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Mouse Teeth and Teeth Mice

I have a piece up on #FolkloreThursday about the Tooth Mouse myth, so it seems a perfect time to share my story Mouse Teeth, which originally appeared in Short Story Day Africa’s Terra Incognita anthology, a collection of African speculative fiction.

It’s about witches, identity, magic, female power, and, yes, teeth:

MOUSE

(clickenzee pic for story)

SOUTH AFRICA VS SCOTLAND: PART ONE

No, not rugby.

 

It’s the Great Saffer Scot Food Off! How is this a competition, you may ask? Well, you’d be surprised.

First though, we’re going to start with one that’s sure to divide my readers and have people calling for my blood. *cough*

HAGGIS VS BOEREWORS

800px-Haggis_on_a_platter

 By Kim TraynorOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

VS

Boerewors_raw

By TempestSA at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

I’m afraid to say this isn’t even a competition. Haggis isn’t bad, but you offer me haggis with neeps and tatties, or a boerewors roll I’m not going to waste a second on my decision.

Point South Africa.

IRN-BRU VS CREME SODA

IrnBru500ml

VS

Sparletta-Creme-Soda-2L-6001134087305

As South African creme soda (which as you can see is green, and tastes like no known substance on earth) is utter shite, and Irn-Bru is possibly my favourite soft drink, the point here goes to Scotland.

MUNCHIE BOX VS NANDOS

I mean from a health perspective I suppose Nandos is better but let’s not kid. When I am looking for take-out I am not making decisions based on how good this crap is for me.

Munchy_Box

VS

Nandos_Food

By Shovan SargunamFlickr: Nandos Food, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Point – Scotland

hmm with Scotland currently one point in the lead, what can bring SA back? Pickled fish (yes), Biltong (yes), and what will Scotland bring to round two? (whisky, bitches)

The End of Love, or just Burn Out?

What happens when the thing you used to love makes you so miserable that the thought of doing it means you end up sleeping for two hours instead?

How do you get love back, or is there a time when you have to look at something and just gently admit that it’s over?

It’s a tough question and one I am currently struggling with. (So, I’m not going to have any answers. But maybe you will. I’m all ears.)

Untitled design

I’ve always struggled with a cyclic approach to writing – there are times I can hammer out a book in three months, and times when I’d rather scoop out my own eyes with a spork than write. Normally I call those fallow periods me time to refill the well. I concentrate on reading, watching films or shows, going hiking, etc etc. But what happens when there’s never an upswing anymore, and the thought of *reading* is depressing? (confession, we are one month into the year, I have no managed to get through a single book yet.)  What do you do then?

At this point I’m still grimly clinging to the idea that the love will come back and until then I have to just do the bare minimum to keep myself vaguely motivated. But it’s hard. Because I hate it right now.

Partly it’s to do with not selling any books in a while (and I have a backlog sitting on sub, waiting to go on sub). The slump magnifies my fear that I’ll never sell again, that my work is just too small for current publishing trends.

So I look at selfpub and what I see is you must have a new book out every six months, you must have a series and the work and the first must be perma free, you need to hard-market, you need to, you need to, you need to, and I just feel this crushing tsunami of despair.

None of this is me. Six months to write, revise, rewrite, edit, typeset, organise covers etc etc, for one book, and then do the same thing again as soon as it’s over? When right now I can barely get 100 words down without wanting to slit my own throat?

Yeah, I dunno.

So, do I hate writing? Do I hate writing right now? Do I hate what publishing is right now? Do I step back and away and find something else to do with my life? These are all questions I’m struggling with.

Have you ever burned out on something you used to love? (not necessarily writing: any hobby, especially if it turned professional) What if your identity is strongly tied to what you do? How did you deal with it? Did the love ever come back?

 

Save

Run streak one week

set yourself free

 

So for reasons best known only to me, I decided on a completely different approach to running this year. Maybe out of acceptance that whatever I was doing before was achieving very little.

In a way, running is a lot like writing – everyone has a way that works better for them, and there are a bunch of accepted “right” ways to do it because This or That Pro said so. With running it’s slightly different in that you can cause physical damage if you push too hard, but in my opinion, writing can cause a lot of emotional/mental damage if you uh…overtrain. In the end, I decided I needed to find a way of running training that made me excited to run, rather than “oh god this shit again why do i do this i hate running” (If I can find a way to get me to like writing again, that would be swell, me.)

