Monday, 29 September 2014

Working on the Birds book

I'm back working on the Birds book, my historical set in France under the Occupation - I'm currently ploughing through my research library I've amassed a while back. The good thing about that is that I'm snapping up small details and ideas for another book that I haven't touched in 5 years. So yesterday I finally cracked the character arch of one of the main characters. He needed some level of redemption, and just beating him down and giving him dignity in defeat wasn't enough. He needs to break out of his shell, which will be a hundred times harder. I'm getting quite excited again about that book now.

I'm currently working through books at a rate of one every two days (historical non-fiction tends towards long books), and making notes. I don't quite have enough yet to continue on the Birds books - the year 1943 is currently a bit of a black hole for me, and I need ways to fill it. Once I hit about March 1944, I'll be back on safe ground, so that's what I'm currently focusing on.

The trick might be to write out of order - I do have some events I want to put in and I have an idea how they'll affect my characters, and I can always rewrite everything. In other words, I could use brackets and just fast-forward to where I get my feet back under me in the book.

Other than that, I'm well behind on everything in real life. I hope to catch up eventually, but my inbox is completely out of control. I'm the worst correspondent ever.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Back in the fray

The most writerly things I've done over the last week were: I wrote blog posts for the blog tour of a Taste for Poison, the third book in the Memory of Scorpions series. I've also followed the comments on the Counterpunch/Belonging tour. I've checked edits on a long book and sent it back to the editor. And I'm currently outlining the historical novel I abandoned out of fear/anxiety/nervousness and that I want to finish before the year's up.

I'm still no further with the translation of that short story, and I've not been great at putting new words on paper. I do hope to wrap the outline today, though, do that's some progress.

Health-wise, I've decided to make health/wellbeing a priority while working as a full-time writer. The previous weekend clued me in on a health issue I've been having for apparently way too many years, and that's a dopamine-related hormonal imbalance. I'm not even trying the NHS with that; when I went to the GP with my low thyroid function, they told me I'm "low, but within acceptable limits" (piling on the weight despite a fairly sensitive diet being apparently "completely acceptable"). So I'm not even going to try with the dopamine issue. Instead, I've changed my diet slightly and have started supplementing a dopamine precursor (L-tyrozine). I'm not sure whether it's supposed to work that quickly, but mood and motivation and energy are up. Also, all cravings for "nasty carbs", sweets, sugar and chocolate are gone. So I've been sugar/snacking/sweets-free since boosting my dopamine levels. Interestingly enough, L-tyrozine also supports the thyroid, so I might have found that magic key to several, subtle issues. I'll let you know how it goes. (Also, L-tyrozine is nothing secret or special - it's an over-the-counter amino acid.)

To give my body a chance to shed the weight and fix itself, I've also started intermittent fasting, fairly commonly known as the 5:2 diet (you go extremely low calorie on two days of the week, and eat normally on 5). I can't cope with being hungry, so I'm going with the 16:8 model, which appeals much more to me. It means I fast for 16 hrs every day and eat "normal" for 8. Apparently there's an even more hardcore version that goes 20:4, but I'm not ready for that (I can possibly switch to 18:6, which feels very doable). I'm not hungry, provided I eat something with lots of protein as my last meal before the fasting period. So that's cool. I'm starting to observe some changes, but whether that's due to only eating home-made food, the lack of snacking, or possibly a more active thyroid (I have no way of knowing), I couldn't say. I'm making sure I drink plenty and stay hydrated. I'm not in starvation mode (which apparently only kicks after 30-60hrs of no food), though it takes me a bit longer to get going in the morning without my coffee.

The science behind intermittent fasting is pretty impressive - the idea being that the body goes into ketonic (fat-burning) state after 12 hrs of fasting. You end up spending 4 hrs a day eating into your fat reserves. It's only a few hundred fat calories per day, but it adds up.

I've tried it all - calorie counting, exercise, Weight Watchers, every powder and shake and bar. Intermittent fasting is cheap, natural and easy. No expensive artificial supplements drenched in artificial sweeteners that make you hungry after an hour. It appeals to me on every level. It's also something you can do when you're meeting friends or living with a non-dieter. I'm just shifting the end point of the fast to the shared dinner.

Lastly, there's chatter in writing circles about how the "blog is dead, long live Twitter/Instagram/Facebook". Some writers are shutting down their blogs or stop blogging. I agree that the blog is no longer a "must-have", but I consider it a "nice to have". First of all, I mistrust Facebook tremendously - I'm not going to post my thoughts there only to be shut down once Zuckerberg's algos realise it's not my "real" name. Secondly, sometimes I have thoughts and updates that don't fit into 140 characters. The blog for me is "thinking out loud", and it's on a platform I might not control (Blogger can shut me down), but which I feel much more confident that I won't get screwed like it's happening to people on Facebook. And I love Twitter, but you can't develop a very detailed thought in the format.

