of knowing.  *wiggles fingers*  As an aside, that could have very easily completely fucked up my food delivery also coming on the 7th — which I have to have delivered, because these regular short-notice changes to my schedule stopped me from having the time to go and do it in person.

So we will see how this week goes, and how this accountability thing goes, and how the short-notice-day-job thing goes.  Even if I am a little miffed that my nice writing day tomorrow is now a less-nice but better-paid incessant-working day, here’s keeping my fingers crossed for a productive week.

And at least I’ll no longer finish work at 9pm!

New Year, New Site

New Year, New Site

I realised last year that I was finally outgrowing Weebly (while I was trying to make the site do something it wasn’t designed for, sooo…) and needed to move to a WordPress environment.  I had a look around at the recommended hosts, decided paying £120/year for a site when I make less than a tenth of that by selling books was lunacy, and went with Namecheap, who I already host the Notts NaNo site on, ~£30 being infinitely better than £120 etc.

Annnnnd then spent a day failing to get anything done because I’d had to do something initially that the site then didn’t like, borked the site totally and in the end had to contact support to get help. (Thanks Nina from Namecheap, you were really helpful – and patient!)  Now – when I have time, at least – I can work on getting the things onto the site I’d originally wanted.

And sort out the colour scheme a bit.  It’s a little… academic-looking.

Had fun getting the free ebooks on, mind (both Rescuing The Princess and The Solstice, the New Year’s one that took bloody forever)!  WordPress does not like odd file formats, but that’s why there’s a cpanel and file access.  Might need to let me know if they stop working though, since it was a sneaky-sneaky way of doing it.

I’ve not got much to say today to be honest.  Debating whether to copy across old blog posts or not.  I suppose… new year, fresh start?  Let’s try to make it better than last year!

Happy new year, everyone.  Here’s to the Roaring 20s!

#aNovelRomance Prompts – Alex & Milos

#aNovelRomance Prompts – Alex & Milos

I did the #aNovelRomance interview prompts on Twitter with Alex and Milos for quite a while, and these can be found beneath the Read More on the bottom... not least because they really do like to argue.  Even within the constraints of Twitter, they became quite long and these have been edited for clarity, so slightly longer still.  Also I recommend checking out the hashtag: the characters people share are so varied and interesting!

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Gametee’s Deck of Many Destinies

Gametee’s Deck of Many Destinies

I'm a big fan of GameTee, a UK tabletop / video game merch company run by two sisters.  They consistently come out with some of the most attractive and inventive products you can find, from game-related pin badges to dice and handmade scented candles, and they do Kickstarters for their newest products.

This is one of their Kickstarters: a D&D-based deck of cards that can be used for anything, from game outcomes to in-game, uh, games.  It has uses outside of D&D too; personally, I bought this for use with my NaNo group, since my tarot deck is very sarcastic and takes no prisoners.  (I guess that's what you get for buying a deck from The Works...)

In theory, you can divine from anything... but when you're in a café it's a little hard to work from flocks of starlings, and I'm not sure the art of reading coffee foam is as venerated as tea leaves.  And for all that writers tend to be a sceptical bunch, you'd be surprised at how popular the tarot deck was for asking questions about plot holes.

Which is (partially) where this comes in.  I didn't just buy it for my NaNo group, but as a handy prompt tool for writing, to sit alongside the tarot cards, the Storymatic cards (which I'll admit I did buy just for my NaNo group) and my Story Dice (which I keep misreading upside-down; I thought a flame was a dragon).

Not that I've used it for that yet...  I mostly used it to ask whether I should attempt Camp NaNo (a very emphatic no with the Ruin card, and sage advice too as I think I've completed it all of once, finishing The Reconstruction of Kirill) or whether I should continue with drawing (a tentative yes with the Knight card), and whether I should work on a story that's just started forming in my head (an enigmatic yes).

The thing with these cards is, they pretty much ooze quality.  The card's nice and thick, well-backed and solid-feeling.  The reflective side is incredibly reflective: I showed them to writing friends last Saturday and they were startled too.  For reference: the bright blue highlight in the photos is my old Nokia phone cover... which was around a meter away and about a foot below the edge of the desk.

These are seriously nice cards.  GameTee's products are always so nicely made so the high quality shouldn't be a surprise, and yet when you handle these cards you're surprised again by just how fantastic something as mundane as a set of cards can really be.

As an aside, they also go beautifully with their purple metal dice.  Just in case you needed a little encouragement one way or the other.

PO Box Alternative for UK Writer’s Newsletters

PO Box Alternative for UK Writer’s Newsletters

I’d complained previously about how EU privacy laws and US anti-spam laws involve having to publicise your address on every email newsletter you send out, even if it’s your home address, or risk a fine of $42,530 per email under the US’s CAN-SPAM Act or a max fine of €20 million or 4% of your global turnover, whichever’s higher, under EU rules.  That giving out my home address per-email would be a breach of GDPR is a bit of irony, I guess.

While I can see the logic, kind of, it’s… not something any LGBT person feels safe doing.  Nothing like hanging a big sign over your door and yelling “hey, here I am” by handing out your home address willy-nilly, right?  I’m only a writer who barely sells a couple of books a year, not a massive company like Facebook who, incidentally, have already begun appealing their £500,000 fine over Cambridge Analytica, not something I think l’il old me could get away with.

The advice most often given on sites is “get a PO Box.”  Unfortunately, it’s advice usually given by American writers who have a massive range of variable prices for them, ranging from as little $34/year (£26) for little ones in small towns to ~$150-200 (£115-154) for larger areas.