So I decided on streaks. I joined smashrun, and my minimum to keep my streak going is a mile a day. I can totally fucking do a mile a day, and then I’m good because I can feel like I’ve actually achieved something even if I just spend the rest of the day marinating in my own tears of self-loathing. I also told myself that I would be going super-slowly, and that I would be doing Galloway run/walk. (I am currently still not 100% over the whole horrible anaemia thing where I couldn’t even go upstairs without being out of breath, so I am being especially careful with my health.)

One week in, what have I learned?

1: It’s so much easier for me to run a little every day than clock up three longer runs a week.

2: I like running when I’m not killing myself for pace.

3: I inadvertently run more than I plan to because I’m enjoying myself.

4: I am probably running as much or more than when I was training 3 x week but I’m not feeling wrecked or miserable.

I hope there’s a way I can eventually translate this into writing. Part of the problem is that technically I am meant to be writing professionally, whereas running is just for me. But I’ll take these things one day at a time until I can find a place where creating things brings me joy again.

words, walking, ink and inspiration

It’s 15 days into NaNoWriMo, and I am comfortably on par which makes a rather nice change. Usually around this time of the year it’s summer for me and my brain has effectively melted, but this year I am on Scottish Seasonal Time, so I am rather enjoying the crispness, the colours, and the fact that every room in the house has a heater. (So not like SA, where I just froze in winter because no one believes in heated houses.)

I took a walk down to Inverkeithing today and I love how the seasons are so different. There’s no doubt that summer is well over and that winter has its claws out.

I love how these trees still have their very last leaves, like embroidery on a cuff. #autumn #trees

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The colours are what get me though: flame oranges and deepest reds, berries crimson, bright translucent red, clusters of white globes, rose hips like fat contented octopuses, the deep dusky violet browns of faded hydrangeas and the stark trees, black and silver.

#Autumn colour

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Inspired by artists like Jackie Morris and Emma Mitchell, I’ve been working on my drawing again. I’ve set myself to do one small nature study a day, and it’s quite soothing. It’s been giving me a sense of accomplishment to have actually drawn something, however small.

Daily study #art #ink #illustration #leaves #sketchbook

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I’m hoping that my drawing practice is going to help my writing. Art is about attention to detail, and good writing comes alive in the details, in the specificity of the language.  Here’s to creative cross-training and future results and present happiness.

 

1667, or day 1

You can do this. You write more than 1667 words a day of utter pointless crap in the form of tweets, facebook status updates, and political arguments with strangers on forums.

 

GO FORTH, MY NANO PEOPLE, AND MAKE WORDAGE

 

Blackberries and bicycles

bicycle-788733_1280It’s a quiet, warm Sunday, and there’s a magpie strutting about my fresh-mown lawn, looking for bugs. Everyone in the house is sick and/or asleep, so I mowed the lawn with the little push mower Brian bought and I just love it!  It actually cuts the grass, makes fairly little noise, and is fuel-free so good for the environment. While out in the back garden I discovered that it’s not all weeds and grass, but also the neighbour’s plants which have crawled over the fence and began to establish themselves. Which means, for the first time in my life, I have brambles!

Also discovered we have blackberry brambles. 😀

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LOOKEE, actual real blackberries, not just stuff I read about in books. I am ridiculously excited about this, it’s kinda sad.

While we have hardly any furniture (beyond cardboard boxes charmingly “decorated” with my scarves), I did get myself a bike. I also discovered that though I walk a lot, walking and biking use a very different set of muscles. My knees are like HOLY MOTHER OF DRAGONS WHAT IS THIS WHAT DID WE EVER DO TO YOU?

I am loving it here in Scotland, though I am feeling a little lonely. My family and friends are all on the other side of the world. On facebook I see my friends doing stuff around Cape Town, having birthdays, celebrating book launches and all those things, and I realise just how isolated I am at the moment. I know no-one nearby here and it’s a little scary. One thing I am looking forward to is going to Fantasycon in Scarborough in September, where at least I will see some familiar faces and feel a little less like a lost fart in a perfume factory.