So, for the time being, I'm going to keep the blog. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014


Over the last four days, I've acquired a qualification in hypnosis (accredited and all). It's a four-day weekend, full-on course where you put people in a trance pretty much after 3 hours on the course. I've learned quite a bit about myself (one: still lots of garbage left over from my childhood that I should work with to release some stuff I no longer need - but that's no surprise).

I've done some beautiful work with some of my partners on the exercises. Found a woman who's also into power animals/shamanism and we shared one (Eagle, though my primary is Raccoon and hers was Bear), so we tranced each other on a shamanic journey. It was lovely hanging out with Raccoon again  -we were on a beach, playing with a red plastic ball. The trance was about expansion and empowerment, which seemed somewhat incongruous, but we rolled with it. I was aware of people watching, but, to be honest, I had too much fun just playing with Raccoon and the plastic ball. At some point, he gives me the ball (it even had teeth marks).

Afterwards, we talk in the group about colours in trance. And apparently "red" means "power". Cool. On the way to the course that day, I'm standing on a full tube train, and a guy with headphones stands next to me. And what's the one line I pick up through his headphones? That's right: Snap's "I've Got The Power!"

So that was me for the rest of that day:

But even the other stuff ended up being significant. While my partner tranced me about empowerment/expansion/growth, Raccoon was all about "Let's just have fun". And it became abundantly clear that that's my path. Empowerment/expansion will come as a side-line if I play and do what I enjoy and focus on it. It's a no-brainer when you write it down like that. (Though apparently it'll come with some teeth marks, LOL).

A French guy tranced me about the birds book (which is set in France), and it was beautiful, thinking of my books as trees that sometimes rest and then grow again. He took me down a path with all my books as beautiful trees and I loved that. (I don't remember much more than that, I was way, way down.)

I did the "authoritarian" (Estabrooks) trance with two other people who are really awful at accepting authority (two of whom from countries with recent fascist/totalitarian pasts, go figure). That was the most polite, "GO, SLEEP NOW! DEEPER" you could imagine.

And yes, we did several different kinds of trance, from the very common Erickson to Estabrooks to Elman. All slightly different in approach. The one I like best is half Erickson and half whatever I think the client will respond to best. But pretty much all of my favourite inductions (the part where you put somebody in a trance in the first place) are based on touch. Big surprise - I'm overall very touchy-feely anyway.

I helped one girl release a lot of stuff (there's a huge sense of responsibility when you make somebody cry - or very nearly cry) - going from smiling and laughing to sobbing in five or ten minutes is ... interesting. I ended up crying like a dog in one of the group trances. I always do when that trainer does that particular trance. It's very healing, but I'll be the one with tears running down my face for twenty minutes.

One thing that is apparently becoming my "style" is to go very specific about the environment I put people. The teacher says "content-free" is best, but that's very generic stuff that the other person's subconsciousness just colours in. I go pretty specific and describe actual impressions. Say, "content-free" is when they send you to "your favourite place", whereas I would put people in a specific environment - a meadow, a forest, a beach, describing flowers and light and sun/stars/moon. It seemed like the right thing to do - but then, I knew the people I was trancing and tailored the environment/impressions to them and they seemed to enjoy it (saying the imagery was "beautiful"). Because, let's face it, I'm a writer - staying "generic" would be "bad writing" in prose. It's a mindset/and decades-old training that's taking over as you improvise a trance on the fly. (No scripts - urgh.)

But I'll see if I can keep it more content-free with people I know less well. In any case, I'm looking forward to trancing writers/artists. The results should be amazing with people who are so good at visualisation. But I'm looking forward to trancing just about everybody. It's play time.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Fundraiser to support trans* dramedy show "Myrna" (plus free books)

I'm currently in day three of four of my hypnosis course and it's really good fun, so I'm a bit scarce around the intarwebs. But I am resurfacing there for a moment to draw your kind attention to this fundraiser: The producers of the trans*-themed show MYRNA are seeking funding for post production.

Lots of details here.

And if that great cause weren't motivation enough to donate, LA Witt is doing a massive giveaway for books and stuff here, including a giveaway for a Kindle Fire pre-loaded with all her books (which is about a million books - but at the very least about 75-80). So a new tablet plus enough stuff to read for MONTHS.