In contrast, a Royal Mail PO Box in the UK if you travel out to pick up any mail yourself; you’re screwed if you don’t live near an accessible delivery office is £270 ($351) a year.  If you want them to forward your mail on to you, it’s £342 ($444) a year.

So… bearing in mind my stunning book sales, that is… well, bluntly, it’s one hell of a rip-off.

So I figured that was it, I’d just give up.  As the Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock said, “If at first you don’t succeed, quit, quit at once.”  (Pretty sure Homer Simpson is the more memorable version.)  It’s galling though, when everyone bangs on about how ‘every author needs a mailing list’ but it’s out of your reach because of pricing and privacy issues.

Well, I can’t remember what I was irritably Googling last night, but I remembered the whole thorny problem and eventually stumbled over UK Postbox, a non-Royal Mail PO box with a wide variety of plans including crucially, one that gives you a PO Box and only charges you for the mail you receive (£1.20): they open it and scan it for you (£1.20 per letter) and you can decide if you want it forwarding on to your home address.

As it’s priced per letter it could easily add up to be expensive if you were expecting a deluge of post, but as I suspect that at even ~£2.40/letter it’ll be under £12/month, the Pay As You Go tier is the best for me.  There are other prices available, as well as other services (you can pay to have a fancy London address, for example, should your audience be more on the snobbish side) and on the whole it beats having a Royal Mail PO Box.  Particularly as, with the price of petrol (or indeed frequently-extortionate public transport costs, depending on where you’re going and how) I don’t think I’d actually be saving money on fetching the post myself.

Unless I suddenly become massively popular and end up needing a proper PO Box, but if that ever happens then I’d hope the book sales might, just might, cover it.

Until that day so distant on the horizon it might as well not exist… at least this is another thing now out of the way.

By The Street Light

By The Street Light

Unlike her preteen classmates, Emma had never feared the night. Instead of closing in sleep, her eyes lifted to the skies and the stunning scatter splashed across a midnight canvas, and as she grew older and her classmates discovered sex, Emma flung herself into her hobby instead. It would never amount to anything. Just a bit of fun. Just Emma alone with her telescope on long, cold nights.
She shoved her hands deeper into her pockets and shivered as the wind curled icy tendrils around her. In the haze the park’s haloed streetlights blotted out the stars, but she stared up regardless. Not long now.

Estraya stood out from the start. Painted metallic lips, bobbed silver hair like a bad Sixties sci-fi; the most beautiful face Emma had ever seen. Not the usual kind of girl she found at the bar.
She hadn’t found many girls at the bar; she needed bravery for that.
Bravery Estraya had in bucketloads, in one broad wink, and Emma fell hard.

They met again, and again, and again. Never at the bar, but instead in stranger, more mundane places: halfway from work, going in opposite directions; in the nearby coffee shop at lunch; and, most often, in the park at night. Estraya always greeted her with a hug, lingering longer each time. The faintest whisper of lip against her cheek, a fresh scent that set her pulse racing.
“How do you do it?” Emma asked once. Seated beneath the streetlight their arms never quite touched, but Estraya still warmed her.
“Do what?” Estraya had beautiful dimples.
“Find me.” Whenever I need you, but Emma didn’t dare say the last part aloud.
Estraya’s smile grew. Her hand grazed Emma’s. “Magic.”
With anyone else, she’d dismiss it as flippancy. Estraya made her believe it.

A deep thrum shivered through her bones, easily rationalised as a low-passing helicopter. She bathed in a white beam.
Emma wasn’t brave, but she was patient.

“I have to leave,” Estraya announced abruptly.
Her hand had crept into Emma’s the evening before. Emma never wanted to let it go again. “Why?”
“It’s complicated.” There were no dimples. Not today. “I don’t want to, but I’m needed.”
Emma thought. “A family thing?”
The shade of a smile grazed Estraya’s lips. “Sort of.” The bench creaked as she leaned back to survey the invisible stars beyond the streetlight. “It’s far away.”
Grief stalled Emma’s heart. “You’ll come back?”
Estraya’s smile blossomed. “Do I have a reason to?”
Emma wasn’t brave, but her patience was as infinite as space, and Estraya’s cheek tasted as sweet as she smelled. “I don’t know. Do you?”
She discovered Estraya’s mouth tasted sweeter still.

​Robed in light, Estraya descended regally, but her warm hands, so at odds with the void beyond, held Emma’s tightly and her magnesium kiss burned brightest of all. “Come with me.”
A year ago Emma would have demurred, but Estraya had bravery enough for both of them; Emma needed only one word.
“Yes.”

Occult Detective Quarterly #5 – because I’ve got a soft spot for both the occult and detectives

Occult Detective Quarterly #5 – because I’ve got a soft spot for both the occult and detectives

Finished the excellent Occult Detective Quarterly #5 today, which was kindly sent by one of the editors as a bonus for backing the ODQ #4 Kickstarter. Honestly, I’d have happily backed a Kickstarter for this one too. Both issues have a great range of stories from various authors, and some of them lodge pretty firmly in your thoughts. There’s a couple here I’ll still be turning over in my head in a couple of weeks’ time. Particular highlights are teenage lovers sneaking into an old church, a twist on the ‘girl on a highway in the rain’ and a rock band with a distinctly unnerving studio.

You can pick up either an ebook version (Amazon US or Amazon UK) or the paperbacks (Amazon US, Amazon UK).