Writing has been on the backburner (haha let’s not lie, it has been off the hob completely) while we were making the final immigration moves, and I’m feeling a bit pointless at the moment. I need to knuckle down on Monday and try get my head back in the right space for making and fixing words. I know people are waiting for me to send them stuff or respond to emails but my mind has been totally occupied with the move (and the *wonderful* flu that came with it :P). Things should get more or less back to normal now.

Enter Scotland

I’m here. I totally made it, and while the flight was long and tedious, immigration was a breeze. I also arrived at Peak Brexit so I’ve been avoiding the news as much as possible because yeah.

So far Scotland has been living up to expectations haha. Also holy crap I love this place.

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I haven’t had time to settle in properly, obviously, but here is a quick list of observations about Scotland and the UK.

  • The Scots are amazingly friendly. Like, so friendly I don’t quite know how to react. Last time I lived in the UK I was in Nottingham and I do not remember this level of helpfulness and what seems like genuine good feeling. The kids seem a bit more meh, but hey kids are little shits pretty much everywhere so yeah.
  • Bacon is cheaper than chicken. Again, just for the sheer WTFness. BACON IS CHEAPER THAN CHICKEN. Thank you, gods of Scotland.
  • Brooms are apparently impossible to buy. I have no idea why I’m finding a broom so hard to buy in a shop, when those same shops have a drug section like a chemist’s and entire aisles of hard alcohol. So weird.
  • When Capetonians talk about their weather being changeable, they don’t know shit. The weather in Fife seems to do complete 180s on a ten minute roster. I have no idea what to wear anymore – one minute I’m boiling, the next I’m drowning in cold rain and being lashed by Muizenberg-style winds. When the sun is out though, the whole place just looks amazing.
  • Scotland is so green. SO VERY GREEN. INSANELY GREEN. Things grow here, the trees are very tall and there are roses everywhere, whole hillsides covered in roses and foxgloves and nettles. And other things. My knowledge of UK plant life is fairly limited.
  • I can now recognise common local birds (we share a few – starlings, sparrows, wagtails etc), but yeah – magpies, rooks, carrion crows, woodpeckers, pied wagtails, herring gulls, robins, blackbirds, wood pigeons, and my favourite so far – jackdaws. The common lbjs are still beyond me, but it’s early days.
  • The sense of history. Just…mind-blowing. Walking around ruins of towers that are a thousand years old is pretty staggering.
  • The summer days are really long. It’s messing with my head a bit, especially when you discover school only starts at 9 am, so in summer you’ve had 5 hours of daylight before you get to your first lesson. 0.o.
  • Things like buying a sim card and getting connected, and opening a bank account, are piss-easy. No stupid RICA sim registration nonsense, bank staff are friendly and helpful (this seems to be a trend).

 

I have been using my instagram for actual pictures, so if you’re keen on seeing my view of my new country, you can go follow me there:

 

Forth Bridge from coastal walk

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THE MELANCHOLY RAVEN

(start here)

5

(previous)

We wake alone. The house is standing expectant, waiting for Eline to strike. I think of the body cooling in the blue room and press my fist against my mouth until the urge to sob passes.

Another little game piece, fallen. We met at a party, and her first words to me were about the Ives’ girls who had just been brought into the House games of power and prestige. I couldn’t tell if she felt sorry for them or not. Certainly, she didn’t see them as innocents. But she never had their weapons, their training. And she lost because of that, and more importantly, because of me.

I let the tremors pass through me. She’s gone. She’s not going to paint raw and wild pictures, or smoke ‘ink in back street tea shops.

Read More →

OFFERINGS

(start here)

6

(previous)

What are you trying to do?” Jannik says the moment we are alone in our suite of rooms.

I don’t know what you mean.Outside has gone dark with the afternoon thunderstorm. If Pelimburg was a city of impossible times, MallenIve in summer is a pocket-watch. By three the clouds begin to gather low and black, rumbling ominously to each other as they convene, and within the hour, they release their downpour on the sweating city. A fat blob of rain splatters on the glass. Four o’clock, then.

Thishurting people, using them. It’s not like you.He walks closer, and the room shifts around him, growing small and close. Trapping me. “First Merril, and now her.”

I protected you,I say.Would you rather I stood back and watched you suffer?I can hear the tears in my voice, that thick sound of a female weakness for which my brother always mocked me. I swallow over and over, willing myself back to a calm state – a vacant, logical state.

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