I'm happy to offer the following rewards if you want to donate:

- an electronic copy of "Return on Investment" for a donation of $5 or more to MYRNA (just send the receipt of the donation to vashtan @ gmail com with your preferred format). Amount of rewards available: unlimited. (You don't save much money, but you do get a free book.)

- I'll dedicate an upcoming story to you for $50. Amount available: 10. (It'll take me a while to write that many, so please be patient.) In addition, I'll send you an electronic copy of "your" story. Length varies from short story to novel - will be first come, first served.

- Lori and I will write a story for you. We'll keep copyright - meaning, we still own it and can sell/publish it, but you get to be involved in the planning of it and will have it dedicated to you, with a thank-you note explaining how it came to be. This is great if you want a specific type of story, or specific characters, or a specific type of kink/setting/genre. We'll do our best to make it work. This is with the caveat that Lori doesn't do rape scenarios, and we both absolutely don't do bestiality or bodily waste products in any sexy kind of context.

A custom-made short story of up to about 7,000 words goes for $250. A novella (10-30k at least, but might be longer) goes for $1,000. Short stories available: 3. Novellas available: 1. Bear in mind we do need to own the copyright of the characters (that is, no fanfiction, and for all Special Forces lovers, no characters that I didn't create, so Dan/Hooch are right out, I'm sorry.) And we'll do our best to deliver all of these before the year is up.

Let's make this work. :)

Thank you very kindly for your attention and support. :)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


I'm way behind on a great many things, so if you've sent me an email, my response might take a while as I get back into the groove of things. I didn't manage to do anything over those last two months, so no writing, barely any editing, and very little other stuff (like emails, mailing packages or even doing my taxes).

I'll have a guest over from today to Sunday and a four-day whole-day seminar from Friday to Monday, so I don't expect to be able to do anything else. (On the positive side, I'll learn hypnosis.)

Normal service should resume on 16 September. I'll wrap up three small projects by end-September, and then I'll aim at writing 10,000 words per week from 1 October onwards, or 40,000 words per month.

It's on the low side of what friends of mine are getting accomplished, but I'm making allowances for writing several historicals. They just take longer because of the research involved, and it'll take me several days to work out where I was going with them, anyway.

I can always up the wordcount - I fully expect to beat it.

At that rate, I should be able to write a novel every two months, which tallies with the goal of writing three solo novels per year plus two co-written novels, plus assorted small stuff (shorts and novellas). I'm not too worried about ideas - right now, I have about 30 projects I want to write, and I'm spawning another one about every week.

The biggest challenge will be to move my "creative time" into the day from the evening/night. I do like the guy I'm living with, so it'll be nice to spend more time with him without feeling guilty about writing.

I'll give this a go for a year or two and see how the market/industry develops. I might make myself available for temp/project contracts in corporate editing if the money's spectacular (and it usually is), but never again return to journalism - that chapter is closed.

I'm definitely feeling much better than I have in two months.

Friday, 5 September 2014


As of today, I've resigned from the day job. I lasted pretty much exactly 2 months, so quitting while still in the probationary period, which means I'm out in a week (3 days, because I have a couple holiday days). I was semi-hoping I could last long enough to get another full paycheque out of it, but I ended up deciding that the latest thing I had to deal with wasn't worth the aggravation. Also, it's been 2+ months since I've written any meaningful amounts.

I call it Project Freelancer 2.0. I have it on some authority that "going freelance" often takes several attempts. Hopefully this one sticks. But the main thing I've learned from the whole experience is that I wasn't kidding when I said I don't want to go back to journalism. It's so not me it's not even funny (ie, it's actually excruciating).

So the target is to write 3 solo novels a year, plus 2 co-written ones. It's a schedule that'll keep me honest and engaged, but still allows for as much research as I want/need. I may look at some corporate/temp work down the line, but not this year. The job market is thawing, but I have two novels that are more urgent than any need for immediate cash.

Bear with me. Regularly scheduled service will resume once I've shaken the Kool-Aid from my ears.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Well, I lasted two months

Some people were asking how I'm doing with the new job and all.

I have two songs that answer that question:

So, yeah, I won't last the month. Now that that's decided, maybe my stress level goes back to a point where I can write again. Right now, I'm too stressed and tired after that 9-hr day plus 2.5 hrs of commute.

Next time I tell people I'll never go back to journalism, I won't even be swayed by a "brilliant opportunity" or a decent-sized pay cheque.

In even more positive news - here's an interview about the biligualness of it all. :)